Well shit. A year ago today I woke up at like 3.45 in the morning to hop on a plane. I was heading off for my biggest adventure. I was scared shitless (with a list a mile long) and more excited than I could register at the time. I had absolutely no clue what was in front of me. I mean, really — no stinking clue what was coming. A trip of a lifetime is an understatement. I don’t know how I got so damn lucky, but the stars aligned just right so that I could have adventure after adventure after adventure. I met incredible people, witnessed incredible things and ate incredible food. I don’t really know where to start when people ask me how my trip is going because it’s been all over the map — literally.
Initially I planned to only stay in Southeast Asia — the thing is there was more in store for me than I could have ever imagined.
Ok, but like what did I do?
Here’s a short breakdown of the places I visited and the things that I got to do. Seeing as how there’s no way for me to outline an entire year in a blog post I’m keeping this short (as short as I could manage anyway). Every day proved it’s potential for adventure — but here it is: A summary of what I’ve been up to the last 12 months.
19 countries and a lifetime of memories later.
(BTW I still cannot believe it’s been an entire year. Like, who am I?)
Adventure #1 Riding around Taiwan on the back of a motorbike.
My first stop really set my adventure standards high af. I met my brother in Kaohsiung (a southern industrial city in Taiwan) from where we took off. Two people, couple of backpacks and one motorbike. I had never ridden a scooter before and the first ride was truly one of the most terrifying moments of my life — the first of MANY. Luckily after a few days I grew used to riding on the back and even started enjoying the rides. In fact, the rides — and there were many — were the best part of this adventure.
We rode up the west, through the middle of a National Park via Taiwan’s highest highway and all the way down the East coast. We saw the bigger western city of Tainan where I ate a gooey oyster omelet and through a couple little village/towns. An interesting stop was at a southeastern little beach town called Dulan where a little hippie oasis exists in the most unlikely of places. But the best part came before this. The ride through the middle of the country was un-fucking-believable. One of the most memorable days of my entire life. That day, we rode through what can only be described as an epic Tim Burton movie filled with eerie haze, curvy roads, crazy trees, tunnels and a rainless-downpour.
I ended this portion of my journey in Taipei and alone for the first time. I was anxious and scared and oh so hungry for more adventure.
Adventure #2 A little oasis in Krabi & Koh Lanta
Southern Thailand was what followed. I wanted to check out the area before my first yoga teacher training started in a couple of weeks. I also really wanted to avoid giant touristy areas and party hostels. I found a little hostel called Bananas — a 30 minute drive from Krabi town and I felt like I hit a jackpot the minute I arrived. Greeted by a school of puppies and a million dollar view, I instantly knew I’d be happy there.
This place was directly on the mangroves with blue water and those picturesque limestone rocks off in the distance. The only people out in the water were the few folks from the hostel. That’s it. I mean, it was amazing. Daily deck sun bathing, kayaking, ice cream and communal dinners made my days there. I was sad to leave.
But leave I did. Koh Lanta is a small island that attracts an older crowd. There’s not much of a party scene and it was the perfect chill spot that I needed the week before my teacher training. I spent my mornings swimming, days working on the beach sipping on mango shakes and hanging out with new friends in the evening.
Adventure #3 My 500 hour yoga teacher training
Oh boy, if anything this entire year changed my life — the training with Selena Garefino would be it. The progress I made with personal growth came in my second training, but the first one lit something in me I didn’t know was there.
Was I excited for the training? Sure. Was I excited to become a yoga teacher? Sure.
But I honestly had no clue just how much I would love it. I fell in love with my yoga practice all over again. I had discovered what yoga actually was and has been. I was learning potent stuff and I was deeply engaged. There was a lot of work and little sleep. And I couldn’t get enough.
The first training for 200 hours was 16 days. After a two week break — both of which I spent back in that little oasis on the water — I was back in training for another month.
This time, the potency took a steep hike. If I hadn’t already fallen in love with teaching, the 300 hour teacher training turned my life upside down and inside out. In all sorts of ways. Personal development was a big portion of this training and I grew more in those two weeks than I had in years. I discovered what matters to me. What drives me, especially as a yoga teacher. And that is invaluable.
I was a yoga teacher and I couldn’t wait to teach.
Adventure #4 Italia with the family
I hadn’t planned on visiting Europe, but my parents would be there that summer (May) and the four of us hadn’t been in one place in a very long time. So, to Italy I went.
I was excited. Like WHOA!
I had never been to Europe and Italy is magic. The thing that wooed me most was the language. It sounded like every word, every debate, every conversation was a passionate love song. It was so beautiful. The language, the people and of course the views. History in living color — Italy was glorious.
Adventure #5 The Farmacy in Marbella, Spain
I was itching to start teaching. I would play with fun sequences and was (and still am) constantly jotting down notes on fun ways to theme my classes. Now, all I needed were students. But first, I did a pit stop in Barcelona where I stayed with a lovely Couchsurfer, hung out with her dog, ate amazing tapas and visited majestic Goudy works.
I used the Workaway website to find a lovely little vegan cafe and yoga studio in Marbella, Spain where I would spend a month teaching and helping out. The reason I’m always drawn to working with small businesses is the closeness you get to have with the people you’re working with. The Farmacy was a tight-knit family and I truly enjoyed getting to know all the lovely folks that filled it.
Then there was DOG the dog. The most amazing dog I’ve ever met. I miss him. We played games and went for walks and snuggled. I love that dog.
I got to teach yoga on the daily and usually took my classes to the park next to the cafe — practicing outdoors has been a special ritual thru my travels. I was a nervous wreck for the first several classes, but was soon starting to get in my groove.
Marbella is a strange beach town with lots of money and little Spanish people, but my time there was well spent!
Adventure #6 Southern Spain blew my mind
This is where the European fun really began. Andalusia is by far one of my favorite places on Earth. I was blown away at how beautiful the countryside was — the bus rides were majestic!
I stopped in: Sevilla, Rhonda and Granada.
Each time I reached a new destination I was in awe. The towns were beautiful. Truly — remarkably beautiful. The world talks about Barcelona (and it was cool and all), but Southern Spain is where it’s at.
I don’t know which stop I loved more. I stayed in an old sugar mill below Rhonda and woke to unbelievably gorgeous views, Sevilla’s Flamenco scene blew my heart wide open and Granada was everything I didn’t know I wanted.
Granada was my last stop. I was going to stay for a few days and move on to Valencia, but there was no way I was going to leave unless I had to so I ended up staying there for a week. Granada welcomed me with another incredible hostel filled with the most interesting characters along with one of the most interesting cities I’ve ever been. Needless to say I was quite sad to leave, but leave I did… To Madrid. Which was meh.
Adventure #7 Paris is made of dreams & cheese
I didn’t plan on coming to Paris — much like the rest of my journey — but this adventure is one that I’m most grateful for. My 300 hour yoga teacher training granted me the opportunity to meet some of the most delightful human beings. There were 5 of us students and 3 teachers. It was a small group and we bonded immediately. One of my fellow students was Parisian and oh so graciously invited me for a visit. I did my best to contain my excitement — I did a poor job. The other 3 ladies were all about the idea of all of us getting together in Paris.
Fast forward a couple of months and we all met back up in Paris. PARIS. I didn’t plan on coming because it’s WAY out of my budget (which by the way I refreshingly rarely paid attention to), but not having to pay for accommodation made it possible. I don’t even know how to describe how excited I was to be in Paris. A legit dream come true.
Our time was spent walking the historic streets, drinking endless wine along sidewalk cafes and having picnics galore. I mean the cheese alone made this one of my favorite stops.
Adventure #8 Exhausted Regina Meets Sofia, Bulgaria
Ok, I don’t know if you can imagine but at this point in my journey — 5 months in — I was getting quite tired. It’s hard to complain, but I mean c’mon. All I wanted was to curl up in a bed, watch Netflix, eat snacks and not speak to anyone. I needed to recharge so that’s what I did.
I planned two weeks in Sofia and I wasn’t expecting to like it. I ended up loving it there. The first week I spent my days watching Netflix in my airbnb and occasionally going to get snacks at the corner grocery store. I also went to the movie theatre to see the new Mission Impossible movie (which BTW is AMAZING) — I ended up spending the entire day watching it going back into a new showing three times. But once the second week rolled around I was ready to talk to people and explore!
Sofia has great walking tours that helped me to get a great idea of the city which was alive with summer vibes. I discovered a favorite dish called Tarator — a cold yogurt soup that I could never get enough of. Basically, Sofia reminded me of an edgier, more interesting Williamsburg. Sorry not sorry.
Adventure #9 A Russian Math Camp & a Small Bulgarian Beach Town
A seven hour bus ride later I was in a small beach town called Lozenets where I’d be staying in a Russian math camp alongside my brother for several days. The camp took place a minutes walk from a beautiful coast in a Soviet styled building. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was served in the cafeteria filled with Russian kids and their parents. The food made me nostalgic for my childhood. It was delicious. The coast was a gorgeous backdrop to my daily yoga practices and a beach bar with a stellar view where I got my work done. It was a really lovely time.
Adventure #10 Hitchhiking into Macedonia & A Lake Ohrid
We made our way to Bonsko where we met up with a mutual friend and spent a lovely evening listening to jazz. Hitchhiking to Shtip, Macedonia was next and was a bit more trying than our first endeavor, but successful nonetheless. Shtip was a quiet little town where it felt like everyone knew each other. We stayed in the first level apartment of a fellow Couchsurfer who drove the cutest little yellow car from the 50s.
Lake Ohrid is a huge lake in southern Macedonia with a town alongside it’s shores named after it. It was clearly a touristy spot for many in the country, but few folks were coming from outside of Macedonia. I really enjoyed our couple of days there. It was beautiful with delicious food and easygoing cafes lining the water.
Adventure #11 The Balkan Road trip
This was a doozy. We started in Tirana, Albania where we first met our rental — a black Fiat of some kind (I think). Less than 10 minutes into our road trip to the southern city of Sarande the car started to make noises (pretty much all the warning lights were on so I’m assuming it was one of them). We were outfitted with another vehicle and off we went to meet up with a couple of friends who were waiting for us. We met our main rental — a lovely white Fiat 500 we would later nickname Heeheetka — in a port parking lot. Heeheetka took us to many places and we loved her for it.
I’ll spare you all the details, but for the rest of three weeks we took to the road stopping in various locations — Serande, Berat, Pogradec (along with a few others in Albania), Tivat (Montenegro), Mostar & Sarajevo in Bosnia where we ended our road trip.
It was a quite the ride.
Adventure #12 Belgrade, Serbia and another Rejuvination
After the road trip I was exhausted once more from roaming constantly. It was really really fun, but also really really tiring. I needed stability here more than anything and that’s what I got. I stayed in Belgrade for two weeks in a small Airbnb that was filled with natural light. The city was also really interesting. They love their cafes there — as much as I do — and at any given day you could have found me at one of them. I was surprised at how well everyone spoke english even though there weren’t that many tourists. I was also enamored by the street style here — it reminded me a lot of NYC. The whole city had a really chill vibe with great style.
Adventure #13 Slovenia & a friendly reunion
I hadn’t seen Mercedes in like four years and we got to meet up in Slovenia — one of the most beautiful countries I got to visit. Walking through Ljubliana felt like walking through a Disney movie.
Yes, it was another lovely stop — but it was far lovelier to get to spend a few days with someone from another life.
Adventure #14 Romania’s glorious scenery
Oh man. Every time I think of this portion of my trip I have a slight tinge of regret. I really wish I had spent more time in Transalvnia riding a bicycle from town to town. I don’t even like bikes, but I feel like the best part of this country is unreachable by bus. Either way, the rides were beautiful. The castles were majestic and Siggisoahra was a dream come true.
Bucharest was a bit eerie with it’s magnificent replications of Paris streets and monuments. But I found a great cheesecake here so it was all good.
Adventure #14 Pure Unadulterated Magic in Nepal
What do I say about this portion? I don’t even know. No matter what I write here, I’ll never be able to explain the magic of this experience.
I’ve been making my way through one of Brene Brown’s books — Daring Greatly — and she talks a bit about belonging vs fitting in and the difference this makes in our lives. Now, I’ve never pretended to fit in nor did I ever have any inkling to want to fit in. But every so often — very very rarely– I feel like I truly belong. And that’s a game changer.
This adventure reminded me what it was like to belong. That combined with the magic of Nepal (many many posts about this to come) this adventure will forever be marked in my heart.
Adventure #15 Muay Thai in Chiang Mai
9 months in and I was back in Thailand only this time I was in the north. With a short stopover in Bangkok I made my way to Chiang Mai. I had heard so many great things about that city that I was really stoked to finally check it out for myself.
It was cool.
I don’t really get what the hype is all about, but it’s all good. I spent a month training at a gym about 15 minutes drive outside the old city where the only white people around were also training at the gym. The trainers were always so damn jolly (most of them didn’t speak English), I loved that!
I had planned on getting back in my regular shape, but that was a crazy expectation. I can’t undo in a month what took 9 months to do. I’d gained like 20 pounds and that wasn’t just going to go away in a month — no matter how hard I trained or how healthy I managed to eat (although that part was still really tricky).
Anyway, I didn’t lose my weight but I did get back in a decent shape and made some cool friends along the way.
Adventure #16 Pai & Northern Thailand
Pai was everything I had imagined and absolutely nothing like I had imagined. It was full of free spirited backpackers that were each constantly amazed at how ‘chill’ everyone there was. I’m a backpacker and I was not on whatever it was everyone was on.
I can see how Pai was once a paradise of easy going expats, locals and glorious rice paddies — with a small handful of backpackers passing through. It now has a long stretch of cafes, souvenir shops and bars on what is called the Pai Walking Street. I have some mixed feelings about this place. On the one hand, I’ve spent hours upon hours in the cafes working, sipping on coffee and writing. I loved every minute — as I do in every cafe around the world because they’re my absolute favorite place to be. On the other hand, I can’t get passed the overly-hippie-bullshit that’s around every corner. If I were to meet another ‘healer’ or self professed professional ‘lover’ I might have puked. I’m a yoga teacher… I’m not trying to bash on the spiritual, but these people reek bullshit. I’m sorry, but I just can’t with this place (written in present tense as I sit in one of the said cafes).
Also, I tried riding a motorbike and quickly realized there was no way I could be comfortable driving one. This limits you greatly in Pai. Taxis rip you off and tours suck… So I ended up walking to a lookout point and hopping on a few rides with fellow hostel goers, but for the most part I couldn’t roam like I’m used to.
Which is why I left to go further north to Pang Mapha — thanks in part to someone’s suggestion. I stayed in a guesthouse right along a flowing river in what felt like the trees. It was magical. I spent my days swinging on the hammock listening to the rush of water, reading and practicing yoga along the banks. I took a tour which I didn’t expect to be all that great and ended up being one of my favorite days in all of my time in Thailand.
Adventure #17 Burma aka Myanmar
I’d been dreaming about this destination for quite some time. Although the majority of the Southeast Asian destinations quickly escaped my travel plans, Burma was there to stay alongside Thailand. And boy am I glad it did.
I was beginning to get REALLY homesick in Thailand — even considering cutting my trip short and coming home in the midst of winter (yes, I was THAT tired). But essentially from my first day in Myanmar, my energy was rejuvenated.
The culture shock I had grown to adore and fear was ever present from the get go. Everything looked differently, smelled differently and nobody seemed to give a damn that I was a tourist (THANK GOD). Most of the men wore a Longiy (a long cloth worn like a long skirt). The streets in Yangon were chaotic and messy and filled with colors & patterns that my eyes could barely soak in all at once.
The entire 2 weeks that I spent in this country I was in awe of how different life was there — from the water villages where people live directly over water to the packed tiny streets in Mandalay. Tourism was down, which is not so good for the locals, but good for me.
Inle Lake was my favorite — it’s also where I got sick from a cold I wouldn’t recover from entirely until I left Myanmar.
I don’t know how to write about my time here in a short concise manner (not my forte). But I ate a ton of noodles, met a lot of interesting people and basked in the glory of this not-yet-ruined-by-tourism wonderland.
It’s also where I got to ride a hot air balloon to watch the sun rise over thousands of temples. No big deal.
Adventure #18 Lisboa and an old friend.
Before heading to my European pit-stop, I spent another two weeks in Thailand. Enjoying Chiang Mai once more, spending a few days in Bangkok and another few days in Hua Hin — a small beach town — with my brother. It was nice.
My next adventure was calling — Lisboa aka Lisbon. I met up with my old friend Danielle who had courageously given up her whole life and moved to Portugal to pursue a master’s degree. Last time I saw her she had just finished applying for the program.
I spent 6 days roaming the city streets, getting lost in cafes and buying my new favorite sweater. Not to mention eating my favorite meal up to this point in my travels — a sea bass and seaweed salad with a sashimi assortment made of dreams.
Adventure #19 The end of an era in the land of Morocco.
With three weeks left I took off to Morocco.
Eleven months of travel behind me and I still felt giddy.
I wasn’t even going to come here until I had changed my mind about a month prior. My time in Granada, Spain had enticed me to the beauty of the culture and I hadn’t stopped thinking about it since.
So, here I am.
Writing about my last adventure of the GREATEST adventure of my life.
Everything else on this list has been written in past tense, but this… This will be in the now. I’m sitting on the rooftop terrace of my hostel in Chefchaouen (a beautiful city with a name impossible to spell). A city painted entirely blue. I’ve been here 6 nights finishing up my work for January and trying to adjust to the culture shock.
I was attracted to Morocco for it’s beauty in architecture, but the culture shock was right up there.
I LOVE culture shock, but it’s also one of the most difficult parts of travel for me. It’s incredibly uncomfortable. Chefchaouen is a rather calm version of the rest of the cities I’ll be visiting so I thought it would be a good place to start.
[As I speak the loud speakers of the numerous mosques in the city are blaring their call to prayer and it’s fucking magnificent. The deep voices echoing against the surrounding mountains.]
The city where getting lost is literally part of the attraction — amazing. I heard a lot of bad experiences from people so I was mentally preparing myself to get hassled and annoyed and all of the above. And while I see what they were talking about — it was NOT that bad. Like, not even close. Granted I’ve still got Marrakech to go to, but Fes was quite pleasant (if not confusing).
We (Tina came to join me for my last week) rode camels into the dunes that draped one on top of the other like a giant silky blanket.
When we first saw the dunes my heart sank. It was AMAZING. I’ve never seen anything like that.
The camels took us slowly, but surely deep into the sand where we watched the sun set and then spent an evening around the fire. Stories among other things were shared between the local Berbers, us and our new friends — a hilarious duo from Nashville and their local guide.
We made our way to the city from the desert with our new Nashville friends, stopping for a lunch in Cheriff’s (the guide) home with his wife and children. The ride was long, but was filled with laughs and naps.
The city is busy and hectic and reminds me of a modern Fes.
Today — February 10th 2019 marks one year in the making. It’s also the day Tina found bed bugs in her bed that explain all the bites she’s been getting. It’s not the greatest (an understatement for sure), but it’s also a part of travel. I spent an entire month in Thailand with what I thought was permanent food poisoning after fighting what I could only imagine were bedbugs of my own. So while today hasn’t been exactly how I had imagined my one year anniversary to start — this is the way it goes. Take the good with the bad and know that there’s plenty of magic to come ahead.
I start my journey home tomorrow evening. I’m spending some time with my parents in Florida before heading back to where I feel most at home– New York City.
Until then… I’ve got some other posts coming your way. And if you’ve read ALL the way down here (4,426 words of nonsense) — tell me who you are because you must be a unicorn… or my mom.