icantbelieveits2014

what even happened to 2013? i don’t like this thing where entire years seem to fly by … this getting older thing. i don’t care for it. i’ve been in georgia since coming back from my trip last year (i came back on january 13th of last year). this year, january 13th felt heavy … i was thinking about the trip and missing the vagabond lifestyle.

i took a job in the emergency department (pediatric) in november. pretty big change from my previous job in the inpatient rehabilitation unit. these 2 units are basically polar opposites. on the rehab unit the kids can be there for long periods of time – months – doing physical therapy and relearning basic functions. the ER is obviously very quick turnover – the kids are in and out super fast for the most part. i was just ready for a change … and a new challenge. so far i’ve been really happy with the switch … i feel like i’m learning a ton and this type of nursing seems to be a good fit for me.

i turned 34 this month. 34!? each year i’m astonished by the fact that i’m getting older and that there’s absolutely nothing i can do about it. the cycle of life has us in its grip.

a few things from the 2nd half of last year  …

camping at cloudland canyon in september

dad’s birthday … i guess i won’t mention how old he turned. he’s looking good though!DSC_0224

my handsome brothernate and his lady. theresa … i dig itDSC_0296

atlanta botanical gardens with christy!DSC_0354DSC_0339

spent a day with christy and brittany at arabia mountain. fun little adventure. that was the week that we spent a few nights at brittany’s house … good memories!

i got to do my friend’s engagement photo shoot at the fair – it was a really fun shoot. this is adam and blair … i love them – they are great people!

braves play-off game in october – alyssa was very nervous. it was a bummer of a loss, but still nice to be there with good friends!

pride atlanta … well, we had a blast! so much energy, so many people hanging out and smiling. hahaha … i love this first photo so much!

sion and jaime!

zombie dance party at bookhouse pub for halloween!! it’s so great that they do this each year … the artists are amazing!

and … martin was here!

just some photos of one of the cutest babies ever … little olive back in november! really can’t handle how sweet she is.

thanksgiving with the family! playin some UNO over the holidays and i don’t think nate liked what he got! draw 4, sucker.

the rehab christmas party (even though we don’t all work there anymore)! i have made some really great friends on that unit and i miss working with those people a lot!uh oh … something happened to kathleen’s creepy babydoll

i have settled down over here in roswell at the sugar shack (this is the name of our home). amy and i are good roomies! and now we have a cat … her name is phoebe and she is the queen of the sugar shack. she loves my bed. amy is currently in the living room practicing the mandolin.

trying to think of other interesting things i did last year. oh .. my dad and i went to my first falcons game. first pro football game ever actually. for NYE some people got together over at alyssa’s place … firepit, food, drinks, music. it was a fairly low key NYE and we all had a great time. i’ve had a lot of good times this year with friends and family – thankful for that!

i suppose that about sums it up. i continue to wander about this weird little world we live in and try to make sense of it on occasion. this year i want to read more.

life back home

i figured i could write a bit about what i’ve been doing since coming back home. it’s not quite as exciting as traveling around the world, but hey … it’s still life right.

around atlanta ….

my friend andrea pregnant with her first little one … love this girl!

baking and wine with my girls. we were making a smash cake for harvey’s 1st birthday. well, i wasn’t really baking … i was drinking wine and eating yummy dip that sarah made. by the way, harvey is carla’s son.

me, andrea, carla, sarah … although we usually just go by SNAC … because why wouldn’t we come up with an acronym for our little crew? it’s obviously very cool.

harvey’s 1st birthday party … he’s so freaking cute!

hiking around with josi, melissa, and m.sue … and the doggies. i really need to hike more often. i miss it. being in the woods feels nice.

went to cataloochee in february with alyssa, janelle, tommy, and patrick. this was my first time snowboarding. i actually did ok … until i jacked up my knee! our cabin was pretty amazing and we had a great time. it made me happy to take a little trip and play in the snow a bit.

the creek right behind our cabin

snowboarding, photos, card games, music, good food, beer, fires, laughs, pretty scenery, good friends … i wanna go again!

so as most of you probably know, i do not have an actual home right now. since i’ve been back in atlanta i have basically been living out of my bags. i sold just about everything before my trip (including my car and motorcycle). i bought a car shortly after getting back, which was super helpful. hard to be in atlanta without one. as far as my living situation goes, i have mostly been staying with friends and family. i did find a sublet in candler park for about 1.5 months and i also lived in mountain park (in roswell) for a bit. my friend amy has a great little house in mountain park and i think i’m actually gonna call it home again for a while.

walking around mountain park back in march

i spent st. patrick’s day in savannah … something i had been wanting to do for quite some time. they have a huge parade in the city and everyone gets really into it … dressing in green, painted faces, getting up at the crack of dawn to set up tarps in the squares where you hang out all day with family and friends. gina, one of my best friends, lives in savannah with her husband, dante, and their son, rafa (my little ginger godson). i hadn’t seen them since before leaving for my trip so i was super excited to get to hang out with them. rafa had gotten so big since the last time i saw him … he’s pretty incredible and has the most fabulous red hair.

easter

christy came home for a visit!

my dad found a great ice bar for us to have dinner and drinks at one night. sushi and infused vodka!

i must say … i do love spring in georgia. it smells like honeysuckles. outdoor farmer’s markets open up and atlanta hosts some pretty great festivals. had a fun 2 days at the sweetwater 420 fest this year.

been to a few concerts … got to see smashing pumpkins for the 1st time!

billy corgan

my friend tyler lyle playing at eddie’s attic. he is pursuing music in california these days and is doing well. if you haven’t heard his music you should.

father john misty at the masquerade … great show

passion pit at party in the park

amanda and i having a fun photo day …

spending time with my friend erin and her girls, metta and eden. i missed hearing metta call me her aunt nee nee. too cute! even eden is starting to say it now.

i had never been to the renaissance festival before so i decided to check it out this year. definitely a weird festival, but i’m glad i went. it’s fun to see all the costumes and people playing their roles. the best part was just watching metta and eden’s reactions to everything going on.

metta becoming a real fairie

tommy gettin us some beer money!

eden totally taken by the bird show

braves game!

summer cookouts! erin and andrew do it up right. we eat the most delicious food when we grill out with them. i have so enjoyed my time with tommy, andrew, erin, metta, and eden this summer. oh … and kai (tommy’s dog).

amy and i got to meet up with sarah and caroline for dinner one evening … such a fun night. sarah was one of our former patients and amy & i have remained close with her and her mother … they are such great people! if you followed my blog while i was traveling you might remember that i got to meet up with them in london last summer.

sarah and amy

i stayed with my friend melissa for a couple of weeks … we cooked, drank wine, and relaxed a bit. so nice to spend time with her. it’s actually great to stay with different friends here and there because i feel like i actually get to spend quality time with them … versus just meeting up for a quick meal or a drink. we grilled out one evening with alyssa and janelle – didn’t take photos that night, but it was a good evening.

walking on the silver comet trail

cash – melissa’s dog

so yea … i’ve had some good times back home. it’s been great to spend time with friends and family. i’ve made a few trips to jeju korean spa, eaten at lots of restaurants that i missed, played golf with my dad, got a pedicure with my mom, cooked dinner with my brother. i’ve had the opportunity to do a few photoshoots recently, which has been really nice. i’m working and keeping busy for the most part …and enjoying sleeping in whenever i can! oh … and i’ve been addicted to this american life and radio lab podcasts.

an epic year

going on this trip was absolutely the best thing i have ever done. i will never regret having left home, selling most of my stuff, quitting my job, and wandering out into an unknown world. the place you leave behind will always be right there waiting for you when you want to return … i knew this when i left and i definitely know it now that i’m back in atlanta with family and friends. I’ve been wanting to write some sort of wrap up blog since coming home …

some people (people from home and people i met along the way) ask(ed) me why i decided to travel around the world. was i running from something? or to something? was there a specific purpose?. the trip wasn’t motivated by some need or desire to run away from anything, but i can say that i was excited about escaping the routine. my life in atlanta was good … great family, great friends, good job, a home … but i was antsy. i’d been wanting to travel the world for years and i was afraid that i’d end up this old person looking back at my life thinking “why didn’t i do that when i had the chance?” i knew what the answer would be … “i was afraid.” unfortunately it’s easier than it should be to allow fear to dictate decisions. acknowledging that fear and pushing beyond it is what opens our lives up to some of the most amazing experiences we could ever have. if i was running to something, i’d say that i was running toward adventure. i wanted to see beautiful places all over the world. i wanted to see what other cultures were like. i wanted to be exposed to new things, new thoughts, new food, new experiences, new people. i wanted to take photos and blog so people back home would know what i was doing and feel like they were experiencing some of the adventure as well. those were some of the purposes of the trip … to be exposed to new things around the world, to see some of the most beautiful places, to learn new stuff along the way. it could go without saying that throughout the year of traveling, i learned and grew and changed. this was also part of the purpose. i assumed that traveling would result in personal growth and that i would learn new things about myself along the way. some days i see those changes in myself and other days i feel like i’m nearly the same person i was before i left. this is sort of a frightening feeling, but i think it’s somewhat normal. it feels like i’m always fluctuating between being on the brink of personal growth, growing, and staying the same … if that makes any sense to anyone.

i have a good friend who reminded me that there will be things i won’t even realize i’ve learned from this trip until years down the road. this is probably true. seeing the world will certainly shape and affect a person, but i think the results come slowly and at unexpected times. i know that i learned a lot about travel … how to find my way around cities, how to use different types of public transportation, how to read a map better, how to make friends quickly (i’ve never in my life had so many different types of friends from all over the world), how to pack a bag efficiently and how to get rid of things i don’t need, how to make money last. i learned a lot about sharing my space. i rarely had privacy on this trip … this was an adjustment because i’m the type of person who likes my personal space. the majority of the time i was sleeping in hostels with anywhere from 4-12 people in the room or sharing budget hotel rooms with multiple people. i got really good at squatting to use the toilet … especially in countries where the toilet is basically just a hole in the ground!

i saw some of the MOST beautiful places in the world. I went on some pretty epic hikes. i read 7 books while on the road (that’s pretty good for me. let me put it this way … unfortunately i haven’t completed a book since coming home). i met some of the most interesting and kind people. i learned to be more flexible with my time and plans. i didn’t waste as much time as i do when i’m home and in a routine. i worried less. if there is one real purpose for this life i did not stumble upon it. or maybe i did and i just don’t know it yet. however, i did find myself enjoying life and nature and people and food all over the world … so that’s pretty significant. i ate when i was hungry, rarely snacked, and walked miles almost every day … pretty sure that’s the best shape i’ve been in in a long time. i rarely got sick, and when i did it was nothing too serious. i realized that i was capable … that i could find my way around the world and that it wasn’t quite as daunting as it may seem.

i was fortunate enough to stay pretty safe on this trip. i mean … i was definitely afraid for my life during some car rides in countries like india, indonesia, and nepal and there was the time in india when our driver was stopped in a long line at a toll booth and got out of the car because 2 guys were banging on our car window yelling at him. oh yes .. he thought it would be a good idea to get out and get beat up while leaving me and christy in the car. later on in india we were stranded at a dodgy train station in the pitch dark – another slightly unsettling experience. aside from a handful of shady situations i can say that i felt mostly safe along the way. so … looking back i feel pretty lucky to have finished the trip unscathed.

being back in the states has been weird and not the easiest at times. the good: enjoying time with family and friends and eating at some of my most missed restaurants and bars. it still stands that brickstore pub is my favorite bar to enjoy food and beer. the not so good: i feel like my life is somewhat underwhelming now. tough to come back to “reality” after 10.5 months of doing and seeing epic stuff and living a very free lifestyle. i was fortunate enough to get my old job back. it’s great that i can get back and make some money, but i think i’d really like to get into photography more and try to make some money doing that. it’s something that i really enjoy.

 i want to enjoy being here as much as i can … enjoy the time with my family and friends, but i know that i also want to travel more. so we’ll see how it all goes. so thankful for the experience i had! so encouraged along the way … there are lots of people out there doing the same thing i did and i’m so glad that i got to meet some of them – they shaped my experiences. so appreciative that people back home followed my blog and checked out the photos … meant the world to me!

“your first stop is fiji??! are you freaking kidding me?!”
christy and i heard this statement numerous times before leaving the states.

fiji
a photo of christy’s … the beginning of our adventures!

beach in nadi, fiji … our first day was one of the most memorable of the entire trip. meeting some locals and spending hours with them … chatting, eating fresh fish, and drinking kava!

one of our local friends cutting sugarcane for everyone to eat!

bus stop in dowtown suva

rukuruku village … this was down the street (or dirt path) from bobo’s farm (a place we stayed in fiji that turned out to be gorgeous and far away from city life) … lots of cute kids, beautiful landscape, and a rugby game!

phillip dueces bananas foster got to visit several countries, but i finally had to ship him home. he’s doing just fine in case you have been wondering.

new zealand
this country turned out to be a favorite of mine. such a beautiful place with so much to do … epic hikes and landscapes. this was also the place where we had our first hitchhiking experience. new zealand at a glance … city life, breakdancing, and watching the labyrinth outside on a big screen projector in auckland –> hot springs and lakes in rotorua –> thermal springs in taupo –> hitchhiking with dominic and todd to taringa to do an epic 19km hike called the tongariro alpine crossing –> somerset farm in wairarapa (this is where christy and martin met … and where i got to ride a dirt bike!) –> hiking and camping at abel tasman national park on st. patricks day with our irish friend, bryan –> franz josef for an unforgettable glacier hike –> queenstown (where we met dukki!) –> kayaking milford sound –> the town of fairlie, where we experienced an incredibly fun night with drinks, music, random people, and a rugby team –> deep sea fishing, a seal colony, and eating fresh lobster in kaikoura!
i would go back to NZ anytime!

we were walking around auckland on our 2nd night there and found some breakdancers performing … pretty fun evening.

our first go at hitchhiking …

tongariro alpine crossing … this hike was pretty amazing. definitely difficult, but so worth it! we saw some of the most beautiful scenery throughout the hike and there was such a sense of accomplishment at the end. if it weren’t for hitchhiking we would have missed this experience. the guys that picked us up invited us along with them. DSC_0300 DSC_0284 1

sheep!

the hike at abel tasman national park was a lot easier than tongariro, but it was also a beautiful hike. we camped out that night and celebrated st. patrick’s day under the stars that evening. absolutely gorgeous!

the glacier hike was one of the neatest things we did. it was icy and challenging at points, but we did really well and had a good time!

going to milford sound just to see it is well worth the trip … kayaking it was pretty cool. i remember that the weather wasn’t the greatest … drizzling off and on, but it was still so lovely. so peaceful out there.

kaikoura was one of my favorite places in NZ. it’s pretty relaxed and on the water. i got to go out deep sea fishing twice. the fresh lobster was delicious!

there’s an entire seal colony here in kaikoura … i thought one was going to bite my face off at one point

australia
had some fun times in australia, but like many other countries, i feel like i could go back to see more. we did the east coast … i’d love to see more of the country. for me … my time in australia was definitely more about the people we met along the way. we had a blast with dukki, joseph and ronnie in sydney … hanging out at the korean grocery, eating korean food, and going out dancing. sydney is a fun city and we had some nice times hanging out by the harbor.

eating korean food in the back of a van (outside of the korean market where the guys work)

the harbour

view of the opera house from the ferry

bronte beach … very chill and much less populated than bondi beach (which we walked to that same day)

the blue mountains … those 3 rock formations to the left are called 3 sisters. just something to see

dancing with the boys for our last night in sydney!

so we headed north from sydney … hitchhiked several times and had great experiences every time! stopped off in newcastle for a night because we were tired, got stranded at a train stop, and it was getting late. found a good bar called the great northern and listened to live music for a bit.

made our way to nambucca the following day with a nice guy named james. the waterfront …

got picked up by these fellas after nambucca … we had a great time with them. they invited us to their friend’s home for a bbq. we met one of the nicest families ever that day. they opened up their home to us, fed us, and gave us a place to sleep for the night. we rode dune buggies and swam and played! thanks again to paul, damien, and moey – hope to see them again one day!

the next day we caught a ride with a sweet girl named cassie …she took us to byron bay. total hippie area of australia. we stayed at the arts factory hostel (really cool) and this was our little cabin. we met our italian friend, cristiano at this hostel, went to the beach and explored the city a bit

we headed to brisbane to catch a flight to cairns, where we spent about a week. made some really fun friends at castaways hostel. we will always remember our times with frenchie, nathan, and craig. the highlights of cairns were scuba diving the great barrier reef (even though we got sea sick), our tour through the rainforest, and hanging out with our friends at the hostel or around the city.

lots of bats in cairns!

looking for our boat to go out to the reef

along the way on the uncle bryan’s tour … we never did spot that platypus.

indonesia
gili meno island! we had no idea how we were getting there and we definitely didn’t know where we were gonna sleep when we arrived on a small boat in the middle of the night. by the way … such a beautiful and peaceful night ride on the ocean. when we arrived, our bags were literally tossed into the sand and we had to walk around and find a place to stay. ended up loving the place we found … the staff was so nice! beautiful island!

really enjoyed ubud. did a bicycle tour, went to the monkey forest, tried coffee luwak at a plantation, and saw some rice terraces. this was a typical breakfast in indonesia …

july – he worked at the hotel where we stayed and he showed us around …

we had an amazing spa experience in ubud and then a not so amazing hotel experience when we reached gilimanuk. rats and bed bugs. took a ferry from bali to java and when we got off the boat we met hilmi and his family … they were so kind and basically took us in until we figured out our train arrangements to surabaya. i will never forget that family!

sunrise at mount bromo … lovely

prambanan temple

borobudur temple

i remember good and bad things from indonesia. it wasn’t always the easiest country to travel, but there were a lot of lovely things to see and we did meet some really nice people along the way. there’s a lot of culture in indonesia … heavy on the religious influences … i think there are multiple different religions practiced there, including fusions of some of those religions in certain areas of the country. i liked seeing the temples … they really are beautiful and it’s so different from stuff you see in the states. there are a lot of artists … painters, people doing batik, musicians, woodcarvers, dancers … kind of neat.

singapore
i ended up going to singapore 3 times during my travels. this is where we met monica and kip! they let us stay at their amazing apartment and showed us such a great time! these guys became good friends of ours. christy recently got to shoot their wedding in hawaii! i liked singapore … it’s super clean, organized, and easy to get around with public transportation. also, i ate some delicious food there. satay club is a street where people are grilling beef, chicken and prawn satays … gotta try it if you go to singapore. if you want to eat cheap then stick to hawkers centers. anthony bourdain recommended the chicken rice dish …

singapore flyer

india
the highlights of india were definitely the camel ride through the desert and seeing the taj mahal. india was difficult for us … i remember it being very exhausting. perhaps i could have had a little more patience while i was there, but it’s always easier to say that after the fact. the colors are brilliant and there is so much to photograph in this country. some people enjoy the south of india more than the north … so if i ever go back i’d have to check out the southern cities and beaches.

taj mahal

camel ride in pushkar

nepal
loved nepal! i really liked kathmandu … good city to walk around and explore. the people are super friendly and the kids are playful and love having their photo taken. the city is full of culture … temples, monuments, street food, art, lots of wandering dogs, and maybe some chickens or cows on the side of the road. thamel is a tourist area in kathmandu and i loved spending time there. it’s filled with shops and some really good restaurants. when christy and i left nepal we both agreed that it would be a great place to revisit. i got to come back with monica months later and we spent time in kathmandu and also went to pokhara for an amazing trek around the himalayas.

christy and i spent a few days hiking around nagarkot (not too far outside the city) and this is where we met bik! he was our guide and we really loved getting to know him!

pokhara was absolutely beautiful! so glad that i got to come back to nepal to see the himalayas when the view was good. the town is very charming with some good restaurants and coffee shops and it’s surrounded by snow capped mountains. monica and i had some good times there!

fresh pomegranate juice

the gorepani poon trek … bikram was our guide again!

paragliding … such a rush!

ireland
ireland is beautiful! we got to see so much of the country because christy’s family visited and we spent time with them driving around the ring of kerry. we were fortunate enough to get some amazing weather. we also met up with our friend bryan and hung out with him a bit. went to the guinness factory! i remember going into this authentic irish bar in kinsale with christy’s family … people were playing music, singing and dancing. you could tell that they all knew each other and that they were having a great time. i found the irish to be super friendly and welcoming … and they have some of the best accents ever, in my opinion!

spain
made it to barcelona, ibiza, and san sebastian. explored barcelona … went to la sagrada familia and spent time on las ramblas of course. ate some yummy tapas. christy, holly, and i had a good time going out in ibiza … my first foam party! san sebastian was beautiful and i spent time with great friends. the food there is amazing!

overlooking barcelona

san sebastian

cider house

france and monaco
gorgeous! southern france was one of my favorite places, and since we were so close to monaco we had to go check out all the fancy cars and casinos one day. holly, christy and i saw a lot of paris. had a picnic in front of the eiffel tower one evening. chamonix is definitely one of the most beautiful places i have ever been. such a great little town. everyone there snowboards or skis. i wanna go back!

colosseum in nimes

close to the border of france and monaco

eiffel tower

holly doing her thing at the palace of versailles

chamonix

italy
rome colosseum

ended up meeting choo and chelsea one night … we all hung out in the city and had a good time with the laser pointers!

the amalfi coast

a quick glass of wine in venice before leaving italy …

i definitely want to go back to italy. my mom really wants to go so maybe one day we will go together. i’d love to see tuscany and more of the countryside! definitely need to do a wine tour next time.

germany
i enjoyed my time in munich and berlin. in munich, christy, holly and i stayed at a hostel called ‘the tent’ … stayed in a huge tent with about 100 other people. great hostel with a great vibe. i made a friend named fabio here and later on in the trip he and i traveled around scandinavia together. andrea and brandon happened to be in munich at the same as we were so i got to hang out with them!

beers at the tent!

walking around munich

train ride to füssen with andrea and brandon

neuschwanstein castle

dachau, the first of the nazi concentration camps opened in germany … heavy.

berlin … this city is full of art, especially street art. it’s more grungy than munich … i would recommend checking it out if you’re in germany.

netherlands
good ole’ amsterdam … yea we walked around a lot. i think amsterdam is prettier than some people give it credit for.

england
i spent almost 3 weeks in england. it was so nice to hang out with my friends laura and jo … they let me crash on their couch the entire time! i spent loads of time exploring the streets of london and i also took day trips to stonehenge and oxford!

laura and jo

summer olympic spirit …

mens road race

i met up with one of my former patients … she and her mom were doing some travels of their own and we got to spend a day in london together! sarah is amazing and i’m so proud of her!

stonehenge

roaming the streets of london

had the pleasure of spending some time with laura’s boyfriend, dan … good guy!

enjoying an english bitter somewhere pretty in london

camden

i met josh in germany and we ended up in london at the same time. hung out with him and his friend noah a bit in the city!

i really had a great time in london. i got used to having a little home for those few weeks … it was hard to leave!

scotland
well, one thing i can say about scotland is that going back through my photos of this place got me feeling super nostalgic. i met some wonderful people there! edinburgh is amazing … such a beautiful place with this artsy, medieval vibe. loved it!

sangria at a cute little market with mauro and shelby!

entertainment at fringe festival

i won’t be able to say enough good words about this girl … shelby turned out to be one of the best people i’ve ever met. such a free spirited, open-minded person. i learned a lot from her. later on in my travels i ended up meeting back up with her in turkey! i’m gonna go ahead and post too many photos of this day because it was such a great one. love these people!DSC_1187fb

sweden
sweden was a place of some firsts. first time couchsurfing (with someone i didn’t know), first hip hop lesson, first west coast swing lesson, first time participating in a random improv group. i of course had to eat some herring while there … not bad. enjoyed fika one afternoon … this is basically a coffee/tea/something sweet break that is an everyday occurence in sweden. fabio (friend i met in munich) and i met up in stockholm to travel together for a bit and we ended up meeting some really nice locals and had some memorable times there. we went to an island called djurgården … i remember eating fresh focaccia bread and enjoying nature that day. we spent a couple of afternoons at the culture house (super artsy place where we danced a bit). we went kayaking on the island of Långholmen – beautiful! we also spent a day at skansen and an evening at an outdoor techno music festival. some really great memories!

finland
helsinki was special because i got to spend time with my friend eva.

fabio and i exploring the city … this is right outside the fazer chocolate shop

we took a boat to suomenlinna one afternoon … it’s a sea fortress built on 6 islands. pretty and peaceful.

enjoying coffee and pulla (finnish dessert bread) with eva

evening out with friends

walkin’ around …

estonia
this is not a country that i had originally planned on visiting, but winging it is part of what makes travel so exciting. ended up loving tallinn … great medieval feel to the city with lots to see and do for it’s smaller size. also, i stayed in a cool hostel here and met some fun people!

czech republic
spent a couple days in prague … lovely city

charles bridge

with a friend i met on the train … trying legit absinthe for the 1st time

hungary
and a couple days in budapest

st. stephen’s basilica

boat ride on the danube

szechenyi baths with my friends mollie and matt

morocco
another unexpected stop along the way, but since my friend thomas was gonna be in marrakech i couldn’t pass it up. ended up having a good time exploring the city with him and david. we walked around the souks, shopped for rugs, ate some nasty snails, drank lots of delicious mint tea, checked out some sites. oh and thomas put a snake around his neck … eeewww.

our cute place that david found on air b&b

switzerland
this country is absolutely beautiful. so green and well kept … everything just feels fresh. we were able to hit bern, thun, interlakin, lauterbrunnen, montreux, and leysin. i took a train by myself from leysin to basel and that turned out to be such a random and great experience. this is where i met a guy named dominic and once he realized my plan to sleep in the airport he invited me to stay with him and his roommates. i realize that to some people this sounds like the dumbest idea ever … to go home with a complete stranger. but i don’t know … you have to trust your instincts. trusting people along the way opens up so many doors in the world of travel. we rode bikes through the city and to the rhine river that evening.

dominic

turkey
turkey is one of my favorite countries! instanbul is so vibrant and rich in culture. lots of colors, good food, temples, mosques, turkish coffee, bustling markets, cool cafes and restaurants, and friendly people. between the old city, the new city, and ferry rides to islands like buyukada, you could easily spend lots of time exploring istanbul. i remember meeting some other travelers while i was there and we had a great time roaming around. i made my way south and visited ephesus, pamukkale, and kabak valley. i loved all of it! such a beautifully diverse country.

inside the blue mosque

love that people just play backgammon out in the street!

enjoying fresh food after cycling around the island of buyukada

pamukkale

the view of kabak valley… i stayed there for a couple of weeks with my friend shelby (the one i met in scotland). i met my friend eleni there and it was so nice to have meaningful conversations with those girls. they became good friends of mine. kabak was an important time during my trip … simple, slower times and peaceful surroundings.

cambodia
after leaving turkey i made my way back to singapore to meet up with monica. she and i traveled around together for 1 month … our first stop was cambodia. i think we spent 6 days there and got to see quite a bit. the people we met in cambodia were super friendly and the kids were some of the cutest ever! while we were in phnom pehn we took an extremely long and dangerous bike ride to mekong island. it turned out to be a pretty great experience. we were back in these small villages riding on dirt paths the whole way … not knowing exactly where we were most of the time. we rode for hours, meeting playful kids along the way and taking photos. when we finally made it back to our hotel we were sunburned and dehydrated, but agreed that it was well worth it.

walking around phnom pehn

this little cutie lived in a house nearby the killing fields that we visited

on our way to mekong island we passed by some temples

bike ride around the island

of course while we were in siem reap we went to ankgor wat and a few other temples.

malaysia
we only made it to kuala lumpur in malaysia and there really isn’t much to see there. i have heard that there are some other areas in malaysia that are worth visiting so maybe one day i’ll make it back.

we walked around the city a bit and saw the petronas towers

sri lanka
eh … maybe not my favorite place ever, but i’d give it another chance. we did see some beautiful countryside, went to an elephant orphanage, climbed a rock fortress in sigiriya, and went to the beach. monica and i were still able to have some good times and good laughs along the way, but we now know that if we go back to sri lanka we are definitely going south! either way, we saw some pretty landscapes while traveling around.

negombo beach

elephant orphanage … we really hope that they’re being treated well here, but we have heard mixed reviews and unfortunately felt a little unsettled about it. the elephants are so cute.

sigiriya

rock fortress that we climbed

at the top!

beach in trincomalee

fishing

exploring a bit of the city in trinco

thailand
loved loved loved this country! i think i spent a total of about 6 weeks there … leaving and coming back several times. the people are super friendly, the food is amazing, and there is so much to experience there.

monica and i hanging out with the beautiful tigers in chiang mai!

thai cooking class on a farm (chiang mai) … tom yum soup, pad thai, and curry

our teacher

visiting one of the long neck tribes (chiang mai) … kind of a weird experience. cute little girl though

pai, thailand … this place is amazing! i didn’t wanna leave.

where monica and i stayed in pai

motorbiking around pai with david from south africa … monica had to head back to singapore for work so i made some new friends.

back to chiang mai … laura (from belgium) and i enjoying the day with the sweet elephants. this was an experience with elephants that i felt good about … they are really well taken care of.

motorbikes up the mountain in chiang mai to find a place to drink coffee in the jungle!

chiang mai for the lantern festival with friends i met along the way

jun, andreas, lala, and i after releasing our krathongs in the river

our friends at the mojito garden hostel in chiang mai

parade during the lantern festival

andreas and laura!

night view of bangkok

with ralph and robin in bangkok at lebua state tower (hangover 2 filming site)

bangkok – chinatown

after bangkok i went to the islands … starting with krabi

my friend lucas from argentina and his little monkey friend

tonsai beach

goofing off in koh lanta with laura and lucas

we went diving and spent christmas eve on koh phi phi!

buckets!

jump roping with fire

sneaking into private resort beaches is always a good time … koh samui. this spot was so peaceful and it was by far the cleanest water i swam in on the islands.

full moon party in koh phangan

new years eve in koh tao

i will never forget my time in thailand and i’d love to go back sometime. so … if you’re wanting to check it out lets plan a trip!

laos
fun times in vang vieng and luang prabang with people i met along the way. the blue lagoon in vang vieng is a beautiful spot. this is kenny doing a back flip from the tree!

tubing down the river in vang vieng

sunrise monk walk in luang prabang

kenny being kenny

snake whiskey

kuang si waterfall in luang prabang

walking around town

viewpoint – luang prabang

vietnam
i spent about 2 weeks in vietnam, traveling down the east coast. super easy to meet other backpackers in southeast asia because you often find that you’re traveling similar routes. in vietnam it kinda felt like i was traveling with a huge group of people because we all ended up on bus rides together and in the same hostels.

hanoi

halong bay

kenny, thy, lolly and i – thankful for the sunshine this day

sapa

hoi an … i think this was my favorite city in vietnam

bikes and fresh fruit with ronan

nha trang … this is the city where we went to that water park for the day

beer tasting

lovin’ on my junebug

ho chi minh city

thai boxing ring at a city festival

hong kong
i had a lovely time in HK with my friends justin and marisa! we explored the city a bit and they took me to a rodrigo y gabriela concert… pretty amazing. hopefully i’ll get to catch up with justin and marisa this summer when they visit atlanta!

big buddha on lantau island

tai o fishing village

mong kok

cha siu bao (pork buns) at a yummy dim sum restaurant in mong kok

we found a great rooftop that same evening and enjoyed some hoegaardens

chinese gardens

junk boat

view from victoria peak

singapore one more time – my last stop
had to make one more trip to singapore before heading back to the states. my friend thomas was traveling at the time and he planned to be in singapore, staying with my friends monica and kip. at this point i was starting to feel pretty anxious/weird about the trip coming to an end – i figured that meeting up with thomas would be good and getting to see monica and kip one last time would be really nice. their apartment feels like a second home to me. well, i don’t even have a first home so i guess that doesn’t make sense anymore, but you know what i mean. we had a good time together. thomas and i roamed around the city taking photos and enjoying food. we ate chili crab … this is a very popular thing to do in singapore, but wasn’t something i had gotten around to on my other visits. we checked out the view from the top of marina bay sands and also hit the casino for a bit … we didn’t win! i’m definitely glad i got to see them before heading home.

no idea how to close out this wrap up. 31 countries and such an incredible time. i so wish that i could recount all the small things that happened along the way … all the things that made me laugh, all the hilarious inside jokes that came about, all of the small conversations that were had with people i barely knew, and other random happenings. those are some of the best parts of the trip. i remember christy and i writing down things that made us laugh during the first few months… i hope she has that record somewhere. i hate that some of those memories fade with time.

i remember taking a ferry to ovalau (in fiji) and hoping that some dude named bobo would be there to pick us up and take us to his farm. we actually thought he wasn’t going to show up and were considering getting back on the ferry when all of the sudden we see this guy waving at us with a big smile on his face. there was a short walk from bobo’s house to our cabin – it was just across this grassy area, and at night the grassy area would literally be filled with frogs! hundreds of them. we would run across and feel them jumping around. i remember stopping on the side of the road after leaving gili meno island to take photos of the monkeys. in indonesia we drank this spirit called arak with july – he went and bought it for us. the alcohol was in plastic bags. it was so gross, but we sat outside and drank it with him and talked about how there couldn’t possibly be any gay men living in indonesia (according to july). christy and i got this delicious iced coffee (made with ice cream) in sydney almost every morning at this little stand run by some asian people. we skinny dipped in australia and got our clothes stolen … yea that was interesting. i remember that as we landed in auckland, new zealand that we had no idea where we were going to sleep that night. that was only the first of many times this would happen. in paris, holly, christy and i came very close to sleeping on the street or in a park on the evening we arrived. we didn’t even know we were going to paris until we showed up at the airport in barcelona that morning hoping to find a cheap flight somewhere. after a long search we found a vacancy at a hotel. the hotel turned out to be really great, with the exception of the half naked man in the unisex bathroom … he was showering with a bottle of vodka and kept asking us to join him – he also sat outside of our room in the hallway for about an hour. i remember eating fresh cheese, meat, bread, crabmeat, and wine one evening at the eiffel tower. forgive me holly, but remember when you peed in a subway? awesome. christy and i peed outside a lot. bryan would always want to find us a bathroom, but we preferred the side of the road. we met our friend dukki in queenstown and he wanted to learn curse words in english – so of course we taught him. i remember roaming the streets of amsterdam with 4 other people and getting lost all night – blame it on the alcohol. in munich, andrea and i kept placing the word ‘von’ in front of everything we said and for some reason thought it was the funniest thing ever. brandon, andrea, and i had the best time trying different ciders at the cider house in san sebastion. when monica and i were traveling together i got to see her clumsy side – we had some good laughs with her trips and falls. on our 5am tuk tuk ride to angkor wat temple monica’s hat kept flying off of her head and into the street. a random guy in pokhara, nepal let monica and i borrow his motorbike without knowing a thing about us. on the train ride to prague i met an american girl who had won the amazing race – thought that was pretty neat. we ended up meeting in the city to try absinthe that night. it poured down rain in koh phangan at the jungle party and everyone stayed, got drenched, and had a great time. every night on the crowded beach in koh phi phi lucas would lose his flip flops and find another pair laying around to wear back to the hostel. i met this fantastic couple in budapest – francis and lee. i later ran into them while visiting a mosque in istanbul. we ended up staying in contact and i hope to see them again one day. i remember being so annoyed and uncomfortable sleeping on a train in vietnam. it wasn’t a bed … it was a board. in the moment it seemed awful but of course in the big scheme of things it wasn’t really a big deal. i can picture walking around rome, italy while drinking wine and listening to the beatles number 9 at christy’s request. while in kathmandu, monica and i met this kid who was so jacked up on sniffing glue that we decided to take him to dinner and back to our hotel so that he could shower. he was so dirty and so cute. i wish we could have gotten him out of that situation. there are just countless memories that flash through my head. i wish they would all stay with me!

i have never felt so independent in my life. i have never seen so many beautiful places. i don’t have a plan for my life at all. some days i’m ok with this reality … some days it completely freaks me out. for now i’m here in atlanta. i know i will travel again at some point. oh my goodness … it was truly an epic year!

singapore surprise

so i’m back in atlanta now … and i can see that the transition period is not going to be quick or easy!

i was in singapore just before heading back to the states so i wanted to write a quick blog for that, and i’ll also be working on a final blog for the trip to try and wrap it all up … but that one might take a little while.

i hit singapore 3 times on this trip … i never anticipated that, but it’s just a reminder to me about how traveling can take you anywhere at any time and that plans are just like an outline … things change as you go and it’s part of the beauty of it all!

i went back to singapore for the 3rd time because i wanted to surprise a friend of mine. i’ve known thomas for a really long time and he told me that he was planning to visit singapore during his vacation time off of work. my friend monica, who lives in singapore, is amazing and she and her fiancee are always letting travelers stay at their place … so she said that it would be ok for thomas to stay with them. then she told me that i should stop through when he was there so that we could all hang out. i decided that it would be fun to surprise him and just be there at the apartment when he arrived. plus, singapore is a good hub for flights and i knew that i could get a decent flight home from there. anyway, this is what brought me back to singapore.

it was really such a nice way to end my trip. i loved getting to spend time with thomas, monica, and kip and i even got to do a few things that i hadn’t done yet in singapore.

thomas and i walked around and took photos (as usual), i took him to arab street (that area is one of my favorites in singapore) and we smoked hookah, we went out for sushi, we ate chili crab (i didn’t get around to the chili crab my previous times there), we went up to the top of marina bay sands for the lovely view of the city (hadn’t done this before either), went to the casino, and my last night there we all went to a rooftop bar for drinks!

i’m thankful that i had such a close friend to spend the last days of my trip with. i was a jumble of emotions (lucky thomas -ha!). i’m still a jumble of emotions now as i try to figure out what my life is supposed to look like at this point!

hong kong

seems like a lot has happened since my last blog post. i was supposed to do the scuba diving course in koh tao, but ended up getting really sick and had to cancel. a little bummed, but no big deal. i went to hong kong on january 5th … got delayed in the bangkok airport for most of the day, but finally made it there that night and was so happy to be at justin and marisa’s place! justin is a friend of mine who i have known since high school and marisa is his wife. they met at georgia tech and have been living a pretty amazing life together. they were in germany for 3 years prior to moving to hong kong. he is a teacher and she is a counselor and they’ve decided to spend some time working abroad. i was lucky enough to meet up with them along the way! hong kong was a place that i had wanted to visit anyway … knowing that i would get to spend time with 2 amazing people made me even more excited about the destination. even though i’ve known justin for quite a long time, he and i never spent all that much time together back in the day. marisa and i hadn’t spent much time together either … i had met her on several different occasions and knew she was a good one, but i didn’t have the chance to get to know her until this trip. certainly one of the best parts about my time in hong kong was getting to know justin and marisa a little better! they are such kind people and were extremely welcoming and helpful. i loved getting to see them together … they balance each other out really well and are so much fun to be around. we shared some really nice conversations and lots of laughs. i knew i liked justin’s sense of humor, but i hadn’t been around him in so long that i kind of forgot how funny he is. between his dry sense of humor and marisa’s bubbly sense of humor i was quite entertained. to be honest, i wish i could have stayed a bit longer. however, in the 4 days i was there we saw so much of hong kong! of course there is still so much more to see … the city is full of random little side streets and if you wanted to you could explore for months. they live in mong kok, which is on the kowloon peninsula. this area of hong kong feels very authentic … lots of people, busy streets, food everywhere, markets, multi-story buildings, not quite as western as hong kong island.

on sunday, we all went to lantau island to see tian tan (big buddha). justin and marisa hadn’t done this yet so it gave us all a good excuse to go together. we took a cable car ride over to the island and even though the sky was hazy it was still a really beautiful view. i didn’t realize that hong kong was mountainous in certain areas … so when you take the cable car over you get a really nice view of lantau island, mountain peaks, and valleys.

big buddha is pretty freaking big and it’s worth a look if you go to HK. there’s a monastery nearby and also a fishing village called tai o that is just a bus ride away. we had lunch in the fishing village and walked around looking at street food and fish … i still couldn’t tell you what a lot of the food we saw was, but it was interesting. we did try a sample of some pork. it was literally a sheet of pork and the guy just takes his scissors and cuts you off a piece. it was actually really tasty!

justin and marisa made mexican food that evening … this obviously made me very happy! it was a perfect evening after our long day out in the cold weather. tacos, chips and salsa, warm clothes, a game of qwirkle (i lost really bad), and watching some american football.

i spent the next day exploring mong kok a bit … just walking around and taking it all in. we had dim sum at a michelin rated restaurant. they had been wanting to try this place so i’m glad i got to experience it with them. the bbq pork buns (cha siu bao) were my favorite for sure. ended the night with waffles for dessert and hoegardens on a random rooftop bar that was located in a small, dodgy mall in mong kok. yea it was just weird … the mall is tiny with narrow walkways and they sell things like cell phones and porn and then you go up a floor and find this classy bar. it turned out to be a pretty good find!

sorry i’m giving you the play by play of my days in HK, but i just had such a nice time and wanna share what i did! my last 2 days went something like this … bird garden, nan lian chinese garden, chi lin nunnery, walking along the harbour on avenue of the stars, checking out central (hong kong island), soho, the midlevel escalators, tram up to victoria peak (amazing view of the city), dinner at HK brewhouse, a drink at one of their favorite bars, and taking a ride on star ferry. also, they totally surprised me and took me to a concert! i’m not sure how i didn’t know about rodrigo y gabriela before, but the show was amazing! they are a duo from mexico and they are absolutely ridiculous on the guitar. most of their influences are heavy metal bands so their twist on acoustic guitar is pretty interesting.

so yea .. i’m really happy that i went to HK and got to spend time with J&M. definitely wouldn’t mind going back again someday!

photos … big buddha, monastery, fishing village

mong kok …

ticket to get into the dim sum restaurant!

chinese gardens and nunnery

junk boat/avenue of the stars

central – hollywood avenue

victoria peak view

island life …

happy new year!

i have been in the islands in southern thailand for about 2 weeks. i’ve been a little lazy with the blogging and photos lately! the islands have been pretty good. beach, swimming, wild beach monkeys, sunshine and humidity, rainy at times, scuba diving and christmas eve in koh phi phi with lucas and laura, beach parties, lights, fire dancers, fire jump roping, paint, buckets with friends, dancing dancing dancing, so much pad thai and curry, motorbiking around koh samui and koh phangan, sneaking into a beach resort to enjoy an amazing private beach area (backpacker style), waterfalls, my first full moon party, my first jungle party, watching fireworks and lanterns light up the sky for NYE on koh tao. needless to say … the islands have been eventful! i will do the open water scuba diving course while i’m here in koh tao and this will bring me to the end of my time in thailand. bittersweet. i’m trying to fight off a cold right now and hoping that it doesn’t interfere with the diving. my friend bryan (from ireland) is here doing some diving and lucas (from argentina) will do the scuba course with me.

i honestly can’t believe it’s 2013. i’m not sure that it has really hit me yet. i am a bundle of different emotions. i can’t believe that this has been my life for the past 10 months! i still have a bit of traveling to do so this isn’t my “wrap up” blog, however, i just want to thank you again for following me around the world and taking the time to read this blog and check out the photos! it has been really rewarding for me to keep up with it and to know that i’ll always have this to look back on! my next stop is hong kong. my friends justin and marisa are living there so i’ll get to see them and check out the city!

some photos from the islands …

krabi

railay and tonsai

koh lanta

koh phi phi

koh samui

the rest of vietnam

loved hoi an! the people were very friendly and the town is lovely. so many great little restaurants and bars on the river. lots of temples and colorful buildings. in northern vietnam i didn’t really connect with the vietnamese food. it wasn’t that the food was bad … it just wasn’t that great in my opinion. i had just come from thailand where i loved the food so much so it was a little disappointing. however, i loved hoi an’s specialty dishes! the cau lau (flat noodles, bean sprouts, green veggies, and really tasty pork) and fried wontons were my favorites. i met some really fun people along the way and we all had a great time in hoi an.

nha trang is a coastal city … i was there for about 2 days. went to a brewery/restaurant one day … first time i’ve had decent beer in quite awhile.  i went to a water park on the second day which was a blast. lots of slides … reminded me of my childhood days when my dad would take me and my brother to white water (big waterpark in atlanta, GA) all summer. there’s also a beach at the water park so we swam in the ocean a bit. i didn’t take many photos in nha trang, but i had a pretty good time there. oh i forgot … i also ran into a texas hold em’ game while i was there. i decided to play a bit and walked away with some winnings so that was nice!

i ended my time in vietnam in saigon (ho chi minh city). i only spent 1 day there. it’s a huge, busy city. i went to the war museum … it was interesting and also really sad. i’m not sure that they tell the whole story in this museum but it was definitely worth the visit. other than that, my friend ronan and i just walked around the city and took photos. there was a culinary festival going on that evening. it was right down the street from our hostel and it turned out to be a really good time! loads of food stalls, live music, and an outdoor muay thai ring with some boxing matches. i spent my evening there and called it an early night to catch a morning flight to krabi, thailand. so now i’m in the islands … i met back up with my friend laura (the belgian girl that i met in laos). i spent a couple of days in ao nang, krabi, a day on tonsai beach, and we are now in koh lanta. it’s really beautiful in the islands … hoping to have a good and relaxing time!