Here I sit, the last place I would have anticipated this time, last year; Darmstadt Germany, a small village just outside of Frankfurt. Why am I in this dark, cold, windy, joyless, region? Because I have decided, living in the USA is no longer for me. My past 50 years have been culled down to 8 boxes, and here JeliBën and I stay, awaiting our next flight, January first, to Mijas Pueblo, Spain. Did I know this area of Europe would offer so little in the way of ambiance during the holidays? No, but you win some, you lose some. In this case, Frankfurt was the best stop for a dog journey from Seattle to the Costa del Sol. Every day is an adventure. More on that, in a later post.
With that said, it has been a whirlwind of a year, and as we whittle down to the last 2 days of 2017, it would be good to reflect on how many miles have been covered; Seventy Four Thousand, One Hundred and Four. That is of course approximate, and does not include the daily driving in between each location. Regardless of how you slice it up, that is a lot of miles. In fact, it is more than 203 miles per day. To give some perspective, the circumference of the earth at the equator, is 24,902 miles. I have traveled more than 3 times that amount. Sounds exhausting just thinking about it and certainly gives a new meaning to being "homeless".
Have laptop, will travel...being a bit of a work-a-holic, this is either the ideal or chaos. For me it works. Sometimes in a library, other times in a pub. If there is an opportunity for wifi, there is a high likelihood to find me typing away. Emailing, researching, creating. All in a days work. Other times I am in specific locations doing specific things, like meeting up with clients or engaging with potential new relationships. Promoting the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Ningaloo Reef, where ever I may be. So, what did that look like these past 12 months:
January through May was almost entirely spent in Western Australia, either in Perth, Coral Bay, or driving between the two; even one trip to Broome. This is a vast landscape, once you leave the City of Perth proper. Many kilometers of stunning beauty and vast "nothingness", it can be a bit too much for many who are used to actually seeing a vehicle every now and again. I personally love the void. The random Kangaroo and ever present sunshine. Where you can see for what seems like hundreds of miles, in any direction. Exotic places like the Pinnacles and Kalbarri, Shell Beach and Carnarvon. They are why I covet this region of the world so. Arriving into Coral Bay and the Ningaloo Reef, is jaw dropping in its beauty and keeps me coming back, time and time again.
There was a brief hiatus into Thailand, as my Australian Visa defines I must depart the country every 90 days before returning again. This trip was a bit more un-work friendly as my location of choice, was without power for many hours on many days. But it was an adventure, the food and peoples of South East Asia are simply some of the greatest in the world. If it just wasn't so hot and humid! A few hours North of Phuket, surrounded by endless jungles and white sand beaches. The water so warm you could practically cook an egg! So much rain in an hour, each and every road becomes a raging river, certainly an incredible site to see and experience.
The end of May brought me back to the USA, landing in Los Angeles for a series of meet ups with current and potential travel companies, who tend to send folks to Western Australia, and specifically have interest in the Coral Coast. This trip would last about a month, taking me all over California and up the coast to both Portland and Seattle, then back to San Francisco before flying out to Mexico. Though born and bred living and breathing America's West Coast, this trip takes my breath away each and every time I am able to drive even a portion of it. Perhaps a bit partial, but the most beautiful areas of the US are along this coastline. It was a great honor spending time here again.
Because I can work anywhere, and did not have to be back in Australia anytime soon, our friends across the southern border seemed like a great option to spend some time. I get a lot of "beach" whilst in the Land Down Under, so instead I mostly headed for the mountains, creating a base camp first in San Miguel de Allende and from there Guanajuato. In between, doing some research on Isla Mujeres for the Mexican version of a Whale Shark Festival and ending my stay in Cabo. Plans come and plans go, if I have learned anything this year, flexibility is key. When my next accommodation opportunity in the US fell flat due to a number of reasons, one being several hurricanes impacting travel along the East Coast...new adventures fell into place. Off to the magic of Utah and the Rocky Mountains I went.
Landing into Salt Lake City, the next few weeks were going to include a lot of car camping, and then meeting up a friend for a short trip into Yellowstone. Though I have already mentioned my partiality to the Pacific Coast, my next number one location within the USA is by far, the National Parks in and around Moab as well as the western edge of the Rocky Mountains. Simply stunning! It had been years since I had ventured into Yellowstone, the season was late and snow was in store for us, making the park all the more irresistible. Thankfully camping was done and a warm bed was ready for me each and every night, a much more prudent way to get daily tasks accomplished.
Off to Spain! Specifically to get a Chinese Visa at the consulate in Madrid, as well as seek potential permanent housing. Living in Seattle is a very expensive endeavor, may as well depart to lands unknown and actually afford to live. Yes, the visa situation is a nightmare of hoops to jump through, so are any of the other Schengen Countries, so may as well pick one with over 330 days of sunshine a year. I know, Asia is cheap and easy, and just about everyone lives somewhere in Bali or Chiang Mai. Neither do anything for me. Sure they are fun to visit, but the humidity and damp are oppressive. I would never dream of any location in SE Asia as a long-term home. Though my first trip to Spain, I fell in love immediately. Certainly this is a place I could spend some time; fast, reliable wifi and great food, what more could you ask for? But, that would have to be on hold for a bit, because now I needed to depart for China.
Over the past 5 decades, I have been to a lot of incredible locations...but I will say, China is the one spot which really pushed the envelope with my comfort zone. Sure the language and writing are completely outside anything I know, but I have been to other countries where this was the case as well, places like Turkey and Japan. Perhaps it was the communist status or the fact that 100% of anything familiar, was gone. No google, no FaceBook, no Instagram or ability to behave in a day to day manner, for which I was accustomed. This tourism trade show came with a translator, Richard. He was amazing and someone I will surely stay in contact with, not quite sure what I would have done without him. Hangzhou was my home for about 10 days, and it was truly an eye opener. From the cleanliness of the city streets to the thick, heavy smog which allowed for zero visibility, this land of silk and industry, was truly phenomenal.
From 9 million persons to 1.5, I was now headed back to Perth, where I would stay until the end of November. Following up on a gazillion leads as well as meeting up with operators and clients for whom I seek out whenever I am in town. I had yet another tourism trade show to attend as well, adding to my list of "things to do". It is amazing how quickly 10 months can go by, when you are living out of your luggage and when every day is a new adventure on where to pick up groceries or buy your favorite latte. There was no time this trip to make it up to Coral Bay, but as the southern hemisphere was heading into summer, I was blessed with sunshine and warmth each and every day. I tried to soak it all in, as I knew my arrival back into Seattle, would be met with drizzle and damp.
Winter in the Pacific Northwest can bring days on end of ceaseless, pummeling rain, and this trip was up to the challenge. Here to cut loose ends and take my already reduced household, down to the bare minimum for which I could not live without. This turns out to be the 8 boxes mentioned earlier. Meeting with accountants and friends, celebrating birthdays and the holidays, yet more non-stop action during my short trip back "home". My family consists of two: my adorable son, who will eventually be joining me in Europe, to play football and see where his talents may take him; and of course, our cutie petutie, Tibetan Terrier, JeliBën, who would be soon venturing forth on the trip of her lifetime, in just a few weeks time. It was time to say goodbye, which brings us back to the beginning of this story; Darmstadt, Germany.
We depart January 1, 2018 for a new life...
What will this new year bring?
Much happiness and adventures, that's my plan anyway. What's yours?
Give a shout if you would like help planning your next get away, or if you just need someone to tell you everything will be ok.
Embrace what the world has to offer, ENJOY!
Happy New Year!