Here we are again, at the beginning of a new year, wondering where time went. Looking back at the past twelve months, thinking how we could have done things better, what is still missing in our lives and wondering where the next 52 weeks will take us. For me, the past year was one full of challenges, enormous changes and tremendous mental growth.
Though 2015 wasn’t as much of a travel whirlwind as 2013 or 2014, it was an intense travel year to say the least. I moved to Latin America, making it the 5th continent I’ve lived in. I finally revisited the USA and Colombia. Then I moved again, this time back to Ghent, my favourite city on earth. I did it all while growing a tiny human. Kind of absurd, now that I think of it.
This was travel in 2015, the year of big changes…
I started the year in Quito with the mission to check out whether or not Ecuador was the country where we’d settle in next. Though Quito lacks impressive tourist attractions, I grew very fond of it. I’m not really sure why, but living in Quito turned out to be quite enjoyable.
The capital of adventure sports in Ecuador. Charming in a touristy way… I wasn’t able to partake in any of the adventure sports due to the pregnancy so I experienced the town differently than I normally would. I’d ask myself: “would the average 75-year-old engage in this activity?” If the answer was positive, that meant a “GO” for me. Good thing that -in my mind- the average 75-year-old would have no problem mountain biking down a narrow wining road alongside massive speeding trucks… *ahum*
If it wasn’t for a small incident that changed our entire professional plans, I would probably be writing this post from our house in Cuenca. We found the city to be very pleasant and full of business potential. I was willing to oversee the ever fluctuating weather and settle down in the cobble stone city. But as I said, some issues came up which helped us realise Cuenca was not the place for us to live in. At least not in that moment in time.
Apparently many people live to be 100 years and longer in this small town nestled in what is nicknamed “the valley of longevity”… There seems to be something about the source water and the fresh air that contributes to a long and healthy life. Now this was a gorgeous piece of paradise! Rolling hills, flowers, fruits, birds and butterflies in abundance. A handful of Westerners have set up shop in this town and opened a few yoga and meditation centres, juice bars and organic restaurants. It’s also the place to be for ayahuasca cleansing ceremonies. We were keen to settle down in Vilcabamba but unfortunately the remoteness of the town also meant the internet wasn’t as reliable as it should be for digital nomads. So we were left with no other choice than to leave the little paradise.
Or ‘party central’. Cheap cocktails, good surf, tasty street food, loud pounding beats and killer sunsets. I could imagine myself twisting my hair into dreadlocks in front of a reggae shack, ambling barefooted through the sandy streets and partying till sunrise… 10 years ago! That would have pretty much summed up my dream life. Today, I actually had to retain myself not to complain about the loud (party) noise just outside my window at night! Yikes, it’s official, I’m no longer in my 20’s… Montañita helped me realise just how much I’ve grown/changed. And though I did enjoy some elements of it, places like Montañita are just not my scene anymore.
A tiny dot on the map. We spent most of our time in Ecuador living and working in this sleepy fishing village. When I say sleepy, I mean really sleepy. An interesting experience, one I would never have guessed I’d be living. If you’ve missed it, read about our life in Puerto Cayo.
My favourite spot in Ecuador. We spent most of our time there eating delicious food, admiring colourful hummingbirds, enjoying the lush greenery and gorgeous waterfalls. Catch up on our time in Mindo lindo.
Otavalo and surrounding villages
What I like most about Ecuador is its authenticity, especially in the smaller towns and villages. The people, the culture, the widely worn traditional dress; all incredibly different from what I know. The scenery throughout the country is simply stunning and so exceptionally diverse. Otavalo features one of Ecuador’s largest indigenous markets and since it was our last stop before heading home, I did some serious “no restraints”-shopping.
A Drupal conference in Colombia lured us into the country. I had been to the Colombian capital before and just like the first time, I wasn’t crazy about Bogotá. La Candelaria, the old part of town, definitely has some charm but the rest of the city is not my cup of tea. To me the best part of being in Bogotá was the reunion with my local friends after 10 years apart. I also loved discovering some of Bogota’s quirks.
Medellín and surroundings
Such a cool and vibrant city! It’s hard to believe what a hot mess it was just 25 years ago. Medellín has really cleaned up well, turning the worst parts of the city into the best! The fantastic free walking tour by “Real City Tours” helped us understand the city and its history. We spent a few weeks in Medellín working, living and discovering the different neighbourhoods. After a hard week at work, we’d visit some of the surrounding villages and attractions.
A travel dream came true the moment we boarded the bus to Salento. The town itself was quaint but it was the Cocora valley that had been peaking on my travel wish list for a while. The hike was everything I expected it to be and more. I had accidentally left my camera’s charger in Ecuador so I could only take a few pictures. Though I was bummed, this major screw up allowed me to really be in the now and take it all in.
Though this was just a short jaunt on the way to our next destination, I was delighted to be back in the States after 11 years! I hit up some of my favourite American stores, drank sweet tea and had some doughnuts and fried chicken. I know this sounds incredibly cliché -and it is- but it’s what I was craving every time I thought of the USA. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to dig deeper and discover the ins and outs of Atlanta. Maybe next time?
We came back to Belgium to be close to family and friends when the baby would make her appearance. I was waggling to my not so exciting desk job every day and getting ready for her arrival every spare minute I had. So nothing exotic here. Yet I was psyched to be living in Ghent again. I had a blast spending time with said family and friends as well as reconnecting with the city. As I’ve mentioned before in my “announcement post” I’ve often found myself comparing the journey to and through parenthood to a crazy travel adventure. That’s definitely what it has felt like… The craziest adventure so far.
If someone had told me a few years ago that I would be going to Friesland at least once every year, I would have never believed it. But that’s exactly what has happened over the past two years and will most likely continue to do so in the future. This visit however, wasn’t so much of a touristy one. We drove all the way to northern Holland to witness the wedding of our great Frisian friends. A long drive worth taking!
So you see, 2015 wasn’t the year of endless destinations but it was full of movement!
So what’s in store for 2016? Well, that’s the favourite part of my life: I don’t know yet! Things will inevitably be different now that there is a kid in the picture but pretty much everything still seems possible. I may not know exactly what 2016 will bring but I can already tell you this much;
There is another big move coming up!
How was your travel year? Happy about the places you visited?