Merry Christmas, everyone! And, I guess - Happy Boxing Day!
I just spent a wonderful Christmas here in Wales, gobbling up the most delicious holiday feast, courtesy of my besties, Abby, Kit and their family. It would have been perfect if it snowed... but alas, we only got a few hail showers. Perhaps the Universe didn't want to spoil me... having already given me SO MUCH this year. :)
It;s hard to believe 2013 is almost over, and that this is my LAST post of the year! My old life in Los Angeles seems light years away, and yet at the same time, it feels like I've only just begun!
MY GAP YEAR REVIEWTo give everyone (including myself) a good recap of the events that transpired during the year, here is a timeline of my journey... My Big Year.
MARCH 9 - I flew out of Los Angeles to The Philippines, to complete the training of my work replacement at Bosley.
MARCH 29 - My official last day of working at Bosley.
APRIL 19 - I was invited as a guest speaker on Travel Inspiration for TRAVEL MASSIVE Manila
MAY 4 - I flew out of Manila to SYDNEY, joined by my Travel Buddy, ShinyHappyKaren
MAY 8 - We flew from Sydney to MELBOURNE
MAY 14 - ShinyHappyKaren and I parted ways, as she remained in Melbourne and I flew to AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
MAY 17 - Drove to MATA MATA for The Hobbiton Movie Set Tour
MAY 17 - Drove to ROTORUA after Hobbiton, and had my first COUCHSURFING experience with the most wonderful host, Karen, and met a fellow couchsurfer and traveler, Dulce.
MAY 19 - Drove to GISBORNE to see the first sunlight of the world
MAY 29 - Went on an overnight trip to KYOTO
JUNE 4 - Arrived in DUBAI, UAE and hung out with my friends from college.
JUNE 10 - Arrived in LONDON
JUNE 26 - GLASTONBURY FESTIVAL
JULY 29 - Went on a day trip to York, on my way back down to London
AUGUST 14 - Left the UK for ITALY. Arrived in Genova for my first Help Exchange Experience at The Shanti House
SEPTEMBER 3 - Day Trip to CINQUE TERRE
SEPTEMBER 8 - Left The Shanti House for La Preghiera in Umbria, Italy, for my second Help Exchange Experience
SEPTEMBER 21 - Left Umbria for ROME
SEPTEMBER 24 - Left Rome for GENOVA to hang out with my friends from The Shanti House
SEPTEMBER 27 - Road Trip to MILAN to see one of our friends, Alessando, play music.
OCTOBER 1 - Left Italy for CORFU, GREECE for my third Help Exchange Experience, working at The Pink Palace Hostel
OCTOBER 11 - Left Corfu for ATHENS
OCTOBER 15 - Left Athens for NAXOS for my fourth Help Exchange Experience, working at Hotel Kouros in Apollonas Village
OCTOBER 20 - Left Naxos for SANTORINI
OCTOBER 23 - Took the ferry from Santorini to MYKONOS
OCTOBER 28 - Left Greece for TEL AVIV, ISRAEL for my fifth Help Exchange Experience, working at The Overstay Hostel
NOVEMBER 4 - Day Trip to JERUSALEM
NOVEMBER 16 - Day Trip to MASADA and THE DEAD SEA
NOVEMBER 18 - Crossed the border to JORDAN to visit PETRA
NOVEMBER 24 - Day Trip to BRIGHTON, ENGLAND
NOVEMBER 26 - Went on a quick 2 day trip to EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND
DECEMBER 5 - Went on a Day Trip to BATH, ENGLAND
DECEMBER 21 - Drove from CARDIFF to WEST WALES for the Christmas holidays, and this is where I still am at the moment.
One of the things that I learned about this trip is that - TRAVELING SLOW really makes the experience worthwhile. I've visited 10 countries in 21 days when I did the Contiki Trip 5 years ago... and even if I have a lot of photos of tourist destinations to show for, I don't really have much to say about the culture of those countries I visited... nor the people. I realized that I prefer spending those 21 days staying put in 1 country, rather than 10, because as it turns out, one of my favorite things about travel is meeting locals, getting to know them, and learning about the way they live.
I have learned SO MUCH about Italy, Greece and Israel (the three countries where I spent more time on)... I've taken away so many new life skills from my experiences in those places, and met SO MANY people whom I consider kindred spirits that have enriched my soul and turned me into a better person.
You know what the most amazing thing about this whole thing is? It's that I'm actually not done yet. Yes, 2013 is about to end, but my Gap Year still continues! After my stint in the UK, the plan is to head over to Spain for a couple weeks, maybe see Madrid, Portugal, and visit my friend in Valencia... THEN off to SOUTH AMERICA for the win! Carnival in Rio, Brazil is scheduled for Feb 28 to March 4. Plans aren't set in stone yet, but I fully intend to attend that festival. PERU is also in the radar for Machu Picchu... plus I've been accepted as a volunteer for The Light and Leadership Initiative over there. I'd like to spend about a month helping them out, teaching kids English, Music and Art. I hear great things about Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay as well, so... South America is going to be BIG for Earth2Eartha. HUGE. And you know what? Because of the people I've met from over there, I have a *really* good feeling about that continent. A *really* good feeling. I can't explain it... but I'm excited!
I'm scrolling through the timeline I made above, and I scratch my head in awe. Can I really, truly be this lucky? This year has been amazing. One of, if not THE best year of my life! It's not glamorous though, I tell ya. The life of a poor backpacker is not one for the faint heart. I've worked my ass off volunteering in those places for free board and lodging, been bitten by bed bugs staying at a cheap hostel (and I am scarred for life), hurt my back in more ways than one, carrying my backpack running from one plane or train terminal to the next, and I've cleaned wayy too many toilets than I have in my lifetime, alright? It ain't pretty.
But what I've gained from all of this is just soooo much more than what I thought it was going to be. This year has taught me more about myself than anything... I've discovered strength, kindness and tolerance I didn't know I had. I learned that - I'm comfortable being alone, but that being by myself in a beautiful yet deserted Greek Island is not my idea of a good time. And most importantly, I learned that communication is not limited to words or language alone... Sometimes, good intentions and a smile can go further than a paragraph.
I've made so many great new friends on this journey, and I have seen the world through different eyes. None of this would have happened, had I not taken a leap of faith to follow my heart. It sounds corny, but sometimes, you *need* corny in your life. I'm so insanely ape-shit happy right now, I have nothing but corny love to give to all of you.
Every now and again, I still get asked by people why I'm doing this. Why I travel. Why did I turn back on a life of glamour and security? Why trade a life of luxury for a life of austerity on the road? Why did I let go of everything I own, and live off on just a backpack full of things? Why travel at all?
My answer has not and will not change. It is permanently etched on my wrist.
Why not? :)
|Pourquoi pas? :)|
** Watch out for next week's Top 13 of 2013 post.
In the meantime... HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!