It’s become somewhat of a tradition for the last few years, for me to wrap up my year in a nice little summary. Not only does it help new readers learn all about what I’ve been up to in the past year, but also it gives all of my readers the chance to catch up on posts they may have potentially missed. 2013 was a year that brought me that hits-you-out-of-nowhere-and-sweeps-you-off-your-feet type of love and my big travel highlight of the year was my 3 months on the mother continent – Africa! Without further ado – here’s 2013 in review!
January: Canadian Catch-Up
I’d be lying if I told you I wanted to be back in Canada. It was the dead of winter when I made my return and I was loathing every second of it. I longed to be back on 90 Mile Beach in New Zealand, or in Sydney, Australia – my 2 homes in the previous year and a half. I spent much of the month catching up with those who hadn’t seen me in the 17 months I was abroad in 2011 and 2012. I tried to find a ‘for now’ job, but had no luck since my old workplace wasn’t looking for any new waitresses in their slow start to 2013. The only good things to come out of the month were that I started attending the monthly Toronto Travel Massive meet-ups – opening up a network of amazing travel-minded people – and I did my first television interview on a program called Daytime.
I found myself somewhat getting my wish when my mom took my sister and I to the Hard Rock Hotel in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for her birthday at the beginning of February. I was back in the sun, sand between my toes, and I was finally going to get to check off a bucket list item that I’d been working at for nearly 7 years – getting my Open Water Certification. On my third night, after a mediocre dinner at the Italian restaurant, we headed to the bar for a few drinks before turning in. Without going into all the details – I ended up meeting the boy who swept me off my feet (although that didn’t come till later in the evening, the first impression wasn’t exactly a good one). Since it was his last night, and we’d had such a great evening hanging out, bar hopping and chatting, he promised he’d give me a call when I was back in Canada (as luck had it, we lived 2 hours from each other). We kept in touch for the rest of the week and he DID indeed call upon my return – and now, the rest is history.
When I met the boy, I had told him about my blog and in an attempt to get more Facebook likes, had him like The Mellyboo Project Facebook page. I didn’t expect him to do his homework and look at my site – but he did. And we started the month by going on our second date – a weekend trip to Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, in attempts to cross off another bucket list item – skate on the Rideau Canal. As luck would have it, though, we arrived the day after the city closed the canal for safety reasons (as the weather was starting to warm up). We did have a great rest of our time in Ottawa, however, hitting up the Byward Market for dinner, Parliament Hill, the war museum, and a local brewery for dinner and brewery tour. Other than that bit of excitement at the beginning, March was a pretty average month – highlighted further by getting to meet the boyfriend’s friends and family for the first time.
In April, I said goodbye to my puppy boy. After 10 years of bringing my family joy, my Teddy had to be put down due to failing health. It wasn’t unexpected, but still hard nonetheless. I think anyone with a pet can agree that it’s one of the hardest things to do. I spent most of this month being a homebody with my new boyfriend during the weekdays and going out on weekends, working on my website and even had Hannah of FurtherBound redesign it into the beautiful blog you see today. I relaunched The Mellyboo Project at the end of the month and had some pretty amazing feedback.
Besides getting my blog all ready for TBEX, May was highlighted by going to the boyfriend’s family cottage in Muskoka- a place National Geographic listed in its top 10 summer getaways. We spent two great weekends taking in a slower pace of life and enjoying the nature around us until the boyfriend had to leave for Turkey for a few weeks. The end of the month had me welcoming Kate (from Life Outside my Comfort Zone, of former CanuckiwiKate fame) and her boyfriend, Thom – my partners-in-crime from my New Zealand days – to my home in Canada.
June kicked off with my very first travel blogger conference – TBEX, which was held in Toronto. TBEX was one giant party, and I made sure to get out to as many as I could – if for no other reason than to solidify the friendships I had made with fellow bloggers. I finally had the opportunity to meet Lauren and Kenin from The Constant Rambler, Rishi from RishiRay.com, Erik from On My Feet or in my Mind, Tom from Waegook Tom, Jim from Tripologist, Russell from In Search of a Life Less Ordinary, Ryan from Just Chuckin’ It, and many, many more (sorry if I missed you). The rest of the month had me going on more getaways to the boyfriend’s cottage (upon his return from Turkey), and packing up for my 3-month trip to Africa.
I started out the month celebrating Canada Day at the cottage in Muskoka, followed by the following weekend being my going away party. One week later, I was on a plane bound for Nairobi, Kenya. I set off on my Masai Mara & Gorillas tour with Nomad Adventure Tours as their blogger in residence and had the opportunity to see a lion kill, meet the Masai people, trek with the mountain gorillas in Uganda and sponsor a child! Both my tour and the month finished up back in Nairobi as I awaited my East Africa tour that would take me from Nairobi to Victoria Falls.
This month had me taking hot air balloons over the Serengeti, scuba diving and relaxing in Zanzibar, acquiring malaria on the shores of Lake Malawi, and getting up close and personal to game in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. The month finished up with a week-long stay in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – relaxing after nearly 40 days overlanding and camping through some of East Africa’s roughest places.
I made my long-awaited return to Antelope Park and spent 3 and a half glorious weeks living amongst lions and volunteering with the lion conservation project. I got right in there this time, taking on any challenge they put in front of me. I chopped up dead cows like a pro, watched them dart and do some vet work on a few of the younger lions, and even got peed on by a big male lion. I also had the opportunity to walk with fourteen-month old lions daily and every now and then got to play with the adorable 3-month old cubs. It was, as the year before, amazing. I finished off the month by flying to South Africa and spending 2 weeks with my friend Jess, who made sure we did a spectacular Garden Route road trip.
By the end of my trip to Africa, I was ready to come home. I was experiencing something I’d never experienced on any of my travels before: homesickness. After a snafu with my scheduled flights, I managed to finally get my butt home on time and I landed right back in the arms of my boyfriend. We took off for a few days to his family’s cottage in the Muskokas, and then spent Canadian Thanksgiving amongst our families. At the end of the month we packed up my brand new Ford Escape and headed down to Chicago for a Weekend Adventure, which was a result of my partnership with TripleSpot. The “Windy City” was amazing – a weekend full of great food and taking in some of the best architecture in North America – only regret is that we didn’t have more time!
November was a crazy month. I managed to get a little bit of work with my dad’s company doing a few contract jobs, which was a much needed boost for my ever declining bank account. I had a number of birthday parties – including my own – and this month I officially entered my 27th year.
The first few weeks of the month I hid away at my boyfriend’s house – not really ready to embrace the holiday season in full force, despite the few inches of snow that littered the ground. Every weekend was busy with plans for holiday parties, birthday parties, and general outings. I managed to impress myself by completing my Christmas shopping a whopping week early (it was definitely some sort of record for me!). The actual holidays were hectic, seeing me and the boy driving back and forth from one end of the Greater Toronto Area to the other as we split the holidays between our two families – each of us not wanting to overstay our welcome at the other’s parents house. Between the holiday parties, man flu and the Toronto Ice Storm causing us to be without power for 24+ hours; it’s pretty safe to say that I’m looking forward to welcoming 2014 with open arms, if only it will mean we get to take a big deep breath and just stay put for a bit.
2013 was a year for fresh starts – returning home and re-starting my Canadian life, jumping headfirst into a new relationship, and exploring 9 different countries – 5 of which were new! It wasn’t always easy, but it was definitely worth it. It wasn’t at all what I expected it to be when I returned home from New Zealand, but I’m happy it’s worked out the way it has. Here’s hoping 2014 continues to build upon what’s started in 2013- here’s to living life on my own terms!