2015 is very quickly coming to an end and this year I thought I would do my end of the year post a little differently. This is the year that I spent the most time traveling and for the first time, the majority of it was abroad! Instead of just putting some photos of my favorite travel moments, I thought I would share some other fun info too!
My Year in Numbers:
51,845 Miles Traveled | This is an approximate number from air & land miles. I always chose the more conservative number, so if this number is wrong it’s actually on the lower side. This was my first year trying to keep track of this as closely as possible as I went. This is enough miles to travel twice around the equator! I can’t wait to continue tracking this!
161 Days Traveling | 102 internationally & 59 domestically
61 Beds Slept In | This includes hostels, hotels, staying with friends & family and even bunks on boats, buses & trains.
24 Flights Taken | 11 international, 13 domestic
12 States Visited | Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Kansas, Texas & Oklahoma
7 Countries Visited | Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines & Vietnam
My Favorite Travel Moments:
A Romantic Getaway to Eureka Springs, Arkansas with my Finacé:
Matt and I took this little trip shortly after getting engaged and as a sweet little getaway before I left for 101 days in Asia. We strolled down cozy streets lined with old houses and stores and stayed in the honeymoon suite of a Basin Park Hotel [built in 1905] which included a jacuzzi, a balcony and a massive, comfortable room.
Turning 25 in Siem Reap, Cambodia:
The whole Asia trip started with a plan to celebrate my birthday abroad (as well as Stacey’s whose is a day after mine). So, spending my birthday in Siem Reap was such an incredible thing! I saw sunrise at Angkor Wat, received blessings from monks, did cartwheels, explored, ate a cricket and drank espresso martinis. It is my very favorite birthday thus far.
Observing the Beautiful Worship at Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh, Cambodia:
I’m sure my readers are sick of hearing about how much visiting the different temples meant to me, but I just can’t help it. In college I studied Cultural & Linguistic Anthropology and I studied Eastern Religion. However, living in Southwest Missouri, my temple visits were very limited, so finally getting to see it all in practice was AMAZING. I was so moved, so inspired and so curious. I was sure to observe respectfully, leave offerings, and ask as many questions as possible. I think learning more about cultural & religious differences is what leads to understanding and ultimately peace.
Taking the Longest Day Hike of My Life in Ban Lung, Cambodia:
I’ve been on a lot of really amazing hikes in my life, but this hike was the longest I’ve ever done – a little over 12 miles in the Cambodian jungle, the temperature was almost 100 degrees with insane humidity, only one liter of water and most of our hike was walking over hot coals from where locals had burnt down part of the forest. IT WAS HOT! It was one of those experiences that I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed in the moment because it was sweltering, I was sick and we didn’t have enough water for the entire day [be leery when guides say they’re providing water, always bring extra], but the minute I started going through the photos and writing notes about all the experiences we had on the trek I fell in love with this experience.
Soaking Up the Peace & Beauty of Luang Prabang, Laos:
Luang Prabang is a gorgeous city surrounded by two rivers, there are waterfalls in the area and gorgeous mountains. Along with the natural sites there are over 30 Buddhist Temples lining the streets as well as the monks in their bright orange robes. This city is one of my very favorites in the world and I cannot wait to go back and explore even more!
Becoming a “Zoo-Keeper” While Volunteering at Safari Park Zoo near Kanchanaburi, Thailand:
This was an experience that I will never forget and I truly cannot wait to repeat. Stacey had found this and wanted to do it, but I was skeptical. I thought it was out of our budget and I had doubts about the type of experience we had. Instead this became a quick highlight and something I talk about all the time. I got to work with lions, elephants, tigers, Asian elephants, macaques, a gibbon, birds, giraffes, zebras, deer and more! I never dreamt in my life that I would grow so attached to different animals and people so quickly.
Climbing the Steps of the Gorgeous & Spiritual Hindu Temples at Batu Caves, Malaysia:
Climbing the steps of Batu Cave was like a rite of passage. Getting up into this temple involved being wrapped in a sarong, climbing a ton of stairs, dodging monkeys snatching things from unsuspecting tourists and passing up temptations in the form of a massive kiosk filled with stunning Hindu figures and trinkets. It was amazing!
Trekking Through the Rice Terraces Near Ubud, Bali:
We booked a local guide to take us on a slightly more than 4 mile hike through the rice terraces near Ubud. Our guides took us through many local fields where we met locals, “helped” dig a trench for them to plant rice in and watched as they harvested and separated the rice. I love getting looks into daily lives like this.
Cleansing My Soul at Tirta Empul Near Ubud, Bali:
Visiting this temple was on my must-do list and I’m so glad that we went! This was one of those experiences that left me feeling refreshed, renewed, cleansed and blessed. As I stood in line to be cleansed I was calm, I was focused and I was ready. As I washed the water over my head three times all of my tension and worries washed away with it.
Visiting Taal Volcano & Tagaytay, Philippines:
This was our first day trip in the Philippines and our driver, Ed, is part of what made this a favorite of mine. Besides seeing an incredibly beautiful natural site, Ed showed us incredible views, took us on a jeepney ride and shared some of his favorite Filipino treats. It was just all around a pretty spectacular day.
Swimming with Whale Sharks in Oslob, Philippines:
This was something that I have been wanting to do for a very long time. I cherish every single moment from this experience. The next time I’m in the Philippines (with Matt with me) I’m going to make sure we go two days in a row and spend as much time with these gentle giants as possible.
Spelunking the Crazy-Awesome Cave Connection in Sagada, Philippines:
I had never really been spelunking before. Sure, I had been on cave tours & even cave tubing, but I hadn’t gone miles and miles squeezing through holes, sliding down rocks, or been pushed, pulled & lifted through & across crazy formations. But let me tell ya, it was awesome! I loved that we traveled from one cave, underground and into the next.
Everything About the Sapa Trek in Sapa, Vietnam:
Vietnam was our last stop in Asia and I was extremely money-conscious. I was nervous about doing something more expensive because I was freaking out about going home. However, this was such an unforgettable experience. I met two really amazing Canadians that I hope to see again, saw so many beautiful views and had so many wonderful conversations with Annie & Papa.
The Hanoi Street Food Tour in Hanoi, Vietnam:
Taking the Hanoi Food Tour opened me up to trying some of these hole in the wall (literally) eateries and to trying loads of different foods. This was one of the few things that I didn’t limit myself to vegetarian options and I enjoyed being able to experience this part of Vietnamese culture.
Repelling Down Waterfalls & Cliff Jumping in Da Lat, Vietnam:
This day trip was adrenaline to the max! I repelled down three waterfalls, jumped off cliffs, slid down waterfalls that made natural waterslides, and made fast friends with some amazing people. Especially my friend Tim, who took the video that I got the stills from for the collage above. (Thanks, Tim!) I highly recommend this adventure for the people who love the outdoors and want to get a little crazy!
Taking a “Welcome Home” Road Trip to Key West, Florida with Matt:
When I got back from Asia, I’d barely been home when Matt whisked me down to Key West. We had a really awesome time exploring down there, eating way too much Key Lime Pie and soaking up loads of time together.
Spending Time Outside with Matt in Western North Carolina:
We made the absolute most of our time in Asheville this year by getting out and exploring as often as possible. One of my favorite hikes we did, was the hike down to Crabtree Falls off the Blue Ridge Parkway. We actually went back to it because we loved it so much. All of our time in the mountains was treasured.
Driving The Entire Blue Ridge Parkway From NC to VA:
I had a goal of driving the entire Blue Ridge Parkway which connects Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It was another road trip for the books with my fiancé and I loved being out in the fresh air as much as possible.
Adventures in the Ozarks after Moving Back to SW Missouri:
Matt and I moved from the beautiful city of Asheville back to my hometown in Southwest Missouri. It didn’t even take a day for us to miss the mountains, but luckily, we are able to drive about 2 hours and be in the Ozark Mountains and we were able to take multiple adventures down here before winter set in (like this hike at Big Bluff – Matt took this awesome photo of me on the cliffside.)
2015’s Most Popular Posts & My Personal Favorites
MY READERS’ FAVORITE POSTS [according to the number of
This is my guide to how I traveled for a 101 days straight and includes tips for planning, for traveling, to save money and things I wish I had known beforehand.
This is one of my favorite posts of the year because it was SO MUCH FUN! I had the privilege of working with 88 other travel bloggers & putting together this post. It was inspiring to see all kinds of locations pouring into my inbox (honestly, I had to Google quite a few of them), to connect with others who share my passions and to get to share this post with so many people.
This post was only made possible by Stacey who I’ve had the pleasure of traveling with in 10 countries, on 4 continents and several states. Over all this time, we’ve basically got it down.
One of the things people ask about the most is about my experiences in hostels. I think people, especially Americans (since hostels are less common here), only hear the negatives about hostel stays. I thought I’d share the things I learned about hostel life, tips for making it easier and what exactly to expect.
The travel jar method has been how I’ve saved for my travels since high school and it has always worked well for me. I explained it to Matt and he decided to try it while I was in Asia and his awesome results inspired me to write this post.
MY FAVORITE POSTS [most of these are personal]:
This post was inspired by a Hindu quote I found before a meditation. While I was in Kuala Lumpur I struggled with a massive loss in my life – the passing of my great-grandmother.
This post was inspired by a Buddhist quote and my first visit to a beautiful, active temple. Wat Phnom was my favorite Buddhist temple that we visited. It was so vibrant, so beautiful and a feast for all of the senses.
This post was inspired by my amazing fiancé, Matt. He has been such an amazing supporter and inspires me to get out and explore as much as possible.
This post was inspired by some of the less glamorous aspects of travel. I didn’t want anyone to think that travel is always sunshine and rainbows, I wanted to be fully transparent about what it’s really like to travel long term.
This post was inspired by one of my very favorite activities- hiking. I wanted to share how this has changed various aspects of my thinking and even my life.
2015 was truly an incredible year and I’m looking forward to the adventures that 2016 has in store for me – the planned and the unexpected.
What were your favorite moments of 2015? What are you looking forward to next year?
Cheers to 2016!!!
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