It’s that time of year again. The time when we look back on all the things that went right and wrong in the last 365 days. I love the end of the year. I love reminiscing, retelling stories, sitting around drinking a few beers and laughing at the flops of 2015. Over the next few weeks I’m going to bring you the Best of 2015. All the things I loved about this glorious year gone by.
It seems an insane task to tackle; choosing only a few places that I’ve been lucky enough to visit this year.
Finally Visiting Japan
It’s a country that I’ve wanted to visit for SO LONG. It’s a place I daydreamed about even as a child when I’d set my alarm for 6am on a Saturday to watch Sailor Moon (anyone else? Just me? ok). When I was there I couldn’t actually believe it. From the the city lights of Tokyo, to the peaceful temples of Kyoto, the tragedy and kindness in Hiroshima to my beloved Osaka. I was in a complete and utter state of elation the entire 17 days we were there.
Eating in Taipei
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the food I ate in this incredible city. Peppered buns cooked in clay ovens, a Michelin Star restaurant, dumplings and beef soups. There are so many night markets and so many street vendors it’s hard to leave room for everything. Five days wasn’t nearly enough time to explore all the markets, to eat all the food, to get out of the city and see (and taste) the real Taiwan. Regardless, I’m glad we were able to squeeze in a few days to check out this city.
Learning to Dive in the Philippines
Learning to SCUBA is something Luke and I have talked about doing since we moved to New Zealand. We kept finding excuses to put it off – the price, waiting for the right place to learn. Whatever the reason, I’m so glad we finally did it. I’m so happy with the dive school we chose (Sea Rider Dive Center). Our dive instructor was so patient, SO nice, so calm. He made it seem so easy. Puerto Galera may not be the top spot in the guide books, it may not have the parties or the beaches that other islands in the Philippines have, but the diving was incredible, the bars were quiet other than the expats and the surrounding town was full of locals.
Eating in Vietnam
I like to eat. A lot. The food in Vietnam is up there as some of the best food I’ve ever eaten IN MY WHOLE LIFE. Legit. Pho, beef soup, spring rolls filled with so much joy, grilled pork, all kinds of soups that are packed with flavor. We ate goat and pig hearts and a few things that I wasn’t exactly sure about, and you know what? It was all freaking delicious. I loved squeezing the tiny little limes over everything, I loved the chili and fish sauce and baskets of leaves that came with every meal. Don’t even get me started on the pâté filled baguettes. I loved the strong iced coffee that took at least 15 minutes to percolate. I loved the creamy condensed milk and seeing the separation of the two before putting in my ice and stirring. I loved that every meal was an event.
Can I say the whole country? Just did. The heart-breaking history of the country, the optomisitic and open people who made me laugh so hard the entire 30 days we were there. The beaches of Koh Rong and how peaceful they were. Watching the sunset every night with an ice cold beer in hand. The mountains and back roads of Kampot; breaking my bicycle and wheeling it back covered in grease only to have our hotel manager “help” by pouring gasoline over my hands. The waterfalls and monsoon rains of the north. Then there’s the literal breath-taking Angkor ruins. I was so sad to leave this country. It really stole my heart.
The History of Thailand
Mainly Sukothai. Once the capital of the country, the ruins that remain, the layout of the old city, it was probably my favorite part of the few weeks we spent north of Bangkok. We rented bikes and explored. We ate a local specialty, Kuaytiaw Sukothai, rice noodles in a pork based broth topped with pieces of roasted pork, crushed peanuts and fried pork rinds. The hostel we stayed in was made of wood, it creaked with every step. We locked our room with a little padlock. Each night we went to the local night market for soup or curry or pad thai. It was our first real taste of local Thai food and I continue to come back to it as some of the best we ate in the country.
The Adventure in Laos
Laos, like Cambodia, grabbed hold of me quickly. The moment I was cruising along the Mekong I felt like I’d come home. You know that feeling? You arrive somewhere you’ve never been before, none of it is familiar, and yet it is. It’s like you’ve walked these streets, like you’ve seen these faces, shopped these stalls. I feel a sense of nostalgia just thinking about this beautiful country. We hiked in the jungle, kayaked rapids, laid in countless hammocks, drank too much Beer Lao and did a few other things I probably won’t ever tell my parents, but I felt real sadness when we left. It’s a country I really hope to return to one day.
Stepping Back in Time in Martha’s Vineyard
It’s funny, I didn’t even think of this as “travel” because it was somewhere I’ve been so many times, but it is. It was a few days away from the Internet, away from the computer away from the mainland. My family started visiting Martha’s Vineyard when I was about 10 years old. My parents have been threatening to move there ever since. We would spend entire months of our summer holiday trucking all of our stuff to the beach, eating bagels from the local bakery, noshing on fried seafood from Nancy’s (and mudslides when I was old enough). It’s a place full of so many memories and I was brimming with happiness to be there again showing it all to Luke.
This year has been so fulfilling. As I look back I feel my heart swell, I feel my eyes well. I am simply overwhelmed by how lucky I am to have been able to do and see all of this in one short year. I’m also really proud of myself. Proud of Luke and I both. Proud that we could do this, proud we could live on the road, with how adaptable we were over the last 12 months, how incredible our bond has become through what has been a long, challenging year.
I know we may never have a year filled with so much travel again, or maybe we will. I suppose that’s of our making. What I do know is that I’m really looking forward to 2016. I’m looking forward to what it holds travel-wise, hell, life-wise. I can’t wait to see where we end up.