Where did this year take you? Was it, as
punk-poet Henry Rollins once said about life, a “long trip, kind of scary and
I feel as if I’ve been around the world, as well as around the sun, seeking simplicity, searching for home, and finding both in a few special places.
Along the way I've managed to notch up an entire “Where’s
Wally?” year of no fixed address.
|There's Wally! In Germany|
Though being “on the road” is a kind of home to me, I know some of you have wondered at various
times where I am, and I want to thank everyone who kept a virtual tracker on
me by calling, emailing, messaging and tweeting to me (a special thanks to my dad for venturing into the badlands of facebook and learning how to use Skype to
virtually visit me).
Some of you might even have been wondering "Why, Wally?" The short answer is, "Because I'm a travel writer", but that's not the whole truth.
|This way to paradise, Laos|
I have been writing about my travels - even launched my first ebook, Adventures on Earth
(that's the cover, in the left margin), from a hotel room in Chiang Mai, Thailand - but I've also been not-writing (except in my diaries), in order to wander, revive my love of travel and see where life (instead my next assignment) might take me.
It's been interesting, enlightening and exhausting - not just moving from tent to bungalow to cabin and dealing with the logistics of constant solo travel, but always thinking "Where next?" And it ain't over yet.
So, in the tradition of the year-end post - remember last year's wander down 2013th avenue, A year in the life of an eco-travel writer
? - I thought I'd share a few highlights of 2014, if only to remind myself where on Earth I've travelled, stayed and called home this year.
Thanks, 2014, for (in chronological order) the:
1. Climbing in Krabi.
|Learning the ropes with Kaud|
The best part of my two
months in Thailand/Laos in Jan/Feb was my three-week stint in Railay on the Krabi
peninsula including a 3-day course I did with King Climbers
(and wrote about: Climbing the Walls in Thailand
). Big thanks to my lovely instructor, Kaud, who even lent me his climbing shoes when my rental ones didn't fit (so kind).
|Beautiful Koh Laoliang|
I also had a few idyllic days on nearby Koh Laoliang
, possibly the last of Thailand's island idylls. It has no bungalows, no resorts, no longtail speedboats. Just 20 tents on the beach, gin-clear water for swimming and great climbing walls.
2. Hotel living, Manly. After Thailand, I spent three months as an unofficial travel-writer-in-residence at Manly
Lodge, a quirky (and a bit run-down) boutique hotel right in the heart of Manly, within spitting distance of the beach, but still quiet. It was good to be back in a country with a largely pristine natural environment, which motivated me to join a protest to help save the Great Barrier Reef and write 10 eco-issues every Australian should know about.
|Meanwhile, back in Australia...|
3. Yoga in Portugal
|Home is where the tipi is|
. At the end of May, I
flew to Europe for three months. (I'd won an airfare at last year’s
ASTW awards - my prize for being, ahem, 2013 Travel Writer of the Year). First stop: the western Algarve, for a one-week yoga and surfing retreat at the very sustainable Tipi Valley (see Yoga, surfing and the "vida simples" in Portugal
). Amazing experience, in a wild part of the world, in the company beautiful women, my fellow yoginis and surfer girls. I vow to return to Portugal very soon.
4. Kayaking in Croatia. This was an assignment, but a beautiful one: 10 days of island-hopping by sea kayak, camping each night, in the Northern Adriatic. One of my all-time favourite kayaking trips, because of the rugged landscape, Croatia's convoluted history and our creative and resourceful guide, Jogi. Read all about it: Paddle in paradise, in Traveller.
|Kayaking in tropical Croatia|
5. Simple pleasures in Switzerland.
|Free: mountain views in Switzerland|
This was one
of those “pinch me, am I dreaming?” stays, even for me: three weeks housesitting a friend's three-storey Swiss chalet-mansion and its little backyard cabin with mountain
My New Yorker friend
Janet came to stay and we celebrated her big 5-0 birthday by tandem paragliding in the Swiss Alps and swimming in Lake Geneva –
priceless! Actually it is possible to holiday on a budget in Switzerland, as long as you keep to a strict diet, as we did, of fresh baguettes, Swiss cheese and chocolate and The best things in life are free – even in Switzerland
6. Revisiting Norway. I'd wanted to return to Norway ever since I first went there as a backpacker in 1989. This year I did. A highlight was returning to the Lofoten Islands, ruggedly spectacular mountains in the sea north of the Arctic Circle, with little red fishing villages at their bases.
|The lovely Lofotens|
Norway is also where my love for photography
was born - which led me into travel writing - so it was sort of ironic that my Canon DSLR stopped working within a few days of arriving. Fortunately I had backup: a waterproof compact camera and my iPhone.
7. Cabin fever.
|"My" Norwegian cabin in the woods|
Still in Norway (I had a
month there, mid-June to mid-July), I did something I’ve always wanted
to do: stayed in a cabin in the woods, alone, for two weeks. It was one of the best, and simplest, experiences of my life (here's why
). It was peaceful, I swam in a lake
almost every day, I chopped wood and carried water, and I had unlimited time to read, write, listen, wander and wonder. It was also the inspiration for my essay In praise of quiet travel
, published in Traveller in October.
8. Berlin and the Wall.
|Mum, aged 23, in 1956|
Visiting Berlin, my new favourite city, in August, was another trip back in time, in more ways than one. In 1989, I visited East Berlin, just before the Wall came down. Back in Sydney this year, I found my late mum's travel diary: she went to Berlin as a backpacker too, in 1956, five years before the Wall went up. It's all in my Traveller cover story, Berlin: Falling in love again
9. Surfing NSW. Back "home" in September, I bought a car. Much as I enjoyed (and would love to continue) living car-free, Australia is a hard place to get around without one.
|Somewhere on the Australian coast|
My first mission was to get my tent and surfboard out of storage and take off on a long-overdue surf trip from Sydney to Byron Bay, camping in some of my favourite spots and visiting friends en
route. It was unbelievably reviving, so good to surf and live simply and wake up every morning in my little green
10. Lord Howe Island, again!
|Sunset on Lord Howe|
A dream assignment this one: in November I spent a week ocean swimming every day at my favourite little island, hosted by the wonderful Pinetrees Lodge and inspired daily by former world champion Ironman Trevor Hendy. Read all about it
Where’s Wally now?
For the first time in a
year and a half, I'm taking a break from constant travel to spend some time around Byron Bay. I love this area. Even in busy Byron, everyone is so relaxed, happy to chat, open-minded. It's a mix of country-town friendliness and
hippie soulfulness with a dash of worldliness from the international tourists - which
makes me feel right at home.
Thanks for following No Impact Girl this year and, as always, may the gypsy spirit be with you all in 2015. Happy new year!
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