2011 in Review

by Melissa on December 30, 2011 · 3 comments

219 days outside of Canada, 5 countries, 12 flights, 4 bus tours, 1 hired car, 1 case of bed bugs, 5 days in the hospital, 2 rented flats, 2 on-the-road romances, countless friends gained and a lifetime of memories made. Looking back on 2011 in review, it’s amazing to think of everything that happened.  2011 had its high and low points – but when it came to travel, I most definitely cannot complain for a second.  I feel that this year was a year of not only exploring beautiful countries, but also one of self-exploration.  I have grown so much as a person and only have the people I have met and the experiences I have had to thank for helping me see what is important to me and what it is that truly makes me happiest.
January – Peace, Love and Happiness
I started out 2011 with a bang, celebrating with new friends in the heart of Sydney, Australia watching the world famous fireworks display over Sydney Harbour from the roof of my friend’s flat.  A whirlwind on-the-road travel romance was also in the works.  Mid-January I made my way over to New Zealand where I had the opportunity to meet up with some of my closest university friends and relax for a few weeks up in the Far North.
February – Newfound friendships and my first bout of loneliness on the road.
With the beginning of the school year, my friend Kate had to return to the classroom to teach her kids, so not wanting to be a distraction for her, I decided to jump on the Stray Bus – a hop on/hop off backpacker bus tour in New Zealand.  Within hours of meeting everyone, we all felt completely at home with each other and spent the next week exploring the North Island of New Zealand together sharing in some awesome times together.  February 8th I made my way back to Sydney, feeling a tad under the weather, missing all my new friends, and not looking forward to the terrible weather forecast that the city had in store.  After about a week, I made the decision that I would travel out to the west coast and explore some areas of Australia that were considered to be off-the-beaten path.  But first a quick four-day visit with a couple of university friends who were now living in Wollongong was in order.  Brent and Jenna were absolutely more than hospitable and put me up despite the fact they moved into their new flat on the day of my arrival.  A few days later, I found myself back in Sydney for the night, before I headed out to the Blue Mountains for three days of hiking, abseiling and canyoning amongst a beautiful backdrop.  Before I knew it, it was the end of February, and I was jumping on a plane Perth-bound.
sailing
March- Exploring Western Australia
My stay in the western Australian metropolis was only for one night, as my second day in the riverside city I was hopping on the Western Exposure tour bus, which would take me to exciting places such as the Pinnacles Desert, Kalbarri National Park, Monkey Mia, Shell Beach, Coral Bay, Exmouth, the Principality of Hutt River and the Greenough Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.  After a week of traveling nearly 2,600km with roughly twenty backpackers and a hotheaded Kiwi woman as our tourguide I made my return to the sleepy city of Perth.  While in Perth I was unlucky enough to have contracted bed bugs – likely from the very large, non-air conditioned, dirty hostel I was staying in.  Once the bedbug issue was taken care of, I was keen to get out of the city and explore more of what Western Australia had to offer.
cuddling joeys
I, along with three other travelers –an American girl, a Dutch girl and an Irish guy – hired a car and set out for 5 days of exploring Western Australia’s South-West Coast. My return to Perth was shortlived, as I spent a mere 15hrs at the YHA hostel before starting my long trek back to the east coast. The following 9 days had me jumping on the Nullarbor Traveller tour bus where we covered a whopping 3900km!  During this time I pushed my own limits and bush camped for the very first time, saw some of Australia’s most beautiful and untouched spots, watched the kilometers of constantly changing scenery pass by, swam with dolphins and sea lions in the wild, learned to surf, and quite simply got to see a huge stretch of Australia that not a whole lot of people ever even consider checking out.
I was fortunate enough to then get to spend a few nights in luxury, as my friend from home’s Aussie aunt took me in and treated me like one of her own for 4 or 5 days.  In which time I got back in contact with a few French blokes I had met during the Southwest Coast trip and they picked me up in Adelaide and together we explored the Great Ocean Road.

April – Hospital Visits and Returning Home
Once the boys and I made it to Melbourne I had come down with a severe case of campylobacter enteritis – severe food poisoning – and ended up in the hospital for 5 days.  Once better, I jumped on a train and made my way back to Sydney and eventually Wollongong, where Brent and Jenna so graciously put me up for a few days while I progressively started feeling back to normal.  With only a few days left to my adventure – I sadly made my return to Sydney.  Before I knew it, my adventure was over, and I was on an 18hr flight home.  My dad and I had decided to surprise my mom – her reaction I will NEVER forget.
After a mere 36hrs of being on solid Toronto ground, I was back on a plane headed for sunny Florida to attend a wedding of a very close friend of mine.  Lots of drinks and good times were had by all – I even caught the bouquet (shush! I know, bad luck!)

May – Getting stuck in a familiar rut
May saw me having many get-togethers for drinks, lunch or dinner with my home friends who were curious about what I got up to during my travels (clearly they weren’t keeping up with The Mellyboo Project!).  I also returned to my job working for a security and private investigation company and while I am thankful for the opportunity, I knew it wasn’t truly for me no matter what the pay was.   But I toughed it out, had a fairly decent contract and decided to grin and bear it, hoping to save as much money as I could so I could return to life on the road.  At this time I also started feeling a big empty feeling, like something was missing – but I chalked it up to getting used to life back at home.

June – Making The Mellyboo Project more useful
I decided to try to improve my writing skills by challenging myself to a 30day writing challenge – which if you must know, I did NOT successfully complete.  I attempted to write more objective pieces, not simply journal-type entries.  I also tried to make myself more known through the online travel community, utilizing Twitter more to get in touch with other bloggers.

July – Hating Toronto life, Knowing I need change
July found me sinking deeper and deeper into a rut.  My contract had come to an abrupt end at the beginning of the month, and my own boss seemed to string me along for the entire month – giving me shifts only a mere 3 days the entire month.  Needless to say I knew it was time to start seriously thinking about leaving again.  Toronto just wasn’t cutting it for me.  There were no opportunities for me and I felt like if I were to stay, I’d go back to the same depressive state I was in prior to my travels.

August – Deciding to leave it all behind
The beginning of August I seriously started sitting down with my parents and explaining to them my reasons behind my need to travel.  While they don’t understand my need to travel, I managed to convince them to emotionally support me in whatever way they can.  At the middle of August I made my big announcement – in a mere 40 days I would be leaving it all behind and travelling the world as I saw fit.  Preparations such as travel vaccinations, tying up loose ends with things at home ensued making life very hectic.

September – TIFF, Weddings and the start of my RTW journey
The beginning of September brought about my sixth year as a volunteer at the Toronto International Film Festival.  Between working on the red carpet by night, and playing paparazzi in every spare moment, I also had weddings and bachelorette parties to attend.  My friend Kim was getting married in the middle of the month, and I had agreed to do her makeup for the event as well as attend the party – which proved to be a great relaxing weekend in cottage country.  The following weekend was my cousin’s wedding, and I was to do a reading at the ceremony – it was nervewracking, but a great honour for me to be part of the celebration since we’ve always had such a close relationship.  My cousin’s wedding was the last hurrah I got to have with my extended family and before I knew it, I was getting on a flight to Hong Kong (first class, no less) where I would be meeting up with a mate from my university days.

October – My valiant return to Sydney, my love.
The first few days of October were spent exploring Hong Kong and Macau (Las Vegas of the East), but as soon as I had arrived, it was also time for me to say my goodbyes and jump on another flight – this time to my city-love, Sydney.  Within days I had made countless new friends at the WakeUp hostel, initiated a fun little romance, and found a kindred spirit in the form of Chris from Aussie on theRoad.  He even interviewed me for a piece on his site called Bite with a Blogger!  Chris and I, along with Annie from Wayward Traveller were also given the opportunity to test drive a Ford Focus for a weekend and made our way up to the sleepy riverside town of Tea Gardens.  Upon my arrival back to Sydney, I secured a job and a flat and before I knew it I was moving out of the hostel that had acted as my “Sydney home” countless times.  As the month came to a close, I found myself getting more and more into a routine, and loving every second of it.
sydney
November – Trying my hand as a Sydneysider and I turned a quarter century
I spent most of November stuck working behind a bar in a swanky little bistro above a 24hr pub in the heart of Surry Hills.  When the weather cooperated though, I managed to get a few nice beach days per week.  My routine was perfect – work 5 days per week, have 2 days to enjoy Sydney as a local would.  Towards the end of the month, I celebrated a quarter century of me walking the planet.  I received many cards in the mail from family and had a nice outing with some of my closest Sydney friends.  All in all, life in Sydney was better than I could’ve ever dreamed of.  I was truly back in my happy place.

December – Being a Sydney tourist and my Kiwi return
The beginning of December brought about the end of my employment at the Vine Bar and Bistro – and with a little less than a week left, I jam packed as much adventure as I could!  From trying my hand at standup paddleboarding, to horseback riding and abseiling, to visiting the Taronga Zoo- my last few days were jam packed with touristy fun.  It also meant that I had to say ‘see ya later’ to some fantastic people.  But December 15 I made my return to the Land of the Long White Cloud and my friends Kate and Thom welcomed me back into their home with open arms.  The last few weeks have been really awesome and I’ve been taking in the slower pace of life up here in the Far North.  I even spent my first Christmas away from home.  Needless to say, it was spent in a very different manner than I would have celebrated it back home with my family – but I think it was in the complete laid back approach that made me truly enjoy it.  We spent Christmas Eve at a nearby lake with friends, barbequing and enjoying everyone’s company.  Christmas Day I tagged along to Thom’s family do.  With 2012 less than 24hrs away, I think it’s safe to say that 2011 has been a phenomenal year.  I will be ringing in the New Year at Northern Bass – a music festival in Paihia.

Lake Ngatu Sunset
Here’s hoping 2012 grows on the greatness that was 2011.   Thank you to everyone who helped make 2011 unforgettable.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather December 30, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Since I'm new to your story, the year-in-review post is perfect for me :-)

We were traveling in WA around the same — I wanted to go well north of Perth by end of my visa and finances didn't allow it. And lucky me got to experience the Nullarbor twice!

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CailinTravels December 30, 2011 at 10:19 pm

sounds like you had a pretty awesome year! :) I hope 2012 is even better :)

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Rob January 2, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Isn't it awesome, this thing called life? Great that you've managed to embrace the travel life. I've decreed that 2012 is going to be epic for me, and I'll generously wish you an epic year to go along with mine! :)

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