The 25 Most Incredible Things I’ve Done Before Turning 25


Another year lived, another number added to my age!

As I write this, I find my 25th birthday approaching rather rapidly, so instead of focusing on the bad parts of getting older (I swear I find a new wrinkle every other day) I thought I’d focus on the best parts; which of course, are the experiences one has along the way.

So without further ado, here are the 25 most incredible things I’ve done before my 25th birthday.

1. Travelled solo

I have been travelling solo pretty consistently for the last 6 years, and on the whole, it has been an incredibly rewarding, fulfilling and special way to see the world.

I have never felt lonely or sad to be alone, and an absence of other humans has never made me feel empty or isolated. Instead, it has made the most exciting moments of my life even more magical.

IceHOTEL, Sweden

2. Travelled with my father

I’ll always preach and talk about my love of solo travelling, but that definitely doesn’t mean that it is the only way I want to explore.

Last year I travelled with my father (Papa Burne) to South America and Antarctica, and found the experience challenging at first, but by the time it came for us to part ways in Santiago airport, I found myself crying like a baby and not wanting him to go.

We had an amazing time adventuring together, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

3. Swam with humpback whales

This just may be my favourite under-water encounter ever!

In August I travelled to Tonga to swim with humpies, and it did not disappoint. These encounters were nothing short of magnificent and awe-inspiring. It is the kind of thing I’d happily do over and over and over again.

Ha’apai, Tonga

4. Visited all seven continents

I know that I have been banging on about this accomplishment for a while, and I probably sound like a bloody broken record, but to have achieved this at the age of 24?

Well, I am still pretty damn stoked about it.

Port Lockroy, Antarctica

5. Kayaked in both the North and South Poles

I kayaked in Greenland in 2015 and loved it so much that I have always wanted to go back and do it again. So when I decided that I was going to Antarctica, making sure that I would go on a voyage that would facilitate my love of kayaking was quite important to me. Luckily, Oceanwide Expeditions did me a solid and the kayaking guide Pete (who is an absolute legend) managed to get me out on the water more than once, fulfilling my dream to get my paddle on in both Poles.

Ilulissat, Greenland

6. Went dog sledding in Iceland… and Greenland… and Svalbard

I bloody love dog sledding. So much so that I have done it many times and in many different places. Heck, I got in a dog sledding accident that ruined my knee and required hospitalisation, yet two weeks later I was back at it again!

There is just something so special about feeling the wind in your hair, the ice on your cheeks and watching the cutest doggos wag their tails with endless excitement.

Sisimiut, Greenland

7. Partied my ass off at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

I look like an absolute baby in this picture – I think I was only 19 or 20 when it was taken! I had an absolute blast during Hogmanay in Edinburgh, and it still remains the only NYE of my life that has ever been truly top notch. If you are looking for a kickass way to ring in the New Year – this is definitely it.

Torchlight Procession, Edinburgh

8. Visited the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Visiting Chernobyl was something that I had wanted to do for a really long time. I found the history surrounding the nuclear disaster (especially how it was (mis)handled by the Soviet Union) fascinating, and I wanted to see the aftermath for myself.

It ended up being every bit as interesting, sobering and thought provoking as I had anticipated. If you ever find yourself in Ukraine, this is a trip that it not to be missed.

Pripyat, Ukraine

9. Slept in an igloo

It may not have been made out of, shall we say, traditional materials; but nevertheless, spending the night in this Greenlandic igloo was pretty bloody magical.

Feeling the wind shake, watching icebergs drift by and looking out of the window at 3am to see the northern lights dancing above me all made for one very special experience, and even though I have stayed in some seriously swanky accommodation in my time, this little igloo still ranks as one of my most memorable hotel stays.

Side note: would a blog post about my favourite hotels/hostels/resorts be something that you’d be interested in reading? Let me know in the comments!
Hotel Arctic, Greenland

10. Watched the Northern Lights (more times than I could’ve hoped for)

I have gotten so bloody lucky when it comes to the Aurora Borealis, and have seen the Northern Lights on many different occasions. I have never sat down and listed all the separate times before, but I will give it a whirl now.


On the flight from London to Reykjavik through the plane window
Immediately upon exiting Keflavik airport
On a Nothern Lights tour with Time Tours
On the bus from Jokusarlon to Reykjavik


Standing outside the IceHotel in Kiruna
On a snowmobiling trip in Kiruna


On a date with a Danish tour guide in Ilulissat
From my igloo at the Hotel Arctic
On a Northern Lights tour on the outskirts of Ilulissat
From my apartment in Ilulissat
From my hotel window in Sisimiut
Wandering back from the airport in Kangerlussuaq (the only place with reliable wifi) at 3am
On a Northern Lights tour in Kangerlussuaq
From the plane window on my flight from Kangerlussuaq to Copenhagen
Ilulissat, Greenland

11. Gotten accosted by a horde of Greenlandic pups

Greenland dogs (a little like huskies but more closely related to wolves… and so much fluffier) are easily my favourite type of doggo in the world. One day I’d like to retire in a little Greenlandic cottage with 1 or 2 of these beauties to keep me company.

Oqaatsut, Greenland

12. Backpacked through Iran

My time in Iran was everything I had hoped it would be, and much more. Not only was it an incredibly cheap place (you can easily get by on $20/day) – it was also one of the friendliest, easiest, safest and most rewarding countries that I have ever travelled through.

Yazd, Iran

13. Stayed in the most ridonkulously lush villas in the Maldives

I love both sides of the travel world.

I am very happy to stay in dirt cheap 14 bed dorms, but I also love a little bit of luxury every once in a while.

Some places are made for backpacking, but other places make you want to seek out a truly beautiful place to stay, and the Maldives are one such place.

I have been lucky enough to stay in four extremely luxurious Maldivian resorts – Maalifushi by COMO, Kandolhu, Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani (pictured) – and each one has been an almost other-worldly experience.

Soneva Jani, Maldives

14. Played with bunnies on Okunoshima

I fricking love bunnies.

I have had pet buns for pretty much my entire life, and just love everything about them. I love the way their little noses twitch, I love their fluffiness, I love their tails, I love the way they hop around and I very much love how sweet they look when they pop back on their hind legs and clean themselves.

So, to spend hours on an island that is filled to the brim with buns? Well, that was pretty much a dream come true!

Okunoshima, Japan

15. Went hot air ballooning

Hot air ballooning had been something that I had wanted to do for a long time, but the usually exorbitant price tag it comes with had effectively kept me at an arms length. I travelled to Egypt near the end of a two month trip, and as such, I was getting dangerously low on dollarydoos. Luckily, Egypt turned out to be super cheap to travel through, and I was able to do an absolutely amazing sunrise balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings for around $70ish.

Luxor, Egypt

16. Explored the temples of Bagan (and conquered a fear in the process)

Bagan was a surprising experience for me.

It is often dubbed the ‘Angkor Wat of Myanmar’, but actually, I found this historical site filled with thousands of pagodas and temples to be much more interesting (and pretty) than Angkor Wat had been. Also, it was for the most part, much less crowded due to the fact that the city covers such a large area.

However, having it be so large means that one cannot really explore it on foot, which is where e-bikes come in.

I had expected e-bikes to be bicycles with a little motor attached, but they actually ended up being electric scooters! I am a truly terrible driver (I don’t even have my license) and get quite nervous on the roads. So getting started on my bike was a rather teary struggle. However, thanks to encouragement from my travel buddy Chelsea, I ended up getting the scootering thing down pat, and my time in Bagan ended up being absolutely brilliant.

Bagan, Myanmar

17. Visited the Lost City of Petra

Visiting Petra had been on my bucket list since I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as a 7 year old munchkin at my Grandma’s house. I had dreams of being the first person to walk up to the Treasury in the early hours of the morning and letting the amazingness of the facade peacefully wash over me.

Last year, this dream came real, and it was even better than 7 year old Elle could have imagined.

The Treasury, Jordan

18. Slept on a bed of ice… twice!

First, I slept on an actual bed at the ICEhotel in Sweden. Second, I slept in a grave of ice in Antarctica.

They were both very different experiences, but surprisingly, both provided me with quite a good nights sleep!

IceHOTEL, Sweden

19. Inter-railed through Europe

I did an Interail trip through Europe in 2013/14, and honestly, I had such an amazing time. I saw a lot of Europe, I loved the ease of train travel as opposed to flying, and it was the first solo trip on which I felt like I was getting my shit together as a backpacker.

I learned how to navigate, how to speak just enough of each language to get by, how to locate even the most obscure of hostels, and how to feel safe and confident as a solo female traveller.

It was also the first time I had been overseas since being sexually assaulted in Ireland, and continuing to travel even after such a traumatic experience reminded me that I was strong, that I was moving forward, and that I was not going to let being raped have a negative influence on the rest of my life.

If I had followed my instincts (which told me never to leave home again after the assault) I would have been letting my rapist continue to have control over me, even after he was physically gone, and that just didn’t sit right with me.

Going on this trip was one of the scariest things I have ever done, but it set me solidly on the path to healing and recovery, and for that, it may just be the most important trip I have ever taken.

Chateau du Fontainebleau, France

20. Watched a glacier calve

Travelling with Papa Burne (my father) gave me many great memories, but one of my favourites is the day we spent at Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentinian Patagonia.

It was unusually cold on the day we went (it snowed for what was the first time in months) and as a result, the glacier moved much less than it would have on a sunny day – but we still saw a few small calvings, and the sound of the ice cracking and breaking is something that truly has to be heard to be believed.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

21. Saw the Pyramids of Giza

Another tick off the bucket list here!

I remember spending an entire term of Grade Four studying Ancient Egypt. We made faux papyrus, learnt hieroglyphics, made paper-mache mummies and read story after story about Ancient Egypt; and it really left a mark on me.

Visiting the Pyramids wasn’t quite as magical as Petra (mostly due to the touts who could simply not be deterred) but it was still a great way to live out a childhood dream.

Cairo, Egypt

22. Went on some spectacular snorkelling adventures

Whether it be the unbelievably colourful reefs of Timor-Leste, the abundance of jellyfish in the Philippines or the incredible variety of wildlife in the Maldives, I have been lucky enough to have some pretty wonderful underwater adventures over the past few years.

Maalifushi by COMO, Maldives

23. Found a non-bogan side of Bali

For a long time I resisted going to Bali.

I imagined it as nothing more than a haven for the biggest bogans of Australia, and if you visit Kuta, it certainly seems that way. However, through many visits to this beautiful Indonesian island, I have found stunning temples, unbelievable food and locals more wonderful and kind than you could ever imagine.

Karsa Spa, Ubud

24. Moved to a brand new city

It’s been almost three years since I packed up my life in Adelaide and moved to Darwin. Moving across Australia may not have been as big as moving to a whole new country, but doing it as a 22 year old on her own still felt pretty daunting. As it turns out, I have absolutely loved living in Darwin, and I’d be quite happy to stay a while longer.

However, sometimes life throws you a curveball. In my instance, this curveball goes by the name of Dan, and you’ll be seeing more of him on this blog as time goes by.

For a long time I thought that I couldn’t meet someone who would fit into my lifestyle and who I would have a connection with, but as it turns out, that was apparently not such an impossible dream.

I have recently fallen pretty head over heels in love with this guy, and as corny as it sounds, I think he might end up being ‘the one’, and it is looking like I may be moving once again next year, this time to Melbourne.

Life is a crazy thing, and these plans might change (given my past relationship history this could end at any given moment), but for the first time, I am really hopeful that it won’t.

Florence Falls, Australia

25. Created a life in which all this was possible

My travelling life started in my teens and will hopefully continue until the day I die. Travelling is not exactly the cheapest hobby to have, but somehow I have always managed to make it work.

As a uni student I worked three jobs and participated in medical trials for moolah, and now, as an ‘adult’ (or as someone just pretending) I work as a midwife to help support and fund my travel habits. I have negotiated with my employer to take extra leave, and have become the master of working a monthly roster to get as many days off as possible.

This will all change once I move to Melbourne, but I will still absolutely make it work for me.

There is still so much of the world that I want to see, and by continuing to make travel one of my highest priorities, you better believe that I will make it happen.

Kandolhu, Maldives

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

22 thoughts on “The 25 Most Incredible Things I’ve Done Before Turning 25

  1. As I wrote in the uni grad card for my third daughter, ‘reach for the moon, if you miss head to the stars.’ (At the time I thought I was being original)
    I had to laugh when I read your 24th favourite thing – you have your priorities straight! A relationship can fit in better if you do not compromise everything. Keep on travelling.
    Did you blog about travelling by rail through Europe?

  2. Fabulous adventures! How do you finance your travels if you are always travelling and do you intend to settle anywhere in particular longer term? 🙋

  3. This is an impressive list, to be sure. Never give up on your dreams! Three things: 1. You will find piling on the years doesn’t minimize who you are. It only adds on. 2. Dan’s presence, should he be “the one”, will ramp up the quality of your travels and other experiences, 100-fold. When I was 25, I had visions of a life alone. Five years later, I was head over heels. 3. You are cordially invited to dig into the North American southwest- a truly unique part of the world.

  4. I can’t believe you’re only 25! This is a pretty amazing list!
    I’m so happy to see you’ve been able to travel after your assault. I know that can be very traumatic and it’s easier to shy away from danger after something like that, but we can’t let the bastards get us down <3

  5. I am 63 and have thought I have traveled a lot but you beat me hands down. Wish you well on all upcoming adventures. Keep the youth it is what keeps us young at heart.

  6. Wow, you’ve done a lot during your quarter century on this planet! 😃 Your travels are amazing and I’m happy to hear that you’ve found someone who fits with your lifestyle. All the best for your upcoming move and your next adventures. 🙂

    And happy birthday in advance! My 25th birthday is this month too, but I have some catching up to do before I can match your list. 😅

  7. You’ve done so much Ellen; you’ve every right to sing about it from the rooftops. Not sure about this Dan character, but then I guess we can’t have everything. Your photos still look adorable but I’m glad you noticed the wrinkles…I didn’t want to have to be the first to mention it, only…I hope I look as good when I get to your age! I hope you have another great year wherever that leads you.

  8. Wow. That’s quite a quarter century, and you didn’t even start the travel until the last part of that. You have been inspirational to me, and after I retired, I am planning on doing some serious travel after reading your blog.

  9. I always love reading your blogs. Your adventures sound incredible and I’ve often been jealous. I’m really sorry you suffered a sexual assault but I’m glad you were able to overcome it and keep on solo travelling. That takes a lot of courage. Here’s to another year of travels for you. Happy birthday.

  10. Nice wrap up. You’ve accomplished so much in such a short time. May the next twenty-five years bring you as much joy. Happy Birthday.

  11. Congratulations! What incredible achievements!! You’ve done more than most people your age will ever do. So many lovely memories for you to look back on. Be proud !!:)

  12. This is so freaking amazing! Congratulations to you. What I admire the most is that you did all this while maintaining a full-time job – that is just incredible. I can imagine how much hard work you put into it to make it all possible. I am the same age as you but nowhere have I traveled as much as have, although I do try my best 🙂 Few items from my bucket list up there! And awesome photos as always. 🙂

  13. I don’t read many blogs on here, but yours made me say “wow”. I’ve done a lot of traveling and there is still so much more to see – and your post made me all wanderlusty (that sounds bad) again. I think it is truly amazing that you have been to so many unique places and it will probably make you one of the most truly amazing people on this planet! Keep traveling and discovering and growing and POSTING!!

  14. This is a BRILLIANT list. Also…well done for going back to travelling after an assault…that is so admirable. I am impressed!!

    Alex 😊

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