"I love nature, and the opportunity to experience its beauty, often in remote places, far from the noise and light pollution that so many of us are accustomed to in our daily lives," she said.
The United States may have been first to establish a national park -- Yellowstone, in 1872 -- but governments around the world have reserved thousands of acres supporting wildlife conservation, protecting natural beauty and promoting ecotourism.
As the summer travel season kicks off, Dirkse and others shared their photos of their favorite national parks outside the United States
. Having visited more countries and parks than she can count, Dirkse had a few tips for travelers interested in touring parks abroad:
1. Take your time: "It is very easy to make your itinerary so tight that you don't really see anything at all, especially when you've come a long way to get there," Dirkse said. "Sometimes it is best to experience one thing slowly than many things quickly, and with national parks, the more slowly you can move the better."
2. Befriend locals: Ask local people their favorite places in the park, and listen to their stories, she suggested.
3. Sleep outside: "Almost all national parks allow camping, though rules and facilities vary widely, and for me it is the best chance to experience nature at its most serene, and often local culture," Dirkse said.
4. When it comes to weather, plan for the worst:
Even rainy days can be pleasant if you have a hat and waterproof clothes, she said. Her best day at Rapa Nui National Park
on Chile's Easter Island "was filled with intermittent downpours ... but between the rains, the light and clouds were incredible."
5. Know your limits: "It's important to understand that you are responsible for your own safety and that the precautions to prevent you from doing something stupid, or the services to rescue you in an emergency are often very different from what you expect back home," she said.