2013 Travel Highlights, Perspectives and 2014 Adventures

After giving up everything and leaving home in July 2012, 2013 was set to be my first entire year filled with constant travel, random adventure and difficult challenges. And it was.

In 2013 I travelled through nine countries (I am a slow traveller), seven of them new, with only one I didn’t really like. I was ill more times than I can remember, yet laughed harder and felt more healthy and active than I’ve ever done before. I stumbled at an attempt to travel with people close to me, being left with little more than damaged friendships, yet met some of the most incredible people I couldn’t imagine not being in my life now. I got myself into some tricky relationships, attempted whilst living out the sporadic nature of a nomadic lifestyle and building a business, yet had days long encounters I will treasure forever.

Leaving to travel wasn’t just about hitting up a ton of destinations just to say that I had done it (I could rant for hours about ‘country tickers’), but about seeking out life experiences and watching myself completely change for the better, through the good and the bad. Some saw my decision to leave as selfish; some became jealous and quickly faded away; some were too wrapped up in their own sadness to understand how important this was to me; others have supported me constantly from day one. Personally, I’ve never felt more happy about the person I have become.

But one thing really took me by surprise this year – I never expected I would be back home before the year ended.  When I left the UK, I stubbornly vowed never to return except for very brief visits, and I longed to escape a multitude of issues and challenges that would best be untangled, worked out and forgiven once on the independent road to anywhere. The truth is you have to come home at some point, you have to face the shit you tried to run away from and you need to recoup, play catch up and stay grounded.

And so my major lesson this year is that travel is about change – change that happens by chance and which leads to excitement, and the change that’s initially challenging but which actually works out for the better.  Like realising that its ok for your plans to completely switch (I was supposed to go around the world and not just settle in Asia) and that coming home was neither failure nor the end, because rather than be in a perpetual cycle of travel and hitting a point where things appear normal or not that exciting (it happened), I have a renewed sense of extreme excitement about taking off long-term again in 2014.

I’m not a planner, but 2013 threw me off my original track. I wouldn’t change a thing, not when I look back on everything and remember some of my best highlights…

1. Volunteering in Cambodia

Volunteering, where possible and in places that mean something to me, will always be a key part of how I travel. Two years after my first visit to Cambodia I returned to try to make a difference, working at New Hope in Siem Reap for over three months. Aiding one of the biggest slum areas in Siem Reap, based only minutes from the Angkor Wat temple complex, this charity provides free schooling and medical care to a community who needs it most. I spent a lot of time in the village helping to assess families in need and I even tried by hand at being an assistant teacher. But the one thing I gained most from this? The realisation that I have nothing at all in my life to complain about. Nothing.

Volunteering in Cambodia

2. Summiting Mount Kinabalu

Trekking to Everest Base Camp is one of my biggest life achievements, and whilst that was a huge deal, I have never reached the summit of a mountain – to actually stand on the top next to one of those wooden signs, looking exhausted but elated. Being in Malaysian Borneo is like entering an outdoor adventure paradise and despite the hefty cost (around £175) to spend two days hiking, summiting Mount Kinabalu was exhilarating. A six-hour trek up and a 2:00am start the next morning for the final leg on ascent was both challenging and dangerous – pulling yourself over rock ledges with little more than about two inches of rock to stand on. I may not have been able to walk for four days afterwards, but I was absolutely buzzing.

Mount Kinabalu

3. Finally Visiting Myanmar / Burma

Myanmar is normally overlooked by those travelling through the well trodden plains of South East Asia, but I was determined to make it during my time back in this region, not only because it had been open to tourism for a while, but because I wanted to support a new and emerging economy. I adored this country, the incredible and beautiful people, the rich diversity of landscape and the growing infrastructure which made travel in Myanmar/Burma rather adventurous and exciting! If this year has taught me anything about Myanmar, it’s that too many travellers are quick to brag about who has seen it in it’s best and most ‘authentic’ state, overlooking the true purpose of why we should be travelling there – supporting those whose lives are slowly adapting from the slow release of a military regime.

Myanmar

4. Spending One Month in Japan

Japan was the dream destination I initially let go of when I was planning for my long-term travels. Sadly, it was too expensive when I initially outlined my monthly budgets over a set period of around 18 months – the cost of the Japan Rail Pass alone was off-putting. However, Japan just keep creeping into my thoughts and during one night in Bangkok I randomly booked a plane ticket. It was a ‘now or never move’ and despite spending a lot, it was really worth each and every penny to experience the mad and mannered contrasts of daily life here.

Japan

5. Discovering the Hidden Gem of Taiwan

I knew only of Taiwan from a friend I once travelled with. This hidden gem of Asia overshadowed by neighbouring Japan, Korea and China, it fast became one of my most favourite countries. It’s a haven for hiking, cycling and city exploration – combining all my favourite activities in one easily accessible area – and as a mountain plain surrounded by cities and scenic towns, it’s a beautiful yet overlooked part of the world.

Taiwan

6. Winning the British Travel Press Awards – Travel Blogger of the Year

I’ve spent the best part of my 15 months on the road working… because I love sharing my stories and experiences and encouraging others to travel. To have your hard work recognised is a dream come true, not to mention getting to meet one of your childhood heroes who inspired you to travel back in the day when the kinds of adventures you were watching seemed as off-limits as travelling to the moon. I want to be like Michael Palin. That is all.

meeting Michael Palin

7. Finally Getting to Israel (and Palestine) After 12 Years

I had Israeli friends at university and the truth was I never really knew where it was. All I remember was one friend showing me pictures of his days of service in the army, talking about a city called Tel Aviv and witnessing other fascinating things, like reading books backwards. It was mysterious and sounded almost exotic, yet deeper chats revealed that it was a complex and difficult place for the outside world to really gets to grips with and understand. I knew one day I would have to visit and sporadically over the years I tried many attempts to research and understand the rich history and political debate, except it just baffled me and I too quickly gave up. That was until I became a writer interested in issues-based destinations and misunderstood places and had the opportunity to work with an incredible team of people who know how to help people to travel in Israel without political bias.  The start of 2014 will be making sense of it all, writing it all up and… going back.

Israel

What’s next?

2014 is quickly filling up with exciting travels plans. In February I will be heading to Montreal, Canada, to learn how to ski before handing to Toronto and then road tripping with some new Canadian travel buddies to Quebec city for the Ice Festival. I then have some exciting plans in Germany before leaving the UK again in March for the start of another long stint of gallivanting the globe, starting in India and Sri Lanka. Moving out of Asia for a while, I will begin travelling around the Middle East (a rough plan is still in progress) starting around May time – an area I am keen to build an expertise in. Israel gave me a taste for this region of the world and I am excited to be mapping out plans for a return there, alongside the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Oman. Watch this space…

Comments

  1. says

    Becky I starting watching you in the spring as I planned my RTW adventure for the fall. I have so much enjoyed our trips as we passed EastVsWest. I too am home now after only 4 months, and look forward to your future adventures. May God continue to Bless you with great opportunities to make a difference!

  2. says

    Wow, that has been obviously a busy year for you, full of travel adventures and amazing people you will never forget! Great photos from the road. Wishing you more awesome journeys in 2014 and let me know when you visit Germany, I might be around :).

  3. says

    Amazing journey in 2013, Becki and so much to look forward to in 2014! What time of year did you climb Mt. Kinabalu? We were there in July and thought it was awesome too despite also limping for days! Happy New Year and wishing you all the best for new adventures in 2014!

  4. says

    What an amazing year for you :) And it’s going to be another fantastic year for you this year! I’m looking forward to reading your posts about Israel, and I’m looking more into visiting Taiwan after your adventures there – especially visiting the National Parks.

    All the best for 2014!

  5. says

    Sounds like you have lots in store for you in 2014. I would love to volunteer while traveling someday. Quebec City is beautiful! Congrats on your travel blogging award; you deserve it. Enjoy!

  6. says

    Happy New Year Becki! I am a avid reader of your blog and I am planning to post SELFIE SUNDAY on my blog featuring Travel Blogger’s Favorite Shot of a Place that include him/her on a photo. This is my way of getting to know (or re-knowing) fellow travelers who share the same passion I have. Please send your photo and a short description of the photo (where it was taken/why is it your favorite) with your blog’s address at oman_serapio@yahoo.com. Each SELFIE SUNDAY shall be posted every, erm, Sunday so please share if you have time. Thanks a lot and your fans in the Philippines (me included) shall be very pleased if you participate. MABUHAY!

  7. says

    Oh, this is so exciting Becki. Your plans for 2014 sound great. Where in Germany will you be going to? I am looking forward to reading about your new adventures and I have enjoyed reading about your adventures in 2013 very much as well! :-)

  8. julien says

    as a swiss Australian I’d like to see you go to Switzerland they say or at least I do due to the wars if you want a true German experience travel to Switzerland , Bern is a amazing Germanic medieval city! You can also debunk the myth that it’s “expensive” their are bargains to be had their, like chocolate !

  9. Curly Yemenite says

    Nice article!
    Sounds a very interesting year, and I am glad to be part of your last part.
    P.S. you forgot to mention Yemen in the “What’s next” paragraph :-)

  10. says

    Didn’t realise you’d been at New Hope, I went there for a visit, the kids are amazing! We even met the guy who set it up! I’m currently volunteering at a school in Thailand – it’s a great part of the travelling experience. Congrats on the award, we’ll deserved!

  11. kev says

    Hi Beck – love the blog. Planning my own trip at the moment, am going to India in march for work but then after that am hoping to head to SE Asia. Your plans sound amazing – I was wondering though how you intend to get around the border stamps if you’re entering/leaving Israel? Or are you just going to avoid countries that have issues with them?

    • says

      I was issued with a paper ‘visa’ when I arrived in Israel. It wasn’t attached to my passport and was taken from me when I left. This appears to be a new system being implemented due to the issues arising with having an Israel passport stamp. Good news for me as I intend to travel a lot in the Middle East.

  12. says

    Wow, I am sure you had a fantastic 2013! Wish a 2014 full of new adventures and surprises (and I can’t wait to read about all you experience).

  13. Molly says

    What a fruitful year 2013 you had, Becki. Envy but admire you more :)
    Look forward to reading your interesting blog about your adventurous journeys in 2014, particularly Middle East and Sri Lanka which I have plan to visit this year. Hopefully your blog would come just in time for me to read & take note. Happy New Year 2014 to you !!!

  14. says

    Hell yeah Becki, love what you said about slow travel. Thought I’d love to see every country, you can’t experience it or become engrained in what makes it special in just a weeks time. I know plenty that just bounce all over a few days here and there, and probably scoff at the fact that I want to spend 6 months to a year in Thailand.

    Anyway, you had such an exciting year, I’m really excited to see Myanmar and Israel at some point. I have a friend traveling here to move to Thailand as well with me but I’m a little worried about traveling with him because I know how living with friends can be.

    Onward to 2014, sounds like you have an exciting year ahead of you darling!

    • says

      I can’t imagine bouncing through somewhere too quickly now. Think i would get frustrated and upset or just plain grumpy! Haha. Sometimes though, places are small enough for a two week stint!

      Glad to hear you are cemented yourself in Thailand – an ideal base to adventure around the region, especially with Bangkok being an awesome flight hub!

      Here’s to our 2014 adventures. Maybe I will finally see you on the road!

  15. says

    I actually just stumbled upon your blog, actually thru the comments of another blog (one where you were supporting the rights of elephants in Thailand – couldn’t agree more – this caused me to check out your blog!) I wish you all of the best in 2014 for your life & travels and can’t wait to follow your past and present adventures!

  16. Robert. says

    Hi..Becki…i’m from Jakarta, Indonesia. i’m so interested with your journey to other countries in the world…you are so blessed that you can go around the world…that’s my dream also….you must visit another cities in Indonesia, because there so much to see and you must experience it….i’m waiting you to come here…God bless…Thanx

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