One year ago yesterday, we boarded a plane to Australia. We didn't know that it would be the beginning of a whole new future, how much we would change, how much we would stay the same, and that we would end up absolutely loving this lifestyle. Over the next two weeks, we are going to be looking back at this last year, starting today with a wrap up of all that we've done. [And, whew, after writing this post, I can't believe that we still have energy.]
We started off in Australia , probably the easiest country on this trip because of its similarity to the United States. We were mesmerized by the unbelievable wildlife: the koalas , kangaroos , and marine life in the Great Barrier Reef . We loved the the walkable beautiful city of Sydney, including its cheap Asian cuisine , and the ever changing Red Centre but we could have done without the Whitsundays and the omnipresent french fries .
Oh, New Zealand , how I miss you. When we explain our obsession with New Zealand to other people, their eyes glaze over and I can see them thinking, "Really? What's so great about this place?" And, I want to respond, "Everything. Absolutely everything is great about New Zealand." It is a legitimate contender for the country we want to eventually call "home" even though it is halfway across the world from everyone we know and the logistics of transporting the puppies there without using an airplane hurt my brain.
We spent our month caravanning around the country , winding up in some of the most stunning places we have ever been ---- Milford Sound , Rotorua , Fox Glacier , Marlborough . We hiked, kayaked, jumped into canyons , carved jade , and hunted hobbits . We want to go back.
We went to India to visit my grandparents and cousins but, though it was a quick stopover, we were able to celebrate Pongal , make kozhakattais , and enjoy the intricate carvings at Mahabalipuram . We'll be back in India in another year or two and are looking forward to visiting the folks and checking out the northern parts of the country that we weren't able to see this time.
Thailand is one of those places where you can do just about anything (in the good way . . . though probably also in the bad sense, too). We started off at a funeral for the most revered monk in northern Thailand, learned how to cook incredible Thai cuisine , and then washed, fed, and rode majestic elephants . We discovered empty ruins , untouristed places , and a city that never sleeps and always eats. We finished out Thailand with a bang by learning how to scuba dive in picturesque Koh Tao, a skill that we are using throughout the rest of our journey.
More than anywhere else we have been, Cambodia inspired and humbled us to be better people. Though we basked in the beauty of the ancient temples (without succumbing to temple fatigue ) and modern villages , meeting the inviting, wonderful Cambodian people was the best part of being in this country. We struggled at the end of the trip when an unexpected crisis sent us home but remembered the lessons of resiliency we had just learned.
After a two month break in the United States, we stepped into the alternate reality of Japan . We found beauty everywhere: in rainy days in Tokyo , the streets of Kyoto , the temples of Nikko , the monkey-filled hot springs in Nagano, the gardens in Nara , and the places of peace in Hiroshima . We fell madly in love with the diversity of Japanese cuisine , including tofu and the sweet and squishy desserts . And, when we left, Japan was no longer a strange place but one that we held in our hearts.
South Korea was an unexpected fast stopover and we only had time for a glimpse into the super spicy meat-driven cuisine , a few temples, and the buzz of the cities. We also stepped foot into North Korea to marvel at the absurdity of the DMZ .
We finished off the year in China , one of the most intriguing and interesting countries on the trip. We visited ancient monuments in Datong, Xian, and Beijing , snuck on to the Great Wall of China , and launched ourselves into the futuristic wonderland of the World Expo in Shanghai. China was also the most frustrating country on our trip, due in large part to the language barriers , leading to the worst day of our trip so far, a day that I seriously considered throwing in the towel and heading home permanently (don't worry - I'll be posting about that day soon). But, when we reached the majestic mountains of Huang Shan, one of the most incredible places we have seen, traveling in China felt right and worthwhile.
And, now, we are starting our second year in Africa, our fifth continent in the world. We have big plans for this year because once we return from Africa, we will be roadtripping through the United States with Chewy and Abby, and then the four of us will make our way across the ocean to travel through Europe. We know that it is going to be another great year full of ups and downs, surprises and deliciousness and we thank you for joining us on our journey. At times, when we feel frustrated about what we are doing or where we are going, we think about all of you wonderful people who have motivated us, encouraged us, and been excited about this trip. This year is just the beginning.