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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