Central America, North America, Roundups, South America

Year in Review: 2014 in Photos

Well, it’s been another incredible year, but certainly not without its drawbacks.  In fact, more than anything, I’d say 2014 was a year characterized by extremes: overwhelming love and devastating loss; feelings of great achievement and feelings of crushing self-doubt; incredible new travel experiences and paralyzing loneliness.

For better or worse, 2014 forced me to grow and mature in many ways.  I’ve gained confidence in certain areas of my life and learned to be more humble in others.  I’ve discovered facets of my personality that I don’t care for and have set out on a journey of self-improvement that I plan to continue into 2015 and beyond.

The uncertainty I felt just a few months ago is starting to melt away and I’m confident that my goals and my path will only become clearer from here.  For that reason, I’m grateful for the strife that 2014 put me through–I’m coming out of it stronger and more motivated than ever before.

Of course, we don’t photograph the hardships.  This review of 2014 in photos will only highlight the happiest and most moving moments of my year–there’s no denying that there were many–but they won’t tell the whole story.  You’ll just have to believe me when I say that 2014 tested me like never before, and for that I am eternally grateful.

The Beginning–Wrapping up South America

2014 started off with many a literal bang in the rowdy Plaza de Armas of Cusco, Peru.  It was a magical night for so many reasons, just one of which being that we made it out alive.

New Year's Eve in Cusco, Peru

New Year’s Eve in Cusco, Peru

I finally left Peru after three incredible months and made my way south to Bolivia.  My first stop: Copacabana and Isla del Sol on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca.

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca

Mules on Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Mules on Isla del Sol, Lake Titicaca

Next, the breathtaking high-altitude city of La Paz.

La Paz, Bolivia

My first sighting of La Paz from the bus

Bolivia marked the real beginning my solo travels, including a serious bout of illness during my few days in the gorgeous colonial city of Sucre.

Sucre, Bolivia

Not a bad place to relax for a few days

Luckily, I recovered in time for the Salar de Uyuni and the three-day tour that blew my mind and produced some of my best travel photos of the year.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

I still have doubts that this really happened

Volcanoes in Bolivia

Snow-capped volcanoes

LLamas in the Atacama Desert, Bolivia

Hot springs and llamas in Bolivia’s Atacama Desert

Following Bolivia, I continued on to Salta, Argentina.  A day tour to neighboring Cafayate for wine tasting turned out to be a highlight of this northwestern Argentine city–and of course watching the Seahawks bring home their first Superbowl title in history at a local bar surrounded by non-Americans.

Salta, Argentina

Salta from above

Cafayate

Vasija Secreta winery in Cafayate

Then, it was on to Córdoba.  No competition here–skydiving for the first (but not the last) time has been one of my favorite experiences to date.

Skydiving in Cordoba, Argentina

This was total insanity and I’m totally going to do it again someday

In Mendoza, I made an amazing group of friends and drank copious amounts of wine while riding bicycles.  And when not riding bicycles.  It’s not my fault bottles of Malbec cost less than two dollars!

Bicycle winery tour, Mendoza, Argentina

Bicycle winery tour with amazing people

Alta Vista Winery, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina

Alta Vista Winery, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina

Buenos Aires came next–you know, that city that I meant to live in once upon a time?  Well, I did love it, to be fair; I just couldn’t see myself living there.  I still had a great time reuniting with friends, eating steak, seeing the sights, and reliving the glory days of my youth at Ultra.

La Cabrera in Buenos Aires, Argentina

A steak dinner at La Cabrera in Palermo

Floralis Generica, Buenos AIres

Floralis Generica

Ultra Buenos Aires

Ultra Buenos Aires

From Buenos Aires, I traveled by bus to Iguazú Falls, a trip that permanently altered the way I look at solo travel.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

I learned that Solo travel isn’t always fun

From Argentina, I flew to Quito, Ecuador.  If I had to sum up my two weeks revisiting Ecuador with one word? Emotional.  If I could use two words?  F*cking emotional.

Quito, Ecuador

And I have this guy to thank for that

The Middle–Back to the US

Finally, I made it back to the US for 5 months jam-packed with reunions and big life moments.

I met my cousin’s new baby girl Alex for the first time the day I got back to Washington.

My cousin's baby Alex and her new overalls from Ecuador

She LOVED her new pink overalls from Ecuador

I got to enjoy springtime in central Washington, a region overflowing with natural beauty.

Springtime in Washington

Springtime in Washington

I spent an unforgettable weekend camping with friends at The Gorge Amphitheatre for the Sasquatch Music Festival.

Sasquatch Music Festival

This day, words cannot describe. Too many words.

I celebrated with one of my oldest friends as she became a Mrs.

Wedding

Holly’s wedding day!

Fourth of July was spent at my grandparents’ old summer home on Hood Canal, which I’m convinced is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountain Range

Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountain Range

In August, feet beginning to itch, I jetted off to visit a few old college friends.  First, I road-tripped down to Portland for a long, brunch-filled weekend, my first time ever visiting the city.

When in Portland, do as the Portlanders do

When in Portland, do as the Portlanders do

A few short weeks later, I was on the East Coast in my beloved New York City reuniting with old friends, reliving amazing memories, and creating new ones.

Washington Square Park at dusk, New York City

Washington Square Park at dusk

New York City

Reunions with Thailand friends

New York City

Reunions with Berkeley friends

I celebrated another friend becoming a Mrs.

Wedding in Peshastin

Emily’s wedding day!

At the start of September, I said my final farewell to friends and family in Washington and flew to San Francisco for a week of yet more reunions and a whole lot of happiness.

Golden Gate Bridge reunions

Golden Gate Bridge reunions

Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park reunions

Baker Beach, San Francisco

Baker Beach reunions

For my last stop in the US, I bussed down to Los Angeles County to see my original travel buddy in her new home of Manhattan Beach.  I couldn’t have asked for a better send-off.

The Manhattan Beach Strand

The Manhattan Beach Strand

The End–Central America to Colombia

In mid-September, my new travel adventure in Central America began.  I met up with my good friend Mak in Nicaragua where we began six weeks of high-speed travel to Colombia.  Managua was the first stop, and kicked off some of the worst luck I’ve had yet in my travel career.

Lago de Managua

Lago de Managua sure is pretty from above though

From Managua, we traveled south to the beautiful volcanic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, Isla de Ometepe.  A more photogenic island, I have not seen.

Conception Volcano, Isla de Ometepe

Volcán Concepción, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur was our last destination in Nicaragua; photos are sparse from this week since my dSLR was stolen from my hostel, but it was a stunningly beautiful place.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur, where incredible sunsets are the norm

We then crossed the border to Costa Rica.  Monteverde, La Fortuna, and Puerto Viejo were our major stops, each one offering something unique and unforgettable, if not a little pricey for our backpacker tastes.

Ziplining in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Ziplining in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Baldi Spa Members Only Section

The Baldi Spa in La Fortuna

Sloth at the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo–you didn’t think I’d miss an opportunity for a sloth picture, did you?

Crossing the border into Panama was a big milestone for me: I was officially in my 20th country!  Bocas del Toro and Panama City were our only stops, but each one was delightful.

Aqua Lounge, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Beautiful Bocas del Toro

The Panama City skyline

The Panama City skyline

Finally, we were on our way to Colombia–by sailboat.  We embarked on a five-day tour through Panama’s San Blas Islands, truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Seriously, you couldn’t pay me to do that again.  I’ll tell you the whole story soon.

Sailing through the San Blas Islands on the sailboat Victory

Sailing through the San Blas Islands on the sailboat Victory, a true comedy of errors

A few hot and sweaty days in Cartagena and I was headed for my current home of Medellin.  I reunited with EVEN MORE friends from Thailand, said goodbye to my travel buddy, and settled into a “normal life” here in Colombia.

Medellin, Colombia

Medellín, my home base for the next few months

Daily life as an expat in Medellin, Colombia

What my daily life looks like now

I’ve since been reunited with another long lost friend from Berkeley, and another of my besties (whom I haven’t seen in four redonkulous years) arrives TODAY to ring in 2015 with me, Medellin style.  Apparently a major theme of my 2014 was “reunions.”

And now, just for fun, a few quick travel stats for 2014:

Countries visited: 9

Cities visited: 34

New passport stamps: 5

Total days abroad: 196

Number of flights taken: 9

Number of buses taken: 28

Number of items lost: ???

Blog posts written: 121

Total countries visited going into 2015: 20

% of dignity remaining: 76

Conclusion–Bring on 2015

I haven’t got much else to say, friends; I think the pictures said it all.  I’m ready for 2015 and all the surprises and challenges it’s sure to bring, because I know there will be rewards hidden in there too.

Thank you and farewell, 2014.  Bring on the new year!

How did 2014 go for you?  Was it full of challenges like my year, or was it smooth sailing?

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20 Comments

  • Reply Kelly December 29, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Lovely collection of photos and memories – you have inspired me to create a similar post looking back on my year! I hope 2015 brings even more adventure for you 🙂

    • Reply LaMochilera December 30, 2014 at 6:05 am

      Thank you Kelly! It’s a fun way to reflect on the year as a whole, it was interesting to see the theme of reunions emerge when I hadn’t really been conscious of it at the time! Happy 2015 🙂

  • Reply Sarah Ebner December 29, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Incredible pictures, but sorry to hear of the hardships that came with this year too. Wish you all the best for 2015

    • Reply LaMochilera December 30, 2014 at 6:05 am

      Thanks so much, Sarah, I’m positive 2015 will be better! Best to you in the new year as well 🙂

  • Reply Rachel December 29, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Looks awesome! Great pics and recap! I was wondering if you were going to skip over the San Blas islands adventure. I’ve been researching the hell out of it (while trying to decide whether to start a trip in Panama or Colombia), but the reviews are completely all over the place!

    Also, I lived in Buenos Aires for 5 months and I really liked the city life and feel (before the inflation was outrageous), but the locals aren’t the friendliest so I can see why you’d pass up living there. It was a really good time though, like too good of a time, like maybe took two years off of my life good time.
    Rachel recently posted…Meats! Pasillo de Carnes Asadas in Mercado 20 de Noviembre, OaxacaMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera December 30, 2014 at 6:11 am

      Thanks Rachel! I fully intend to write a long post about my trip through the San Blas Islands. I can understand why there are such mixed reviews about it, because I think it has EVERYTHING to do with the captain and crew on your boat. I almost think it’s worth it to schedule your trip around the boat that you want to go on rather than scheduling your trip and THEN choosing a boat, because once your schedule is set in stone you are very limited to which boats you can choose from. For the record, I do NOT recommend going on the Victory with Captain Hernando.

      I think the people are exactly what put me off of living in Buenos Aires. Not to say that everyone in Argentina was unfriendly, but I didn’t feel as welcome there as I had in other countries. I’m sure it would be fun (too fun, haha…like my year in New York!), but I’m having a great time living in Colombia too 🙂

  • Reply Donna Meyer December 29, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Wow! What a fantastic year you’ve had! And the great thing is this… 2015 is going to be even better. You go, girl!
    Donna Meyer recently posted…POTW: Oscar’s Neon Martini Glass-Las VegasMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera December 30, 2014 at 6:12 am

      Thanks Donna! I’m excited to see what 2015 brings 🙂

  • Reply Kristen Bor (Bearfoot Theory) December 29, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Wow! What an awesome year you’ve had. And beautiful photos. Nicaragua sure does look enticing. I bet that spa was also incredible. Here’s to a wonderful 2015 and happy travels!
    Kristen Bor (Bearfoot Theory) recently posted…The year in review: Best travel photos of 2014My Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera December 30, 2014 at 6:13 am

      Nicaragua, despite all the hard times I ran into there, was still a fascinating and beautiful country and I’m glad I visited it. Highly recommended 🙂 Thank you and happy travels to you too!

  • Reply Elaine J. Masters December 29, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    What a dizzying year of travels and experiences. Wherever the new year takes you it will be hard to equal all your recent adventures. Very fun.
    Elaine J. Masters recently posted…Visiting the Rose Parade – New Years day, flowers and floatsMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera December 30, 2014 at 6:17 am

      Something tells me 2015 will be even better than this year with just as many adventures! 😉

  • Reply Marissa December 29, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Seems to me that despite the difficulties you faced in 2014, you still pressed on full speed ahead and had some amazing experiences (and photos)! Cheers to you for admitting that it’s not always a bed of roses and turning those negatives into strength to take on a new year. Happy almost 2015!
    Marissa recently posted…Travel Moments: Kimberly of Tourism ExposedMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera December 30, 2014 at 6:18 am

      Aw thank you Marissa! I’m definitely trying harder to have a positive outlook in the face of challenges these days and at least now I can recognize when there’s something valuable to be learned from them. Happy 2015 to you too!

  • Reply Ashlea Wheeler December 29, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Looks like you had a fantastic year Leah! Love your stats on new passport stamps, I always love when I get new ones too 😛 Your Peru and Bolivia photos are also making me super excited for my trip to South America in June, can’t wait!
    Ashlea Wheeler recently posted…My year in review: 14 countries (9 new ones) and one super blogMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera December 30, 2014 at 6:23 am

      Ohhh you’ll LOVE Peru and Bolivia! Pack a good camera and go crazy, there is so much beauty in South America!

      Happy travels!

  • Reply Justine December 29, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Ha, I feel like we could duke it out for who had a rockier year! Seriously, it’s crazy to actually read where you were last year at this time and get a sense of how many twists and turns your life has taken during these past 12 months. 2014 seems like it was an incredible year for you (despite the hardships) and I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings! I just want to put it out there that I’m really jealous of your travels in Peru and Bolivia. I’m dying to visit both!
    Justine recently posted…Christmas in Jakarta: It’s Just Not the SameMy Profile

    • Reply LaMochilera December 30, 2014 at 6:26 am

      It’s true, you’ve been all over the place this year as much as I have! Have to say though you’ve taken it in stride…I can’t always say I’ve kept my composure but at least I’m out of my rut now! Excited to see what the new year brings for you too. Hopefully you can make it back to South America soon, maybe after Indonesia? 🙂

  • Reply Jason December 30, 2014 at 12:44 am

    121 posts?! Look at you!! This is an awesome recap filled with mesmerizing photos. I’ll keep the eternal parallel-drawing to a minimum, but I went to Ultra Buenos Aires in 2013!!

    2014 was definitely the best year of my life, but it was jam-packed with material loss as well (I also cannot count the number of items lost…) and I got hate-crimed twice–both times at big Haad Rin parties….it is difficult for me to comprehend the racism, sexism, and homophobia that seem to prevail at these parties (on KPH now).

    I didn’t meet all of my goals (i.e. start a new travel blog), but I feel good about the year overall and have developed a feeling of inner peace that makes the challenges easier to whether (from your blog, I sense that you have something similar going on inside). For this, I am grateful.

    Bring on 2015! I hope your year is filled with joy and exciting new experiences. As I prepare to live in one place indefinitely, I look forward more than ever to following your blog which, truly, is getting better and better 🙂 I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in Medellin and that your move to Spain comes at the perfect time for you!

    Your blog has been an inspiration to me since I stumbled on it some six months ago. Keep it up, Leah! And if you find yourself in NYC later on in 2015, please let me take you out for a coffee or beer 🙂

  • Reply LaMochilera December 30, 2014 at 6:36 am

    Alright Jason, enough with the parallels, it’s getting creepy! Haha I can’t believe you went to Ultra in Buenos Aires! WHERE WILL IT END!? I can’t wait for the day we get to hash out who’s been stalking whom over coffee or beer one day.

    As always, I’m so appreciative of your kind words and support. As much as you’ve enjoyed reading my blog over the last several months, I’ve enjoyed reading your comments! They keep me going in times of doubt, seriously!

    Really sorry to hear about the hate you experienced this year but glad your year as a whole was a great one! As ever, looking forward to the day you do start that blog. I will be reading 🙂

    Wishing you the best in 2015 and an exciting new chapter as you begin your life in NYC. My future plans end pretty abruptly after the first part of May, so there’s no telling where I’ll end up…I just may be able to go for that coffee this year. Certainly can’t rule it out, anyway. Thanks for reading, Jason, and Happy New Year!

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