Tag: 2017

Why Laos is My Favourite Country

Laos is a magical place. Unlike anywhere I have ever been before Laos managed to make me feel like I was on one of the biggest adventures of my life while also making me feel like I was completely at home. I didn’t know a lot about the country before I ventured to Asia in 2017 and thank goodness I did because Laos is now officially my most favourite country I’ve visited… so far, anyway!

The Scenery
The views are incredible. From the mountains and the greenery to the rivers and the waterfalls, Laos does not disappoint. My favourite moment was visiting Pakbeng, a small village in between the Thai and Lao borders. I remember waking up before 6am to stand on my balcony and look over the mighty Mekong River to see wild elephants enjoying themselves by the water. A memory I will never forget.

 

The People
I think the Lao people were the nicest people I’ve ever met bar none. So sweet, kind, and happy to help. I only spent seven days in Laos but our Contiki local guide is now my friend on Facebook! He was the best and we all grew incredibly close to him after playing cards on a slow boat for two days straight. Ahhh, the epitome of serenity.

The Currency
Ever wanted to feel like an absolute baller? Go to Laos. Taking 1,000,000 Kip out of the ATM will feel awesome. (That’s only $150 AUD!)

The Pace
Time goes slowly in the best way possible in Laos… it’s relaxing to be there. I loved every slow minute and wish more and more every day that I could be back on there and on Lao time.

The Adventures
Want to go cycling through the streets with no helmet on after a shot of the strongest whiskey you’ve ever tasted made from fermented lizards and snakes? Laos. 

The Story
The history of Laos is not common knowledge. That’s why the bombing that occurred there in the 1960s and early 1970s is referred to as the American’s ‘Secret War’. By the time the war campaign ended in 1973 a tenth of Laos’ population had been killed. Laos is the most heavily bombed nation in history. Conducted during the Vietnam War, the US military dropped 260 million cluster bombs onto Laos. This is equivalent to a planeload of bombs being unloaded every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years – nearly seven bombs for every man, woman and child living in Laos. Can you believe that during the war Laos was supposed to be neutral?
When I was learning about the history of it all while visiting the COPE (Co-operative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise) Centre in Laos it was explained to us that the only reason these bombs were dropped was because the US military had to get rid of them before they landed back on US soil… Laos was just a dumping ground. There are still millions of unexploded bombs, grenades and landmines left with at least half of Laos still covered by them causing 300 new casualties – mostly children – per year due to accidentally stepping on or playing with an unexploded cluster bomb.
I was really proud of my tour group when we donated enough money to the COPE Centre to fund two prosthetic arms and two prosthetic legs for the victims of the bombs.
Knowing all of this, visiting the COPE Centre and viewing the documentary films there, and then realising how beautiful and kind the people are in Laos… that’s what makes this country so worthy of all of our love and visits. I bought a ring at some Lao markets made from the materials of a detonated cluster bomb and I have not taken it off since I bought it. Laos is very special to me and I can’t wait to go back.

 

Have you been to Laos? I’d love to hear stories from other travellers who have experienced this beautiful, wonderful, incredible place!

Katie

2017

Here we are again! It’s that brilliant time of year when I get to do a recap of the last 365 days. I love yearly recaps, I really do. They make me feel so accomplished because I can realise – all at once – exactly what I have achieved in what is actually a very short amount of time.

Let me begin by proudly stating: 2017 was the best year of my life. So far, anyway!

When I left my life in Sydney and moved back to Cairns there was only one thing I really wanted from life – travel, travel, travel. I didn’t even know where I wanted to go or how I would get there or where the money would come from. I just had a burning desire to explore the world.

By the end of 2016 I had booked and paid for my first solo travel experience. I left for that trip in February and what followed can only be described as the most magical three weeks I could have ever hoped for. I went on the Asian Adventure Contiki tour which took me through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. For those of you who may not be familiar with Contiki, they are an organised group travel company specialising in adventurous once-in-a-lifetime trips for 18-35 year olds. I met so many fantastic human beings while I was on Contiki. They quickly became like extended family (and when I say quick I mean the first day!).

When I returned from my Asian Adventure it was time to get stuck into cheerleading for the year. I ended up becoming the ‘social media manager’, if you will, for our team during 2017. I really enjoyed doing it and it brought the possibility of social media marketing as an alternate career path to my attention. I’m looking forward to doing it again in 2018 and beyond, hopefully until my time as a cheerleader is up. Speaking of cheerleading, I went to my first competition! My team placed first and so did the dance duo I performed in. I was ecstatic! I have never been a very competitive person and this was the first competition I’d been to since my very young years in gymnastics. To place first was just the icing on a very delicious cake. I was also honoured to be team voted to receive a Spirit Award for 2017. It was a great year of cheer.

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Cheerleading went hand-in-hand with my gym tendencies during 2017. I was very dedicated and focused on my fitness. I joined an F45 Team Training gym and completed my first 8 week challenge with them. The challenge helped me to change the way I think about food and lose a few more kilos in the process. I was two kilograms away from my goal weight when I hurt my hip late in the year. Not to worry though, it was just a minor setback and it’s feeling much better after a few months of rest! I’m very excited to see what 2018 has in store fitness wise… The next 8 week challenge starts at the end of January and I’m raring to go!

In May, one of my very closest friends turned 30. When this happened she said to me, “Katie, I’m going to go to Disney World for my 30th!”, and I said, “Count me in!” And that, my friends, is how easily my second overseas trip for the year was born. We ended up going to Orlando, Florida as well as New York, New York for two glorious December weeks. We went to all the Disney theme parks as well as Universal Studios AND I got to live my life long dream of seeing a show on Broadway. I ended up seeing 5 Broadway shows over 4 days and I was in absolute heaven. There is nowhere like New York City.

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But by far the best thing to happen in 2017? That would be Ethan. My wonderful Ethan. It was by pure luck that we found each other and I can honestly say that the butterflies have not stopped floating in my stomach since the first time he stood up and pulled out my chair for me on our very first date. In 2017 I learnt what it really feels like to be hopelessly in love and it is a magical feeling.

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Speaking of Ethan, we are super stoked to be planning our first overseas adventure together! He’s got the travel bug just as badly as I do, so come December we will be off on our own Contiki. We’ll get to visit 10 European countries together over a blissful month of nothing but us. I’m in another world just thinking about it…

2018 will be all about focusing on health, fitness, and saving up to make our holiday the best one possible.

So here’s what I learnt from 2017:

  1. Solo travel is as good for the soul as everyone says.
  2. When you stop trying to find love it will find you.
  3. Saying no to chocolate isn’t as hard as you may think.
  4. Sometimes you just have to do what’s best for you and move on – people will get over it.
  5. You are never too old to try something new.
  6. Something seems really bad? Take a breath and revisit tomorrow. It probably isn’t.
  7. If someone is nice, they’re nice. If someone is rude, they’re rude. If someone is mean, they’re mean. Get the point?
  8. Love heals all previous pain.
  9. True friendship is very valuable and becomes harder to find as we grow older.
  10. Sometimes, if you take a chance on him, a wonderful man will surprise you with his maturity, wisdom, and kindness.

Katie

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