Writing this as I sit in the public library in Rochester, Minnesota, it’s hard to imagine that one year ago we were perched on tiny plastic chairs in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It’s still harder to fathom that almost two and a half years ago we landed in Japan, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to begin our adventure. The shift seems almost too big to comprehend, and looking over the photos from the last year I almost feel like I’m looking at some other couple’s journey, except I have all the memories and look an awful lot like the guy in those photos.
Now that the last calendar page of 2014 has fallen, we can collectively look back and think about the year that has passed. The changes, the choices, the journeys, and how they will shape the year (and years) to come. For us, 2014 was a year of transition. We shifted from constant motion – border crossings and plane tickets – to a more slow-paced, longer-term outlook. We know with certainly that we’re still deep in the grip of wanderlust, but that we need, and want, to make our travels more sustainable for the years to come. To that end, we came back to North America for the first time in two years, and spent six months in Toronto building our business, making contacts, and planning how to shape our lives in the next five years. We’re slowing down, talking about months in one place instead of days or weeks. We have our dogs back, and they’re set to become our constant companions for the foreseeable future. We have a car and the beginnings of a plan.
But, for right now, we’re looking back. We’re looking at the last year and how it will shape the next year to come. We’re looking at the nine countries we visited (11 if you count the US and Canada) and sifting through the nearly 14,000 photos we took while traveling (plus the random shots we’ve taken in the last six months of our time at home). 2014 was a big year for us, which is saying something considering 2013 was one for the record books as well, so we hope that you can share in some of that grand adventure with us through the photos and memories in this post. So, after too much ado (and without any further), here are our favorite photos of 2014!
(If you want to see our photos from 2013, visit that post here.)
We spent the first three months of 2014 living in Ho Chi Minh City, so Vietnam played a pivotal role in shaping our year. The food, the people, and the country itself left an indelible mark on our hearts, and after our second visit to the country we can safely say that three months was not nearly enough time to discover such a wonderful place.
Ho Chi Minh City
The streets of HCMC roil with hundreds of thousands of motorbikes, creating a low growl that can always be heard below the symphony of honking horns.
Ho Chi Minh City
Crowded with people, HCMC is hectic but fascinating. This market near the Lê Văn Duyệt Mausoleum was memorable not only for its products, but for the people.
Ho Chi Minh City
The people of Vietnam are its greatest asset (followed narrowly by the food!); they are open, friendly, curious and wonderful.
Ho Chi Minh City
Walking through a park one day, we got sidelined by the teacher for this group of students. She wanted to know if I would play a few games with them, to which I enthusiastically said yes. The kids were thrilled and afterwords the teacher invited us to her wedding!
The 600-year-old Japanese covered bridge outside of Hue. Beautiful, tranquil, and surrounded by the greenest, most beautiful rice paddies in the country.
The countryside of Hue is easily one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been, but it’s matched by its citizens. This temple caretaker saw us admiring his grounds, and invited us to sit with him while he fed us tea and snacks. We spoke little to no Vietnamese, and he spoke no English, but we still enjoyed each others company.
This cat found nirvana in a forest temple 10 miles outside of Hue.
We had no specific agenda for Laos beyond a few key stops, so much of our time was spent adopting the slow pace of life that so many of the locals seem to have mastered. When people say Laos is laid back, it’s not an exaggeration. It’s many other things, but our month in Laos definitely calmed our souls (as long as we stayed away from shady motorbike shops!).
Good food, friendly people, a vibrant market. Savannakhet was a surprise for us. Many people said it was barely worth passing through, and in some ways it is, but we found that a little digging below the surface revealed a lovely little town that lulled us into a happy stupor for far longer than we guessed.
Temples in Laos are a riot of color, especially around sacred Bodhi trees. Most temples have at least one, and they are always highly decorated.
One of our big adventures in Laos was a three-day scooter tour through the back roads and hills of the area around Tha Khek. Beautiful scenery and easy riding made for a great way to get to know Laos in a more personal way.
Coming up from a swim in a local river, this little guy couldn’t help but stare at the giant, pale foreigner with a camera.
Known as “Buddha Park”, this sculpture garden defies the imagination from every aspect: size, shape, and dedication. In the middle of nowhere, but worth the visit we were left in sweaty awe.
Pha That Luang is the symbol of Laos and an icon worth visiting in the capital city.
Easily the most beautiful waterfall we’ve ever seen, Kuangsi Waterfall is 20km outside of Luang Prabang. It’s a long series of gentle cascades with pools for swimming and respite from the scorching heat. If you see nothing else in Laos, this is worth the trip.
Our time in Thailand in 2014 was far too short. Crossing from Laos, we headed for Bangkok which was our exit point from South East Asia. Being gluttons for all things Thai, we dragged our feet as much as we could, but our visit still amounted to less than two weeks. Not nearly enough time to eat all the things. Again.
A sleepy border town just south of Vientiane, Nong Khai surprised us with food, color, and the indomitably friendly Thai spirit. We spent only a few days there, but loved every minute. We managed to put our forks down long enough to snap this shot as a local elephant wandered down the main road one night.
OMG, Songkran. The craziest party, never mind that it’s a water-fight, we’ve ever seen. Happy people, smiling faces and more water being splashed around than you can possibly imagine. Please go take a look at our post detailing this crazy festival here.
Ah Bangkok. One of our favorite places. The food. The culture. The smells. This was one of our last sunsets in Southeast Asia, and it didn’t disappoint.
Sri Lanka defied all our expectations. The food was spectacular, the people were some of the friendliest and most curious we’d ever met, the landscape was unrivaled, and our adventure there was one of our best: driving our own tuk-tuk across the country for three weeks. We’ve never seen so many perfect beaches, fantastic hills and gorgeous temples in one place. Three weeks merely whet our appetites and kindled a fierce love for the pearl of the Indian Ocean.
South of Colombo
Our loyal steed, King Tuk, carried us through hundreds of miles of beautiful Sri Lankan countryside. He performed flawlessly and we are eternally grateful.
Rising before the sun, I was lucky enough to witness locals walking on hot coals. This particular ceremony was an attempt to end the drought affecting the area, and was 48 hours of non-stop dancing, prayer and performance.
These little houses dotted the countryside outside of Arugam Bay. Mostly abandoned, but still cheery, we couldn’t help but stop.
Sri Lanka is the land of flowers. At every turn beautiful colors filled our vision and scents drifted to our noses. Temples overflowed with flowers and seemingly every bush was flowering in multicolored splendor.
Walking down the hill into Kandy on the night of the Vesak (Buddha’s Birthday) celebration, these young men stopped and implored me to ride down with them. They had driven 50 miles in from the countryside to see the sights and chattered excitedly to me about the events of the day and eagerly exchanged Facebook information.
Our first stop in Europe, and one of Steph’s favorite cities, London had a lot to live up to for me. Fortunately, it proved its worth in spades, and we left wanting more.
The Palace of Westminster
If there is a more quintessential “London” shot, I don’t know what it is. Parts of the Houses of Parliament are well 1000 years old, which is simply hard to comprehend, especially in such a bustling, modern city like London.
The Tower of London
A Yeoman Warder, commonly known as a “Beefeater.” One of the 12 guards of the tower of London, he had time enough to give me a great smile before getting back to his duties.
One of the great landmarks of London, many mistakenly refer to it as “London Bridge,” (which, despite its grand name, isn’t much to look at). Supposedly, sometime in the mists of history, the Americans bought London Bridge mistakenly thinking they were getting Tower Bridge — much to their dismay, they had been outfoxed by the canny Brits, and left London Bridge where it stands today.
The Shard, near Borough Market
London’s newest, ultra-modern skyscraper (and the tallest building in the EU), the Shard peeks out from behind the ruins of a cathedral bombed in World War Two.
Millennium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral
One of London’s newest and one of London’s oldest landmarks meet on the River Thames.
Continuing my trend of firsts in Europe, I made my way to Paris for the first time. Steph hadn’t been for nearly 10 years and was eager to see if the city lived up to her memories. Well, it did and it didn’t. But, the pictures sure were nice.
The Eiffel Tower
This monument is hard to miss if you find yourself in the city of love. The view is best from the Trocadero, but be prepared for vendors hawking all things Paris (and Jamaican beads, you know, because France…)
The Musée d’Orsay
Almost as famous as the art inside the museum, the back of the clock face is a must-see, in addition to the works of art which comprise (in my opinion) the best collection in the city.
Love Locks, near Notre Dame
It seems like all we heard about last year were the stupid love locks and how they’re destroying bridges everywhere. Couples in love clamp them to immobile objects (usually bridges), thereby guaranteeing that their love will last. While we appreciate the sentiment, the craze is lost on us (though we have to wonder about the confidence of the couples that use gigantic bike locks instead of the more diminutive padlocks).
Streets of Paris
From wide boulevards to narrow cobblestone alleys filled with cafés, the streets of Paris were marvelously picturesque.
Known as the land of food, art and easy living, we looked forward to tucking in to some great Italian food and stumbling our way through as many landmarks as we could stand. We can say one thing for sure: Italy is beautiful and very photogenic, albeit overrun with travelers. Though swarms of tourists and touts detracted from the sights, we still managed to capture photos that forget all the hassle and marvel at the raw beauty of the country.
Seeing the Leaning Tower at night was surreal. No crowds, no noise, just us and the Field of Miracles. Eerily beautiful and unforgettable.
Taken from the Ponte Vecchio at susnet. The Ponte Vecchio itself is chock-a-block with gold vendors and street performers, but the view sure is nice.
The eternal city, Rome is like no other. Could there be a more “Rome” photo than this? I defy you to find one!
Climbing down at the end of our tour of the Vatican, we saw what is possibly one of the most famous stairways in the world. Certainly the most photogenic.
The Pantheon was one of the few monuments in Rome that wasn’t under construction when we visited. Grand, imposing and beautiful, it’s hard to fathom that this building has stood in this spot for over 2000 years.
It’s said you can see three countries from the Aventine Hill. We can’t vouch for this, however the view was spectacular and the setting was quiet and beautiful.
Our last stop in Italy was arguably one of our favorites. Good food, great people and gorgeous scenery. Sadly, most of it was seem from underneath an umbrella, but that didn’t dampen the experience (Ha!).
Did you know vespa is Italian for “wasp”? Neither did we.
Madrid was our only stop in Spain. A beautiful city, nice people and generally good food ensures that we’ll be back one day to see more of the rest of Spain.
The Crystal Palace, Parque del Retiro
No mention of Madrid would be complete without talking about the parks. We spent hours relaxing in the verdant wonderland that is the parks of Madrid. Endless groves of trees, lounging locals, cool breezes and soft grass lulled us into more than one hours-long nap and reading session.
Streets of Madrid
Architecturally speaking, Madrid is a fascinating hybrid. Styles on top of styles are everywhere you look, and there is no fear of color. After the uniformity of Paris and Rome, Madrid’s slightly erratic construction was a breath of fresh air.
Lisbon was our last stop before our return to North America. Combine being a bit down in the dumps over our impending return home with a room in the most dangerous part of the city and you get the fewest pictures from any destination on our trip. Oh well.
One of the ubiquitous trollies that prowl the streets of Lisbon.
Back alleys near our room were decorated for some sort of festival.
Finally back home, our work picked up and our photography slowed down. Still, we managed to catch a few worthy shots between hours bent over the computer.
A worthy skyline, nighttime Toronto is dominated by the CN tower.
North Ontario, Canada
Lazy weekends spent at our friends’ cabin in northern Ontario were a luxury of space and time, surrounded by beautiful forest and endless quiet (punctuated by the mad barking of running dogs).
Our dogs in their favorite spot: spying on the neighborhood.
The view for now. A river runs through the snowy back yard of my parents’ house.
And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed walking through this last year with us, seeing some familiar things as well as some new ones (for now!). We still have so many stories to tell on our site, and not just from this year! We’ve yet to finish talking about everything that appeared in last year’s captured moments post, so we have a lot of stories left to tell and a lot of work to do! That said, we’ve enjoyed every minute of it and want to thank all our loyal readers for following along with us on this wandering journey and its many unexpected twists. Here’s to another year of adventures and many more photos!
Tell us: Just like last year, which of these photos was your favorite? Did your travels in 2014 take you to any of the places we visited? Which of our adventures are you most excited to hear about? And, for bonus points, what new year’s resolutions have you made? We hope they involve some travel too!