Tuesday, October 04, 2011

365 Days of Summer

One year ago today, October 4th 2010, Wally and Karly picked us up for the airport run before the sun had even thought about opening his eyes. Wally was quiet; he was losing both his daughters again for a little while. Karly wasn't talkative either. This could probably be chalked up to the early hour, but she was sad to have to leave, too. It was dark with only some streetlights and our headlights illuminating our path. Pulling from our driveway, Sixpence None the Richer came on the radio. It was their single Kiss Me. Within everyone's mixed emotions in the car, enveloped in a serene darkness, the gentle rhythm of Matt Slocum's 12-string guitar, coupled with Leigh Nash's soft voice seemed the most perfect way to begin our journey. I don't know exactly why that is; it just was.

Not including our touchdown in British Columbia, we weren't sure what was to lay ahead for us after our car ride to the airport. We were alright with that, though. Its part of travelling.

Now, we could give someone a bit of a heads-up as to what to expect in the countries we have visited. We didn't race through them, trying to check off as many countries in the world as possible. We took our time (and even extended our visas if we felt we needed more time) to really try to get even a bit of a grasp on some of the things that are important to each country.

It has given us a good opportunity to learn more about each other and discuss the What's Next? question. Without any doubt we have changed over the course of the trip so far. (K: Maybe the most obvious change you'll notice is in our blog photos: I left Canada with my husband and now I am travelling with a wookie).

So far we have more than 50,000 photos (K: ok, maybe I am a bit snap happy, but how else are we going to remember a whole year, that's 365 exciting days?) We narrowed down our collection 'a bit' to one of our favourite photos from each country we have visited this past year. Boy was it hard!

Black Tusk, British Columbia:
I earned this photo! I had to hike up a mountain for it, encouraged with a dangling chocolate bar in front of me the whole way. So that we wouldn't succumb to hunger on this arduous journey, Adam brought us to the supermarket to stock up on supplies. We suggested looking through the bulk section and Adam replied, 'Do you mean the grazing aisle?' Adam was in no danger of succumbing to hunger in the supermarket that night.

Barry Town, South Island, New Zealand
We had driven our spaceship Adama down the path to the ocean so that we could have dinner with a view. We were relaxing in our chairs after dining and saw this horse-drawn sled galloping down the beach silhouetted in by the falling sun.

Broome, Western Australia
Oz is a country of extremes. Its extremely big, extremely hot and extraordinarily beautiful. The contrast of the red rock, blue sky, turquoise ocean and white sand in Broome was simply spectacular. Did I mention that it was really hot in Australia?

Lovina, Bali, Indonesia
We were in Lovina with our Parisian friend Sandra and heard loud music and clanging symbols down a nearby alley. We investigated and found a wonderful family festival taking place and were invited to join in! The festive-goers were dressed beautifully, there was endless amounts of delicious food and everyone wanted to chat. It was a great day!

Marina Bay, Singapore
We flew into Singapore for New Years Eve. It was a great place to kick off what I deemed to be 'Our Year.' The epic year of travel. There was quite the bash at Marina Bay and everyone in the country seemed to be there! The craziest thing about New Years in Singapore was that the malls around the Bay were open and people were actually still shopping as the massive fireworks display started at midnight! 'Hello, 2011! And, do you have this in blue?' Our favourite Singapore saying that we saw on a girl's beach-type bag was especially hilarious after we witnessed how much Singaporeans really do like to partake in their 'national pastime' of shopping: "I see it. I want it. I'm buying it!"

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
The Highlands were our favourite place in Malaysia. For us, it had it all: Beautiful rolling hills lined with tea bushes, a cool climate, great hikes, delicious food, cheap accomodation and wi-fi. We celebrated our 100th day of traveling in the Highlands and made some great friends. I can't believe that it was, well, 265 days ago! Most importantly, though: the Malaysian roti. Oh my, it was so delicious! Like a pancake, only bigger and stuffed and more pastry-like. Especially yummy when I ordered it with chocolate and peanut butter melted inside. I'm now drooling.

Chiang Mai, Thailand:

We were in Chiang Mai and visited a Buddhist temple up on the mountain overlooking the city. We went late in the afternoon so that we could see the gold temple shimmer in the warm light of the setting sun. It was a very picturesque place with many saffron clad monks, Thai devotees, colours, bells and statues. On the way back down the mountain we had our tuk tuk driver drop us off at Dairy Queen. Now that was exciting! haha

Sunshine School, Vientiane, Lao:
We loved volunteering at Sunshine School! Didi, the headmaster was fantastic and we really enjoyed getting to know the teachers and kids. The students seemed to take a special liking to Jonathan and his facial hair. His beard was a constant source of entertainment for the kids. The just loved playing with it. Poor kids. Who knew what was living in it at the time....

Angkor Temples, Siem Reap, Cambodia:

We half expected to be a little disappointed by the temples of Angkor. How can something possibly live up to such an immense amount of hype? But, happily, we were completely blown away by them. There are so many temples, crumbling but still detailed and fantastic. So many trees with magnificent roots taking over the ruins. So much atmosphere! When we were lucky enough to visit a temple when it wasn't overrun with tourists, the experience was complete magic. Its easy to feel like the Lara Croft or Indiana Jones in Angkor, losing yourself in the abandoned corners and courtyards of even the busiest temples.

Halong Bay, Vietnam:
Touring Halong Bay on a Junk boat was a wonderful experience. Just when you think the calm waters and eerie rock formations of the bay can't get any better, your Junk drops you at a cave with a hidden entrance and you get to go exploring inside its extensive hallows (although lit with a rather unfortunately tacky display of neon bulbs). I loved wandering through the caves and taking in all the unique stalagmites, naturally ornate entrance ways, wall 'decorations', cathedral ceilings, underground rivers and cave dwelling creatures.

Litang, Sichuan, China:
I'm sure you all read the blog about my photoshoot with this 'Tuga, tuga' Tibetan monk. I just love the colours in this photo. To this day I wonder what the monk wanted me to do with all these photos he insisted I take of him. He jotted a page of what we thought were instructions for us regarding these photos in our note pad in Tibetan script. Upon returning to our guesthouse, we interrogated its Tibetan proprietor as to what it says. "Who wrote this?" she asked us. "A Tibetan monk up at the monastery," we replied. She studied the page again. "It just doesn't make any sense. His Tibetan is very poor," she concluded. "Are you sure he was Tibetan?" We just smiled.

Swayambhunath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal:

Kathmandu has turned out to be our favourite of all the major cities that we have visited this year. Here, we are visiting one of the city's numerous temples high up on a hill (aka- up a million and one stairs). The steep steps are lined with colourful prayer flags and mischievous monkeys looking to steal anything that even remotely resembles food. They will even settle for snatching your water bottle, if you happen to have it sticking out of your backpack! I loved watching the monkey mayhem and could have sat there and photographed their hilarious monkey shenanigans all day long.

Agra, India:
The guesthouse that we stayed at in Agra had two resident baby goats that were tied up outside in the alleyway. They were so cute and every time we passed them to go to or from our room they would strain their leashes to try and get close enough to us that they could rub up against us for a good cuddle and scratch behind the ears. One morning this kid was affectionately playing with the goat the same way we play with our dogs. It was too cute to resist snapping a pic of these two 'kids'! Who says the Taj is the most photogenic subject in Agra?! I love the colours and texture everywhere in India. To me, India equals delicious food and one big photograph waiting to happen!

In three months we will be back in Canada and all of this will seem like a distant dream. Our large amount of time has dwindled down so quickly into what we feel is almost (but not quite yet) the home-stretch. A weird concept, considering that three months really isn't a short period of time at all. Before this trip, the longest we had traveled was when we went to Europe in 2006 for 'A Once in a Life Time Trip, Part II' and that was four months. We can almost fit what was previously our longest trip into the home-stretch of this trip! It's mind boggling for us! Anyway, everyday we wake up and feel extremely lucky to still be traveling. We're 'living the dream,' and we know it. Don't get us wrong, we are really looking forward to coming home in December, but seeing as we still have 79 days left (I just counted! wow!) of our 'Once in a Lifetime Trip Part III' we plan to squeeze the adventure out of every last drop of time we have left!

Happy One Year of Travel to Us!!


Anonymous said...

yay happy one year!!


Yogi said...

Happy Travel Anniversary Kristen and John!!
I'm embarrassed to say that this is just the second or third time I've looked at your blog since you guys left Canada (even though I've bookmarked it). Time flies!

However, your summary of the last 365 days was perfect timing because I could read the highlights in 20 minutes instead of trying to go through 365 days worth of blogging :). I'm sure I would enjoy it but I didn't think I could spare 2-3 hours of reading :|

Jen and I were at Bob and Sarah Allen's place today and your mom (K.) and grandma were there for a little while after closing the cottage and on their way to Barrie to visit Frankie and Joey before heading home.

We just received your postcard last week from your stay at the Taj Mahal. Thank you. That was nice.
Happy Travels in India :)
Yogi & Jen