My Mum and her family are from Samoa and it will always be close to my heart. I travelled over a few times as a kid but my most memorable trip was when I was 14. My older brother and I went for three weeks and led a very traditional way of life with our relatives. I love to take my own kids back now so that they can understand the culture that has been such a massive part of my life. It's changing now and Apia (the capital) has a lot of new resorts being built as people realise what a beautiful country it is. It's definitely been a hidden gem for a long time.
My first ever long-haul flight was to London as a 17-year-old. It was my first chance to be a real 'tourist' overseas and I absolutely loved it. Although I ended up living there for some time, it was those first experiences of exploring a foreign city that really left a big impression on me. I had barely spent any time away from my family before going over so I did a lot of growing up during my time there.
NEW YORK CITY
I'd been to New York a couple of times before 2012 but they had always been really quick trips for football – you arrive, barely get out of your hotel, play a match and then leave. It wasn't until I went over to sign with New York Red Bulls that I was properly able to experience the city. I lived in Manhattan for the first few weeks and fell in love with the city in that time. I loved exploring the different areas of the city with their own distinct styles, especially SoHo and the Meatpacking District.
The primary reason for going to South Africa was for work I was doing with an organisation that helps unemployed youth. I was able to go and visit some townships outside of the main cities and that really opened my eyes to the realities of life there. I've continued to go back since then and my family have loved it as well. The safari that we went on was the best family holiday that we've ever had.
I tell anyone who asks that Shanghai is like New York on steroids. It's busier, more colourful, crazier and somehow even more eye-opening. To have pretty much the entire population of Australia in a single city gives you a bit of an idea. It took some getting used to, but I grew to love the city. To experience a culture so different to what I had been used to throughout my life was an amazing learning experience.
International footballer Tim Cahill is a brand ambassador for online travel company, TripADeal. Phone 135 777. See tripadeal.com