The year started out with a fireworks show on the mystical Mayan Lake Atitlan. From there I traveled to Sicily, France, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Japan, Sri Lanka, back to Italy, England and finally New York in time for Christmas.
Not only did I visit heaps of countries, even by my standards, but I also pushed my own limits, and sought out new experiences in ways I never had in years past.
I helped a good friend escape from Sudan, kicked a deadly habit in Sweden, ate way too many bugs in Cambodia and explored Sri Lanka like a king to name a few.
These experiences taught me about myself. They furthered my understanding of the world. And they prepared me for what I know will be another enlightening year of travels.
In chronological order, here are the worst and best moments of 2014 (and a bit of 2015).
1) Living On Lake Atitlan (Jan)
I decided to make Lake Atitlan a home base and the idea felt good. I started a destination blog about the lake, Atitlan Living, I met loads of cool expats, and began contemplating some kind of Runaway Tour. Simply eating papayas, writing, and brainstorming the future reminded me that it’s ok to do nothing and take it easy.
2) Successfully Smuggling My Friend To Sweden (May)
It was incredibly gratifying to follow through with my promise to help Ashenafi escape Sudan and get to Sweden. He experienced so many “firsts”; first beer at a bar, first Thai lady boy on the TGV to Paris, and first time he wasn’t afraid of being beat by crooked Sudanese cops. Now he’s becoming a Swedish citizen. I feel grateful to have been able to help him, albeit just a little bit.
3) Plight Of African Asylum Seekers (May)
Learning of our mutual friends drowning was numbing. Trying to console Ashenafi was heart breaking. Hearing of a sadistic smuggling operation based out of Libya was maddening. Learning of the enormous scale of immigration via the Mediterranean made me realize that it isn’t going to stop until the much larger issue of global inequality between the developed North and underdeveloped south is addressed.
In the end, this experience taught me many things, but ultimately reminded me to be grateful for all that I have, all of the opportunities I’ve had throughout my life, and the privileged position I’m in to make a difference.
4) Eating Lunch At Statoil (June)
After I got Ashenafi to Sweden, I popped into a Norwegian gas station chain called Statoil. Here I feasted on a bacon and cheese stuffed hot dog over instant mashed potatoes covered in crispy fried onions, ketchup and mustard. Conclusion, happiness can often be found in a hotdog.
5) Thailand In The Low Season (Aug)
Although I had visited Thailand 4 times before, I had never been during the low season. At this time, the weather was cooler, prices could be haggled down and there were far fewer people, making it the perfect place to contemplate a future Thailand tour. Travel lesson: Don’t base travel plans around weather forecasts. Rainy seasons aren’t as bad as they say they are, plus everything is cheaper!
6) Trying Crickets In Cambodia (Oct)
Following some peer pressure at a Cambodian bus stop, I crossed bugs off the bucket list (Although they were never on it). Some things taste exactly how they look…not so good. Not so good at all.
7) Meeting This Guy! (Nov)
I had just arrived in Tokyo. I had nothing planned for the day and I didn’t even know where I was going to sleep. So I ended up just hanging around Shibuya with this guy. Even though I speak decent Japanese, I had no idea what he was on about. Still, it was better than hanging out by myself. Sometimes any company is good company, especially if it’s this character(/model for Mugatu’s garbage fashion line).
7) Exploring Sri Lanka Like A King (Nov)
I couldn’t quite believe it when I got the email. Out hundreds of bloggers, I was chosen.
They (Sri Lankan Airlines & Cinnamon Hotels) flew me there, took me to see the best of Sri Lanka, fed me 5 star food, and flew me out to anywhere in the world I desired. Never in my life had I traveled in such style.
Not only did I get to experience Sri Lanka like royalty but I got to hangout and travel with other travel bloggers, all of whom turned out to be wonderful mixes between hardcore travelers and computer nerds. Among them, I really hit it off with Kate from AdventurousKate.com and eventually ended up leading a tour with her through Central America.
The whole trip reinforced the fact that traveling isn’t about where you are, but who you’re traveling with.
8) Losing My Tooth (Early Dec)
I fought a baguette in Rome and the baguette won. I always wanted to try out the toothless look and finally got my wish. But 1 week in and I was ready to get it fixed. People just don’t take you as seriously without a tooth. The missing tooth reminded me that I really need to be careful for what I wish for sometimes, and that I really need to floss more too.
9) Everything Coming Together (Dec)
By the time December rolled around I found myself right back where I had started, on Lake Atitlan. The tour that I had planned the year before was set to begin in January. The destination blog had grown. And I realized that I had shaped 2014 exactly how I wanted it to be.
So What’s In Store For The Rest Of 2015?
Since 2015 is already half over, let’s get caught up a little bit more.
1) More Runaway Tours (Jan, Feb, Mar, 2015)
1 tour of Central America somehow turned into 3 more. It was tough and stressful at times but these tours helped me evolve as a person more than any travel experience before. They instilled a kind of take-charge confidence that had been lacking in my life. And through them I made loads of new friends, 5 of which are actually going to join me again on Runaway Tours in Thailand and Japan.
2) I Got My Tooth Replaced & Met A Really Nice Girl(Feb 2015)
West Nyack Dental quoted me 6,000$ to fix all my dental problems. So how did I get my tooth fixed?
- Took a 129$ flight to Guatemala.
- Found an incredibly talented dentist named Dr. Titi
- Got everything fixed for just over 1000$
- Met a Swedish/Croatian girl named Matea.
I actually met Matea before I lost my tooth, which just goes to show that you don’t need a full mouth of teeth to get a girl.
3) The Best Bad Decision I Made (Feb 2015)
I could easily walk anywhere I wanted to. I would only be able to use her for 2 more months. I wouldn’t be covered by insurance should anything happen. Plus, at 1,200 dollars I really couldn’t afford her.
Nevertheless, I decided to buy a 125 cc Yamaha enduro motorcycle! And boy was it worth it. I rode to a coffee plantation in the Guatemalan highlands, and even started offering day trips around Lake Atitlan.
Happiness can come from things, if things are surfboards and motorcycles.
4) I Quit Smoking! (March, 2015)
After over a decade of at least two packs a day, I finally kicked cancer sticks! I had tried countless times before but never succeeded.
So how did I finally quit?
I simply got sick of it. I got tired of being tired. I could feel my brain slowing down. I had 1,000$ in tobacco induced dental work. (I also met a girl who said that if I didn’t stop we couldn’t be together. So there’s that too ;)
So What’s In Store For The Rest Of 2015?
Now I’m back in Sweden for the summer. I’m here to learn me some Swedish, make pepper steak BBQs, run in the forest, celebrate Midsommar (theSummer Solstice), and finish writing my book with the help of the midnight sun.
But I won’t be in Sweden the whole summer. On June 24th I’m taking the train down to Croatia and stopping in Poland and Hungary on the way. On July 14th I’m back in Sweden and taking a week to discover Stockholm. On August 16th I’m flying to Bangkok for Runaway Tours: Thailand Island Hopper.
After that, it’s Indonesia or maybe Sri Lanka for a month. Then it’s Japan for the Japan Tour and finally back to Guatemala on Nov 1st for Runaway Tours: Central America.
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