Eight countries. 78 cities. 59,000 kilometres. 19 flights. 20,000 photos. $20,386.
2013 has been a fantastic year. Here’s how I spent it:
I kicked off the year in Melbourne and then left almost immediately afterwards to spend a week road tripping around Tasmania. I instantly fell in love with this incredible island and still dream of returning for a few months at some point in the future. My time in Tasmania was spent stopping at some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen and marveling at how I was the only person on them.
From Tasmania I flew to New Zealand, and could barely contain my excitement at finally getting to visit Dave’s homeland. We had planned an ambitious road trip for the next two months, from the top of the North Island, through the centre of New Zealand and right down to the bottom of the South Island.
We began in Auckland, a city I didn’t love and couldn’t wait to leave and drove north, spending a few days at the beautiful Bay of Islands. We drove up to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of the North Island and managed to fit in a visit to 90 Mile Beach (spoiler: it’s not 90 miles long) on our way back down south. I adored the relaxing surf town of Raglan and finished off the month hunting for glowworms in Waitomo.
My New Zealand trip was off to a great start.
All of February was spent in New Zealand, and we really picked up the pace for this month.
We started the month with some beach time in Mount Maunganui, where I managed to slip and re-sprain my ankle I’d injured six months previous, and so spent most of my time lying in bed. In Taupo, I went on a jet boat for the first time and it was the worst thing I’ve ever done and I hated every second of it. Rotorua was full of steaming geysers and unbelievable colours and didn’t smell as bad as I had been told it would. Next, the Tongariro Crossing, which I somehow managed to hike with a sprained ankle and never felt so proud. After some recovery time in Lake Waikaremoana, it was on to the art deco town of Napier, where I celebrated Valentines Day with Dave. From there, we visited our final stop on the North Island: Wellington, that ended up being my favourite city in New Zealand.
We finished off the month by taking a ferry to Picton and began our three day hike of the Queen Charlotte Track: the hardest physical challenge of my life, and one that left me unable to walk for days afterwards.
We continued on with our frantic pace for much of March, as we dotted around the South Island on our quest to see as many places as possible without having a nervous breakdown.
I witnessed the destruction and signs of recovery in earthquake-torn Christchurch, and stargazed in Tekapo. I visited Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. I paid a visit to a steampunk museum in Oamaru and realised I really didn’t “get” steampunk. Next up, Dunedin, where I attempted to run up the steepest street in the world. In the Catlins, I saw wild sea lions and penguins on a beach, and visited caves, waterfalls and blowholes. I spent the night on Doubtful Sound, where I learned to fish and discovered that it was SO MUCH FUN, and visited Milford Sound during the day. I ate at Fergburger in Queenstown and walked across a glacier in Franz Josef. I saw the pancake rocks of Punakaiki and relaxed on the beach in Nelson. I ran excitedly around the sand dunes at Farewell Spit — a sandspit stretching 26 kilometres out to sea — and learned to paddleboard at Abel Tasman. I even managed to visit Ashburton, the town Dave grew up in. Yes, I did all of that over the space of two weeks.
And then it was time to leave New Zealand
Heading to Malaysia for my very first visit, Dave and I spent a few days utilising the super-fast Internet in Kuala Lumpur before heading to Penang to eat some incredible Indian food. I don’t even like Indian food but couldn’t stop eating there. I think I turned into a butter chicken.
Dave and I soon realised that our ambitions for exploring Malaysia after the madness of New Zealand were far too high. We needed a break. We had so, so, so much work to do now that we were finally somewhere that didn’t charge $18 for six hours of Internet.
We opted for rest and familiarity and cut short our Malaysia travels to head back to Thailand. We visited a brand new island, spending ten days in Koh Lipe. Koh Lipe was the most expensive Thai island I’ve ever visited, but after Australia and New Zealand we were happy to be spending $25 a night for a beach shack with no amenities. It still felt cheap even though it was horribly overpriced for Thailand.
From Koh Lipe, we revisited Koh Yao Noi to relax in our favourite guesthouse in the world. We loved it just as much as we had the last time, and our lovely guesthouse owner even put on an enormous barbeque for us on our final night because we’ve spent so much time there over the past few years.
After heading north to Chiang Mai, it took us just 12 hours to decide that we wanted to stay Chiang Mai for a month.
May was a relaxing month, especially given that I took zero photos. It was spent how I always spend my time in Chiang Mai — I hung out with blogger friends, got lots of work done and ate some incredible food. Dave and I even managed to fit in a trip up to our favourite mountain retreat in Chiang Dao to take a break from all the work but other than that, May was blissfully uneventful.
At the end of the month we flew to Saigon, one of my favourite cities in the world.
…But not for long.
The first half of June really was the most miserable fortnight of 2013. Dave and I unwisely picked a guesthouse in Saigon that didn’t have windows and it was terrible. Why did we pay for a month upfront?
We spent a mont in our crypt with no natural light and suffered an awful lot. We felt unwell, dizzy, jetlagged and void of energy, often sleeping for 12 hours straight and not feeling rested afterwards. We achieved next to nothing during our month long stint because we stopped caring about everything. Needless to say, windows are now essential for anywhere I decide to stay in the future.
And then it was my birthday! Dave surprised me with a magical trip up to Hoi An, where he’d booked a hotel with FLOOR TO CEILING WINDOWS and bought me some beautiful tailor-made dresses. It was a perfect, wonderful few days away — and was extremely depressing when we had to head back to our Saigon tomb.
It was all change at the end of the month, however, as I hopped on a flight to the US. I headed straight for Venice Beach in Los Angeles, happy to be recovering from jet lag on one of my favourite beach spots. I then hit up San Francisco for the first time, where I put my laptop away and spent my time getting my tourist on. I went to the Golden Gate Bridge, I visited Alcatraz, I took day trips to Napa and Yosemite. San Francisco reminded how bad I’d been at travel since leaving New Zealand.
After reuniting with Dave in Seattle after two weeks apart, we bussed it down to Portland, which was one of my highlights of 2013. Staying in the most gorgeous tiny house ever, we spent our time eating the best food I’ve ever had. Seriously. The food. THE FOOD.
The main highlight of July, however, was having my parents fly out to see me! It had been around a year since I’d last seen them and I was excited to introduce them to my favourite restaurants in Portland. I also wanted to show them how much my attitude to food had changed since the last time I saw them, so I introduced them to Ethiopian food, to yams and to the street food carts that Portland is so famous for.
Dave and I then had a slight change of plans in August when we found an amazing Airbnb apartment in Tacoma. Neither of us had much desire to ever spend any time in Tacoma, but the apartment was gorgeous and half the price of equivalent apartments in Seattle. We decided to give it a shot and were surprised when we discovered that we actually quite liked it. We were staying on the waterfront, just a few steps from a great bar with delicious cider. I tried clam chowder for the first time and then I wanted to have it every day for the rest of my life.
From Tacoma, I bussed it up north for my first visit to Canada. It was my mum’s birthday and I wanted to spend a few days with her in Vancouver. We celebrated with a trip to Whistler, which was stunning.
Dave and I then finished up our time in the Pacific North West and flew over to the east coast to spend some time in New York City. When I first visited New York, almost ten years ago, I hated it. I visited at a time when I was having issues with anxiety and spent my time bouncing from panic attack to panic attack. I found the tall buildings claustrophobic and the fast-paced way of life anxiety-inducing. I declared New York to be my least favourite city in the world and swore I’d never return.
And of course, on my return, with my anxiety now under control, I found myself enjoying the city so much more than I expected. So, it’s not my favourite city in the world but I’ve now gone from intense hatred to ambivalence. I can definitely see myself growing to love it if I were to spend longer there.
We also found time to spend a long weekend in Montreal, a city Dave and I never wanted to leave. We essentially spent our time eating bagels and poutine.
As September rolled around, Dave and I hopped on a flight and set off to explore our final region of the US: the Southwest. Over ten days, we hiked the Grand Canyon, drove through Monument Valley, wandered amongst cacti in Tucson, saw fake cowboys in Tombstone, tobogganed down sand dunes at White Sands, posed with aliens at Roswell and hiked with more tarantulas than people at Big Bend National Park.
We finished up our road trip in Austin, which happened to coincide with Dave’s birthday! I planned out a badass day that involved taking Dave on a huge food journey around Austin. It culminated in the biggest meat coma either of us have ever had when we went for a typical Austin BBQ that consisted of a plate of meat the size of me.
Mid-September, and our US visas were about to run out so it was time to travel south. With a loose plan to spend the next six months in Mexico, we decided on the small, hippie beach town of Sayulita. Despite reading dozens of horror stories online from people unable to find anywhere for less than $1000, we managed to find our perfect apartment within an hour of arriving. It had to be fate.
October was all about relaxing into my new home and finding a new routine living by the beach. I came to Sayulita to write, and that’s exactly what I did. I spent my days sat in front of my laptop, and my evenings watching the sunset on the beach. I definitely worked too hard in Sayulita but it was also what I needed. Three months in the US had completely drained my bank account, and then having to replace my $2,500 laptop straight afterwards meant I really needed to turn up the hustle!
The highlight of October was getting to release baby sea turtles into the ocean — so, so cute!
In November, Dave and I celebrated our two year anniversary with a romantic few days away in the small fishing village of Yelapa. We spent our break reading in hammocks, sunbathing on the beach, attempting to push an enormous bullfrog out of our apartment with a broom and hiking to a nearby waterfall.
After three months, our time in Sayulita was up and we decided to head inland to see a different side to Mexico. Our first stop was Guanajuato, somewhere we originally planned to spend just four days and ended up staying for almost a month. I love everything about this beautiful city apart from the altitude and cold weather. After chasing summer around the world for two and a half years, I’ve realised I can no longer handle the cold. And by cold, I mean 15 degrees Celsius.
I spent Christmas on my fourth continent in four years, and celebrated by attempting to cook Christmas dinner for the first time. Aside from buying a tenderloin stuffed with peppers, which Dave is allergic to, I think I did pretty well! We spent most of the day eating enormous turkey legs.
New Years Eve has never really been a big deal for me, so I spent the day doing what I love most. I ate bread, cheese, cured meats and sun-dried tomatoes, drank wine and homemade Mexican fruit punch that was essentially hot sangria, did some pilates, watched some cricket and chatted to Dave. At midnight we scurried up to our roof terrace to watch the fireworks over the city.
2013 has been yet another wonderful year, full of love, family, friends, travel and happiness. I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for me.