1 year, 16 countries, and countless memories


I thought that I would tie up my “Thoughts from my Box” blog with some final thoughts…. These are in no particular order just some things I have learned, experienced and enjoyed while I was traveling and wanted to share.

Top Cities I visited:

1) Byron Bay, Australia  

Byron Bay, Australia

2) Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
3) Cape Town, South Africa
4) Vancouver, Canada 
5) Portland, Oregon
6) Florence, Italy

7) Vernazza, Italy

Vernazza, Italy

) Barcelona, Spain

Best Activities:

1) Hiking Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

Table Mountain in South Africa

2) Canyoning in Wanaka, New Zealand
3) Sunset Cruise and white water rafting down the Zambezi River in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
4) Glacier Hike in Franz Josef, New Zealand

Hiking the glacier in Franz Josef, NZ

5) Blending our own wine in Stellenbosh, South Africa 

Erin and I with the wine we made in Stellenbosh, South Africa

6) Surfing in Bali, Indonesia
7) Caving in Waitomo, New Zealand
 ) Bungy Jumping in Queenstown, New Zealand 

Bungy jumping in Queenstown, NZ

9) Hiking to a beautiful waterfall in Pacific Harbour, Fiji

Beautiful waterfall hike in Fiji

10) Kayaking with dolphins in Byron Bay, Australia

Kayaking with dolphins in Byron Bay, Australia

11) Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia 

Snorkeling at great Barrier Reef

12) Playing with the kangaroos and holding the koala in Brisbane, Australia

Playing with the kangaroos in Brisbane, Australia

Holding a koala in Brisbane, Australia

13) Sand Boarding in Fiji

Sand Boarding in Fiji

14) Hiking Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand 

Hiking Tongariro Crossing in NZ

15) Digging hot pool at Hot Water Beach in New Zealand 

Digging pool at Hot Water Beach in NZ

16) Horseback riding in Menorca, Spain

Horseback riding in Menorca, Spain

17) Swimming with Manta rays on Mantaray Island in Fiji

Swimming with Mantarays in Fiji

18) White water kayaking and white water rafting in Tena, Ecuador
19) Going to a bull fight in Madrid, Spain

Bullfighting in Madrid, Spain

20) Cooking class in Chang Mai, Thailand

Cooking class in Chang Mai, Thailand


Prettiest Places:

1) Wanaka, New Zealand

Wanaka, New Zealand

2) Menorca, Spain
3) Swiss Alps, Switzerland

Swiss Alps (Rockers-de-Naye) and Geneva Lake

4) Gili Islands, Indonesia
5) West Coast of New Zealand (when it’s not raining)

West Coast of New Zealand

6) Ko Tao, Thailand
7) Quilatoa crater Quilatoa, Ecuador

Quilatoa crater, Ecuador


Most Intriguing places:

1) Toledo, Spain

Toledo, Spain

2) Cinque Terre, Italy
3) Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Me and the tortoise on the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

4) Civita de Bagnoregio, Italy

Civita di Bognoregio, Italy

5) Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

6) Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

7) Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru



Most Entertaining places:

1) Queenstown and Abel Tasman, New Zealand 
2) Tena, Ecuador 
3) Byron Bay, Australia 
4) Rome, Italy

Best Beaches:

1) Lagos, Portugal

Lagos, Portugal

2) Menorca, Spain
3) Ko Tao, Thailand
4) Byron Bay, Australia 
5) Bali, Indonesia 
6) Coogee Beach and Bondi Beach, Australia

Bondi Beach, Australia

7) Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Worst Experiences:

1) Being hospitalized in Jakarta, Indonesia
2) Taking the bus to and from the city of Johannesburg, South Africa 
3) Spending the night on the rocky beach in Ventimiglia, Italy when I couldn’t find a room to stay in

Ventimiglia, Italy (the beach I spen the night on)

4) Saying goodbye to all the amazing friends I have met along the way

Me and my friends Justin and John in Tena, Ecuador


Me and my friend Samia in Tena, Ecuador

5) Having diarrhea while hiking Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru 

Best Party Places:

1) Ko Tao, Thailand
2) Mango Bay, Fiji
3) Marahau, New Zealand
4) Cairns, Australia
5) Lagos, Portugal

Best Experiences:

1) World Cup in South Africa

World Cup stadium in Durban, South Africa

2) Elephant Nature Park in Thailand

Feeding the elephants in Thailand

3) Renting a camper van with my friend Greg all over the South Island of New Zealand

Camper van in New Zealand

4) Watching the world cup final (Spain vs. Netherlands) in Madrid, Spain with my best friend Erin

World Cup Final in Madrid, Spain

5) Volunteering as a Speech Language Pathologist for special needs children in Tena, Ecuador
6) Hot and Cold Pools in Rotorua, New Zealand

Bathing in the thermal pools in Rotorua, New Zealand

7) Playing with the 9 month old White Siberian Tigers in South Africa

9 month old white siberian tiger in South Africa

) Safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Safari in South Africa

Safari in South Africa

9) Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru




Worst Cities:

1) Johannesburg, South Africa
2) Bangkok, Thailand
3) Suva, Fiji; 



Best Sunsets:

1) Bali, Indonesia

Kuta Beach sunset, Bali, Indonesia

2) Kaikoura, New Zealand

Sunset in Kaikoura, New Zealand

3) Nadi, Fiji

Sunset in Nadi, Fiji

4) Mantaray Island, Fiji

Sunset at Mantaray Island

5) Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe




Crazy Things I’ve eaten:

1) Spider in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Fried Spider I ate in Cambodia

2) Cow intestine (juatita), cow tongue, cow hoof and skin soup in Tena, Ecuador
3) Zebra in Johannesbug, South Africa
4) Ostrich in South Africa 
5) Drank cava in Fiji
6) Hospital food Jakarata, Indonesia

hospital food in Jakarta, Indonesia

7) Cuy (guinea pig) in Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuy (Guinea Pig) in Cuenca, Ecuador

Best Food:

1) Noodle soup in Ko Tao, Thailand
2) Pad Thai in Bangkok, Thailand
3) Truffle Pasta in Vernazza, Italy
4) Seafood Platter in Cape Town South Africa

Seafood platter in South Africa

5)Meat Pies in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji
6) Green Shelled Mussels in Marahau, New Zealand

Green mussels that we picked in Marahau, NZ

Hostess with the most:

1) Aimee-Noel Hartley and Mpho in Cape Town, South Africa

Aimee-Noel and Mpho in South Africa

2) Zita O’Neill in Auckland, New Zealand
3) Colleen and Peter in Rotorua, New Zealand
4) Robyn Crisford in Marahau, New Zealand

Me and Robyn in NZ

5) Rose and Margaret in Wellington, New Zealand
6) Jess O’Rourke and Simon in Invecargill, New Zealand 
7) Omid Mashhadi in Lausanne, Switzerland
) Court and Brian Hoyt in Santee, California
9) Mom and Dad in North Vancouver, Canada

“Toes in the water, ass in the sand…Life is good today”


7 Responses to “1 year, 16 countries, and countless memories”

  1. Shannon Says:

    What an amazing journey jess!! Not many people are lucky enough to spend the last year like u did… Nor are they strong enough to handle it!! Im So glad i got to help u kick off your trip in Africa! Your amazing and I can’t wait to hear all the amazing stories that are too juicy for the blog!! Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us all!! Love you girl and I’m glad you made it home safe and sound!!

  2. Cathy B Says:

    So Amazing!! Thanks for sharing and glad you are back. Let us know when you can legally visit Portland again, we miss you.

  3. Glad you’ve made it home safe. Sounds like you have been to many amazing countries and i am extremely jealous! Your photos are incredible…am glad that i got to see you along the way and made it into a few of your top experiences!
    Come back soon.xxxxxxx

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    AMAZING! I’m so glad you had this blog so that I could keep up with you! I can’t believe that the hospital food was more crazy than the guinea pig! I guess they did encourage the McDonald’s food… So glad you are home and I can’t wait to see you!

  5. Mom and Dad Says:

    Amazing trip the rest of us can only dream of but with your blog I’m sure it has opened many people’s eyes.
    The one thing you did not mention in your blog was you had made a budget for the trip before you left and when you came back and reconciled ONLY $100 DIFFERENCE. I’m sure Obama is looking for accountants that can balance the books, so if you don’t get back on as a speech pathologist!!
    We are very proud to have a daughter like you.

  6. amy burkard Says:


    I am totally in awe of this amazing adventure. I can that tell you have no regrets and why should you?. How about leading a tour for the rest of us? Still miss you everyday and hope to see you soon. Amy

  7. Wow, wow, wow!!! so many places and experiences….

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