What Was 2018 For Me? A Peak At My Year Of Adventuring

 

What a year it was! From becoming a professional diver while living in Thailand. To selling all my shit and moving into a van to travel through the US & Canada. And finally settling down in Canada. 2018 for me has been a wild bloody ride.

This article may be a little late in the making, but for those who are curious about just what shenanigans I got up to last year, read on.

So what was 2018 for me?

 

Travel

The central theme of 2018 for me was, undoubtedly, travel. And not just any travel – but realising that long term travel is what I was to do for the foreseeable future. Not only did I visit two new countries and countless new towns and cities, but I was lucky enough to call three places home over the year (four if you include the van).

7 Countries (More Than 44 Places)

 

Month By Month

January

The start of 2018 saw me bringing in a new year in island style – getting shitfaced with my best mates in Koh Tao. I was living in an apartment with a friend while finishing up my DMT (stands for Dive Master Training, not the drug) at Sairee Cottage Diving (shout out to these champs). It’s worth mentioning that I did this with a mangled stitched up knee from a motorbike accident (not my fault!).

My DMT was life changing – It solidified in my mind that I didn’t have to work a 9-to-5 in some dark office. Instead, I could explore the world, meeting amazing people and doing crazy things. All while making those sweet, sweet dollars. I was already working freelance as a copywriter/writer, but it was now time to seriously work out how to make this long term travel thing work.

 

February

Ahhh, the ol’ snorkel test! Every new Dive Master’s true initiation into the world of professional diving. You’ll be pleased to know that I smashed it, and downed the vomit-worthy mix of miscellaneous booze, milk, Tabasco and eggs down a snorkel while blindfolded – and finished first out of eight people. (Don’t know what that says about my character, to be honest…) Check out the video below in case you have no idea what I’m talking about.

After a few days of recovery, we got stuck straight into our IDC (Instructor Development Course) and MSDT (Master Scuba Diver Trainer) – with everyone passing the exams with flying colours. It was bloody stressful, but with a great group and awesome teachers, we were bound to pass. Though halfway through I failed a practice Physics exams and was having a winge to Mum & Dad about it, when they told me this tidbit – I had numeric dyslexia.¬† I’d somehow made it to nearly 30 with no one bothering to tell me that. I thought I was just shit at maths my whole life.

After our IE (Instructor Examination), there was an island-wide shindig, and we celebrated wayyyyy into the wee hours. After a day or so of recovery, the crew I’d done my DMT & IDC with decided what better way than to celebrate this new stage in our lives than with matching tattoos. Kay, Charles & James, love you all forever you scallywags.

Sairee Cottage Snorkel Test

Snorkel test done and dusted – fucking nailed it. Thanks for putting up with my shenanigans Maddy. And for the eggs Barry ūüėāSuch a rad crew. Love you dudes to bits Kyumin James Brady Ruben Charles Austin Mark

Posted by Nikita Von Hall on Saturday, February 3, 2018

 

March

March saw Koh Tao host one hell of a party in Koh Tao Festival, promoting the island and the businesses that help make it what it is. From an intriguing Tarzan themed song and dance number featuring dive instructors from across the island (I’m looking at you, Sarah), eco stands to educate about the evils of single-use plastic, to rows of mini-restaurants set up to showcase the island food offerings, Koh Tao Festival was fantastic.

After this, I headed to Siem Reap in Cambodia via Bangkok. Visa runs can be incredibly dull, so I figured it was time I went to a country in Asia I’d yet to explore. And holy moly, Cambodia did not disappoint. From horse riding through the outer temples of Angkor Wat to being invited to a wedding by a new best friend, I was blown away by the country and how kind and genuine the people were.

And to round out the month nicely and in classic Nikita style, I managed to make something as innocent as being filmed for our IDC course into something suss sounding.

 

April

This was a huge month for me, in that it held so many unexpected changes. I realised that my time on Koh Tao was coming to an end, and I was itching for my next big adventure. So after my usual 5 seconds of deliberation, I applied for my 2-year Canadian working visa, ey!

After the visa was approved, I started the process of winding up my life on the island. I had to go back to Australia for a month to do some life admin, after which I’d come back to Tao and really wrap things up. But the process started now. I ended my apartment lease, started getting rid of stuff I didn’t need and put the feelers out there for buyers for my beloved motorbike.

Timing, though, was not my friend. I needed to leave the island the day after Song Kran, which for anyone who’s experienced Thailand’s national water festival knows, a massive hangover is in play the next day. So I booked the 6 am ferry (what an idiot) and made the 24-hour journey to Bali to meet my good friend Kat (from Corporate To Chaos). We spent a glorious week travelling around a country I held dear to my heart and topped it off with a tattoo from an artist I’ve been stalking for years now – bachtz.

 

May

My friends and family knew that I was visiting Bali, but not that I was coming back to Australia – I love surprising people too much to have wasted this opportunity. So Kat, who’s known my parents since I was a wee whippersnapper, told my Mum that I had given Kat some stuff in Bali I didn’t need. So when Kat had organised to drop it off to Mum, she wasn’t sus. When she pulled up at my parent’s house and opened the trunk of her car, I popped out.¬†I thought Mum was going to have a bloody heart attack, but after we just laughed and cried and hugged for ages. It was bliss.

The month was spent with friends and family and selling all my shit – because I knew I wasn’t coming back for a long time. And then one day, an old friend called me one day with an idea – Why don’t we buy a van and travel around the US in it? Hell ya! Those of you who watch my Instagram stories will know of Chloe by now, and travelling with her doing the whole #VanLife thing would end up being one of the best decisions of my life.

Unfortunately though, while I was back in Aus tragedy struck, which I go into a little bit more in this article. But to say the least, the end of my time in Aus became about celebrating and cherishing family.

 

June

On my way back to Tao from Melbourne, I decided to finally stop in Bangkok instead of transiting straight through like I usually did. I stayed at this excellent little hostel called the Suneta Hostel Khaosan and met some rad people¬† (and cats) there. Bangkok’s honestly not my favourite city, but I had a great time exploring the temples, museums & endless food lined streets.

Knowing that my time in Tao was indeed coming to an end, I had to make the most of my last month there. I threw myself into exploring parts of the island that I hadn’t gotten to previously and also partying just a little too hard. But hell, it was the last weeks of my 20’s, so why not go for it.

I solidified a lot of the friends I’d made in my time on the island, as well as a few new ones. And a number of these new friends would become surprisingly important to me in the future. On top of this, I completed my IDC Internship, meaning I had now taught 25 new scuba babies the joys of diving!¬†To polish off the month, I had a chameleon tattoo added to my collection, to honour Brit.

 

July

What a bloody month this was. My ridiculously amazing mates in Tao threw me a surprise 30th birthday, which literally bought me to tears. It was like a whos who of my time in Thailand in attendance at BND, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better night. Though the most memorable part was the spring roll cake made by my amazing friend Supattra, the owner of the legendary Bingo 2.0 restaurant.

My ferry/flight combo from Tao (via Bangkok & Tokyo) to San Fran was just a few days after my birthday. I wanted to start the next leg of my journey a little lighter, so I proceeded to give away most of my shit. This purge was pre-Marie Kondo, and I probably went overboard as all I ended up with was my camera gear in one bag and some clothes in another.

When I touched down in San Fran, I caught the BART straight into town and to my new digs – USA Hostel SF. I’d organised to volunteer in exchange for accommodation, which is a sweet way to spend an extended period in a city while not blowing your budget. I settled in quickly and made some friends that would soon change my life.

 

August

After a few weeks in the hostel, my newfound friends and I unanimously decided to spend our last month in San Fran together in the house. So after a few days of accidental homelessness, we found an amazing Airbnb and moved in. In true San Fran style, there were seven of us in a two bedroom house, but we made it work.

After travelling for so long, it was nice to have a family again. And that’s what this house, affectionately called the Mad Dogs House, was for me. Mi Familia. We were from all over the world (Argentina, Australia, India, Mexico, Poland & USA), yet had the same mindset. We were travellers and explorers who loved nothing more than loving each other and life.

I was supposed to be in Colorado seeing an old friend at this stage. But I cancelled that because it just wasn’t the right time for me to leave this new family just yet. And of course, even though I’d promised myself I wouldn’t do this, I fell in love. Cue the worlds tiniest violin, I know. It was never going to end well, and it didn’t, but hey – I tried.

 

September

After a tearful goodbye for many reasons, I boarded my flight from San Fran to Calgary. After a few days in Calgary, I was finally able to pick up my new home – A converted 2001 Ford E250 van, who would later become know as Susan Savandon.

I started the trek across Canada to go and see my old housemate from Tao in Squamish, BC. We spent a few beautiful days hiking and exploring, and then it was time for me to continue onwards – back to the US. I spent more than three weeks journeying through Oregon, Washington & Northern California, getting used to living this new mobile life. After close to a month of being alone with just my thoughts for company, I finally picked up Chloe back where this journey started – San Francisco.

Chloe had just finished up working at a fishing lodge called Dent Island in BC Canada, and could now join me in the wonders that are #VanLife. We adventured through south and eastern Cali, making our way to Vegas to visit my awesome Dad who was there on a business trip. Clo and I quickly fell into a rhythm and completely lucked out with how well we travelled together. We were like two peas in a pod. Then it was onwards through the Nevada desert to Arizona, where I spent a solid few weeks spiralling into a deep depression. See Nikita! This is why we don’t fall in love with people overseas! Silly rabbit.

October

We accidentally discovered one of our favourite places on the whole trip – a town called Visalia. Most of the reason we loved this place was because we felt entirely at home at a cafe called Component Coffee Lab. It’s hard to explain, but we felt so damn comfortable here that we stayed for nearly four days before moving on. Huge shout out to Greg for being so amazing.

After this Clo dropped me off at the train station so I could trek BACK to San Fran – to see the friend I was supposed to see in Colorado. After a great few days spent with that genuinely special person, I jumped back on the train and headed to Yosemite to meet Chloe. Seeing him helped ground me again, and I felt significantly more mentally able to continue my travels in a much more positive way.

The rest of the month was a whirlwind while we explored and hiked some of the most beautiful areas I’d ever seen. From El Capitan in Yosemite to Angels Landing in Zion, Arches National Park to Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon to Grand Canyon, we couldn’t get enough of this stunning country.

After weeks of exploring and soul searching, we made our¬†way to Denver to pick up one of mi familia from San Fran, Harleen. The night before she arrived, we met these two french guys staying overnight in a carpark near Denver airport. We didn’t know it then, but we’d become amazing friends with these two, and meet up with them three more times throughout the trip. After a few nights in Denver (and my first ever Halloween!), we said goodbye to Harleen and then set up camp in Boulder for a few days.

 

November

November 2018 shall forever be known as the month Chloe lost her passport… A mere WEEK before we were supposed to move to Canada. Sure, we were utterly shitfaced in Boulder, Colorado when we lost it, and it was no one’s fault but our own. But the timing was fantastic. Instead of heading up to Calgary in Canada via Yellowstone National Park, we took a slight detour to San Francisco (just a few extra thousand miles, no biggie). SF was the closest Australian Embassy where Clo could get an emergency passport.

Enroute to SF Susan Savandon broke down in the middle of fucking nowhere in Wyoming. And if it were not for our saviour Dennis at a local mechanics, we would have royally been screwed. He got us a quick fix to get us home, made sure we had somewhere safe to stay, made us promise we’d fix the van properly when we got to Canada and even called us the next day to make sure we were okay ‚ÄĒ total legend.

A few days later, just outside of Salt Lake City in Utah, Susan Savandon died again. This time it was the starter and alternator that needed replacing, so $1,200USD later we were back on the road. The next day, we accidentally found a natural hot spring at an old mine site. We spent an insane night bathing in 29 degree mineral water under the stars on a -3 degree night. All while being harassed by wild ninja donkeys. But onwards, to passport!

Because of all these repairs, we didn’t have enough money for Chloe’s passport.¬†So we popped back into San Fran to say hi to my mates, then went to just outside of Yosemite and chilled in a place called Midpines for a week. I worked my butt off writing to get us enough money for the passport, and as soon as we had the cashola it was back to San Fran to get Clo her emergency passport!

December

We spent a week or so in San Fran, making the most of the time we had left with old and new friends. Then it was a¬† tearful 3rd goodbye to our mates and that beautiful city. It was finally time to begin the trek up through California, Oregon & Washington to Canada. These three states now hold a special place in my heart, mainly because they’re so damn beautiful and fuelled my unhealthy obsession with waterfalls.

Halfway through Oregon, we were nearly stranded in a snow blizzard, which for a lil old Australian was hugely exciting. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the snow, so this low key blew my mind. I knew I’d get used to it living in Canada, but that didn’t mean that for now, I couldn’t act like a kid at Christmas. After a few days of this, we were pretty chilly though. We decided that we needed a little treat to warm up, so found a¬†hot spring in the forest along a river. As you do. If you’ve never bathed in a natural hot spring while it’s pouring (pouring? falling? what’s the right word here?) snow, then you haven’t lived yet.

After passing through Canadian Customs with no issues (they didn’t even stamp our passports!), we jumped on the ferry from Vancouver and finally arrived in our new home city – Victoria. We stayed with a few friends (my old housemate in Tao, and friends of Chloe’s she knew from Dent Island) for the first month till we found an apartment. And once we finally settled we went about exploring, finding Clo a job, and coming to terms with the fact that we had stopped moving again (at least for the next few months).

 

My Favourite Posts of 2018

Although I haven’t been anywhere as productive as I would have liked when it comes to writing this year, I’m pretty chuffed with some of the articles I’ve put out there.
By far my most personal and emotional post ever, covering how losing my cousin changed my outlook on life forever – On Losing A Loved One Too Young
Why it’s important for others to know that people’s real lives aren’t as perfect as their Instagram’s makes them out to be – My Instagram Life Is Perfect – But My Real Life Is A Mess

No biggie, just the best break up ever. And how it’s possible for your next breakup not to be a total shit storm – How To Break Up And Stay Friends

After a year in Thailand, I impart my learnings of what I found out from living overseas – 9 Things You Learn From Moving Overseas

Plans For 2019

2019 is already shaping up to be another whirlwind of a year. I’m going into it with an idea of what the year has in store for me, but as per usual, this is all likely to change in a heartbeat.

January – March

The first few months of the year I’ll be situated in Victoria, BC Canada, with a few trips here and there for work. It’ll be nice to have a home base¬†to catch up on a few projects I’ve been putting off, edit the massive backlog of photos from 2018, and to plan for the year ahead.

March – April

I haven’t seen Mum since I surprised her in May. We’re really close and are more best friends than Mother & Daughter. Money has been incredibly tight for my family over the last, well, decade, so holidays aren’t an option for my parents. But recently Mum got the opportunity to visit me, but it had to be somewhere cheap. And weirdly enough, the most affordable ‘halfway point’ for both of us was Hawaii, which we’ve been talking about for months! So we booked flights and will be meeting up on the islands I’ve wanted to explore since I was a kid in late March for two weeks.

April – May

When I initially left Australia, I remember telling my Mum “I bet Shona & Steph (my two best mates back in Aus) get knocked up while I’m away”. Queue phone calls from them earlier in 2018 – yup, both my best friends and their husbands were expecting babies. And not even a week apart from each other! So I’ll be making the journey back to Australia for a few weeks to meet these two fresh lil’ whippersnappers.¬†And yeah, I’m totally going to be the coolest Godmother x2 ever.

May – September

Seasonal work is quite popular in Canada. The colder months see a lot of workers head to the mountains to work on ski slopes in winter. And during the warmer times, the fishing lodges scattering the BC coasts open up and thrive. I plan to take full advantage of this and head up to beautifully remote Haida Gawii¬†for four months and work my booty off. Working at a fishing lodge will allow me to explore a stunning part of Canada many don’t get to see, all while saving up those pennies for my next big adventure.

September – December

The last few months of 2019 are a total mystery to me. I could stay in Victoria after the season in Haida Gawii wraps up. I could visit some mates and do some diving in Mexico. But the likeliest option is I’ll get work at one of Canadas many snow resorts and finally get off my ass and learn to snowboard.

 

 

2018 In Summary

2018 for me was a rollercoaster of a year. I both met so many rad new people and rekindled friendships with so many that I will love and cherish forever. People whose¬†lives I am so genuinely invested in that I can’t imagine not knowing them anymore. So many of these people helped me to grow and learn, and to recover. If you’re reading this, I hope you know who you are, because, without you, 2018 would have been a complete and utter clusterfuck for me.

Even though my Instagram¬†may have made it look like my life was all rainbows and butterflies, 2018 for me was equal parts exhilarating and soul destroying. I saw some places that blew my mind so much I still randomly think about them. And my list of places to go back to or that we didn’t make it to is so long, I think I’ll need a team of people to help me get through it. Yet I spent months being so utterly depressed that I couldn’t tell if the light at the end of the tunnel was a train or not. And it wasn’t just because of a guy – it was the culmination of that and years of depression and anxiety that I’d been ignoring. But my network of friends and family who were there for me pulled me through it.

It also didn’t hurt that I had the most supportive, kind and patient travel buddy for the end of the year. So Chloe, to you I dedicate 2019. It will be a glowing, shiny and forward thinking year, all because of you. Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to see the stars through the fog of last year. You know how much I hate hugging people, but you’re totally getting a big¬†ol’ bear hug when I get home today.

Last year was such a year of personal growth and expansion for me that I still find myself a little shocked. Something about turning 30 made me delve deeper into myself than I thought I needed, and I’ve come out the other side stronger and more open than I was. Sort of like if a caterpillar¬†learnt to scuba dive, drank too much, had its heart broken, bought a van, got sad, and then turned into a butterfly with a few too many tattoos and an inclination to write overly long¬†blog posts.

Yeah. Just like that.

 

 

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