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August 18th 2015
Published: August 18th 2015
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Our Travels

11 counties in 9 months

Angkor Wat Temple Angkor Wat Temple Angkor Wat Temple

Surrounded by Buddhist Monks in Cambodia at Angkor Wat Temple, one of the 7 man made wonders of the world
"You only have one life, so dream big"

260 days ago I left Bermuda and set off to backpack around the world with my sisters without the slightest idea of the journey that lay ahead for us and how it would all unfold.

Now I end where I began, standing with my backpack outside the Bermuda airport, having learned lessons that cannot be taught, with life experiences that have changed me forever and memories that will never fade.

I have left my footprints on 5 continents and in that time I have:


• earned my PADI Advanced Open Water certificate on the Great Barrier Reef;
• scuba dived in 3 different oceans
• jumped out of a plane at 14,000 ft, free falling over the picturesque view that is the Whitsundays;
• cage dived with great white sharks in South Africa;
• bungee jumped off the highest bridge;
• hiked 5 mountains in 3 different countries;
• lived in a campervan with 3 other people for 2 months;
• lived in the Australian jungle for 1 month
• saw the world through a traditional Muslim niqab on International Women's Day;
• volunteered with Elephants in the north of Thailand and spent the day with burned victims
Biking in Siem Rep - CambodiaBiking in Siem Rep - CambodiaBiking in Siem Rep - Cambodia

One of my favorite places was in Siem Rep in Cambodia. This day actually was so incredible. We found ourselves caught in the hustle and bustle as locals made their way to work!
in South Africa grasping an understanding of their struggles;
• completed a 60k bike ride with my family through the mountains of New Zealand;
• become passionate about animal welfare and becoming a voice of change;
• met backpackers from all over the world;
• attended the world famous Full Moon Party in Thailand;
• got caught in a scam while trying to cross the Cambodian border;
• lived on a boat for 2 days in Vietnam;
• explored some of the 7 World Wonders;
• visited the mass grave in the killing fields in Cambodia from Pol Pot's Khmer Regime and the massacre of 3 million of his own people;
• celebrated the 40th anniversary in Vietnam, commemorating the end of the civil war Vietnam;
• wrote numerous job and scholarship essays on my phone (couldn't travel with my laptop) and had to take many job interviews on Skype in hostel bathrooms with a blazer and pj's bottoms at unheard of hours of the night because of the time change;
• accepted and became comfortable with waking up and not putting on makeup;
• lived out of a backpack for 9 months with minimal clothes and 2 pairs of shoes;
• had time to read 10 of my books;
• shared a room
Getting a new perspective Getting a new perspective Getting a new perspective

Happy International Women's Day - To celebrate, Amanda and I decided to see what life was like through the eyes of a woman in a Muslim country. We wore the traditional Niqab, a type of Islamic dress which covers the woman's entire body, leaving only the eyes and hands visible. As we weaved our way down the tiny streets of Kuala Lumpur and through the local markets, the first thing I noticed, other than how hot I was under the thick black material, was that I could no longer communicate with people. I felt like an observer, watching people go about their busy lives, unable to interact and communicate with them through facial gestures like a polite smile or nod. The only form of gesturing I could make was with my eyes, which became especially difficult when I tried to thank the driver who stopped for me at the pedestrian crosswalk where my polite smile and nod of course went unseen. When passing by Western tourists I could sense their discomfort as they awkwardly walked by me trying not to stare, many giving looks of disgust and disapproval. Although I was fully covered, local men continued their whistles and catcalls, subjecting me to such grotesque and unwanted attention. Being in a Niqab made me feel more comfortable as it covered my body from the eyes of preying men. It felt like a form of liberation from the objectification of women in society. On the other hand it also felt oppressive, anti-social and used as a form of male domination. To improve women's equality in other countries, we must first truly understand the experience of walking in their shoes
with people for 9 months whether it be strangers in communal mixed dorms of up to 16 people a room or being jam packed liked sardines in the campervan with my sisters and best friend (haven't had a room to myself in 9 months, please take that in);
• learned about who I am and what I value and the importance of having friends who make you feel good about yourself and understand what is important in life; and
• took the time to reflect on what I want to accomplish in my life, what I am passionate about and most importantly to be happy with who I am.


This gap year has made me a more well-rounded and globally minded person. It has opened my eyes to the beauty and the suffering in the world and I hope that I have shown people what awaits you through my photos and my posts which portray the highlights of my journey and give a small idea of what it all meant to me.

And remember a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so take a chance, I did.

Jessica M. Burns


Additional photos below
Photos: 24, Displayed: 24


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Rice FieldsRice Fields
Rice Fields

Helping out in the rice fields in Bali
Getting acquainted with the neighbors  Getting acquainted with the neighbors
Getting acquainted with the neighbors

Elephant Sanctuary in South Africa
Step out of your comfort zone they said... so I stepped out of a plane at 14,000ftStep out of your comfort zone they said... so I stepped out of a plane at 14,000ft
Step out of your comfort zone they said... so I stepped out of a plane at 14,000ft

Sky diving over the picturesque view that is the Whitsundays (Australia)
Killing Tree - CambodiaKilling Tree - Cambodia
Killing Tree - Cambodia

Visited the killing fields in Cambodia - the genocide of 3 million people from 1975-1979. The reign of Pol Pot's - Khmer Rouge Regime
First Stop - IbizaFirst Stop - Ibiza
First Stop - Ibiza

Our first destination was Ibiza, Spain!
Our home for 2 monthsOur home for 2 months
Our home for 2 months

For 2 months we (myself, my two sisters and my best friend) called this baby home! We road-tripped down the East Coast of Australia. We started in Cape Tribulation, where this photo is taken, and traveled south to Sydney.
Black Rhino - South AfricaBlack Rhino - South Africa
Black Rhino - South Africa

Had the honor of spotting the rare Black Rhino in its natural habitat while on safari in South Africa. These are endangered species as they are illegally hunted by poachers as their trunk horns sell for hundreds of thousands on the black market.
Hugging Kangaroo Jack - AustraliaHugging Kangaroo Jack - Australia
Hugging Kangaroo Jack - Australia

We happened to be at a family café and noticed a Kangaroo in the backyard. Turned out that Jack here was a survivor of a car accident. His mother had him in her pouch when she was hit by a car and died. This is very common on the Australian highways and we too found ourselves weaving around kangaroos in the middle of the night while driving on "Kangaroo Highway", wonder where it got that name...
Laura - Submerged Budah's in BaliLaura - Submerged Budah's in Bali
Laura - Submerged Budah's in Bali

We were out diving a reef and wreck and came across these submerged Buddha's at the bed of the seafloor. It was an incredible experience, not being able to speak but just able to enjoy the moment together.
Laura bungee jumpingLaura bungee jumping
Laura bungee jumping

We decided to do something crazy and jump off a bridge... casual right? This was in South Africa, on the highest bungee bridge in the world. What an incredible thrill!
Man of the HourMan of the Hour
Man of the Hour

We spotted this beautiful lion under a tree with 3 female lions napping next to him and one baby cub climbing on top of papa playfully!
Exploring the Indian Ocean!Exploring the Indian Ocean!
Exploring the Indian Ocean!

Scuba diving in island in Nusa Lembongan, Klungkung, Bali
Dinner is served...Dinner is served...
Dinner is served...

Eating scorpion at a night market in Bangkok
Watch me nay nay...Watch me nay nay...
Watch me nay nay...

Amanda gets a new perspective of the Temples in Siem Rep, Cambodia
House of lords, god speaking!House of lords, god speaking!
House of lords, god speaking!

After a long hike we found tranquility on top of Table Mountain in South Africa
Dream the Journey, Live the destinationDream the Journey, Live the destination
Dream the Journey, Live the destination

Enjoying the view after hiking Drakensberg Mountain in South Africa


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