Happy new year folks! Without a doubt, 2016 has been one of of the best years of my life. For the past couple of weeks, I wanted to share my highlights of the year but these included so much more than particular destinations or adventures. While many people celebrate NYE watching fireworks, at a party or in bed, Daniel and I were having a lovely quiet dinner with our best friends. As the clock struck midnight, we sat talking about one lesson we had learned for 2016 and one we hoped to learn in 2017. I realised then that the inspiration I needed to write this post was reflecting on more than just the memories but the personal journey they’ve taken me on. Alas, I’ve put together a combination of my 2016 highlights: the adventures, memories & lessons learned.
Camping in Two Rocks & Denmark: We woke up in our tent to the sound of waves crashing and the smell of the ocean. 2016 was off to a good start as we kicked off our first camping trip with our good friends and their kids. Only 2 weeks after, we walked the Valley of the Giants and swam in Greens Pool during another trip down south to Denmark.
Another camping trip: Can you tell we love camping? This was our final one before starting out South American adventure. With a big group friends, we went 4WDing along the beach, a mate ran out of fuel along the way and had to be rescued, some people set up tents for the very first time and others enjoyed their first ever camping experience.
My best friend, Fin, got married and I proudly stood beside her as her maid of honour! And I don’t mean to brag, but I delivered what went down in history as the best speech of all time. It’s true, you can ask her. Take my word for it.
I participated in the World’s Greatest Shave and with the support and generosity of family and friends, raised over $3,500 for the Leukaemia Foundation. Given the shave was a few days before we were due to leave Perth, I decided to do the shave at our farewell shindig and my hair was donated to Variety WA to make wigs for children. On the outset, I was giving something up – and hey, a head full of hair seems like quite a lot. The funny thing is, I gained something invaluable from this experience. I felt liberated – not only physically from the weight of having that much hair – but from societal expectations that tie the length of a woman’s hair to her femininity. I learned that hair is just that, hair. It doesn’t define me, my value or who I am as a woman. #shavedhairdon’tcare
We set off on our epic world adventure on March 17. With my freshly shaved head, we flew from Sydney to Chile to start a new chapter of our lives – long term travel! We started the blog for family and friends to keep up with our journey (and we’re currently about 6 months behind…oops!).
Seeing Daniel’s grandparents in Chile. Our first stop was a visit to Daniel’s maternal grandparents who are two of the sweetest, kindest and most loving people I have ever met in my life. When they returned to Chile 2 months before our wedding, I was heartbroken. We were very fortunate to spend 2 weeks with them and met more extended family. We were stuffed with plenty of food, pan, dulce de leche and a whole lotta love.
Celebrating my birthday by witnessing some of God’s most awesome creations – WATERFALLS. The Iguazú Falls are some of the most epic falls I have ever seen in my life. So epic that I had to go twice to soak it all in (yeah, I’m punny like that).
Mountain Biking down Death Road and NOT crashing. There’s this road in Bolivia where you have two options if you fall – 1) hit the cliff or 2) fall a few hundred metres to your death. As clumsy as I am, I did not fall #winning.
Seeing My Second New World Wonder: Machu Picchu. It’s one of those places that you could see a million photos of and still have your breath taken away.
Meeting a sloth for the first time was Pure joy. We found her in the wild, carefully held her and then returned her back onto the tree. You can read more about our 5 days in the Peruvian Amazon and all of our other epic adventures.
Overcoming my fear of heights in Ecuador. That’s right, this girl can now cross a bridge without bursting into tears. How did I do it? Like this…
Generous friends and God’s provision. God has always provided for me. Even if my lowest of times or during the worst of my struggles, I have always been reminded that He listens, hears and responds. There was a moment in July where I was struggling. I was a little homesick because I was so tired of the food in South America. Being on a budget limits your options and unfortunately for us, there weren’t many options in the first place (would you like double or triple carb with your meat and no veg?). Okay so now that I’ve actually written this down, it sounds like a kid throwing a tantrum…and yes, that’s probably an accurate description. Without knowing this, Donna, our friend from Perth, wired us money for a nice dinner together. I needed this pick me up more than she’ll ever know and have such gratitude for her friendship.
Getting PADI certified in Colombia ticked off a major bucket list item I’ve been wanting to do for soooooo long. This chick is no longer afraid of deep water!
Visiting the San Blas Islands of Panama was one of the best big spends of the trip. These beautiful islands are small, secluded and pristine. We took a speedboat from Colombia to Panama and spent 4 days sipping from coconuts, playing beach volleyball and eating seafood. Bloody bueno.
Volcano boarding in Nicaragua was one of the craziest and most adrenaline filled experiences of my life. We hiked up a dormant volcano for 1.5 hours and then sped down the side in under 30 seconds. I clocked 60km/hr!
Meeting our sponsor child, David, in El Salvador opened my eyes to the true privileges and freedom I have growing up in Australia. David lives in an urban village approximately 45 minutes away from San Salvador, the capital city of the country with the highest homicide rate in the world. I learned so many things during my time here that trying to fit it here would not do it any justice so I’ll be writing a seperate post for this. One thing I can share is that every dollar I have ever spent sponsoring David has gone towards bettering his future and his community’s. If you can spare some money, please consider sponsoring a child through Compassion Australia.
Celebrating our first wedding anniversary in Mexico and in style, might I add. We splashed out and stayed at an all-inclusive resort for one night, asked the staff “is this included?” about 100 times, made use of every free activity, ate ourselves to death and took some bottles of water for the ride back to backpackerville afterwards. We then dived a couple of cenotes in Tulúm where our guide threatened to cancel our dives if we didn’t stop taking selfies.
Seeing the Aurora Borealis / Northern Lights for the first time was a surreal experience. As I watched the dancing lights waltz through the sky, I was reminded of a bible verse and couldn’t help but give praise to the incredible Creator.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. – Psalm 19:1
Hiking The Subway in Zion National Park involved climbing boulders, walking through freezing cold water and running through waterfalls. I loved every second of it and this goes down as my favourite hike EVER!
Spending way too much time with anyone is tough even if they’re the love of your life! Our 40 day USA road trip brought about a different challenge than the 6.5 months backpacking in Latin America because of one particular element, NO SPACE. Since we were in a campervan, we were either hiking or driving/eating/sleeping in the car. We learned so much about each other and our relationship. One of the main lessons for me was the importance of having mental space apart, particularly if you can’t have physical space.
Snowboarding in Niseko and finally learning how to carve! Before this trip, I’d been snowboarding a total of 6 days over 3 seperate trips. I was convinced I was getting worse until I gave myself a final opportunity in Niseko to take my time and learn. With some great tips from a friend, I FINALLY ‘shredded’ down the mountain (I mean, that’s what happened in my head anyway). Now I’m hooked… season in Canada anyone?!
Coming home to Perth after 9 months on the road and surprising our families for Christmas was a huge treat for us. I didn’t realise how much I had missed our friends and family until I came home and was able to spend some quality time with them. I’ve definitely come to appreciate everything in my life more, especially family and the friends that make a continued effort despite the distance and time difference.
I am so grateful for the adventures, memories and lessons learned this year and that I am not the same person I was at the start of the year. While there are so many more lessons to talk about, I’ll leave it here and perhaps write something else later down the track (if you’ve read this far, you’re awesome, THANK YOU). My biggest gratitude after God goes to my best mate and travel buddy – a man who: is absolutely fearless; has helped me conquer my own fears and insecurities; has shown me endless patience beyond any human ability; will massage me at the end of a long day of hiking even though he is sore himself and who loves me entirely despite my insanity. Oh, and who is ridiculously sexy (duh) all the time. Daniel Tran, you the real MVP.