Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of @monstaface_thegrouch.
One Bungee-Jumping, Gorge-Swinging, Shark-Diving Traveler's Story
Thirty-eight-year old Mark Anthony Ashton is an avid traveler, foodie, and thrill-seeker. He works as a logistics management specialist for the federal government, and also as a voice actor. Born in New York and raised in Philadelphia, Mark began traveling in 2014.
“A friend of mine was working for an airline and added me as a companion. This allowed me to travel to many of the places I’d always wanted to visit without having to worry about the cost. She eventually stopped working for the airline, but by that time I had become accustomed to traveling and there was so much more I wanted to experience.”
Since then, Mark has traveled to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Italy, Portugal, China, Australia, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, Belgium, France, Thailand, Dominican Republic, England, Japan, Egypt, Colombia, South Africa, Hungary, Iceland, Kenya, Greece, Canada, Spain, United Arab Emirates, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Belize, New Zealand, and many U.S. states.
He cites Costa Rica as one of his favorite countries to visit. “I’ve been there ten times. Costa Rica changed my taste regarding what I wanted out of travel and helped me develop some new hobbies.”
“When I first started traveling, I was going to destinations where my activities consisted of a lot of sightseeing and eating. Those are awesome things to do, but once you start hiking in the jungle, jumping from waterfalls, white water rafting, and catching fish as big as you, looking at paintings and statues just isn’t enough anymore. Costa Rica was also my first big group trip with my homies. It started their appetite for travel, and now I can’t even go to the corner store alone anymore.”
Thailand is another of Mark’s favorite destinations, which he thinks everyone should visit at least once in their life.
“It’s just an awesome place. A beautiful country with amazing people and great food. There are tons of activities to do, and the U.S. dollar goes a LONG way.”
Mark also loved all the countries he’s been able to visit on the African continent.
“Costa Rica opened my appetite for more adventurous activities. In Africa, my adventurous appetite was satisfied beyond belief. Many of the thrill-seeking activities I’ve done were in Africa, not to mention some of the most breathtaking sites I have ever seen.”
Mark is no novice thrill-seeker. He has done some of the world’s most exhilarating activities and experienced things that are not for the faint of heart, including New Zealand’s Nevis swing, the biggest canyon swing in the world.
“I did the Nevis bungee, Nevis swing, and Nevis catapult all in one day, and it made me feel like an absolute LEGEND!”
“I’ve white water rafted three times and bungee jumped twice. I’ve done a gorge swing twice, shark diving, and paragliding. I’ve catapulted, waterfall jumped, and sky dived. I’m not sure if a safari counts as thrill seeking, but watching a crocodile catch and drown a zebra during the great migration was kind of crazy.”
But Mark also appreciates some calm and tranquility during his travels. He enjoys relaxing on the beach as well as stargazing. “It’s a little hobby I developed once I purchased camera equipment. I love photographing the stars and the moon. I was able to capture an eclipse and the Northern Lights in Iceland. I can never get enough of looking at a clear night sky in a dark sky location.”
Mark says his experiences traveling abroad as a Black man have been overwhelmingly positive. “Outside of the U.S., I feel like they roll the red carpet out for me and treat me with the utmost respect because I’m Black. They literally tell me that to my face. Meanwhile, I can go to Miami and try to catch a cab and they would roll the window up in my face and drive off. During my travels people have stopped me to hug me, help me, take pictures, bowed to me, and even presented me with gifts. Outside the U.S. I get treated like I’m a rock star.”
His next adventure? Relocating to Afghanistan. “I’m actually moving to the capital, Kabul, for work. It’s happening in about two weeks, so I’m just preparing for that and looking forward to getting settled in and getting used to all the changes.”
Mark says one of the ways he feels he benefits from traveling is that it helps make him a more well-rounded and interesting person. “The more I travel the more I learn about myself. I learn more about what I want and expect from life. It gives me joy, knowledge, lifetime memories, expands my social network, and has helped me learn to deal with feelings of uncertainty. Traveling has changed my life for the better and it has helped me do the same for many others.”
Follow Mark on Instagram: @monstaface_thegrouch.