I listed seven of my favorite of the year 2014. While I was flipping through the photos, once again I realized how fortunate I was to visit these wonderful places that some people only dream of visiting someday. Certainly, I am a lucky one. What stunned me most was all the experienced that wowed me this year. It was the year of activities. Among all the awe-inspiring activities, here are the top 7.
If you are a regular reader of Runaway Juno, or even an acquaintance of mine, you would know that Alaska is one of my favorite destinations. And as a person who is extremely easy to please, it’s a quite a statement!
I spent three days in the Alaskan Arctic. I saw the most stunning northern lights, met Jack, the resident of the Arctic, saw a herd of caribous, went dog mushing, cross-country skied, ate Korean food (surprisingly, there is a huge Korean population in Alaska), explored Anchorage like a local, snow shoeing in Sarah Palin’s hometown, learned how to make apple pie in Talkeetna, and I met the warmest and nicest people. Now I wear earrings made of walrus’ whiskers and seal’s gut, and talk about Alaska constantly (I’m not kidding). If I have to point out one trip that impacted my life deeply, you know my answer.
Hot Air Balloon
Humans always dreaming of flying. Even before the Wright Brothers built the airplane, people were already flying with hot air balloons. In the Gold Coast, flying over the hinterland of Queensland is an unmistakably popular activity. The day starts at 3:30am to catch the sunrise, when the world looks the prettiest. My Disney-loving inner child was pretending to be Princess Jasmine looking down the world with awe next to the cloud ice-cream while a ray of sun is shining her cheek. For some reason, my imaginary world was a mix of “Be our Guest”, “A Whole New World”, and “Bell” all together. If you loved (and still do) watching Disney movies, you know what I’m talking bout.
Scotch Whisky Tasting
I always say travel is a way of healing and discovering myself. By knowing more about me better, I become a whole person. The moment I learned and tasted the Scotch Whisky, I discovered a new side of me. I’ve always enjoyed various alcoholic beverages; microbrew beer and wine for starters. My tastebuds scream with joy when they meet intriguing things to taste. Now Scotch Whisky made it to the list. As a beginner at this particular beverage, I found out I’m a huge fan of Highland, Lowland, and Speyside styles of single malt whisky. Simply, anything made without the pit — I’ve heard it’s pretty common among beginners. After the dangerously fun whisky tasting with the vendors, I found my calling: Balvenie DoubleWood. Why I have to have such a delicate palate that could empty my wallet so easily?
Diving in Mabul Island, Malaysia
After seven months of residing in Borneo Island, leaving without visiting the east coast would be a despicable thing. As a farewell to this beautiful place, we packed our bags for Mabul Island. Sabah’s east coast is well known as one of the finest diving spots in the world. I’m many things, and a beginner scuba-diver is one of them. My excitement was indeed rightful. Three diving trips and two snorkeling trips in Mabul and Kapalai Island was almost spiritually beautiful. At one point we were surrounded by sea turtles and that made me scream so loud underwater my regulator ejected from my mouth. I found out I like nudibranches and I cannot lie. Even other divers cannot deny (a little Sir Mix-a-Lot reference for ya). The underwater world is a beautiful thing. I’m so glad so many people urged me to get over my contact-lens issue.
Waterfall Jumping in San Luis Potosi, Mexico
Fear of height is one of the common phobias that most people share. If you add fear of death, we fought two of the biggest phobias in human life by waterfall jumping. Okay, maybe I was exaggerated a little, but when you are standing top of the waterfall, nothing matters in the world but my life after a few seconds. As I mentioned a few times on Runaway Juno, I’m not the boldest person you’ll meet. Rather I’m quite cautious. I’m clumsy, but that’s another story. It’s not a surprise that I haven’t done many ‘jumping off from something heigh’ in my life. Gravity can be a bi*ch. But the opportunity presented itself in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
It is truly a scary experience to jump in the boiling (figuratively) water from the top of waterfall. I would never say “I’m dying to go jump off some waterfalls today!” in a normal circumstances. A long story short, I did it. We did it. With a great camaraderie, we all did it. It gave me a new perspective of fear and challenges. A lot of times, most important thing is breathe deeply and try to be rational. Especially with the fears. Try to grasp your logical brain, not mushy-touchy-feely-brain with pink aura.
The Outback Experience
I transformed into the Outback girl just like that. The Outback experience brought back the important question, “Why I travel” once again. I hit three-year mark when I was in the Outback. Through three years of Bucket Living, I’m more true to myself. There are certain places my heart is drawn to more than others, like Alaskan Arctic and Namibian Desert. That’s because these places are where people are more honest to themselves. I feel more honest to myself when I’m on the road, especially when I’m in these kinds of harsh environments. I don’t have to care about what to wear or how I look. Survival is more important that appearance. I learn to appreciate my family and friends. I see the greatness of nature, and the harmony. I make the best out of what I have in my own way. I also learn how to cope with unexpected situations. It helps me think what’s more important and what’s not in life.
I travel because I get to learn more about what kind of person I am, and I achieved it in the Outback. The fact that I looked great with my cowboy (cowgirl?) hat was just a coincident. What can I say.
Hiking in Seoraksan National Park, Korea
Do you enjoy going back to your hometown? Love it, hate it, or it is just what it is? I was born and raised in Seoul, and lived there most of my life. Up until I left for my Bucket Living adventure, I wasn’t really fan of the place. I had a problem with the country, more than this particular city. It wasn’t too pleasant to visit here over the years either. But now I’m more and more grateful about this place.
Autumn is the best place to be in Korea, especially in the mountains. Leaves are changing, sky is blue, temperature is stable, and there are lots of food. Last autumn, I felt the joy of hometown travel. My neighborhood was pretty awesome, turns out. We went hiking in Seoraksan National Park for two days. From sunrise to sunset, from the ascending to descending, I felt overwhelming love. I was proud of this small but solid land.
What are the highlights of this year for you?