I feel bad for 2009. It is going to have a hard time besting 2008, a very hard time. Last year, I saw a larger variety of amazing sights than I had in the last 5 years combined. It was a year of adventure and leisure: six countries and eight months without work. And, I was able to squeeze in all the travel for under $10K.
While there was no single highlight for the year, India definitely left the strongest impression. But before I slander the places that didn’t smell like piss, cows, and spices, here’s a list of where I was in 2008:
January: Portland (PDX), Los Angeles
Snowboarding at Mt. Hood.
Building and smashing miniatures in Los Angeles.
January was a mixture of work and play. Three of the better commercials I’ve made were completed. Two were destined for the Super Bowl. One was never aired. Like the year prior, there was some ill-equiped snowboarding at Mt. Hood and trips to LA. While in Portland, I ate plenty of fresh baked cinnamon rolls and drank piping hot artisan coffees while growing out a beard and being concerned about the environment while suffering from sunless winter depression.
February: PDX, Paris, Valance, Barcelona, Second Life
The misty Oregon beaches.
Hiking in Monserrat.
Griefing in Second Life.
February brought my first trip to Europe. In Paris, I stayed with my friend C. who had been freelancing there. We bummed around Paris, south to Valance and took a train to Barcelona. The exchange rate was cringe-worthy. A highlight was hiking in the johnson-looking mountains of Monserrat outside Barcelona. The wet, foggy Spanish weather was a stark contrast to the wet, foggy weather back in Oregon.
March: PDX, Austin
Hiking in Portland.
SXSW and seeing Austin as an adult.
By March, my travel plans were locked in stone, but work still didn’t know. I volunteered to go to SXSW anyway, just to see what the tech conference was like. Verdict: mildly lame. My parents met me in Austin. I did not see the bats. I ate some BBQ and took a bunch of photos with my new Nikon D40.
April: PDX, Denver
Watching races in Denver.
Sitting in sunny Portland parks.
At the beginning of April, I quit my job. I cut my shackles fully on the 15th and promptly went on a week-long trip to Denver with J. to visit her brother’s family. Good times from frigid mountain top to dusty valley. Highlights: Seeing her uncle race on a dirt track, riding the cog railway up Pike’s Peak, eating sub sandwiches like hoboes in downtown Denver, lying in the sun outside and watching rabbits play in the grass.
May: PDX, San Francisco
Pt. Reyes scenery.
Putting stuff in storage.
J. and I took a trip to San Francisco. We got a peppy ride through Zipcar and crammed a lot of my favorite sights in. I always gravitate towards the lighthouses when I visit, and this trip was no exception. When we returned to Portland, it was time to pack all of our worldly crap into a small storage space. We were uncertain when we would see it again. Good riddence. J. and I parted company to spend time with family before shipping out to Asia.
June: Santa Fe, Bozeman, Dallas, Bangkok, Krabi
Driving to Montana from Santa Fe.
Watching egrets in Dallas.
Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Amazing vistas in Krabi.
Relaxing in the desert air, epic road trips, historic family reunions, walking a marathon as a “Dauminator”, bird watching, vine cutting, long flights, exploring a hot, humid megalopolis, long-haul bus rides, monkeys, knee busting hikes, amazing karst limestone scenery, excellent and cheap Thai food: June was the most varied month by far.
July: Rai Leh, Koh Phi Phi, Chiang Mai
Beautiful Rai Leh beaches.
Beautiful Phi Phi water.
Our Chiang Mai apartment.
Motorbike trip into the countryside.
Conflicted thoughts while beach bumming: The Thai beaches are amazing, but the development is gross and the services overpriced. By the end of it, we were itching to settle down in Chiang Mai. It’s fun to be able to say that J. and I’s first apartment together was in Thailand.
August: Chiang Mai
Hanging out at Huay Tung Tao.
Getting lost on the ride to Pai.
Just one month into settling in Chiang Mai and we were relaxing like pros. Eating fruit, walking around, eating meals, walking around, lounging at lakes while eating, surfing the net, lounging, sleeping, blogging. We took an amazing motorbike ride to Pai that involved getting lost and pushing my riding skills to the limit. It involved navigating a 125cc scooter along a mud road in the mountains, in the rain, as the sun set. Two-up. Slipping, sliding, dodging holes and cows at night, seeking shelter in a mountain cabbage patch with an old man, getting gas from a hand pump–the whole journey is etched deep into my memory.
September: Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Delhi, Leh, Varanasi, Agra
Ride to Doi Inthanon NP.
Our unexpected stay in Sri Lanka.
Amazing, amazing Leh and Ladakh.
Goodbye Thailand, hello India. India was filthy, hard and annoying to travel in. But man oh man is the payoff worth the hassles. Luckily, the rocky time in Delhi was countered by insane scenery and serenity in the mountain town of Leh. I knew instantly on arrival that it was the best place I had ever been. The 5 days we spent walking around the epic countryside and crumbling monasteries only cemented this belief. I will return to Leh.
October: Jodhpur, Osiayan, Udaipur, Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore
Some building in Agra.
Blue, old Jodhpur.
Riding camels in the middle of nowhere.
Sick in Goa.
Seeing the Thai King.
After a month in India I was burned out and physically sick. Plenty of amazing sights and filth were witnessed in a variety of Rajastan towns. I learned that while riding a camel is cool, it’s actually a lot of work and hard on the butt bones. Mumbai was surprisingly livable feeling and had abundant sugar cane juice. In Goa, I threw up for the first time in over ten years. I was glad to get back to Thailand and it’s sanitary ways.
November: Chiang Mai, Beijing
Mind blowing lantern spectacle for Loy Krathong.
Biking in Beijing.
Hiking the Great Wall.
Our month back in Chiang Mai passed quickly before we headed to China. Beijing was a wonderful contrast of old and new. Hiking the Great Wall was, well, great. Eating street breads and bicycling around the city was a highlight. I hadn’t ridden a bike in 8 years. I hadn’t ever eaten street breads. No vomiting.
December: Shanghai, Guilin, Lonji, Yangshuo, Hong Kong, Dallas
The massiveness of Shanghai.
Hiking the terraces of Longji.
Bustling Hong Kong.
Hoop dreams and family comfort in Dallas.
The rest of the China trip consisted of beautiful rural scenery sandwiched between megalopolises. I thought I would like Shanghai more than I did. The place was swirling with relentless dust and construction. Shanghai is massive and so in flux that it’s hard to judge. But it was the only town in China where we got a taste of what it would be like to be expats. Verdict: doable.
After two major Chinese cities, I was happy to get into the countryside. The rice terraces weren’t in their verdant prime, but still pretty breathtaking. Yangshuo was as beautiful as the pictures. Hong Kong was the perfect combination of East and West. I can imagine living in “The Kong,” as they call it there. I could be all up in there, flossin and honging over that Kong.
I was back in Dallas for the new year. It was a mellow transition. This wandering, blogging soul feels free and in limbo. I’m ready to get carried by the current into clearer waters again. There is much ocean to explore. In time, I will swim back upstream to spawn.
If 2008 was a year of great adventure, I resolve to make 2009 a year of continued adventure. Beyond that, everything is a mystery.