For a year that I was “settling down” into one city, I still seem to have covered quite a lot of ground in 2013. I only made it to three new countries this year, but that stat belies the fact that I revisited one of my very first international destinations (Amsterdam) as well as passed through Istanbul enough times to be able to confidently offer to show some friends-of-friends (who became my friends) as much of the city as we could squeeze in over just a few days. By all accounts, they loved it. I had a sort of adventurous, sort of slowed down, still very fun year. I hope 2014 holds more of the same!
Having spent much of the last quarter of 2012 waiting for a recently surgered wrist to heal, this year started out with a little bit of hiking and exploring through small town Texas. General stores, fishing holes, the works. It was a very immersive experience!
Part of Texas is, of course, the food! Having heard SO MUCH about Salt Lick BBQ since my family first moved to Austin in 2008, I finally finally made it down to Driftwood to give it a try. Only 5 years, but it was totally worth the weight… I mean wait. Just on the way out of the country, though, I popped into Dallas to catch up with a college acquaintance… true to Texas form (and much prodding on my part), we ended up at a Honky Tonk/ Rodeo.
Leaving the US after finally having my wrist most of the way healed up, I headed straight to Crete on the southern end of Greece to do some hiking and visit an old friend from high school/Boy Scout/Shreveport days. I’ve come to realize over the past few years that nature is where I can hit reset and restore a sense of calm to my life. March was all about that. (Well, and losing some of the BBQ weight from Feb in the US!)
Flying back to Athens for a few weeks before leaving Greece, I did my first work (taking photos of tour groups) with a company that would turn out to be one of my main sources of income for the year. Perhaps more importantly, though, I finally hit that travel stride again and found a balance between doing some work and having some fun and connecting with the people around me.
FINALLY, in May, I actually made it back to Bishkek! As I showed up to town I’d just decided to leave for June to do some work in the Netherlands, so May was a very temporary thing to make contacts and try to find a job for once I got back. I didn’t, as it turned out, but I DID get to do some good hiking and camping!
Just as I was leaving Bishkek and passing through Istanbul, some rather well-televised protests sparked off. It was a really interesting vibe, and I’m glad I saw some of it first-hand. Mostly, though, June was all about the Netherlands. I spent almost a month based in Amsterdam (staying with my friend Johnny, working some and exploring when there was time. Amsterdam still isn’t one of my top few cities to live in, but I can definitely see the appeal.
I had to leave Amsterdam to head to Egypt (I know, I know… I seemed to stroll past a lot of protests this ear), but I spent most of my time away from Cairo in a Red Sea Resort called Hurghada. Spending all day in Submarines and Dune Buggies and 4-Wheelers is just as fun as you might imagine! Even better? Once I got back to Bishkek I finally got to do some more hiking!
Back in town, I actually managed to stay in Bishkek for a whole month! This is good, because August just might be the most Kyrgyz months. Airan is in the air, Ulak Tyrtysh is in the stadium, and the weather is perfect for getting out into the Tien-Shan mountains. I’m a big fan.
All too soon, though, it was time to leave again. The Emirates, Austria, and Germany were all GOOD… they just weren’t Bishkek. I missed the place by the end of the month, but seeing a long-lost fraternity brother at Oktoberfest made it feel a little better!
Though I remember October primarily for the trip down to Southern Kyrgyzstan to document the walnut harvest near Arslanbob, I also made a very cool trip to Istanbul to show around and take picture of a couple of very cool people who will be getting married. Look for photos of that (and perhaps more travels for that) in 2014 as well.
Even though my birthday is in November, it felt largely focused on work and planning and packing up to leave Bishkek for a few months. I did at least manage a weekend hiking trip for my birthday, and with a recently fallen dusting of snow it was a nice note to end on in Kyrgyzstan for the year. Shortly after that hike, it was on a Turkish Airlines flight back to the USA.
Which, in fact, is where I found myself for Thanksgiving/Christmas/NYE. Some hiking, some family, and plenty of food; then all of a sudden the year was over! Like I said, busy but good. I can’t hardly wait to see what 2014 brings too!