Wandering Chocobo’s Year in Review. 2016 Travels

“Passports please,” a gruff voice demands.

A thick layer of icy breath melts in our toasty car. His mustache is frosted over and he appears to be a man that has eaten too much meat during his lifetime. His neck bulges.

Ganesh and I hand the Canadian boarder control our passports. His hard eyes move from passport to passport then look back at us. I can tell he doesn’t really understand. We don’t really fit in to any box that he can tick off, so he assumes he should be suspicious. An Australian with Indian/Singaporean heritage and a German drivers license and a white American girl from Alaska with a Nevada drivers license. Both in a a car with a Las Vegas license plate, that is filled to the brim with firewood and household goods.

“What in the tarnation are you two doing here?”

“Well, we met in Vegas, and what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas.”

He laughed and sent us on our way. This was the first of many adventures Ganesh and I would embark on in 2016. We were on our way to Alaska to meet my family before beginning our move to Germany. Each adventure hosted a whole new slew of odd looks, stares, judgement, support and confusion, but it’s been worth every moment.

Best travel blogger 2016

2016 was the craziest year of my life. I up and moved to Germany to be with a boy I had only spent less than a full month in his company, though we spoke every day. Even after the big move, my adventure was just starting. I was finally liberated form my tiresome 9-5 job and was able to take off to see the world. I visited over 25 countries and I want to share my short form, personal narrative for each amazing place! I want to thank everyone for their support and love as I take off on one crazy adventure after another.

2016 Travel Year in Review

Iceland Jan. 2016

Gulfoss Iceland Winter Wandering Chocobo

Gulfoss Waterfall, Iceland. Jan 2016

Iceland appears before you, as a land molded by a Minecraft user, bending the very geological norms of our planet. Huge flat fields of stark colors and lava beds sprawl across the landscape and erupt to sharp defined edges of volcanoes and glaciers. There’s nowhere to hide in Iceland; you’re always exposed and vulnerable. Perhaps, that is what makes this land so breathtaking. For the time you’re there it’s you against the elements, as the elements mold you into an entirely new person.

This was our first major stop in the road to our relationship. I had committed to a move across the world for the love of my life and this trip put us to the test. There were times we were still trying to figure ourselves out, but every night, as the heater broke, we would huddle together for warmth and remember the excitement and joy that filled our future. Our days were strange. We awoke, frozen and hungry at 7 am, pitch dark met our eyes. The sun wasn’t even a glimmer on the horizon. We would struggle to dress, lending each other the dim light shining from our head lamp. I would open the door to dash out to pee. I had been holding it in all night, terrified of the bitter cold and absolute darkness. We would begin to drive our rented camper van, through snow storms and pitch black mornings. The sun would bless the glorious land for just a few hours and we soaked in some of the most amazing scenery we’ve ever seen. We scrambled to do as many things as we could in just a few hours. Too soon, darkness would fall again and we would keep driving, or pull over to cook dinner on a camper stove while we played cards, waiting for the sunlight to rise again. Read more about our trip to Iceland.

Paris Feb. 2016

Eiffel Tower Paris France Wandering Chocobo

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Being whisked away to Paris for Valentines Day is probably on a million different bucket lists, but to be honest, it wasn’t on mine. It did however, make my list of awesome adventures I never thought I would have when Ganesh, my boyfriend, booked us a getaway to Paris for a surprise Valentine’s weekend. Everything about this weekend was a surprise. The night before Valentines Day we walked up an old cobble stone street in the Latin Quarter. The late evening oozed the essence of the stereotypical Parisian romance. I begged to know what we were doing. I peaked in every shop window, curious. I was denied. We turned a sharp corner and he opened a door into a warm and cozy tasting room that smelled of fresh bread and wine. I knew I was in for a treat! I was about to experience the wonderful night of A Wine Tasting in Paris! The next day we woke from out wine induced slumber and began to eat our way through Paris on an amazing Parisian food tour.

Don’t worry, my time there wasn’t all romantic mush. We spent an ample amount of time hunting for the space invader 8 bit art scattered through the city and exploring Paris’ rich culture and history. The first time I came to Paris I didn’t like the city all that much. However, back again with an open mind and open heart I feel in love with this dynamic city.

Barcelona March 2016

Barcelona Streets, Spain Wandering Chocobo

Barcelona Streets, Spain

Just as the heat of the day grows too strong it’s time to return back to the cool confines of our boutique hotel, for a siesta. Shopping bags drop to the floor, heavy with unique hip and local wares from Palo Alto market and the El Born neighborhood. Waking, refreshed from our siesta we know its time to meander down to the beach, the fading light reflecting in the dainty curves of the lamp posts. “They’re incredibly sexy,” I think.

A massive, pitcher of red sangria sweats fat cool drops on to the weather beaten table. A hearty paella is slowly disappearing just as the orange sun sets into the horizon. The night doesn’t end here, it’s just beginning. Vivacious nightlife fills the streets of Barcelona. We find ourselves staggering home covered in sweat and my feet aching. This is the Barcelona way, a relaxed lifestyle filled with good times and the finer things in life.

This was my second trip to Barcelona. We skipped most of the touristy hot spots and during the long Easter weekend Ganesh and I were able to enjoy the Catalonian lifestyle to the fullest. Our days were filled indulging in good wine, good food and meandering the evolving hipster neighborhoods and The Nerd Triangle for vintage, geeky and unique finds. Barcelona will forever remain in my heart as a favorite European city.

Snowbombing Music Festival, Austria April 2016

Snowbombing Music Festival

Mid Mountain Party, Snowbombing Music Festival

A thick icy mist lays low, making visibility difficult. I might as well be closing my eyes as I snowboard down the mountain. My only guide to my destination is the booming bass coming from a massive payload of speakers. The mist clears and I feast my eyes on dozens of party goers in bright snow costumes dancing to some of the world’s best DJs. I quickly unstrap my board, grab a beer and join the madness. I have no time to change as the party moves down the mountain and into the woods for headlining act, The Prodigy. The next morning, I pull myself out of bed, strap on my snowboard and hit repeat for five full days. This is Snowbombing Music Festival in Mayrhofen, Austria. I don’t know if I will survive.

Snowbombing Music Festival is one of the craziest things I ever willingly put myself through. From Germany we loaded up the car and drove over to Austria, snowboards and sanity in tow. We then proceeded to put ourselves through five full days of snowboarding, mid mountain raves- including one in an igloo, and long nights of dark clubbing events. We connected on a deep level as we danced to tunes of James Zabiela, a DJ whose music holds a special place in our heart. We let out our inner angsty teen to the Prodigy and Groove Armada. The day we left to drive back to Germany, I think we left our sanity behind.

Austria was a hot destination for me in April. Aside from Snowbombing, I hopped on a train two other times to make the journey to our German neighbors. Once, just for a day to explore the charming town of Salzburg and another for a second ski weekend with our friends traveling Europe from Australia. I also found myself in Vienna later on in the year, to visit my dear friends backpacking Europe. Austria might even be my favorite country in Europe after so many memorable visits.

My Dream Vacation. May 2016

Sometime, two years ago on a cold night in London, I challenged a boy to a game of scrabble. If the boy won, I had to teach him to snowboard. If I won, he would have to accompany me on my dream vacation to Croatia, Turkey and Greece. With the letter z in my American English arsenal he went down with a valiant fight. Quite some time later Ganesh, the boy, found himself boarding a train to Hungary on the adventure of a life time. It wasn’t all dreams and amazing travels. Ganesh and I are still adjusting to life together. I had never lived with a boy and never spent a solid month with anyone, other than my best girl friends. There were times on the road we were working things out. Despite bumps on the road we came out of this stronger than ever. He passed the travel test and I know can say with confidence if we survived a month of backpacking we can survive anything.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest Chain Bridge Wandering Chocobo

Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary

The city that actually never sleeps. Our day started by exploring the rich history and architecture of Fisherman’s Bastion and expanding our minds, following the foot steps of Hungary’s brilliant engineers. We meandered through the local markets and hip boutiques stopping for coffee every step of the way. We needed energy for the long, wild nights. As the sun set, our night quickly descended into a wild, seemingly never ending party. We raged in bars carved out of old Hungarian ruins, we gorged on wine in dimly lit hidden wine cellars and danced our face off at old thermal baths raves. Every morning we would crawl out of bed, just as we fell in, dusted ourselves off, set off to find amazing brunch before exploring a WWII museum. Budapest was one of the only places I ever fell victim to a scam. We didn’t realize it, until it was too late. We cut our losses and decided to move on with a hard lesson learned.

We chose an odd time to travel, it was the shoulder season and we soon found our options for moving from Budapest to Croatia were very little. With no direct train routes and a bus company with ratings in the negative, we decided to book a private car. This was common for the area, we found out. Our driver picked us up from Budapest and safely got us to the Croatian boarder where he immediately let his true colors of being an Croatian driver show.

“The Hungarians care much more for rules and regulations than the Croatians,” he laughed as he swerved off the road.

I gripped the “oh shit handle,” as we flew down the highway. Somehow we arrived safely in Zagreb where we rented a car to begin our epic Croatian Road Trip.

Croatia

Plitvice Croatia Wandering Chocobo

Plitvice National Park, Croatia

Croatia is a gem, glittering along the Mediterranean. It has everything you could need for a vacation, adventure, culture, history, nightlife and friendly people. I was breathless exploring the lush national parks of Plitvice and Krka. The waterfalls cascaded down before me in a majestic foam. We stayed in a charming cottage with sheep and cats playing in the back garden.

The entire country was at our finger tips as the wind whipped our hair on the open road. The singing of the ocean organ rang in our ears and the sea breeze kissed our cheeks. I was speechless wandering the charming and ancient town of Split, a UNESCO world heritage town built literally on top of an old Roman palace. Oh, the history that happened here! Our two day kayak trip in Split was canceled, due to bad weather, so we scrambled to rebook accommodation. Miscommunication almost led us to move into a desperate beggars apartment, instead of the nice place over looking the beach that we had booked online. Google maps got us lost a time or two and we could do nothing but laugh and enjoy the beauty of the unknown towns. The roads were so narrow I closed my eyes and just waited to fall off the cliff into the ocean as Ganesh bravely drove us around the tight corners. We were transported into A Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik as we scaled the sturdy walls the charming red terra cotta roof tiles staring back.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mostar Bridge Bosnia Wandering Chocobo

Mostar Bridge, Bosnia

Mostar, a town riddled with bullet and bomb holes. Some of them are patched in an attempt to recover, but many building were just left to rot with gaping holes torn through their sides. On one side of the river the Christians build their church ever tall, adding yearly it seems. A cross stands high on the mountain side, but they can not see it. It is meant for the eyes of the Muslims across the river. I was told there was peace here once, no matter your race or religion, but not anymore. There is a bitter coldness that divides the people, even more than the physical boundary of the cold river. The mosques try and compete building their minarets most high. A Turkish style market floods the streets, venders desperate to sell their wares to tourists. We can’t seem to relax here as we stare into the signs saying, “Never forgot the loss we’ve suffered.”

Our tour guide and driver calls us back to the car to behind the drive back to Croatia. We cross the Bosnian Croatian boarder 3 more times, each time receiving a stamp from both countries. My passport is filling much more quickly than I anticipated. I need a new one I think as I look upon the luxury condos at the beach. The image of bullet holes burns my eyes.

Turkey

Blue Mosque Istanbul Turkey Wandering Chocobo

Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The Turkish people like to take stabs at the Greeks and their own government. They laugh awkwardly, trying to put on a face of bravery and confidence. I can tell they’re just masking a past of conflict and many long troubled nights over their future. They’re friendly though and are happy to see tourists. After recent bombings there is not many of us. The venders in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul eagerly beg us to buy something, anything, any price we want. They haven’t had a customer in days. Our hotel, normally at 80% occupancy is operating at less than 30%. We explore the European side of Istanbul and marvel at the Hagia Sophia, she’s covered in scars and is under going renovation. I look up to find images of Jesus Christ surrounded by the Arabic script and teachings of Muhammad. Religion is so odd. The Asian side of the city is lively and teaming with hip local restaurants and micro breweries. We watch the sunset at MODA park as we spit sunflower seeds into the ocean and watch the orange sunset give way to the dusty silhouettes of the mosques.

We moved from the most pivotal city in the history of the world and sailed high above the wondrous geology of Cappadocia in the hot air balloon ride of a life time. We crawled through dark tunnels carved out by early Christians, hiding for their lives. My mom would love this I think. How unfair is it that I get to see the very first churches of her religion and she’s at home praying for my safety while I travel to a place of unrest. I snap a photo of one of the first icons ever recorded in human history. This crappy photo will have to do.

Hot Air Balloon Cappadocia Turkey

Hot Air Balloon Cappadocia Turkey

We wiggle into our bathing suits to swim and wriggled in the silky mud of Pamukkale. I geek out over the weird geological and chemical reacation happening here. …..XYZ Beautiful girls post in perfectly done make up and hair pose for epic photos of Pamukkale. I look frumpy in my one piece and cover myself in more mud. Lastly, we carefully stepped through the ancient city of Ephesus, the Eastern Roman capital, we walked the very marble road that Julius Caesar’s graced. We saw the first sign of graffiti. How fitting, it was a mark for sailors to find the brothel. Not much has changed in 2,000 some odd years.

I smile holding the hand of Ganesh, the same boy I made a scrabble bet with years ago. There’s no one on the face of the planet I would rather board one of Turkeys sketchiest airlines with as we head to Greece. Thank you for the life time of adventures!

Greece

Parthenon Acropolis Athens, Greece

Parthenon Acropolis. Athens, Greece

Not much remains, tangibly, of the mighty Ancient Athenians. The Parthenon rests a top the Acropolis, one of the highest points of the city. It’s crumbling, but still standing. Lights shine on it, causing a glorious glow into the night. I have a bit of a crush on the ancient Greeks. I wander the city like a sponge, soaking up all the history I can. Here I learn things, my history book pages never told me. You need a good imagination to explore Athens. You find yourself sitting in the middle of an open field with a few fragments of a pillar scattered around you. In my mind I erect the Agora. It bustles with figments of my imagination. It’s beautiful, I think as I softly touch the marble. Every piece is a work of art. I worry that my fingers are still sticky from the honey covered Greek doughnuts I ate earlier and quickly pull them away.

Santorini Greece Wandering Chocobo

Santorini, Greece

The end of our glorious month-long dream vacation is nearing. It’s still the shoulder season though, so we found a steal of a deal on accommodation in Santorini. We settle in to our two bedroom villa overlooking the Caldera. After a month of backpacking we kick off our shoes and hop in our private pool with cool fruit flavored cider. We gorge on freshly caught seafood and a nice bottle of wine as we watch one of the best sunsets in the world. We don’t do a whole lot for the next few days, we go to the rocky beach from time to time, but most of our day is spent sprawled in our cave villa reflecting on the trip of a life time!

Copenhagen, Denmark June 2016

Copenhagen Nyhavn Denmark Wandering Chocobo

Nyhavn Copenhagen, Denmark

Humans here do what ever is they want to do, but they typically choose the right thing. Late at night entire streets are shut down with angsty kids. They’re blasting techno from speakers mounted on bicycles. Swarms of people join them as they proceed down the streets. Their numbers grow as tourists, such as us, and even older locals begin to dance. Cars simply reverse out or wait for the mass of people to pass before continuing on. No one is hurt, no property is damaged. I wait for the cops to show up, but they never do. They never need to. The next day continues as if nothing happened. We enjoy walking through the historic part of the city and watching the reflection of the colorful houses of Nyhavn light the canals.

“No photos and No running.” The sign reads. Photos prove the illegal business happening and running makes everyone think the cops have arrived. The free town of Christiania is an anarchist community in the middle of Copenhagen. It’s more organized than than any other part of the city combined. Clean alleyways, communal compounds, beautiful gardens and playgrounds for the kids fill the lovely space by the river. A food court with locally brewed beer sits below a grassy knoll filled with the smoky haze of people enjoying life. Everyone is equal, everyone is welcome and everyone seems to be happy to do their part for the community.

Israel June 2016

Jerusalem, Israel Wandering Chocobo

Jerusalem, Israel, near the Western Wall.

The sun sets at Tel Aviv beach. Small bars and beach side cafes make a last call as happy dogs run their humans along the beach. A metropolitan Mediterranean city glows in the background. We enjoy good food and drink late into the night. It seems just like any other city.

The next day we pack up and rent a car to drive off into the Israeli desert.

“Doesn’t the salt burn your bits?” Ganesh asks as we float in the dead sea, struggling to manage our ridiculous buoyancy.

“It’s not a gaping hole, you know,” I chide.

I stick my tongue to the water. It may as well have been a 9 volt battery. The sun burs. I imagine what this place must have been like thousands of years ago. With whales and fish swimming before the salt killed off everything in the water. I wonder where their bones lay?

The old city of Jerusalem, the center of western religion, is the strangest place I’ve ever been. I turn a corner and Jewish people are having fits of hysteria as they cry, furiously reading the Torah and kiss the Western wall. Another corner, and we are being kicked out for getting too near the mosque most sacred to the Muslims. They laugh at how naïve we can be. Another corner and we cover our heads and wonder in to the most intricate church I have ever seen. Shared by all Christians this is the church where Jesus Christ’s body was laid to be prepped for burial. Monks and priest chant hymns at the entrance to a wooden burial chamber. Deeper still, the dark cold stone hold chambers hold the inner most secrets of the Christians.

Every day we walk past a large center. It looks like a maximum security prison, but the sign on the outsides hints it is there to help civilians. Our local friend corrects us, “Sometimes you can hear the screams of those held within the walls at night. That’s where Palestinians go and never come back.” I shudder and we hurry off. The company we kept here gave us insight to the Palestinian and Israeli conflicts. I soon can’t leave my hotel without feeling it. This country is hiding something, something they don’t want the world to know, but I can feel it in my very bones. I promise myself to return and as a journalist begin to uncover as much as I can. My white privilege allows me to walk through security with minimal questions. Ganesh’s brown skin and Indian name grants him over an hour of intense questions.

EDC June 2016

EDC 2016 Wandering Chocobo

EDC 2016

Security shakes my furry rave boots and feels me up a few times. I pass the test and cross the barrier to wait for my friends. As they join me, huge smiles spread across our faces as we skip to the entrance of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We enter a dark cement circular hallway that wraps around the entire speedway. It’s dark and bass is barely audible over the insulation. I lead my friends through door ahead. We enter a strobe filled hallway. The music grows louder. Goose bumps prickle my skin. The hallway opens up into the most magical scene. Fireworks are shooting off in the distance as thousands of beautiful people skip their way through EDC. Screams from carnival rides are barely heard over the music from more than 7 stages and the lights… well, the lights are just beautiful. We laugh as we tumble down the stairs into the speedway and our senses are over loaded. For three straight days we dance under the electric sky until 6 am.

Romantische Strasse July 2016

Romantische Strasse Wandering Chocobo

Small town along the Romantische Strasse

We’ve been traveling so much. Have we been gone from Germany every month? “I feel like I don’t even know Germany very well,” I say. “Let’s explore our own new home.”

The mighty Alps where that famous castle Neuschwanstein rests are the start of our epic road trip. The road wanders through tiny towns, castles, villages and cities along the Romantische Strasse. What most people do in over a week, we cram in to 3 days. The cattle farms and mountainside pastures give way lush farms and majestic castles, which in turn give way to to rolling wine hills and fields of windmills. We explore an ancient crater, where we find goats with pants, roaming.

“What the hell are they doing here? Who is in charge of these goats?”

Our final road trip is in the Rhine Valley. We book accommodation in an old timber style German house. I stumble walking from the bedroom to the bathroom. The entire house is crooked, but it’s adorable, so that is all that matters. I hope to find German wine that I like. Germans make a terrible red, so I settle on the Riesling and find one that I enjoy. There is a German soccer match on and we get stuck in the city of Koblenz in a frenzy of traffic. People are shirtless, hanging out the window. Screams and car horns blast through the wine valley. Germany won! They are victorious. To save time we take the Autobahn home. I am amazed at how much better the German’s drive compared to anyone in the U.S.

Hamburg Aug. 2016

hamburg Germany UNESCO Wandering Chocobo

Hamburg, Germany. The UNESCO old shipping warehouses.

Toto, we’re definitely not in Munich anymore. The streets are a bit grungy, a little dirty even. An entire day in May is set aside for wild protests and the gentrification effects are felt throughout the city. Things aren’t prim and proper like they are in Munich, but the residents are living. I have a wonderful local tour guide on the first night. Michelle, the expert city blogger at Sonderbarmii, was kind enough to learn about my interests and take me out to the hip nightlife spots and good eats. The next day I plan to meet with a whole group of strangers, but they don’t feel like strangers as they are all bloggers living in Germany. It is through their writing I feel like I know them already. We instantly bond over amazing breakfast, a free walking tour of the city and late night cocktails. My favorite part is exploring the UNESCO heritage site of the old shipping warehouses. The beautiful brick alley ways rise from the water. They have more bridges than Venice I am told over and over. We end the tour at a French crepe house. Our waiter, possibly flirting, douses our crepes in alcohol and we get pretty boozed. I am so thankful to have connected with these amazing bloggers and am honored to be among such creative and adventurous women.

Thank you to the following empowering women for being gracious hosts and traveling from all over Germany to network. We found each other the group Female Travel Bloggers. Mary, a global life blogger at Global Mary. Jordan, from Beer Time with Wagner, writes about inspiring, affordable European travel in off-the-beaten-path countries! Manon, from The Dutch Country Side, will take you to new destinations, share opinions and travel guides. Lastly, don’t miss Ria, the German travel blogger in charge of Ria on Tour who has some great insider tips on Hamburg!

Family Vacation- Germany and Road Trip to Italy Aug. 2016

Wendelstein Cave Wandering Chocobo

Wendelstein Cave, German Alps

If there is one thing I am thankful all my traveling has brought, is that it pushed my family to be more open minded to explore the world. When they booked a trip to travel across the world for the very first time, I was thrilled. I wanted everything and every moment to be perfect. I planned the best showcase of Germany. We explored the ins and outs of Munich, from the old city to the up and coming cultural centers. My sister and I joked about having to remove our eyes after an evening of drinking by the Isar. Older German nudes stretched, praising the sun, everything was exposed. I took my family to the charming fairy tale town of Rothenburg, a vibrant Medieval city. My dad went bananas taking photos while my mom, sister and I walked around, shopping and soaking in the rich history. We rented a car and drove the beautiful scenic highway from Germany through Lichtenstein and Switzerland and ended in Italy. Our car went up and down as we rolled through the Swiss Alps. We grew up in Alaska, but the mountains are nothing compared to this. Our final destination was Cinque Terre. We all became child like again, playing in the ocean. My mom and dad powered through and in the blazing heat hiked the Cinque Terre walk. I was so proud of them and so happy to be in this beautiful land with them. I am forever thankful for the gifts and adventures traveling has brought myself and my family.

Ibiza Sept. 2016

Ibiza Sunset Cafe Del Mar

Sunset at Cafe Del Mar, Ibiza, Spain.

“We’re going to go to Ibiza one day,” we promised each other. Four best friends in love with electronic music at the tender age of 14. The album blaring in the car was the first In Search of Sunrise Compilation. The Sunrise in Ibiza painted on the cover. We made it some years later, still best friends and we watched the Sunrise in Ibiza, we cried and held each other. It was so beautiful.

“If I ever find a boy worth spending my life with, I’ll bring him here.” I said.

6 years later I found that boy and upon hearing my favorite club was closing I impulsively booked us a ticket to my favorite place on the planet. We bought a beautiful bottle of Champagne and watched the sunset at Café del Mar. “How cool is he?” I think. To sit here listening to classic lounge music and willing to fly around the world, just to watch a sunset. The bright purple of the sunset blinded me.

The purple disappeared over the horizon and we lined up for Space, Ibiza. The best club in the world and a club that holds a special place in my heart. We danced as hard as we could to say goodbye to a place of magic and love. Just before the sunrise began, we stumbled out of the club and moved to the beach to watch the start of a new day. We held each other tightly and shared our inner most secrets to the early morning light. If you ever want to experience the most amazing sunrise and sunset go to Ibiza and you’ll forever be in the love with the world.

U.K. Wedding Sept. 2016

U.K. Wedding Wandering Chocobo

Alex and Claire’s wedding near Tamworth, U.K.

You know that saying, “All my friends are getting married, and I’m just over here traveling the world?”

Well, up until this trip I was able to say, “None of my friends are getting married and we’re just all traveling the world.”

It was the lovely Mr. and Mrs. Alex and Claire Christie who broke the cycle and wed in a lovely British countryside barn. 6 years ago, Alex got on his first airplane and flew to Amsterdam where he met 4 backpackers from Alaska he had never met in person. Well, things went well enough on that trip we became friends for life. So, Country and Val flew over from Alaska to the attend the wedding. I was so honored to be part of this special day. It was simply perfect!

Val almost didn’t make it. She agreed to come, then regretfully declined, then confirmed attendance, then once again stated she was unable to come (changing airline prices and job vacation time etc.) Anyways, the weekend before the wedding she was watching Mr. Robot and having some wine. During the Mr. Robot show there was a scene where they were talking about binary code and relating it to life. Are you a 1 or a 0? Are you a yes or a no? Are you on or are you off? She immediately decided that she was a 1 and took action, buying a flight to Europe the very next morning. I think we should all be a bit more like Val when she watches Mr. Robot. Be a 1. Take risks and action, hell even buy a ticket to Europe for tomorrow if that’s what you want to do!

Ireland Sept. 2016

Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, Ireland Wandering Chocobo

Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, Ireland

I couldn’t tell if I was laughing or crying. Maybe I was doing both. I shouldn’t have been doing either because I was driving in downtown Dublin, on the left side of the road. We had just been traumatized after we entered a 2 mile tunnel for trucks. It required a toll and gave us access to the docks. The toll guard laughed at us. We missed the turn for our hostel 6 times, each time adding on 20 min to our drive, thanks to one way roads. Finally, we made the turn and I somehow wedged us in narrow left hand upward spiral in a parking garage. Laughter and tears filled the garage. There is something infectious about my two best friends. We have a good time wherever we go. I was so happy to be experiencing the terrifying roads of Ireland with them, I didn’t care if I was stuck in the garage.

Dublin was a bit crazy a little trashy, but a lot of fun. However, we were only there for a day as it was time to see the rest of Ireland. I drove cautiously to the Cliffs of Moher in Doolin. We stopped in graveyards along the way, usually to pee and almost always to yell, “bring out yer’ dead.” We had fake sword fights in old Irish castles. We encountered friendly Irish folk, some toothless and overly friendly in overly crowded bars. We picked up two hitchhikers along the way. A father and son from Bulgaria. The entire rental car smelled for hours after we dropped them off. It was nice to have a break from couple travel with Ganesh and enjoy the ease of best friend travel once again.

Oktoberfest Sept./Oct. 2016

Oktoberfest 2016 Munich Wandering Chocobo

Oktoberfest 2016 with Country

Der Gemütlichkeit, a word that doesn’t quite translate into English, but if it did, it would mean a warm cozy feeling. That is the essence of Oktoberfest. My two best friends from Alaska are still with me and as we walk in through the entrance my nose is immediately greeted with the smell of warm sugar toasted nuts. Everyone is singing, happy and enjoying life. The tents, loom over us, showing their brewery brand swag proudly and up high. Inside the tent, pure joy and camaraderie welcomes our group. We are friends with the entire tent. German oompa bands sing all the traditional German sing along songs, as well as classics like Country Roads. I can only ever finish at most 4 liters of beer before I know it’s time to take myself home. I somehow lost my two friends. I think they’ll be alright though. They have my address. Before I make it home, I always stop and go on all the rides. I almost vomit. Too much beer. Too much motion. Finally, I make it home and I struggle to rip off my dirndl in a drunken stupor. I pass out by 4 p.m. and wake up by 7am ready for round 2. However, my friends are still missing. One turns up in a tent 30 min outside of Munich and the other could not navigate back home and had a giant sleepover with the other drunken delinquents. I chew them out, we laugh it off and do it all over again.

Stockholm Oct. 2016

Travel to Stockholm, Sweden Wandering Chocobo

Stockholm, Sweden

The bitter cold whips through my scarf. I feel at home, so at home. This is the country that Alaska should be. With it’s cold climate, fine architecture, social government and low crime rates, this must be what utopia is like. I eagerly order caribou steak and moose burgers almost every meal I can. Who knows when I get another chance to indulge like this. Ganesh’s parents join us for the quick weekend trip, so we stick to activities we can all enjoy. We visit the Vasa Museum. A perfectly preserved war ship from the 1600s floats in he middle of a dark room. It was a faulty design, but no one wanted to disappoint and tell the King, so they sailed her anyways and she sunk just off the Stockholm harbor. She was recovered hundreds of years later. Late into the night we venture to the old town and into a quirky jazz club. Ganesh’s parents love jazz and we enjoy the smile on their face as we jam the night away.

Las Vegas Oct. 2016

Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas, Nevada Wandering Chocobo

Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas, Nevada

My second trip to Vegas was very different than my EDC experience. I had another friend getting hitched, but that’s ok. I’m still traveling the world.;-) I had the honor of officiating one of my best friend’s wedding. Erik and Chrissy are a match made in heaven. The MGM suite overlooking the strip fills with close friend and family as I begin the ceremony. The vows included Method Man lyrics and Pokemon quotes and it was just perfect.

I think this will be the last time I go to Vegas for quite some time. I enjoyed my romp in the desert for two years, but with the EDC phase behind me, Jacqueline, my best friend, moving to Portland and two visits this year I think it’s time to set my eyes on new adventures. I said goodbye to my former home with by exploring everything in Las Vegas that wasn’t the strip. I went on many outdoor adventures after the wedding, my favorite hiking in Red Rock. I also explore the local and hipster side of Vegas. If you get off the strip the desert really has a lot to offer.

Singapore Nov. 2016

Supertrees-Singapore-Gardens-by-the-Bay Wandering Chocobo

For one of the first times in my life I am a minority, but that’s just in numbers, not the way I am treated. Singapore is one of the loveliest countries I have ever been to. Ganesh and I are looked upon as equals as we explore the new and old sides of the city. The jet lag after traveling from Munich is really getting dragging me down. I struggle to stay awake. I spend most of the first day sleeping, but that’s ok. I need it. The second day we wander through the Gardens by the Bay. The first garden has a thundering waterfall crashing down several stories. You can walk up to the top exploring the flora of a tropical cloud forest. Orchids grow like weeds here. The second contains flora from every continent. I laugh at the penis shaped cactus and admire the African gourd trees. Outside the super trees loom as beautiful artificial trees, but they produce energy to fun the garden. The light up at night in a neon glow. Simply Beautiful.

The next day Ganesh takes me to parts of the city where he went as a kid. We eat a traditional Indian breakfast in Little India, and lunch at the Hawker centers in China Town. This is one of the few places on the planet I think all religions and all cultures truly live in harmony. If it wasn’t so hot here, I might even move.

We had a great guide, an old friend of Ganesh’s who let us stay with him and his wife. He’s a huge nerd and I played my first dungeons and dragons game. Ganesh died and we all struggle, but my barbarian character will live on to play more games.

We board one of the last flights of the year and begin out month long journey in Australia, the place Ganesh calls home.

Australia Dec. 2016

Daintree Rainforest National Park Australia Wandering Chocobo

Daintree Rainforest, Queensland, Australia

My first week in Australia I don’t see much other than the inside of a class room and the bottom of the ocean floor off Manly Beach. Determined to see the Great Barrier reef before it’s too late I sign up to take my open water scuba course. My first dive and I am instantly hooked. I will scuba dive around the world!

We have a vigorous schedule this month and soon after my class we begin the drive up to Brisbane. We stop in Ballina where Ganesh grew up. A giant ugly shrimp rears it’s head as the iconic statue of the area. You can get fresh shrimp by the bucket here. We stop at the Eltham pub. A charming little hotel and pub near Ballina. We know the owners and after 3 or 4 bottles of wine and the pub is closed I am asked if I want to go Cane Toad hunting.

“Cane what hunting?” I ask.

All the lights in the pub go off and I am told to sit quietly and wait. Five minutes pass and I am handed a flashlight. I am giddy with wine and excitement. I spot one and flash my light on it. It freezes and and we catch it with a garbage grabber. 1 down many to go. I go to bed prideful that night. I feel like a real Australian.

In Brisbane, a city of hip edgy culture and a bit of redneck I find a full moon party by the water and we meet up with old friends.

Melbourne is for eating and drinking. I drink as many cocktails as I think the human can tolerate. Each one is better than the last. Liquid nitrogen burns the foamy top into a yummy icy treat. I am in heaven I think.

Tropical North Queensland, where the forest meets the ocean, is my favorite place so far. We explore the bottom of the sea and the depths of the forest. We hike into the Daintree Rainforest. Everything is moving and breathing. I feel alive, as I breath in the fresh warm air. A wild and rare Cassowary crosses the road. There are only 1,200 left and even though the can rip out my insides in a heart beat I watch it in awe. We swim in natural Billabongs thankful for the cool water. As the night falls we cross a pulley bridge over croc infested water as bats swarm out of their caves ready to hunt.

Early morning greets us as we head to the marina. We load up on to a boat and receive our briefings and dive plans from the dive master. I can hardly sit still. My entire life I’ve wanted to be here in this moment. We begin out decent. I breath like Darth Vader through my regulator. In and out. In and out. A shark scurries out of a cave and we enter. In and out. I hear the click click click of fish all around feeding on coral. The colors and life is so abundant around me. It’s so beautiful, I could cry and add my salty tears to the ocean.

We must save our beautiful planet, before it’s too late. 2017 is the year of sustainable travel and the Wandering Chocobo will be under going some changes to align with more sustainable travel. What will you be doing to help our planet next year?

Christmas is spent in the hot sunny Australian summer. It’s so strange not seeing snow all around me. I miss it, but I enjoy our beach side BBQ and cold seafood fest. I was always a sucker for traditions, but sometimes you just need to let them go and start new ones.

The new year will start in Sydney. We will watch the fireworks explode over the harbor. This time last year we were stopped at the Canadian border, waiting to start the adventure of a life time.

On to 2017!

As I sat down to write this I had no idea that 7,000 words later I would only begin to skim the surface of my story in 2016. Sometimes it feels like I am living in a dream. I’ve received some hate from former friends along the way, people that judge me for taking off and traveling, but my true friends and family have been so supportive. I know I am very privileged to be living the life I am, but it’s not with out hard work that I am where I am. I get lonely sometimes. Being an expat in a foreign country can be alienating and I feel myself drifting from friends back home. So, my goal for 2017 is to pick up a phone and call some of you, travel to see some of you and slow down a bit and enjoy my new home.

Where are you traveling to in 2017? Where was your favorite destination in 2016 let me know in the comments!

Happy New Year and happy travels!

Love,
The Wandering Chocobo

29 thoughts on “Wandering Chocobo’s Year in Review. 2016 Travels

  1. Soraya

    It looks like you have had an epic 2016! I love your story about playing Scrabble…and winning! What an amazing vacation you must have had to Hungary. I totally agree…if you could survive a month of backpacking with your man, you can survive anything! Wishing you an amazing 2017!

    Reply
  2. nisha

    What an amazing, whirlwind , year long travel ! I do wish you great travels in 2017 and years to come. One question. How many flight miles did you guys accummulate? 🙂 🙂
    Cane toad hunting sounds quite interesting , especially after libations.
    Best part is you probably taught him snowboarding anyway 🙂
    Thanks for bringing the whole world in one post.

    Reply
    1. Wandering Chocobo Post author

      I got just over 100,000 miles, which was pretty awesome. I did teach him how to snowboard 😛 He just got lucky. Thanks for reading and hope you have a great 2017.

      Reply
  3. Anne Slater-Brooks

    You have definitely visited some fab places in 2016 and I wish you both the best of luck. Sydney is definitely my best NYE ever although Siem Reap comes close. My top destinations in 2016 were Quebec, Macedonia and Romania although we have had some awesome travel experiences so it is hard to choose. Happy NY

    Reply
  4. Anna

    Wow, what a busy year! Surely not one to forget. 🙂 You covered so many amazing countries, and it’s good to see Iceland on the list, it’s my favourite part of the world. Is there one particular place/moment you’d call the ultimate highlight of your 2016? Best wishes for the year ahead! x

    Reply
  5. Alina Popescu

    Wow, this sounds like an epic, year-long adventure. For a while there, I thought I was reading my travel wishlist, and then once in a while would smile and nod at familiar destinations. I had a much more homey year, although we did take quite a few trips locally and abroad. Next year I look forward to a Barcelona and a Birmingham trip, and hopefully some more local exploring. This year’s favorite? Surprisingly, the Danube Delta. I’d never been before this year, and it turned out to be a true paradise.

    Reply
  6. Paige Wunder

    You’ve had quite the epic 2016! I’ve never taken a backpacking trip in Europe, but it’s something I really want to do. Your dream trip is one of my dream trips as well (especially Croatia and Bosnia!)! I’m heading to Iceland in February and definitely need to check out some of your tips! I hope your 2017 is just as glorious!

    Reply
  7. Shem

    Wow, what an incredible year in review! I especially enjoyed the bit on Paris: aka every cheesy girl’s dream come true! I really loved your post on the self-guided food tour of Paris and I’ll definitely be referring back to it when I return to Paris someday! I also did Singapore this year and I couldn’t agree with you more about what an amazing city it is! Eating at the Hawker centers was one of my FAVORITE things I did while I was there — the food was just so delicious! Happy travels in 2017!

    Reply
  8. Megan Jerrard

    Congratulations on having the courage to pursue the lifestyle of your dreams … it sounds like you had a spectacular 2016 … so sorry to hear that you’ve had negative reactions from some of your friends – honestly, they’re going to think what they’re going to think, and that’s their problem, not yours. Don’t let the jealousy and poison of other people pull you down – you were obviously born to fly high (literally and metaphorically!!)

    All the best for 2017 XXX

    Reply
  9. Shobha george

    sounds like quite the adventure! I think you both won when he lost the game of scrabble two years ago. Never mind spending a month with a guy, I think living out of a camper van in Iceland is quite the relationship test. Small spaces and lack of privacy are a true test of how much intimacy you can handle. Can’t wait to read your 2017 stories!

    Reply
  10. Joella (RovingJo)

    My God you had an epic year. First of all love knows no bounds and I am happy for you for have found it and followed it. You went to so many places that are on my list. Iceland is somewhere I really want to visit but I want to take my family of 4 so I know it will be a few years before we can manage that. But next year I am celebrating my 40th and going to Vegas. So thankful for all your tips especially the outdoor ones as that is what I want to focus on. I loved your adventure in Australia. I honeymooned there and it brought back great memories. I did not see that you visited Scotland. I would highly recommend that you add this to your itinerary if it is not somewhere you have been. It is by far my favorite country and where I have left part of my heart. Continue to go on adventures with your guy and live this beautiful life to the fullest. Looking forward to reading more.

    Reply
  11. Jessica

    Damn girl, a different country every month! You had so many amazing experiences. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for you for 2017. I haven’t made any of my own travel plans yet! Living vicariously through you at the moment lol

    Reply
  12. Cliodhna Ryan

    I laughed a lot at your experience in Ireland. It doesn’t change if you live here. I still end up on the toll roads by accident, get accosted by toothless drunks and still, occasionally get stuck in narrow Dublin car parks 😉 It sounds like you had a great year of travel. I love that you got a trip with your family in too. I had one in 2015 but haven’t even had a weekend away in Ireland with mine this year. Something to prioritise in 2017! Happy new year!

    Reply
  13. Taryn

    Wow what a year! I’m starting my 2017 with a January trip to Iceland… hopefully it will kick off a year just as exciting as yours was 🙂

    Reply
  14. Jean

    What a great adventure that 2016 has been for you! Australian’s are always a lot of fun (though I might be bias in saying that). Can’t wait to see what 2017 brings you.

    Reply
  15. Amanda @ La Vida Viva Travel

    What an amazing year you’ve had! Gulfoss looks so different in the winter! I went in October and loved Iceland so much, definitely one of my highlights too. Hot air ballooning in Turkey is on my bucket list too!!

    Reply
  16. Nam

    Love your recap : and you are right, there aren’t enough words in the world to recap a full year and 7k is brilliant!

    I love your courage to pursue what you wanted and to follow the love that you found 🙂 I wish your 2017 to be the best possible and hopefully we’ll cross paths!

    Reply
  17. Flo @ Yoga, Wine & Travel

    You are so brave for making the move, and I’m so happy for you that you’re enjoying the ride along with Ganesh! Sounds like it’s been such an adventurous year for the two of you – hope 2017 keeps delivering!

    Reply
  18. Haylee

    Sounds like you’ve had a year full of adventure, and I love that little anecdote at the beginning of when it all started!
    I’m sure Christmas in Australia would have been a bit of an adjustment. I’m from Australia, and spent Christmas of 2013 in Upstate New York. It was the year of the Polar Vortex and Christmas Day turned out to be a very white, icy and a little bit scary (and very different from home)
    All the best for 2017, hope it brings you and Ganesh many more exciting travels.

    Reply
  19. Kristine Li

    Oh my goodness, you covered so many places! All of them are so exotic and some are places I can only dream about in my head for now. I had such a nice time reading through! Can’t help but wonder, did you write in hindsight at one shot for this post? Or do you keep a travel journal and write down all of them right after experiencing? They are very lovely narrations!

    And you are from Alaska! A place I hope to visit in future =) Also glad you enjoyed my country, Singapore.

    Here’s to an awesome 2017 ahead and keeping true to our dreams!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *