I could rant and rave about this trip all day. I was so excited for this trip and planned it months in advance. Typically, my trips are the result of last minute vacation time from work. Usually they are only planned about a month out. But this trip was planned and paid for 6 months ahead of time which made it so it felt like I was waiting for eternity.
I had about two and a half weeks of vacation from my terrible office job in America. It still blows my mind that Americans work for a year at a dull and uninspiring job and then are only rewarded with two weeks of vacation. Most people I know around the world have a standard of about a month off and often even more. Sometimes people in America are even discouraged from taking that vacation time because some feel like it isn't showing a true commitment to your job if you want to take a break. What kind of backwards thinking is that? You work hard for 50 months a year, take those two weeks! After a year of hating my life and spending eight hours a day talking to elderly people on the phone about their retirements plans *snore*, I quit my jobs right before my trip and didn't look back.
When deciding what to do with my precious two weeks I asked my Seoul Sister Sejeong if she wanted to go somewhere. We both didn't have any one place in mind so we just threw ideas around for a bit before landing on the perfect one. Africa. In just a few minutes I was able to find a budget backpackers safari which was about 1/10th the price of all the other Safaris out there. It was designed for people under 35 who wanted to see the best that Africa had to offer and didn't mind camping under the stars and helping cook food. If we were staying in hotel accommodations I feel like we would have missed so much. One night I fell asleep to the sounds of hippos fighting in the nearby river and another I woke up and opened my door to see elephants wandering through the campsite. Not your typical 'budget' experience.
During the planning process we picked up another fellow travel who wanted to join in the fun, my brother. So now the three of us were going on the adventure of a lifetime. The tour was 12 days and started in Zambia and we made our way down through Botswana and Namibia. Before and after the tour we were set to spend a few days in South Africa. All together is was about 19 days of fast paced, early morning, water chugging adventuring. We saw all the animals I could dream of. We saw so many elephants and zebras that it began to be just a normal thing. One night we camped around the watering hole and spent hours just watching the elephants, zebras, giraffes, and rhinos drink and play. Giraffes are my favorite animal so I was thrilled to see them in their elements instead of in cages and abused like they are in zoos. They are such dainty dorks you can't help but smile when watching them, especially when they drink water.
Our guides were funny and informative, the food was delicious and the moments took my breath away. Looking back it seems like it was all a dream because it seems too amazing to even be real. If you have ever thought about going to Africa, go. If you haven't ever thought about going, go anyway. It is not secret that so much of the amazing wildlife that we were blessed to see is dying out. Everyday we hear about how many rhinos are being poached by hunters and how soon there wont be any left. It isn't fair and it isn't right. But you have to see them before they are gone forever.
I can't compare it to any other trip because it wasn't like any trip. We took small boats through the reeds and saw hippos tiny ears pop up next to us. We road quads through the Namibia dessert and saw colors I had never seen before. We saw penguins laying on the beach in South Africa. We had our lunch stolen by a baboon who jumped off the car onto my back. We went hiking with our Uber driver because he didn't want to miss the view. We drank wine while watching baby elephants play in the mud and get scolded by their moms. We saw lions eating an elephant that they had taken down. We saw sunsets that covered the sky. We hung off the side of Victoria falls and tempted fate. We saw more stars than I have ever seen in my life. And we were smiling every minute.
It was rich, raw, perfect and absolutely unforgettable.
Thank you Africa
Australia is a big beautiful play land. My last stop before I left was to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. You can't really spend 6 months living in Australia and not make it to its biggest attraction. Thankfully I was heading there during off season when it was 'cold' and by cold it was in the 90's the whole time and I left with a sunburn despite the buckets of sunscreen that I applied.
I missed my plane because they changed the gate and didn't announce it to anyone. So everyone at the wrong gate had to book a whole new flight. It was a really frustrating experience as I only had two whole days in Cairns and was fully booked for both days. It was a bad start to the weekend but I got it sorted.
When I finally got there I went and had a walk around the city which had a great market to wander around in. In the morning I went to the docks for my day trip out onto the Great Barrier Reef. One of the highlights of the trip was actually the ride to the reef where we were surrounded by whales for a whole hour. It was amazing and such an unexpected surprise, of course no good pictures were taken because that is an impossible task to get a good picture of a huge animal in the distance.
When we got to the reef we stopped off at several different snorkeling locations. The water was shallow enough that it would have been a waste to scuba dive. The rest of the day was spend boating around and getting an inevitable sunburn.
The next day I went on a tour of the Daintree rain forest. On the way we saw wallabies and kangaroos. We went stomping through the marsh in search for kangaroos and crocodiles. There were wild turkeys everywhere at Josephine Falls and had amazing food at an all you eat buffet.
The highlight of this trip was seeing all the baby crocodiles on the side of the riverbanks. You never think of them as being as tiny and adorable as they are. Many of them don't make it to adulthood, but the ones who do are quite impressive. They don't move much as they spend most of the day lounging on the riverbanks. But even so they are really exciting to see!
Most of what is on my bucket list involves the places I want to go, what I want to experience and the animals I want to play with. But a few on there are about trying something new with myself to see what happens. So this past year I tried a couple of things with my hair to see how it felt to be an evolving unicorn like Lady Gaga. I was lucky enough to have jobs where the color of my hair did not matter. I knew that I would have to get an adult job soon, and they would not be thrilled about rainbow colored hair, so it was my only chance.
In December, I died my hair blue and thought it was absolutely amazing. People I never expected to commented on it and it made me feel fantastic. Being in Washington state, I was surrounded by other people with various colors of hair so I felt like I was a part of the cool crowd...finally. Walking into Lush, I was always met with a slew of woman all with flowing mermaid hair. Eventually my blue faded into a light greenish color and I covered it up with a dark brown to try and hide the grow outs. After about a month of this I was antsy again to try something new, because why not?
So I headed to the store and picked up some dark purple dye and went to work. This was also a winner for me, but seemed to fade pretty quickly. I also tend to be lazy on touch ups so it was partially my fault. After arriving back to the states and getting a real job, I dyed it back auburn to try and not draw too much attention to myself. But who knows, that probably won't last long.
*Two t-shirts were harmed in the making of this blog accomplishment*
Thailand has become one of the most popular tourist destinations. While this can be frustrating for a traveler who isn't thrilled to see a lot of other foreigners in the same area, it was still an amazing trip to go to. Though I feel like I barely saw any of what Thailand has to offer. It is a beautiful country with such friendly people, fresh food and beautiful landscapes. I had planned a trip to Thailand two years before but had to cancel due to my boss forcing me to extend my teaching contract in Korea. So I was beyond excited when it worked out for me to go. An added surprise was that I would actually be traveling with two others girls which was such a relief after spending so much time traveling on my own.
One of my travel mates was my former Korean exchange student that I hadn't seen since Sophomore year of high school. The second travel mate was my teacher friend I met while living in Korea. So while they are both from Korea, they did not know each other but were committed to spending two weeks together.
We had the same days off work and it all fell together for us to meet in Thailand for some adventuring. We were going to go to three different areas to try and see as much of the country as possible. We flew into Bangkok and spent a few days there before escaping to the beach in Krabi then heading off to soak in the culture of Chiang Mai.
Our time in Bangkok was mainly spent at the markets and temples. We did the weekend market and night market in the same day and it was utterly exhausting and I bought way too many weird shirts. But is there really a limit to how many funny Asian shirts you can have? I don't think so! We went to Wat Arun which was beautiful and is way better in person as you can see all the intricate carvings that cover the entire temple. There was a funeral for a monk that day, so there was music and free food for all given put by cute old toothless women.
After eating our weight in Bangkok we were off to Krabi for some surf and sun. We did some boat tours to get a better feel of the area. I put on loads of sunscreen, wore a shirt and sat in the shade and still walked away with a nasty sunburn. I went off on my own to do some scuba diving which was great because I saw an endless supply of box fish which are always my favorites. We went on a really strange sunset boat tour where we were supposed to go to 7 islands but only ended up going to about 3 and spent most of the time confused or transferring back and forth between the big boat, smaller boat and the beach over and over again. It was the strangest trip of my life but the sunset was surreal.
Our final stop was in Chiang mai where the highlight was going to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary where we got to play, feed and bathe the elephants. It was so much fun and one of the greatest things I have ever done. The baby even sat on my lap for a bit, it was so precious.
Overall it was an amazing trip. The people were so friendly and helpful which always makes traveling easier. I want to go back someday and spend more time in the remote areas where there are not as many tourists.
I have been here for four months now and I still feel like I haven't seen any of the country. It is so huge and there is too much to see! I am currently living in the Northern Beaches of Sydney where I can walk to the beach for a swim and watch the endless hours of surfing. I was expecting everyone here to have the laid back beach vibe that I became so used to in South East Asia. But here, everyone is always dressed up and looking perfect walking around with their protein shakes and acai bowls. The Northern Beaches is filled with stay at home moms in their active wear and daily brunch dates. So naturally I feel extremely out of place.
I came to Australia for the sole purpose of making buckets of money before making my next move where ever that may be. The only problem with that is how expensive it is to live here and how much I love food. The whole country seems to be on some sort of diet which leaves me feeling like a baked potato while I eat my daily ice cream sundae.
So far I have made trips to Alice Springs (Uluru Tour), Melbourne and Byron Bay. The next two places I want to get to are Darwin and then of course the Great Barrier Reef before it is too late and the entire reef is bleached. Curse you global warning for ruining everything that is good in the world. Living in Sydney means lots of beach activities and endless trips to the store to buy more sunscreen and Bundaberg lemonade. I have explored most of the city and the surrounding area. Of course everyone has to go the Opera House, Manly and Luna Park even if it is only for the Insta.
In a way, saying I have accomplished this isn't really accurate as I haven't really mastered surfing in any capacity. In reality, I am terrible. I am not a naturally gifted surfer that can just pop up and read the water and find the perfect wave. But that is alright, because I am sure that I have some other talent that I will discover someday that will make up for my lack of surf skills.
I first tried surfing when in Hawaii with my family when I was 12. Of course when you are so young it is a lot easier to do those sort of things because you are so light you can just pop up and you are good to go. This time was a little most difficult as the waves were much bigger and less forgiving than they are in Hawaii. I went to Byron Bay for a quick get away from Sydney last weekend. It was a short flight and yet seemed to be a different world. I was surrounded by hand painted vans, dreadlocks, barefoot feet and ukulele's. It was a beautifully perfect little town that I felt right at home in.
My hostel provided us with bikes, body boards and surf boards and was right next to a perfect white sand beach. The sand was so bright and squeaked beneath our feet. I still am not sure what makes the sand squeak, but it is wildly entertaining. We tried surfing for a few hours but spent most of the time trying to paddle out and avoid some of the monster waves. But overall it was really relaxing and it was nice to be outside in the cool water. The sunburn at the end of the day wasn't as nice though but it seems no matter how many layers I put on I still get burned.
Being that I am now living in Australia it makes sense that I should keep learning in order to truly fit into the Australian stereotype. The area I live in, the Northern Beaches is known for having amazing surfing. It is such a beautiful and peaceful sport that it would be amazing to be able to do.
The Kangaroo Sanctuary in Alice Springs, Australia is such an amazing place. I had been following it on Instagram for years so I was thrilled to finally have had the chance to go in person. The sanctuary got started by one man who started rescuing orphaned kangaroos whose mothers had been hit by cars. Kangaroos are seen as pests in the middle of Australia because there are so many of them and they often cause car accidents. This sanctuary is not a zoo or a tourist attraction. It was only after BBC did a special on the sanctuary that it finally became open to the public. But only during certain times and days in order to not bombard the kangaroos with tourists. This makes it so the kangaroos are free to live their life without being in a cage always being watched.
The tour picks you up at your hostel and drives you outside of town where you see a small tin house with no modern amenities with an extensive backyard. This is the sanctuary. They are currently building a kangaroo hospital but that has not yet been finished. You get a history and tour of the sanctuary and get to meet all the kangaroos. The owner knows all of them by names and their personality quirks so you really feel like you are getting the inside scoop.
The highlight of the trip is getting to hold your own baby kangaroo. All of the babies are carried around in little pillow cases in order to simulate them being in their mothers pouch. They are really calm, cuddly and soft. You get to hold them for at least 5 minutes and just walk with them in your arms on the tour, it is everything that you could want out of a tour.
I was also given the chance to feed some of the younger kangaroos by giving them a bottle. While they are drinking they grab on to your hand which was absolutely adorable. During the tour you learn all about the different kangaroos and their backstories. One of the kangaroos, Roger was the former head of the kangaroo family. He has become famous for his insane muscles that make him look like a body builder. This is the result from years of boxing the others males in order to keep his claim.
Overall the tour was amazing and was one of the best birthday presents that I have ever given myself. I would highly recommend going. You get an amazing experience out of it and get to support a great cause.