As a traveler, people often ask me to list my ‘best’ or ‘favorite’ things, like, “What was best experience on your trip?” or “What’s your favorite country?” Often I have no answer. My favorite country? Are you serious? That’s like bringing me to a shelter and asking me which is my favorite kitten—they all are. But in the spirit of the New Year, I’m going to take a look back at 2014 and pick my Top 10 Favorite Moments. All the cool kids are doing it.
1. Finishing my freakin’ thesis: I began studying post-wildfire erosion in Colorado in 2012. Two years, 21 credit hours, 160 pages, and 96 tons of hand-shoveled dirt later, I was done. I think the whole process put me off academia forever. And shoveling, for that matter.
2. Starting the Uneven Tenor trip: Of course! I’d started forming the plan for this trip back in 2011 when I returned from my motorcycle trip from the US to Panama. Over the next two years, when I wasn’t finishing Colorado’s 14ers or working on my thesis, I was developing an encyclopedic knowledge of Richard Halliburton’s life and Googling things like “Can I travel in Saudi Arabia?” and “Where the hell is Persia?” Eventually the time had come, and after a sweet radio interview about the trip, I was on a plane to Paris! Actual dream fulfilment is pretty awesome.
3. Having my boyfriend join me in Switzerland: The downside of the Uneven Tenor trip was being away from my amazing boyfriend for so long. But, being so amazing, Ryan flew out to Switzerland for two weeks in August! We had the most incredible time, and I was hugely relieved that we passed the test of being able to travel together!
4. Swimming the Hellespont: Of all my Uneven Tenor preparations, training to swim the Hellespont (Dardanelles) in Turkey was the biggest commitment and the biggest wildcard. But somehow, against all the odds, I made it across. The whole experience was one of the most memorable of my life…but I don’t think I’ll ever do it again!
5. Greece—all of it: I just had the most amazing time in Greece. From climbing Mount Olympus to offer a sacrifice to Zeus, to getting a stranger wasted in Delphi so I could ‘consult’ him, to sleeping at Rupert Brooke’s grave in Skyros, to spending two heavenly weeks in Crete, there’s not a single moment about my time in Greece that doesn’t belong on this list. Not only were the adventures amazing, but I was able to closely replicate a lot of Richard’s stunts, and I made some truly amazing friends.
6. Mid-trip identity crisis: It didn’t feel good at the time, but now, looking back on it, I did some important soul searching and growing in October. I was concerned about some recent travel apathy, I missed Ryan like hell, and I wasn’t sure what those things said about me. And I turned thirty. The upshot is that I changed my travel plans, breaking the Uneven Tenor trip into multiple parts instead of one long haul. It was the best decision I could have made, and since making it (and getting out of Europe), everything has been going so much better!
7. Visiting the Pyramids and Sphinx: Egypt was kind of hit or miss for me, but Giza was a fantastic experience through and through. It’s one of the few places I remember reading about as a kid and thinking, I want to see that someday. Being there in person was unreal.
8. Diving the Red Sea: It was a bit of a splurge, but wow, was it ever worth it! Epic diving with terrific people, all while living on a boat for a week. I still can’t believe all the amazing things I saw, especially the beautiful corals in such perfect condition—a poignant reminder for why it’s so very important to care for our planet.
9. Couchsurfing in the West Bank: Having heard the Israeli point of view from my Israeli friends for the past ten years, I wanted to see the Palestinian side of things. Fortunately, an amazing Couchsurfing host in the West Bank gave me such an opportunity. I walked away from that brief trip with a deeper (though still incomplete) understanding of the conflict, as well as a terrific new friend! Really, the whole experience couldn’t have been better. Unless we could have figured out how to take a picture of ourselves.
10. Looking forward to 2015: Tomorrow is the first day of 2015, and I can’t wait for it to get here! Next year is going to be even more amazing than this one—I can feel it. It starts with seeing my boyfriend in roughly 19 hours (but who’s counting), traveling in Jordan and Ethiopia for two weeks each, then going back home, where, after seven months apart, Ryan and I will begin the next great adventure: living together! What could possibly go wrong? There are also plans in the works for trips to Seattle, Wyoming, California, China, and Southeast Asia. See what I mean? It’ll be epic.
A huge thanks to everyone who’s been along for the ride! Looking forward to more adventures in 2015!