Broken bones, insane travels and life-upheaval: 2012 in review

Portrait by a Hongdae artist, Seoul, South Korea
Well. This is one for the records.

Admittedly, I was considering starting this post with a pun about the world not ending in 2012, but still being explosive (harhar), but then thought I’d spare you. We could do with less cheesy hyperboles. But honestly – it’s difficult to explain the immensity of this year’s significance for me. In the past four months alone, the experiences I’ve had were completely unexpected, blindsiding me one after the other and changing plans faster than I could have thought them up.

2012 has been life changing, quite simply. Now to look back in preparation for 2013.

Traditional Japanese wedding in Osaka

January

The beginning of the year saw me still on crutches from a broken leg, waiting far longer than I expected for the green light to start walking again. I was in Seoul at the time, finishing my last contract, and as soon as the doctor said the crutches could go, I booked a ticket to nearby Japan. The cabin fever had gotten that bad!

Owner and Bartender at Nocosarejima Bar, Osaka
After a week in Osaka, where I Couchsurfed, biked up and down the city (good for recuperating muscles), visited temples, worked in a bar, and reignited my adoration for Japanese cuisine, it was back to Korea for a week of work (boo!).

February

Borneo was next. Two weeks moving through the Malaysian territory of the island (and briefly into Brunei) saw some serious adventures, such as getting SCUBA certified and diving Sipadan, seeing jungle wildlife up-close-and-personal, and becoming even further intrigued by Southeast Asia.

Street art in Hongdae, Seoul, South Korea

March

Back to work! The reality of my impeding leave from Korea was settling in. I spent the month quietly, street art hunting, cafe hopping, and socializing – a slow goodbye to Seoul.

Hiking around Sokcho, South Korea
Woman displays traditional hanji paper in Jeonju, Korea Neon shopping street in Jeonju, South Korea

April and May

These were the months of goodbyes to Korea. We travelled all over the country when we could get a weekend away – to Jeonju, for a film festival; to Sokcho, for mountains one day and the beach the next; to Damyang, for a bamboo festival. Two friends even got married in a traditional Korean ceremony (and I got to do their wedding portraits!).

Man in traditional tea shop, Insadong, Seoul
And for Buddha’s Birthday, my father came to Seoul – the first time I’d seen him in almost two years!

Wedding party in Seoul
Sparklers on the beach, Sokcho, South Korea Shamanist ceremony at the Danoje Festival, South Korea

June

This was the time for socializing. T minus two months til departure and I was starting to lose it. There wasn’t a single moment I wanted to lose to lethargy – there were things to do, places to go, people to see!

I saw the crazy Korean-Western style wedding of a coworker’s son, and then we took a weekend trip out to Gangneung for the Danoje festival, one of the most important Korean shamanist festivals. We washed our hair in iris water, got good luck talismans from female shamans and watched some truly perplexing ceremonies.

Harassing balloon animals on Jeju Air Sunset in Jeju Island, South Korea
Statues in Jeju Island, South Korea

July

Two of my favourite ladies and I spent a weekend in Jeju Island, a massive semi-tropical island off Korea’s southern coast. It was the height of summer and massively humid, and there were adventures caving, scuba diving (some of the best I’ve seen!), harassing balloon animals and visiting a very inappropriate theme park…

Tiger rock carving in Samseong-gung, Cheonghakdong, South Korea
Man in traditional Korean dress, Cheonghakdong, South Korea Traditional guardian statues, Cheonghakdong, South Korea

August

And so, the last chance to enjoy Korea arrived. I finally visited Suncheon Bay and Samseong-gung (the latter, a shamanist temple run by Korea’s equivalent of the Amish, and one of the strangest things I ever saw in that country), and my tribe and I had one last weekend away in a pension on the beach.

Then, I said goodbye to Seoul. And my heart broke.

Tourist at the Temple of Heaven, Beijing Men playing cards in Beijing, China
But thankfully, a massive distraction was coming my way – my one-way ticket from Seoul landed me and one of my closest friends in Beijing, where we were about to start the Trans-Siberian railway. After five days in the city (somehow, I still don’t feel as though I’ve really been to China…), we scrapped our way to Mongolia in a 2.5 day journey. I can’t even remember how long I’d wanted to go – it seemed so far away from everything I knew – and we were quick to get lost in the steppe.

Riding a marshrutka in Russia

September

This is where things started to get really crazy. Caitlin and I arrived in Russia, where we met up with two of our best buddies who had come west from Vladivostok, and the four of us continued the Russian leg of the Trans-Siberian together.

Through all of the Russian cities we hit up, Olkhon Island remains like a brand in my mind – and the one place you should never go. To have that trip, and that place, as one last hurrah with three of my best friends when we all left Korea…well, it was a damn good idea.

Street art words of wisdom, Mainz The Altstadt / Old Town in Mainz, Germany
I was planning to continue with them from Moscow up to St. Petersburg, but then the news that my grandmother had passed away nixed that. Though the news was horrible, I was so, so thankful to be geographically close enough to attend her funeral – she was 90, and the reality of her passing was something I worried about when I was in Korea – and I flew to Germany the day after we arrived in Moscow.

Church in Girona, Spain
The Bloghouse goes outside, Besalu, Spain
After spending a few extra days in Germany to see my father and reconnect with family, it was off to Spain for TBEX and the opportunity that seriously screwed with my head, upending plans, reorganizing priorities, and opening up an entirely new world to me. There are no words to express how thankful I am to have applied for and attended the Bloghouse.

The Parthenon at the Acropolis, Athens

October

September was crazy with the sheer amount of running around, but October is where things just got weird. I followed through with plans to fly to Istanbul via Athens and visit a friend, but that’s where the old plans ended.

Because of the experience attending one travel blogging conference in Spain, I started seriously thinking about attending the next big travel convention in Europe. WTM was in London, a little over a month away, and seemingly everyone from TBEX was talking about it. So, one night, in the span of about an hour, I weighed the options, made a decision, rebooked tickets, and changed all my plans.

The Trinity Sameba Cathedral, Tbilisi, Georgia
With a month suddenly open in my schedule, I moved to Tbilisi. I needed somewhere to prepare for WTM, and to stay somewhere in Europe until it happened. Even thinking about that move now is still baffling. Did that really happen? Did I really go to Georgia, find an apartment, develop a social circle, have a work schedule, and regain a sense of normalcy?

It’s surreal to think about now…

The Stanhope Arms Pub, London

November

It was finally time for WTM, and I spent a week in London for the convention. It was a learning experience, to say the least, once I (partially) got over the (massive) nerves I felt on the first day. Good connections were made, and I’m damn thankful I went. I even had some time to explore London a bit more, and wound up changing my opinion about it for the better.

Temple in Pai, Thailand
And then, it was off to Bangkok, to begin the Southeast Asia backpacking adventure I’d been dreaming of for almost three years. I spent the month meandering up through Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pai, and was even in time for the festival of lights, Loy Krathong!

Street scene in Jakarta, Indonesia

December

After a month in Thailand, I had to do a visa run to Jakarta for a week, then promptly returned and heading straight to the beach. One of my favourite friends from Korea, Ellie (who runs an awesome blog about expat life in Thailand – check it out!), invited me to chill in the beach town she calls home, and then it was back to Bangkok for two days of pre-Christmas / Apocalypse adventures with fellow bloggers Dylan and Ian. Peach even made an appearance, after figuring out the BTS ;)

Thankfully, the world didn’t actually end!

Snorkeling in Koh Chang, Thailand><br />
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As for where I am now? Well, I’ve been sucked into the island vibe again.

Surprise, surprise.

I came out to Koh Chang, an island by the border with Cambodia, for Christmas shenanigans…and somehow haven’t been able to leave. It’s been a week of chilling, then working; sunbathing, then swimming; scooter adventuring, then late-night partying.

And I’m not entirely sure that I want it to end.

Reggae jamming on the beach at Jambe House in Koh Chang, Thailand
And next for 2013? I have little idea. I know I want to spend the year in Southeast Asia, bumming from one country to the next. Maybe two months of work, volunteering and learning up around Pai, then Burma in March, then Cambodia and Laos, and later to spend the hottest months of the summer in Malaysia and Indonesia. But with how quickly plans change – I’m certainly not making any.

For as crazy as 2012 was, I have a feeling 2013 can top it.

After all…we did survive the apocalypse.

44 Responses to Broken bones, insane travels and life-upheaval: 2012 in review

  1. Alana - Paper Planes 31 December, 2012 at 17:42 #

    I’m tired just reading this post – what a year… Hope you’re enjoying good island weather for the New Year and let me know if/when you head up north!

  2. Marco Fiori 31 December, 2012 at 19:37 #

    Bar the broken bones and family passing, it sounds like an incredible year and one that’ll never leave your memories. Hopefully I’ll be able to do the same in the coming months – I have big plans that are about to happen so fingers crossed.

    • na-o-mi 2 January, 2013 at 10:38 #

      I’m pretty sure 2012 will stand out as the year of epic adventures. Fingers crossed for you in 2013! :)

  3. Lisa 31 December, 2012 at 19:45 #

    This is an amazing summary of a crazy year! I can’t even imagine how many airports you must have travelled through and how many hours you must have spent in them! You have crossed off so many things that are on my own list! Hopefully I’ll see Korea and Russia in 2013. Japan and Thailand are wonderful places too… Enjoy Southeast Asia in 2013 and think of those stuck in Europe… for now!

    • na-o-mi 2 January, 2013 at 10:42 #

      Yeah…not feeling so great about the carbon impact :P If you get to Korea, don’t hesitate to ask for tips! I love sharing the love about that country ;)

  4. Kate 2 January, 2013 at 14:08 #

    Geez Louise, Naomi, what a year!

    Also, isn’t Koh Chang lovely? Where on the island are you staying?

    • na-o-mi 11 January, 2013 at 18:15 #

      Lonely Beach…with all the other backpackers! ;)

  5. Elizabeth 4 January, 2013 at 16:02 #

    an amazing year and an amazing woman! so glad i got to be part of it, cheers to 2013!!

    • na-o-mi 11 January, 2013 at 18:16 #

      Hell yeah, girl! And here’s to more adventures, Thailand or otherwise ;)

  6. Natasja - Watzijzegt.com 7 January, 2013 at 00:05 #

    Love reading about your amazing travel adventures! Sounds like a crazy & wonderful year! And liked :)

    • na-o-mi 11 January, 2013 at 18:20 #

      Thank you kindly, Miss N :)

  7. Anne 8 January, 2013 at 06:12 #

    I’d just like to say I absolutely LOVE your blog and all your wonderful photos :). I’ve loved following your blog this year! It sounds like you’ve had an amazing year. Korea and Japan are both very high up on my travel list, especially since I have so so many friends who have studied at my university who are from there, and who I am dying to go visit and see their countries.

    Oh, and I also began this year in a cast!! The second to last day of 2011 I dislocated my elbow pretty bad during gymnastics and spent the first month in a sling/cast thing haha!

    • na-o-mi 11 January, 2013 at 18:21 #

      Oh man…well, at least the year turned around for both of us after that beginning, ha! ;) Definitely recommend Korea – it’s severely undertouristed! Maybe if you come by Asia we can meet up??

      • Anne 23 January, 2013 at 10:43 #

        Yes our years definitely seemed to turn, thank god haha!! That’s such a surprise that Korea is so undertouristed!! I’ve heard so many wonderful things. And absolutely!! Haha I’m kind of in university right now and won’t be graduating for another three years lol. But whenever I do end up in Asia we should definitely meet up :)

  8. Red Hunt 8 January, 2013 at 10:32 #

    Wow, I got dizzy reading all these places….haha! Don’t forget to stop and breathe once in a while….what a great list of amazing destinations though. Hope 2013 is a great one!

    • na-o-mi 11 January, 2013 at 18:22 #

      Me too, man, me too…those last four months of the year were killer! Hope your 2013 is a great one too :)

  9. Anita 12 January, 2013 at 05:48 #

    Wow what an amazing year! Wish you all the best & a lot of new adventures in 2013 :-)

    • na-o-mi 17 January, 2013 at 18:56 #

      Thank you kindly, Anita! Yeah, I gotta step it up in 2013 after the insanity of last year ;)

  10. Daniel McBane 17 January, 2013 at 01:14 #

    I’ve gotten stuck on many an island or beach myself and it always makes me feel a little unproductive–until I realize that I’m not really all that productive anywhere and if I’m going to be lazy anyway, I might as well do it somewhere beautiful. Your 2013 sounds like a great year; although judging by your 2012, I’m sure it will end up changing quite a bit.

    • na-o-mi 17 January, 2013 at 19:01 #

      HA! Truer words are rarely spoken ;)

  11. Karla 18 January, 2013 at 09:39 #

    What an absolutely incredible year you had!

    It amazes me how much you went through and still went with the flow and traveled to all those wonderful places (Georgia, Mongolia, SE Asia oh my!)

    I can’t believe we were both in Seoul at the beginning of 2012. You know how heartbreaking it was to leave a place that meant so much!

    Love all the photos, they tell their own story.

    I wish you a fabulous 2013 filled with even more adventures ;)

    • na-o-mi 27 January, 2013 at 12:47 #

      Oh, it amazes me too….life is funny sometimes. But mostly just fun! ;)

      We were both in Seoul?! Aw man, we could’ve met up! Next time!!

  12. Ian Ord - Where Sidewalks End 18 January, 2013 at 11:30 #

    So glad to be a part of your year, and that you were a part of mine Naomi! Glad you’ll be bumming around SEAsia with the rest of us too ;) If ever in Bangkok, let’s hang… and possibly bump into each other in neighbouring countries! Pura Vida :)

  13. Ally 22 January, 2013 at 08:16 #

    Looks like you’ve had a busy year. Koh Chang looks beautiful, I would love to live on an island like that!

    • na-o-mi 27 January, 2013 at 12:49 #

      Girl, it is amazing. So chill and so friendly – come by sometime! ;)

  14. Adventure Nick 23 January, 2013 at 03:57 #

    Sounds like quite the year! Here’s to an equally busy 2013!

    • na-o-mi 27 January, 2013 at 12:51 #

      Here’s to that!! :)

  15. Trini 23 January, 2013 at 22:26 #

    What an amazing year you have had. The pictures are great. Bring on 2013!!!

    • na-o-mi 27 January, 2013 at 12:39 #

      Bring it on, indeed!! ;)

  16. Ellen Keith 28 January, 2013 at 03:00 #

    I’m sorry to read about your grandmother.. but other than her passing, it sounds like you’ve had a wonderful year. Now you’ve got me curious about Georgia — I guess I need to go read some more of your posts!

    • na-o-mi 28 January, 2013 at 15:59 #

      Thank you for your kind words :) And do investigate Georgia – it’s TRUE LOVE!!

  17. Samantha Phelan 30 January, 2013 at 23:13 #

    Great Post! Just found your blog through Twitter suggestions and glad I did. You seem to have had a year that any gallivanting nomad would hope to have. I would love to have a chat about how you normally go about securing short-term work in these places that you visit. Stellar post!

    • na-o-mi 27 February, 2013 at 15:00 #

      Of course – just e-mail me anytime!! I’m happy to chat :)

  18. vira 1 February, 2013 at 16:37 #

    wow, you’ve been all over the world! what a fun year it must have been :D

    • na-o-mi 27 February, 2013 at 15:05 #

      It’s been a whirlwind, and certainly a fun one ;)

  19. Eunsuk Kim 4 February, 2013 at 13:40 #

    HEY LADY! ALMOST CRYING! SO TOUCHING POST!! :) Whenever I meet ry, we always think of you a lot!! :) Hope you travel more and keep updated your post! :)

    • na-o-mi 27 February, 2013 at 15:05 #

      Awww…I miss you guys so much!! Can’t wait until our paths cross again…xx

  20. justin hixon jr 20 July, 2013 at 05:18 #

    Hey beautiful lady love your blog it inspires me sooooo much just to be different goodluck justin

  21. cham (volunteertravel) 16 September, 2013 at 06:30 #

    Wow what a crazy, fun filled year can’t wait to read how 2013 went! I spent this year in India and what a crazy time that was

    • Naomi Alyssa 7 November, 2013 at 20:14 #

      Did you?! I’ve never been, but I can’t wait to go!! Hope you enjoyed it :)

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