Ok, so I gave a rough summary of all the places I visited during my year of travels here. But this post is all about the favorites. It’s hard to pick just one.
After leaping into the unknown February 10th 2018, I’ve discovered what life on the road is like. Amazing. Challenging. Tiring. Exhilarating. All of the above.
I’ve had amazing adventures all along the way, but there are definitely some moments that have stood out. I’ve listed them out here and perhaps have gotten into more detail than I intended so this may be a long one!
On the back of a motorbike, through the Taiwanese clouds.
Riding on the back of a motorbike down Taiwan’s highest highway along the side of a mountain through the clouds. Phew, that was a mouth full. But also, what a hell of a ride.
I was scared shitless. Flashes of my life blinking before me. There was no rain — per se — but we were drenched from the water thick air. Riding down from the peak of the highway through the clouds was un-fucking-believable. We could see only feet before us with the cloud-like residue creating a haze all around. Eerie tree branches hung over from the curb right next to us as we zoomed around each rounding corner and drove through tunnels that appeared out of nowhere. It truly felt like I was in the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or Alice in Wonderland or something of that nature. So eerie. So hauntingly beautiful. So thrilling.
We kept thinking… Ok — any minute this fog haze thing will end and we’ll be somewhere we can stop. Only that didn’t happen.
It was a day to remember. For sure.
The hostel on the mangroves.
Chilling along the mangroves in Krabi, Thailand eating fresh coconut and Laab Kai on the daily. There was this hostel. It’s situated along the coast about thirty minute drive away from Krabi town where the only tourists were us.
My days were about as dreamy and lazy as days go.
Walking along the small streets in Venice. It was a fairy tale. Nothing seemed like real life until every so often when I walked out onto the main street where the shops and restaurants hosted crowds of tourists. Everyone I speak to says they hate Venice — it’s too touristy they say. And to some extent, I agree. But also not. I walked around for hours and only ran into tourists when I went on major ‘streets’ or areas. And to be honest, I get it. The place is MAGICAL — of course it’s going to be touristy. I was determined to move there, until I read about their winters. No thanks… The only place I’ll be cold for is NYC.
A concert on a hill with The Alhambra.
Attending an outdoor concert in a garden atop a hill overlooking Granada, Spain with The Alhambra gloriously looking out nearby. I sipped on my overpriced tinto de verano (the drink of choice for locals in southern Spain) chatted with new friends and was completely awestruck by my life.
Le Pique-nique á Paris.
Indulging in the most heavenly French bread, the most glorious truffle infused French cheese and the most French, French wine along the Siene on a blanket with my lady friends. That picnic may have been my favorite picnic of all time. If I return to Paris, that’s where you’ll find me. Picnicking.
Hitchhiking thru Bulgaria.
We almost missed our bus, but made it just in time to get told the bus was too full. We wouldn’t be taking a bus that day after all. The entrance to the highway was just steps away so off we went. It was my first hitchhiking experience. First few cars were able to take us just a few miles each, but our hopes were high… If we could just get someone to take us to a northern city, we could catch an evening bus to our ultimate destination — Bonsko. We stood there, joking about how funny (and extremely unlikely) it would be if someone pulled up actually going to Bonsko. Low and behold — he did. As soon as he said he was going all the way to Bonsko (several hours away) we let out a laugh because we couldn’t believe our luck.
A piece of the Balkan road trip.
The longest drive of our Balkan road trip was 8 hours. I don’t even remember where we were going that day, but I remember loving the scenery. The whole day was spent in the car and I didn’t care. It was stunning — the whole ride.
Camping in Bosnia.
After a day of chasing waterfalls (literally) we drove our little Fiat 500 to some back roads along a river. We had some groceries already packed and fire making materials ready to rumble.
And I could finally use my little yellow tent!! ***The one stinkin’ time I used that tent after carrying it around for a whole year.
When the sun set, the noises came out and we were surrounded. By what? No clue, but they were loud and were absolutely not shy. We made food and fire and I fell asleep watching the fire go out.
Lake Bled & a yoga session.
Teaching yoga to my close friend Mercedes a top a small hill overlooking a small island at Lake Bled. I hadn’t seen Mercedes in almost four years and it was such a pleasure getting to enjoy the beauty of that place with her. I haven’t taught yoga to anyone who I actually know yet and getting to share that with her was special.
A boat ride through a village on the water.
Myanmar was a dream. Like the dreamiest escape from Thailand I could have ever wanted. I spent one of my days in Inle Lake on a boat with a small crew from my hostel, touring villages on stilts and the little shops along the way. Sure, the shops were meant for us tourists, but it was still really neat learning about the various crafts these people have been doing for ages. One of which — locust silk (wayyyy cool) made from fibers in the locust plant.
Slowly canoeing through one of the villages we could see people simply going about their daily lives — and I think it’s worth mentioning that we were the only non-villagers there (that I could see). People doing laundry on their front steps that go down to the water, kids playing a local sport on a small patch of land, roosters pecking away on a small cluster of wood, small children making their way along the water on small boats [giggling profusely at our presence]. This was the best part.
The village on stilts had a little convenience store (so cool) where we bought some beers and made our way onto the lake for sunset. A day well spent indeed.
Kathmandu. Eesh… Hard to pick just one moment. Nepal was something truly special. Like out of this world special. But I’ll start with Kathmandu. The city was one giant culture shock to me. The first time I tried going for a walk I got too overwhelmed by endless honking that I turned around and went back. The tiny streets were covered with cars, goats, motorbikes and people all crammed into one loud chaotic mess. It was rush hour and I was too shocked to go exploring. Of course I went later on — I ended up spending two weeks in the city. And by the end of it I was so far in love that no amount of chaos was going to take that away. I especially loved walking around the Patan neighborhood at night. The glow of the street lights and the lights coming from shops and windows gave the streets a bronze hue. No matter where I looked, there seemed to be a filter over my eyes. Everything was bronze. It was so magical.
Tibetan monks & a Puja offering.
I had the privilege of visiting a Tibetan monastery on a mountain in the foothills of the Himalayas. After getting some directions (through the gate, over the hill, a right at the electricity panel etc.) we took off for a short walk up to the monastery. School have must of just gotten let out for the mini-monks (kiddos) as a stream of dark burgundy robes came rushing out.
We came just in time for the evening Puja offering and promptly took a seat towards the back of the main room fully adorned with gold and red anywhere and everywhere your eyes may wander.
As the monks came streaming in, a quiet buzzing quickly evolved into a rumble of chatter, prayer and instrument playing. At first I thought they were just tuning their instruments, but the process continued and I realized it was all part of the Puja. A monk came by with some milk tea and a little cracker that was quite yummy — both of these things were blessed prior to our consumption. Few tourists among us, the room was mostly monks — of all ages. The energy in the room was ON. I don’t even know what that means or how to explain it, but it was way cool. There was a pair of giant gongs towards to the entrance that were being played along with the rest of the instruments — honestly, it sounded like the an orchestra at the beginning of a concert just getting ready by tuning and chatting. There was a couple of monk kiddos arguing in the back and a couple of older monks having a laugh in the front. All of this while prayer was taking place. What a fun, unexpected experience indeed!
Trekking. I’ll never have enough words to explain how magical the Himilayas are and how much I loved spending time with the people who made up this part of my journey. I signed up for it without really understanding what I was signing up for. First of all, I had no cold weather clothes — I planned to stay in Southeast Asia the entire time (so much for that haha). Second of all, I hadn’t exercised in almost a year so trekking the Himalayas was kind of a challenge (understatement). The first day of the trek, I found myself alone atop a mountain in the middle of what seemed to be endless steps (we’d been going up for hours at that point). It had already gotten dark and most of my group was well ahead of me — I was really out of shape. I panicked… Because it’s what I do best. My heart started to race and breathing became difficult. I’m lost. I got lost. That’s what I kept repeating in my head, anyway. Over and over until the better part of my brain took over — as it normally does in the middle of a panic attack. Just keep going. Slow and steady. There’s only one path — you’re not lost. Slow and steady. (Yes, I see you judging me over there. I do indeed talk to myself.) I caught my breath, picked up my bright green walking sticks and kept moving. Slowly — mostly because I was tired as hell, but also because I couldn’t see where I was going. It was dark and I hadn’t packed my headlamp into my day pack. Slow and steady. I kept moving until I heard tunes playing nearby. Pete had made his way back down to meet me… His tiny speaker making all sorts of music in his wake. I think I remember him skipping. SKIPPING. How the hell he had so much energy is beyond me, but boy was I glad to see him! I had started to use my phone as a flashlight at that point, but was able to put it away with the help of Pete’s headlamp. Together we made our way up. Slow and steady. Of course we made it to our tea house where the rest of our gang awaited along with a comfy bed and food. When we were all sitting there eating food we ordered way too much of, I knew this was the beginning of something that will be ingrained in my heart forever. The Himalayas were truly magical — even that first hard day, but the true magic was in the people who made me feel all sorts of special every single chance they got.
Floating lanterns in Chiang Mai — Loi Krathong.
AKA the Lantern Festival. I was really bummed that I wasn’t in the US for Thanksgiving — my all time favorite holiday — and honestly wasn’t all that excited about the festival. I knew there’d be lanterns and a whole lot of litter in the aftermath. Of course I wasn’t about to not go. So after training on Thursday evening as my friends and family were just waking up to a glorious Thanksgiving morning I got into a Grab and headed towards the river. As soon as we sighted the first lantern it became quite clear just how cool this was going to be. We got out into the street along with what seemed like hundreds of other people crowding around the bridge. Big white lanterns alit with an inner flame were going off for the sky one-by-one and it was stunning. One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. My iphone simply couldn’t capture the magic that I was experiencing so I stopped trying. It was mesmerizing. A dark black sky dotted with tiny gold specks of glittering hope. Fleeting fire-flies.
It took us about half an hour just to cross the short bridge crowded with hundreds of people attempting (sometimes dangerously unsuccessfully) to set off one of their own lanterns, cars, motorbikes and the occasional rogue lantern casually coming for our heads — we were cautious and in awe. It wouldn’t be long before we caught sight of the used up lanterns beginning to fall towards the ground — graceful and melancholy. There was something sorrowful in the way they floated down — once a glorious flickering symbol for hope, now nothing more than trash.
A Trek Thru Northern Thailand
I came to Pang Mapha after Pai proved to be a bit of a disappointment in many ways. I wanted desperately to be in a rural environment and Pang Mapha was exactly it. I went to a guesthouse that was recommended to me and decided to splurge (all of $15/night) for a single bungalow with natural light and a private bathroom. I signed up for a day trek with a local tour guide. Boy am I glad I did! The guide was local to a village nearby and he knew the forests and natural areas like the back of his hand. It started raining that morning, but I was on a serious high from my surroundings so I didn’t care. We started our trek on a trail and quickly went off into a forest — which was amazing. The rest of our day saw few marked trails, many river crossings and one giant rice field. We made our way into a a muddy cave and into a tiny village of 100 families where tiny hot peppers were being dried and readied for cooking, roosters roamed the gravel streets like neighborhood hooligans and our small group was the talk of the town.
The rain poured consistently throughout the day creating muddy puddles for us to slip into, but that somehow made it more of an adventure. The guide had no qualms about taking us off the path which I’ve gotta say is not the norm, but ohhhh so appreciated.
A Sun Rise, 2,500 Temples and a Hot Air Balloon.
Back in Malaysia — what feels like a millions years ago — a girl showed me a picture that immediately made me giddy. A collection of floating hot air balloons above what appeared to be hundreds of temples in Bagan.
It looked magical.
And it was.
A Hammam in a basement.
Hammams are Moroccon bath houses. They’re not particularly hot, but it’s a steam room where people go multiple times a week. You scrub yourself with a sponge thingi and some argon oil soap and watch all of your dead skin come off. But that’s not why I loved it so much.
I was taken to a random door along a random alleyway in Fes to be escorted down a staircase into the basement by Fatima — a little old lady with friendly eyes. The Hammam was a very simple basement — albiet rather large — in which I followed another old lady from one empty room to another until we reached the steam room. I was then scrubbed from head to toe with the soap and special sponge by this woman on the tile floor of this room. There was nothing spa-like about the experience and the other women in the room were just going about their daily self-cleaning business. I did a ‘hammam’ in Granada and this was NOTHING like that.
And while I don’t need or care to do that again, it was a really neat experience.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get to see the Sahara, let alone camp over night in it. When I first caught a glimpse of the giant sand dunes — my heart sank. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Piles and piles of golden sand. HOW COOL?!
Tina and I rode two adorable camels through the dunes and into our camp. And while the morning waking up in the Sahara was SO COLD — I still consider this experience to be one of the most special ones the whole year.
Ok — so I’ve been writing this as I went and while I may have missed an epic moment here and there, this just about sums it up.
I’m now home and enjoying the hell out my creature comforts.