How to summarize 2013 in just one word?
‘Really, really amazing?’ ‘Unbelievably good!’
I’ll settle for ‘THE BEST EVER…YET!’
2013 didn’t start out the best, with Leslie back in the U.S and the Korean winter chilling me to the bone. But as winter gave way to spring, things soon picked up. The sun came out, clear blue skies enticed me out of hibernation, and with hundreds of mountains to explore, nature beckoned. Football went well, with my team The Wonshot Wanderers winning their first league title. And the best news of all…Leslie booked her flight back to Korea!!
And then, the long awaited reunion in Phuket, Thailand. Happy days indeed! Add into the mix my brother and his wife, and the beer and fun flowed freely. Even the terrible shock that my school in Ulsan would be closing down 3 weeks after my return did little to dampen the spirits. In fact, that disappointment opened up a million new doors, as we would soon discover in Thailand when visiting friends on nearby Koh Yao Noi. Popping over for the day to visit Brien and Jamie, we soon fell in love with the place, and we knew then that it would be our next home.
Back in Korea with just a few weeks to go before we left, the disappointment of the school’s closing was eased by the visit of my mum and my friend Jan. For 10 days we cruised around some of our favourite places in Korea, and a great time was had by all.
My school was kind enough to let us stay on in the apartment for a month once the school had closed, so a wonderfully relaxed few weeks followed with great weather, lots of hiking and writing, and one last chance for me to play in a football tournament with my team before my imminent retirement (long overdue, some might argue). As it turned out, the tournament was a disaster, the team crashing out in the group stages and me retiring earlier than planned with an all too familiar ‘red card’ being brandished my way. Stupid referees!!
Then it was farewell Korea, hello paradise, as we taxied, bused, flew and floated to our new Thai island home, Koh Yao Noi! And what an amazing experience, living the dream and working from our hammocks everyday. There was the inevitable visa run to Cambodia mid stay, and ignoring the ‘over-staying-the-visa-fine of $500’ debacle, we had a spectacular 10 days in and around Siem Reap and the Angkor complex. But it was all about living on the island, and Koh Yao is truly a special place, and we will definitely return one day.
Next up, India. It was sad to leave our idyllic life on the island, but I loved India on my first visit 12 years ago, and once the decision was made to return, I couldn’t contain my excitement. As most people that have ‘experienced’ India would agree, it is a often a love/hate relationship with that so challenging of countries. Well it’s fair to say that after a couple of weeks, I still loved India, but Leslie was definitely, unabashedly, a hater. I’ll let her tell you all about that HERE and HERE. But for me, India still retained the magic that I was so enamored by on my first visit, even if it was more of a challenge this time around. Don’t worry India, I still love you and I will return, only without Leslie.
We survived India, just, and it was once more a sad farewell. Leslie’s sister Sarah was having her first baby back in California, so The Chic Adventurer flew off home while I made my way to Darwin to visit my brother. If you think India and Thailand were hot, then they were positively chilly compared to the furnace of Darwin. As I melted away under my MOvember ‘tash for a month, the catch-up-with-my-bro-beers at least were icy and plentiful. Small mercy in 40’c temperature and 100% humidity. Leslie doesn’t do well in the heat, and I feared for her sanity as her arrival approached.
Arrive she did, and we spent a fun few weeks exploring Darwin and spending Christmas with my brother and his family. The Darwin heat really is a challenge, and as I write this under a fan with a ‘coldie’ in reach, we’re longing for the upcoming winter months in Paris.
Looking back over the last 12 months, it really has been another amazing year in the life of a Twenty First Century Nomad. Okay, so there weren’t any ‘new’ countries on the list, but most people would still agree I’ve been a lucky boy; South Korea, Thailand…twice, Cambodia, India and finally Australia. Not bad. Not bad at all!
KOREA- Running my first 1/2 marathon. My team winning its first title. Leslie’s return/holiday in Thailand. Mum and Jan’s trip to the R.O.K.
THAILAND- Moving to and living in Paradise, Koh Yao Noi. Immersing ourselves in the local culture, and listening to the Muezzin as we wrote from our hammocks. 10 day visa run to amazing Cambodia. Surviving a terrifying car crash. Getting this blog up and running. Eating Thai curry most days. Living the dream!!
INDIA- Witnessing first hand the colorful chaos of Kolkata. Sampling delicious tea in Darjeeling. Embracing my lost love, The Taj Mahal. Hiking in the Himalayas, Mcleod Ganj. Visiting the Dalai Lama, and meeting Lobsang. Being on assignment with Leslie in rural Rajasthan.
AUSTRALIA- Completing MOvember. Winning a writing competition at my first attempt. Christmas with the bro. Having some photographs published in Travel + Leisure magazine. Surviving the Cage of Death. Going to Litchfield.
And that was 2013. What does 2014 have in store?
Well if 2013 was an amazing year, it is set to be topped by 2014.
Tomorrow Leslie and I fly to Bali for a few weeks of exploration and adventure. After several days of R + R in Ubud, we’ll fly over to Java to visit Borodabur, and make our way overland to Jakarta. Then we’ll fly back to Bali in time to meet some family and friends who are joining us to help celebrate my 40th birthday. Yep, the ‘Big Four O.’ And I do mean celebrate, because as I near the scary milestone, life has never been better. A week with Leslie, family and friends in Bali will be the best birthday ever!!
After that? We’re moving to Paris!!!!!!!!! Due to America’s ridiculous visa policies, Leslie can only stay 3 months in the EU. But what an exciting 3 months they promise to be. Living on a Thai island was my dream. But top of Leslie’s dream list is to live in the city of two of her literary heroes, Hemingway and Fitzgerald. With our first month’s apartment already secured, and the book of French wines well and truly studied, excited isn’t the word. As a freelance journalist and novelist, Leslie feels that some months spent in literary mecca Paris will be inspirational and influential. Personally, I think she is just after the cheap wine and champers. But as I myself begin 2014 as a full time writer for the first time, although a little daunted, I believe that it will be the perfect location in which to finish editing my debut novel, ‘I Have Lived Today.’ If I find after publication that I have just 5% of Hemingway’s talent, that will be an incredible feeling.
After Paris it’s off to California for 3 months. We will write, hike and spend time with Leslie’s niece Violet. I even plan to run a full marathon. Watch this space. Beyond California we have some penciled in plans that involve a cruise, Central America, England, Croatia, and The Czech republic. But we’re blessed with the freedom of flexibility, so it may all change. Time will tell.
2014 promises to be spectacular for us, and I hope, for all of you too.
Happy New Year, everyone.
All photos by Leslie and The Nomad.