2013 has been a bit of an odd year in terms of travel.
Australia to New Zealand to Malaysia to Thailand to Vietnam to the United States to Canada to Mexico. I didn’t visit half as many countries as I did in 2011 and 2012 but somehow it feels like this year has been the most action-packed.
I kicked off the year in Australia, and what followed was one of the most intense travel periods I’ve had to date. Two months in New Zealand, from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South, visiting around 45 places along the way. Yes, 45 places in 60 days. I knew that this kind of fast-paced travel would inevitably leave me burned out and stressed but there was just too much I wanted to see and do. And despite leaving me exhausted for months afterwards, I genuinely wouldn’t change a thing — New Zealand is now one of my favourite countries, one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been — and I’m so grateful I got to see so much of it.
Unfortunately, New Zealand also wrecked me for the rest of the year. Ambitious plans to explore Borneo and Burma straight afterwards were quickly shelved in favour of spending a minimum of a month in nearly every place we visited.
A month in Chiang Mai, a month in Saigon, a month in Portland, three months in Sayulita, a month in Guanajuato — after leaving New Zealand, 2013 was all about bases with only a small amount of travel thrown in.
Still, that doesn’t mean I didn’t get to see some truly incredible places this year. In 2013, I visited eight countries, four of them new. I took over 20,000 photos. I hiked across a glacier and over an active volcano. I saw thousands of glowworms in caves and spotted wild penguins and sea lions on a beach. I learned to paddleboard, tobogganed down sand dunes, bathed in natural hot springs and attempted to run up the steepest street in the world. I ate kangaroo in Australia, lizard in Vietnam and brain tacos in Mexico. I finally got around to visiting Yosemite, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. Yes, despite the exhaustion, 2013 was a pretty amazing year.
Here, then, are some of my favourite photos:
Tasmania, Australia: I fell head over heels in love with Tasmania from the second I arrived and it was easily the highlight from my time in Australia. This photo sums up my experience perfectly: hundreds of gorgeous beaches with not a single person in sight.
Wineglass Bay, Tasmania: Yet another incredible beach.
Twelve Apostles, Australia: Our road trip from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles took place on a miserable, rainy day that meant we had few opportunities to stop and relax on the dozens of beaches we passed on the way. Fortunately, the cloud cleared and the sun came out the second we arrived at the Twelve Apostles. Perfect timing.
Raglan, New Zealand: One of my favourite stops on my New Zealand road trip. Raglan was all about relaxing, eating well, dancing over black sand beaches that scorched the soles of my feet and paddling in the ice-cold turquoise ocean.
Rotorua, New Zealand: One of the strangest stops on my road trip, Rotorua was full of bubbling mud pools, steaming geysers, thermal lakes, huge craters and some of the craziest colours I’ve ever seen.
The Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand: The spectacular hike over an active volcano that kickstarted my love of all things walking.
The Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand: The hike that just about destroyed me and had me announcing my hiking career was over after just two weeks.
Mount Cook, New Zealand, reflected in the waters of Lake Pukaki.
West coast of New Zealand
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: My first visit to Malaysia and even though I didn’t fall in love with it, I was excited to finally see the Petronas Towers.
Hoi An, Vietnam: Dave surprised me with a birthday trip up to Hoi An and I instantly fell in love with its adorable Old Town. For four days, Dave and I kept our laptops shut as we wandered down pretty alleyways, relaxed on the beach and bought heaps of tailor-made dresses. Well, maybe that last one was just me. Maybe.
Yosemite National Park, California: I don’t know why it took me so long to get to Yosemite because it now ranks as one of the prettiest places I’ve ever visited. This photo shows Vernal Falls, as seen from the John Muir Trail.
The Grand Canyon, Arizona: Like Yosemite, I found myself wondering why it had taken me so long to get to the Grand Canyon. I spent my day on the South Kaibab trail, which takes you down into the canyon and gives you a completely different vantage point than the canyon’s edge. The hike completely surpassed my expectations and I can’t wait to return to explore another area of the canyon.
Monument Valley, Utah: One of the most stunning landscapes I’ve seen, Dave and I decided to drive the 17 mile valley loop road and ended up nearly destroying our rental car. Despite the nerve-wracking drive, this ended up being a highlight from my US road trip, and has me desperate to return to Utah in the future.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico: The highlight from my US road trip. I spent our day here tobogganing down sand dunes, marveling at how we had the entire place to ourselves and watching one of the best sunsets of my life.
Big Bend National Park, Texas: One of the largest, and one of the least visited National Parks in the US. I think I saw more tarantulas than people during the day we spent hiking here.
Guanajuato, Mexico: My new home for the next couple of weeks. Isn’t this city so ridiculously beautiful?