“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball.”
–Herman Melville, Moby Dick
I realized it’s been a little over a year since I departed the familiarity of New Jersey for the linguist confusion of a life in foreign lands. Not everything went as planned during the course of the year–I lost my temper in Hanoi, became overwhelmed and lost in Seoul, and was laid off from my job that allowed me to travel as long as I had a stable internet connection for 50 hours a week.
Those were bumps in the road as the journey continues. Losing my temper in Hanoi brought me back to reality and dissipated the euphoria I had been experiencing that had generated unrealistic expectations; getting lost in Seoul forced me to find healthy routines to grow more comfortable in my surroundings; and losing the job that I had considered secure for who-knows-what-reason pushed me to write more (and publish my first e-guidebook on Amazon).
Despite those hiccups along the adventure, the past 12 months have been a success–I’ve seen places I had dreamed of, I made new friends, ate some amazing food, and tasted a few interesting drinks.
Here are my top 10 highlights from the last year:
- A 40-mile bike ride through the Cambodian countryside around Angkor Wat. This was my best day of travel (actually, one of the best days I’ve ever had), but it started the previous day when I met a Dutch expat from China on my tour of Banteay Srei who agreed to take a long bike trip (he also had GPS).
- Celebrating my cousin’s wedding in Italy. A combination of jetlag and probably heatstroke made it a bit more difficult to celebrate (I was ready to pass out far too early, and I wasn’t drinking much), but spending time with my family in Capri was certainly a high point in the journey.
- A two-day cruise in Halong Bay. I’ve wanted to see Halong Bay for a long time. I have read horror stories about pollution (air and water) ruining the trip for many; my cruise, however, wasn’t marred by such pollution. Included in the price of my cruise was the group of traveling companions, one of which turned out to be a crazy British guy who insisted we all help him finish off a bottle of Jagermeister.
- Hanging out with my co-worker in Seoul. I got to go out quite a bit with my co-worker during two months in Seoul–she showed me some interesting sights and took me to eat some great food, and I introduced her to a few of the better bars she hadn’t tried. We also got to enjoy a Korean baseball game with beer and fried chicken.
- Hiking the tallest peak in Seoul. Bukhansan is an amazing hike with spectacular views–and more than a million visitors a year.
- Taking the public bikes around Taipei. The YouBikes in Taipei are cheap and plentiful. When it wasn’t raining, I had a great way to see the city while getting some exercise that I desperately needed after stuffing myself full of dumplings and beef noodle soup a bit too often.
- Meeting Chinese expats while hiking in Tokyo. I made some quick friends along the trail up Mt. Takao–and they saved my ass when we got to the train station.
- Watching the sunrise during my lunch break in Perugia. Yeah, I had odd hours while working there. But it was peaceful and beautiful.
- The fall foliage at Mt. Oyama. Despite spending almost three hours standing in line for buses and cable cars, my hike up Mt. Oyama in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, was beautiful. I would certainly hike it again (almost did with my friend from the Mt. Takao hike, but the forecast said rain), but not on a weekend.
- Taking a speed boat from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. It was quite a day speeding along Tonle Sap. I had to thank my friend’s son for suggesting I take the boat instead of the bus (nine-year-olds can offer some worthwhile advice sometimes).
There you have it. Those are my most memorable days from this past year. I’m sure there will be more in the next year as well.