With 2013 coming to an end, I sat down with some friends for a holiday catch-up and we started talking about our best moments of the year. As I flipped through my mental catalogue of places I had traveled, people I had met, and the new experiences I had, I was astounded to discover that 2013 was, in fact, a pretty fantastic year for me. It was rather difficult to come up with a singular event that I could call “the best moment” and THAT is one of the best problems I could ever wish to have.
In the spirit of year-end lists and the general feeling of appreciation for having lived another year happy, I’d like to share my best moments of 2013 because let’s face it, life is too short to take it for granted.
I started the year off in Indonesia and one of the great highlights of my trip (and for all of 2013) was diving in Tulamben, Bali. I had some incredible dives there, particularly at the Liberty shipwreck, a massive wreck site just off the coastline. You literally just walk into the water and you’re swimming above the wreck! It was a reminder that even with tragedy and destruction (Liberty was torpedoed during WWII), life and beauty can still thrive. I made a video of my Liberty dives, but if I can be honest with you, it doesn’t do the site justice.
Following Indonesia, I met a friend in the Philippines where I had my next amazing moment in 2013. We had signed up for a dive, hoping to spot some endangered thresher sharks and while waking up at 4:30 in the morning was less than ideal, once we dropped into the water at sunrise, about 8 or 10 thresher sharks showed up at their cleaning stations, making it a morning I will never forget. Nature is marvelous and this experience was a wake-up call that we humans need to celebrate and protect it or we risk losing such magnificent creatures. Incidentally, I also made a video of the thresher sharks (I had just bought a GoPro so I was going a little video crazy), though again, it doesn’t give the experience the justice it deserves. On a side note, underwater color correction was helped with a red filter – something I didn’t have until later on in the year.
In March, I was in India to partake in the colorful Holi Festival. This was something that I had wanted to experience for a long time, but with some of my ahem, troubles in India during my previous trip, I was a bit apprehensive about going back to India. I refused to allow my fear get in the way and with the small, yet beautiful village of Pushkar as the backdrop, I had a complete blast spreading colored powder to everyone I encountered during Holi. It was fun, crazy, and unlike anything I have ever seen. Holi was better than I could have ever imagined – a top bucket list item for me – and I’m so glad that I was able to work through my fears to get there.
Another dream destination was realized in May when I ventured into the Ladakh region of the Indian Himalayas. It was no easy journey reaching this far-flung part of India and the treacherous mountain roads were terrifying, but once I arrived in the Pangong Lake area, the scenery simply took my breath away. Literally – the altitude was high enough to make it harder to breath. In any case, it was a beautiful and tranquil place, a reminder of the simple joys in life that we tech-dependent city folk can sometimes forget.
Yet another travel dream of mine was realized when I boarded a boat bound for the Similan Islands in Thailand for four days and four nights of diving. The water was crystal clear and the marine life was abundant. Never before had I seen so much of such a large variety of fish and other underwater creatures! Of course, the time spent above water was just as spectacular. Again, nature and wildlife ceases to amaze me and has so much capacity to captivate and astound me.
I returned to Elephant Nature Park in 2013 for a second volunteer week and was so excited to see “my” baby boy, Navaan. The last I saw him, Navaan was a spunky little three week old baby elephant and a year later, not much has changed except he is now bigger, stronger, and one curious (and naughty) young bull! My first reunion with Navaan was between an iron fence where he proceeded to wrap his impressively strong trunk around my wrist and gave a little tug to bring me closer to him. “Does he remember me?” I wondered. He pushed against the fence separating us, and upon discovering that the fence wasn’t locked and would open if he continued pushing against it, he proceeded to do just that – much to the panic of those around us. It took five other volunteers to hold the gate closed while Navaan’s mahout steered him away. During this entire episode, I wasn’t afraid. Sure, Navaan, even as a one-year old elephant, had the strength to crush me, but there was absolutely no fear in me that he would do that, even accidentally. It made my heart swell to know that my little baby was growing up and would never be abused or forced to work a day in his life. The next step is to now secure his safety as it is Elephant Nature Park’s hope to release him into the wild one day.
With all these incredible moments in 2013, it was truly difficult to choose the best. However, after much consideration and deliberation, I came to the conclusion that my favorite “best moment” of 2013 was sleeping under the stars deep in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan during my 3-day camel safari. The trip itself was amazing, but there was something absolutely magical about laying my head down underneath the stars at night, watching the world spin above me with nothing but sand and desert stretching for miles and miles. I had never felt so small and insignificant in the world, yet so much a part of it as well. It was beautiful and a special privilege to have had that moment.
The year 2013 was filled with incredible, breath-stealing moments and it’s hard to imagine 2014 topping it. I don’t know what the upcoming year has in store for me, but I know that if I go into it with a sense of adventure and an open mind, there’s nothing to keep me from having another incredible year.
I hope that 2013 was a good year for you and many, many wishes for a spectacular 2014 to you and your loved ones!
What was your best moment(s) in 2013?