I know it’s cliche, but seriously where did this year go?! It was definitely one of the more interesting and challenging years of my life. James and I decided early in 2017 that we would be leaving Melbourne, a city we’d relocated to for a few years and fell head over heels for. It was not an easy decision, but with our families back in Canada, it felt like the right one.
With leaving, we decided we would take our sweet time relocating back to Canada and in May we started our travels. Since then, we’ve visited 22 new countries, and have traveled back to a few favourites (New Zealand you have my heart!). Since it’s New Years Eve, and I’m feeling reflective here are my top 5 moments of the year (insert confetti canyon emoji here)!
Reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has been on my bucketlist for a few years now, and I was thrilled we were able to do it. It’s how we kicked off over 100 days in Africa and it still remains the most incredible moment we’ve had on this journey. It was mentally and physically challenging, but so worth it. Our guide encouraged us a lot, and as a result James and I were the first ones to reach the summit on summit day – having a few quiet moments to yourself at the highest point on the continent is an incredible feeling!
Swimming with whale sharks in WA
One of the big highlights of the year was a 3.5 week roadtrip we took from Perth to Broome with some of our best friends. There are HEAPS of things I loved about that trip, but one that sticks out was swimming with whale sharks. Before you jump in the water, there’s a bit of pandemonium as you get ready; then you’re in the water and time stands still as you see the whale shark swimming toward you. You quickly turn to swim beside it and, let me tell you my friends, that is an experience unlike any other.
Read more about our swim with whale sharks and manta rays here.
Trekking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand
This one needed more than one picture, because the beauty of it all was what made it such a highlight! I could have included 20 pictures here, to be honest. We planned a trip to the North Island in June specifically so we could do this hike (and, you know, also visit Hobbiton). Since it was the beginning of winter, we weren’t sure what to expect weather-wise and were considering going up with a tour company that provides proper gear, but we decided to call the company who helpfully told us that if we could hike one day earlier than planned, we should be able to without any special gear. Sure, it meant a 3am wakeup to drive from Waitomo, but it was totally worth it. We put on some layers and had a beautiful, clear day (although at times it was below zero).
Read about this hike (and the rest of our short stay on the North Island) here.
Watching the sunrise in Sossusvlei
Let me start by saying that Namibia is AMAZING. I think it was the most surprising country we went to. You get the best of Africa here, with Etosha NP, the dessert and cute towns like Swakopmund. Every drive was scenic (and exciting, especially without a 4WD vehicle!). Every sunrise and sunset was incredible, but the most memorable was from Dune 45 in Sossusvlei. I can’t wait to come back here someday.
Witnessing an active volcano in Vanuatu
Vanuatu was one of our first destinations, and our reason for going was to visit the island of Tanna to see Mount Yasur in action. It is one of the most undeveloped places I have ever been, and because of that it had it’s challenges (read: sleeping in a hut without windows, sheets that haven’t been washed in probably years and a rat as a roommate. Also having to walk through the jungle at night back from the volcano because the truck you’re supposed to be in is broken. Or better yet, getting stuck in the mud in another truck on the way to the airport). For all it’s unpleasantness, seeing Mount Yasur bubble and spark was something I’ll never forget. I’ll also never forget how terrible the soy-sauce-soaked noodles we had at every meal were.
But I mean, come on. Look at this beast.
Read about all this and more here.
I could name about 5,000 honorable mentions (hello Devil’s Pool, Karijini, Kruger National Park, diving certification in Fiji, gorilla tracking in Uganda, tacos in Mexico City, etc. etc. etc.) BUT I’ll save those for a rainy day 😉
Wishing you all a safe and happy new year, and all the best in 2018! Never stop exploring.