I started off the year with my favorite program, Semester at Sea, for their New Years Reunion Voyage on the MV World Odyssey. I made some incredible new friends, walked from the USA to Mexico to experience Tijuana, and then explored Ensensada.
The fun continued in San Diego with our new friends Lorenzo and Christina as we drove around to our favorite spots in SD.
Clearly we couldn’t get enough of these guys as they joined us in San Francisco on part of their road trip to celebrate Byron’s birthday the Marina Sushi way. Note the absolute mess of a table we’re sitting at.
Back in San Francisco, I did some road trips south along the Pacific Coast Highway with Byron to Santa Cruz and the boardwalk, Monterrey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Big Sur.
As the horror of our election’s impacts rocked the nation, we marched during the Women’s March in San Francisco along Market St. After the festivities and melting in the pouring rain, I hung out at 1880 Page for a game of Code Name and wine.
After many adventures together in San Francisco, we wrapped up our time in SF with a killer bike ride across the Golden Gate, some cheeky beers, a ferry ride back to the city, and the most dive-worthy bar in the Tenderloin, and a final night at Toronados and The Page, as Simon headed off to Melbourne Australia.
For my birthday, Byron (as per usual) did a fantastic job on my birthday and surprised me with a long weekend getaway to Seattle! Highlights included Drag Show Brunch Cabaret, walking tours, Pike Place Market, the Seattle Space Needle, several museums and the aquarium, Fremont Market and Troll, a glass blowing class, sushi and Churascuria, and the Starbucks Factory. I still can’t believe how much he packed into those few days!
Found myself a lady rider! We went on an incredible ride down to Half Moon Bay and then to the Alpine Inn for beer and burgers along the winding roads through the Redwoods.
February also consisted of solo rides down Half Moon Bay, enjoying coffee in the town, watching a whale from the beach, mastering the twisties and stopping at Alice’s cafe. I also had a great day exploring Berkeley with Anna and Elliot and Jess to buddhist brunch, Grizzly Peak, and the university campus.
For our work Region Meeting, we headed to Salt Lake City for a few days. Some work was accomplished, but we also had way too much fun hanging out with the coworkers we don’t get to see all the time–searching for bars (in a alcohol shunned city) with the (now traditional) wigs, getting into snowball fights, finding your coworker asleep in your closet, and other such fun. This was the point that I began planning my departure from the company, which was bittersweet given how much I loved my coworkers.
Shan came to visit me again!! This time we went down along the coast to Santa Cruz, hiking in Monterrey and Big Sur, watching the sunset in Carmel by the Sea and just enjoying spending time together again.
The Work Team. These guys were so much fun to work with. They even put me in charge of crafting 🙂
April was full of checking things off of the San Francisco bucket list, like seeing a Giants Game, discovering all the phenomenal views of the city (there’s a ton), playing around the Exploratorium with Jess and Anna, dancing the night away at Bhangra Night, trying international dishes, and staying in Sacramento.
Kayla came to visit again for a conference!
Won the Hamilton lottery!
We took a long weekend and drove south from San Francisco along the 5 all the way to Los Angeles. I’d never been before, so we say Hollywood Boulevard, hiked up Runyon Canyon, saw a commercial being shot, walked through Olvera St, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, and Malibu. We also interviewed a few hostels during the trip since we started writing for HostelManagement.com as our first intro to the hostel community.
Back in San Francisco, I enjoyed my last Bay to Breakers, dressed up in costume and enjoying the company at 1880 Page with the rooftop views of the city, and all the other rooftop parties going on across the neighborhood.
With the last few days in San Francisco, we hung out with Aly at El Rio in the Mission for some Sunday dancing, saw a Tenderloin Drag Show at Aunt Charlies, and prepared to say goodbye. On June 11 we packed up the car, and hit the road to our first stop along the Great American Road Trip: Las Vegas. The road trip was going to be a mix of sightseeing and also interviewing hostel owners around the country for a project called Hosteling Across America for HostelManagement.com.
The trip continued on to Arizona where we hit Flagtaff, Grand Canyon, Phoenix, Tucson with Lyndsey.
Froze our butts off in the Grand Canyon. Who knew it could go from 100 degrees during the day to 30 at night?
Onwards to New Mexico and the Carlsbad Caverns, and then to Texas and camping in the Guadalupe Mountains, and Austin TX and BBQ. Next to New Orleans and Bourbon St, live big bands, and lively parades. We hit the East Coast with Florida, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina, and Virginia where I got to see my grandparents for a night!
Up the East Coast to Philly, then home to CT for a day for an orthodontics appointment, lunch with mom, a boatride with dad and fam, and Kayla’s Bday!
Back on the road to Cleveland, then Chicago, where we saw some incredible hostels, met up with my old roommate Hannah for Deep Dish Pizza, and some sight-seeing.
After Chicago, it was all Midwest plains to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Badlands National Park
Through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. This kayaking moment was one of my favorite memories from the whole trip.
Back to civilization and urban blocks in Salt Lake City for a night, then back to nature in Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park during 4th of July Weekend. We completed the road trip back in Las Vegas for a night, and then on to San Francisco–making an entire loop around the United States of America in one month’s time. This was the highlight of the year and I’m still amazed we pulled it off. Seeing America was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and getting this opportunity was so memorable and made me appreciate the country much more.
We said goodbye (again) to San Francisco, and our apartment, quit our jobs, and flew home on July 8th.
Back home in CT, we planned our next adventure by scouring the internet for opportunities to work in hostels. After quitting our jobs, we had decided this was the path we wanted to take since we were both interested in backpackers and travel. Amazingly, we found an opportunity to manage a backpacker’s hostel in Port Macquarie, Australia. We’d both wanted to go back to Australia to live for a while, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. The owner liked us, and gave us the job. We didn’t waste any time booking flights, applying for visas, and preparing for the next phase, set to start in a month. In the meantime, we tried to catch up with as many friends and family as we could, including a sushi party in NYC, going to my former mentor Megan’s wedding, enjoying a night out at Mezzos and the Athenian diner with Kyle, Ryan and the group, and driving up to Providence, RI to see Kayla.
With only a few days left in the country, I flew down to Tampa to visit Shan for a few days in her new home! She showed me all around the city including Ybor, a dolphin boat cruise, Bayshore Boulevard, and Fort De Soto Park. Then we drove through the Everglades to Miami where we stayed at Freehand Hotel, hung out on the beach and seeing street art, and caught up with our cousins in Fort Lauderdale before heading back to Tampa.
On August 18th, Byron and I headed from CT to NY to JFK airport where we put all our belongings for the next year onto a plane headed to Australia. I felt excited for the next chapter and it seemed like I was doing something that was working towards my goals of travelling more and working in hospitality. However, it never gets easier every time I have to say goodbye to friends and family before these big trips.
I might be in the minority for saying this, but I love layovers on long trips. It gives me a chance to get up and move around, and see a new country if I plan it right. This time, we had a ten hour layover in Manila, Philippines, which meant I could see a whole new country! I planned out the day carefully to make sure to maximize the short amount of time. We explored the old city of Intramuros, wandered Chinatown eating snacks along the way, indulged in a pedicure after walking the hot steamy streets, sampled Filipino food, negotiated the chaotic markets and antique jeepneys, and finished of the day with a stroll through the Rizal park.
We arrived in Sydney on August 20th, and stayed in the city for a week, meeting with hostel owners in order to network and put our names out there. On the weekend, we rented a manual car to practice driving, since our next job required driving backpackers around in an old manual van. We lurched and stalled the car out to the Blue Mountains to see Veronica, Byron’s grandmother, and then out to the bush in Robertstown to see his aunt, uncle, and cousins. By the end, our driving skills were at least passable. After returning the car, we flew to Port Macquarie to start managing Port Macquarie Backpackers.
The hostel had some serious delays in opening due to construction, which was frustrating since all we wanted was to jump right in and start managing and interacting with guests. During this time, the owner had us doing free manual labor, which did not sit right at all. We escaped down to Sydney again for a Backpacker Operators Association meeting, where we networked more and spent time at Bondi Backpackers and Hump in Kings Cross. We also celebrated our anniversary at Braza Churrascaria as tradition calls for. Back in Port Macquarie, our relationship with the owner was off on a rocky start, but the hostel reopened on the 15th and we had some good times taking backpackers out to the local Irish pub for live music, or hearing their travel stories as we sat around by the pool.
Things at the hostel sadly didn’t improve, and every day was a constant waiting game for what small thing the owner would lose his cool over. On top of that, he wasn’t paying us what he should, and refused to pay us legally as employees. Living with constant anxiety over his behavior wore us down and we decided to call it quits. Byron headed down first, and I followed on the Greyhound bus the week after–waving good riddance to PMB and hoping for better things to come in Sydney.
The first week in Sydney was all about getting back on our feet by searching for apartments and hunting for jobs. It was tough because most management jobs aren’t given to work and holiday visa holders. Within the first week, we found a studio apartment in Rushcutters Bay–amazing location near Kings Cross and CBD, but a mediocre apartment at best. We were happy to make the trade-off. We bought a beautiful 650 Kawasaki ER-6F, named her Kiwi, and fell in love with her. I had missed riding a motorcycle since San Francisco and was so happy to be back on the road behind the handlebars. I also started getting called in for interviews and managed to string together a few part time jobs, one with a corporate events company and one for an Airbnb property management company. We also took this opportunity to work on our own business, Backpacker Business Solutions, by designing websites for small businesses. Things were starting to look better and better each day as we explored Sydney, made friends, and established ourselves again.
We couldn’t have picked a better time to be in Sydney, as this is the peak season. The weather is beautiful and the city is filled with people just arriving and hoping to make friends. I used some apps to find other ladies in the area to hang out with and had the luck of finding Ile, who invited us to Thanksgiving Dinner! Thousands of miles away from home and we were feeling the American spirit pretty strong.
Didn’t take long to fall in love with my new coworkers at Hidden Door. People that work in events are some of the wildest and most entertaining people I’ve met. We celebrated the Christmas Party on a yacht in the Sydney Harbor. Then, we continued the party to karoke and dancing on couches. It was pretty sweet.
Sydney is surrounded by beautiful places, all within an hours drive. We got a rental car, packed it full of friends, and headed down to the Royal National Park to Wattamolla Beach for hiking, bogun style BBQ, swimming, and hanging by the beach.
I started my new job as Front Desk Team Lead at Racecourse Space Hotel in Randwick. Finally, it felt like I was doing something directly related to hospitality. The view from the hotel was stunning, and I jived with my coworkers right away, especially my fellow American coworker who I could rock out to Fall Out Boy, Tenacious D, and Credence Clearwater with.
The weather started heating up for the summertime, which meant some solid hours clocked in at Bondi, Coogee, Maroubra, and other surrounding beaches.
For New Years, Simon drove all the way up from Melbourne to Sydney to spend a few days with me. It was like time hadn’t passed at all and we hung out just like the good old days in San Francisco, chilling in the park, eating cheap Asian food, and talking about life. However, this time we could also cruise around with our motorcycles together, have decadent brunch, and struggle through our hangovers in the comfort of the beach. We spent the last night of 2017 with Byron and the Maze backpacker crew at Christison Park, with a clear view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the fireworks, but also on the very eastern cliff of Australia behind us. The park was the perfect place to watch and we had access to wonderfully clean toilets, a whole field to play football in, and plenty of food and bottle shops around to sustain us throughout the day. In summary, it’s been one hell of a year, chocked full of adventure, big changes, new friendships, old friendships, and excitement for the future.