I can’t believe 2013 is coming to a close. It’s scary how fast time is flying by right now!
There is no question that 2013 was the most accomplished/best year of my life so far. Within the year, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, went on a road trip to 14 Southern states in the U.S., hit up 10 new countries around the world, visited 4 different continents (North America, Europe, Asia and Central America) and moved to Korea!
I’ve always said that the best part about traveling is the people you meet. I can’t even count the number of new friends that I’ve made from all over the world this past year. I want to thank each and every one of you who made 2013 such a special year for me.
Here is a brief recap of the new places that I explored in 2013!
Costa Rica and Nicaragua
To kick off 2013, my friend Shon and I bought a spontaneous plane ticket to Costa Rica for 12 days. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. We rented a car and drove all over Costa Rica.
Some highlights of the trip include, meeting some awesome locals, hiking the Arenal Volcano, white water rafting and falling off into the rapids, zip lining thru the jungle, eating fresh fruit off trees, and hanging out on the beautiful beach in Jaco.
We also spend a few days in Granada, Nicaragua, which was an awesome experience! The most memorable parts from Nicaragua were shopping on the cheap street markets, hanging out with moneys on Monkey Island, and taking a boat tour around Lake Nicaragua. I also ate some strange local Nicaraguan food that was some dish including chicken feet… and I bought a really cool hammock from a kid on the street (check the photo).
I really need to get back to Central America, because I only got a taste of how incredible the culture is down there. I really want to do a backpacking trip thru Central and South America soon!
Road Trippin’ Thru the U.S. South
For spring break last year (in April), my roommate Alec and I went on an epic road trip thru all the Southern states of the U.S. In total, we went to 14 states within 10 days. We departed From Madison, Wisconsin and visited (in order): Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana.
The best parts from that trip was eating all the delicious Southern foods in every city, partying on the beach with our college friends in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and exploring random Southern towns. You would never imagine some of the things that you will discover in the South…
The thick accents, missing teeth, and confederate flags… But above all, nothing beats Southern Hospitality and most people are very friendly and welcoming.
My favorite cities that we went to were Memphis and Atlanta. I must’ve gained at least 10 pounds from all the local BBQ joints and cheesy grits that we dined at.
It was also very interesting to see all the small middle-of-nowhere towns in West Virginia, South Carolina, etc. It really made me realize how BIG the U.S. is and how many people live their lives. That’s why road trips are so awesome, because you get to see parts of the U.S. that nobody else sees. It was very eye-opening to say the least.
Scandinavia Tour in Summer
Two weeks after I graduated college, my buddy Lukas and I went on a crazy 3-week adventure to every country in Scandinavia. We literally just packed up our backpacks and went without much planning. Oh man was it a wild experience!
The places we went to were Copenhagen, Denmark -> Malmo, Sweden -> Bergen, Norway -> Stockholm, Sweden -> Helsinki, Finland -> Tallinn, Estonia -> and Prague, Czech Rep.
On this trip, we were running off pure adrenaline each day. We partied hard every night and woke up early every morning to explore around the city. It was always GO GO GO time, because we only had 3-4 days to spend in each city. Who needs sleep anyways? I’d much rather spend my time actively doing things than sleeping in a bed.
My biggest regret from the trip is not taking a longer layover in Reykjavik, Iceland. I really wanted to get off the plane and explore, but we only had a 6 hour layover. Next time I’ll make sure to have a 24 hour layover so I can see the Blue Lagoon!
Here are the top 10 things that come to mind when looking back at this trip around Scandinavia. Please take it for what it’s worth…
– Women in Stockholm and Copenhagen are the most beautiful in the world. It’s not debatable.
– You NEED to see the Fjords in Norway; they are the most beautiful natural wonder that I’ve seen on planet earth.
– Norway is unbelievably expensive. For example, a small bowl of soup was $15USD. Make sure to extra money before going to Norway
– Estonia is home to the most preserved medieval town in the world, called Tallinn. It’s of the most unique places I’ve ever been!
– Helsinki wasn’t as cool as I thought it was… Maybe because I was sick and we didn’t get a chance to explore as much of the city, but overall I was unimpressed. The people we not friendly and we got scarfed at a few times.
– On the other hand, Stockholm has the nicest (and sexiest) people, and I felt very welcomed into their country. The streets are so clean that you can literally eat off them, and the nightlife is insane!
– The seafood all over Scandinavia is fresh and amazing!
– The word for cheers is the same in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. “Skål!”
– Christiania in Copenhagen is the best-kept hidden secret on this planet. If you want to know more about it, ready my posts about Copenhagen.
– In Norway, it stayed light outside 24 hours day in June.
– The Vikings sure know how to party! The nightlife scene everywhere we went was so much fun!
Favorite city: Stockholm
Biggest regret from the trip- not taking a longer layover in Reykjavik, Iceland. I really wanted to get off the plane and explore, but we only had a 6 hour layover. Next time I’ll make sure to have a 24 hour layover!
I won’t say too much about Tokyo, because I have everything written down in my recent blog posts about Tokyo. But are some cool things that I experiences in Tokyo:
– Going to the Sumo Wrestling Championships- it was so cool to watch this sport live! We also got to meet some of the most famous ones on the street.
– Eating delicious sushi and other Japanese foods. Words don’t do justice by how amazing it was…
– Having fun in a Japanese arcade. You have no idea how good Japanese people are at video games until you see it with your own eyes. Watch this video of Me getting OWNED by a Japanese dude at an arcade…
– Getting my mind blown in electric city is awesome- all the Japanese anime, Pokemon, and electronic things that you can imagine from Tokyo are all concentrated in this one area.
– Visiting the hotel where the movie “Lost in Translation” was filmed at.
– Seeing the view of Tokyo from the top of the Mori Tower. The urban landscape of skyscrapers go on forever.
– Touring around all the Japanese Buddhist shrines.
That pretty much sums up my travels in 2013. What an awesome year to look back on! It’s time to make 2014 an even crazier year.
I am about to kick off the new year with a 6-week backpacking trip thru South East Asia. I will be hitting up a total of 9 new countries: Philippines -> Brunei -> Singapore -> Malaysia -> Sri Lanka -> Thailand -> Cambodia -> Vietnam -> China…
What am I most excited for on this trip?
– swimming with whale sharks in Oslob, Philippines
– kayaking in the rainforest in Brunei
– seeing the twin towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
– eating the world-famous cuisine in Singapore
– hiking Adams peak and wandering around Sri Lanka for a week
– going to a FULL MOON PARTY in Ko Samui, Thailand
– visiting the famous Ankor Wat temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia
– seeing the Great Wall of China in Beijing
I am overwhelmed with emotions right now because only 10 days separate me from this epic adventure. Let the fun times begin!
Happy New Years everyone ? Let’s make 2014 the best year of our lives!
P.S. On my upcoming trip, I want to put together a cool video from the perspectives around SouthEast Asia. I think that “the culture of SE Asia” sounds too boring.. so please comment on this post and let me know your ideas!