The Best of 2013 with the Hillers

January-Tahiti

Tahiti was a destination filled with friends. These people are laid-back, easy-going and just plain nice. The dancing is graceful and the costumes unique.

Tahitian dancing

And the food is surprisingly tasty. They use fresh coconut milk and lots of starch and sugar. Poisson cru or Tahitian salad is my favorite dish. A couple of hold-backs on this destination though: One I wish I had gotten a French tutor, two I wish we’d had an apartment on the beach because there isn’t public transportation so it’s not easy to get around, and three we should have gone to Bora Bora while we were still in the neighborhood. Nevertheless we’re grateful to have had friends there to welcome us for Thanksgiving and Christa

Most memorable experience:

 tahitian red

Visiting family in Moorea with our fisherman friend

and hiking to a natural water park.

natural water park

February- New Caledonia

New Caledonia was a long-awaited destination, Jacob having served a mission there 10 years ago. It took us a while to go back because of it being in the middle of the ocean—not exactly accessible. It was great to see the place that jump-started Jacob’s love of languages and serving others. One of the biggest surprises about New Cal is the tension between tribes and groups contrasting with the upper-class Frenchiness unifying it all.

 New Caledonia hut

Most memorable experience: Road tripping with former mission companions through back roads to eat dinner with old friends in their homes.

vanuatu in new cal

March-Vanuatu

Vanuatu was the biggest surprise like of the year and the destination we almost skipped. It’s like going back in time. The people are so kind, it’s so easy to get around, and there’s enough outdoors adventure activities to keep you as busy as in New Zealand. Jacob played in the basketball championships—and his team won. They insisted that he accept the trophy.

 basketball Vanuatu

Ryder made his first real friend there, who he just Skyped again with last night actually.

Most memorable experience:

Flying out to isolated Tanna and standing at the rim of an active volcano.

at the volcano

April, May, June, July-Sydney

We spent four months here. It was a great place to explore other religions and cultures all in one place. Not many more diverse places in the world than Sydney. It was very comfortable and easy living downtown, but I don’t know that we’d ever elect to make it a base or a place to return to. First of all, it’s no-escaping-it expensive. Second of all, it’s quite cliquish. All the expats living there agreed.  In this fast-paced developed and wealthy capital city, we did make connections with some great people, but there’s a bit of an invisible barrier into really making it into a social circle.

blue mountains

Most memorable experience: Having my family come out and visit; seeing Tosca in the world famous opera house; getting a rhinoplasty.

australia family

August-Australian Road Trip

We used free rental relocation vehicles to get to Melbourne,

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Uluru, Coober Pedy, and Adelaide. The relocation services were not without flaw, but we did get to see a lot of the country, including friends we’d met in Greece four years earlier.

Most memorable experience:The Red Center was one of my favorite places. There was something deeply spiritual about it. It took me by surprise. We did it in one day with Emu Tours, and to our relief and joy, the same little girl who played with Ryder on the airplane over was on the same tour. 10 hours on a bus and out of diapers—definitely memorable. She saved the day by giving him someone to play with.

littlegirl

September- Bali and Shanghai

In a surprise twist, we ended up in Bali for a month and met many other traveling families. Ryder had a full time nanny and so I got to do a lot of classes, like flute playing, breathing, yoga, cooking (pictured below), and sound healing, and attend cultural performances.cookingclass

Living in Bali is like being on one long retreat. It was one of Jacob’s favorite places we’ve been so far because of the internet business community there.DSC03121

On our way to the US we stopped in Shanghai for about 36 hours. We had some Chinese food, visited the world-class museum with a special collection of porcelain (it’s the best—hence it’s also being called ‘china’) and caught a  powerful bug that blasted us through the next few days of flights and hotel stays. Shanghai blew me away by how modern and clean it was (in comparison to Beijing.)

Most memorable experience: Parasailing, and hot springs at the base of a volcano.

October-USA and Guatemala

We went to my high school reunion and we were the witnesses at Jacob’s brother’s wedding. His bride is a wonderful new addition to our family. Both very memorable experiences.

jacoblukedad

November-Guatemala

In a surprise move, Guatemala probably topped Mexico for me in terms of livability. It is so jaw-droppingly beautiful. The culture and history are so rich. And we made some dear friends who I hope to visit again. This country proved to me what I didn’t realize: Central America is one of my favorite areas of the world. It’s so cheap, easy, and charming.

Most memorable experiences: Visiting the kite festival with other traveling families in Antigua and catching a bag-slashing thief;

kite festival

getting around by boat and tuk tuk on the most beautiful lake in the world.

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December-Mexico City and USA

This trip was purely for nostalgia and two weeks wasn’t nearly enough time. Besides griffing (showing up in a country without warning) old friends, we visited our favorite restaurants—Jacob especially had been craving tacos and me, churros—and DSC04496

went to new world class museums. Mexico City is truly a place to never grow tired of. Sometimes I wonder why we go anywhere else! But there’s always new places to fall in love with, new friends to make, and new experiences to try. Looking forward to all of the above for the year 2014!

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 361 awesome articles for us.

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