2019 was a great year, full of adventure. I met my goal of walking a long-distance hiking trail (two in fact), returned to one of my absolute favourite countries, and spent lots of time with family. I visited 11 countries, including 4 new ones. That brings me to a total of 54.

I began 2019 by celebrating New Year’s in Melbourne. That’s the second time I’ve been in Australia for the spectacular fireworks celebration ringing in the new year but still not in Sydney. One day! Melbourne is a pretty fantastic place to spend NYE too. It was wonderful to share the holidays with good friends. We also stopped in Brisbane – a new city for me – on the way back from New Zealand.

New Zealandnew!
I’ve wanted to visit New Zealand for years. Some reason (like the big Christchurch earthquake) always came up not to go, so it felt great to finally arrive in “middle earth”. Walking the length of the South Island on the Te Araroa was incredibly rewarding with constantly changing scenery. We also visited Stewart Island and took the TranzAlpine train back through the mountains. I definitely want to see more of NZ.

Waiau Pass on the Te Araroa, South Island, New Zealand

After finishing Te Araroa I was excited to try something more challenging and also to explore an area that I thought I knew well – the Canadian Rockies. I spent two and a half months snowshoeing and hiking 1,000+ km on the Great Divide Trail, often seeing no one for days at a time. It was an unusually cold and wet season, adding to the challenge, but keeping away the usual forest fires.

Highest point on the Great Divide Trail

United States
I made a quick visit to Boston and walked the Freedom Trail. There’s a rich sense of history here but I was quickly on my way again.

My time in Belgium was brief but I enjoyed both Brussels and Antwerp. Europe has such rich history and culture.

Brussels’ Passage du Nord

I don’t think there’s a better way to explore Europe’s “Low Countries” than by bicycle. Two weeks wandering around wherever we felt, with no real plan, gave me a good taste of cycling in Europe. It’s much more pleasant than anywhere else I’ve travelled by bike.

Cycling through the Dutch countryside

North Korea
Ever since visiting the Hermit Kingdom in 2012, I’ve wanted to return. It’s a fascinating country and changing so quickly.

North Korea’s ubiquitous statues show the massive role their leaders play in day-to-day life

My second visit to Beijing just happened to be during China’s 70th anniversary celebrations. Great timing.

Happy 70th Birthday, China!

United Arab Emirates
I’m not sure if such a short visit really counts, but I enjoyed a quick stopover in Dubai.

Sri Lanka
Sometimes you go somewhere mostly to be with good friends. We practised yoga and enjoyed time wandering along the beach and visiting markets. In an effort to keep my fitness up, I frequented the dirtiest gym I’ve ever seen, complete with rust-covered equipment and random weights that kept me guessing at how much I was lifting.

Humid salty sea air and iron do not mix well
Fishing boats in Galle, Sri Lanka

The Maldives seemed like a great place to get back into scuba with world-class diving. I really enjoyed swimming with whale sharks and ducking under soaring manta rays.

Tropical paradise in the Maldives
  • 46 blog posts written
  • 1,311 photos taken & saved

How I Got There

My flights in 2019 (Economy | Business | First)

Here’s what my year looked like from 40,000 feet…

  • 41 flight segments
  • 15 economy class
  • 21 business class
  • 5 first class
  • 13 airlines
  • 56,654 miles flown (at 28 cents CAD per mile)
  • 2 complete circumnavigations of the earth

I flew Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, Air Canada, Delta, Iberia, Hainan, Japan Airlines, Silk Air, and Westjet. I really enjoyed first class on Emirates and Cathay Pacific but my favourite flights were with Air Koryo (North Korea’s national airline) and Pacific Coastal (a small regional airline that serves coastal and inland British Columbia).

Air Koryo – North Korea’s National Airline

In addition to planes I also got to places by…

  • 2 helicopter rides
  • 4 boat trips
  • 6 inter-city buses
  • 8 inter-city trains
  • 13 hitch-hikes
  • 20 days road tripping
A real treat at the finish of the Great Divide Trail

Where I Slept

  • 1 night in an airport
  • 5 nights on red-eye flights
  • 5 nights with trail angels
  • 5 nights in B&Bs
  • 8 nights on boats
  • 13 nights in private houses (e.g. AirBnb)
  • 14 nights in hostels
  • 17 nights in guesthouses
  • 33 nights in huts (27 of those in New Zealand DOC huts for only $90!)
  • 60 nights camping (with 34 nights wild camping – free!)
  • 71 nights in hotels
  • 133 nights with friends and family

My favourite hotel of the year was the wonderful Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Built in 1864 right next to the sea, I felt transported back in time.

Galle Face Hotel, Sri Lanka

Favourite Meals

A big part of international travel for me is food. I think I would return to Singapore just for the pepper crab and xiao long bao (delicious soup-filled dumplings).

Xiao long bao, Singapore’s soupy dumpling

But far more interesting than soup-filled dumplings is North Korea’s (in)famous clams cooked in gasoline. That’s right, not simply clams cooked with gasoline but clams cooked in gasoline. Our bus driver poured gas into a plastic water bottle, poked tiny holes through the lid, then sprayed a stream of ignited gas onto a bunch of clams. Flames shot up the stream of gas, nearly engulfing the bottle just before he managed to blow out the impending explosion. This happened a number of times, which might explain why the clams were completely inedible, but perhaps not.

North Korean clams cooked in gasoline

How I spent my active days

  • 14 days cycling
  • 21 days yoga
  • 66 days strength training
  • 132 days hiking & backpacking
  • 234 total days active (64% of the year)

What’s up for 2020?
In 2019, I wanted to do fewer but more active trips. I also wanted to spend more time at home. I definitely feel that I accomplished those goals. I also wanted to do some rock climbing and cycling. Only the cycling happened. We’ll see about climbing next year. In 2020, I want to…

  • Visit more new countries
  • Learn Spanish (to level A2 or B1)
  • Focus on fitness, particularly strength training

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