So, dear friends, here we all are again at the comet-tail end of the year, after another 365-day trip around the sun. Did you enjoy the ride?
|Reflections - Koh Chang, Thailand|
Of course, in our Earth-world, today is traditionally a day to reflect on where we were this time last year, and what has happened between then and now.
This used to be something I did in private, with pen and paper. Now we all share so much of ourselves online, it seems only natural that this be a place to record milestones too. It's been a big year of change for me - endings, beginnings, new ways of working, learning new skills, lots of firsts.
So permit me to indulge in a wander down 2013th avenue, or rather come with me. Writing is invariably a solo act, and I often travel alone too. So I'd appreciate the company, and I can thank you along the way, for all the ways you've kept me going, and sane, during this year of adventures and upheavals.
1. Camping in Cambodia - the year started in a deceptively normal way, with travel. The highlights of the trip were an overnight camping trip in the wilds of Koh Kong, and a couple of nights at the "hotel that wouldn't die", the Raffles Hotel Le Royal, in Phnom Penh.
|Simple beauty, Okinawa|
2. Okinawa - before I knew it, it was February and I was on my first media trip of the year to somewhere I'd always wanted to go: tropical Japan. The best part, besides staying a night at the Zen-inspired luxury hotel Hyakuna Garan, was revisiting all the reasons I love Japan.
|The sublime Treehotel, Sweden|
3. New kinds of work. As well as travel writing, this year I started doing copywriting for Inspired Adventures, which organises fund-raising challenges all over the world, and worked on an eco-blogging project, writing daily stories on sustainability and fun ways to live green (reviewing the world's most beautiful eco lodges, for instance) for the Grand Tours Project - which saw Australian Keith Tuffley tackle all three of Europe's gruelling three-week cycling races to raise awareness for sustainability.
|Happiness is a Lord Howe holiday|
4. Lord Howe Island - I got to visit my favourite little island in the world twice this year. Once in June with my lovely friend Emma, for a real holiday. And again in October for the incredible, inaugural Wilderness Challenge Week of adventures to the island's wildest places that are usually off-limits to tourists.
|Still miss that view...|
5. I moved out, and dropped out, in July. Leaving the house I called home for 10 years was an adventure in itself. Lots of life lessons about what's essential and how to give away or responsibly dispose of the rest. It was also scary, stepping off into the unknown. But if I’ve learned anything in almost 20 years of freelance writing, it’s to not freak out in the face of uncertainty.
|Buddhas in Ubud|
6. Ubud - for the month of August, my home was the delightfully eccentric Michi Retreat, just outside this little hippie-earthy town in central Bali, Indonesia, where I learnedhow to travel on my own dime, and at my own pace, again. In a word: liberating.
7. Learning - I learned to speak Mac, when I bought a beautiful Macbook Air so that I could design my first ebook using iBooks Author (more on this later), and to do more writing on the road. Mission accomplished: I had 81,093 words and 115 pics published this year, not including blog posts or the 19,506 words I wrote for the Grand Tours Project.I can also speak Kindle and iPhone now. I'm a fully equipped digital gypsy.
|Behold, the king - at Ulusaba|
8. South Africa & Kenya - I travelled with my dad for the first time in 20 years in September. We saw beautiful Cape Town, drove what is possibly the most scenic coastal drive in the world (to the Cape of Good Hope), went on safari at Ulusaba, visited Kibera slum and Karen Blixen's house in Nairobi, and did a camping trip on the Masai Mara. A trip of a lifetime.
9. In October, I was honoured to receive three Australian Society of Travel Writers awards, including Travel Writer of the Year, for the fourth time (still can't believe that). Big thanks to all the sponsors and the ASTW. You can read my winning stories here - about charitable tourism in Cambodia, that luxury hotel in Okinawa and the Arkaba conservation walk in South Australia.
10. Back in Sydney, while living in a hotel at my hometown (another first) and surfing again at Manly (bliss), I finished my first ebook, Adventures on Earth, which will be going live on the iBookstore very, very soon – it’s currently being reviewed by the Apple gods. I have trumpets standing by. In the meantime, have a look at the 30-second intro video:
Last but not least,I'm seeing the year out in South East Asia, first Koh Chang in Thailand, now Luang Prabang in Laos, brought to both places - in the spirit of this anything-goes year - by serendipity rather than any real planning.
What will the next revolution around the sun be like, I wonder? May it be a good one for you, full of love, peace, kindness to all beings and adventures of all kinds. Over and out, until next year...