Anywhere in the world: Or how I won the coolest contest ever

Just last week, Spencer and I sat chatting. A cooking show hummed in the background. I turned to him as I often do, posing Big Issue questions.

“If money weren’t an object,” I started, “and you could go anywhere in the world — anywhere — where would you go?”

He turned to me with a thoughtful expression, his bottom lip puckering slightly. “I . . . would have to think about that,” he replied carefully. “I really don’t know.”

“Think about it.”

“. . . I don’t know. How about you? Where would you go?”

Visions of sunsets in Greece or sunrises in Hawaii danced before my eyes. I thought of Scotland and delicious meals there, and of Italy’s history and rich architecture. I thought of London, my favorite city, and of Big Ben. The Thames. The Tube.

I thought of the many places I hope to see someday and the things I want to experience. The vistas that will take my breath away. The spots rich in history and culture and beauty, and all the things I want to capture with my camera.

And something incredible has happened.

In April I toured through England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland and Wales with Trafalgar Tours, an awesome tour company with planned excursions all over the globe. I’ve recounted many of my adventures from that trip (with more to come!) and had so much fun with my family. We saw more in 10 days than I could have imagined and made many warm memories.

Trafalgar recently put out a call for “WOW!” moments from past travelers, asking participants to send in stories and photos of their favorite times on Trafalgar vacations. Dad showed me the travel magazine with information on the contest. Thinking of our trip isn’t hard for me — and neither is writing about it.

Without much thought, I sat down and wrote up five paragraphs on my “wow” moment from Woodstown on the Irish Sea — an incredible place where I danced with a local, sipped Smithwick’s and made friends with an Irish dog. It was at the end of our trip, which had been a rollicking adventure all over the United Kingdom. I was enchanted with the Scottish, Irish and English we encountered, and felt distinctly at home everywhere we went.

It was “foreign,” yes, but in the best way possible.

I sent in my entry.

Thoughts of the contest fell by the wayside, buried under months of vigorous work and busy weekends.

On Friday, slumped over at my desk after a work pot luck, I was listlessly scanning my email and waiting for the work day to end. Useless since my big lunch hours before, I was so tired that I had awkwardly tried to stand and fell out of my rolling desk chair. In front of my coworkers.

And that almost happened again minutes later.

At 4:45 p.m., an email marked “important” landed in my inbox. It was from Trafalgar. About the contest I’d entered two months ago.

I won.

I won the grand prize. My “wow” moment was picked by the company for publication in their magazine’s fall issue, and what was my reward?

A complimentary trip for two on any Trafalgar tour.

Any tour. Up to 10 days. Anywhere in the world.

Anywhere. In the world.

As soon as I processed the message, my hands started to shake. I’d known the stakes when I entered, sure, but never thought I would actually win. I mean, who wins a free vacation? Those are reserved for Internet scammers and radio competitions, right? You have to be the tenth caller on the tenth day of the tenth month or answer 10,000 trivia questions or something.

You don’t just win a free vacation.

But I have, friends. I’ve won a free vacation to take in 2012. It’s on the website and everything.

And I’m faced with the best possible dilemma — an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime chance to travel anywhere my heart desires. I’m left answering the very question I posed to Spencer:

If money weren’t an object and you could go (almost) anywhere in the world, where would you go?

My God, the possibilities.

I’ve had a week to calm down and think and plan. I’ve narrowed down my choices to two continents — yes, because that is helpful — and figure I want to go somewhere mountainous and beautiful. Somewhere I can take pictures. Somewhere I would never go on my own, because I’d be too nervous or wouldn’t bother.

France, because I need to see Paris. I just . . . do. And the French countryside? I almost feel as if I’ve already been there, having read about it so often in novels — but that’s not the real thing, of course. And there are tours that tackle both France and Switzerland, and also others that cut a large swath through France, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.

That sounds awesome, and is heavily my favorite right now.

But there are the Rocky Mountains of Canada, too. And Western Canada. I’ve never visited our neighbor to the north save one trip to Toronto years before (and Niagara Falls, too), and the scenery calls to me. I don’t much about Canada (bad neighbor!) but am certainly willing to learn.

And then there’s Greece, the original answer to the question I posed — a question I never thought I would honestly get to consider. The beautiful coast and Santorini, cite of the Traveling Pants books I love. Olympia. Delphi. Athens.

Needless to say, life has just gotten way more interesting.

I’m in no hurry to make a decision. In fact, I’d really like to milk this for all its worth! I didn’t know when I’d be able to take an international trip again after last year’s excursion, and I definitely never thought I’d go on a trip I didn’t have to pay for (aside from pesky things like airfare, of course). As planning a vacation is half the fun, I’ll be planning until my little OCD heart’s content.

I really can’t wait.

So tell me, friends: where would you go? Money is no object. You have all the time in the world. Where, where would you go?

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51 thoughts on “Anywhere in the world: Or how I won the coolest contest ever

  1. Oh my gosh, I’m thrilled for you, Megan! What a wonderful win! I’m not sure where I’d go – maybe China or Japan. Wait, maybe Lithuania. Or how about Scandinavia? It’s a tough choice, but I’m sure it will be the trip of a lifetime for you!

  2. Congratulations, that is SO exciting! If I was in your shoes, I’d go to Asia for sure. Of your choices, I’d pick Paris. I’ve been there twice and am hoping to go back for a third time in a couple of years. It’s one place you can just never see enough.

  3. How incredible is this!!!!!! I’m traveling to Ireland in March for my first time outside the U.S…so I have many places on my wish I could go to list…I would probably choose a literary tour throughout England…or Paris…or both! Holy Smokes! The possibilities are mind boggling!!!! CONGRATULATIONS!

  4. Congratulations!! How nice!

    I would love to go to Australia myself. It’s the other end of the world for me. For me, Europe is a bit been-there-done-that, but I can imagine for you it’s quite different.

    Whatever you choose, do let us know and make another series of those great holiday blogposts.

  5. Wow, too hard to narrow down! Greece, for sure; Thailand! The Great Wall of China, Paris, Venice,Bali. Too many choices! Yikes

  6. How amazing! I don’t know what tours this company offers, but I’ve long been a fan of Europe – would love to see England, Germany. But lately I’ve been interested in Australia, too. Such a decision! Have fun!

  7. Lucky you! That’s amazing.

    I would definitely pick the most expensive/far away option, on the theory that the trip would be hardest to pull off on my own. Something South Pacific-ish…or antipodean.

    If I went to Europe, it would be the Dalmatian coast, above Italy, or Istanbul (not Constantinople 🙂 )

    I’m so jealous!

  8. Fantastic! Congratulations, Meg! I felt as you did…nobody really wins these vacation sweepstakes…but they do and you did! Yay! This is so exciting! You must be over the moon!

    I love the 2 continents you’re going to choose between. Have fun planning!

  9. Do they have an African safari? I think I’d do that… They are ridiculously expensive, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the experience. Plus, AFRICA! OMG… I never thought I’d go to Africa.

  10. Congratulations! That’s awesome! Where to go is such a hard decision to make. I’d probably choose the trip you mentioned is your favorite, namely because I’m always wanted to go to France, and my husband wants to see where his ancestors were from: Germany, the Netherlands, etc. That would be an ideal vacation. Can’t wait to hear where you decide to go!

  11. What an incredible, Amazing event to happen to you! Since it is a ‘won’ trip…make it Exotic! Someplace you wouldn’t really be able to do on your own! For instance, it would be (relatively) easy to backpack across Europe or go to Canada, but to spend 10 days in South America or New Zealand/Australia… that would be amazing!

  12. Congrats, Meg! What an amazing opportunity. Anywhere in the world….. I think my head would explode from all the choices!

    Paris would be wonderful. Reading Anna & the French Kiss has made me want to visit that city as soon as possible. But I’m also partial to the Rockies and Western Canada, as that’s where I live 😉

    I’m sure wherever you decide to go, it will be amazing.

  13. Holy crap! That is INSANE! I can’t even imagine how that would feel. What a decision to make. I guess at the top of my list would be one of two things. Ireland (having just seen Book Line and Sinkers’s pictures). Stay in a castle. Golf. Drink beer. Stalk Tana French.

    OR. Africa. Hike Kilimanjaro. Photograph migrating animals. Participate in a sun-downer. Good luck with the choosing!!!!

  14. OMG! That’s incredible! Congrats! I would be so excited to have won. What an opportunity!!! If I could go anywhere, I would do on a tour of Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, etc. Greece sounds incredible as well. You have a tough decision to make. Can’t wait to hear what you decide. Congrats again!

  15. Congratulations!! That is absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to find out where you decide to go! I’d go to Russia if I could go anywhere, personally. Probably followed by Greece.

  16. Congratulations! That’s so exciting! On the top of my list would be Australia or New Zealand – I really don’t know how I’d get there otherwise.

  17. Have fun…and you will come up with the place you want to go to in good time…unless you just toss names into a hat and choose that way…I might do that!!!
    Not sure where I would want to go…perhaps Tuscany…not sure…I have to think about it.

  18. Congratulations!! I’ve never been any where beyond N America, I have visited the 48 continuous states and Canada and Mexico, my parents made that their vacationing goals for we 4 kids. I’d first say Ireland, England and France, but then again, Australia sounds so unique. Italy has so much draw too. See, I’m all over the place. So excited for you!!

  19. oh my goodness, this is amazing!!!!!!!!!!

    right now, albania is really high on my list, because I really want to meet the little girl that I sponsor there. I also want to go to china and thailand…and greece and iceland and norway and russia…

    I’m no help 🙂

  20. Oh my word, that is AWESOME! 😀 Congrats!!

    The one place that has called my heart for years and years is Israel.
    I’d also like to toodle around the British Isles, and go to Italy (during chocolate season, of course 😉 )

    Have fun planning!!! 🙂

  21. Holy cow Meg! That is AMAZING! My mom won a cruise once for filling out a form at DQ. When she got the call, she didn’t think it was real either, then she spent a week at sea, chilling in the Bahamas. I would like to say my decision would be easy, France. I have already asked my dad if he would be my travelling buddy for my 30th birthday to Paris. I’ve been to France before. I went to Nice on my senior trip in HS, but I want to go back and see Paris. But, the more I think about it, the more I’m not sure either. Greece does sound amazing, and I’ve never been to London. You have such an awesome opportunity ahead. I can’t wait to see what you decide! I really doubt there’s a wrong decision that can be made!

  22. Congrats! This is so fantastic! I don’t envy you’re having to choose but I do envy you the opportunity to choose…if that makes any sense. LOL!

    I think if money and time were no object, I think I’d have to see New Zealand. It’s one of those vacations that seems unattainable (whether it really is or not!) because it’s so far, and, I assume, so much, but, ah, the pictures are incredible!

  23. Congratulations! That is awesome!

    As to where I would go if money was no object I have so many choices! I was in Spain three years ago and absolutely loved it there, I want to go back so badly. I too want to see Greece, particularly the Greek islands (if I ever get married I would really love that to be the honeymoon destination) but I also want to see quite a few other places as well. Right now my top list places are: Spain, Greece, Lebanon, Australia, Africa (I second the person who mentioned an African safari because I’ve always wanted to see the Serengeti), Peru because of Machu Picchu and Venezuela because I want to see these falls in person (I have a poster my Spanish teacher gave me back in high school and the poster is beautiful): http://www.venezuelatuya.com/canaima/saltoangeleng.htm

  24. Congratulations!! If you’re having difficulty, you can just send me the tickets. 😉 Honestly, I have no idea either. There are a ton of places that I want to visit and will happily visit on my money, but if I win something like this, it’s much harder to decide.

  25. Congrats! That is soooo awesome! What a fun prize to win!

    For me right now I’d say South America – especially Peru, Chile, Ecuador & Argentina is where I’d love to go next.

    Greece is absolutely amazing – I went to Santorini a few years ago and it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and one of the top 3 sunsets I’ve ever seen was there!

    Have fun picking out a trip – I’d go with something that would be more difficult to do on my own and a bit more exotic!

  26. See what happens when you ask the GOOD questions to the universe?! 🙂

    My vote is New Zealand. Have fun researching, narrowing options and deciding.

  27. Ok I am jumping up and down for you right now! You just won every person’s dream! I can’t wait to hear where you actually pick to go! WOOHOO!

  28. Congratulations! I always wondered if those contests were real (or if they put an actor’s picture on winners site). This is soooo very exciting. I would suggest Australia or New Zealand, but 10 days isn’t long enough… so perhaps Europe would be better. Oh, the possibilities are endless!

  29. Congrats! Skip Canada—it’s close and therefore less expensive, and you could easier go yourself at a later time. Paris is one of those places you can go a zillion times and there’s still more to see, so of your picks, I’d choose that.

    I’d choose something exotic that doesn’t often show up on Travelzoo deals, like South America (Macchu Piccu and the Andes) or Australia/New Zealand (because when’s the next time you can afford to go there???).

  30. That is so awesome! Congratulations!

    I think I’d have to pick Italy if I had my choice of anywhere. History, food, art, architecture.

  31. Meg, what an amazing contest to win! Congratulations! If it were me, I would go somewhere in Europe; I might go back to France and explore more outside Paris, or I would go to Italy or Greece or Egypt for the fantastic art and history!

  32. Holy cow! That is so totally awesome…congratulations!!

    I think you should give some serious thought to Turkey, so I can live vicariously. 😀

    Or, judging from a more recent post…a return to Bath?

  33. WOW! That’s totally amazing. I never feel like real people win things, lol. My vote is for New Zealand — I LOVE IT THERE and could spend forever touring around. It’s gorgeous and there’s a ton of outdoorsy things to do.

  34. SO SO SO SO cool!!!! Seems so long away, but I already can’t wait to see your pictures. 😉 Since I’ve been to Europe, I’d probably choose Australia/New Zealand or somewhere in Asia. But wow–congrats.

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