One Year of Exploring the World: Recap

One year and one day ago (May 31, 2018) I said goodbye to my job, home, and life in LA. And exactly one year ago, on June 1, 2018, I boarded a flight to Europe.

One year later: I’ve traveled to 6 continents, exploring 28 countries; I’m 15 lbs heavier and have short, blonde hair; I am happy every single day (not every moment of every day, but every day), and enjoy Mondays every bit as much as Fridays and Saturdays; I carry way less stress in my life; I’ve learned so much, and have met so many wonderful people; and, finally, I’m still not quite ready for this adventure to be over. I’m currently calling Montevideo, Uruguay, home, and will definitely get around to creating a few posts about my experience here. But for now, a trip down memory lane, by posting just a few photos photos from every country I’ve visited (I’ve made so many new friends but didn’t include everyone here because you can check out the original posts for all my photos and deets on all of my fabulous new friends). Also, because my laptop broke a few days ago so I have to do all of this on my iPhone, which means less is definitely best!

I get asked all the time my favorite place, and while that’s hard to pick, I definitely have a couple of “hit lists.” My favorite destinations in the world, in no particular order: (1) Hawaii, (2) New Zealand, (3) Thailand, (4) Morocco, and (5) the Maldives. Cities I’ve visited that felt like home and I wanted to live in: (1) Auckland, (2) Singapore, (3) Marseille, and (4) Montevideo- and of these 4, by far the most affordable, so here I am!

Let’s take a look back at a year of travel…

It all started in London (both rounds 1 & 2 of my travels out of the US).

And then off to Spain, where I spent 2 weeks in Malaga taking Spanish classes (to regain all the knowledge I used to possess, that had become buried in my brain), another week exploring the history and beauty in Sevilla and Córdoba, several days in Madrid spread across numerous trips to that city, a few days in Pamplona enjoying the Festival of San Fermin (aka, Running of the Bulls), and finishing my last week of the Camino de Santiago trekking through numerous towns in northwestern Spain until I arrived at Santiago de Compostela.

Pamplona Crew

In between some of these trips around Spain, I also spent a few weeks exploring Portugal on foot. I opted for the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago, and had the good fortune of meeting loads of wonderful people along that route. Nothing like beginning this adventure with a 240km hike! And in between the hiking I spent several days enjoying Portugal’s larger cities, Lisbon and Porto. And without a doubt a full day wine and history tour I had in Poroto was a highlight of my time in Portugal (no doubt also because the wonderful Canadian family also on the tour were the most delightful people you could imagine)!

 

I capped off my first 2 months of travel with several weeks in France visiting my dear friends Marjorie, Damien, their kids and her family in Marseille and Aix en Provence, then to Lyon to hang out with Pras, a new friend (we met through another mutual friend while all in Pamplona), then a few days along the French Riviera exploring Nice and several other coastal towns.

 

While in the south of France, popped over to Monaco for a day trip. And see private yachts as big as football fields.

Then it was back to the US for a couple of weeks to say goodbye to my beloved Charli and spend time with family, both born into and chosen (Sean & Adam, love you so much!!)

For my next adventure, after another few days in London, I headed to India! I spent a couple of weeks in northern India: in Delhi (catching up with one of my little brother’s best friends, Aasheesh); Agra (Taj Mahal); Jaipur; Udaipur; and my favorite part of all, getting to know Amritsar with Bhavna and her two awesome boys. Still my favorite food of any country in the world!!

After India I headed to Nepal for the month of September. I joined my friend John to trek up to a rural mountain village where we had the opportunity to live with the most loving, generous family, and teach English (as volunteers!) to the most adorable and sweet Nepali children. And I of course squeezed in a few days in my favorite city in all of Nepal, Pokhara, plus a few lovely days in Kathmandu.

View from my mountain home
My wonderful Nepali family, plus one of the most helpful guys in the community, and my favorite student!
Love the friends I’ve made all over the world!

After Nepal I got to have much needed quality and chill time in a city where I could drink the water! And take hot showers! And have reliable power! (What in your life do you take for granted on a daily basis? A month in Nepal will help you figure that out really quickly!) The main reason for my visit to Dubai was to catch up with my friend Stephen, and the bonus was finally getting to know and becoming friends with his BFF, Ian. Both awesome, awesome guys who I really do need to go visit again!

Then it was off to Morocco! My first trip to Africa (finally!!!) did not disappoint. I explored Casablanca, Marrakech, spent a week at a surf camp in Tamraght, then drove myself back up to Casablanca with a pit stop in Essaouira. And of course the stunning doors in Morocco (for which I devoted an entire blog post), and goats in trees. I absolutely loved this trip and met so many wonderful friends at the surf camp! I was fortunate enough to ring in my 38th birthday at the surf camp, certainly not something I’ll forget anytime soon!

Then it was back to the US again, for a much longer stay. Kind of. Because of the 8 or so weeks I was back in the US, 6 were spent living and traveling around the magical islands of Hawaii. While on mainland, I caught up with Mandi, Trenton, and Maggie in FL, lots of my loves in DC, family in MO and then more family in LA for my cousin Bryan’s wedding. And while in LA, thanks to my buddy Marc, I finally made it to Joshua Tree!

Oh, and it was the first time I introduced the world to Annise with pink hair!As anyone who has been there knows, Hawaii is so different in so many (wonderful!) ways from mainland US, it really does feel like you’re in another country. I spent 1 week in Maui, 4 weeks in Oahu, and my final week in the Big Island. While “living” in Oahu I met some incredible people, and my time wouldn’t have been the same without dear friends David and Casey. Plus, my landlord and his girlfriend were beyond amazing and totally invited me into their friend circle, ensuring I had an awesome time (and Thanksgiving!). The friends of friends network and the gym really paid off in this spot! Hawaii is spectacular and remains one of my favorite places on earth.

 

Hawaii was the start of 6 months of a true around-the-world adventure, where I finally stopped flying home every 2 months and continued my journey West. The next couple of months were spent exploring the South Pacific/Oceana region of the world. The beauty (of scenery and the people, in terms of truly beautiful souls) is hard to find anywhere else in the world. My first stop was in Fiji, which I was pleasantly surprised to learn is a really affordable island destination. And filled with some of the nicest people on earth!

 

My next stop was the wonderful island of Vanuatu. I stayed mostly on the main island, but took a day trip to one of the outer islands and WOW. The blue holes there are just spectacular. Plus, loads of interesting history and quite a connection with its (Espiritu Santo) development and the US Military. Another country where I can’t overstate how nice people are, and how AMAZING the food is. My favorite travel buddies from this trip I had the good fortune of meeting at my resort; fellow travelers almost always have incredible stories and this is by far one of my favorite parts of traveling.

Spent a super fun day checking out the local market and eating with Manuel

 

My dinner buddies for my time in Vanuatu.

Following Vanuatu I headed to the Cook Islands for some time around Christmas. I had some mixed feelings about this trip (read my blog for details) and it may have been a bit of a lonely pick for Christmas, but the beaches in Aitutaki (one of the outer islands) are by far some of the most beautiful I’ve seen anywhere in the world! Absolutely breathtaking. And the food!! And I was so in love with the beach dog buddies I made in all the South Pacific Islands.

I wrapped up 2018 with friends, and spending time in one of the most beautiful countries on earth- with some of the most lovely people too! New Zealand is just so incredible in so many ways; there’s a good reason I wrote something like 5 blog posts for a country I spent less than 1 month in. And being able to catch up with Jodi and her sister Tessa, and being welcomed by their family into their home in Wellington for New Year’s Eve (and kicking off 2019 with a kick ass hike together), well, it’s hard to dream up a better way to finish and begin 2018/2019 when traveling abroad. Another bonus: NZ was the first country where I overlapped with a friend I made in a prior country! Jackie and I met at the surf camp in Morocco and caught up with each other in Auckland. Amazing! Also, another one of my favorite travel buddies thus far is Valerio, who I had the good fortune to meet while traveling around the South Island.

My next destination, Australia, was purely to visit friends. While I love (!!!) this country a lot, since I’ve been there before (and will definitely return in the future), I stayed only 1 week, split between Tasmania and Sydney. But it was enough time to catch up with Sarah and Ben and their kids, get to know Briony and Joe well (and Victoria, the super pup), and spend several days catching up with Paula and family in Sydney. Throw in a hike and some pool time, and what a wonderful week it was!

And the return of SUPER pink hair!

 

I went from friends in Australia to visiting a DC environmental lawyer buddy in Singapore! I loved catching up with Holli and her family in their new hometown, and DAMN is the food amazing and cheap! Other than street food in Thailand, I don’t know anywhere else in the world you can get a Michelin-star rated meal for less than $5! Even caught up with yet another former coworker from DC, Sarah, who is also living in Singapore now. It’s the international place to be for sure.

And after a few days exploring Singapore, Holli and I had a wonderful trip to the Philippines, where we ate our faces off in Cebu (foodie paradise!!!) and had a Nature day trip in Bohol. Loved it! Wanna go back!!

The ambience at this winery/restaurant was off the charts!

 

My next destination: Thailand! Thanks to a full passport and the need to obtain a new one from the Embassy, I finally slowed down and had a perfect excuse to spend 3 weeks in this country. But could have stayed for months! I never made it to the south to explore the beaches or islands, instead, I spent all three weeks between Bangkok and northern cities. And don’t regret it at all. Bangkok May have the best cocktail bars in the world, and its weekend market… WHOA. I went to Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, and Pai (my favorite of all the northern cities). Hands-down my favorite day out of a year of traveling was the day I spent volunteering at the elephant sanctuary near Chiang Mai. And the food… GOOD GAWD! I ate my face off. The street food is unbelievable here and so, so cheap. Thailand was also where I met loads of amazing new friends, including Ben, Quan (amazing photographer who was kind enough to snap some great shots of me in Pai), Jesse, Molly, Daniel, and Cassandra. All of these beautiful individuals enriched my travel experience so much, and a couple even became travel buddies. Not over planning and having the flexibility to meet people and travel together is really the best way to do it!

After Thailand, it was off to the races! Lots and lots of bouncing around. When you have anything less than 2 weeks in a foreign country, you can’t really begin to get a good sense of the place or it’s culture and the people. But sometimes, a few days or a week is all you’ve got. I decided something was better than nothing while in this part of the world, so I made my way to Myanmar (formerly, Burma) for a few days. Yangon is a cool city, but Bagan during hot air balloon season is one of the most breathtaking places in the world. Pure magic.

Then it was off to Laos for all-too short 3-4 days. But enough time to relax in Luang Prabang and check out the most beautiful waterfall I’ve seen anywhere in the world!

Then it was off to the country that had been #1 on my bucket list for as long as I could remember: the Maldives! It is even more beautiful in person than you can imagine, and totally worth the insane prices to get there and for what you’ll pay when you are there. It really was a week in paradise!

After a week in paradise, I was Africa-bound again! Before I arrived to Cape Town, I had an extended layover in Qatar, and thanks to bus tours organized by the airline, I actually got to experience a tiny bit of Doha (rather than just hanging out in the airport for 8 hours). Definitely reminded me of Dubai in so many ways.

I spent just under a week in Cape Town, which wasn’t nearly enough! So much to see, so, and explore. Unbelievable food and wine, and street musicians as good as any I’ve heard anywhere in the world! Took a day trip to wine country, which was a highlight of the week for sure.

I had a 10-day group tour scheduled in Egypt and while it would have been easy to stay in South Africa, I just couldn’t pass up the chance to spend time in Ethiopia. Even though 4 days was all I could squeeze in, which was probably a bit more time than you need for Addis Ababa, but not enough time to explore the countryside. The food did not disappoint and I stayed with the most wonderful couple (thanks Airbnb). Plus, the people here are so nice and friendly, and it really is a safe city- I walked around by myself all the time and never had an issue.

After a few days in the country that is the cradle of humanity (remains of Lucy, the first human(ish), were found and remain in Ethiopia, plus, the entire world can thank Ethiopia for coffee), I continued to explore history in the most incredible place: Egypt. Another country that had been in my top-5 on the bucket list for so long, and it did not disappoint. It is endlessly fascinating! Plus, met loads of wonderful people in my tour group. img_30959b3b3b1f-443c-4b18-b1ca-557fd95c628aimg_3279img_3545

Much like Ethiopia was a last minute “squeeze” into my itinerary, so was my next stop: Israel. I figured that since it was next door, I would be crazy to pass up the chance to visit. Plus, since I had visited the cradle of humanity and homes of some of the earliest empires, I figured I may as well keep educating myself and check out the cradle of many world religions. I had heard so many great things about Tel Aviv, and it’s super easy to take a day trip to Jerusalem.

My last stop for this leg of my trip was a few days in the Tuscan region of Italy. Italian food never disappoints, and since it had been 10 years since my last visit, I loved getting the chance to revisit some of my favorite places (Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre) and visit new ones (Lucca and San Gimignano).

Then it was back to the US for a few weeks, because, tax season (thanks Uncle Sam). But my return was only temporary and before I knew it I was back on a plane and heading to Latin America, to resume a focus on Spanish and my health. This all kicked off in Costa Rica, with Spanish classes as a home stay in Liberia (and in only a week I felt like I had family in Liberia), followed by a week in Nosara at a personal development retreat (met lots of beautiful souls here!), and finally, a few days in San Jose catching up with my buddy Jose Pablo. Plus, squeezed in surfing and caught the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen anywhere in the world (outside of SoCal).

That brings me to my current home, and place that rounded out my year of travel: Uruguay. This country is so wonderful and full of so much beauty, but I’m going to save those details (and photos) for a future post.

It’s been an amazing trip around the sun and I am so in love with my life. Life is short and precious and you have a duty to be happy… so what are you waiting for?!

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3 thoughts on “One Year of Exploring the World: Recap

  1. This was such a fun read! And your love for each of these new experiences is evident. It’s wonderful how you’ve made friends everywhere you’ve been!

    p.s.: I agree India has the best food 😀 I travel a lot and only french food (in France) has come close in terms of complexity & variety of flavours.

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    1. What a wonderful year for my curious and brave Daughter. A lifetime of memories. Where will she go next and in which land will she decide to live. Love, Mom

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      1. Thanks mom! I am so blessed to be living this dream and experiencing the world like this. So appreciate your continued support and enthusiasm for my adventures. Love you!!

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