As 2013 comes to a close, I can’t help but look back on all the amazing things my 25th year brought into my life. While I don’t believe in making new year resolutions, I always like to reflect back on my previous year and challenge myself to do something different. Luckily for me, I think 2013 might have accomplished that goal.
Accepting a volunteer position with Old Pueblo Community Services turned my world upside down. I found myself fulfilling multiple dreams and doing something challenging yet wonderful at the same time. During my term I met loads of interesting people, saw some pretty cool places, and got to take a mini road trip to Tucson, which would serve as my home for the next year
During my year in Tucson, I spent copious amounts of time hiking on the weekends I wasn’t volunteering, attended the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, and even saw my first Rodeo. It was towards the end of my term that I decided to go backpacking in SE Asia, and left Tucson to fulfill another dream.
The first destination on my trip through SE Asia brought fast paced Bangkok, quiet Kho Phi Phi, interesting Chiang Mai, hippie Pai, and ancient Ayutthaya into my life. I learned and explored and celebrated Songkran, and wouldn’t trade any of the bad that came along with the good.
In Laos I floated down the Mekong, toured bomb craters and ruins, got routinely caught in monsoon downpours, and was even invited to one unforgettable going away party for a guy I had never met. The country brought a few more wonderful people into my life along with its poverty, beautiful waterfalls, and one very large Iguana in my bathroom …
In Cambodia I explored the temples of Angkor, drank too much and got a tattoo in Siem Reap, experienced the bamboo railroad in Battambang, and learned a little about the Khmer Rouge and its prison camps in Phnom Penh. While I only stayed there a few weeks, I experienced everything I needed to, and saw a few things I didn’t.
Vietnam ended up being my favorite country thanks to its wonderful food and bustling cities. I lost myself in Hoi An, got lost while driving to the My Son temple, fell in love with Sa Pa, and hated Halong Bay. I also discovered that I’m not the right size for the Cu Chi Tunnels, and that you should probably wait until you fly back home to get that haircut you need.
Malaysia & Indonesia
I spent a few days in Kuala Lumpur with a cold before my whole trip crumbled to pieces in Jakarta. While I would love to tell you wonderful things about both places, the truth is I have nothing wonderful to say. The only good part about everything falling apart were the two awesome people I met in Bangkok on my last night, and that scorpion I ate before heading to the airport.
Hoping for a fresh start I headed to Austin in search of a job. During my 3 months there I spent time with family, visited San Antonio, explored the city, and discovered that a college degree means next to nothing to employers.
As 2013 comes to a close I’m spending my New Years Eve with friends and family here in Illinois, while dreaming about where 2014 might take me. I know it sounds cliche to say on a travel blog that anyone, with any budget can travel, but the plain hard truth is: YOU CAN. I never could have imagined experiencing anything quite like 2013 until I allowed myself to believe it was possible and took the leap of faith. So I challenge each and every one of you reading this post to make the most out of 2014 so when the new year comes again, you’ll have something wonderful to look back on.