My 2013: A Year Through 16 Countries!

by Audrey on December 23, 2013 · 39 comments

With the end of the year just around the corner, I’ve been reminiscing about everything that happened in 2013. I started out the year in South Korea where I still had 2 months of my teaching contract left to complete, and from there I set out on the biggest adventure I have ever been on – 10 months of action packed travel that took me to a total of 16 countries! I think the longest I had travelled prior to that was maybe about 5 weeks. It was a huge leap into an unknown world, and I’m not sure I would have made it this far had I not met Sam along the way. All I can say is that it’s been one crazy adventure! Here is a look at my 2013 through photos:

Playing with puppies in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.

South Korea

Winter in Korea proved to be brutal, but I used my last few months in the country as an opportunity to try as many new Korean dishes as possible, as well as visit the little tea houses in Seoul. (I miss ginger tea and sweet rice cakes!) While I struggled with Korean work culture in the beginning, my time in Korea taught me that teaching is something that I would definitely like to do in the future. The opportunity to work in Korea also allowed me to pay off my student loans and put money aside to travel. (Seriously, if you’re fresh out of university, have massive student loans, and have any interest in teaching, Korea is a great place to give that possible career path a test run AND pay back the money you owe!)

Riding a pimped-out trishaw through the streets of Melaka, Malaysia.

Malaysia

Bidding Korea farewell, Sam and I hit the ground running in Malaysia with stops in Melaka, Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown and the Cameron Highlands. Maybe it’s because this was our first stop of the trip, but I immediately loved Melaka – and also its food! Popiah, nyonya laksa, cendol and more – my tastebuds were delighted.

A fiery orange sunset with wisps of pink and blue in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Cambodia

Next up was Cambodia with visits to Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang. As cliche as it may sound, visiting the temples of Angkor was the highlight of my visit. Even though I had seen images of the temples in documentaries, books and postcards, standing there in person before these massive stone structures left me gaping in awe. And yes, I still think you should go watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat even though there will be hundreds of people there with you.

Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam.

Vietnam

I loved Vietnam! Before coming here I had heard far too many negative reviews from other travellers, but I travelled the full length from south to north and it quickly became one of my favourite countries in South East Asia. Some of the highlights included the street food scene in Saigon, the charming little town of Hoi An and all its tailor shops, spending two days sailing the karst formations of Halong Bay, and then going on a two day trek through the hill tribes of Sapa. I have never been in a country with so many diverse landscapes.

The Chiang Mai Saturday Night Market, Thailand.

Thailand

This year Thailand became my home. My home! I still can’t quite believe I get to call somewhere so exotic my home, but that’s exactly what the charming little hippie city of Chiang Mai is to me. While Sam and I had initially planned to be g0-go-go with our travels for the duration of the year, we realized by our third month on the road that we needed to slow down the pace and Chiang Mai has since become our go-to destination whenever we need a little break. I’m currently back here for round two!

An idyllic setting in Finland's archipelago region.

Finland

I had always thought of Finland as a winter destination – that place where Santa Klaus lives way up north. However, visiting in the summertime showed me a side of Finland I didn’t expect, a side that reminded me of my other home, of Canada. While I spent my time in Helsinki sleeping in a jail hotel and sampling various forms of reindeer meat, my time in the archipelago region was heavily focused on exploring the outdoors. The highlight was kayaking in the ice cold waters of the Archipelago Sea, which was both equally terrifying and exhilarating! And I got to visit one of my best friends who is currently studying over there (hi Raakel!)

Day trip to Tallinn, Estonia from Helsinki, Finland.

Estonia

Estonia was a last minute day-trip decision. After a few days of sightseeing around Helsinki, we hopped on a ferry to explore Tallinn for the day. We arrived without a map and without a plan, yet managed to stumble upon a medieval themed restaurant where we ate lunch and dinner (some places are worth coming back to and Olde Hansa was one of them!). Sam and I also sampled cakes and handmade chocolate for most of the afternoon, and developed a game I like to call “Spot that Hen Party!” – from sailor-themed to pink bunny ears, there were lots of them in Tallinn.

In Toronto visiting my sisters

Canada

Over the summer I booked a ticket to go visit my family in Toronto. When I first moved to Korea, I hadn’t expected to be gone from Canada so long, and then a year and a half later I found myself in Asia and missing home a lot. It was high time for a visit, so I flew back for 3 weeks were I did nothing aside from hang out at home, eat really good home cooked food, and take my dog for walks through the park.

A canon and The Grand Lisboa in Macao

Macau

Macau was all about casinos and food. When I wasn’t visiting the interior of the luxurious hotels along the Cotai Strip, I was sampling Piggy Buns and Macanese egg tarts. While my visit got rained out by the monsoons, I did have one non-rainy day to explore the city’s colonial past.

Audrey and Sam in Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Hong Kong was fascinating! I thought New York City and London were chaotic, but Hong takes things to a whole new level. While some days the masses of people felt a bit overwhelming, for the most part I really enjoyed the crazy, wild, busy, madness of it all. It was also nice meeting a big group of bloggers calling the city home (hi Beth, Oneika, and James!) and being introduced to some great little restaurants in the city. One of the highlights was going on a food tour of Hong Kong’s best eats.

Longji Rice Terraces, a day trip from Guilin, China

China

China was challenging and there were times when even booking a train ticket felt like an insurmountable task. My patience was tested many times, but then visiting the Longji rice terraces, sailing in a bamboo raft down the Yangshuo River, or biking through fields of green with jagged karsts as far as the eye can see, I was reminded of why I had journeyed all the way out here. I will definitely go back to China, but next time it will be when I have no work commitments to contend with. This is a country were it’s best to disconnect and immerse yourself in your surroundings.

Turkish flag draped on a building.

Turkey

Turkey was another special destination because Sam’s mom came out to visit us for Sam’s birthday, or should I say, Sam surprised his mom with a ticket and announced to her that she had a plane to catch in precisely one week! The three of us spent the week together exploring every corner of this magical city. We got lost in the Grand Bazaar, ate more baklava and Turkish delight than one should in a lifetime, watched a whirling dervish ceremony, drank endless cup of Turkish coffee and tea, visited Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, and ate kofte and kebabs like each meal was our last.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria was yet another random last minute decision. While in Istanbul, Sam and I found ourselves with the option of either spending more time in Turkey (hello, Cappadocia and Ephesus!) or perhaps hopping another international border. One More Country Syndrome inevitably kicked in and we found ourselves on an overnight train bound for Sofia. While I struggled a bit with the city, the food here proved to be amazing and I soon found myself proclaiming that Sofia is indeed a city for foodies.

View of Amman, Jordan.

Jordan

Jordan is one of those countries that exceeded my expectations again and again. From camping in Wadi Rum, to exploring Petra, and learning about Bedouin culture in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, this country was constantly surprising me. I spent a total of 10 days, and could have probably used 10 more.

With my mom and dad in Israel.

Israel

I got to visit Israel TWICE this year. My first visit was to do what I do best – eat my way around the country – and my second visit was to meet up with my parents who came out to see me! I’ve been trying to get my parents to come out for a visit ever since I moved to South Korea, but Israel proved to be the country that piqued their interest. We spent the first few days touring Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Galilee, before finishing off our trip in Tel Aviv where our days were spent beach-bumming and eating amazing food.

Edinburgh, Scotland - Flickr CC Francisco Diez

Scotland

The year may be almost over, but there is still time for one more country and that is why next week I’m heading off to Scotland! Yes, after celebrating Christmas in Thailand, I will be flying out to Edinburgh to take part in the Hogmanay New Year’s celebrations. I’m expecting bagpipes, highland dancing, vikings wielding fiery torches, and a whole lot of fun! Maybe there will even be some snow.

And that is a wrap! I want to thank every one of you who read along – whether you are a silent reader or a commenter – I really appreciate that you take the time to click through here. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and all the best in the New Year!

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

rube December 23, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I wonder how u cope with the expenses. I would love tovtravel but financial cobstraint stops me!! :(

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Audrey December 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Hi Rube,
I currently work remotely, which means my laptop follows me around wherever I go. In the past I’ve had all sorts of jobs from teaching English to painting houses, all of which have allowed me to save up for big trips. I’ve written about how I’m able to fund my travels over on this post: How can you afford to travel around the world?

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jasmine December 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm

So inspiring and interesting to read about your travels :)
this year you inspired me to teach in Thailand and then spend the rest of the year travelling around Asia.
I am now currently considering if I could handle/commit to a whole year of teaching in south Korea, I’ve read all your blog posts on your teaching there and the only thing is find hard is the cold winter :/
anyway, thanks for the inspiration and your great blog! Happy holidays / merry Christmas :)

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Audrey December 24, 2013 at 3:52 am

Thanks for the kind words, Jasmine. A year in Korea goes by fast, especially if you have a nice team of co-workers – or if you go the public route, you’d have plenty of time to travel during the school breaks to break up the year. If Korea sounds too cold, there are plenty of ESL jobs available to consider in SE Asia, it’s just that the pay would be lower, but the palm trees and coconut shakes might be worth it. ;) Best wishes with your upcoming plans and enjoy your holidays!!

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Maria December 23, 2013 at 3:38 pm

You certainly went far and covered a lot of ground in 2013 – I can hardly wait to see where you wander to in 2014.
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Audrey December 24, 2013 at 3:54 am

Ahh 2014, there will be a bit more travel around SE Asia, and then lots of Europe by train. ;) Enjoy your holidays, Maria!!!

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Colleen Brynn December 23, 2013 at 7:36 pm

What a fantastic year. I’ve loved the overview in photos. But I do have to say that I’m surprised you had heard bad things about Vietnam… I’ve only ever heard great things, and as such, can’t wait wait to visit!
Can I also just say you are going to LOVE Scotland, especially at this time of year. I was in Edinburgh before Christmas in 2008 and oh, the lights and magic! I hope they still have the Christmas market up when you are there. It was such a treat. You will be swept away, I just know it.
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Shing December 23, 2013 at 8:17 pm

What a year! Isn’t Jordan an immensely mind-blowing place? I reminisce about the time I had there all the time. Great to see that your parents jumped in on your adventures too! Your mother looks very exotic, what’s your heritage? :D
Shing recently posted..2013: A year of travels, graduation, moving and starting full-time workMy Profile

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Audrey December 24, 2013 at 3:42 am

My mom is Peruvian and my dad is Argentinian. ;)

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Casey @ A Cruising Couple December 23, 2013 at 8:40 pm

What a wonderful year! I love all the photos of you as well- you’re so photogenic! :) We travel a bit slower, so I think we only saw about seven new countries, which was still pretty good for us. Looking forward to seeing where you will be in 2014!!
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Angela December 23, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I have been enjoying reading all your adventures! I hope to plan a trip to SE Asia soon. Happy holidays!
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Brittany December 23, 2013 at 11:20 pm

You’ve traveled more in one year than some can travel in a few years. Great experiences I am sure. I would love to visit Thailand one day. Researching is as my summer trip for next year! Good to see that you loved it! Gives me more inspiration to get there.
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memographer December 23, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Ohh, My! 16 countries in 10 months! Sounds like a great year, Audrey!
Best wishes to you and Sam in 2014!
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Sonya December 24, 2013 at 2:24 am

I loved this post as I haven’t been to a single one of these countries! And, your pictures are great.

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ardun December 24, 2013 at 11:22 am

Looks like it was a great year Audrey. We too went to Jordan and Israel and loved them both. What are the plans for the year to come? Also are Macau and Hong Kong still part of China or do you get separate stamps in your passports and have to cross borders etc.?
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MollyG December 24, 2013 at 11:58 am

Dan and I are at 13 countries in 5 months. Only one more to go (Australia), before we finally head home. You are a big inspiration, even to someone like me who has been traveling for 5 months already! What kind of online work do you do? Dan and I are trying to find some way to be able to continue traveling in the future. Here’s to a wonderful 2014!
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Jules December 24, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Looks like it’s been a great year! All the best for 2014. :)
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Agness December 25, 2013 at 2:54 am

Wow, 16 countries? That’s been so awesome Audrey. I followed you everywhere you went this year and we are so envious of your travel adventures! Wishing you a Happy New Year and even more countries to visit in 2014!!
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Rika | Cubicle Throwdown December 25, 2013 at 2:58 am

Wow – what a year!! I only wish I had been to that many this year. I’ve really enjoyed following you around the world (uh, virtually that is) and look forward to seeing what you and Sam get up to in 2014!
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Zara @ Backpack ME December 25, 2013 at 7:58 am

Congrats on a spectacular year!
Difficult to top it up on 2014.. but there’s no harm in trying, right?! ;)
Cheers!
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Simon Lee December 25, 2013 at 10:51 am

HI Audrey,
Dropping by for the first time, i am Simon, from Malaysia.

Glad to see that you and Sam visited Malaysia. I hope you can try out the chicken rice ball on top of popiah and cendol, it is one of the most famous cuisines in Melaka and Malaysia:)

Hope to see you again in Malaysia

Cheers,
Simon
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Beth December 26, 2013 at 7:11 am

Sounds like an amazing year! I can’t wait to see what you have in store for 2014!! :D

(Also those puppies in the first pic are so adorable!)
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George Rajna December 26, 2013 at 8:20 am

Sounds like you have had a great travel year. Southeast Asia is my favorite part of the world but I would love to return to Turkey and visit Scotland for the first time. I too view Thailand as a second home, both Chiangmai Mai and Koh Samui are among my favorite destinations.

Happy new year and safe travels!

George
Wesaidgotravel
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Backpacking Panda December 26, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Hey Audrey!
my name is Sivan and I recently created my own travel blog: Backpacking Panda. your blog inspired me a lot, I like your articles. it seems like you had a wonderful year, I’m glad to read that you had fun in Israel, I live in Tel Aviv and indeed Israel has a lot to offer. (=

I traveled twice to China with my boyfriend and realize how much I love everything about traveling. every single day I think about how much I miss traveling, and that’s why in two weeks we are going on our first long term trip to South America and really exited about it. Thanks for your helping tips in your website.
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Audrey December 27, 2013 at 3:31 am

Hi Sivan! Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad to hear my site has been helpful. ;) I just checked out the China posts on your blog and it makes me realize how much I still have left to see of the country – it looks like you had a great time out there. Wishing you all the best on your travels around South America!

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Michelle December 26, 2013 at 10:51 pm

You’ve had an amazing year! I just love your blog!
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Mark Wiens December 29, 2013 at 2:45 am

Awesome, very cool places Audrey, great year!!

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Silvia December 29, 2013 at 5:21 am

Looks like an amazing year! We also spent a good portion of ours in Chiang Mai – it’s the best. Excited to see what 2014 has in store for you!
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Mallory December 30, 2013 at 5:22 pm

I’m so inspired by you and your travels and that I would like to try to incorporate as much traveling as I can into my life. Taking a year off to travel has been in the back of my mind recently and hearing traveling stories like yours makes me eager to try out my own journey. Hopefully I can save up the money and make the time to do a RTW trip.
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Audrey December 31, 2013 at 10:37 am

Hi Mallory,
Thanks for your message. Taking a year off to travel sounds like a great adventure. I know saving up sounds a bit hard at first, but if you open a savings account and start putting in a little each month, it honestly goes a long way. I hope you get to go on your RTW soon!
Audrey

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Heather January 1, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished this year! It has been a pleasure to follow you and Sam around the globe and I can’t wait to see where you go next! Happy New Year :-D
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Kilee January 3, 2014 at 9:01 am

Such a fun filled year, you really bounced all over the world!

PS – I hope you stole one of those puppies in the first pic AHH SO CUTE

Happy New Year and all the best :)

Kilee
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Cheap Backpacker January 3, 2014 at 12:55 pm

That’s quite a big and complete list, from Asia to Europe! We were confined to Europe for the last 3 years, we hope to get away soon :)
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Natalia | Always Trekking January 6, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Wow, Audrey! 16 countries, what a champ!

China is an incredibly hard country to travel through. I think the hardest one I had to deal with and I live here! So I understand your pain completely. Also according to China, HK and Macao are theirs. Your list would be blacked out in China if the censors had their way. :)

Keep on truckin’!
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apol | Wanderfultogether.com January 9, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Wow 16! We could only do 5. I’m happy I found your blog Audrey.
I’m still dreaming of Cappadocia.

More stories in 2014 please!
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Adam @ Visit Flyover Country January 14, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Wow, 16! I had a year like that in 2012, but then dropped to 2 in 2013 :)

Love following along – your adventures really inspire!
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Micamyx|Senyorita January 15, 2014 at 8:01 pm

So… when are you coming to the Philippines? :D
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LaTisha January 21, 2014 at 2:46 pm

I would love to hit this many countries in a year! This year I’m shooting for 4. I’m starting small.
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Sunil Tamang March 26, 2014 at 8:17 am

wow ..what a great travel in 2013…if you come to Nepal, let me know :)
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