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Jan 17

A Fashionably Late Review of 2015

I know, I know, it’s halfway into January and those new year resolutions are as far gone as that bag of cookies you I just demolished, but it didn’t seem fair to let 2015 pass without writing an ode to what was certainly the most exciting year of my life.

Gili Island swing sunset

I debated keeping with tradition and writing my annual 15 Kickass Moments of 2015—I even made a list of them, but it left out too many great things and there were a few moments that I couldn’t decide if they counted as “kickass” or not (for example: would training in Muay Thai but accidentally crotch-flashing my trainer be considered kickass?). I also considered writing a list of my Most Ridiculous Moments In 2015 (like the time I was drug on a stage, put in a wig, and made to dance with a man in a monkey suit) but it just didn’t quite capture the essence of the year.

waterfall in Lombok Indonesia

In the end, I’ve decided to be boring and do a general travel recap and take a moment to bask in the glory of having finished my first year of solo travels and (barely) living to tell the tale.

volunteering with elephants

 

In 2015, I:

 

  • Lived in 3 countries
  • Traveled in 10 countries
  • Flew in 20 airplanes

canyoning in Dalat Vietnam

I toiled away on a farm, volunteered with elephants, built bamboo huts in the jungle, taught English, waited tables, and worked in a 5-star hotel.

Hmong tribe Sapa Vietnam

I climbed an active volcano, scuba dived on shipwrecks, learned to windsurf, jumped off waterfalls, rolled down sand dunes, motor biked through jungles, and partied the night away in capital cities.

crater of Mt Rinjani

I worked, volunteered, and traveled my way around the globe for a year on less than $10,000. I made some amazing new friends and even fell in love with a pretty great guy.

rice terraces of Bali

Here is a month-by-month recap of my travels in 2015:

January

Philippines: A few of my close friends and I rang in the new year together on a tiny island where we learned to surf and lounged on pristine beaches.

Siargao Philippines

Siargao PhilippinesKorea: Leaving Korea was bittersweet after two years, but I was happy to be moving on to a new chapter. We had lots of goodbye parties and my students sweetly made me some nice gifts.

friends in Korea

 

February

California: After a year abroad I returned to my hometown for some family time and road tripped down to Santa Barbara for lots of wine time with friends.

Ukiah, CA

friends in Santa Barbarabeach in Santa BarbarabestiesLas Vegas: My dad, sister, and I took a last minute trip to Las Vegas. We partied the night away and saw my beloved Cirque du Soleil!

family in Las Vegas

 

March

Philippines: The first leg of my solo trip was back to the Philippines. I lounged on the beach in Boracay, island hopped in Palawan, and got my advanced scuba certification while diving on WWII shipwrecks in Coron.

Boracay Philippines

Boracay Philippines

Coron Philippines

Palawan Philippines

 

April

Vietnam: I absolutely loved my month in Vietnam, but the highlights included trekking in Sapa, a cruise on Halong Bay, a food tour in Hanoi, biking under the lanterns of Hoi An, frolicking in the sand dunes of Mui Ne, canyoning in Dalat, and floating down the Mekong Delta.

coast of Vietnam

sand dunes of Mui Ne

lanterns of Hoi An

streets of Hoi An

 

May

Cambodia: I only had a quick two weeks to get through Cambodia. The Killing Fields of Phnom Penh were heart breaking and eye opening; the islands of Koh Rong, had some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen; the temples of Angkor Wat were stunning, despite the fact that I was crapping my pants every 5 minutes.

Angkor Wat sunrisekilling fieldsKoh Rong SamloemKoh Rong Island Cambodia Koh Rong Island Cambodia

Thailand: On a whim I applied for a one-month teaching job and 2-weeks later found myself in a middle-of-nowhere town teaching a rowdy bunch of high schoolers. I made a great group of friends and had a blast teaching my happy-go-lucky teenagers.

teaching in Thailand

Thailand

 

June

Laos: I made a quick visa run to the capital of Laos and saw some pretty sights but didn’t get to do much else.

rainbow over Vientiane Laos

monk in LaosThailand: After finishing my teaching contract I headed to northern Thailand to spend a week volunteering at Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary for elephants that have been rescued from abuse. I shoveled poo, chopped down corn, and spent some quality time watching the happy ellies.

feeding an elephant Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai

 

July

Thailand: I started my third month in Thailand by heading to the tiny village of Pai to train in Muay Thai for two weeks. I had my butt kicked in some intense training sessions and spent my free time motorbiking around to waterfalls and hot springs.

training in Muay Thai in PaiPai Thailand Pai ThailandThen I headed down south to the island of Koh Tao to relax on the beach. I rang in my 29th birthday by taking a flying trapeze class and drinking buckets of alcohol on the beach while watching fire dancers.

Koh Tao island

flying trapeze ThailandAfter a week of debauchery, a friend and I spent a week volunteering on a sustainable building project in the jungle and learned to build bamboo huts. We returned to Bangkok, Dave flew in to meet me, and we ate a scorpion to celebrate.

volunteering in Thailand

eating a scorpion in Bangkok

 

August

Indonesia: Dave and I started our time in Indonesia by volunteering on a sustainable land use project in Ubud, Bali. Then we headed to the Gili Islands for some beach time and from there we left on a 4-day Komodo Island boat trip. I did some scuba diving in Komodo and then we climbed Mt Rinjani, an active volcano that erupted two months later.

motorbiking in Bali

Komodo island Indonesia

Komodo island boat trip

 

September

Bali: Dave left and a week later my parents joined me for 3 weeks of exploring temples, doing yoga, scuba diving, motorbiking around the island of Nusa Lembongan, eating every kind of dessert available to us, and even sampled some coffee made from cat poop.

drinks in a pool

beach in Nusa Lembongan

diving in Tulamben

lake temple in Bali

 

October

Australia: I finally returned to the first world and went on a 3-day live-aboard dive trip on the Great Barrier Reef where I definitely found Nemo. I visited friends in Brisbane and spent an afternoon feeding kangaroos and cuddling koalas. I relaxed on the gorgeous beaches of Byron Bay, and visited more friends in Melbourne and Sydney where I ate tons of delicious food and took in some gorgeous sites.

Sunshine Coast beach

feeding kangaroos

Bondi beach

cuddling a koala Brisbane

 

November

New Zealand: I spent a weekend visiting a friend in Auckland and being introduced to New Zealand’s beauty. I lived with Dave’s family on the south island and worked on a hops farm, which is not a job I’d ever recommend. A family tragedy made life really crazy and by the end of the month I had to move to Queenstown.

Auckland New Zealand

Lake Tekapo New Zealand

travel and real life New Zealand

December

New Zealand: I found a job at a 5-star hotel in Queenstown and moved in with a middle aged Korean couple who turned out to be insane. Luckily I can go on just about any tour in town for free because of my job so I went white water rafting, took a Cessna flight to Milford Sound, and went kayaking and jet boating. I spent my first summer Christmas with new friends and for New Years Eve Dave surprised me and came for a visit.

Queenstown New Zealand

Queenstown New Zealand

Queenstown New Zealand

kayaking in Queenstown

new years in Queenstown

So there you have it, the most epic year of my life summed up in some photos and blurbs. It had ups and downs, fierce challenges and incredible rewards. I learned more about the world and myself, and had a blast living the free spirited life I’d always dreamed of. 2016 has its work cut out for it to live up to 2015, but I’ve got some exciting plans in the works that I think will make it another unforgettable year.

Happy New Year!!!