365 days, 74,498 kilometres, 18 countries (14 of those new), 400 odd new friends on Facebook, 26 flights, 2 visits to the hospital, countless trains, buses and incredible moments. A year living out of a backpack and travelling as a nomad has been unbelievable, experiencing things most people will struggle to see in their lifetimes. There have been a few lows and lonely nights, heavily outweighed by insane highs and phenomenal people. These are my top 12 moments which, to finally order was a challenge in itself, that stand out above all else.
- Champions League Final in Barcelona
The night before I was to fly back to the UK for a funeral, I got a lift into Barcelona with some of the boys I was working with who were off on a Spanish road trip. It just so happened that the Champions League final was on, with Barcelona playing Juventus in Berlin. We headed in to the city to see if we could find a massive public gathering where they would show the game but to no avail. We managed to catch most of the second half but found that we were right in the heart of where the festivities were kicking off. Flares, fireworks, people EVERYWHERE; they were climbing scaffolding, lamp posts, trees you name it. We even started the bus shelter scrambles and paraded around with a Heineken Champions League sign. The energy and atmosphere was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Just pure chaos.
- Seeing the Northern Lights
I feel a little cliché having this as one of the best experiences I’ve had since I’ve been gone as so many people have this on their bucket lists. But when you get to witness such a marvellous spectacle on a nearly nightly basis AND you’re getting paid to do so whilst spending time with awesome people from all over the world, it’s easy to be transfixed and spend hours lying in the snow with your eyes skyward. Of course, some displays are better than others and I think there are three whose rhythmic dancing, spirals and intensity are seared into my memory for life.
- An impromptu night in the Isle of Skye
This one isn’t that exciting from an external point of view but as far as I’m concerned, it truly encapsulated the beauty of travel and a spontaneous night. Basically it started with failed plans to go visit the Old Man of Storr, a rocky outcrop with a stunning view and evolved into a night spent talking shit with five Germans and a Scot, with one of the most beautiful back drops going around. Music ranging from the Braveheart soundtrack to Britney Spears had us in fits of laughter, life philosophies from people of different ages and backgrounds had us all chatting on an existential level, and of course there was the swapping of great travel stories. It was a night where everything clicked and is hands down one of my fondest memories to this point.
- Hiking the Laugavegurrin Trail in Iceland
What can you even say about Iceland? No anecdote will ever do it justice. For such a small island, there are so many different landscapes to take in and the Laugavegurrin Trail manages to throw as many of these vistas into its 55km length as is physically possible. Every crest you summit or corner you turn has you pulling out your camera trying in vain to document such an amazing place. Black sand deserts, mountains covered with moss, very little trees until you then come stumbling across a forest, ice cold rivers, expansive lakes, green and blue and sand coloured cliffs, thermal vents and pools, glaciers, snow, volcanos, caves, waterfalls, oh my lord so many waterfalls. There is just too much to take in all at once. The other reason this hike stays quite firmly in my mind was because I completed half of it with a fractured foot, a nice reminder of a challenge I needed to apply myself for, and was able to do so successfully.
- Snowboarding in the Alps
Lots of people laugh when they hear that we actually get snow in Australia. “But I thought Australia was all just beaches and ridiculous heat?” “Do you take surfboards on the slopes?” As much as I love boarding back home, when I arrived into Chamrousse in the French Alps, to say I was a tad excited would be an understatement. I’d had one day boarding in the last two years and was raring to get back into it. I was only able to board for two days before I was bedridden with illness but when you string together some awesome runs in such spectacular surroundings, it energises you in a way that you don’t experience when tearing up Little Buller Spur or Wombat Ramble back home. Plus it makes for some pretty sick footage as well. The number of times that we found ourselves stopping mid run just to take in what was before us just speaks for itself.
- Boston Bruins Game
When I went to Boston, the first things I booked were several NBA games, including luckily enough, Rajon Rondo’s return after having been traded to the Dallas Mavericks. However, it was the ice hockey that truly blew me away. The Bruins fans are nuts, going above and beyond for what was a pretty standard game against the Ottawa Senators. There was so much excitement and energy in the air, even an hour before the game had started and it was relentless throughout, unfortunately ending in an overtime loss for the Bruins. But it didn’t matter because I had been converted into a Bruins fan for life. I went to a Washington Capitals game about a week later and although the game was a better one, the overall experience was nothing like that of the Bruins.
- Narvik Fjords
I’m a sucker for nature, particularly mountains. I have seen fjords on Instagram and the internet for years and known that one day, I will have to go “Into the Wild” in the Norwegian highlands. The fjord I’m referring to was one we visited on the Lapland tours I was running in the winter, so I managed to visit it probably close to 11 or 12 times. Every time, when it first appeared I would lose all focus on whatever I was doing or who I was talking to and just stare off into the distance, fully encapsulated in the magical feature starting to dominate the landscape. It was often the highlight of my trip, especially as when we returned from the trip to Narvik, we had a sauna night and quite often saw Northern Lights again that night.
- Exploring Spree Park
In Berlin there sits an amusement park consumed by time. The laughter of children, the worries of parents and endless lines are all a thing of the past which now makes it a haven for explorers passing through Berlin. If you can avoid the extremely kind security, (they understand that they wouldn’t have jobs if it weren’t for us damn kids climbing under the fence) there are remnants of another time to find all over the park. There’s the rollercoaster still sitting in its dock, old dinosaur models, some without heads, a big tent, tea cup rides, top hat cars and abandoned log flumes. But then you have the ferris wheel. Towering above everything else and situated smack bang in the centre of the park, it draws everyone to it and is the place where most people finally get caught by security. It was the downfall of our visit, as we got spotted and had to disappear before we could make it to the wheel but it is like a big red button, telling you not to touch it whilst your mind is SCREAMING at you to push it. An awesome attraction and definite recommendation for anyone passing through Berlin.
- Irish Hurling match
One of my friends who managed to beat me to visiting Ireland absolutely raved about hurling, one of the indigenous sports to the country. I had checked it out on Youtube, this bizarre clash of lacrosse, gaelic football, cricket, soccer and rugby and decided it was worth seeing. Oh man, and what a sport it is. I managed to score myself tickets to the Championship qualifying match between Wexford and Waterford to be played in Kilkenny and it did not disappoint. The atmosphere and tension were palpable, and I was sitting there trying to decipher the rules as much as I could before turning to locals for clarification. The skill and finesse these men have to be able to keep a ball on a small little paddle whilst getting bumped from the side or having their sticks smacked was mind boggling, as too was the support from the fans. After the game was over and Wexford had one, everyone stormed the field and so of course I jumped in on that too, joining in the celebrations.
- Road tripping Zante
Ah Zakynthos, boy did we have a wild time. When a friend and I decided to visit this Greek party island, I don’t think either of us knew what we were getting ourselves into. One of the best nights out I’ve ever had, unfortunately it is all compiled with too many inside or ‘you had to be there’ jokes. However, the road trip around the island we did in our little Suzuki jeep was something that can easily be understood by all. Winding roads with jaw dropping vistas, beautiful cliffs and caves and one of the most stunning and iconic beaches in the world, Zakynthos certainly lived up to the hype. Oh, and it managed to put me into hospital for the second time in less than two months, but that’s neither here or there.
- Featuring majorly in a stand up show
Most Australians will know Stephen K Amos, a British comedian very popular in Oz. A friend and I decided rather spontaneously (as so many of decisions turn out to be) to go see one of his shows and it turned out to be an absolute ball of laughs. We had both noted that he kept looking our way a fair bit early on in the show but about halfway through he asked if anyone was of a younger age as it was definitely an older crowd. I gave a cheeky whoop and had a bit of chat with him, divulging that I was Australian. This then made me a reference point for a fair few of his jokes but also for the show in general. My friend and I both agreed he was definitely hitting on me, especially when he offered to buy me a beer and invited me back to South London with him. An absolutely hilarious night, and not just your typical stand up show.
- Summer in Temple Bar
I was tossing up between this and exploring abandoned WWII bunkers here in Spain but the sheer joy and happiness I felt when in Dublin down the Temple Bar strip is unmatched to anything I’ve ever felt before. It was my first proper stop on this trip, the sun was out, the drinks were flowing, the buskers and live musicians were out in force and it was impossible to wipe the smile off your face. It was a nice change to be in a drinking culture and environment where everyone was having a good time and there weren’t people ruining it. It was my first taste of travelling freedom (and Guiness!) and is certainly a very fond memory indeed.