Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mulv Jones’s 2013 Recap and Top-10 Travel Destinations of 2013

 Like a vast chunk of this world, I’m a fan of taking a look back on the year which has past. Be it reading multiple publications’ takes on best albums, movies, or celebrity mishaps, or actually delving into the life one leads, I think reflection is important. With that being said, 2013 has been quite the year for me. With acknowledging the risk of becoming masturbatory in nature, I think a yearly recap is due.

To start out, one of the biggest facets of 2013 is having only spent 7 full days on US soil. After rocking in 2013 with the Lumineers at the Ogden Theater, I found myself boarding a plane to Malaysia on the 8th to start a whole new adventure. On paper, in 12 months abroad I ventured through 8 countries and 3 continents (counting the 8 days in North America). I embarked on 16 flights, took more 24+ hour train, car, bus, boat, and (insert anything that can be counted as “transportation”) rides than my body should have endured, and ate more street food than most people will in their lives. Along with one bout of Giardia, I also lived through my first (and hopefully last) motorcycle crash, swam and slept on some of the most beautiful beaches the world has to offer, learned new skills I previously wasn’t informed existed, and experienced cultures that before now were merely pictures in books. But can we really measure our experiences by what can be inked on paper?

In regards to tangibility, this last year has left me with an incredibly dirty bag, torn clothes, new scars, and some rad sun-dyed blonde streaks in my hair. While this may not seem like much, what this year has truly blessed me with is the realization of the importance of intangibles. Through the 12 months and 8 countries, I’ve experienced my heart breath, bleed, break, and blossom. I’ve meet people I pray will be more than flashes of color on an ever-changing portrait, and those I wish wouldn’t have graced the revolving page at all. I’ve found that life doesn’t need to me monotonous, contrived, or scripted, and that approaching the day with fervor, excitement, and curiosity shouldn’t be demonized, but encouraged. I’ve seen previously held beliefs and perspectives evaporate, as well as other fortify. I’ve fought, forgave, frolicked, foraged, and maybe a few other F words with a plethora of people from every corner of the globe, and even imbibed in a travel romance or two as well. And for all this, I may not have a steady job, a highly valued piece of paper, or a set path through this life, but God damn did I have a good time doing it.

To sum up, 2013 reminded me that this life is precious, fast-lived, and too important to waste. I’ve spent days in the past worrying and living for others, and rather than lamenting these poor choices, I’m choosing to focus on forward progress. With every New Year comes a new resolution, and with this year I’ll continue my quest to become more shameless. While this could be seen as negative, when I say shameless, I’m referring doing, saying, and acting in the only manor one knows they were born to do, but for some reason have felt restraint while pursuing. 2013 was a solid step in the right direction, but I can only hope that 2014 holds in store more moments where minds are spoken, regret is extricated from vernaculars, heads are not prisons yet places used to catalyze action, and love is not withheld but expressed with prodigality.

 Happy New Year to all those who’ve found themselves reading these pages over the past year! I hope it’s filled with exactly what you wish to see J

10: Victoria, Australia - With half my family being from said state in Australia, I’m biased. Victoria isn’t known for the best weather, but between all its cities, nooks, crannies, national parks, and nature, it has so much beauty to offer. Highlights include Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula, Lakes Entrance, the Great Ocean Road, and Phillip Island.

9: Port Stephens, New South Wales, Australia - While most people are familiar with NSW’s capital, Sydney, Port Stephens is a popular port town two hours north. Hosting competing bays, nature walks, nude beaches, and backed by sand dunes, Port Stephens is a diamond in the rough for East Coast travelers. Freedom camping is absolutely possible, and some great backpacker’s and travel lodges are available as well. To top it off, PS is lined with wineries, and is home to the famous Murray’s brewery. 

8: Nusa Lembongong, Indonesia – A short boat ride away from bustling Bali, Nusa Lembongong is a beach baby’s dream. The island’s calm aura is in stark contrast to aforementioned tourist hub, and offers a range of accommodation from budget to resort. Most backpackers stay on the south end of the Island near Lacerations surf spot, and on the road to the mangrove tours. If you are looking for night life, this may not be your place, but if snorkeling with manta rays, surfing, early morning yoga, and beautiful sunsets is your fortay, Nusa Lembongong is the spot.

7: Melaka, Malaysia - While I have a huge love for Kuala Lumpur, Melaka seems to be one of the most interesting cities in peninsular Malaysia. Located a few hours’ drive from the capital, Melaka is the art and culture capital of the country. Urban art lines the walls running along the Melaka River, and galleries line the main streets. Local tourists come to learn more about the cities vibrant history derived from Dutch, English, and Asian colonization, while foreign tourists indulge in the local art, food, and music scenes. Travelers can also catch a 2-hour ferry to Sumatra, Indonesia from the port.
6: Siargao, Philippines - Home to the famous Cloud 9 Surf Break, Siargao is a tiny island near Cebu in the Philippines. Most travelers head here to try their fate with the breaks, but along with surf, there is also multiple outdoor activities ranging from kayaking to biking. For those looking for a much different experience in Asia, the Philippines seems to have an entirely different feel than the rest of its Southeast Asian counterparts, and Siargao isn’t a bad place to start.

5: Kinabatangan, Borneo, Malaysia - Borneo is the place to come if you are looking to experience virgin rain forest. With only a few pockets present around the world, Borneo is on the right track to preserving what little they have left. While there are many amazing places to see in Borneo, the Kinabatangan River area is one place where a backpacker can still plan a DIY trip, while seeing all the flora and fauna the overwhelming tours offer. 

4: Rishikesh, India – If you want to understand why the Ganga is considered such a holy River, the view from Laxman Jhula bridge will give you some insight. Rishikesh was made popular by a Beatles visit in simpler times, and now is home to every healing art India has to offer. Those looking for a needed break from the fast pace life of Indian cities need to look no further than Rishikesh. Be warned, though, temperatures definitely drop in winter months.  

3: Darjeeling, India – This is where the tea comes from. On top of that, the town sits atop a valley starring down at tea plantations, and on clear days, has a beautiful view of the eastern edge of the Himalayas. Though within the Indian border, Darjeeling is a far cry from other destination on the subcontinent. Most inhabitants have Nepalese roots, with a completely different look and outlook than that of their more traditionally Indian counterparts. Treks into Nepal and the Himalayas leave from Darjeeling, and days can be spent in town marveling at the beautiful view while drinking some of the best tea on the face of the earth. 

2: Lombok, Indonesia- Between surfing in the south, beach hopping on the east, and hiking the Rinjani Volcano in the center, Lombok is one island in Indonesia with a ton to offer. Sprinkled with more than a handful of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever visited, and inhabited by some of the friendliest folks ever, Lombok is a must see. Don’t be turned off when you hear the name Kuta, either, it is a far cry away from its namesake on Bali.

1: Chiang Mai, Thailand – Nothing beats the hospitality and loving nature of Lanna Culture. Be it time spent in the city, or heading out to the beautiful surroundings, Chiang Mai is my favorite place I visited this year. There are a million different way I could sing it’s praises, but I would rather just pique your interest enough to encourage a visit!

Photo courtesy of Hubspot

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