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This was our first full year traveling abroad from January to December, and what a year it was!
As Ben and I piled onto Whit in his bed this morning we had a hilarious conversation about our most memorable moments of 2019. We saw, did, and ate tons of stuff in 11 different countries, not all of it good. Some of our strongest memories are actually moments when things went wrong and we were upset. But that’s life!
Here are a few of the things we hope to always remember from our travels in 2019, highlighted by our most popular Instagram posts from each country:
1. USA: January 1 – 10
-We went from Utah to Illinois to South Carolina (and North Carolina) with a final stop back in Utah before leaving from our holiday trip. The whole trip was such a blur that we barely remember all of the individual things we did, or even where we were on New Years!
2. Sabah, Malaysia: January 10 – February 4
-Flew from SLC to Hong Kong to Kota Kinabalu for one month in Sabah, Malaysia (the cheapest flight at that time from Hong Kong)
-Highlights were the private Dinawan Island where mom got covered in sand fly bites, the Orangutan Reserve, spent 3 days on the Kinabatangan River, spending a few days on the farm feeding goats and eating fresh passionfruit, overnight on the sea turtle island where Whit fell asleep waiting for the turtles to lay eggs, and staying on the Scuba Dive Rig.
-Eating durian in KK. Smells just like it tastes. Ewwwwwwww.
– Loved the incredible sunsets and beaches! KK/ Sabah was such an unexpected dream. I could live there!
3. Singapore: February 4 – February 9
– Can’t believe how clean and gorgeous the city is! Going to China Town, Little India, and other theme neighborhoods felt like walking around Disney sets!
-Rode Lime scooters for the first time, so fun riding around merlion park!
-Garden by the Bay, Sands hotel, Merlion Park, Riverwalk so incredibly beautiful and interesting
-Universal Studios Singapore
4. Australia: February 9 – 10
-Only there for 24 hours but experienced nearly everything!
-Stayed at an apartment on the beach in Gold Coast. Ben and Whit got stung by Blue Bottle and Ben had to carry Whit all the way to a lifeguard station, passing very nice and concerned citizens along the way because Whit was crying so hard. After the lifeguard we stopped at someone’s backyard who insisted on giving Whit hot water for his hand. So nice!
-Bought meat and shrimp from nearby market to grill “on the barbie” for dinner. So fun!
5. New Zealand: February 10 – May 1
-Unfortunately most of our bad memories are from NZ!
- Ben’s flip flops getting stolen after taking them off to get gas for the RV
- Accidentally getting stuck in the swamp and waking up at 2:00 am for a mosquito massacre, then realizing the RV had a traction button we could have used
- The park rangers at Cook Mt. locking the door in front of us after completing the kid’s wilderness book and running back to the station by 5:00. Whit worked so hard to finish the book and get back in time that we stayed outside crying for a long time. Eventually the ranger came out and just gave Whit his badge without looking at the book
- Everyone on the South Island being pretty rude to RVers
- Reporting the rock chip we got in the window and being charged $1,000 for our honesty
- Getting tired of being so close to each other in the RV and having one mega fight
- All the fun stuff to do in Christchurch. Ben mountain biking, Whit and I doing indoor skydiving
- Grammy visiting us in Auckland and going to Hobbiton (Ben had to help her walk the long distance), Rotorua and the hot springs together. It was so hard to say goodbye!
- Our house covered in cat hair in Matakana Village
- Whit went to a school with a no-tolerance policy on kids breaking rules. He lost a lot of hats and water bottles which teachers never helped him find
- School played music to get out of class, Whit’s new favorite is their ending song “Count on Me”
- Spending so much time with Jeremy’s family and his cute wife and girls
- Love how beautiful the country is! We were hiking and going to the beach every day. It’s really magical, only wish the poeple were a little nicer.
6. Bali: May 1 – May 9
-Stayed at a great resort on the north coast run by Eastern Europeans. Two boys lived at the resort who would run around in underwear and try to play with Whit by squirting him with the pool hose.
-Best massage of my life!
-Went snorkeling at the North Coast to see the underwater ship and water was so rough Ben had to carry Whit on his back. He lost his full-face snorkel mask, but another diver eventually found the face part (breath tube never seen again)
-Making chocolate bars at the chocolate company/ elephant rescue park in Ubud
-Riding motorcycles around the island
-The crazy long line for tourists to take photos at the White Temple. We bypassed everyone by just walking through as Ben took pics of Whit and I walking.
-Amazing tour of the Komodo Islands. Saw komodo dragons hanging out next to the island’s restaurant listening to pop music, Whit almost got heat stroke walking up for the view of the 5 bays (amazing), swimming with Whit to the pink sand beach (most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen), trying to catch up with giant rays that passed us as Whit and Ben yell which direction to swim
7. Philippines: May 9 – June 6
-Met a friend from church who planned Puerto Princesa for us. Stayed in a very small hotel, Ben and I got annoyed working in the same room while Whit was babysat by friends down the road
-Whit says floating in the warm, clear water on our boat tour around Coron Island was his favorite thing. The water was the same temperature as the air, so with a PFD on it felt like you were floating through the air!
-Cebu Island has so much adventure to do!
- Taking free diving lessons through the sardine pools
- Free diving around Whale Sharks and accidentally getting touched by some that swam from behind us (I wasn’t even scared!)
- The canyoneering trip we did through the waterfalls where Whit loved swining on the Tarzan vine and Ben accidentally got his leg trapped on the 12-meter cliff dive
-Whit got a concussion running on the tile after swimming at our AirBnB. We weren’t sure it was a concussion until he spent all of the next day sleeping on our private boat tour. We swam with turtles, saw coral, had lunch at a hidden island, and other amazing things all while Whit was uninterested on the boat. So sad!
-Ate amazing honey ice cream in gluten free ice cream cones. SO GOOD!
8. Taiwan: June 6 – 17
-Felt like a miniature Seoul but speaking Chinese
-Taipei is a fun city! Loved the tower, how clean and easy it is, the history, the mall with performers
-Going to see Secret Life of Pets and laughing my head off with the Chinese, even at a part where no one laughed. Oops.
-Rented a car to go through the rest of the country.
-Loved the gorge! Stopped for views all the time. So beautiful!
-Met a Chinese girl with Down’s Syndrome at church who loved taking pictures with me
-Most delicious, cheap night markets! Loved so much food, like the grilled mochi sticks, juices, doughnuts, and soup dumplings. YUM.
-Stopped my Gluten Free experiment by eating Japanese cheese cake. Pretty good! And I got to eat dumplings and beef noodle soup. Yay!
-Decided not to make weekly YouTube videos anymore. It was causing too much stress in our family to always have the camera out, and I was starting to count my worth based on views and likes. No, thank you.
9. USA: June 17 – July 1
-Back in the USA for a summer visit
-Spent a lot of time with Whitlocks for Carson and Ellie wedding celebrations. Finally went to a sealing at the SLC temple for the first time!
-Spent a night cooking on the campfire with Millers. Hiked the Bridal Veil Falls and played games and told ghost stories in the woods. I started to tell the story of Harry Potter, which Jack loved!
-Saw entire O’Brien family in Petoskey for July 4th. They are so big!
10. Quebec, Canada: July 1 – July 21
-Met Aunt Sarah’s family for a few days in Quebec City. So much fun to explore such a beautiful city together!
-Had a spider in my salad, owner laughed about it
-Went to Montreal for an Amazon training Ben had
-Stayed in a new neighborhood which was almost as fun but totally different from our beloved Mile End. Was a great experience to understand Montreal is all great and some experiences can’t be duplicated!
-Spent lots of time with Chef DeGualle. Went to the bakery on the last Saturday it was open in Mile End, and had an incredible breakfast with his Turkish friends about traveling the world.
-Ben mountain biking while Whit and I went to the water park. They offered an Influencer Discount of $5. How funny!
-Met Ben’s Amazon friends for dinner and Whit ended up in tears over unkind play. The mom didn’t understand what the big deal was and said Whit should get over it. Not friends anymore!
11. Panama: July 21 – August 6
-Expected to love Panama City enough to live there, but the city feels gray and dead. Even expats at church living here tell us it’s one of the worst places in the world they’ve been assigned to
-Felt sad and dreery while in Panama City, but got out enough to enjoy Casco Viejo and Panama Canal. Saw a giant ship go through the canal locks which was really cool!
-Rented a car to go around the rest of the country. More cities still not great to live in
-Loved Valle de Anton and all the adventure to do in that small town
-Stayed at a defunct mansion neighborhood at the beach. So strange to see half-built mansions!
-Went on a boat ride to various islands. It was raining hard and the water was really rough, so I had to hold Whit in my lap the whole time. We went to a few islands for snorkeling where Ben and I took turns swimming and watching Whit. I saw two sharks and didn’t get scared- score!- and a boat captian touched Whit’s penis while he was playing in the water. Disaster.
-Stayed at a great golf resort in the south of Panama. Hardly left the resort with their multiple pools! Drove around to find fresh mangoes which had fallen on the street.
12. Colombia: August 6 – December 9
-Instantly felt at home when we arrived in Medellin. So grateful!
-Stayed 2 weeks at an AirBnB by the mall while we found a permanent apartment, church, shopping, and Whit’s new school
-Whit’s school, The New School, is incredible. Teachers are amazing, they love the kids, there are frequent trips outside to their farm and sports fields, and field trips around the city
-Made some great friends and instantly welcomed at church. I’m finally called to serve in YW, even though I can’t do very much since I don’t speak Spanish.
-Tried learning spanish with books and private tutor, Michelle, but the more we learn the more intimidating it becomes! Darn! But Whit’s spanish is going well!
-Bogota was dirty. I didn’t like it, but Ben did. We loved our day trip to the Salt Cathedral and our stay at the Four Seasons (gluten free french toast!) and the boutique hotel (hot water bottles at night and an open kitchen!)
-Halloween is insane! Loved how intense everyone is and trick-or-treating at the mall. Plus the Halloween jingle Whit sang to each apartment!
-Whit got lice. Grrrr! Told his teachers, they don’t seem concerned.
-Protests every Thursday against the government. We can’t visit Comuna 13, and have to change our travel plans and avoid Ecuador and Bolivia.
13. Peru: December 9 – December 31 (and beyond!)
-Lima is better than we expected! Loved riding scooters along the Pacific Coast
-Huacachina sand dunes is one of the coolest things we saw/ did all year. Ben broke a rib bike riding in Colombia, so he couldn’t sand board with Whit and I. Too bad- it was so fun!
-Climbing up the sand dunes is HARD, but Whit and Ben cheered me on.
-Our AirBnB in Cusco was chosen so carefully, but is getting worse and worse. First it was just a bad ant problem, now leaks have developed in 5 places. Careful where you sit to watch TV or leave your computer! Bought hot water bags to sleep with and a giant heater for the house.
-Incredible hike from Pisac. Met German hippie who told Whit to stop talking at the Sun Temple
-So many ruins! Can’t believe the Inkan empire was only 500 years ago. At what point do we stop building to protect old ruins? When do current dwellings become archeological?
– Cut out paper decorations for Christmas
-Got tons of accessories for New Years Eve, but ended up being too rainy to have much of a “party”. Went to a doughnut shop to wait out the rain and threw confetti on our own at 9:30.
Things are off to a great start in 2020 so far, with a gorgeous day of sunshine in Cusco. We have so much to look forward to, including our first family trip to Europe this spring!
Wish us luck!