I've been back in Europe for 50 days now, mainly staying at home in Belgium. It's been over seven years since I've spent this much time in my home country, and I feel it's been quite valuable to have had this much time. To be around my family, to reconnect with friends, and to rediscover many of the places I once knew quite well. It's provided me with a renewed sense of belonging, a feeling that I can thrive in an environment that's familiar, perhaps less spectacularly exciting, but nonetheless thrilling due to the possibilities for sustained and deepening connections and friendships. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I'm about to upturn the whole setup once again, when I'll be moving back to Copenhagen next week. To be fair, Denmark has been my actual home for the past 4 years, and I'm tremendously looking forward to going back, starting up my working life again, and getting into the song and dance of re-establishing friendships with the lovely people I've gotten to know there.

So in a sense, even though my journey ended nearly two months ago, the true conclusion of this trip is really only happening now. I've had a lot of time to relive many of last year's moments, to organize my pictures, to make profound and silly movies, and really appreciate what has come to pass. Therefore, I thought it'd be a fun idea to share some of the highlights of my trip, in this Best Of story. I wrote a similar story after the conclusion of my first year-long trip, and I really enjoyed the process of listing up experiences in categories I considered of interest for a prospective traveler. After all, who doesn't like lists?

In addition, I've collected a wide variety of catchy songs that I picked up in different countries and bundled them into a neat Spotify playlist, should you be curious to discover collection of eclectic, wacky, soothing and hipster music from around the world.

So, without further ado, the Best Of a Year on The Road!
(Click on an image to go to the full story. Best viewed on larger screen.)

Beautiful natural sights

Rocky mountains Jasper National Park, Canada
A vast and magnificent mountain range running through the US and Canada, of which I only caught a few glimpses, but those will linger for a long time to come.
Wadi Rum Desert Rum, Jordan
Resembling a Martian landscape (and therefore used in many Hollywood productions depicting the red planet), Wadi Rum feels truly otherwordly, with its vast red desert planes pierced by imposing sandstone cliffs.
Tugela Falls Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa
At the summit of a beautiful hike into the Central Drakensberg mountain range flow the Tugela Falls, the tallest waterfalls in the world, tumbling nearly a thousand meters into the lush valley below. An incredible sight.
Cotopaxi Volcano Parque National Cotopaxi, Ecuador
This volcano looks straight out of a Disney fairytale, with its imposing, snow-capped dome ruling the surrounding grasslands.

Epic man-made sights

Petra Wadi Musa, Jordan
Arguably one of the most significant archeological discoveries of the 20th century, the ancient necropolis of Petra is as vast as it is impressive. One can wander for days between the beautifully carved-out temples and tombs.
Mehrangarh Fort Jodhpur, India
The Mehrangarh is a massive, 15th-century fort perched high atop a hill overlooking the city of Jodhpur, in the Rajastahn province. It's an incredible construction, highlighting the building mastery that already existed in the East so many centuries past.
Chichén Itzá Yucatán, Mexico
One of the seven modern wonders of the world, the pre-Colombian city of Chichén Itzá was once a metropolis, a religious hub and trading center for tens of thousands of Mayan people.
Lao–China Railway Boten to Vientiane, Laos
This brand-new, high-speed railroad service connects all major cities in mountainous Laos to eachother as well as to southern China. It's a 6-billion-dollar engineering marvel, consisting of over 75 tunnels and 167 (!) bridges, and a complete game-changer for the economic and touristic development of the country.

Cool cities

Bangkok Thailand
Bangkok is South-East Asia's main hub, a massive melting pot of cultures, lifestyles, cuisine, religious piety and hedonistic excess. Having been there seven times now, it's one of my favorite places in the world.
Cape Town South Africa
Cape Town takes your breath away with its visceral beauty. Massive mountain ranges disappear into the surrounding oceans everywhere you look, and the city itself has a decidedly European feel to it. It's not the safest place on earth, but certainly ones of the most stunning.
Rishikesh India
Often called the Yoga capital of the world, Rishikish is so much more than what Western spiritual marketing might suggest. It's among the most holy places in India, the river Ganges cutting right through its center, where meditative peace and serenity are never far away.
Buenos Aires Argentina
Buenos Aires was striking in its grandeur, with imposing colonial buildings dating back to Argentina's golden age. The fact that it's also the capital of one of the most vibrant countries in South America, doesn't hurt either.

Wild music collaborations

Ethno Chile Rancagua, Chile
A week of intense musical exchange, with folk musicians from all over Latin America, resulting in an epic concert filled with life, love and music. A real heart-opener.
Techno-house DJ collaboration Bocas del Toro, Panamá
An impromptu and entirely improvised foray into the electronic music scene, playing violin with an experienced DJ in an open-air Panamanian night club. A taste of the kind of musical fame I could get quite used to.
Campfire jams Wild Spirit Lodge, South Africa
The nightly campfire at a delightful hostel in South Africa set the scene for the many traveling musicians to let loose, combining guitars, ukuleler, hand pan, didgeridoo, and violin into deep and trance-like improv sessions that were extremely connective.
Spontaneous blues concert San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
A spontaneous breakfast improv concert with a local hostel owner and expert blues guitarist led to rather impressive violin solos that were mostly lost on the backpacker audience, but gave me renewed confidence in my improvisational abilities.

Tasty food

Steak All over, Argentina
By far the best steak I've ever eaten. The quality of the meat is so insane that the only cooking step is to rub the meat with salt before grilling it over a charcoal fire.
Falafel & mezze Amman, Jordan
Falafel is a staple of the Jordanian cuisine, and paired with delicious bread and many side dishes and dips, including humus and baba ganoush, it's a feast for the palate every single time.
Churros with cream Mexico City, Mexico
This may have been the closest I've ever come to an absolute food high. Steaming churros, covered in sugar and dipped in cream, accompanied by an ice-cold vanilla milkshake. Heavenly.
Indian curries Delhi, India
India is world-famous for its varied and delicious food, but the curries, though fairly spicy to my senses, stand out. A restaurant in Delhi made me fall in love with curry flavours all over again.

Sweet reunions

Jayme & Anna Edmonton, Canada
Jayme, Anna and I first met and backpacked together in India over ten years ago, and we've stayed in touch ever since. I was finally able to visit them both in Jayme's hometown, and we had and absolute blast together.
Jeroen's wedding Nakhon Sawan, Thailand
Jeroen is a friend I've known since I was just five year's old. We used to play violin together, and only reconnected a few years ago after a long hiatus. I was truly privileged to be able to attend his and Mook's wedding ceremony in central Thailand.
Napak & Pui Bangkok, Thailand
I first came to Thailand when I was only sixteen years old, to play in an international youth symphony orchestra. That's where I met Napak and Pui, fellow violinists in the orchestra. I managed to reunite with them after over fifteen years, a testament to the bond music can create.
Nipun Delhi, India
Nipun is one of those unique people you only come across once in a blue moon. An extremely talented and successful lawyer at India's Supreme Court, we nevertheless met on a booze cruise in Greece a few years ago. His generosity and hospitality in introducing us to the many culinary delights of Delhi was exceptional.

Blissful stays

Tropical island life Holbox, Mexico
Maria and I settled on the sleepy Mexican island of Holbox for over a week, settling into island-life routines such as fresh avocado breakfasts, afternoons at the beach, and simply enjoying eachother's company.
Circus Hostel Pai, Thailand
I volunteered at Circus Hostel for just over a month. Beautifully situated on a green hill overlooking the Pai valley, this hostel was the scene for my daily-taught juggling classes, chilling with the backpacking guests, and getting up to all sorts of debaucherous shenanigans.
Wild Spirit Lodge Nature's Valley, South Africa
An absolute gem of a backpacker lodge, Wild Spirit focuses on eco-conscious living, and is just a beautiful place in nature where people tend to stay for much longer than they initially intended, including yours truly. It also provided the backdrop for the aforementioned campfire jams.
Bamboo beach hut Koh Samui, Thailand
My dream of living the ultimate hippy life in a cozy little hut right on the beach, came true on Koh Samui, where I resided for nearly two weeks in a tiny shack, with basic facilities and the continuous sound of crashing waves against the shore.

Improved skills

Surfing/diving Ecuador, Mexico, Jordan, South Africa
One of my intentions for this trip was to get better at surfing, which I at least partly succeeded in, tackling new waves in Ecuador and South Africa. I also scratched my scuba diving itch by exploring gorgeous aquatic life in the Caribbean Gulf and the Red Sea.
Spanish Argentina, Chile, Peru, Panamá, Ecuador, Mexico
I spent nearly seven months in Spanish-speaking countries on this trip, and got fairly proficient at basic Spanish. How much I've retained of it all remains to be seen.
Thai cooking Chiang Mai, Thailand
I will not pretend that taking a single Thai cooking class suddenly made me an expert on Thai cooking, but it did peak the interest of my very limited cooking skills, into a commitment to further explore this delicious cuisine. Dinner parties to follow.
Weight lifting Gyms, Everywhere
My commitment to stay fit during this year of traveling implied working out in controlled fashion from time to time, in a massively varying array of gyms all over the world. Apart from some hilarious, gym-bro-related encounters, I also finally got over my fear of picking up a set of free weights or a halter in front of them. Perhaps a very minor achievement, but one with strong implications (get it?).

Meaningful experiences

Working with Ayahuasca Iquitos, Peru
Perhaps one of the most meaningful weeks of my life, my work with the indigenous Peruvian spirit vine changed my understanding of the way I relate to myself in a deep way, allowing me to understand unskillful patterns and setting me on a humble road to continued self-exploration.
Motorcycle journey Northern Range, Laos
I went on a 5-day-long, 800-km, solo motorcycle journey through the remote mountains of northern Laos. A fairly daunting undertaking, but one that came with a host of adventurous lessons, a sore behind, and plenty of time for introspection.
Tantra course Chiang Mai, Thailand
Over the course of a 5-day Tantra/yoga retreat, I was instructed in the value of present-moment-awareness, resonance, polarity, transfiguration and expression of true love.
Hiking in nature Nature, the World
While not a specific event during my trip, the countless walks, hikes, runs, and other explorations of beautiful natural places I was fortunate enough to be able to go on, are perhaps the best reminder of the supreme natural beauty that exists in the world.

It deserves to be mentioned that these places are only highlights, and that very often the most interesting and memorable experiences can occur in the most unlikely places. And going back to perhaps a more sedentary and mundane life (for now), keeping that approach to life in mind will be vitally important, I believe.

Then again, the world remains out there, and with it endless opportunities for exploration.

Until next time ;)

March 31st, 2023

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