Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Look Back Around the Globe in 2014

This Christmas finds me at my parents' house. In all my years of traveling, being married, having my own family, and living overseas, I almost always seem to find myself in my childhood home during the holidays. In fact, I've only been away from my mama on Christmas once in my entire life. No matter how far away I go, I also come full circle and end up where I began.

What a year it's been. Here's a look back at our 2014.

Orlando, Florida — Walt Disney World and Universal Studios

Cinderella's Castle, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Visiting Disney World during the off season is a dream come true for hubby. We honeymooned here decades ago in June when it was hot, humid and crowded. You may find it hard to believe, but the kids have never missed a single hour of school due to traveling. With that family policy in place, hitting Florida theme parks when the crowds are low is difficult. This year was finally our big chance because school didn't resume until mid-January. Score!


Angkor Wat

Halfway around the world from the Magic Kingdom, we visited the Kingdom of Cambodia over Spring Break. We got our inner-Indiana Jones on climbing around the collapsed ruins of Beng Mealea and, of course, went to must-see Angkor Wat.

LEGOland Malaysia

The Taj Mahal built out of LEGOs at Miniland

The second part of Spring Break was spent at LEGOland Malaysia. For every day spent touring ancient Cambodian temples, the kids got to have a day of fun at LEGOland. The new themed hotel and waterpark were great ways to escape the heat. One of the kids' best memories from this trip is getting picked out of the crowd to be photographed for a promotional campaign and getting paid for it.

Photoshoot for an international marketing campaign (which I claim is code for Facebook status update)

The Philippines

"Hey mom, can I get this sword as a souvenir?"
"Umm, NO!!"

The kids absolutely loved our time in Manila visiting relatives. Only a few hours were spent sightseeing and the rest of the time was occupied with hanging out with my cousins' kids at the bowling alley, wandering malls, and playing Minecraft. Here's to experiencing a city like a local. They tell me I need to plan more trips like this.

Italy — Rome, Sorrento, Pompeii and Venice

Vatican Gardens with Saint Peter's Basilica in the background

Italy was the kids' idea. We let them pick where to go in Europe during a long stopover on the way from Malaysia to America, and this is where we ended up. Massive amounts of gelato were consumed. Gladiator school in Rome was downright pure awesomeness as far as they were concerned. We had thought that the Angkor Wat ruins were old, but the ones in Pompeii were centuries older. And yes indeed, I can understand why some people call Venice "Disney World for grownups."

Houston, Texas

A few weeks after I took this photo, a cargo ship with our household goods container from Malaysia would sail past here.

The family split up for a few weeks after Venice. Hubby went to Hungary for work and teeny bit of sightseeing in Budapest while the kids and I returned to America.

Houston is where hubby and I grew up, went to university, met and married. If we absolutely have to go on vacation somewhere, it's the kids' top pick, excluding theme parks. Since I grew up here, I don't really view it as a vacation destination, but I will admit that seeing family and childhood friends is wonderful. It's a getaway from regular life that's familiar and comfortable. 

Northern California Wine Country — Sonoma and Napa Valleys

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The kids complain that I pick boring, adult stuff to do on trips like visiting art museums whereas they would rather do kid things. I contend that it's a rather even 50:50 split. I do try to plan fun activities for all parties involved, although not everyone will necessarily be having fun at the same time.

Obviously, separate vacations is the easiest way to keep everyone happy (except for perhaps my parents who got to take care of my crazy kids while I went off to California for a few days). While hubby was busy working his tail off in Hungary, the kids visited trampoline parks and arcades with the grandparents in Houston while I toured Northern California vineyards and fancy schmancy gourmet restaurants with my bestie who has the good fortune of living in Sonoma. Her 9-year-old daughter came along with us, and I am going to proclaim that she is a mini-connoisseur of fine living.

Zichichi Family Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley

New York City

The week-long Thanksgiving break was spent doing a whirlwind trip of the Big Apple, returning to Austin, and then doing a quick trip to Houston for a big, family dinner. Whew! 

Empire State Building

New York is one of those iconic cities of the world, and couldn't wait to reintroduce the kids to magnificent America via a trip here.

The Big Move back Home

The view from my home in Penang, Malaysia

By far, the biggest change that occurred this year is returning to Texas after living in Malaysia for three years. Our time as expats was the catalyst for all this amazing world travel that we've done, and I wonder what reverting back to "normal" will be like. I still seem to view our time abroad as a "Cinderella at the ball" phase. As one of my fellow Texans-in-Penang trailing spouses put it, "It's not real life." At some point, you have to go back to reality.

I've been meaning to write about the experience of repatriating, but the busyness of American life has kept me from blogging as much as I'd like. Yet, it is the stillness — the staying put, the lack of a trip on the near horizon —  that weighs on me as well. Busyness and stillness. That's what's in store for 2015.

Hubby, on the other hand, already has a trip back to Penang looming in a few weeks time. Granted, he'll be in meetings all day, but he'll still get to feast on amazing food each night. Lucky him.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

This post is part of the following link ups. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.

Budget Travelers Sandbox


  1. What a great year! You visited some of my favorite places and some that I have yet to experience. Enjoyed following along with you. Wishing you more happy travels in 2015.

  2. No kidding your travel is "Cinderella at the ball" as I absolutely love visiting here to see where the four of you have been on each new adventure! I like how the kids get to pick destinations from time to time as well...and that they haven't missed school. What a scheduling task that must be! A very cool story that you've been with your mom for every Christmas except one. She's obviously a very special lady! I hope you are able to hit your stride for the busy times and relax and enjoy the still times. Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year, great health and safe travels always, Michele! :)

  3. The view from your home in Penang is unbelievable. I think I know how you feel about the busyness and stillness. I think your time in Penang was real. Is it possible your husband could be transferred somewhere else?

  4. What a year! What great travels. It sounds like you're settling back home nicely. I'm looking forward to reading more of your travels back in the USA.

    Ahhh Italy, it's my fav country. Transport me. xo

  5. What a great year of adventuring for you, and it's pretty cool you've travelled so much without the kids missing school - travel is just extra, life education (much more fun and interesting than school!) :-)

    Hope 2015 sees you exploring many new exciting places. Happy New Year!

  6. Wow! I am quite jealous of your year. I can definitely relate with returning home after life as an expat. I returned to the States after two and a half years in Taiwan. The transition was rough but it was nice to be back with my family for a while. Wishing you all the best in 2015. I will definitely be following along with your travels next year.

  7. It has been a joy to experience your year of travel with you and to look back on it as well. I like your description of "Cinderella" as it seems I've just put on the ball gown and am in that 'pinch me, this can't be real" phase of our travel adventures. While not here full-time as you were, we are finally getting to experience that taste of being an Expat in another country and culture. We are going through the motions but every so often have to stop and say, "Are we really doing this?". Keep up the travel and the blogging - I am looking forward to reading about what 2015 holds in store for you! xoxo

  8. Looks like you've had a superb year! :)
    Seasons Greetings to you, and here's looking forward to all the travels and adventures 2015 has in store for you, now that you've moved back home!

  9. What an amazing year!! I love seeing everyone's end of year round-ups! I'm glad that even though you've moved back home, you're still finding so many adventures and travels in the US! It was great to "meet" you this year and I'm looking forward to following more of your adventures in the following year!

    Happy new year to you and your family!

    P.S. I think that Legoland promotional shot with your kids is just amazing, lol!

  10. Looks like a fantastic year. We left the states 11 years ago, I always wonder what re-entry would be like.

  11. What a big year! I am dying to visit California wine country and get excited whenever I read about another blogger spending time there. I'm sure the adjustment has been an experience. After a year and a half as an expat, that day is still unknown to me, but I can't even imagine! Cheers to a 2015 full of travel and fun.

  12. What an amazing year you've had! I would love to visit Cambodia and Philippines one day and NYC is one of my favourite cities in the world. I also think it's so lovely that you've only ever spent one Christmas away from your childhood home - what a wonderful statement to be able to make :)

  13. What an interesting year, Michele! A very diverse "itinerary" I could say, from Malaysia to San Francisco, from Italy to Orlando, Florida. What's the plan for next year?

  14. What a wonderful rundown and such an exciting year you all have had of travel. I have to think it's going to be hard to travel that much again in a year, especially with kids getting older - that is unless you get posted somewhere again...Is that even remotely in the cards?
    Happy New Year!

  15. That sounds like one pretty fantastic year! Happy New Year! :)

  16. Looks like you had a great year of travel! You were all over the place. I definitely understand what you been about the busyness and the stillness of moving home. I'm still not use to that feeling of not having any major travel plans on the horizon. I don't think it truly goes away once you've had a taste of it! Here's to a great 2015 and may you have lots of exciting travel experiences.

  17. Happy New Year, Michele and family! What a great round-up! I have enjoyed following you along on your jaunts around the world this year. Looking forward to reading those upcoming posts especially from the Motherland. I wish all of you many more safe and healthy travels in 2015 and hopefully our paths will cross soon.

  18. I have absolutely enjoyed getting to know you and your family this year and following you around on your many adventures. I cannot wait to see what 2015 has in store and I wish you a very happy new year!

  19. Happy New Year, Michelle! My apologies for being so slow in getting around. Bangkok was a whirlwind week, and then I had a friend visit me in Chiang Mai for almost a week (which was great fun). You and the family definitely had an exciting year of travel, and your big move back to the States. I always enjoy following your adventures, and look forward to seeing what 2015 will bring. As always, thanks for linking up.

  20. What an exciting year you've had! All the best for 2015 and hope it's as good as 2014 has been for you :)

  21. Happy New Year! You and Mary (@worldisabook) impress me by the fact that your kids don't miss any school in light of all the travel you do. As long as I've been reading your blogs, I've definitely been taking notes about how to make this family travel thing work. You guys had a full year of travel and I'm sure that your adventures will continue in between the still moments. Wishing you all the best in 2015!

  22. Wishing you a healthy and some moments of stillness during all the busyness of state-side family life. What a wonderful year you have enjoyed and I'm sure this new year will have more to share with us. I've finally stopped my self-imposed sabbatical from blogging and look forward to sharing more with life from Utah.


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