Year in Review: 25 photos from 2015

funchal, madeira

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.



60 thoughts on “Year in Review: 25 photos from 2015”

  1. Beautiful pictures, Jodi. 2015 was a very challenging year for me, too. And just like you I found a lot of solace from travel and acts of kindness – not only from family and long-standing friends but strangers who quickly became friends.

    Happy New Year in advance. Hoping for a better year this time around :-) Looking forward to reading about your travels in Mexico.

    1. Thank you Andrea. I’m sorry to hear that it was a tough year for you also, but I am happy that the bright side included love from people that surround you. I keep thinking of that woman who tied my shoes in the pharmacy when I first fractured my rib; these small acts are part of what makes life worthwhile.

      Happy new year to you, and I hope your 2016 is a better year than the last!

  2. I am going to South East Asia next year – spending most of my time in Vietnam. I will be curious to try some of the dishes you recommend (will have to take notes with the names and they are impossible to remember for me). Not the snails though!!

    Exciting that you are going to Mexico. I have a very dear friend who lives in Oaxaca with his partner and their child. He’s Italian (an old mate from university) and a foodie, so if you ever fancy some home made tagliatelle you can count on him, he’ll be happy to cook for you. Seriously, let me know if you would like to get in touch with him – he’s an incredible person. Oaxaca is a wonderful city, one of my favorites in Mexico. That part of the country, in general, is incredible. Lots of indigenous communities, traditions, and the most varied food in Mexico. Aside from tacos, to which I have an addiction, I recommend trying tlayudas, which are typical from the region. The best place is a bit out of Oaxaca and it is known locally as Tlayudas de San Jacinto, if I remember correctly. I have been a few times, taken there by my Mexican friends. I was the only foreigner. The menu is limited (tlayudas). But hey, when a place specializes on just one dish, you can rest assured that is simply great (and cheap!).

    Happy travels!

    1. Hi Claudia,

      Thank you for the long comment. I’d love to get in touch with your friend. I’m at if you don’t mind connecting us! I will definitely also try your tlayudas recommendation – can’t wait to sample some of the new dishes that I never had in my limited Mexican food options in Montreal.

      Very happy to hear you’re heading to Vietnam. For Hanoi, see Sticky Rice’s blog – great recommendations for what to eat. Hope you love it as much as I did!

      Have a happy 2016!

  3. NZ and Portugal look wonderful! And to be able to go to Portugal hopefully for free is even more wonderful! How long did you stay in Portugal for and how long would you recommend one stay in Portugal for?

    I really loved Spain. Which would you say is better if you’ve been?

    I think I’d have anxiety if I had to speak in front of tons of people too :) look forward to reading your thoughts on the subject.

    Have a great 2016!


    1. Thanks Sam! I personally love Portugal for a variety of reasons – I find the food lighter, and I like its simplicity of grilled fish and fresh veggies. I know Spain has this too, but it’s regional whereas I found this available throughout my Portugal travels. I also think that Spain EATS TOO LATE! I joked about this to people when they asked why I didn’t rent a place in Barcelona – “I get hungry at Saigon o’clock – 5pm”. I can hold out till 7 when Portuguese places opened up but to wait until later seems too much for my stomach to handle. Plus I like to go to bed feeling a bit hungry, not full.

      To answer your other question, I spent 2 mos total in Portugal. I’d stay as long as you can ;)
      Have a great time in 2016 too!

  4. This blog post interrupted two conversations behind me at work. Beautiful, eye-catching photography… The stories in those images outshine the adversities you mention. I think you had a great year!

    1. Thank you Daniel! I’m glad you liked it. I mention the adversity for that reason: the scenery, the people, and the food were what won out ;) Happy new year and thank you for reading!

  5. I have so enjoyed reading your blog since I found it about 2 years ago. We seem to enjoy so many of the same things about traveling and eating, and we’ve been to many of the same places! I’m really looking forward to seeing your perspective on Mexico – I’ve always wanted to go there for the food(!), but really didn’t like the little bit I have seen just south of the CA border and just haven’t had the opportunity to explore more yet.

  6. Wonderful images, Your photography is too good. “Art of Open Doors” Image is very beautiful and colorful, I like this image. I downloaded all the images for my desktop.
    Thanks for sharing Jodi.
    Happy New Year

  7. There must be a term for the experience I have reading these very personal posts of yours but until I find it this approximation will have to suffice – Excruciatingly beautiful. I hope the effort you put into your publishing provides some release from the turmoil. But do you want to vanquish the horsemen or embrace them?

    1. Thank you Randy. I always feel a bit nauseous when I post them, as I don’t want to seem like I’m complaining. But the reality is, this was my year. And I think it’s important to write about the good and also the bad, so as not to give a false indication of the life I lead. It’s true it’s a fortunate one but I’m still human!

      I don’t think that vanquishing or embracing is the answer. Just accepting them. I have spent many years trying to twist away from them and that clearly does not work. Embracing them to me indicates a kind of enthusiasm. But a bit of detachment and acceptance might be the neutral path ;)

      Wishing you all the best in 2016 and thank you, as always, for your thoughtful comments.

      1. “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”-Camus.

        You think Sisyphus liked soup?

        1. Hah, a complicated question. Sisyphus becomes more tragic when we assume he had lucidity about his torture, which brings us back to the ‘ignorance is bliss’ question. But it’s like boiling an egg, at least the way I see it: if you’ve stirred in your awareness of the meta-struggle, then at a minimum the smaller struggles can’t be unseen.

          Without a love a soup he was merely a mortal? ;)

          1. A friend pointed out that if Sisyphus liked soup he would just receive a bowl that refilled forever and he had to finish it, so he ate himself to death repeatedly.

  8. Happy new year Jodi! I hope 2016 has many good things ahead after the challenges you faced in 2015. I left the travel blogging world awhile ago (probably not too long after our paths crossed in Brighton in 2013), but yours is a site I always enjoy visiting and learning from. Happy to see you got to spend more time in New Zealand (one of my favorite countries) and Portugal (one I’ve longed to visit). I have the chance to go to Madeira later in the year, so I would love to read your thoughts/recommendations if you decided to do a post about them. Definitely looking forward to your tacos and tamale updates from Oaxaca.

    All the best.

    1. Thank you Rachel! I’m happy to hear from you! For Madeira, if you don’t see a post by the time you go please write me as i’ve got an Evernote of suggestions I can email your way.

      Have a wonderful year!

  9. Beautiful photos, it looks like you had a wonderful year. Enjoy the holiday period with your family in Florida, I can’t wait to hear about your upcoming adventures. Happy new year!

  10. What a year lady! You had some beautiful travels this year and I am so happy I was able to see you at points throughout the year. The turmoil is something I think that is inherent to life, not just travel, so it’s a brave and important thing for you to share that even though you have amazing travels, you are also navigating those ups and downs too. Inspiring, raw and honest, thanks for sharing your year. :)

  11. Happy 2016, Jodi! I’m so looking forward to reading about your time in Oaxaca, a city I’ve longed to visit for a bit now. You have a very positive outlook on the past year, even though it seemed to be a trying year for you. Hope this year brings you happiness, adventure, and lots of delicious food.

    1. Thank you Caroline! I never thought of myself as a positive person, nor a negative one. I just tried to live my life. But this year’s challenges were important because they forced me to start reading about neuroscience and neuroplasticity, and that the mindset we choose is also quite important in affecting the net results. Not in a ‘power of attraction’ way, just that the neural pathways our brain is used to are the ones it goes to first. If that’s negativity, then that’s where your mind will go. I think it’s empowering to think of how cognitively we really can re-wire our brains to some extent, and part of that for me was not to dwell on the negative and try to see challenges as suffering that bore me fruit in the form of lessons learned.

      I wish you all the best for 2016 as well!

  12. Jodi,

    Your photos are beautiful from all over the world. But the one that tugs at my heart is that final summary photo from Florida. It’s so homey to me to see that and it really sums up the area as best you can in one photo.

    Here’s to a great 2016!

  13. Happy New Year Jodi!

    I’ve very much enjoyed reading your posts and salivating over your wonderful photographs. It was a pleasure meeting you last year and I wish you great health, fantastic travels and more delicious soup!

  14. Great pictures indeed. you are really inspiring. go with your passion. looking forward to read your Mexico experience .

  15. Jodi, thank you for sharing your highs and lows during this past year as I can relate. We spent most of last year in Chiang Mai, as our first slow travel destination during early retirement, and I also dealt with issues of anxiety and depression that I had never experienced to this degree before. Mine were mainly due to the huge adjustment of not only culture shock but no longer working as a teacher. It was a jolting wake up call and I had to re-evaluate how to best take care of myself if I wanted to continue a life of travel. It’s been up and down, but mostly up, as I choose to remain grateful (like you). Sharing your story really helps.

  16. I envy your photo with the hobbit house. I’ve only seen them on the movie but living it would be awesome! I hope I can enter it just like what you did. :D

  17. Love all these photos, but especially the yummy food pictures—I’m going to Vietnam and Thailand for the first time this year and I can’t wait to sample the curry and bahn hoi!

    Any plans to take a cooking class while you’re in Mexico? I’ve been trying out making my own corn tortillas at home with mixed success (as an American living in Copenhagen, I really miss tacos!). I’d love to read some taco-making tips if you learn any :) Looking forward to following your culinary adventures there!

  18. It seems that you had a great year. I must say that you are very good at photography; the pictures are so lively, especially the Queenstown one. One of the best travel gallery I ever came across. Exploring places is my passion and New Zealand is certainly my next vacation destination after reading this blog!

  19. Wow, beautiful pictures of the different places you’ve visited. Especially Portugal looks gorgeous! Enjoy Mexico in the new year.

  20. Hi Jodi,

    Love everything about legalnomads, especially the very detailed page on Vietnamese street food (What a fun read!). I was born in Saigon and raised in Melbourne, AU. I try to drop by my motherland at least once a year. Hope to bump into you someday over there! Cheers. xo

  21. Your blog is fantastic and a constant place I come back to as I prepare to leave to travel this Summer. You take beautiful photos, my favourite of course being the alpaca! Can I ask what camera you use?

  22. These days I read a lot of travel blogs written by women and yours is one of them. I saw you were in Portugal last year. We can’t wait to go there. Our trip is planned for next year.

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