Year in Review: 25 photos from 2015

2015 was a tougher year than usual. Throughout I have learned the importance of surrounding myself with the people that love me for who I am, not who they want me to be. To allow them to help, instead of my usual refrain of refusing any assistance. To stay still when my body tells me that I can’t continue as I had planned. And to work on patience with myself, as well as others.

I’ve long dealt with anxiety and insomnia and both of those horsemen reared themselves mightily in 2015, at times in crippling ways. As I’ve mentioned, I will write more about each of them in the future. When I look at the photos of 2015 I think of the juxtaposition of beautiful scenery with private pain. Emerging from this exacting year, I am grateful for the suffering because of how much it taught me, and how it made me even more compassionate to others. The kind of tumult I was in was purely an internal one, and it doesn’t detract from my gratitude that I am able to live a life involving new places, delightful sights and meals like the ones below. It was always possible to find wonder in the world despite things being tough, because the world is full of wonderful things. It’s as simple as that. These fleeting moments of awe, strung together with acts of kindness, kept me afloat.

The photos below are a testament to the bright spots in a difficult year. Who knows what 2016 will bring, but as 2015 winds to a close I have learned more, dug deeper, and happily shared those lessons when friends have leaned on me.

2015 in photos, from January on


I started the year on the streets of Saigon, eating steamed clams with chili and lemongrass alongside friends. My appetizer? One of my favourite Saigon dishes, banh hoi.

I only spent a month in Vietnam in 2014 and it wasn’t nearly enough. I miss the chaos, the mismatched pyjamas, and the food daily.

2015 in Pictures - Legal Nomads
Banh hoi does a body good.
Oc in Saigon, Vietnam
Oc, snails and clams and much more, taken on New Year’s Eve on the streets of Saigon
Jodi Ettenberg in Saigon
Me, starting out 2015. Photo taken by my friend Jimmy Dau
For my only post about Vietnam in 2015, see Adventures in Sleeping, my photoessay on the crazy acrobatic naps from motorcycle taxis in Saigon. 

New Zealand

From Saigon, I flew to New Zealand. I spent some time in New Zealand the year prior when I attended a wedding of one of my best friends. This time, I wanted to maximize my time in the country and see more than just the North Island.

I was welcomed in by Kiwi families around the country and able to sample their delicious fresh seafood, learn about cricket, take a sailing course, and loop around the coast on a stunning train ride from Picton to Wellington.

It may be far away from my family, but damn is New Zealand beautiful.

sailing in the Bay of Islands new zealand
Learning to sail was a big win, since I was long afraid of water. Beautiful sights didn’t make it harder, that’s for sure.
rotorua new zealand
One of my favourite days was a full-day tour of Rotorua’s Geothermal Wonderland park, with crazy pools like this one. Others had fluorescent yellow pools, some bright green, still others boiling mud. A fascinating day if you have the time.
wanaka tree
I couldn’t leave New Zealand without seeing Wanaka and its famous Wanaka tree.
Shamarra Alpaca Farm
Many of you know my SERIOUS obsession with alpacas. This was in Akaroa, a former French outpost and now the site of the Shamarra Alpaca farm. BEST DAY EVER.
queenstown new zealand
Queenstown from above.
hobbiton new zealand
A HOBBIT IN HOBBITON! Jokes were made but I did fit into one of these quite comfortably…
This year’s New Zealand posts are:


I was invited to speak at the World Food Travel Summit outside of Lisbon in April, and it was an exciting opportunity as I had never before visited Portugal. It was love at first sight. From the many winding alleys to the obsession with food, to Madeira’s dizzying heights and cloud-soaked viewpoints, Portugal amazed me. I can’t wait to return for more.

Miradouro da Graça view lisbon
View of Lisbon from Miradouro da Graça
mouraria, lisbon
One of my favourite views from my temporary neighbourhood of Mouraria in Lisbon
funchal door art
“Art of Open Doors” project — my favourite of the painted doorways in Funchal, Madeira
porto santo
A day trip to Porto Santo, two hours by boat from Madeira. I took a conference call next to a sign that said “Christopher Colombus’ house – this way –>”


forests of madeira
One of the many insane views on Madeira.
porto moniz madeira
Yup, it’s a different view from Madeira, this one on the drive back from the lava pools in Porto Moniz
levadas hike madeira
Levadas, water troughs built to carry water from the top of the mountains to the cities below, make for great hiking paths.
lava pools madeira
The lava pools in Porto Moniz. Well worth the trip!
This year’s Portugal posts are:

USA and Canada

During the summer months, I came back to North America as is the norm for me. A family wedding, a few weeks in New York, and then time in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.

jodi ettenberg
Before my fractured rib, I FINALLY GOT A JUMPING SHOT. I’m the least coordinated human, so this was momentous.
racoons toronto
This was pretty much my view in Toronto for 2 weeks straight. HAI GUYS.
chateau laurier ottawa
Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier at dusk, overlooking the Rideau Canal.
montreal viewpoint
My hometown of Montreal in August. I used to run along Mount Royal and this was my view.
This year’s North America posts are:

And back to Asia: Thailand in the fall

chiang mai gate
Chiang Mai gate at dusk
anchan chiang mai
First time at Anchan, a great vegetarian restaurant in Chiang Mai. This was their pumpkin curry. Spicy and delicious.
palm tree thailand
You’d think this is Florida BUT IT’S NOT. It’s actually Chiang Mai, taken at the Chiang Mai University campus
This year’s Thailand posts are:

And, at year end, Florida

Wanders around Florida involve two main colours: green and blue.

What’s in store for 2016?

For now I’m spending holidays with part of my family in Florida. It turns out many of the people I ate with in Asia also have family here so I’ve been happy to reunite on North American soil. I’ll be here until mid-January and then I will be heading to Oaxaca, Mexico for a few months. It will be my first time exploring Mexico for more than a few days, and I am very much looking forward to the food.

More on 2016 as I plan, but expect many tacos and tamales in my Instagram photos.

Happy New Year and here’s to a balanced, healthy, and wonderful 2016 for each of you.



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