2018 in Review

2018 saw me in 15 countries, taking 27 flights, and travelling over 80,000km. It was a year of new places, new food, and new experiences. It was my best yet.

The year started with a bang­—literally. I saw in the new year in a small town called Pai, located in the north west of Thailand, not that far from the border of Myanmar. I was sitting on a swing on the side of the river with my new friend Michelle, watching all the people light their lanterns and set off commercial grade fireworks that were available all around town. Neither of us had realised the countdown was on. Nor did we realise the town was going to become even more like a war zone when the clock struck twelve. It was the most chaotic, impressive, and explosive fireworks show I have ever experienced.

My year actually began in December. I quit my job, jumped on a plane with a one way ticket to Thailand, and went with the flow. It took me all around Asia, over to Canada, around a big chunk of western USA, to the Caribbean, and home via Australia. Here are a few stories from my year…

Sri Lanka
In February, Michelle and I were travelling Sri Lanka. We had arranged with our hosts to make a trip to Adams Peak. A 7,359 foot tall conical mountain also known as Sri Pada (The Sacred Footprint). We had come to climb the 5,500 steps to the top. To the locals, this a sacred mountain and a pilgrimage. To us, it was physically exhausting, and mentally challenging.

We set off on the climb around 2 am so we could make the summit for sunrise. It’s a climb that starts off easy but slowly gets steeper and steeper. We’re constantly passing people who have stopped for breaks, then a few minutes later, we are passed by them, as we stop for a breather. It takes us nearly three hours to make it to the summit. It’s cold, probably close to freezing point, and blowing a gale. It’s only 4 am and sunrise is at 6. We find a little corner and huddle and cuddle and try to stay warm, but still, it is deathly cold.

Eventually, the sun begins to rise. The few hundred others, also at the summit, pushed their way to the fence with their smartphones, and iPads, trying to get a picture of the sun peeking up over the horizon. Hand drums and flutes begin to play behind us. A traditional Buddhist ceremony that went largely ignored due to the spectacular views that were beginning to appear in the opposite direction. We stood and watched in awe and wonder. The pain and exhaustion of the 5,500 steps seemingly unimportant now. The beauty of the surrounding area, sound-tracked by beating drums, and the sun finally warming us up, made it all worth it. My legs no longer felt the pain.

United States
On a fine summer’s day in Seattle with an exceptional single-origin, aeropress brewed, specialty coffee in hand, we decided to make the trip south to Mount Rainier National Park. It is two hours south of the city, and a beautiful twisty drive up sunrise park road to the visitor centre.

We decided to make the climb up Dege Point. It was getting close to sunset by the time we set off, so there were not many others on the track. One family who passed us told us to watch out for mountain goats which got Michelle excited. Everywhere we looked was a picture perfect postcard, which meant it took us longer than it should have to get to the summit, as we kept stopping to capture those postcards. It was certainly not the longest or most difficult hike we did in America. The longest was a 9.6 mile hike to see icebergs in Glacier National Park. The hardest was 10,000 feet up in the Rocky Mountains struggling to breathe. But the payoff of climbing to Dege Point made it my favourite hike.

The summit was a small area, probably no larger than five metres in diameter. It had 360 degree views of the valleys to the east and Mount Rainier to the south west. It was as calm and quiet as a summer sea, and the setting sun kept us warm. What made it extra special was that we had it to ourselves. I sat on a rock, watching Michelle wander around taking photos in every direction, wondering how I had become so lucky. To be sitting on top of a mountain in the United States accompanied by this amazing person whom I only met nine months earlier but felt like I had known for a lifetime. Surrounded by mountains, valleys, and the setting sun, you could say it was a little romantic, you could say it was the perfect hike.

Japan
We arrived in Tokyo on a rather cool June evening unsure of exactly how to get to our accommodation in Asakusa. Michelle had asked a couple of local guys if we were on the right train. They chatted among themselves then decided that we were. They went back to talking and Michelle sat back down. Five minutes later one of the guys comes over and hands us a piece of paper with specific instructions on where to get off and which train to switch to in order to get where we needed to go. Welcome to Japan.

On a wet and rather cold day, I made the trip from Hiroshima to Miyajima. When I arrived it was bucketing down so I looked up the nearest coffee shop and made a run for it. I walked in the door to what looked like someone’s living room but with a bar along one wall. There was a middle-aged gentleman who greeted me, the only customer currently taking refuge in his shop, and asked me to take a seat. “Coffee?” he asked. You don’t need to ask me twice. He gave me some baking that he had made. I didn’t know what it was, but of course it was delicious.

He asked me where I had come from, what I thought of Japan, where I was going, where I had been. I told him all about my life, how I had lost my father 10 years ago, how I had quit my job to travel, and how I had met an amazing girl from New York who I was going to reunite with in a couple of weeks. He told me all about his life, his family, about what he thought of Japan. I spent about an hour in his living room, which doubles as a coffee shop. Drinking what was a delicious Japanese siphon coffee, and eating all the Japanese snacks. I never got his name, but by the time I left, I felt like we were lifelong friends.

What’s next?
I quit my job a year ago almost out of desperation. I didn’t want to remain stagnant, I didn’t feel like there was anything else I could offer the company. So I got out. It’s a crazy thing to do—I admit—to give up the comfortable, the familiar, the financial stability, I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. However, I didn’t know what I wanted next in my career. I knew I wanted to see more of the world, and thus it became the perfect opportunity to go. One year is such a tiny part of a chapter, of this greater thing called life.

Has travel revealed what is next for my career? I think I already knew on a macro level what I want to do. I’m just unsure of the micro level details needed to succeed yet. What I am sure of is that life is about stories—more importantly—it’s about the characters of those stories. I’ve met many great people this year and I have many great stories. My only wish for 2019 and beyond is that the characters in my story and my relationships with them continue to grow, deepen, and strengthen. That those characters will become the superhero’s in my story, and I in theirs.

With that, I wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year! If there is any way I can help you succeed in business or life and make 2019 the best one yet, I’d love to hear from you.

Aroha nui,
Nathan

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