Happy 1 Year Travel Anniversary to Me!

by Melissa on September 28, 2012 · 30 comments

For most people, the idea of traveling for a year can be quite daunting – yet it is considered to be living the dream.  For me, for the last 365 days, this has been my reality.  It has been fun, exciting, scary, and full of good times and bad.  Today marks my 1 year travel anniversary!  In that time, I’ve set foot on 4 continents, been to 9 countries and have had incredible experiences along the way- yet if you want to play the numbers game, these measly statistics pale in comparison to some other speedy travellers on their own RTW (round the world) journeys.

I, on the other hand, have spent much of the last year opting for a slower approach and settling in an area for an extended period of time.  After a quick 4-day visit to Hong Kong and Macau, I spent the better part of 3 months living and working in Australia’s biggest (and in my opinion, best) city – Sydney I have said it numerous times; Sydney is the one place in the world that feels like home in my heart.  After my working holiday visa ran up in December, I made my way ‘across the ditch’ as the local Aussies and Kiwis say and set up shop living on beautiful 90Mile Beach in Ahipara, New Zealand with one of my best friends in the entire world, the ever wonderful Kate (of CanuckiwiKate fame).  Here I have enjoyed a very different lifestyle to the one that I had been used to living in both Markham (my hometown and epitome of upper-middle class suburbia) and in Sydney.  For the first time in my life I found myself struggling to find any sort of job that paid and spent four months unemployed.  That being said, there are worse ways to spend being unemployed, than living across the road from a world-famous beach.  I lapped it up and embraced the laid back lifestyle.

My parents came over to this part of the world for a nice three-week visit and I proudly showed off much of New Zealand’s North Island, as well as my beloved Sydney to them.  I cherished the time we got to spend together –even if at the time we did bicker about little things here and there.  Once we parted ways, I made my way over to Cape Town, South Africa where I explored the city for a week, gearing up for my 20-day overland tour with Nomad Adventure Tours where I had the honor of being the blogger on tour!  When the tour was complete, I tried my hand at voluntourism- and spent 2 ½ weeks at Zimbabwe’s Antelope Park developing and indulging in my passion for animal conservation.  I got to work with LIONS!  For 16 days I had the absolute pleasure of getting to feel like I was part of something meaningful – the fight to save Africa’s most iconic species from extinction.

After seven glorious and life-changing weeks in Africa I made my way back to Ahipara, New Zealand.  My original plans were going to take me down to the South Island – but a series of fortunate events occurred.  With the help of a very good friend, I managed to secure myself a 5week job working as a stable hand alongside beautiful purebred Hanoverian horses.  Kate and her boyfriend let me know that they were going to be moving into a new flat and asked if I would be interested in renting out the bottom unit of the house – it was an offer that was too good to turn down.  I still lived at the beach, had better views, my own space and most importantly – an income to support all this!  Since then, I managed to find myself another job, waitressing at one of the few restaurants in a neighboring town.

Fast Facts:

Distance covered: 30,000km + (I don’t have it down to an exact science, sorry)

Planes taken: 16 (2 first class, 13 economy, 1 jumped out of)

Photos taken: 8, 044

Road Trips: 5

Flats lived in: 3

Hostels stayed in: 7

Number of guests I’ve had stay with me: 7

Travel Bloggers met in real life: 11

Bucket List Items crossed off: 9

Hookups/ road romances: a lady doesn’t tell.

Days spent in the hospital: 0

Here are my 12 favorite photos from the last year of travel!

hong kong intersection

Hong Kong intersection

waverly cemetery sydney

Waverly Cemetery, Sydney on the Coogee to Bondi coastal walk

sydney harbour at night

Sydney Harbour at night from McMahon’s Point

lake ngatu

Christmas Eve 2011 sunset at Lake Ngatu

skydive

Skydiving over New Zealand’s Bay of Islands

stephy and mel

Road trip with my soul sister, Stephy, in the Coromandel

hole in the rock

My parents came to visit me!  Boat trip out to the Hole in the Rock in Paihia fish river canyon

At Fish River Canyon, Namibia

sesriem sunset

Gorgeous salmon coloured sunset in Sesriem, Namibia

elephants on chobe river

Elephants along the Chobe River, Botswana

The future of ALERT’s lion conservation efforts at Antelope Park in Gweru, Zimbabwe

On a lion walk with the picture perfect Lewa while volunteering at Antelope Park in Gweru, Zimbabwe

So what’s next? 

I will be spending the remaining bit of my time on my working holiday here in New Zealand working up here in the Far North – it has become my home for now, and I have so many friends here that I consider to be family.   December 2nd I will be in Auckland to have my last hurrah with the lovely Beverley from Pack Your Passport, and together we will go see Bear Grylls do a chat at Auckland’s Vector Arena.  December 3rd, I fly from Auckland to Sydney to Honolulu, Hawaii where I will be meeting up with my soul sister, Steph.  We will spend 2 fantastic weeks enjoying a Hawaiian lifestyle and I will be frantically working on my tan before I have to endure an ungodly Canadian winter.  December 18th I will arrive in Vancouver – a city I’ve always intended on visiting, but have never managed to have more than a night’s layover at the airport.  This time I will spend 2 full days exploring the city with my dear friend Gillie and hopefully meeting up with Ellie (a girl from Antelope Park) and Annie from Wayward Traveller.  Then December 20th will be the day that my parents have been anticipating since that day back at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport in September 2011.  Unlike last year’s beach Christmas, I am hoping that Toronto will give me a traditional white Christmas where I will get to spend it with family and other loved ones.

 *  *  *  *  *

Don’t fret though, this isn’t the end of The Mellyboo Project – there are heaps of travel plans in the works for 2013 and beyond, including another trip to Africa and getting to attend my first TBEX in Toronto!

In closing, and in full conceded fashion, I want to wish myself a Happy Travel Anniversary!  Here’s to an awesome year gone past, and to many more years of traveling and sharing my experiences to hopefully inspire others to go out and live their dreams and their lives on their own terms!

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne September 28, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Happy anniversary!

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Melissa September 29, 2012 at 12:12 am

thanks! now where’s my anniversary present? ;)

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Bobbi Lee Hitchon September 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Congratulations!!! You have done so much in a year. I always love seeing your photos from Africa and I agree with the slow travel approach. Looks like you have some exciting plans coming up: Bear Grylls-I’m jealous. Enjoy the rest of your travels lovely!
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Melissa September 29, 2012 at 12:13 am

Thanks Bobbi! Africa was amazing- I love being able to share my photos and experiences and hopefully encourage others to get over there to see what all the hype is about! :)

Beverley and I are super excited to see Bear Grylls- will definitely be an interesting talk!

I very much look forward to reading more about Thailand and SE Asia!

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Andrea September 28, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Congrats on this HUGE milestone! And can I tell you that you have mastered the art of the arm length self portrait? How do you look so good doing that? I always look sort of pained and annoyed, you look so natural! Good luck with the rest of your travels… I’ve been back from my big trip for nearly a year… and all I’ve been doing since my return is plotting how to get back out to see more of the world. Nicaragua in December will be a good start!
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Melissa September 29, 2012 at 12:28 am

Haha! Thank you so much, Andrea! It took many years of perfecting it by being that annoying person who rather than doing something constructive with her time (like writing essays for my uni classes) I would sit there with my DSLR making stupid faces and trying to find my good angles :P haha

Nicaragua in December?! That sounds incredible! I can’t wait to read all about YOUR adventures!

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inka September 28, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Yes, congrats! I love to read your blog and watching the pictures and totally agree of travelling the slow way. In November I will start my “big jouney” (for me it is big ;) through Chile from North to Saouth for 9 weeks, and I think that is way too less time for this big country and sadfully I will have no time to stay at some place for longer than few days. Others do not understand me: “Uuh, that is SO LONG time!” No, to get to know a country and people and culture it isnt. Love the way you see it. :)
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Melissa September 29, 2012 at 12:31 am

Thank you so much, Inka! Good luck for your trip – and 9 weeks is still quite a long time. In December 2010 I set out for Australia on my working holiday (although I intended on more holiday than work) and spent 15wks traveling around the country – it was incredible.

I know what it’s like to be in a city for only a few days before moving onto the next, and I get what you mean – you get to see the main highlights but dont really ever get to feel like you ‘KNOW’ the place. Alas – hopefully the 9weeks will allow you to see some really cool places that you can maybe one day return to and spend some more time getting to know the local people and culture and way of life.

:) All the best, my dear!

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Erik September 28, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Congrats! It’s quite an adventure. You have so much to be proud of, I can’t wait to keep reading about it. :-)
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Melissa September 29, 2012 at 12:33 am

Thanks Erik. You’ve always been one of my number 1 supporters and I very much appreciate it.

I can’t wait to continue sharing my adventures with everyone :)

Hooray! And you said you were coming to TBEX in Toronto in June, right?

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Kyle Goes Global September 29, 2012 at 3:25 am

Melissa! I love it, you really captured the last year so well and the pictures you utilized for it are fantastic! The lion pictures are amazing – so cool you got to do that!

Keep sharing your adventures and I’m glad you let us know that you’ll still be on the road next year! If I do come back to Chicago for next summer, I’ll have to hit up TBEX as well! I’ve managed to never make my way to Canada still.

Enjoy the end of your trip and your stint in Hawaii, let me know if you’d like ideas of things to do there!

-Kyle
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Melissa September 29, 2012 at 9:50 am

Kyle! Thank you so much! Like I’ve said, keep watching this space for updates about the lions this coming week. I have 2 posts to do before I can start to delve into the lions — but I am truly so excited to talk about my experience there! The lions are so beautiful and gorgeous and I have a deep passion for them and conservation of their species.

I really hope you can make it to Toronto next year for TBEX – you can always get cheap flights from Chicago to Toronto and I know Porter Airlines flies from Midway(?) to the downtown Toronto island airport (granted they’re usually a tiny bit more expensive than other airlines) – Nonetheless, I would LOVE to meet ya in person and perhaps show you around ‘my’ city!

Definitely would love some ideas for Hawaii. My friend will be working most days – I’m trying to contact companies re:partnerships, the tourism board already gave me a big no… which was disappointing… but that’s okay- I’ve got 2 amazing weeks to have fun and work on my tan!

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Justine September 29, 2012 at 3:27 am

Happy anniversary Mama Mel!
You are quite the inspiration and I can only hope that one day I can travel some of the places you have been and have some of the same awesome experiences you have had. You are a travelers inspiration!

Safe travels on the rest of your journey and I can’t wait to cross paths with you in the near future and start our plans for ALERT fundraising!

Hugs from Canada!
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Melissa September 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Thanks so much Justine! I hope that you one day take the time to travel – as you learned through your time at AP, it is one of the best learning experiences in the world- you learn so much more than a textbook or classroom could ever teach you (not to knock institutionalized education, cause it’s also important). I am honoured that you consider me to be an inspiration. That is the highest form of flattery that anyone can give me. So thank you thank you thank you :)

I really can’t wait to start thinking up some ideas for ALERT fundraising – do you have skype? We should have a sit down and discuss some ideas!

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Toni September 29, 2012 at 5:52 am

Happy, happy, HAPPY Anniversary wifey…here’s hoping I get to be part of year 2 :D

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Melissa September 29, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Wifey, I too, hope that you get to be part of year 2 ;) haha

much love! <3

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Jodi Henderson September 29, 2012 at 1:19 am

Congratulations! Your last year sounds like such an amazing experience and your photos are gorgeous, too.
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Melissa September 29, 2012 at 9:45 am

Thanks so much Jodi! The last year has been beyond incredible. I’m so glad that I’ve taken the slow approach – it’s allowed me to develop deep friendships with people I otherwise would’ve never met. Plus I get to live in New Zealand – on the beach- with one of my bestest friends in the entire world. It’s a bloody win in my books! :)

And thank you for the compliment on the photos – I take lots of pride in my photography since they are the one and only souvenir I have of my travels!

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Simo September 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm

One year of travel done Mel….. Many more to come…..

You go Girl…
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Melissa October 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Big thanks, Simo! Thank you for always supporting me! I really appreciate it. Look forward to Africa with you next year! :)

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Ashley of Ashley Abroad October 2, 2012 at 1:07 am

Congratulations!! I love the idea of putting “Hi Mom, Hi Dad” on your hands for a picture, so great!
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Melissa October 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Haha! Thanks! When we got to the skydive place, they told us people sometimes write things on their hands in permanent marker, so I was like… there’s really only 1 thing I have to say! My parents had no clue I was planning on skydiving. Had they known in advance they probably woulda tried to stop me somehow!

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Audrey October 6, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Congrats on 1 year of travel! That skydiving shot is awesome!

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Melissa October 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Thanks Audrey! :) I absolutely LOVED my skydive experience.

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Mike October 10, 2012 at 2:56 am

Congratulations Melissa on your year of travel. Learned tons and learned how to pack lightly. I have enjoyed the writing and pictures alot. Good to have landed in NZ, sort of Canadian. When in Hawaii ride the bikes down the volcanic mountain at sunrise. Don’t forget to brake. Enjoy Vancouver, maybe get to Whistler…..ski??
Safe trip home.
Mike

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Melissa October 17, 2012 at 9:22 am

Thanks Mike- it’s definitely been a crazy year! I will definitely look into biking down a volcano – that sounds incredible. As for my time in Vancouver, I probably wont have time to go skiing (which is probably a good thing cause I’m TERRIBLE at skiing and snowboarding), but I do plan on stuffing my face with as much sushi as I can possibly find. I also want to eat a japadog. :) Hahaha

Thanks for continuing to read!

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John October 12, 2012 at 11:05 am

Of course we have missed you like crazy over the past year, but I for one am beaming with pride at your accomplishments and travel experiences. You have learned a great deal and through your blog have been imparting much of that knowledge to those of us who read it.

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Melissa October 17, 2012 at 9:24 am

Thanks! I can’t believe how fast this year has gone – it feels like I just left. It’s been so incredible being able to share my experiences with so many people from around the world. Thanks for following along :)

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Ardun Ward October 30, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Awesome adventure and a great blog Melissa! I love the shot of Sydney (my birthplace) and the shy diving shot (hi mom, hi dad) hilarious!! I look forward to hearing more of your adventures and may even see you on the road :) Thanks and keep it up!
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Melissa November 6, 2012 at 10:06 am

Thanks Ardun! That shot of Sydney is one of my favorites – definitely going to have it blown up and framed when I get ‘home’. Skydiving was incredible. My parents always told me to never go skydiving so I kept it a secret until I had landed firmly back on the ground. Glad to have you along for the journey :)

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