I don’t think that it would be hyperbole to say that 2016 has been an epic and magical year for me and I am amazed still by all that has happened. Here’s my year in review…
2016 was by all measures, an incredible year for me. Some things were calculable: 29 countries visited; 31 flights totaling 33,749 miles (54,314 km) or 1.4 times around the earth; scores upon scores of bus, train, auto, van, taxi, uber rides; more drinks than I probably should have consumed and even more surprisingly the vast majority of days I saw the sun rise and set; the hundreds of places I visited; the hundreds upon hundreds of delicious foods and desserts consumed; thousands of funny or intimate conversations had; tens of thousands of pictures taken; the millions of laughs shared and memories created.
The things that cannot be measured but were perhaps even more important: the goodness and kindness of humanity (the bad actors were so few and far between); my extremely good luck especially with not getting seriously injured; the warm and genuine hospitality given (by locals who would go out of their way to welcome or assist me) (and friends who did so much more than simply welcome me to their homes and cities); the quickness of bonds and depth of friendships formed; the extreme contentment, happiness, beauty of my life and the world.
I challenged myself to select only one image that well represented each country to me (well almost ~ I always say a place for me gets so tied up with people that it’s hard for me to know how much the magic was who I was with vs the place and time but for privacy reasons chose not to include people in these pics) besides a couple bonus categories, I actually stuck to this! So without further ado, here’s my very abbreviated picture and very short captions album…
Learning to appreciate the journey:
I logged 86 hours and 46 mins in flight time; that doesn’t include time spent getting and at the airport but having lounge access made that wait a lot more bearable. TL: Star Alliance Business Class LAX lounge ~ my favorite lounge in the world with this killer outdoor space BL & TM: EVA Royal Laurel class is definitely top notch but the rest of my flights with these views allowed me to appreciate the miracle of flight in all classes. I spent probably a total of more than two weeks getting from place to place during the year but I really did learn to literally enjoy the journey ~ using the time to reflect/journal, read or most likely, to socialize!
Major things checked off my wanderlist:
TL/BL: I am slowly making my way to see all 7 New Wonders of the World ~ here are numbers 3 & 4: Petra and Colosseum for me TR/MR: First and second ever hot air balloon rides ~ beautiful sunrises were just an added bonus over the incredible landscapes BR: I became PADI scuba certified!
Understanding of history & importance of cultural awareness
I think both are so vital in life to have but especially when one is traveling. TL: Being able to visit the Parthenon and Athens, the cradle of Athenian democracy and Western civilization was such a riveting experience for me BL: I’m a totally unabashed history nerd ~ I mean I chose my hostel based on its name: Hostel Franz Ferninand (well and it’s ratings and I would highly recommend you stay here). This is the site of the archduke’s assassination ~ World War I ensued and so many lives impacted due to a wrong turn and one man’s death TM: This church is beautiful but the bullet chandelier seems so appropriate here…Serbia does have an interesting history ~ many would argue as aggressors BM: Jerusalem ~ a place so integral to three of the world’s major religions. Beautiful, haunting, complex ~ both my time here and the city TR: John Lennon Wall ~ street art, graffiti and music showcasing how the voiceless rebel and unite BR: One of my fave moments traveling ~ joining a LGBT parade in former Yugoslavia. Unexpected but always amazing to see progress and hope
TL: St. Stephen’s Cathedral ~ affords an incredible view of the city plus very interesting WWII history showing how beloved it is by Austrians ML: Bunkers ~ that’s all there is in Albania, I was told. Well that’s not true at all but with more than 750K bunkers constructed, they do make up an fascinating part of Albania’s history BL: Checkpoint 300 and the wall ~ such a complicated situation and I heard so much us vs them talk but is there more that binds than separates? I’ve always found food is a good place to start TR: Really I could write a single post on most of the pictures but especially on the color revolution and the tragically beautiful architecture here BR: Did you know this is the largest civilian building in the world? Maybe all I want to say about these pictures and places means I should get to writing some more blog posts!
The beauty and spirit of a place:
TL: The Pope was only meters away! BL: Friends, ice cream, drinks and a ship festival plus beautiful, sunny weather in May TM: The water everywhere in Croatia was incredible but I especially enjoyed this national park BM: I actually detest love bridges ~ they’re incredibly destructive so this is my PSA please don’t participate in this. The top portion shows the fortress and I loved walking along the river here TR: Iconic Petronas Towers of KL BR: The only time I have ever seen so many people up for the sunrise at 5 in the morning
TL: Temples and lush landscapes ~ Bali magic does exist ML: I really loved Brussels ~ what’s not to with good food, chocolates, beer and friends? BL: Lots of fun and trouble experienced in this beautiful setting TR: Pretty beach stop on my way to Turkey MR: Another place with lots of fun and trouble plus a gorgeous setting plus seriously good food and ice cream (I ate my PR here ~ 8 scoops in one day!) BR: Canals + bikes = typical Amsterdam
Moments when my good luck was tested:
TL: While bathing a bull elephant, he rolled onto my leg and not only am I miraculously not crushed or even hurt but my friend manages to snap this picture at that exact moment. TR: Somehow my only motorbike accident in Southeast Asia is falling off the back of a one (luckily right onto my backpack at the Le Meriden Chiang Mai and freaking out the staff). I wish I had a pic of that moment but this is when we were on our way there. B: But ESPECIALLY that again (yes this is the second year in a row) I have avoided being robbed while traveling internationally and instead manage to lose my wallet. This time I didn’t find it myself but someone else did and turned it all in including over 200 euros in cash while I was in Slovenia. I will also mention that it’s a pretty weird thing to have a police officer greet you by name and mention that they have been waiting for you upon entering the police station in a foreign country. Here’s a photo from Lake Bled, Slovenia where this happened and I always be grateful to have had someone so willing to help me out in the most amazing ways with me through that ordeal.
I truly am blessed and am so ever grateful for all that I have been able to see and do and for what truly is a beautiful life in this beautiful world. I’m not sure how much luck is something that happens vs something that you create ~ it’s probably a bit of both. But the most important thing I’ve learned is that in many ways, we become be self fulfilling prophecies of our own lives. I actually set out in 2015 on my solo travels with a simple mantra: be brave, be strong, be confident to live and love the life that you are meant to…(and this year learned) with no regrets. I’m excited to see what 2017 has in store!