The Snowball Effect of 2016

I don’t want half the year to go by before I have a chance to take a moment to think over the year. Consider this our Christmas card of sorts.

Check out my month-to-month countries visited, best moments, what was going down, and what I was reading. Looking back over this year, I feel like I have had so many moments of fantastically good karma. Really I felt like luck was increasing throughout the year, and it began to snowball. Good things led to more good things. Excluding the election. Which has been so equal parts amusing and tragic to watch the US self-implode. I try not to get too consumed by it but it seems that’s all anybody is posting about these days.

January and February: Uruguay and Argentina

Read: The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss, A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel by John Irving and Thy Neighbor’s Wife by Gay Talese

Best Moments: The plane crash museum in Montevideo, and delicious drinks to try in wifi-saturated coffee shops in Buenos Aires, Meeting Travel Matt, and the Bible theme park

What was going down: In Argentina, I felt a little lost. We’d just wrapped up our cruise; all continents had been visited; and I felt that travel was not fulfilling alone any longer.

 museum montevideo


jacob 4

camel ba

Amusement park

March: USA

Read: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Best Moments: Seeing Portland, Miami, and San Diego, three cities I’ve been wanting to visit, and as always, getting the rare moment in with family and friends. Including singing for my old voice teacher, who after a stroke could not remember me but did remember the songs I sang! Hosting a chips and salsa party in Salt Lake City. Getting to see Bernie Sanders live. Attending my cousin’s wedding. Getting to see Jacob speak at a business conference whose entertainment was a hypnotist (I couldn’t be hypnotized and got sent down from the stage).

What was going down: An old friend gave me a wake up call. She said that I wouldn’t be complete without music in my life. And she challenged me to find a way to have it again, among other advice, “as a voice from my past.” It got me thinking…but how?



Conferences in SLC and San Diego

vienna reuniontom wedding

Vienna reunion and Campbell wedding

panche and nadicajulia ice cream

Portland and Iowa

April and May: South Africa and Lesotho

Read: The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts

Best Moments: Baz Busing along the Garden Route and riding an ostrich and watching elephants; Mariah Carey on stage was a-mazing (hate to see the disrespect she got for her blip onstage for New Years because she is such an awesome performer), participating in a drum circle, visiting the South African equivalent of Sea World, and shaking Desmond Tutu’s hand. Touring Robben Island, petting a cheetah, walking among penguins. Meeting men wrapped in blankets for clothes in Lesotho (it’s practical: cold there) Ryder showing our tour driver in Lesotho how to turn off the windshield wipers in the back of the car (he tried to figure it out for 10 minutes. Until we asked Ryder how, he thought we’d have to drive down the mountain with them going.)

What was going down: I shadowed a music therapist in Cape Town, learned a little bit more about it, and began applying to universities. This was my original dream—but BYU didn’t offer it, and I’d forgotten. I decided to go for it. Ryder attends a Montessori school and befriends Adzel, who he insists is a boy but who I tell him is a girl. We talk about Adzel all year. Then when we return, I find out that indeed, Adzel was a boy all along.

IMG_0512penguins simonstown


Exploring Lesotho

June: Thailand

Read: Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

Best Moments: Eating Korean ice desserts (I think it’s called bingsu?) in Chiang Mai (I tried every flavor. Please, seek it out it’s incomparable), getting to see the world’s tallest building from the metro in Dubai, and taking Ryder to bathe with elephants

What was going down: I decided Thailand was definitely the place to shop for me: Thai girls are basically all my size. Then the clothes fell apart after a couple washes and I wasn’t so sure. Airbnb fail: I accidently took an Apple TV thinking it was ours and had to mail it back. Ryder became quite attached to his alien balloon. He asked to go to a haunted house for his birthday and then cried all the way through. His friend Shaye who came with loved it and went through twice.

chiang mai templegroup elephants

ryder in front of dubai



July: Istanbul, Addis Ababa, Kyrgyzstan and Kazahkstan

Read: The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien

Best Moments: seeing friends from long ago on a couple of long layovers, miming with friendly and hospitable locals, visiting Central Asian theme parks with Ryder, and I had to get used to going to the bathroom in public, since they often had stalls, but no doors. At the thermal springs, everybody just squatted next to each other and continued chatting away. Riding a roller coaster down a real mountain, and trying the famed fermented mare’s milk. Chasing down a yurt and getting offered someone’s personal resort apartment in the process

What was going down: I interviewed with a university in Heidelberg over Skype and was accepted. Then, they decided to postpone the program a year..

Kok tobeI

The tallest mountain in Almaty, Kazahkstan

kuwait man

A Kuwait (or was it Bahrain?) guest in Bishkek

lamb head

Special holiday food for Kyrgyzstan


Lake Issyk-kul


Christine and Meweded

August and September: Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands

Read: Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and In My Father’s House by Corrie Ten Boom

Best Moments:  Visiting about 100 museums in the Netherlands with my Museum Pass; riding a bike everywhere; the Dinosaur Safari and Legoland and Hans Christian Anderson’s house were all hits for Ryder; snagging historical pamphlets from the centuries-old churches of the towns where my ancestors on my Dad’s side come from; getting upgraded to some kind of fancy car that had amazing pickup for our road trip; and having lots of visitors, from Ben and Sally, to Daniela, to traveling family folks, to Jacob’s parents. Getting to visit a children’s cancer ward in Belgium and meeting some music therapists. Getting hosted by the friendliest B&B in Europe in Leuven.

What was going down: With a piano and a dishwasher, life was easy in Amsterdam. I was practicing guitar and making recordings for auditions. I was accepted last minute into a program based in Enschede. I went to an intensive week where I was thrown into the world of schooling after not much structure at all in the last 8 years. Ryder attended school and befriended Aufvisa. He says he misses his laugh.

IMG_1675 (1)IMG_2519

Amsterdam traveling friends and family


Belgium and Denmark


Dani and Sally

October and November: Germany, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland

Read: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard, The Orient Express by Agatha Christie and German for Dummies

Best Moments: Seeing Jimmy Eat World live, Christmas Markets with Daniela, Fondue with Shad

What was going down: Chasing residency and navigating bureaucracy. Studying German in any spare time. Getting to know my mentor. Working in a psychiatric hospital. Facing various levels of grump. Me avoiding and Ryder seeking out a homeless man who gave him candy and me marriage proposals. Although attending a school which only is German-speaking, Ryder made a friend of Abishela, who is Sri Lankan and speaks some English.


Chur and Munster


Ryder’s school and Jimmy Eats World concert


Ryder has a love-hate relationship with skeletons. Lichtenstein and Luxembourg

December: Germany and USA

Read: Advice on Love and Life from Someone Who’s Been There by Cheryl Strayed

Best Moments: Weihnachtmarkts, including in newly-visited Munich. Holidays with the family in Utah, Texas, Iowa, and Missouri. A Keller High School reunion at the spur of the moment on lovely Keller Main Street. Going red again. Getting my grandpa out of the house for the first time in months and taking him grocery shopping. Ryder spending time with his 3 girl cousins.

What was going down: A shoddy experience with Frontier Airlines left us spending two nights in the airport, and we all caught colds. We rang in the new year with the same familiar group we’ve done for several years, and then went to a fancy party at Californo’s and spent time with lovely and charming couple Aaron and Chris, whose marriage we attended back in 2008. After a tough call, I decide to go with the South African University of Pretoria and we begin to apply for the visa to move there for two years.


Curly vs straight


Christmas markets


MO friends





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 369 awesome articles for us.

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