HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE AROUND THE WORLD! My first task of the new year was spending the day reflecting on the joys of my previous year. It’s no surprise that traveling tops the list of my joys. From my time teaching abroad in South Korea to five months backpacking in Asia, I’ve spent the most time traveling this year than in any other year of my life! Two years ago, I started a New Year’s ritual to dedicate my year to a mantra, or rather a guideline for living. Last year, I centered my year around the phrase: “make it happen.” As I look back on my 2015, it feels great knowing I followed through with my resolution. Now let’s celebrate the ending of another year to make way for new beginnings!
YEAR IN NUMBERS
In 2015, I traveled approximately 28,463.9 miles or 45,808.2 kilometers mostly in Asia. Since ending a 1 year teaching gig in Daejeon, I packed up a backpack and have spent 148 days in constant movement. I’ve spent 29 of those days back at home in Beverly, MA after 1 and 1/2 years of being away and the rest of those 119 days sleeping in hostels, budget hotels, sleeper trains, and planes. I’ve taken 17 flights, of which 14 were international and 3 were domestic. I visited 33 destinations including Jeonju, Gwangju, Seoul, Nami Island, The DMZ, Siem Reap, Kampong Phluk, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, Phuket, Koh Pha Ngan, Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Changu Narayan, Pokhara, Sauraha, New Delhi, Agra, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Mumbai, Anjuna, Arambol, Panjim, Morjim, Chennai, Abu Dhabi, San Jose, San Francisco, Boston, and Toronto. I traveled to 8 countries which were Cambodia, Thailand*, Malaysia*, Nepal, India, United Arab Emirates, Canada*, USA* but only *4 new stamps were added to the passport. I also had to apply for 3 visas. I saw 2 world wonders, crossed off 5 items on my bucket list, and spent 120 in-class hours getting my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate in Thailand. Also I marked 25 awesome years on earth in Daejeon, South Korea and had a belated birthday bash in Bangkok, Thailand after 7 years of not having been back surrounded by friends from around the world. Four letters: E-P-I-C.
Riding the wave of the #topnine2015 hashtag! Thank you so much for the ♥ 5,129 Likes to 55 posts in 2015. Follow me on instagram at @abcdefghizzy.
TOP TRAVEL HIGHLIGHTS
COMPLETING A YEAR TEACHING ABROAD
July 30 | I have never felt more accomplished than finishing up my first year teaching abroad! After working at a very demanding school in Korea, I was really proud of my performance, both as an educator and as a worker. The year ended on a high note as my departure coincided with my 25th birthday so on top of a tearful goodbye, I was treated to an adorable cake and thoughtful gifts from my students and co-workers!
BACKPACKING WITH TIM
September 4th | At the beginning of the year, I decided to go backpacking after my contract ended. When informing Tim about my decision, he told me without hesitation that he would be joining me on the excursion. I don’t think I can recall a happier day for me in 2015 than the day he arrived in Thailand after a month apart (I had finished up a month earlier and went ahead). Here was a guy I had met teaching abroad after having no desire to be in serious relationship and now, we were embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. He stuck with me through the good, the bad, and the downright ugly (ie. Delhi Belly in India.) They say you’re either gonna love a person more or hate them after an undertaking such as this one. I ended up having a heart full of love and a traveling companion for life.
VISITING THE TAJ MAHAL
Oct. 29 | The day we arrived in Agra, it was the first time in five months that I had to bring my jacket out. The next day, imagine our surprise when we woke up to a blue, cloudless sky! We decided to head to the Taj Mahal super early and for a good two hours, it felt like we had the whole garden to ourselves. The Taj Mahal surpassed every expectation I had. I was anticipating an overcrowded, underwhelming tourist attraction and instead, got an intimate look at one of the seven wonders of the world.
CELEBRATING MY 25TH BIRTHDAY IN THAILAND
Aug. 12 | When your squad is bigger than the island! What was supposed to be a sisters-only trip morphed into a traveling troupe of thirteen at its largest! Seven years ago, I spent a gap year in Thailand and for the first time in seven years, I came back with twelve of my closest family and friends (most of whom traveled more than 8,000 miles to be with me)!!! I had people from Boston, Kuala Lumpur, and even Vienna, come celebrate my quarter-life anniversary and we ended up renting out a house in Bangkok to accommodate the lot of us!
DOING A HOMESTAY IN NEPAL
Oct. 5-14 | There was no question that I would volunteer in some shape or form while backpacking. Dhruba KC’s cultural exchange homestay was without a doubt, the best part of my whole backpacking experience. In exchange for a few hours of manual labor here and there, Dhruba KC invited us into his home where we were given room and board. There were eight other volunteers staying at his house perched on top of a mountain (or what the Nepalis call a hill) so we became a little family. We took showers under communal water taps, helped tend to his tomato garden, and ripped apart a house damaged by the earthquake. I even introduced a local school teacher to Beyonce and Taylor Swift. It was a magical ten days where I felt completely at peace far away from the maddening chaos of the city.
FULL MOON PARTY WITH MY BEST FRIEND
Sept. 26 | I have been wanting to go to a Full Moon Party ever since I first heard about it as an eighteen-year-old youth. This year, I finally had the chance to fulfill that dream and who better to accompany me then my best friend, Cheyenne! Cheyenne had never been overseas prior to this trip but we always talked about the day we’d travel together so we made it happen (2015 catchphrase) in Thailand. The Full Moon Party was out-of-control! All I remember are strobe lights, an overdose of neon, and a bunch of extremely drunk partygoers continuously bouncing around to the sounds of EDM. I cannot believe I survived a whole night of outrageous partying on a tropical island from dusk to dawn with my best friend.
ATTENDING AN INDIAN WEDDING
Nov. 18 | I’ve prayed long and hard to be invited to an Indian wedding. As fate would have it, while in Malaysia, I literally bumped into an old college friend who, bless her soul, invited me to her Indian friend’s wedding! I felt like the universe was given me a big thumbs up then and there! Tim and I traveled to Chennai, India to partake in the festivities. Hindu weddings are a looooong drawn-out affair — four days to be exact. We dressed the part (sari for her, kurta for him), sat through hours of ritualistic chanting until our eyes burned from an incense-filled room, and became best friends with the attendants at the wedding buffet(s). Nothing feels better than crossing an item of your bucket list.
TOURING AROUND ANGKOR WAT
Aug. 9 | Angkor Wat has been on top of the travel list for a while now as I’ve gained an interest in sacred spaces. It is the largest religious site in the world so it was a no-brainer to make time to see it while traveling around Southeast Asia. Even after two failed attempts at watching an Angkor Wat sunrise, there was nothing that could diminish the glory that is Angkor Wat. Personally, I think its mankind’s most sublime creative achievement. I was made silent by the stunning architectural detail, especially at Bayon Temple, known for its huge stone face structures.
FALLING IN LOVE WITH SAN FRANCISCO
Dec. 1 | As a belated anniversary present, Tim treated me to a date touring San Francisco. We started the day looking over the cityscape from the angles of both Twin Peaks and Battery Spencer (the best location to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge) and then made our way to Fisherman’s Wharf to eat SF’s famous clam chowder served in sourdough bread bowls. We made the most of one day: riding a cable car to the Ferry Building , eating warm pork buns in Chinatown, window shopping at Haight-Ashbury, and returning to Twin Peaks for a nighttime view of San Francisco shimmering below. I don’t know who I fell in love with more that day: San Francisco or Tim.
THE NEXT MOVE…
We have one more stop on our backpacking tour in the Philippines and then we’re headed off to Vietnam to teach for more one more year! To the readers who’ve followed my adventures, thank you so much for your continued support! Please subscribe to see the blog grow into something bigger and better! Happy 2016!!! May it be your best year yet!