2011 was meant to be “the year I stayed home.” After going round the world and back a handful of times in 2009 and 2010, I was ready for a break. And then…things happened—purely awesome, life-altering things—and I found myself visiting 21 states and 13 countries and moving 2,300 miles and then going around the world again. Let’s recap shall we?
January started out with a travel mishap that stranded us in a ghettofied airport hotel in Memphis for New Year’s and wound up causing our car to be towed. (Luckily, this was not an omen for the following 12 months to come.) A few weeks later, we attended our second Snowcial conference in Tahoe and made the most of having a cabin share on the South Shore and an EpicMix season pass to Heavenly.
February saw us skiing, skiing and skiing some more. 2011 was the year I fell in love with skiing after some truly harrowing trips down the mountain in the past. My sister, her boyfriend and my mom flew out to meet us at Sierra-at-Tahoe for my birthday—and for some of the best snow California has seen in years.
At this point, I thought it was going to be the year of cold travel for us, as my skin was turning an alarming shade of pale and I’d worn my ski jacket more often than not, but then in April, we jetted off to Hawaii for 10 blissful days split up between the Big Island and Oahu. Man, I just love me some Hawaii, don’t you? It was at the Fairmont Orchid that I had my phone interviews for the job I’d take later in the year that would shake up my world, and at Turtle Bay when I’d get that call telling me I landed the gig, so Hawaii was good to us as a whole.
In May, we set out on the open road. Knowing we were relocating later in the year—a fact we kept secret from most everyone we knew for 10 long, secret-filled months—we borrowed my in-laws’ travel trailer and planned a 13-state road trip of the Western states. We started in California with a treacherous storm that followed us to Utah, where I sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and revisited one of my favorite areas in America, Canyonlands and Arches National Park. We also celebrated our first wedding anniversary at Sorrel Canyon Ranch just outside of Moab. Then, it was onto the Dakotas where flooding threw a crimp in our plans to see the Badlands.
June gave us even more of a glimpse of the West—and more specifically, a reality check: We learned how it could still snow and be well below freezing in summer months. Still, we camped in Yellowstone’s bear country, went to our first rodeo in Jackson Hole, fell in love with Montana, explored a near-frozen Crater Lake in Oregon and finally saw sun in Idaho at the tail end of our six-week, 5800-mile adventure.
We spent the first two weeks of July on vacation with my family in Canada and New England, following a cruise with Holland America. Then we flew back to San Francisco for 18 days, just enough time to say good-bye to the city that had been our home, pack all of our belongings, load them into a pod and ship everything across the country with the final destination being Tennessee. We left on the last day of the month and made our way back to Tullahoma over a period of six days.
But our year really started in August it seems: After celebrating my granddad’s 90th birthday with all my family, SVV and I flew to Boston for the second time in a month to set sail on a round-the-world voyage. I was hired as assistant field office coordinator for Semester at Sea, which put us living on a ship for four months.
By September, we’d gotten into our groove of ship life during the eight-day sail across the Atlantic Ocean. We docked in Morocco for four days, then spent a week sailing to Ghana, where we spent another four days. The period traveling around Cape Horn were some of the rockiest we spent on the sea, but at the end of it, we sailed right into Cape Town for a week, so I’d say it was worth it.
October was by far our busiest month of the voyage: We docked in Mauritius following a glorious time in South Africa, and then when we reached Asia, it was back-to-back-to-back destinations. We went out in search of tigers in India and then made the pilgrimage to the Taj Mahal, returned to Malaysia for the second time in 18 months, had wardrobes made in Vietnam and explored the temples of Angkor in Cambodia.
In November, we arrived in Hong Kong and then made our way to Shanghai for a few rainy days. From there, it was off to Japan for nearly a week, where SVV and I camped out at my best friend Tracy’s apartment in Tokyo. The period after Japan was a bit tough on all of the shipboard community as we had 20 straight nights at sea with none spent on land, though as luck had it, we stopped over in Hawaii for a brief eight hours on what just happened to be Thanksgiving Day! (SVV and I celebrated with brunch at a pancake house followed by a matinee of Breaking Dawn…you know, your usual Thanksgiving traditions.)
In December, things began to wind down. We docked in Costa Rica, where SVV and stole away to a very quiet spot near Manuel Antonio, then braved a monsoon in Honduras a few days later, where we still managed to squeeze a couple dives in. Our voyage ended in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and we relaxed at the beachfront W Hotel reflecting on our four-month circumnavigation before immersing ourselves in the real world once before. We arrived back in Tennessee with just enough time to prepare for the holidays and my class reunion. Then, my mom, sister, Richard and I were off to Memphis, where we currently are to catch up with all my cousins.
I’ll be back at home on Thursday, then SVV and I are spending New Year’s Eve alone at my parents’ house while everyone else we know (my mom and dad included) burn the midnight oil. Maybe we’ll go see a movie, maybe we’ll just stay in curled up in front of the TV with a fluffy puppy on our laps. Either way, I think we deserve a low-key evening for a change. And I know I’ve said it before, but I think our next year will be much calmer with more down time, more staying put and more of a focus on both of our careers. Though if 2012 holds nearly as many awesome surprises as 2011 brought our way, I say, bring it!