325 days, 13 countries, 65,000+ miles

My first retirement is over.

325 days ago I left a great job to spend time exploring the world. What I thought would be between 3 and 6 months turned into almost a full year – and an experience of a lifetime. Now, I have found a new career with Energy Circle – creating digital marketing plans for companies & organizations that work to build and outfit efficient and healthy buildings. It’s a bittersweet ending to an incredible year – as I would love to keep traveling (and will continue to some extent), but like all things, traveling costs money so I need to pay the bills…until my next retirement 🙂

So now, a full wrap-up, reflections and thoughts about this past year:

  • 325 days (June 17, 2016 – May 7, 2017)
  • 4 continents (North America, Europe, Oceania (Australia), Africa)
  • 13 countries (US, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, UK)
  • 28 states (Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland.)
  • 14,000+ miles of road trips (doesn’t include every day driving while home)
  • 65,000+ miles of total travel (estimate including air travel)
  • 9,500+ photos (some better than others)
IMG_5178
My Instagram feed of photos since I began traveling back in June 2016

Favorites:

  • Country: New Zealand. When someone asks what my favorite place has been there is no question, and no hesitation when I answer, New Zealand. From the people to the geological features, New Zealand was absolutely incredible. Africa would also go on my favorites list, but it still doesn’t come close to how much I loved New Zealand.
  • State: Utah – I would have loved to spend more time in Utah – specifically the Moab area!
  • Activity: Bungee Jumping. Such a rush (and surprise! I did it in New Zealand) as well as hiking all over!
  • Airport: Heathrow, London. This may be just because there were clean showers that were welcome between 10+ hour flights!
  • Border Crossing/Immigration: Dobe border crossing from Botswana into Namibia. We had to track down officials for both countries to get our passports stamped! The border was so remote that they only get one car every 2-3 days!

Least Favorites:

  • Country:  None. There was something amazing about every country I visited – and I would revisit every single one!
  • State: Again, I don’t know if I have a least favorite state!
  • Activity: Going to drug stores in Australia. Unfortunately I was sick through my entire travels in Australia so frequented the drug store to get medicine! They don’t sell over-the-counter cold medicine so I had to speak to a pharmacist every single time. Plus, they only provide around 4 days worth at a time, so I was going every 4 days!
  • Airport: LA. I didn’t have to go far within the airport, but it was crowded and my terminal didn’t have many options for grabbing a bite to eat!
  • Border Crossing/Immigration: Boston/Logan airport. I don’t think I spent less than an hour in this line in any of my travels this past year – and at one point the line was so long people couldn’t even get off the plane!

I learned so much during this time,  and if I were to share anything with you it would be that if you need a break, take it. Time away from the office, a desk, or your home can be extremely refreshing and give you greater perspective and a better idea of who you are. I hope that in another 5-6 years, I may be able to retire again for another year. My advice to everyone is to take risks, get outside your comfort zone and never stop traveling. Whether it’s across the globe or across your town – there is something new and exciting around every corner!

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Surf’s Up

Ahh Sydney…where to start…


I arrived at my first hostel in Sydney – at the Rocks. The Rocks is essentially the Portland Old Port of Sydney. The rooftop had an amazing view of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. I spent the next couple days exploring the area and taking in the beer and food festivals going on! I also managed to catch the ferry out to Manly and explore North Head National Park and hike around to Manly Beach. The trail was not well marked, and sometimes not marked at all so it was a fair amount of backtracking and guessing – but I made it! I passed Shelly Beach – which was essentially a party beach. Everyone was using the BBQs and the beach was packed!

View from my hostel!
Little cove on my walk around North Head
View from North Head
Shelley Beach!
Manly Beach

I spent Monday – Friday at Bondi Beach – at the Bondi Beach House hostel. This was surf central. I signed up for 3 surf lessons – I recommend spacing them out with a few days in between. The first two days were amazing. I was already on the shorter board making turns and taking on green waves. By day 3 I couldn’t move my arms. I had to call it quits a little before the lesson ended because it really wasn’t safe for me to be out. I was physically exhausted and because of that and the extreme surf, I had already taken a surfboard to the head, inhaled about 3 gallons of water and fell so hard on the sand bar I’m pretty sure I had an instant bruise on my ass.

Hate the watermark.. But first day and already up!

My hostels in Sydney and Bondi were 4 people and 6 people. For the most part it was good. I’ve met some really interesting people from different places. Everyone asks about the current political climate, as they are extremely concerned about what will happen and what he worldwide implications will be if a certain individual lacking political experience becomes president of the US. That has been a hotter topic than the death of the Great Barrier Reef.


Just made it to New Zealand and am thankfully staying at and AirBnB in Queenstown for the next couple weeks. Chris, a friend from Portland and was actually able to join for a couple weeks so I’ll have some company exploring the South Island of New Zealand!

View from 5 minutes away from where we’re staying in NZ

Pristine beaches, flies and budgie smugglers

I was told I needed to incorporate some Aussie slang into this post.. So there are a couple terms included below!

I left Melbourne and made my way to Perth (Western Australia) to visit my friend Roland and his girlfriend Lauren. Roland spent a year at UMaine in the same MBA program I was in back in 2010. They picked me up at the airport and we almost immediately headed out to Swan Valley to the wineries. Lamont’s was by far our favorite because Scott was running the show. As he mixed himself a Bloody Mary, he introduced himself as a bitter old man – and to check the trip advisor reviews if we didn’t believe him. He was hilarious! Sarcasm at its finest.

Roland was the skipper (DD)

 

The next day we explored Fremantle – or as the locals call it, Freo. We did a tour of the Fremantle Prison which was interesting – it closed in 1991 and had pretty brutal facilities up until then. If women weren’t working, they were essentially left outside in a cage in the blistering hot sun with no shade. They also didn’t have any hot water for bathing. It was almost as if it was from the early 1900s instead of 1991!

We went out for dinner/drinks to a super cool brewery called Little Creatures right on the water where I tried kangaroo! I also learned that because there is no ozone layer over Australia, sun burns are common. They had massive containers of sunscreen hanging from the trees on the patio.

Trying Kangaroo! It was good!

 

The following day, after strolling through Kings Park, we headed a little south to Serpentine National Park. We spent the afternoon doing a 13km hike up to the second falls. We wrapped up the day visiting the Serpentine Dam and watching the sunset from a viewing point. It’s wildflower season here so the wild flowers and sheer number of South African water lilies was incredible!

Wild flowers in Kings Park
Serpentine Falls
South African Water Lily
Pit stop during the hike
Sunset at Serpentine National Park

 

Yesterday we took a drive a few hours north to go the the Pinnacles Desert National Park and a remote beach. The Pinnacles are these rock formations that were formed around 500,000 years ago. There were so many it looked like a little city! It was also the day the flies hatched.. Which made it almost unbearable. I felt like a livestock animal that couldn’t get away from them.

The Pinnacles
The flies were unbearable
Flies covering the Jeep

Nearby we stopped for a squiz (a quick look) at Lake Thetis (more like a pond) to see the stromatolites. Stromatolites are similar to one of the earliest living organisms in the world that provided oxygen. A little further north in Western Australia, the Pilbara is home to stromatolite fossils that are 3.4 billion years old.

The circular forms are stromatolites

After the Pinnacles we took the Jeep to Wedge Island. You need a 4×4 to get out there – because it’s essentially off-road, sand dune and beach driving. It was stunning and tropical. The water was crystal clear. We were one of only a handful of trucks on a 3 mile stretch. It amazed me how perfect the beach was in every way and to have virtually no one there. The water was warm enough and the sun was hot, so we enjoyed some relaxation and wine for a while before heading back. Unlike the beaches in Europe, no budgie smugglers (banana hammocks) were seen!

We had the beach to ourselves!

I just arrived in Sydney and will be here for about a week before heading to New Zealand!

Warning: really awesome pictures ahead.

After pretty much fully recovering from jet lag, I met up with a guy who took me to St. Kilda’s beach to check out the little penguins. They make their homes right off the boardwalk there. It was amazing…cute little guys just walking around the boardwalk or hopping around the rocks. You couldn’t use flash because it would blind them, but you can see we were able to get pretty close!

Little Penguins on the boardwalk

I spent the following day on the great ocean road. It’s about a 3 hour drive to Melbourne, but it is worth it. The views are absolutely stunning. The 12 apostles was one of the major sites, and actually started as just 10 rock formations but are now 8 because of deterioration. It’s all sandstone and limestone so as the waves and wind crash against them they weaken. If you do anything in southern Australia, I would say definitely do the Great Ocean Road.

Loch Ard Gorge on the Great Ocean Road
12 Apostles (though there are only 8)
The beach off Gibsons Steps on the Great Ocean Road
Cape Otway Light – it was blowing about 70 mph at the top!
Double Rainbow as we were leaving the Great Ocean Road

Another day was spent visiting an animal sanctuary and then we went to Phillips Island to the Nobbies and to see more Penguins. 

Koala!
Wallaby and his friend
The Nobbies

Yesterday I was able to get to Wilsons Promontory, a national park about three hours away. The hiking and views were amazing (though it was overcast and windy).

One of the views from the top of Mt. Bishop
Top of Mt. Bishop looking down at Squeaky Beach. it was so windy there was no chance of me standing
Coming around Tidal River was like a fairytale!

No one’s in good shape after 26 hours in airports and planes…

I think I may have slept for 4 hours in and out on the 16 hour flight from LAX to Melbourne, Australia. I was lucky enough to be seated next to a friendly couple who was heading home to Melbourne after traveling throughout the US for 6 weeks who gave me some pointers on Melbourne and New Zealand!

My flights in general were pretty good…outside of my air vent spitting ice balls on my flight from Maine to Newark, it was a pretty easy trip! I will say.. A 16 hour flight is challenging… I wouldn’t want to make it a habit. Needless to say, I was tired, felt like crap from eating crap and really just wanted to brush my teeth.

I wish I had taken pictures of the sky as we were descending into Melbourne. It was early in the morning so the sun was rising – it was stunning. The sky went from the brightest reds and oranges to deep purple…and then sun changed from a great orange color to a blazing white – whiter than any moon I’ve seen. I wish I had an aisle seat!! When we landed, I took it as a good sign that a rainbow appeared over the city! I checked into my hostel… Great location and decent amenities. Good sized kitchen, common areas – and of course the non-English speakers in my room are Swedes – so I understand them too!

It’s a little dreary and chilly here – around 58 degrees. There is the AFL Final (Australian Football) this weekend in Melbourne – so big that the city actually gives it a public holiday! It’s pretty much the Super Bowl of Australia and comes to a head with the Foxtel Footy Festival. This weekend is also the Melbourne Fringe Festival – a large arts festival!

I’ve discovered that Melbourne is a lot like Portland when it comes to food. The first place I ate at, right around the corner from my hostel, was called Grains. I had an amazing Coq au Vin.. 

Coq au Vin

I was a complete waste yesterday (the day I arrived) so I apologize for the lack of good photos. The jet lag was killing me and I had a headache most of the day. Even now, waking up (Friday morning here), the headache is still there. I’m going on a walking tour of the city today to get a little better familiarized with it – and then will hopefully enjoy some Fringe Festival! I will be heading out of Melbourne for a few days to visit the 12 Apostles and the Great Ocean Road on Monday, followed by hiking through some trails on Mt. Bishop, Mt. Oberon or Pillar Point. Then off to Squeaky Beach – where there is apparently singing sand!! Fingers crossed I see some kangaroos and koalas!