Yes I know 2011 is over but finally I am putting down my review of last years travel. I was introduced to the concept of yearly reviews in 2010. It’s certainly an interesting way to look back over the course of the year and chart where you have been, what happened and what didn’t happen like you expected or hoped.
I have decided not to do a personal review this year as I went through a relationship breakdown in early January and decided to look at the positive things that happened last year and travel was certainly one of them. So despite not setting out at the beginning of the year to travel so much, in March I realised if I could quiet possibly travel to a country each month in 2011. Not each country turned out how I would have liked but there was lots of laughter and a few injuries and a lot of smelly bathrooms.
January – Bulgaria: This was to be my reward to myself, a week snowboarding. Dreams were dashed on the first day on the slopes when I broke my tailbone. Trust me to find the only ice spot on one of runs. Though given I had been running on empty for months being forced to do not a lot gave me time to read and relax. The universe clearly had other ideas for me! Though I managed to hobble around snow covered streets and get a couple new tattoos.
February – Nepal: With a broken tailbone trekking was not my objective in Nepal but 4 days of meditation and prayer at Kopan Monastery just outside Kathmandu was perfect. The laughter of novice monks and the smell of incense intensified my four days of pure bliss. Nepal is an amazing country and the smiles of people clearly living in poverty brought perspective to my life.
March – Afghanistan: Whilst this was a work trip it brought back painful memories. This was to be the first time I had returned to Afghan since leaving in June the year before. Since then a number of people I knew had been killed or brutally injured. It was stressful and to top it off whilst I was there I was having feelings of someone at home being hurt. I was correct but it was my beautiful dog Bruce whom had passed away. This trip was possibly the worst of the whole years travel.
April – Iraq: Again another work trip but I had never stayed in Baghdad. I had previously served in Talill in the south of Iraq but never got to see the Green Zone in full swing. It is certainly not a bustling centre of military activity now and despite seeing the crossed swords it was rather dull compared to what I thought I would see. That is a good thing considering people are still being killed in the Green Zone by rocket attacks.
May -Romania: Dracula’s castle was a slight shock, it was white, bright and not as kitschy as I expected. Guess I was looking for blood and gore. I had decided to travel by train through Romania and it was truly a wonderful experience, sans the leaving my camera on the train. I wish I could have blamed the gypsies for stealing it but the truth was I just left it behind. The country side was amazingly beautiful with rugged mountains and contrasting beautiful green trees. I spent 2 nights in a spa where I got to see a little more of the Romanian men than I would of liked when I looked at some young men playing in the creek behind the spa and they were having a game that involved playing with themselves to the cheers of their mates till one finished. I don’t think I am quite ready for that amount of open sexuality.
June – Hungary: An overnight trip from Romania into Hungary saw me delivered to delicious chicken dishes and the most amazing free city walk. I regret not spending more time in Budapest as it was an amazing city that needs at least a week to be fully appreciated. Love lock trees and hidden caves along with spectacular buildings but the highlight was seeing a Queensland jersey in the distance working towards me. A little bit of home so far away made this traveler smile.
July – Lebanon: I decided to go to Lebanon after reading a book on dark tourism. I certainly am not afraid of dangerous places but this much more stable than I expected. However after eating lambs balls, fish I’d picked myself and the late night party lifestyle I was glad that early morning walks rewarded me with french language and historic buildings to wander around. I am very grateful to new friends who showed me around and took me to places I wouldn’t have thought of by myself.
August – Turkey (Istanbul): Catching up with an old girlfriend to explore Istanbul was lovely. Turkish baths (read getting naked and having someone else wash you – lazy luxury!) and souks, mosques and roof top bars. Istanbul even during the end of Ramadan is a bustling and amazing place. I could have spent much more than 5 days exploring this remarkable city.
September – Slovenia: The big trip of the year!! By big I mean 2864 meters big. I convinced a girlfriend to come climb Mt Triglav with me. With no training and 18 hours later we’d climbed, conquered but we felt every muscle in our bodies. The greatest reward of this trip was relaxing with a fire in our “free” accommodation thanks to one friend with another remarkably lovely friend. Lots of laughter and good times. Slovenian waterways were pollution free and everything about Slovenia was wonderful. We were on the border of Italy and Slovenia so one night we popped over to Italy for a dinner of pizza. Sounds as good as it was, just popping over to Italy for real pizza. Makes me smile and hungry just thinking about it.
October – Bahrain: I went to Bahrain just after having a surgical procedure so booking myself into what I thought was a 5 star hotel (turned out to be 4 star) was a good idea. I relaxed on my balcony over watching the pool. Had a number of massages and then explored the tiny country with a driver. One remarkable thing about Bahrain is its basically a former burial ground. A trip to the museum is a must to realise that despite this being a rather boring country now its got a dark history.
November – India (Dharamasla): Whilst technically this gives India as a country I have visited I am not completely counting it. I went to Dharamasla because of my long attraction with Buddhism. I was booked further away from the Dalai Lama’s temple than the website led me to believe and a lack of internet meant I was able to relax at night. I loved the cows in the area and walking outside after Dubai’s stifling summer was yet another pure bliss holiday.
December – Australia: Last but not least the most important country. Australia! Home with family and friends, Christmas with loved ones and storms. Nothing is so comforting than a late afternoon storm to remind me of the power of mother nature and memories of home.
So in the twelve months that was 2011 I visited nine new countries and managed to complete my mission of a country each month. I also meet a vast array of new and old friends. I didn’t get travel belly in any country even though I threw up a number of times from vile toilets that seem to pepper my travels no matter were I go. This year I certainly won’t be attempting to get a new or a country each month. As much as it was fun it was exhausting. This year the plan is for an African adventure, first stop Zambia to see my cousin with my mother.
Life is richer with travel, don’t sit at home and miss the beauty of the world around us!