One Year Asia-Versary

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One year ago today (I think? It's hard to pinpoint the exact date with all the timezone changes), we landed in sticky, smelly, crazy Bangkok with no idea of what the future would hold. We had our lives packed into three suitcases, a six-month lease on an apartment we'd never seen in person and at least enough trust in each other to move to the opposite side of the world together. It could've been a disaster, but instead it's turned out to be the best decision either of us has ever made. Rather than trying to make sweeping statements about where we've been, what we've learned or who we've become, I'd like to breakdown the past year month-by-month in celebration of our Asia-versary.

January 2014

amandawatarun
amandawatarun

After celebrating the new year at home in Minnesota and making a quick stopover in California for a few days, we found ourselves in Bangkok on January 15. Before we knew it, we'd already made a few friends, took a beach vacation and ventured out to some of the coolest sights in our adopted city. We were feeling a bit flustered with no clear direction, but did our best to just enjoy our new surroundings and soak it all in.

Casey got his first tutoring job. I (barely) survived my first attack of Bangkok belly. We got settled into our condo and had a few meltdowns along the way (Should I be focused on traveling? Finding a job? Seeing the city? WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?!), but all in all, I knew it was the start to what was going to be a great adventure.

Best Post - Taking Over Bangkok

February

mountainflowers
mountainflowers

In February, we celebrated my most memorable Valentine's Day to date with a motorbike trip from Chiang Mai to Pai with our friends Evan and Eric. We adventured all day and played drinking games all night, growing so much closer to the two people who became our closest friends in Thailand. I was love-drunk off the land, the journey and my gorgeous man. I was falling harder and harder every day. There was still a lot to take care of back in Bangkok ~ small details, like how we'd make a living and what we both wanted out of the trip ~ but that weekend, everything was lovely.

At the end of the month, Casey secured a full-time teaching position that would start in May and came into some extra cash after selling his car back in the US. And just like that, we were off again.

Best Post - Dangerous Freedom

March

caseyamandaangkor
caseyamandaangkor

Most of March was spent in Cambodia, an intoxicating, beautiful country that all at once made me feel pressured and sad, lucky and fortunate, annoyed and amazed. It's a place that's hard to process and impossible to sum up in a few short sentences. By the time we left on the 21st of March, I was so enamored by its culture, people and landscapes that I almost cried multiple times as our bus barreled towards the Vietnamese border.

In retrospect, our month-and-a-half traveling through Cambodia and Vietnam presented me with the most challenging travel experiences in my life to date. Not only surviving wild rides that made me question whether we'd make it out alive, but also looking immense poverty in the face, doing my best to understand cultural differences and struggling to still love myself even when the worst would come out.

Best Post - Along the Road in Cambodia

April

bikeride51
bikeride51

Cambodia seems like a picnic now compared to what we faced in Vietnam, i.e. our bike breaking down in the middle of nowhere, losing a bunch of money when we sold it back and mostly, this party girl spiraling out of control with a little too much alcohol. We met a ton of amazing people, attempted one of the most epic motorcycle routes in the world and saw so many incredible places in Vietnam, but unfortunately there's a bit of a raincloud over our time there because I let my drinking get out of hand. It's something I've struggled with from time to time and if I don't keep myself in check, it can wreak havoc on my life. Not something I love to admit, but I'm happy to have an outlet to hold myself accountable. I left Vietnam feeling more lost than ever.

Luckily, the universe knew just what I needed ~ a visit from a true soul sister and best friend, Jacqueline. Casey went on to travel through Laos and I headed back to Bangkok to meet Jac and do some island hopping. We laughed and cried and philosophized life, building each other up in the way that only best friends can do. She introduced me to a book that stirred something that was dormant inside me and I felt a weight lift as I accepted a higher consciousness back in my life. Of course there were many more struggles in the months to come (and plenty more in the future I'm sure!), but I feel more equipped with the tools to face them head on thanks to this period of rejuvenation.

Best Post - 48 Hours in Phnom Penh

May

vientiane3
vientiane3

Three weeks apart and a total revelation later, I couldn't get back into Casey's arms quicker. May marked the month we both started our jobs, him as a teacher and me as a freelance editor working from home, which brought on some much-needed sanity. But of course, we kept a bit of insanity for good measure.

I started the month with a quick visa run to Laos, followed by an epic trip to Phuket with Casey to meet up with my English bestie Daisy and her friend Jess. We hadn't seen each other for years, but it clicked back just like it was yesterday and made more memories to add to our list of crazy adventures.

I'm realizing now that I was the luckiest lady from April to May with an influx of beautiful best friends coming to Thailand, finishing up with Bianca at the end of the month ~ all in the midst of Bangkok's political crisis culminating in a military coup. Coup or no coup, we still had the best time in a gorgeous hotel by the riverside.

Best Post - Sihanoukville Snapshots

June

wai
wai

The highlight of June was when we moved to Ari to live with Evan. It was exciting to be in a new neighborhood with tons of restaurants, bars and shops to try and it felt good to settle down after a wild few months. The coup curfew was still in place for the first half of the month, so we used that as an excuse to chill to the max and just enjoy each other in the comforts of our new home. I remember spending a lot of time at the pool, taking a lot of photos and catching up on blog posts.

Best Post - Home Sweet Home in Saigon

July

kanchan14
kanchan14

We kicked off July with an Independence Day party at our aforementioned pool, complete with a barbecue and the unlikeliest of guests to be celebrating America's freedom. Our friends from Germany, France, the Philippines and England all came together and we had an awesome time grilling out and stuffing our faces with our American favorites.

In regards to travel, we took a little trip to Kanchanaburi, where we learned a bit more about Thailand's history and witnessed some seriously stunning mountain views.

Best Post - "Live Like More" on Ko Phi Phi

August

wedding
wedding

Home sweet home! In August, I went back to the US on a monthlong trip through New York City, Minnesota, Chicago, Providence and back again to the Big Apple. It was so great to be surrounded by family and friends in every city that I went, and you better believe, we made every day count with so many fun activities and events, like the Mad Decent Block Party, Summer Set, birthday outings and the whole reason I went back in the first place: my uncle Hal's wedding.

Unfortunately through all the good times, I allowed myself to slip back into some not-so-great habits. After a few reflective, meditative weeks at home in New Brighton, I found myself moving at such a fast pace that I forgot to take care of my body and mind, once again tipping back the bottle too much at a time.

Best Post - A New York Welcome

September

september1
september1

September was rough. The drinking was putting a strain on my relationship and coming back to Bangkok wasn't like anything I ever expected. It was the month we both turned 25, and rather than going into that milestone birthday feeling confident and strong, I was broken, confused, insecure and scared. It was a dark time that I don't want to rehash here or anywhere, but fortunately, I had the strength to move towards the light.

I threw myself into self-development work and the blog, hoping to figure myself out and understand why I was letting myself and others down. Looking in the mirror, I wanted to like what I saw, and I needed to know that I could be happy on my own because in the end, isn't that all we can really depend on? I spent a lot of time with my journal that month, sorting through the conflicting thoughts swirling through my head. It proved to be just what I needed.

Best Post - Weekend Getaway: Kanchanaburi

October

october
october

By October, things were back on track. In fact, I'd never felt closer to Casey (and it's only getting better!) and we had such a blast when his friends Nate, David and Luke came out to visit. Actually, I think we had the craziest, most hilarious night out in our entire Bangkok history. My friend Sima also stopped through a few times, including on Halloween. For the majority of the month, I really just focused on my photography, yoga and bringing myself closer to my own idea of God through various books and readings. Oh, and I went on this great food tour too!

Best Post - Providence Snapshots

November

gardens1
gardens1

All of the heaviness from the months past were gone by November, replaced by feelings of abounding love as we celebrated Evan and Eric's wedding. It did mean losing our roomie as she went to live with her hubby in Phnom Penh, but of course we couldn't have been happier for them to finally be together.

We wrapped up the month with a visa run trip to Singapore ~ the tastiest trip in my recent memory. We got the chance to meet up with my friend Adil and pretty much ate our way all over that place. Not as life-changing as our previous trips, but a super fun stop nonetheless!

Best Post - My 5 Favorite Food Destinations

December

december
december

December was my favorite month of the entire year. I don't think I've ever said that in my life. Of course, there's the usual highlight of Christmas, but in the past, there's always been finals, horrible weather and winter blahs to bring it down. In Thailand, it's the complete opposite. The weather has finally cooled down, so you're free to wander the streets without working up a sweat the moment you step out the door. I took on a new project with Gogobot that encouraged me to get out and explore the city in places I never would've thought to go on my own, pushing me to appreciate our home more than ever before.

We also took the trip of a lifetime for Christmas and New Year's ~ a two-week, island-hopping extravaganza that I can't wait to tell you all about...

Best Post - Singapore ~ City of Gardens

January 2015

january
january

...which I guess brings me back to today, contemplating this crazy, amazing year from my favorite coffee shop in Ari. We've been back from our trip for a little over a week and we're slowly getting back to our version of the grind. I still don't have a real idea of where we're headed in 2015, but I feel a strong sense of peace with the uncertainty.

| PHOTOGRAPHY | by Amanda BolemanCasey Gaarder and Polly Cannella