Best Year Of My Life

One year, 12 months, 365 days… I’ve been travelling since December 01,2010 and in that time I’ve covered a lot of ground.  I’ve travelled about 175,000km (according to TripIt) in 3 continents visiting more towns and cities than I can count.  I’ve taken more than 40 flights, 8 trains, numerous bus and car trips, and managed to get over my fear of boats (for the most part) by cruising Kerala’s Backwaters in India, sailing up the Nile in Egypt, and navigating the giant  limestone Karsts in Vietnam’s Halong Bay on a Junk, not to mention all the smaller boat trips I made in Croatia, India, Italy and Israel.  I got over my fear of the water by scuba diving in the Red Sea… not once but TWICE, I got over my fear of heights by ziplining in Hawaii, I got plastered with tomatoes at La Tomatina in Valencia, Spain and got doused in paint at Holi in Jaipur, India and cycled through Vietnam from Saigon to Hanoi.  It has been a year of discovery for me, discovering the world; the people, the cultures, the food and it has taught me a lot about myself and about life in general.  I have made mistakes along the way but haven’t regretted this journey for anything… except maybe my ‘shopaholic’ tendancies… that have helped to deplete my budget. I wasn’t planning to buy anything while I travelled, thinking I would have to carry it all with me… that is until I met a couple in Amritsar, India who convinced me that I must buy some beautiful things and just ship them home. When my journey is finished, they said it will be like Christmas opening all my purchases and everytime I look at a piece of art or something it will remind me where I was and what I was doing when I bought it. I guess I might have liked the idea TOO much… my sister’s basement back in Canada is now full of all my purchases. But it’s the memories and the amazing people I have met along the way that have made this such a life changing experience. Some I met briefly, others I know will be friends for a very long time.

So what now? It has been one year and when I set out I had planned on a two year adventure. What I didn’t realize was how difficult it would be to roam the world on my own. Yes I have met up with friends from home along the way and made so many great friends through my travels but I miss home.  I miss Canada, my friends and my family.  You don’t realize how good you have it until you do something like this.  It has reinforced my belief that Canada is one of the greatest countries in the world… I appreciate it so much more… not only for its’ natural beauty that can stand up against the best the world has to offer, but because of our quality of life… free health care, free education (something missing from most countries of the world) and just the basic freedom to think and act however you want.  It’s also a very peaceful country and I’ve learned to respect that, especially after I travelled through the Middle East.

People often ask me about the highlights and lowlights… ‘what’s your favourite country? favourite city? least favourite place?’  It’s always tough to answer because it seems wherever I am at the time is my favourite… I haven’t regretted a single country that I’ve travelled to… I loved Vietnam, loved loved India and Italy, was very impressed by Jordan, but I think my two favourite countries are Spain and Israel.  I knew I would like Spain, the culture, the art, the music, the food, the beaches… but I was not expecting much from Israel.  I was even reluctant to visit the country because of the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, I just didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I would anywhere else… I was so wrong.  Tel Aviv is my favourite city in the world.  It has a big city feel with great neighbourhoods, restaurants and bars,  in fact it reminds me of a smaller version of New York. It has spectacular beaches right on the Mediterranean and it is a modern European styled city where you can get just about anything you want… plus it is safe.  It’s called the ‘white city’ for a reason… most of the buildings are made of limestone (or concrete and painted white or beige) and the architecture is beautiful. This relatively young city (founded in 1909) has recently been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco for more than 4,000 buildings constructed in the Bauhaus/Le Corbusier style… yes 4 THOUSAND (about 3/4 were built in the 1930’s) with more being built in the same style today. Everywhere you look there are examples of the clean, modern lines of Bauhaus – always my favourite style of architecture and now to see it every time I walk down the street makes me very happy.   There are less than half a million people living in Tel Aviv, and they are among the warmest people I have ever met.  Fears about bombs exploding everywhere, I now realize is ridiculous.  Tel Aviv hasn’t seen a bomb explosion in a couple of years and it is never the target of the sporadic rocket grenade attacks that hit Israel every year.   It is very liberal and in fact is the only city in the Middle East to celebrate Gay Pride.

Tel Aviv is also the place that I fell in love.  I wasn’t planning it, having recently ended a 23 year relationship, but I have been dating around a bit in several of the countries I’ve visited.  I met my new love in Tel Aviv in June and while we took it slow to start, it has made me change my plans.  After we met I still continued travelling… visiting Italy, Spain, Portugal and Croatia, but it wasn’t easy… we hated to be apart.  So at the end of September I returned to Tel Aviv and vowed to put my passport away… for now.  We have been able to tour around Israel  together and sometimes with his 9 year old son, which is letting me get to know this country better.  I feel like I have found my soul mate.

So I have put the second year of my travels on the shelf.  The thought of packing up and hitting the road again is just not as appealing to me right now.  I am loving our apartment in Tel Aviv (about 2 blocks from the beach), I love waking up in my own bed every day (after staying in more than a hundred different hotel rooms), eating home cooked meals again (I can’t tell you how many restaurants I have eaten in over the past year… but it’s definitely in the hundreds).

I am happier and more content than I have been for a very very long time. I am now am able to spend my days doing what I love to do the most, writing and photography, updating the blog and my photos and making plans for the next phase of my life.  I’m not sure exactly what that will be but I can’t wait to find out.

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4 Responses to “Best Year Of My Life”

  1. Nomadic Samuel
    October 17 at 7:51 am #

    Congratulations on a great journey! I was fortunate enough to travel for all of 2010 and most of 2011. I’m excited because I once again plan to travel for all of 2013.

    • Darren
      December 23 at 5:21 am #

      Thanks! It was an amazing adventure, and certainly not the end. As you learned, it’s life changing. Good luck and safe travels on your journey!

  2. Cornelia
    October 19 at 8:33 pm #

    Absolutely love all your travel posts (only just discovered them this morning after seeing your Solo Travel comment on Facebook). I especially enjoyed this one…can relate so easily with so much of what you shared. Love it. Anyway, just wanted to let you know… 🙂

    • Darren
      December 23 at 5:19 am #

      Thanks Cornelia! It’s always good to hear from people who enjoy reading about my adventures. It was the time of my life!!!

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