I began and ended this quest in ice…
…from the Arctic north of Alaska to the frozen continent of Antarctica. In between the two poles, I largely ventured in warm, subtropical climates. From the East to the West, the journey from the oceanic islands of the South Pacific all the way through across the Atlantic to the eastern coast of South America was enlightening, spur-of-the-moment, and the most adventurous of all my tales.
After a little more than a year and a half of constant travel, I successfully completed my Quest to the Seven Continents: North America, Oceania (Australia), Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, & Antarctica.
These are the TOP 10 Greatest Moments from that journey around the world.
From August 2016—February 2018
#11. Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro (Honorable Mention).
I had to include this as an honorable mention because it was just so damn special. Attending New Year’s Eve on the exotic beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has been on my ATLAS (bucket list) for years and for good reason; it was truly something remarkable. Coming off the worst hangover of my life (lasting two days!) with a bunch of party-hard backpackers and insane Brazilian locals—I donned in mostly white attire and got silly again with them on on the eve of the New Year. I stood in the shimmering ocean as fireworks were booming and each jump over an incoming wave signaled all the best luck heading into 2018. I was sandy, soaking wet, and buzzed, but on a personal high I haven’t experienced in a long while. Rio delivered to the quest.
(I have yet to publish a post about this moment. Look out for it soon!)
#10. The Gift on the Great Ocean Road
Some of the best moments are the unexpected ones. A few years ago while backpacking through Laos, I met an Australian traveler by the name of Alison who taught me how to ride a motorbike for the first time. Fast forward to November 2017, I still haven’t seen her since. Knowing she lived on the East Coast of Australia, I contacted her and asked if she was around to reunite for a bit. Unfortunately, she was working on assignment in the Middle East.
Completely out of nowhere, she offered her entire home to me while she was away and encouraged me to bring my friends. It was a vacation style house, an utterly perfect luxury abode sitting right at the start of Australia’s Great Ocean Road. I graciously accepted her generous offer, heeded her advice, and invited a handpicked selection of trusted friends who were around the area along. To say our weekend there was a blast would be an understatement. Even more amazing, was the fact that this woman, Alison, whom I’ve only met once in a random country years ago, trusted me with her home. I took great care of it and still plan to one day return the very generous favor to her in some way. This was a very unexpected, yet appreciated compliment to my quest.
#9. Diving With Bull Sharks
The only thing I wanted to do in Fiji was scuba dive with bull sharks. I got the opportunity on my first day there when a group of scuba divers at a beach house I was staying at randomly asked if I wanted to join on a shark dive the next day. What luck! You would think seeing a gang of ferocious sharks underwater, just a few meters away from you would be terrifying, but not in this case. It was thoroughly mesmerizing in every way. I did three more shark dives in Fiji after that one. One of my most desired travel dreams was accomplished very early in the quest.
#8. Finding A Needle In a Haystack (My Lost Passport in Ukraine)
This can also count as one of my most tense moments during the quest. The lengths I went through to find my lost passport to get out of Ukraine is nothing I will ever just shrug off. The complete language barrier, the bizarre police rides, the mysterious messages from Russian women, the apartment complex puzzle-solving, and of course, the shady man in the trench coat who tried to kidnap me in his alleyway vehicle…I still give myself a gratifying pat on the back for a triumphant ending. When I nearly gave up hope, I miraculously found my passport and was able to leave Ukraine in the nick of time. This quest was not without its trials and this is one unforgettable example of that.
#7. Summiting Annapurna Basecamp
The Himalayas are perhaps the most fearsome mountain range in the world and I wanted to trek it. Not Mount Everest though, I’m not ready for that yet. Instead, I opted for its smaller-scale neighbor, Annapurna Basecamp. A buddy and I trekked up through vivid scenery for nine days until we peaked at 4,190 meters in the cool snow with relative ease. Annapurna Basecamp is the second highest climb I’ve ever done (Kilimanjaro is the first) and the highest summit I’ve conquered on this particular quest.
#6. Lost in Indian Mountains During Christmas
I was sitting in a hostel in Mumbai minding my own business until a local Indian man came up to me and asked if I wanted to hike Fort Torne with him and his friend on Christmas Eve, which was just a day later. I gave an immediate “yes”. Fort Torne was a small mountain range just a few hours bus-ride east of Mumbai where tourists don’t usually go. We left late in the evening and had to sleep on the concrete floor in a small temple at the base of the mountain to avoid wild leopards during their primal hours. We got lost in the pitch black during the hike up which resulted in us sleeping on a random villager’s stack of hay we stumbled across, alongside a stray dog who kept us company the entire night; all while keeping watch of any looming leopards. The next morning, we found our way through Fort Torne. I wanted to do something unique for Christmas, but never could I have expected this. This would have been my favorite Christmas ever, but the Christmas of 1998 still reigns supreme—the year I received a Nintendo 64.
#5. Sparking The Most Colorful War On Sarangkot Mountain
I just so happened to be in Nepal during their Holi Festival. A holiday where everyone celebrates life by throwing colored powder at each other among other traditions like shooting water guns and lobbing water balloons at everyone. Once I found this out, the child in me came all out. I bought a ridiculous amount of colors and water guns, bazookas, balloons, and even silly string and snow spray. I was completely ready to wreak the most colorful havoc on my village and they were prepared as well. It was me versus nearly the entire lot of kids in the area in what was the most polychromatic, rainbow war that I’ll ever participate in…at least until next time when I exact revenge. They completely destroyed me. On that day, Holi Festival became one of my new favorite holidays I was fortunate to experience for the first time ever during this quest.
#4. Walking 500 Miles Across Spain
A friend in Manchester told me about El Camino de Santiago; an 800-kilometer pilgrimage from the France border across most of northern Spain. Many do it for religious reasons. Others do it to find themselves. I did it solely for the challenge. On the way, I met an eclectic range of personalities while walking through whatever the camino threw at me: villages, mountains, highways, forests, cities, farms, grasslands, and the nefarious Meseta region, a hot and dry portion that required all of my mental prowess all while eating rock-hard bocadillos every single day. I completed the camino in 32 days along with the group I met along the way. It was a gracious feeling knowing I could achieve such a major accomplishment to close out the European portion of the quest.
#3. Creating The League of Extraordinary Events
The idea of removing three of my American friends from their normal everyday lives and throwing them into one of the biggest unexpected twists of their lives sounded like complete brilliance. For months, they were certain I was taking them on a special road trip down to Florida. Instead, I pulled the rug right from under their feet by flying them out to Alaska and then immediately to Hawaii to participate in eight extraordinary events and activities I’ve been planning for months. Little did they know that the unknown events involved sharks, icebergs, mountains, booze, ATV’s, rapids, oceans, and so much more. This extraordinary feat kicked off my quest around the world.
#2. Voyage To Antarctica
Learning how to sail the Europa, a tall Dutch ship across the infamous Drake’s Passage into the icy wonderland that is Antarctica is arguably my greatest adventure of all time! I’ll never forget stepping foot onto the continent for the very first time, completing the short, yet arduous list of the world’s seven. Over the span of 22 days, I learned the basics of sailing and became a crew member for the Bark Europa vessel. Add on the abundance of wildlife, mountainous glaciers, icebergs taller than skyscrapers, the nights of unavoidable sea seasickness, and the natural beauty beheld…the voyage to Antarctica was truly the ultimate pinnacle of my entire quest.
(I have yet to publish a post about this moment. Look out for it soon!)
It was the most heartwarming decision I made on this quest.
The only reason I went back was to fulfill a promise I made two years ago to the class nine students; to take them on a field trip, fully funded by me. If it weren’t for that sole purpose, I probably would have never returned, but I’m so glad I did.
I kept that promise and took that same class, plus a couple other classes on a special trip, but what I didn’t expect was to gain a family while I stayed in the villages in Sarangkot Mountain. I got to know my host families much better this time around and in the process created an unbreakable bond with the people there. I gained a few new “brothers” and never once did I feel like a tourist. I stayed for three months, much longer than I anticipated, and even returned for two more months, just a short time later. I felt completely at peace.
The family foremost culture in Nepal is something I don’t really have back home, I hate to admit. I always think about the country and how it’s now one of my absolute most favorite places in the world. I already am looking forward to my near future trips to see my “family” and friends there once again. My newfound love for Nepal was the best gift this quest presented me.
Here are some other interesting numbers:
-I visited 26 countries during this quest. Not including airport layovers and transfers. 8 of them are ones I’ve been to before.
-I spent the most time in Nepal (5 months total), which also means I spent the longest time in Asia out of all the continents.
-Not counting being home, I spent the shortest amount of time in North America out of all the continents.
-The longest consecutive time I went without any internet is 22 days.
-I flew on 36 different flights around the world (not yet counting the ones taking me back to Michigan)
-I spent 35 consecutive days without eating meat.
-Out of all of my travels, I’ve been sick the least amount of times during this trip. Only a 24 hour flu and a brief stomach bug. Both occurring in Nepal.
-The absolute worst hangover in my life occurred in Brazil. (Lasted for two days.)
-I learned to say basic phrases in 6 new languages. (Hello, Thank you, Please, Excuse me, etc)
-I held 6 different phone numbers total during this quest.
-I’ve driven a vehicle in 6 countries during the quest. Only one of them was on the right side of the road.
-Around month number 9 is when I first began to feel travel fatigue.
-I always accidentally receive some sort of semi-permanent scar on my body from a trip. With this quest, I came out unscathed.
-I stayed in a total of 104 different hostels, hotels, lodges, and airbnbs. A bulk of this is from the camino in Spain. This doesn’t include homestays, volunteer houses, and friends homes.
-I vomited in 3 different countries during this quest: Poland (intoxicated), Brazil (very intoxicated), and Antarctica (seasickness) (I’m also counting that as a country).
-“Despacito” and “Shape of You” are by far the two most popular songs I’ve heard during most of the quest in many countries.
-The highest altitude (without flying) during this quest was 4,190m (Annapurna).
And now my
watch quest has ended.
What could possibly be next? I have no clue. But, I still have a bucket list to complete…
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