To most people, the 5th of November means fireworks, bonfires and toffee apples, but for me, November 5th will always hold a completely different meaning. For me, it was the start of something amazing. It was the day I left the UK to embark upon the most epic of adventures; put simply, it was the best year of my life.
It began with an epic journey to Bangkok, then on to Chiang Mai and various other places in Thailand, before venturing over our first border crossing to Vientiane, Laos. Then came tubing in Vang Vieng and a hellish 30 hour bus journey to Hanoi, Vietnam, before making our way down the east coast, almost getting arrested on a train to Hue, meeting up with friends and getting sunburnt in Hoi An, riding quad bikes on the sand dunes in Mui Ne, and enjoying the sights in Ho Chi Minh City. Next up was Cambodia…we got cultural at the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh and explored the beauty of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, before making our way back to Bangkok and down to the Thai islands where we got tattoos in rainy Koh Samui, and soaked up some sun in Koh Phi Phi. Then it was onto Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for some fun and fish tofu with a friend, and finally our SE Asia adventures drew to a close in Singapore…we had a Beary Nice stay!
Next we hit our 7th country of the trip…Australia! It was Melbourne for Christmas, a road trip along the Great Ocean Road, then a two day drive to Sydney for New Year’s Eve for the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen. It was heart-wrenching to leave Sydney after two weeks, but hey-ho, time to move on. We had BBQs in Byron Bay, endless rain in Surfers Paradise for Australia Day, a peeing incident in Brisbane, some camping and canoeing in Noosa, and a few sunny days in Rainbow Beach, before it was time to head over to Fraser Island for an epic trip driving Jeeps and camping amongst the stars. But fear not, we weren’t done with Australia yet! Next came surfing in 1770/Agnes Water, three days sailing the Whitsundays, a few days in Townsville, a birthday on Magnetic Island and some scuba action in Cairns to finish up this amazing country.
And so onto New Zealand where we picked up our awesome Jucy campervan and began our epic road trip across both North and South islands. Starting in Auckland, we went up to Cape Reinga, the most northerly point on the North Island before working our way back down to the Coromandel Peninsula and Hot Water Beach. Then it was on to Rotorua, a visit to the Waitomo Caves and skydiving in Taupo, before a quick stop at Tongariro National park and our last stop on the North Island, Wellington, where we encountered some strong winds but lived to tell the tale! South Island came next with highlights such as the Golden Bay, the beauty of the west coast, hiking on Franz Josef Glacier, the awesome Wanaka and of course Queenstown. We then took a trip to Milford Sound before my dad came to visit us in Queenstown and we had a brilliant week living in luxury out of the van. Then it was time to continue the road trip, which took us to the Cadbury chocolate factory in Dunedin, before heading to Christchurch, our last stop with the van, to see the city after the devastation of the earthquake. Then back to Auckland we flew to end our five weeks in the incredible country that is New Zealand.
After such a long time away travelling with others, Rosa and I suddenly found ourselves as a lone twosome when we arrived in Fiji for a blissful two weeks of adventures and sunshine. We joined 8 others on the Feejee Experience bus and had a fabulous four days exploring the mainland – we went sandboarding, had massages by the sea, did a bit of jungle trekking and river swimming, visited a school, covered ourselves in mud, and were welcomed with open arms into the heart of a village. The it was off to the islands…Beachcomber first where we spent a glorious few days lounging around on the sand and in the sea, and then onto Manta Ray island where we were reunited with our buddy Sarah from the FeeJee Ex tour, and spent the last of our days kayaking, watching sunsets, making coconut bracelets and laughing. A lot.
Then came our last country of the trip. Number 10 on the list…the USA! We landed in Los Angeles and me up with Tash, our bestie from Camp and the three of us spent the next week shopping, eating, and exploring before we jumped on a bus and headed north to San Francisco, but not before ending up in Oakland…apparently a place you really don’t want to be! After fun times in San Fran we got back on the Greyhound and ventured south again, this time to San Diego, home to the best zoo I’ve ever visited. After San Diego came Vegas, where we tried our hand at a spot of gambling (unsuccessfully) and watched a Cirque Du Soleil show before flying across the country to Chicago, where we experienced the wonders of the big reflective ‘Bean’, saw the city from up high in the Sears Tower and visited a friend just a train ride away. New York City was our penultimate stop on the world tour, and for this we were joined by Shell another friend from camp…the foursome was complete. We spent the week lounging about in our hotel, pretending to exercise in Central Park, eating at all our favourite restaurants and generally having a grand old time.
And so finally, after 7 months of non-stop on-the-go travelling, we made it to our very last destination…Camp Sloane, where we would be living and working for the next four months. The summer was filled with ups and downs, with old friendships rekindled and new ones formed but again, just like the year before, it was the most awesome summer. The perfect way to end the greatest year of my life, with the best people. What a year. What a life.