Having returned for over a month my experiences are so much sweeter as I get to tell people my stories reflecting on them. However, there is so much to share with people about my trip, there is so much tell that I never get past the first few highlights. So I have distilled them to the following highlights. So here are the best of experiences on my trip.
1) Best Overall Experience - Volunteering in Japan
To be able to serve both the people of Ishinomaki and my favorite Grace Mission Tohoku servant warriors (Virginia, Satoshi, Satoko, Rimpei & Amiko) was an honor. To feel the unity of meeting all the groups of believers from around the globe - South Africa, Canada, and the Missouri SBU teams, we shared one Lord and one mission to demonstrate God's love to the survivors. The stories of growing hope in the rebuilding.
2) Greatest Personal Accomplishment - Climbing Mount Fuji
The more and more I reflect on this accomplishment there are so many life applications that I had learned from that experience. Things like heading to a mountain that I didn't see, to learning that I needed help along the way, that the Lord provided, to it is easier to push through the dark than getting discouraged seeing how far I needed to go, and how it was so satisfying to descend having made it to the top.
Blog entry: Mt Fuji on July 4th
3) Where I Would Want to Return - Iceland
Hands down every photographer who I encountered and who has been to Iceland -- goes back to Iceland. I hope to do the same in future trips and be challenged to capture the images that would do it justice. Epic views!
Blog entry: Picture Perfect Iceland
4) Best Bucket List Experience - Olympics & Exploring London
My little girl dreams of watching a live Olympic game came true was awesome. It was inspiring to watch the athletes putting their best and their all with each competition. And then being able to be blessed with all the delightful experiences in the city with so much history and character. What a delight to see many of the sites in London. More over I had a chance to volunteer with a kids camp. Lots of unexpected blessings!
5) Most Scenic City - Sydney and Manly Beach
As a gorgeous harbor town Sydney has the nice balance of nature and city. The city skyline of the city is iconic from the Opera House, to the ferry ride to Manly Beach, and the beautiful Bondi beaches. Had the best chill days there.
6) Unexpected New Experiences - Onsen in Japan & Helicopter Ride in Wellington
The Japanese know how to unwind and the ritual of the onsen was well earned after long days mudding out and after my trek down from Mt. Fuji. How can we start a movement to get these onsens in America? If you ever had experienced it you know what I'm talking about! There's no pictures of that experience, but I certainly had a number of shots from the helicopter over the bay in Wellington.
Blog entry: Wellington
7) Meeting fascinating people - The best moments are the ones that are not captured in a photograph or video. Small exchanges, encounters in all the lines/queues are the best to strike up a conversation. It is the random encounter with a mom and daughter on the Skyrail, lengthy conversations in line at the border patrol, climbing up and back from a daunting summit, glacier hiking or cheering in the stands. When I am lucky there are extended time to get acquainted like with the father and son playing at the ukelele festival, the beautiful family from San Diego, hosts & flatmates, know people at hours in a jeep photo touring.
8) Generosity of Hosts - One of the biggest risk I had taken was using the website Airbnb.com to book half of my accommodations. Their hospitality truly made my travels feel less daunting and solo. All welcomed me graciously and warmly from being picked up from the airport, sharing meals together or a cup of tea, and most amazingly having a packed to-go breakfasts. You don't get the same treatment from a hotel or perhaps at hostel. For anyone who wants to travel on a budget and who loves to roam like a local this is the way to get that experience. So much thanks to my hosts Rachel, Mary, and Arianna & Tommi.