The Travel Dispatch

A Look In The Rearview: My Top 14 Experiences in 2014

This post was born 22 Dec, 2014 35 Comments
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Airports are the BEST THING EVER. I know it sounds crazy but seriously, I love them. What’s not to love? In the past hour at LaGuardia, I’ve seen uncontrollably stuffed bags fat-shamed on the scale resulting in ridiculous overweight fees, watched a dog pee on an unsuspecting bystander in the security line, scrutinized a woman pointing to a hideous bridesmaid dress while yelling at the agent that it was his fault if she missed the wedding since he wouldn’t let her cut the ever growing security line (pretty sure this one’s on her for showing up at 7:30 for an 8:00 flight….the Saturday before Christmas….in New York City. Common sense people) and cracked a smile when upon letting an elderly couple know that yes, in fact this is the line for baggage check, the woman replied with “I’m 91 years old and I’ll be damned if I’m going to die waiting on Delta.” How can I complain about airline prices when they’re all inclusive of this kind of value entertainment?

Even I wasn’t immune to the craziness as I was whacked in the face – not once, but twice – by a tennis racket wielding mad man in front of me. As  I was sitting at my gate humorously contemplating the real-life comedy show I had just witnessed, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the airports I had been in and out of this past year. I was lucky worked hard enough to be able to visit not just 3 countries on 2 continents I had never been to before, but also had the chance to get to know my own country better by travelling to 9 different states – some even more than once.

From California to New England, across Europe to Asia, over open water to Oceania, I’ve outlined below (in completely random order) my top 14 experiences in 2014. Here’s looking at you kid.

1. Cruising Around a Rather Isolated Fraser Island, Australia

Though we had a rather harrowing journey getting there, Fraser Island was exactly the relaxing adventure (is that an oxymoron?) we were looking for. With very few visitors this past April, it felt like a scene straight out of Lost as we explored the seemingly empty island pretty much alone. From sitting on a deserted beach watching the sunset over a bottle of wine, to trying to see the Blood Moon from behind the trees, to realizing all we had to do was move 20 feet down the dock to see the Blood Moon sans trees, to almost losing our breakfast as our jeep jerked around the treacherous interior roads, to coming to terms with the fact that we were too old to party with the teenage resort staff, to swimming in crystal clear lakes, running from wild dingoes, avoiding smashing into rocks or being swept out to sea, to getting lost and almost not making it back by nightfall, it was definitely an all around fantastic adventure that I wish I could relive over and over again. Check out these 10 reasons why it’s more fun to rent a private jeep rather than take a tour bus.

Wild dingo in Fraser Island, Australia

2. Motorbiking at Night and Eating My Way Through the Less-Traveled Districts of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with XO Tours

This is number one of two experiences heavily involving massive amounts of food that made the list. I’m sure I’m going to rue the day when my metabolism finally catches up with me but until then, I’m going to enjoy every morsel. XO Tours is the absolute best tour I have ever taken (and no – this is NOT an exaggeration). Trust me, this is coming from someone who loathes tours and avoids them wherever possible. Local young women picked us up from our hotel so we could hop on the back of their motorbikes and do some nighttime cruising through several different districts outside of Saigon trying the best foods in the area including goat, prawns, frog, pho, balut (duck embryo), clams, okra, and the best spicy crab ever which hailed from district 4 (the poorest and most dangerous area). Vietnam really comes alive at night and these are all places I would never have found on my own.XO tour in Ho Chi Minh City spent eating, drinking, and motorbiking throughout the city

3. Biking Through Off-The-Beaten Path Bali, Indonesia 

This almost didn’t make the list because as my regulars will know, I don’t ‘do’ bikes. My embarrassing natural lack of ability to ride one means avoiding them will add years to my life. But the things I saw while suffering through 17 bruises, 1 skinned knee, lord knows how many scratches, and only one mild concussion, were totally worth the effort. Where else can you learn that teenage Hindus love Blink 182, scarecrows can be fashioned out of anything, placenta is sacred, children love practicing the word ‘hello’, and cockfighting is an integral part of a religious blood sacrifice (not to mention a gambling addiction)?

Biking around Bali was one of my best experiences in 2014

4. Strolling the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island

This was a vacation that was never supposed to be a vacation. I was meant to tag along to another department’s event at work in case  I was needed. Well, turns out I wasn’t. So basically I had a free summer weekend in Newport, Rhode Island spent sitting dockside while munching on  lobster rolls, sipping cold beers, and wandering the waterfront-lined boutique shops. Throw in an early morning stroll along the jagged cliffs with beautiful coastline on one side and historic, sprawling mansions on the other and you have the recipe for a perfect New England getaway.

Newport cliff walk

5. Watching the Sunset over Sydney Harbour from my Friend’s Rooftop

With all the hustle and bustle of trying to see and do everything while travelling, I sometimes forget how freaking awesome it is to just sit and do absolutely nothing. One of my favorite nights in Australia was simply catching up with my closest friends who had moved from 2 subway stops away from me to all the way on the other side of the world. The three of us sat on their apartment rooftop for hours just playing cards and drinking cocktails while talking about anything and everything. With views like the one below, why would we ever need to go anywhere?

Overlooking Sydney Harbor in Australia

6. Hiking to the Hollywood Sign and Then Viewing it from Below During a Concert at the Hollywood Bowl

There’s nothing quite like enjoying the fruits of your labor (literally – with wine) and reveling in your accomplishments. That’s exactly what I did while staying with a friend in Los Angeles back in June. After a long and strenuous hike up to the Hollywood sign earlier in the day, we spent the evening in the valley with a glass of wine in one hand and cheese in the other and watched James Taylor preform while stealing glances up at the sign (that itty bitty white thing in the top right corner below) and thinking since we climbed all the way up there today, these calories definitely don’t count.

Hollywood Bowl

7. Cruising Bai Tu Long Bay in Vietnam

Every guide book I read, article I browsed, and friend of a friend I spoke with before heading to Vietnam for the first time all shared the general consensus that cruising Halong Bay was an absolute must. I’m always skeptical of ‘musts’. They’re normally accompanied by hordes of crowds and tourists who spoil any and all sense of escape. So instead, I took a gamble and booked my friends and I a junk boat that sailed the neighboring Bai Tu Long Bay. We were not disappointed as we settled on the top deck to soak up the eerie quiet complemented by the misty shrouds of fog hovering around the hundreds of craggy rocks dramatically jutting up out of the water. We were entirely alone with no other boats on the horizon, which added to the sense of drama in a setting so surreal that one would half expect Jack Sparrow and his Black Pearl  to emerge through the haze at any moment ready for battle.

Cruising Bai Tu Long Bay in Vietnam was one of my best experiences in 2014

8. Living in Luxury in Pebble Beach, California During the Concours d’Elegance

Spiderman and I are very much the same person. Ok, Ok, so I’m not a superhero or anything and I most definitely can’t climb walls (though not for lack of trying) but I’ve got the double life thing down to a science. Normal me can be found at some dodgy dive bar playing darts and drinking Miller Lite out of a can while donning leggings, an over-sized sweater, and my comfy Toms. Then there’s work me who jets off to some luxurious event where I’m dressed to the nines with designer heels I pretend I know how to walk in and some gorgeous dress that cost half my rent. Like in August when I was ‘forced’ to attend the US’s premier (and highly exclusive) classic car show, the Concours d’Elegance, to schmooze with clients at cocktail receptions, dinners, and test drives at Rolls-Royce’s private villa.

Councours d'elegance

9. Learning that Vietnamese Coffee is Damn Good S***

Seriously, what more can I say? It’s damn good s***.

Vietnamese Coffee

10. Rocking with a 9 Year Old Girl and ‘The King’ at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee

I rarely travel with other people, let alone children. Yet somehow the stars aligned earlier this year and I was able to take a last minute trip to Memphis, Tennessee to spend an all too quick weekend with my best friend and her 9 year old little sister, Marshall. I realized that travelling with children is effing awesome. There is nothing like seeing the world through a child’s innocent and bias-proof mind. After devouring world famous BBQ, we toured Graceland, home of the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. I hadn’t been since I was a child myself and there were some startling differences -not in the house itself but rather in the absence of a human tour guide. We were lead instead by a John Stamos voiceover narrated through the speakers of the iPads we were given. As if we didn’t feel old enough watching Marshall navigate her iPad much more efficiently than we could, but our age really started to show when we learned she didn’t know what Full House  was and thought John Stamos was just that guy from the yogurt commercials.

Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee

11. Eating Any and Everything at Chelsea Market in NYC

Ravioli, deviled eggs, tacos, oysters, doughnuts, and cheese oh my! Discovering (and ingesting) all the foods (and ok yes alcoholic beverages too) at Chelsea Market in my own backyard of New York City is now my all time favorite thing to do on a miserable snowy day.

chelsea market

12. Discovering the Floating Homes of Sausalito, California

Little did I know there were ‘floating villages’ just across the bay from San Francisco in the sleepy little town of Sausalito until I stumbled upon them while wandering through this charming city. Full communities live in these unique homes nestled in the water in this distinctive neighborhood amongst docks chock full of art, gardens, bicycles, and amiable pets. Only have one day to explore? Check out these 7 things to do with only 7 hours in Sausalito.

Floating homes in Sausalito, California

13. Attending a Football Game at AT&T Stadium in Texas

Watching my college alma mater kick some ass at this iconic $1.3 billion venue with family and friends I rarely get to see was definitely a highlight. Plus, discovering the Texan way of life proved…err…interesting. Read about Myth-busting in the Lone Star State and judge for yourself.

Watching a game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas

14. Finding Jon Snow on Tinder

I have a detrimental obsession (like most people) with Game of Thrones. Only difference between me and most is that I’m almost finished reading Book 4 and have never watched the TV show. I’ve been in love with Jon Snow since he first gave Arya Needle back in Book 1 (many many many many many deaths ago) and pretty much have been lusting after this hunkily perfect (though admittedly fictional) specimen ever since. I imagine him dressed head to toe in black, guarding the imposing and lengthy Wall along with his Black Brothers while nothing except blinding white snow can be seen for miles and miles. And then it happened. I found him, of all places, on Tinder and was finally able to swipe right and pray for a match.

Finding Jon Snow on Tinder lol

What wonderful experiences did you have in 2014? Did you go anywhere new or exciting? Tell me about it!

Why Suffer From FOMO When You Don’t Have To?

Taking on the classic “round-the-world” route, the next Travel Dispatch journey kicks off Nov 15 as I travel east to west, looping the globe over a period of 12 months with $25,000. Now’s your chance to get in on it from the very beginning!

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35 Comments on "A Look In The Rearview: My Top 14 Experiences in 2014"

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alison @GreenWithRenvy

Sounds like you had an amazing year Kristen. I was lucky enough to explore Myanmar this year and that was definitely a highlight. Happy travels in 2015!

Kach Mu

Wow!! We lived in Vietnam for almost a year but we didnt experience that tour in Ho Chi Minh! It’s awesome that you’ve been to a lot of places in 2014, actually this blogpost of yours is a great idea! I might have write our 14 experiences of 2014! I’ve initially listed our Monthly experiences but this style is cool! Of your Tinder thingy is so funny!! hahaha! =)

The Roaming Renegades

Looks like you have had an awesome year! Very inspirational, we are looking at doing some similar thing in 2016 when we travel though asia and to australia!


Looks like you had awesome year. What a great experiences. Watching the Sunset over Sydney Harbour from your Friend’s Rooftop must have been amazing. All the best in new year to you!! 🙂


Your year looks great!!! I hope I get to have one like it next year 🙂

Anne Klien ( Meanne)

Looks like an amazing year for you, cool places you’ve been


I hope 2015 tops your already amazing 2014. A very happy new year to you and yours!


ahh what an awesome 2014!! I hope your 2015 is even better – if that’s possible! We were in Sydney this year too 🙂

Morgan Sullivan

Sounds like you had some truly amazing experiences this year! I’m heading to Vietnam in February so I loved the bit about Bai Tu Long Bay 🙂 Also, definitely can’t argue with meeting Jon Snow on Tinder 😉 Safe travels and best of luck to you in the New Year!!


Haha, I was on Fraser island in March (but 2 years ago) and we had the greatest idea to go around the island on foot! Dingos, mosquitos, sandflies, snakes, heat, no one else…lost…but we survived :))) At least now we have some fun stories to tell

Milosz Zak

Swimming in an infinity pool as you show us in one of these photos is definitely on my to-do list. Keep on traveling!

Justo Rivera

This post was an absolute joy to read! Keep’em coming.

terry thrash

Love reading your posts! Insightful and funny….keep traveling and keep posting!


Happy New Year Kristen!! Keep up the good writing. It is fun to read!!

sherry gallagher

What an incredible journey you are experiencing! I love it! Thank you for sharing this with us!


Your Home Ec husband isn’t jealous…


A year anyone would be envious of. Sorry to hear about the Bali bicycling mishaps but you came out of it with some good insights and an appreciation for Bali that you can only get when you vacate the roads. All the best for 2015.


Wow, so many fun adventures to look back on! That hike in RI looks especially nice.

Jules and Christine (@DontForget2Move)

What an awesome year! Love the first couple in particular! Have never been to Fraser Island, but wil get there one day as an Australian native. Also loved the Vietnam memory. We’re headed there in a couple of months and your pics and description have really got us excited!

Bianca @itsallbee

So jealous! Vietnam is on my top wanderlust destinations! If I find a flight deal this year I will over there in quick time!