[This article is also available in German.]
What a crazy year. I experienced and accomplished so much and without any doubt I can say that 2015 was the best year of my life so far. Not even a year ago - after half a decade of studying - I finished my university degree.
Nine months later I'm back in Germany. I am settled and working, at least for some time. With a light backpack and with plans that did not work out I visited five new countries and two new continents this year. And today it is time for a look back.
BANGKOK: Nothing in the world could have prepared me for that city. It was loud and it smelled. It was busy and full of tourists, locals and immigrants searching for cheap and expensive happiness. I was overwhelmed.
BANGKOK: But after a couple of days I was getting familiar with my surroundings. I was getting used to the humid air and the cold airconditioning, to the ladyboys and monks. And I found some amazing places where I could find my calmness.
CHIANG MAI: I left Bangkok with a night bus. Still I wasn't sure if I liked it or not. But the journey continued to Chiang Mai. A lot of travellers love it here. I'm not a city girl and I had seen enough temples for a long time in Bangkok. But I had an amazing day with Elephants at a Sanctuary in the jungle nearby.
PAI: In Pai it was the first time that I saw some of the beautiful nature of that country. Even tough it was dry season and everything was yellowish and smoky up there it was the first time that I felt perfectly saticfied.
KOH SAMUI: But the beach was calling me. So I took a long long ride down South, planning to spend some time on Koh Samui. And there it was, finally. The beach, the sea, the sun.
KOH TAO: But I didn't like Koh Samui that much. It was too crowded and dirty. In Chaing Mai some people had told me about this tiny island though. There you could make your diving licence pretty cheap. It was called Koh Tao. So the next day, I took a ferry to Koh Tao, getting the worst sunburn I ever had.
KOH TAO: This island had everything I wanted. It was calm and small. I had an own simple bungalow directly at the beach front. It was relaxed but you could still go out in the evenings if you wanted to. I learned to dive. And without planning so, I fell in love
KOH TAO: Originally I planned to stay here for four or five days. I wanted to do my diving licence and explore a bit. Then I wanted to move on to the westcoast to take a flight to Indonesia. But everytime I wanted to move on, something came in between. Once it was Songkran, another time I was sick and then it was laziness combined with pure happiness. I ended up staying for four weeks, skipping Indonesia for this tiny, 27 square kilometer big island. I had a great time.
KRABI: But after a month it was time to move on. I was horribly sad because I had found an awesome group of people who became a small family over time. In Krabi I walked a lot, trying to get into a good mood. And I was very proud after climbing 1260 uneven steep steps up to a temple, chased by monkeys.
KOH PHI PHI: On Koh Phi Phi, my time in Thailand came to an end. Yes, it is a very touristy island. Still, this is for a reason, it's a beautiful landscape. I met great people, dived a wreck, read a lot and partied hard.
BANAUE: In Manila, I met up with two friends from back home who were planning to travel through the Philippines with me. After a day, we started our journey up to Banaue. It was long, very cold and very hot, on bumpy roads and we got lost more than once. It was one of the first experiences we had with the difficulties of transportation in the Philippines. But when we finally arrived in Banaue, we were rewarded with awesome landscapes and an amazing day in the ricefields.
SAGADA: After a couple of days in Banaue we decided to go a little bit further North so the small village of Sagada. Here we saw the famous hanging coffins and made a cave tour where I injured my toe pretty bad. I hobbled back to our accomondation.
EL NIDO: A two hour ride with a jeepney, around 7 hours in a bus, a flight to Palawan and another couple of hours in a crowded van during the night later we arrived in El Nido. Beautiful beaches, good food, some diving and a lot of beautiful sunsets awaited us.
BOHOL: After a couple of days on Cebu we made a day trip to the beautiful island Bohol. We saw the famous Chocolate Hills and visited a Tarsier Sanctuary. Next time I want to stay longer than just a day to explore the beautiful beaches.
BORACAY: Another love I found during my trip was Boracay. Again it has very touristy parts, but I have never seen a whiter beach, a bluer sea or more beautiful sunsets than on this island (so far). Beside that after two weeks in hotels an guesthouses I stayed in a hostel again and realized how much I had missed it. I met a bunch of incredible people and again, I stayed longer than planned. I had a great time, but the end of my trip was approaching in big steps.
BANGKOK: And then I was back in Bangkok for one last day before I had to take my flight back to Germany. I stayed in the same hostel, I ate fried rice and toasties for the last time. It hit me hard. I didn't want to go back. I didn't want to stop travelling. I was not the same person who started her journey here three months ago.
GERMANY: I was back home in Tübingen and I couldn't quite belive it. I reflected a lot and for the first time I saw the beauty of my town. Still, far away countries and foreign languagas were calling me. Two weeks after I arrived back in my home country I booked another flight to Asia.
SINGAPORE: This time I started in Singapore. The plan was to travel slowly through Malaysia and Thailand up to Bangkok where I had to fly back two and a half months later. As I may have known before, my plans are not always working out that good. For the beginning instead of four days I stayed ten in Singapore. Even though I don't like cities very much I was really enjoying myself here. I met some old friend I knew from Boracay and found some new including two Spanish guys I spent the next few weeks with.
MALACCA: My first stop in Malaysia was Malacca. Because it is a World Heritage Sight I decided to visit this town. But I was not impressed at all. And after an incident at one evening I was happy to leave to Kuala Lumpur soon.
KUALA LUMPUR: China Town, Batu Caves, Menara KL Tower, Petrona Twin Towers and waterspout fountains: Kuala Lumpur was pure sightseeing. And after only two days, I left with my two Spanish friends to visit my beloved Thailand once again.
KOH PHI PHI: So here I was again on Koh Phi Phi only three months after I left the last time. I visited my favorite bar with live music again and had an awesome beach party. This time I saw Maya Bay as well which I skipped the last time. I had a great day cruising around the surroundings and found some new friends.
BANGKOK: I made some pretty weird decisions the next couple of days: "I'll go to Koh Tao the next day. Oh, no, I'll stay another night. Koh Tao is too far away, I'll go to Krabi instead. Oh, no, I didn't like Krabi, I'll just go to Bangkok and meet my Spanish friends there." So I ended up in Bangkok again, visited a very touristy King's Palace, Ayutthaya and a nice and calm Wat Pho again. Here I also decided to make a short detour over Canada, visiting a friend I met on Koh Phi Phi.
HUA HIN: But before I had my flight to Calgary, I had some last relaxing beach days at Hua Hin. A really nice small town. Some tourists here, but mainly Thai people, so it didn't feel touristy at all.
CANADA: And then it was time to visit a new continent. I was really exited and unsure if I'd like it. But my worries were absolutly unneccessary. Even though I like beaches and the sea, the sun burning down on me and healthy food, I absolutly fell in love with this country.
FERNIE AND BANFF NATIONAL PARK: The first time I saw the Rocky Mountains was on our way to the cute town Fernie where we were meeting a friend. I was totally in awe and may have cried a little. Later I swam in an ice cold mountain lake: I couldn't stop shivering for around ten minutes.
WATERTON NATIONAL PARK: When we were at Waterton National Park unfortunately there were some forest fires somewhere in the U.S. so it was very smoky all the time. Still it was really beautiful down there and it was also a funny feeling to be so close to the U.S. border.
JASPER NATIONAL PARK: Even though the weather was not too good and it even snowed once the most beautiful landscapes I have seen were in Jasper National Park. Regardless is you want mountains or forests, green swamps or turquiose blue lakes and rivers, glaciers or wildlife. It is all there.
SASKATCHEWAN: Towards the end of my stay at Canada the whole family invited me to go camping in Saskatchewan. I met uncles, aunts and cousins and even though the weather was miserably we had a great time between fireplaces, guitar playing and a hot tub.
CHEADLE: And between all those amazing, beautiful, indescibable impressions I was accomondated close to Calgary. I felt welcomed incredibly warm and kind by the whole family. I am very exited to see them again soon.
KOH SAMET: My last days in Asia I spent on Koh Samet which is around three hours and a ferry ride away from Bangkok. The island is part of a national park and not as touristy as most of the islands in the south. Here I tried to get over my jet lag by reading, sleeping, eating, watching sunsets and getting massages for the last time for a while.
And now today is the last day of the year 2015. I compare the girl I was to the woman I am now. I am happier, richer and more honest to myself. And I am incredibly grateful for the last year.