23 January 2014

{The Best of 2013}

Ok, so I'm well aware that I sort of missed the boat on this one, but I figured that a little reminiscing would be the perfect way to get back into the blogging groove after more than two months of radio silence.  While I had never intended to take a long-term hiatus from blogging, I also never anticipated the sheer amount of blood, sweat, and tears that it would take to finish my dissertation.  Needless to say, I've had statistics coming out of my ears over the past several months.  And... the battle is finally over.  I submitted last week!  
Phew.  Now back to real life again...


Although the bulk of 2013 was dedicated to my studies, Jurgen and I were still able to squeeze in a fair amount of adventure.  Between an incredible trip to Greece in July and a road trip through Lesotho in September, there were plenty of moments worth remembering.  

On that note, here are eight highlights of 2013:


8. The Drakensberg.  In February of last year, I surprised Jurgen with a trip to the Drakensberg mountains in celebration of our five year anniversary.  We rented a cabin and spent a long weekend cozied up next to the fire, nibbling on cheese platters and sipping cabernet sauvignon.  It turned out to be the perfect low-key getaway and gave us a chance to unwind after the madness that was the first few weeks of post-grad.


7. Adventures with Elephants.  Every time I think of this afternoon I can't help but smile.  Setting aside a few hours to interact with six magnificent African elephants was like a dream come true.  It was wonderful getting to know each one individually and learning first hand how incredibly intelligent they really are.  The true definition of gentle giants, it's devastating to think that they're currently being pushed to the brink of extinction for something as arbitrary as their tusks.  Fact: most often humans are the world's worst enemy.


6. Soweto.  Although I had visited Soweto on numerous occasions prior to 2013, I had never before set aside a full day to take a tour of South Africa's largest township.  Coming face to face with dire poverty and yet discovering the impenetrable joy that is present in the Soweto community is life changing.  Despite empty tummies, tattered clothes, and shoeless feet, the people of Soweto truly celebrate the love and contentment they find in one another.  Every time I visit I leave a different person.


5. Lesotho. Many people aren't aware that South Africa contains two independent countries within it's borders: the Kingdoms of Swaziland and Lesotho.  In September, Jurgen and I road tripped with friends through the mountain nation of Lesotho "oohing" and "ahhing" at the most gorgeous views as we climbed higher and higher into the clouds.  It was as though we'd been transported back to a time before there was such a thing as paved roads, supermarkets, petrol stations, cold soft drinks, and atms.  Local nomads wandered the sheep speckled hills and modest, yet cozy, rondavels littered the countryside.  It was untouched Africa at its finest.


4. The Oyster BoxThe Oyster Box completely exceeded my expectations in every sense of the word.  Situated just opposite the renowned Umhlanga lighthouse in Durban, I fell head over heels in love with everything from its classic decor to its warm atmosphere to its exquisite food to its impeccable service.  Jurgen and I were actually depressed when the time came to head back to Jo'burg.  I know... first world problems.  But in all seriousness, The Oyster Box now easily ranks as my favorite hotel in the history of ever.


3. Namibia.  In January of last year, Jurgen and I spent one spectacular month road tripping through Namibia and I still haven't finished posting about all of the breathtaking goodness that the country contains.  We played with lions and leopards, experienced a magical sunrise in Sossusvlei, wandered through the eeriness that is Deadvlei, went fishing along the infamous Skeleton Coast, and experienced a safari in Etosha National Park.  During that month, life was exactly as it should be.


2. Greece.  Greece was so much more than I ever dreamed it could be.  I've mentioned before that the country was never even on my radar prior to visiting.  This specific trip just happened to coincide with a conference that Jurgen was attending and I thought I'd tag along.  However, Greece now easily ranks as one of my best travel experiences to date.  The pristine beaches, laid back lifestyle, wonderful food, and millions of tiny white churches won me over completely.  Do yourself a favor: go to Greece.


1. My Brother's Wedding.  Out of all of the goodness that 2013 brought with it, the best of the best had to be flying out to California for my brother's wedding.  Going into the year I wasn't sure whether the university would grant me permission to leave, so it was extra special being able to attend not only as a guest, but also as a bridesmaid.  When you add to this the fact that I absolutely love my sister-in-law and the fact that Jurgen was able to fly out with me... well, then you have every ingredient needed for one of the greatest weeks ever.

What were some of your 2013 highlights?

44 comments:

  1. Welcome back! And congrats on turning in your dissertation! Looks like you had a wonderful 2013! And I really need to get myself to the Oyster Box. GORGEOUS!

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    1. You definitely do really need to get yourself to the Oyster Box!... you'd think a hotel is just a hotel, but in this case it most certainly is not. I'd say it's actually just about one step short of heaven on earth ;)

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  2. Oh I love this countdown!
    Maybe I should also do one!
    xxx

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    1. You should definitely do one! I try to do one every year so that I have something to look back on in the future :)

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  3. I still daydream about the Oyster Box and I haven't even been there ;-)

    "Do yourself a favour: go to Greece." I'm pretty sure that's what I've been telling everyone lately. And Istanbul. Istanbul is so good.

    Glad you're back, Jenna!

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    1. Jay, you NEED to make a point of spending a few days at the Oyster Box on your next trip to Africa... it has your name written all over it :) And in terms of Greece, it is truly the definition of paradise. I completely underestimated it. Jurgen and I constantly dream about going back. Istanbul was also one of my favorites... I'd love to take Jurgen there someday! So many places to go, so little time and money.

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  4. Welcome back to the bloggosphere :)

    I loved this post, better late than never, right?

    Louise x

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    1. My motto is that it's always better late than never ;)

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  5. Lesotho is a wonderful destination, so unspoiled and beautiful, with such an amazing array of things to do. I can't understand why it's not a more popular destination but I'm grateful too - because that's part of what keeps it special. So glad you enjoyed it too!

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    1. It's so true that part of what keeps Lesotho special is the fact that it's kept a secret. We kept saying that to each other throughout the trip! A section of the roads near the top of the Sani Pass were being paved and while it makes driving through the country more convenient, we thought it was kind of sad.

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  6. i love seeing your travel/south africa photos! so beautiful! xo jillian - cornflake dreams

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    1. Thanks Jill - I always love following along with your local and international adventures too!

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  7. Congrats on finishing up your dissertation! Greece is by far my favorite trip to date!

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    1. Greece was so different than I expected it to be! Maybe it's because we weren't on Santorini or Mykonos, but I was expecting tourists and commercialism as far as the eye could see and I was so so wrong. Greece was like one little slice of paradise :)

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  8. These are great pictures. :) We had a few of the guys from the Drakensburg Boy's Choir stay with us over the summer a few years back. If you haven't heard that group sing, LOOK IT UP. They are unbelievable. And it's all guys! Love guys who love to sing. That's pretty rare.

    ~ Country Girl's Daybook, recently posted: #whywemarch http://bit.ly/1aEsJk2

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    1. Wow! That is so incredible that you had boys from the Drakensberg Boys Choir stay with you... they are absolutely phenomenal. Were they on tour in Michigan?

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    2. Yup! They were on tour in this part of America, and made a stop for a few concerts in Michigan at Concordia College. We only hosted 4 of them because it's a big choir, but it was a lot of fun.

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  9. You've just had an amazing year! Well done for getting through the Masters and the dissertation. I know studying can be tough (I've been trudging through some not so light reading myself today) but it will be so worth it.

    My highlights were definitely in South Africa. I loved Jo'burg and was sorry to say goodbye. Hopefully we can visit again soon x

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    1. Studying is definitely tough, but worth it once it's all over. Needless to say, it feels good to abandon the student life for awhile. Because I switched majors after my first degree I've been studying at Uni in some capacity for the past eight years straight. Kill me. When are you hoping to be finished? Hopefully not in the too far distant future? :)

      I hope you guys are able to visit Joburg again soon... if you do, we need to make this blog friendship official!

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    2. I won't be able to finish until November 2015. My current module (it's a distance learning course) finished in June, but the module I want to finish with doesn't have it's next presentation until Feb 2015! It feels like I am so close, yet so far. Ah well....worth it in the end, apparently!

      If/when we make to Jo'burg for a visit I'll be looking you up! Don't doubt it!

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  10. So glad to have you back, Jenna! Congratulations on a dissertation well done, I'm sure.

    What a year of travel 2013 was for you - amazing. I can't imagine how special it must have been to go to California for your brother's wedding. How wonderful that Jurgen was able to join, too!

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    1. Thanks so much Danielle! I know you, more than anyone, are familiar with the trials and tribulations of a dissertation! It was definitely wonderful to go back for my brother's wedding... for awhile there I thought I was going to have to miss it. Hope all is well with you my friend :)

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  11. Jenna, what an amazing year you have had! And it is so good to see you back on the blog block :) Can't wait to see more little sneak peeks into your life!

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    1. Thanks Amy, it's great to be back :) And to be catching up on all of your wonderful recipe posts!

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  12. What a fabulous year my friend. Wishing you a magical 2014 (and hope to see more of you too!) x

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    1. Wishing you a magical 2014 too... so many exciting things are happening for you guys this year! Little Sophie is in school, you're becoming a family of four, you're in a new beautiful house... :) Hope we can meet up again this year too of course!

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  13. I'm so excited you're back to blogging! I'm back to blogging, too! LET'S BE FRIENDS AGAIN JENNA

    <3 Daryl
    Unlost

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    1. I love everything about this! Yes Daryl, let's be friends again! :)

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  14. Weddings are the best! Congrats on finishing your dissertation, what a year!

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    1. Weddings definitely ARE the best :) Thanks so much, here's to another travel-filled year for the both of us!

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  15. So glad i'm not the only one late on their 2013 roundups! And really, is there such thing as being too late to reflect? Nope.

    Congrats on finishing your dissertation! Excited to follow your adventures this year as well :)

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    1. Glad to see that I'm not the only one either! Looking forward to following along on your adventures this year as well.

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  16. Welcome back and congrats on handing in your dissertation :) It looks like 2013 was a great year and I hope 2014 is just as great :)

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    1. Thanks Jen... handing in was definitely a relief! It was like a huge ball of stress just lifted from my shoulders.

      I hope 2014 is wonderful for you as well... I'm sure it will be with the big day just around the corner :)

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  17. What a great synopsis of another amazing year....really enjoyed reading and seeing and looking forward to more frequent posts!

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  18. Yay! What a great year it was in terms of roadtrips and adventure :) Glad to hear that your dissertation is done and dusted and that you're back around here!

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  19. Wow looks like you had a great year! Lesotho looks amazing!!

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  20. Congratulations on submitting your dissertation! Good luck with your defense and welcome back to blogging. I submit my dissertation in April and am hoping to have a bunch of saved posts to get me through the last stressful push. Enjoy your time post-grad and take time to enjoy more travels!

    Elizabeth from luyoutravel.blogspot.com

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  21. I just came across your blog and love this highlight list! My husband and I are actually in the process of adopting from South Africa right now (Durban) so it's cool to stumble across people living there, I can't wait to make the trip out!

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  22. Seriously so jealous of the elephant adventure in Bela Bela!!! Seriously, it's a dream of mine!! A huge congrats on your dissertation!!! :)

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  23. congrats on finishing the dissertation - now you can get to adventuring again:) that photo of Lesotho should be submitted to national geographic's community contest- the winner gets a chance of being published :)

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  24. I know this is coming from a complete stranger, but I am happy you are back! :-) Your's is one of my favorite blogs and I was hoping it wasn't going to be the end your blogging. :-)

    Congrats on completing your dissertation! Must be a big relief. Looking forward to more posts from SA!

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  25. What a great year! And don't worry, I just posted my 2013 in review post on January 30, so you beat me! Haha.

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Thanks for commenting! I love reading each and every one of them :)