2014 in Review

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Looking Back on 2014

The end of another year approaches and it’s time to look back with fondness (and a little regret, I must admit) on the year that has just gone by. It was a year of surprise successes (such as my invitation to go on safari in Tanzania) and disappointing failures (such as my failure to quit my job in China and move to Thailand or the Philippines to be a full-time writer).

When you add up the wins and the losses, though, it was a year that was definitely more steak than sizzle. I had a lot of great moments, wonderful experiences, and enjoyable times.

There were no heart-breaks, but a few one night stands. No falling outs, but a lot of new friendships forged.

Finishing it all off surrounded by the people I love for my favourite holiday of the year was the icing on what was a pretty appetizing cake.

January: Starting the Year on a Boat

January wasn’t hugely eventful, but it did get off to a flying start when my friends, my brother & his girlfriend, and I boarded a boat to cruise along a river while we drank, ate, and danced the night away.

boat party new year's
My brother, his girlfriend, my mates, and a horde of others rang in New Year’s in style.

The evening saw me fall temporarily in puppy love with a pretty Polish girl, smash my knees while trying to piggy back my 26 year old brother up the middle of the road, and take a bunch of mysterious two second video selfies of myself on the dance floor.

I started the year having fun, flirting shamelessly, and regretting it about 12 hours later. It set the tone for what was my most socially adventurous year since 2008, and I loved it.

February: Three Vacations in the Philippines

February saw my brothers, a brother’s girlfriend, and my erstwhile wingman, Hogg board flights and head over to the Philippines for three weeks of sun and blissful escape from the bitter Chinese cold.

Our first week saw all five of us soaking up sun, romancing locals, and being sexually harassed by lady boys in beautiful Boracay. It was a week of surprise happy endings, ‘big sets coming in’, and eating decadent meals like they were going out of style.

Aussie men in cowboy hats in the Philippines
Three Aussie Adonises rocking the beaches of Boracay.

The second week – following the departure of my brother and his girlfriend – saw the three bachelors head across to Palawan. There we experienced the underwhelming Puerta Princesa city tour, scuba dived, road motorbikes out to isolated beaches, and spent an awkward half hour in what was clearly a brothel/karaoke bar before deciding to find more reputable company.

el nido island hopping group
You can’t see me, but I’ve been buried in sand and given breasts.

The final week of the vacation – now just Hogg and I – saw us visiting Bohol and Alona Beach. We roamed the muddy streets, befriended the family who managed the local Mexican restaurant, hung out with tarsiers, swam with whale sharks, and generally ran amok.

tarsier in a tree
Hamming it up with an obliging tarsier while visiting Bohol.

It was glorious.

March: Joining the Nanking Nation

I might have joined the Nanking Nation as a reveler in October of 2013, but in March of 2014 I was invited to take a place on the five man board who organised event, negotiated with partner venues, and generally made sure that merry was made across the city.

It was a role I found I took to far more easily than I anticipated. After a year and a half of thinking Nanjing was the most boring city in China, I was suddenly leading busloads of people through darkened streets to find hole in the wall bars to rampage through.

people drinking nanjing
Enjoying the World Cup festivities at Bellini Lounge in Nanjing.
Budweiser Storm photo
Out representing NKN in promoting the Budweiser STORM Festival.
st patrick's day costume
Running registration (and booze service) at my first NKN event.

I couldn’t tell you how many cool people I met doing the gig, nor how many pretty girls seemed attracted to a man in a position of very little authority… (Well, I could tell you the latter, but that would be terribly improper of me)

Over the next five months, I had a blast organising everything from pub crawls to jazz nights to beer World Cups, and drank entirely too much alcohol in the process.

It was also glorious.

April: An English Garden Wedding

April saw me flying to the United Kingdom to attend the wedding of my dear friend Dave and his lovely wife.

After spending a few days exploring London, I headed down to Bath to catch up with the man in question for his birthday. Munchkin was played, beers were drank, idyllic English villages were explored, and Stonehenge was conquered.

man standing by stonehenge
I fulfill a lifelon travel dream by visiting Stonehenge.

The wedding itself was the stuff of British literature. Cottages amid green fields, cold pork pies and warm beer, and a stunning marquee set in the equally stunning gardens of a village estate. I survived the terror of delivering my first best man’s speech and even got to canoodle in the garden with a pretty British lass on the rebound and apparently impressed by my ability to belittle my sexual prowess while delivering a speech.

Who knew?

men in top hats and tails
The wedding party rocking top & tails for the English wedding.

I wrapped up my visit to the United Kingdom with a few fantastic days exploring Edinburgh and its surrounds. I caught up with my old friend Danielle (Scottish Nomad) for a ghost tour, tried haggis, and even went up north in search of Nessie.

May – July: A Family Visit. Final Months in China

Late spring and early summer saw me continue in my role as party planner and general booze fiend, with the added bonus of getting a visit from my family. Having the majority of the Bush clan (sans my sister) in Nanjing for a few days was really great, and we sent them off in style with a sizable Japanese feast at my favourite restaurant in town.

brothers selfie
Getting a rare selfie with my 15 year old brother while he was visiting China.

I was deployed/exiled to Suining in northern Jiangsu on a fortnightly basis, which was both a lot of fun (for the students) and awful (for the eight hour round trip commute). I played in a cricket tournament and performed abysmally.

cricket in china
The competitors come together for a drunken photo after the Nanjing Rural Sixes.

Beyond that, the months were mostly drinking, teaching, and trying in vain to find a future Mrs. Walker-Bush. Despite dating a veritable United Nations along the way, I’d leave China empty handed.

It was not glorious.

August: An Aussie Return

August saw me returning to Australia and bidding China farewell after two and a half largely pleasant years. While my Chinese contract was not due to end until September, I negotiated an early release for good behaviour so that I could attend my best friend’s wedding back home.

My two weeks in Sydney included an expensive Rocks Pub Crawl for the bachelor party, lots of catching up with old friends, and the honour of being Best Man at a second wedding inside one year. I was no less terrified in giving the Best Man’s speech and didn’t find anybody to canoodle in the garden with, but it was a truly humbling experience to see not one – but both of my best friends married in one year.

men in suits waiting for the bus
The groomsmen and groom pretending to wait for a bus.

An even greater honour to have been asked to be the one to stand by their side and send them off with some choice words.

My return to Australia also saw me renew hostilities in my battle with the black dog. I started seeing a psychologist, began the arduous task of finding a medication that was effective without destroying my soul, and began the process of losing all of the weight I’d put on in China.

As of December, I’ve shed 9kg (20lbs).

September: A Weekend in Broke

September saw me taking my very first press trip/media tour as a blogger, as I was invited along to the picturesque Broke Fordwich region of the Hunter Valley to partake in a weekend of fine wine, good food, and some of the best company you’ll ever encounter.

wine chocolate tasting
I couldn’t tell you how much wine I drank in Broke, but this was the prettiest picture I took of the process.

To say that I enjoyed my introduction to wine in a wine region is an understatement, and it speaks volumes of the warmth of the people of Broke that I still have several of them on Facebook and text one of them from time to time to see how things were going.

With the Little Bit of Italy in Broke festival coming up in March or April, I might just be due a return…

October: An Aussie Bush Wedding

October rolled about with Dave and his wife doing the Australian leg of their wedding. Despite having attended in the United Kingdom, I could hardly turn down the chance to see these two groovy cats again; especially when the wedding was just 45 minutes drive from my mountain hideaway.

We descended upon Green Valley Farm (which you may remember as Australia’s Strangest Theme Park) and found that the park isn’t just fun, but can be remarkably romantic when called upon.

How many weddings have you been to where you can spend the morning on the waterslides and end your day sipping champagne in a well manicured park watching an understated wedding service?

couple kissing wedding day
Two dear friends seal their marriage with a kiss.

All three weddings (in April, August, and October) also gave me a rare opportunity to catch up with old friends from high school, college, and beyond. As I get older and our lives get busier, these opportunities are all the more important.

men at a party
Reuniting with my friends from high school and uni was a blast.

November: On Safari in Tanzania

November was a huge month for me, as I flew halfway around the world as a guest of Shadows of Africa to participate in their annual blogger safari. Joined by the irreverent Robert of Leave Your Daily Hell and the lovely Lisa Lubin of LL World Tour, I got to spend four stirring days seeing up close the animals I’d only ever seen before on documentaries.

Leopard in tree.
I got lucky and snapped this stunning shot of a restful leopard.

It’s hard to put into words the thrill of seeing a leopard lazing in a tree less than ten metres from you, or how it felt to have our truck stared down by a bull elephant. Robert battled tsetse flies, Lisa wowed me with her fake Long Island accent, and we spent one amazing night staying in the positively decadent Four Seasons Serengeti as well.

bloggers in africa
Lisa (LL World Tour), Robert (Leave Your Daily Hell, and yours truly on our last day together. Photo by Robert Schrader.

I’ve got some exciting news about my relationship with Shadows of Africa in 2015 to share with you soon too. Keep your eyes peeled!

I finished off November with a few lazy days at a resort on Zanzibar. It was both relaxing and a little chilling to be one of the only guests in a lush resort, but the quiet was just what I needed.

stone town zanzibar alley
The alleys of Stone Town were utterly enchanting.

December: Christmas at Home

December was a month of long overdue catching up. After two years of Christmases in China, it was perhaps the highlight of my year to do a good, old fashioned Christmas at home with my family.

family at church
The entire Aussie on the Road clan gathered for Christmas Mass.

It’s not the presents, the lights, the carols, the food, or even the giving of gifts that I love most about Christmas.

It’s that Christmas is the one thing in my life that hadn’t changed in 19 years. It’s the one link I have to my childhood and the wide eyed optimism and naïveté I possessed then.

As I get older, that link seems all the more important.

December also saw me turn 31, and I was lucky enough to spend both the day and the weekend following it partying with good friends in Sydney.

A Good Year

All things considered, I had a year that was more awesome than not.

How was your 2014? What were you happiest about? Were there any less than stellar moments?

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