The Final Curtain


How do you measure a year journey? Is it the equivalent of 5 continents, 27 countries, 64 flights, 31 buses, 6 trains, 3 ferries and hundreds of new found friends? In Tim Cahill’s quote, “A Journey is Best Measured in Friends, Rather Than Miles.”As such, one can never truly quantify the quality of one’s journey. Numbers can only tell us so much—for what are the hours we spend on the plane to the laughter we share with friends? What are the miles we walk on the shore to the special conversations we have with strangers? What are the dollars that we spend to the priceless sunsets and the fantastic views? It was the experience that mattered the most to me. An experience that would last a lifetime, whether you stay in a hostel in Bolivia for $3 a night per room, or a luxurious Four Seasons beach villa for $2000 a night. It was the diverse and priceless adventures, unmatched to a brand new car or a dazzling piece of tiffany.

A memory of my seven hours of walking in the dusty roads and hills of Petra, Jordan

Last year, I traded my loved job with a Round the World ticket to claim a new citizenship, a citizen of the world. I spent 12 months travelling, packing only a suitcase to get to my dream destinations. These include the opportunity to see before me ALL the 7 New Wonders of the World. Aside from the travel essentials, I packed along a strong courage and smart endorsement of affordability for a remarkable experience to create a trip-of-a-lifetime filled with amazing memories. The world was my home, my amusement room, my bedroom, my walls and my doors.

To make that ultimate decision, I only had to ask myself one question: “What have I got to lose in a year?” In my head, it was all so clear to me—what have I had to lose when placed in contrast with all that I was to gain. We hear and read things like; “live life as there is no tomorrow”, “life is short,” “you only live once,” “live life to the fullest” and the list goes on. As a solo traveler, courage was all I needed to allow me to plot a plan to warrant my decision. Worry free, self-satisfaction, state a living purpose and invested lifetime experience, are my catalytic powers to have the courage and key reasons just to do it intrepidly.

Then again, all my anticipation for the travel ahead was not without worry and anxiety. The daunting reality of the unknown constantly dogged me but by the time I finally had a solid plan, I knew I made the right decision and I was finally ready for my quest to tick off ALL the boxes from my bucket list. It was a mixed of excitement and sadness, but the endless possibilities radiated beneath me. The thought of taking charge of my life gave me a sense of freedom to know myself and everything about me. I learnt more about the world first-hand and in my way. It was far more beyond travel books, magazines, brochures, travel shows and Internet sites.

After a year, I brought back an excess of a lifetime of experiences packed with remarkable cultural knowledge, ways with clever ways to deal with the four seasons, skills to adapt to different cultures and people’s behaviors, familiarity with unfamiliar food and delicacies, tips to discover remarkable history, new foreign words, an understanding of time zones difference and value of money spent, poignant memories of amazing landscapes, and several relationships with newly made friends. My journey to find the world became a journey to understand who I truly am. I found myself living a minimalistic lifestyle, discovering how I could actually live in the moment free of all inhibitions and personal restraint.

The most rewarding part of my trip was when I signed up for a four-week volunteer program in Peru.

The native locals on their way to the festival, Eugenio Espejo in Ecuador

The pinnacle was the seven hours of walking in the dusty roads and hills of Petra, the day I finally claimed that I had seen it ALL, the new 7 Wonders of the World. The most challenging time was on my fourth month, when I was close to returning following a health advice from a medical practitioner. But with my stubbornness, determination and self-healing, I decided to pursue with my travel plans—and although I do not advise impertinence, I must say it has its occasional rewards.

I experienced White Christmas in New York, which was a fulfillment of my childhood dream; I braved myself by hopping in a car with strangers in Ciego De Avila in Cuba. I stood in the tip of the mysterious and magical Machu Picchu. I went through the agonizing yet fun adventure by crawling through the dirt and rocks to get out of the mines of Cerro Rico in Potosi Bolivia. And how can I forget the Argentinean gastronomical experience and wellness in the picturesque town of Valparaiso? I witnessed a lot of amazing structures and events, which mark the various highlights of my trip. These include the biggest cross underground in the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira in Bogota,

My favourite shot – Galapagos Albatross, caught in action!

the snorkeling experience in the midst of playful sea lions, swimming sea turtles and hundreds of tropical fish during my Galapagos expedition,

Fira in Santorini

the astonishing Santorini, the awe-inspiring wadis of Oman, the glorified, coloured, glamour, music and culture event of the year at the Rio Carnaval and the unimaginable land beneath the Mekong Delta. All these experiences added essence to my journey in the wonder world. Of course, I most enjoyed the time I was reunited with families and long time friends. Truly I can only go on and on. Even these words and this deliberate attempt at an exposition of my journey fail to capture the true measure of its worth and value.

Having returned, I must say that Melbourne is truly incomparable. It is our home after all that won the world’s most livable city. My one year adventure had sadly ended with encrypted memories that will last for a lifetime along with thousands of pictures I have captured. Never did I imagine I would do such a trip, which was once a dream and now turned into reality.

An adventure is an affair; taking a risk from the norm, lose sight from all familiar comfort, and discover new things and new ways to bring an undeniable pleasure in a unique and rewarding discovery, a new vigor to the mind. It is a wonderful world out there and waiting for you to enjoy and unlock your curiosity. Litter yourself in your chosen destination, make it real, not in digital style.

To my audience who lived vicariously in my travels, my wonderful friends and loving family, I undoubtedly would have not made it to ‘the final curtain’  without your continued support and motivation to END what I started. Thank you so much.

Through thick and thin, there are two special persons I want to extend my greatest gratitude to, my cousin Mark and my best friend Lisa who has been my rock from day one. Lisa is an extraordinary friend with wonderful patience with my endless change requests to my itineraries resulting to multiple reissues.

For every good storyteller and writer brings a great editor and that’s no one else but my American-based cousin, Mark. In the back and forth online communications in different time zones, together we gave you what I would hoped you found interesting and informative piece to read. Mark tediously worked hours day and night to come up with an enticing piece and fully supported me with storytelling despite of his highly demanding real job. I am sure he will be glad to put an end to my demands, and disagreements in coming up with a perfect teaser.

Lastly, to Anthony Valeriano from eTB. Thank you for your incredible support and continued praises throughout, and to your wonderful editorial team for putting up with so many of multiple changes and submission delays. From courage to anticipation, it created an experience and a memory of a trip-of-a-lifetime, a journey that I call my own.

Let me share one of my favourite travel quotes and ask yourself what you would remember the most in 5 years, 10 years or 20 years time?

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

We cannot live within the confines of our daily grind forever. Sometimes, we need that ounce of insanity to move us to put down our pens, leave behind our laptops, forget the financial ledgers and just sail away. Start your dream, claim it and own it—the world awaits.

I would like to farewell my journey with my favourite snap shots and a summary of my escapade, inspired by the song ‘My Way’ for such was the journey I had concluded, my own path, my own way.

So now the end is here And as
I face the final curtain

My friends I say it clearI state my case of which I’m certain

I’ve lived my dreams these last 12 months
And seen the world and all its highways
I’ve laughed and cried and seen the lot
And may I say not in a shy way
That through it all that I stood tall
And did it my way!

So now I’m back where it began
A brand new start is what awaits me I
know not where my future lies

I’m ready now for what fate brings me

I’ve had my fun for one whole year
Have travelled many varied pathways
I ate them up, and spat them out
Now might I add but in my own way
Some things may change but through it all
I did it MY WAY

Comments courtesy of

Posted by Margaret Watson – TRAVEL SOLUTIONS, MORDIALLOC, VIC 25 Nov 2011 1:18:52 PM
A wonderful, wonderful story….brought tears to my eyes. A life’s journey that will never, ever leave you…..and just think of how life would be, if you hadn’t done it…..totally inspirational to all of us…there is a book in this, girl, go for it!!
Posted by michelle Riel – Michelle on Location 26 Nov 2011 10:38:53 AM
Thank you, that means a lot to me. You are one of 3 that shred tears. I started writing this piece when I was still travelling and realise how much I enjoyed every minute of my journey as I recall the highlights of my trip. Yes, you will be pleased to hear a book is the next on the list, with a bit of the untold tales…
Posted by Moks 26 Nov 2011 5:44:57 PM
I feel like I was reading an Eat, Pray, Love sequel. This was a great read. A true inspiration to people who are contemplating to explore the world. Thanks a lot for sharing your escapades.
Posted by Nancy 27 Nov 2011 1:38:39 AM
Thanks for this inspirational travel piece, Michelle! What a fantastic journey you’ve had. Beautifully written . . .
Posted by Angela from SabbaticalScapes – SabbaticalScapes Houston,TX 27 Nov 2011 7:16:17 AM
Great story and adventure! It is refreshing to see more people are taking the plunge to see their travel dreams come true. I am also on that journey. Thanks for sharing. ~A
Posted by Lisa Minuzzo 27 Nov 2011 6:05:53 PM
Michelle, I could not ask for a better friend than you, I have enjoyed every tale you have written and I will admit I shed a tear over this story too. Best friend nothing is ever too difficult to do for you, no matter how much I may say to the contrary! Thank you Michelle, my life has been much enriched with you and your weekly stories in it. Let the new year bring a new and equally amazing adventure.
Posted by Michelle Riel – Michelle on Location 29 Nov 2011 7:28:06 PM
Hello Moks, thank you for your kind words. In fact I watched Eat Pray Love in Los Angeles and it was just then that I realised what the movie was all about, which inspired me more after seeing it.
Posted by Michelle Riel – Michelle on Location 29 Nov 2011 7:29:08 PM
Hi Nancy, it was certainly an amazing journey, and would dare to do it again in a flash. Thanks for your lovely comment.
Posted by Michelle Riel – Michelle on Location 29 Nov 2011 7:31:01 PM
Hi Angela, that’s wonderful that you are in wonderland and no doubt having an amazing time. Continue living your dreams and enjoy every moment of it. Be safe now.
Posted by Michelle Riel – Michelle on Location 29 Nov 2011 7:31:44 PM
Lisa, what can I say. You have summed up the true meaning of friendship. You are truly is an amazing friend. Thank you very much for being in my life.

© 2012 by Michelle Riel, retains sole copyright to her contributions to all the contents of this site.

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"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. - Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain
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