2011 in Review

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There’s been a whole slew of these posts lately, so I’m sure this one will get lost in the shuffle. In a lot of ways, 2011 is perhaps best lost in the shuffle. After two wonderful years in South Korea and a rewarding and growth inspiring first year in Sydney, this year has been one of false starts and heart-breaks.

In 2011 I broke up with my travel companion and girlfriend of two years; got crazy in Fiji; returned to Korea; fell in love again; battled depression; did a midnight run from my school in Korea; returned to Sydney and found a new job; dabbled in online dating; met a whole bunch of new people; made money from my blog; returned to study; got a few promotions; and spent a fantastic Christmas at home.

There were some great moments mixed in there. I made some unforgettable friends while I was in Busan, had a bunch of crazy sex, finally had a one night stand (and friended them on Facebook, coz that’s how I roll), had a blast in Fiji, and welcomed my first nephew into the world.

But it was also a year not without its low-lights. I had two rough break-ups, quit a job and fled a country, and reached an all time low in my battle with depression.

While I won’t look back at 2011 as a terrible year, it has definitely been a step down from the halcyon days from 2008 through 2010. I look forward to 2012 as a year where I’ll hopefully improve on the good parts of my current life and add much more fun, excitement, and (dare I say it) love to it.

So, without further ado, here’s my 2011 in review!


January – Breakups, Fiji, and a Return to Korea

January was a whirlwind month for me. I started it in Fiji, spent a week back in Australia, and then relocated to snowy Busan in the south-east of Korea.

New Year’s in Fiji saw me on Robinson Crusoe Island with my soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, Fallon. We rang in the New Year underneath the stars and drenched in sea water. A quiet kiss (which recently won an honorable mention as a Mistletoe Moment of 2011) was a fitting end to our time together.

Fallon left Fiji early on January 2nd and my brothers and good friend Grant breezed in later that afternoon to keep me company. We went on a two week odyessy through Fiji that featured visits to Mango Bay, Mantaray, and Kuata on which I drank a lot of Vonu, got to scuba dive a beautiful reef, and met a whole bunch of cool people.

Then it was back to reality in Australia as I rushed through sorting out my affairs before I left for Korea. A flurry of farewells and some hasty packing later, and I was touching down in freezing cold Busan to meet my new employer and start a new chapter in my Korean life. After a first night of noraebang, beer, and good times in my new home – I settled back into a life of ESL teaching, social alcoholism, and striking out with pretty girls.

Graffiti at Kuatu, Fiji
My brothers and I leave our mark at Kuata, Fiji


Foreigners in Busan
Hanging out with Anne in Busan
A man stands at Yonggungsa Temple in Busan
Standing with some stony new friends at Busan's seaside temple

February – Drunk Chris

February was an absolute write-off in a lot of ways. A combination of reckless abandon and a reluctance to contemplate my sadness while sober meant I’d spend a good 3-5 nights a week out drinking with new friends and old. I visited my old stomping grounds in Gwangju for a few nights out (and had my first one night stand, go me); roamed Texas Street with my old pal Byron; and began to fall a little head over heels with a pretty girl from Seattle.

It was very much a pleasant return to the country I’d come to love. Lots of new friends, lots of drunken kisses, and even a bit of the old slap and tickle.

But underneath it I was struggling with the sudden transition from comfortable, coupled Sydney life and single, drunken Korean life.

It was only going to get worse.

Koreans and foreigners in Gwangju
Hanging out with Britton and some newly made Korean friends at Tequilaz in Gwangju
korean student syringe
Posing with a super cool gift pen given to me by this student

March – New Romance & Cherry Blossoms

March saw me blunder from single life straight into almost couple life with a new squeeze. While I didn’t think so at the time, hindsight shows that (amazing though the girl might have been), I’d basically replaced one independent Pacific Northwest girl with another.

Fight the truth though I might, there’s no denying that the few months I spent with her bounced worryingly between wonderfully sweet and painfully tense entirely too often as I tried valiantly to forget I was still in love with my ex and she came to realize that wasn’t something that was going to change.

Despite all of this, we had a good time together. We explored the windswept Gwangalli Beach and spent a pretty awesome weekend at the picturesque Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival as well as spending entirely too much time on Skype.

It’s funny how months on, even though things weren’t always good, I can recall the pleasant times with a handy filter removing the fights and the teary moments. Life is good like that.

Riding a bull in Korea
I ride the mechanical bull at ME World in Busan, Korea
Green suit kissing girl
I plant a kiss on a pretty girl in my bright green suit. St Patty's Day in Busan.

April – Things Fall Apart

By April I was beginning to realize what a mistake returning to Korea so soon after the break-up had been. With things at work unbelievably tense, my relationship with the American girl slowly falling apart, and my depression seizing upon the overcast weather to twist the knife farther – I spent more days crying than not.

It was a tough month mingled in with a few fun memories. A weekend in Seoul with my parents was a lot of fun and I continued to enjoy drunken good times with my friends Anne, Jinho, Inhee, and Crystal.

Oh, and my friend Toni visited all the way from Oz. Alas, there was no making out :-p

The girl and I came to an end midway through the month and I handed in my resignation at my God awful job. While I’d originally planned to find work in Seoul, Busan, or Gwangju – I ended up just decided that Korea was not where I needed to be.

With that in mind, I began to plot my escape…

A man poses with tulips in Seoul
Gayest photo I've ever taken? Potentially.
Locks at Namsan Tower
A display of padlocks at Namsan Tower
Two girls in Korea
Toni and Crystal enjoying ddeok galbi on Toni's visit to Korea

May – Midnight Runs and Rough Times

After  a drunken goodbye with my Busan friends and a tearful goodbye with Kimberly, I boarded a 9am flight out of Korea. Despite having handed in notice and being legally free within the fortnight, I couldn’t stand being so far from my friends and family before.

And so I embarked upon my midnight run.

Fleeing Korea was a tough thing. It was sleeping on a Seoul train platform and sneaking out of my apartment terrified my boss would spot me. It was a second set of brutally painful goodbyes with a girl I’d grown very fond of and trying desperately to snatch some sleep on a too hard bench on Guangzhou airport in China.

It was returning home and realizing that a big change hadn’t fixed anything. I was still fucking miserable.

I spent much of May back in my dual home towns of Ben Lomond and Glen Innes. My days were spent tangled in bedsheets watching TV, sleeping, and exchanging angsty texts with ex-girlfriends. To say I’d reached a grim new low was an understatement.

I slept all day but was always tired. I cried a lot. I called hotlines and worried family members.

And I know full well matters weren’t going to improve in sleepy Glen Innes, no matter how wonderfully supportive my family were.

ddeok galbi busan
At my farewell ddeok galbi dinner with Mike and Derya
ben lomond snow
Snow might be beautiful, but damned if it isn't depressing

June- A Couch-Surfing Sydney Return

I remember how happy I felt when my bus cruised across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and I saw the Opera House lit up for some festival I can no longer recall.

I had come home.

My good friend Dave met me at the station and we immediately headed out for my first night as a single Sydneysider. The night itself was of no real note, but it was a welcome return after what had been a rough past two months.

My June was split between my friend’s couch (in the house I now call my own), my old bedroom in St Leonards, and my new job in tech support at iiNet. After the terrible April/May, it was good to land back on my feet in Sydney and start making money again.

June also saw the birth of my adorable nephew Ezekiel. Here he is!

cute baby
My adorable nephew Ezekiel

July – A Visit from Abroad

My July was a month moving in the right direction.

After a month of couch-surfing, I found my own place up in Lane Cove and began to settle into a more regular routine of paying rent, working, and fending for myself.

Midway through the month my friend Heather (from The Kimchi Chronicles) for a two week visit that included a Rocks Ghost Tour and a visit to the Sydney Aroma Festival. While I look back and wish I’d had more time to show Heather around while she’d been here, I think she had a good time even with my busier than expected schedule.

July also saw a personal triumph as I managed to finish out the City 2 Surf for the second year running. My time was down and I walked a wee bit more of it than I’d have liked, but to finish it on my own was a turning point for me. 2011 had dished out a hell of a lot of tough tests for me, and beating a physical one reminded me that I was going to be ok.

Things started to get better.

harts pub
Heather enjoying a bite at Hart's Pub during the 2011 Aroma Festival
bondi winter festival
Steph and I enjoying a hot chocolate at the Bondi Winter Festival
City 2 Surf Bondi
I pose after surviving the 2011 City 2 Surf

August – Baby Steps

I made some tentative steps back into travel and socializing in August. With money finally in my pocket I was able to begin exploring Sydney again. Dinner and drinks with the Pinay girls was a real highlight in a relatively low key month.

I went on a whole bunch of eHarmony inspired dates that didn’t amount to much.

August was, largely, a quiet month.

September – Networking

September marked my triumphant return to travel. Not only did I start my popular Bite with a Blogger segment by interviewing the vivacious Mel from The Mellyboo Project, the bubbly Nicole from Bitten by the Travel Bug, and the lovely Annie from Wayward Traveller – but I also participated in the ridiculously fun Great Nomads Chase in which I got to meet Nicole from Hola Chica Travels.

That chance meeting lead to a blast of a day celebrating Chilean Independence Day on Bronte Beach.

September also marked a renewed dedication to turning Aussie on the Road from a simple travel journal into a much more widely usable resource. I got some handy help from Bitten by the Travel Bug along the way, and made a lifetime friend in the form of the entirely inappropriate Mel.

Good times and getting better.

great nomads chase sydney
Posing with my team during the 2011 Great Nomads Chase
australian hotel sydney
Mel poses with beers at the Australian Hotel
an old couple eating
A couple enjoying the 2011 Night Noodle Markets

October – Road Trips and Queensland

October was without a shadow of a doubt the best month of 2011 for me. Not only did I embark on a kick-ass road trip to Tea Gardens with some good friends, but I also spent two pretty awesome weeks up in Queensland catching up with old friends and making new ones.

In the space of those two weeks I participated in a Zombie Walk, explored Dream World, celebrated Halloween at Movie World, spent a week sunning myself at beautiful Tangalooma resort on Moreton Island, got my back waxed for a laugh, and ate at some stellar restaurants.

It awas also the month that I abandoned the expensive North Shore in exchange for a move to Sydney’s much cheaper and more down to earth inner west. Savings commenced.

tea gardens beach
Posing at beautiful Dark Point near Tea Gardens
brisbane zombie walk
A terrifying zombie during the Brisbane Zombie Walk
tangalooma moreton island
Ben, Muzza, and I on Moreton Island

November – High School Reunions and Basketball

With my trips to Tea Gardens and Brisbane clearing out my savings, November had to be a tad more low key. Even then I managed to get back to my home town for my 10 year High School Reunion as well as attending my first Sydney Kings game and falling a little bit in love with the NBL.

November also marked a renewed desire to get the hell out of Australia.

Look, I love this country. I really do.

But I don’t want to spend the rest of my life here. While good friends settle down with partners and buy houses, all I can think about is all of the adventures I’m missing out on having and all of the cool people I’m missing out on meeting.

Add that to the fact that I really don’t date Australian girls, and you can see my dilemma.

Roll on December.

high school reunion
Some old mates from high school and I at my 10 year reunion
nbl sydney kings
Sydney Kings! Goooo!

December – Family Time

For a long time I’ve been meaning to do some kind of tribute to my fantastic family, but so far I haven’t had the time (or the words) to do them justice.

But December was a month made better by continued interaction with my family. From a my nephew’s Christening in Newcastle to Christmas at home to my brothers’ imminent arrival for some New Year’s shenanigans, December has been all about spending time with my favorite people.

It’s also been a time for reflection and planning. Not only have I put together my epic bucket list, but I’ve also begun work on some more achievable (in the short term) 2012 resolutions, compiled a list of my favorite travel blogs from 2011, and contributed guest posts to Nomadic Samuel (8 Things to Love About South Korea) and Gap Daemon (Introducing the Break-Up Tour).

Grandfather and grandson
My grandfather chats with my youngest brother at my nephew's Christening
christmas lonely planet
I get some Lonely Planet guides for Christmas! Thanks Mum & Leigh!

In Summary

2011 has been a really strange year. I’ve spent it across four countries, two relationships, about ten different beds (not including hotels/hostels), two Aussie states, the birth of a nephew, a few one night stands in Korea, one hell of a lengthy drought here in Australia, and more beers than I care to count.

While 2011 has not been a year I’ll remember with a great deal of fondness for various reasons, I look at it as a year of immense personal growth. I dealt with the end of my first genuine relationship, I had a few rebounds, I confronted my long-standing battle with depression, and I took some time to examine myself and see things in myself that needed work.

I’m far from done on my road to getting where I want to be and being who I want to be, but through all of the trials and tribulations – 2011 has given me some good tools to get me there.

And with my recent commencement of study on a TEFL certification, 2012 might yet see me return to the realm of ESL in some exotic South-East Asian locale. Fingers crossed!



aussie franz josef So there’s my year in review. It wasn’t as travel packed as I might have liked, but it was still one hell of a ride. There were tearful goodbyes and hot hostel sex. There were arguments and new friends made. A lot of tears and just enough laughter to balance the ledger.

How was your 2011? What was its highlight? Lowlight?

And what do you have in mind for 2012?



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