Mini getaway to Port Fairy

We are just flying right on through January aren’t we?! A few weeks ago (I’m in complete denial as it was actually before Christmas but shhhh!) I caught up with my close friend Bec for a relaxing weekend on the coast. Bec was in Warrnambool for university so I drove down early on a Saturday morning, listening to The Moth all the way.

We had brunch at the Pavillion Cafe & Bar, overlooking the sea.

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It was such a beautiful morning.

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We hadn’t caught up since our Roman Reunion so it was glorious so sit in the sunshine, sip coffees and catch up on gossip. I had the ginger wild rice porridge.

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After breakfast we walked along the pier and watched a seal frolicking and floating around. He was joined by two huge stingrays that shimmied out from underneath the sand. I wish it had been warm enough for us to swim.

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After perusing the local farmer’s market we jumped in the car, pumped the tunes and drove to Port Fairy with all the windows and the sunroof open.

We rolled into the main street of Port Fairy, still singing Blank Space by Taylor Swift at the top of our lungs and headed for our Airbnb. We stayed at Hanley House, a darling old cottage near the main street.

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Being in Port Fairy was a surreal feeling for me. I’d been twice as a teenager with a friend for the annual folk festival. My cloudy memories focussed back to sharp details as we strolled around and I remembered the lay out; where the festival grounds are, where the hostel is, where the beach and caravan park are. Where the roundabout where all the cool kids used to hang out is.

We walked around Griffiths Island until we could no longer bear the wind.

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Bec in her full leg brace thanks to a knee injury and surgery

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We drove to the beach where I had my first ever kiss at age 14, with Ben from Geelong:

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After the kiss I discovered Ben’s gum had ended up in my mouth…. gross. I thought we might have a long distance romance but when I called Ben’s house (the joys of landline phones only!) after the festival ended his sister kept telling me he wasn’t home. Haha!

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The Moyne River

That evening we stayed in, devouring a ridiculous amount of cheese, and wine.

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We caught the sunset dipping into the ocean and then went back and watched two chick flicks (including My Best Friend’s Wedding, one of my ALL TIME favourites because it doesn’t have a traditional happy ending).

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The next morning we ate at an aptly named establishment before hitting the road.

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Such a lovely, relaxing weekend. Have you been to Port Fairy? It’s actually been voted the world’s most liveable town! I highly recommend a visit, for first kisses or girly getaways.

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The year that was 2016

How has your first week of 2017 been? Were you, like so many people on social media, bursting to leave 2016 behind?

While it was a polarising year, I can’t complain as I spent the first 8 months of it travelling the world. There were certainly challenges, but the good overwhelmingly outweighed the bad. Here’s what happened:

January

We rang in the new year in a small town on a Brazilian island called Bara de Lagoa. While dodging firecrackers exploding around us on the beach, we wore white and jumped over 7 waves as per Brazilian tradition.

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Barra de Lagoa, Brazil

February

In Feb I blogged about Colombia, it’s beauty and what it was like to be violently mugged there.

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Near Casa en al Agua, Colombia

March

In March I fell in love with Mexico and the cenotes (sink holes) around Tulum.

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Cenote Zacil Ha

April

In April I blogged about snorkeling with stingrays, eels and sharks in Belize the month before.

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Snorkelling in Belize 

May

In May I blogged about what an amazing/crazy experience travelling to Cuba was.

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Travelling in a vintage car in Cuba

June

In June we explored the Emerald Isle and I struggled to understand Irish accents.

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In Ireland

July

In July two amazing people got married in Scotland and I was so proud of them.

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Lauren, Lecki and I

August

In August I celebrated my birthday with a rather interesting sailing experience in Greece.

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In Tinos, Greece

September

In September we hiked to the highest point on an Italian island called Ischia and discovered what a hidden gem Albania is.

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On Ischia

The last stop on our trip was a Roman Reunion with some of my favourite people.

October, November, December

It seems cruel to lump all these months in together, but there really is no single photo the encapsulates arriving home after 16 months of travelling, the endless job applications and searching for a home!

Well I found a job, and a home which we’ve since had to move out of! We literally moved this morning. There have been ups and downs but I learnt the truth about returning home after travelling and reflected on the worst moments from our trip.

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December with family in Point Roadknight, Victoria, Australia

Wishing you all the best for 2017 and thank you for reading xx

 

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Christmas 2016

One of the best things about celebrating Christmas early with half your family (see last post) is that when it’s over, ‘real’ Christmas is still around the corner!

It all started on Christmas Eve with a festive breakfast at my dad and step mum’s place.

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Heaven

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My sister, brother, me and dad

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Dad ‘ho ho ho-ing’

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Bagels & smoked salmon ❤

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Hugo knows were to hang out

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Siblings ❤

After breakfast we drove up to my mum’s place in the country and after lunch, got busy decorating the tree!

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And ourselves…

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So angelic

We decorated as A Muppet’s Christmas Carol played in the background. It’s tradition.

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Charlie

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Cheersing to a job well done

The next morning Santa had been!

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Mum’s garden in its early morning glory

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Stuffed stockings

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What’s Christmas breakfast without champagne?! Those fly covers say a lot about an Aussie outdoor Christmas…

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Lunch was a seafood affair.

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How cool are the fish plates?! Apparently they’ve been in the family for years

We had prawns, tuna sashimi, smoked trout, smoked salmon and oysters.

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I whipped up my favourite chocolate gingerbread cheesecake (recipe here).

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I used a different cake tin so it looked a bit different to the first time I made it.

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Eye fillet and turkey for dinner

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Not a great photo (why so yellow?!) but the only one I managed to get of the entire cast

Such a wonderfully relaxing Christmas full of food and family. How are your holidays going?

 

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Family Beach Christmas 2016

Every year my dad’s side of the family celebrate Christmas the weekend before the 25th. We all converge at a beach house near the beginning of the Great Ocean Road and eat, drink, swim, play games, sing, heckle one another and just hang out. It’s really lovely and relaxing.

I hadn’t been at one of these pre Christmas weekends since 2013 (last year we were in Brazil!) so I was really looking forward to it. My sister and her boyfriend flew in from Rwanda just in time to join us. Such bliss.

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Point Roadknight beach

This year the location was a rental home in Point Roadknight, which is right next to Anglesea.

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As you can see from our attire, it really wasn’t very warm!

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That didn’t stop the swimmers though. My sister and I were kicking ourselves for not bringing our swimsuits.

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Hugo and Spike getting invovled

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This photo reminds me so much of a photo taken about 26 years ago, with my dad and 3 of his brothers lined up in the water at Geelong, each holding one of us kids. It’s kind of an iconic photo in my family, everyone has a copy! I need to track down one for me…

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I became kind of obsessed with getting a good photo of these old jetty posts.

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This dog can pose

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That afternoon we went for a drive. We stopped at a lookout where three German backpackers were trying to capture the perfect dude photos for one another. You know that weird pose guys do where they don’t smile and they kind of hold their arms kind of stiffly in front of them?! They were doing that.

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I chuckled and admired the view.

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Doesn’t get much more Australian than a magpie, a beach and a safety sign

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Shark spotting?

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My sister rocking the Texas Tuxedo

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That evening us ‘kids’ were in charge of dinner. We made gourmet burgers, I was in charge of fries. I’d never made fries before and somehow absolutely nailed it?! Bet I’ll never manage to do that again.

The next morning a bunch of us decided not to let the mild 13 degree temperature stop us from swimming. We’re kind of a competitive family, so people don’t like to chicken out of things, be it swimming in Antarctic temperatures, singing loudly or giving impromptu speeches.

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All smiles beforehand

Needless to say it was cold. Luckily the world’s most expensive canteen is right there on the beach ($10 for a bagel!) so we warmed up with coffees.

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I bought a new camera lens which is really huge and I’m still getting used to it, hence these photos are so close up!

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We had a Christmas lunch on Sunday afternoon. It started, as most good things do, with cheese.

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This time, the ‘Grown Ups’ were in charge of the food.

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Our much loved Matriarch

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Waiting for crumbs

After lunch we did our ‘bad santa’ Kris Kringle, which involves choosing a present from the pile or stealing a present off someone else.

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It was pretty hilarious and went on and on…

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The most frequently stolen items were a portable charging device, a bottle of gin, three giant Toblerones, a cool hip flask and a JB Hifi voucher. A crazy cat lady action figure, which has appeared at the previous two Christmases, did the rounds again.

Cheeky passed out from all the excitement.

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Dessert time! The table was heaving with dessert options but I only managed this snap of the perfect mince pies.

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And finally, a class photo:

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Another great year with the Brewins. How was your Christmas?

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Do you dine alone? 

I live in a place surrounded by restaurants and cafes, which is glorious. I also sometimes work odd hours so decide randomly to dine out on a Thursday morning or super late on a Monday which means I go alone.

I actually love it.

Company is great but occasionally it’s nice to read a paper, stare at my phone or off into the distance without feeling rude. It’s kind of a controversial topic and there’s a surprising amount of articles on the subject; tips for dining out alone (?!) and recommendations for good solo dining spots. Who’d have the topic would inspire so much literature…

One of my recent midweek brunches took place at Three Bags Full in Abbotsford, which is a stupidly short walk for me.

I had the ricotta hotcake with orange infused marscapone, pears, strawberries, lemon verbena and crystallized white chocolate. It was insanely good.

But huge. I didn’t stand a chance of finishing. I guess that’s when it’s good to have company with a big appetite.

A few nights later I ducked out for another solo dining session. This time for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. I slurped away at my noodle soup while scrolling through instagram. So indulgent. Do you dine alone?

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The top 5 worst moments from our trip

I’m not big on negativity but I am big on honesty. And honestly, travel (like life in general) isn’t always a barrel of laughs. If I’m ever missing travelling remembering these moments helps ease the wanderlust.

1 Getting mugged in Colombia 

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Documenting my cuts

Hands down, easily, 100% number one. You can read all about it here.

2 Stepping down the 10 billionth stone step on day 2 of the Inca Trail

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My face says it all… Not sure what that outfit is saying…

Truly the end of my brief affection for hiking. Cannot describe the pain in my knees at this moment! Also it had been two days without a shower at this point.

3 Leaving my Kindle on a plane

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My Kindle and I during happier times in Brazil

I can still barely talk about this I’m so devastated. That thing survived a year in the Americas and then got swallowed up by a Ryan Air plane seat between London and Dublin.

4 Pulling hair out of every single meal in Bolivia

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A market in La Paz

I’m willing to admit I’m prone to exaggeration but seriously… Ew. Almost every meal. By the end of our time in Bolivia I was pretty much subsisting on tubes of Pringles and cheap red wine.

5 Getting majorly ripped off by a taxi driver in Costa Rica

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Costa bloody Rica

About $US100. The guy was such a jerk. Seriously a bad start to our time there.

I haven’t even mentioned the number of gross squat toilets, squalid dorm rooms and filthy roommates we encountered! Feel free to refer to this list if you’re having a bad day at work, I know I will!

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Take me to Tasmania! Reasons to wander further than Hobart…

I love Hobart, but us mainlanders seem to have a habit of not venturing past the state capital. A few more adventurous souls have made it to Cradle Mountain, maybe stopping in at Launceston. But there is so much more to be found in the north; cheese, wine, chocolate and even non edible things like rolling green hills:

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How is this real?

Andrew and I flew down to the Apple Isle a few weeks ago for a wedding. We spent our first night at his family home near Deloraine. Being from the city I get such a kick out of being surrounded by horses and cows.

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And it looks like this horse got a kick out of our company too:

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Lol

Reminds me of the photo of the yelling donkey I took in Ireland!

The next day, following an evening of cheese, wine and some hilariously competitive card playing we headed to central Tasmania for the wedding. Along the windy drive through mountains we passed brilliant blue hydro lakes:

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We had accommodation on the grounds of the venue, which was once a hydro town, for the night before and night after the wedding. We had the Blue House, which slept eight and quickly became known as the party house. I drank so much water (in between wines) on Friday night, in a desperate bid to feel fine the next day and it worked! Huzzah.

Unfortunately the weather was less than perfect and the ceremony was held indoors, but it was still so lovely. I love that couples mostly write their own vowels nowadays and include quirky anecdotes and mention things like their pets, so sweet!

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In the chapel

I do have lots of photos of other people, but seeing as Andrew’s mates aren’t as used to being paraded around on this blog as mine (my blog and I are a package deal! they love it) I’ll leave them out of it. Instead, here’s way too many photos of Andrew and I posing in various locations!

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A reminder of why it’s always good to get peoples’ feet in the frame!

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I know people throw around the expression ‘we danced the night away’ a lot, but we literally did. I was sore the next day! A big shout out to Will who twirled and dipped me about a million times without dropping me.

The Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool came on and as per usual, all the guys dropped their trousers and just stood around in their undies (trousers at their ankles) until the song finished… Did you know that’s a thing?! I only learnt of the ‘Eagle Rock pant drop’ when I moved to Kalgoorlie in 2011 but apparently it originated at a university in Queensland?! Popular radio hosts Hamish & Andy were talking about it the other day because they had only just found out it was a thing! The pant drop is even mentioned in the Eagle Rock Wikipedia page.

Small poll: have you witnessed the Eagle Rock pant drop? If so, where? It’s a very Australian phenomenon for sure, perhaps a rural thing. I took a photo but I won’t confront you with it.

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The Blue House

Anyway, trousers returned to their rightful positions at the end of the song and we partied on.

On Sunday, with very little sleep we made our way back to Launceston to fly home. Such a wonderful weekend. Have you been to Tasmania?

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The secret to easy (delicious!) fish tacos

Fish tacos are THE BEST but who can be bothered messing around with flour and egg and batter etc on a week night?! Not me. Well the (painfully obvious) answer is this:

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$3.99 at Aldi

Frozen battered fish has come a long way since fish fingers I promise! Just pop those in the oven and while they’re baking whip up this delicious, tangy pico de gallo:

Finely chop/dice 2 ripe tomatoes, 1 green capsicum (pepper), 1 avocado, 1 tablespoon of pickled sliced jalapeno chillies, 1/2 a red onion, 2 tablespoons of coriander leaves, a clove of garlic and combine all together with 1/2 teaspoon of ground cummin, the juice from one lime and a table spoon of olive oil. Your taste buds will dance!

Halve the fish fillets if they’re big, whack them into a small tortilla, add your pico de gallo (plus lettuce if you want), garnish with extra coriander. Apply to mouth. You won’t be disappointed!

P.S. This is where you find the best fish tacos ever

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The truth about returning home after travelling…

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Just so we’re clear, this is not a photo of us at home

… it’s not as bad as you’d think.

It’s been 3 months since my boyfriend and I returned from our 16 month trip. I can’t believe how quickly time has flown! I’ve had so many questions about how hard/crappy/boring being home must be compared to the adventure of the open road. But last weekend, Andrew mentioned that “life is better than it’s ever been” and I have to agree. It’s definitely not the same as when we were travelling, but it’s amazing in another way.

We’ve both managed to find interesting and challenging jobs, we’ve moved into an amazing townhouse with excellent people just off Victoria Street (Melbourne’s Vietnamese district) meaning we are surrounded by delicious restaurants and close to great bars, we’ve caught up with old friends and spent quality time with family. What’s not to love?

There’s definitely been an element of good fortune in our return. We are fortunate to have degrees and experience in industries that happened to be hiring. I am so fortunate and grateful to have parents who’ve let me say with them and supported me in getting back on my feet. It would have been much harder without them. But I feel there’s also an element of chance-taking and things just working out. Quitting our jobs to travel long term was a risk, for sure. But we both believed that it was worth it and that things would work themselves out, which they have, Sure, applying for 25+ jobs wasn’t particularly fun but it led to Andrew and I landing pretty awesome positions, pretty fast!

I just googled ‘returning home after travelling’ and what I got was a slew of articles about combatting ‘post-trip depression’. They speak of everything being the same when you get home, of no one understanding your new, cultured self… Seriously?! What a wanky, privileged problem to have. It’s all about attitude. Think about how fortunate you were to travel, print off your photos, work hard in whatever job you can land, save money, plan for the next trip, try new restaurants, learn a language, learn to dance! But don’t for a second complain. Life is absolutely what you make it, whether at home or on the road.

Lecture over.

So what next for this blog? Well, it existed long before this trip and it will exist long after. The whole point of this blog is that there is something special (bloggable even! 😉 ) in every day (remember that time I blogged about waiting in line for coffee? a bizarrely popular post!). So I will continue to tell thrilling tales of not putting things on your facewaiting at medicare, of the stuff inside my fridge and of soggy Tuesdays. Glad to have you along for the ride!

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My favourite places from our 16 month trip

Since returning home, everyone has asked “What was your favourite pla… oh you probably don’t have one!”. Incorrect. Obviously we had many wonderful experiences but I have absolutely no problem ranking them! I prepped my answer long before we returned. I generally say Mexico, Belize and the Greek Islands as my favourite places, but here I’ve broken them down into a few categories.

If you’re new, here’s a quick rundown: we spent 6 months road tripping across the US and Canada (47,000km!), 6 months in South and Central America, and then 4 months in Europe.

Country: Mexico

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Tulum

Sigh. Mexico was just the perfect balance of amazing food, stunning landscapes, lovely people, fascinating history, lots to see and do as well as being an easy country to navigate (the buses system is amazing, the Spanish is easy to understand). I was so beyond excited to get there and I often had to justify this to Americans, for whom going to Mexico is like going to Bali or Thailand to us Aussies. We rushed a bit through our last part of Central America to spend 4 weeks in Mexico, but for me it was totally worth it (I’ll go back and see Guatemala another time). Highlights were Tulum and Oaxaca.

Read more: 10 foods to try in Oaxaca, Mexico, In love with Oaxaca, 4 incredible cenotes around Tulum, Swimming with sea turtles at Akumal Bay, Laguna Bacalar, When you order nachos in Mexico.

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Oaxaca. One day I will return with an empty suitcase and buy every single one of these rugs

Place: Caye Caulker

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Kayaking at The Split, Caye Caulker

It’s a tropical island paradise off the coast of Belize. People speak Caribbean English with beautiful rasta accents, the food is great, all the buildings are pastel colours, the snorkelling next level. What more could you possibly want?

Read more: Caye Caulker, The Bluest Water: Kayaking in Caye Caulker, Swimming with sharks, stingrays and eels.

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Snorkelling near Hol Chan marine reserve

Island: Crete

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Mermaiding

Big call. We went to lots of amazing islands. But Crete had it all; mountains, gorges, jaw dropping beaches and a satisfying abundance of blue water. Oh and the food! Cheap car hire, easy roads, friendly people. A+

Read more: A sistery reunion on Crete part 1, A sisterly reunion on Crete part 2, 12 things you should know before travelling to the Greek Islands.

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Stefanou Beach

City: New Orleans

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Buskers

Finally something without a beach! New Orleans absolutely lived up to the hype AND my sky high expectations. My advice is to stay far away from Bourbon Street. The best music and nightlife is on Frenchman Street. NOLA is unlike any other place I’ve ever been. The incredible mix of cultures has resulted in one delicious gumbo pot of fun. Amazing food, music, architecture, history and people. I pretty much grilled all our Uber drivers because I was desperate to know what it was really like to live there.

Read more: New Orleans – the music, New Orleans – the food, New Orleans: the French Quarter and beyond.

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Beignets at Cafe du Monde

Beach: Playa Cristal, Colombia

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This was a difficult category. Playa Cristal wins because it had sand, shade, perfect blue water and amazing snorkelling meters from the shoreline. You risk death on the boat ride there, but that’s part of the fun!

Read more: Colombia catch up: Taganga, Minca & Palomino.

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US National Park: Crater Lake, Oregon

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Crater Lake

This is kind of an obscure category but the bulk of our US trip involved jaw-dropping national parks. It was hard to pick a favourite but Crater Lake in Oregon was pretty spectacular. The mixture of sunshine, snow and bright blue water reflecting the crater’s edge was unforgettable.

Read more: Crater Lake, Oregon

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Mountain: Santa Ana Volcano

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Two thumbs up

Mountain/volcano… Santa Ana in El Salvador takes the cake.

Read more: 6 things that surprised about El Salvador

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Vista: Moraine Lake, Canada

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Vista? Now I’m really getting out of hand. Moraine Lake was absurd. I don’t know what it is about glaciers that make water such a spectacular colour, but I like it.

Read more: Lake Louise, Banff National Park

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Hostel: Case en al Agua, Colombia

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Insane

A tree house on water. Nuts! Sleep in a hammock, jump straight into the water as a shower, snorkel, paddle, swim and sip piña coladas allllll day long. This place also takes a death defying boat ride to reach though.

Read more: The best located hostel in the world: Casa en al Agua

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Special mentions:

Cuba

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A truly incredible place. However it deserves it’s own trip. I don’t recommend doing it as part of a long period of travelling as it deserves fresh, energised and positive travellers. We were pretty burnt out by this point and I don’t think I got the most out of it. Still loved it though.

Read more: 10 things that surprised me about Cuba, Havana to Vinales and back again.

Albania

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An inexpensive paradise. Get there before everyone else does.

Read more: The cheap European beach paradise you’ve never heard of, Travel tips for Albania: Europe’s hidden gem.

Next on the list? Africa! Where are you headed?

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