27 flights, 9 countries later 2016 disappeared before my eyes as I am sure many people have similar feelings. I found myself sitting around looking back over the year thinking what I have done. It didn’t take long for me to realize that a ton had happened. From Australia to the Arctic, traditional tattoos to memorable eats I found myself reminiscing through all my footage and memories. Amazing people at every corner. Simply trying to narrow down my personal highlights proved no easy task as my mind wandered from country to country, day to day. Slowly I compiled my top one or two experiences from each country, but each experience is always its own and in general is hard to compare. Here it goes…
Japan – Jan 11, 2016
It all started here. A country, cuisine and culture I’ve wanted to experience firsthand for years and now with nothing but a one night stand with Tokyo, it has solidified the concept of love at first sight for me. This was just a tease, but nevertheless I wasn’t complaining about walking my glutinous self around Asakusa district. Without challenge it was the best ramen and sushi I had ever consumed. This place seemed a dream, walking streets of sinful pleasures. I knew I would return, it was only a matter of time.
Philippines – Jan, Oct
Of Southeast Asia, the Philippines was one of the couple unknowns for me. I had an idea what to expect, but at the same time… no clue. I was blown away by the hospitality, smiles, flavours and undeniable beauty. From experiencing festivals, both Sinulog and Masskara, diving with thresher sharks, TBEX, I think what ranks at the top would be journeying far into the Cordillera Mountains to Buscalan. I ventured here both times to visit Apo Whang-Od, the ‘last’ traditional batok tattoo artist and her grandniece, Grace. Disconnected from the outside world, overlooking the lush mountainside is where I sat while a thorn was hand tapped implanting Kalinga tribal designs of charcoal ink forever into my leg.
Australia – Feb-Apr, Nov-Dec
Of my 5 months spent here this past year the majority was spent working between a winery and a mango farm. Coming here with insufficient funds both times and the cost of traveling here limited me to some extent. With so much to do and see during my second year visa, road tripping the Great Ocean Road was a highlight this time around.
Abu Dhabi – May 6, 2016
Extended layovers can be looked at as an uncomfortable, painful hassle or a way to explore a city for the day. I went with the latter when grounded in Abu Dhabi for 20 hours planning a desert safari. Picked up from the airport heading to rip across the dunes before sand boarding and a barbeque dinner in a Bedouin style camp while smoking shisha and watching belly dancing. Not a bad way to break up a long journey back to Canada.
Canadian Arctic – May – Jul
My return to the Arctic was long awaited from the time I left the year before and I look forward to my inevitable return this year as well. It is a place of untouched beauty, one of the last on this earth. A final frontier that is slowly becoming more accessible, but still remains unknown to many. I’m lucky to work with such a great company, ‘Arctic Kingdom’, to have the opportunity to see the largest and nearly forgotten about chunk of my own country. Getting up close with fleeting wildlife life, I never imagined the proximity I would get within the kings of the north: polar bears, bowhead whales and walrus.
Thailand – Aug, Sept
It was about my fifth visit to one of my favorite countries, but no matter how many times one visits a place, there is always more to discover behind another curtain. This time finally checking off what had been on my Thailand list for some time, I rented a scooter and took off from Chiang Mai as the sun rose headed for Pai. From here, I completed the Mae Hong Son loop via Mae Hong Son and Mae Sariang. Solo cruising through the mountains along snaking roads displaying tremendous vistas with an undeniable sense of freedom. It’s a feeling like few others.
Indonesia – Sept, Oct
A country I had meant to have visited twice before this, I had finally made it and the third time was a charm. This volcanic archipelago varies greatly from island to island and like the Philippines there is only time for a select few. Between Bali, Lombok (Gilis) and Flores it would be a toss-up for the highlight of the month. A tour through Komodo National Park pulls at my love of wildlife while climbing Mount Rinjani tugs me towards my painful relationship with trekking. Either way Indonesia did not disappoint.
To another year past, turned into unforgettable memories and unexpected experiences, this world has left me in awe yet again. Who knows what will come in the months ahead. 2017 kicked off to a hell of a start followed abruptly by a massive upset changing the whole years ‘plans’. So here I sit in Sydney airport suddenly flying back to Canada to see what awaits me there.
What was your favorite spot in 2016, new or familiar? Let me know below!