Currently on the South American leg of
her epic journey, 25-year-old Gael Stigant has already savoured the
atmosphere in Brazil during the world cup, gone fishing for
piranhas and been beneath the world's surface in a Bolivian
mine - and shared a dormitory with tattooed Welshmen!
Baldrine woman Gael this year took a six-month sabbatical from her job as a senior reporter with The Star newspaper in Sheffield. But the idea actually started to form a year earlier, when she was made redundant from a previous reporting job. That, coupled with her '25 Crisis' - the sort most of us can only wish for these days - led to her packing her bags and setting off.
Although she admitted to being 'terrified' at the start of the journey, one month in she has already packed in enough experiences to last most people all their way up to their 50 Crisis, at least.
Her first full day saw Gael climb up the Pedra de Gavea, a mountain in the Tijuca Forest, with stunning views of Rio. As the spectacular main picture, of Gael taking in the amazing landscape demonstrates, you need a head for heights.
Said Gael: 'I nearly died climbing the bloody thing but, my goodness, it was worth it.'
This had followed an inauspicious first night in Rio, when her arrival at her accommodation would not have looked out of place in a Bridget Jones film.
'I suspect the hostel staff saw the dodgy spelling of my name and assumed I was a man,' Gael confided. 'So I ended up in a dorm with seven burly, heavily-tattooed Welshmen and a couple of Aussie blokes who live in vest tops that flash as much toned flesh as possible.'
Gael says it was a complete coincidence she ended up in Brazil during the World Cup and, although football fever took over, the local people she spoke to still held concerns at the amount of taxpayers' cash spent on the event.
Her time in Brazil also included a trip to Pantanal, the world's largest freshwater floodpain, for a spot of fishing. While Gael didn't manage to land any, her travel companion caught several piranhas!
They later enjoyed the fish, pan-fried. Gael commented: 'Avoiding the teeth which were still grinning at me, I tucked in - and it wasn't half bad!'
In Bolivia, Gael was struck by the poverty. She also went on a trip down a silver and zinc mine in Potosi. It proved a nerve-wracking experience.
Gael, the great-granddaughter of a Laxey miner, described 'shuffling along narrow passages ankle-deep in water and crawling through tiny tunnels with razor-sharp pieces of rock digging into your knees'.
'I'm quite proud of myself for only crying once down there.'
She added: 'I don't think I did great-granddad Matty proud. But it's certainly made me even more proud of him.'
After South America, Gael moves on to Auckland in New Zealand.
You can keep up to date with Gael's travel exploits via her blog here: http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog/gaelstigant/1/tpod.html
This article first appeared in the Manx Advertiser.