So it's the last day of 2015, a perfect time to reflect on everything that's happened over the past year. For example, my greatest achievement of the year:
Skillz, am I right? That look on my face is a look of pure joy. Also bewilderment at achieving such an athletic feat. Ahem. So, asides from that, here's three of the best things about my 2015:
1) MY FIRST SOLO ADVENTURE
I started 2015 by finishing off an incredible trip, having spent the last three-and-a-half months of 2014 travelling through Europe, the United States, and Canada. Throughout the trip, I'd always had somebody with me, whether it be a family member, friend, or tour group. However, after ringing in the New Year at a party in snowy Whistler, I began the first part of my trip where I was completely on my own...
From Whistler, I travelled to Victoria (Vancouver Island) to see the beautiful Butchart Gardens and their 12 Days of Christmas themed light show. I also went to the Royal British Columbia Museum, which was hosting an incredible wildlife photography exhibit.
I then caught a ferry from Victoria over to Seattle for the markets and museums. There is so much to see in Seattle, and I tried to see it all! I visited the Seattle Aquarium, the Pacific Science Centre, the Experience Music Project Museum, the Space Needle, and the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit. I also thought a lot about Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in that movie "Sleepless in Seattle".
Probably my favourite memory from Seattle involved buying a caramel hot chocolate from the first ever Starbucks store, and then wandering about the Pike Place Markets. I was given a free apple at the fruit stands, from a nice guy who somehow knew my name. I legit thought he was a mind reader, until I realised that he had just read my name off my Starbucks cup...
Finally, I caught a train back up to Vancouver, where I went snow-shoeing for the first time on Grouse mountain, saw a movie with new friends from my hostel, and tried poutine with bacon (yum!), before catching my flight home to Australia.
Travelling totally on my own was a little bit scary, and I was a little bit homesick, but I wouldn't change any of it. Going on this entire trip really opened up my eyes, and I came home feeling more like myself than I had in a long time. I know that probably sounds cliché, but it's true. My first solo adventure was a complete success and a fantastic way to start 2015!
2) EXPLORING WESTERN AUSTRALIA
So, this year was a big one for me, because it's the year I started my PhD! For those that might not be aware, my project focusses on the nutrition of carnivorous plants in Western Australia. Did you know we have more carnivorous plant species here than in any other part of the world?? These plants are truly fascinating and I feel so lucky that I have the opportunity to study them.
I officially enrolled in March, and then shortly afterwards I was on a plane with one of my PhD supervisors and another researcher heading north to the Kimberley region of Western Australia, where a large number of carnivorous plants occur. From Kununurra, we flew in a 12-seater Cessna Caravan to the remote cattle station where we stayed for a week. Oh my god, we saw some of the most stunning views out the window of that tiny plane!
We also saw a lot of incredibly beautiful carnivorous plants and stunning landscapes, got to drive around on quad bikes in a little conga line, swam across the Morgan river to get to a particular field site, and hid under a boulder overhang during a lightning storm! It was all very exciting, and one of the best parts was being accompanied the whole way by Bonnie the dog, a sweet Ridgeback-Dingo cross owned by the station's caretakers. Every morning, Bonnie would hear us start up the quad bikes, and she'd run alongside us wherever we went. I still miss her!
This trip to the Kimberley was so incredible, and if you would like to know more, you can read about it in the latest issue of the Carnivorous Plants Newsletter! After arriving back home from the Kimberley, I continued to work through the first year of my PhD adventure - reading through the existing literature on my topic, writing up my research proposal, doing further fieldwork throughout the south-west corner of Western Australia, and sorting through samples. While there have been some stressful times, I've really enjoyed my PhD project so far and I'm excited to continue working on it after this little Christmas break!
3) as always, my wonderful FRIENDS & FAMILY
I have been incredibly lucky this year (and every year really) to have a wonderful group of friends, family, and colleagues. I can't thank them all enough, and I hope everybody in my life knows how much they mean to me - from the people I talk to every day, to those I catch up with once in a blue moon, to those overseas or far away, thank you.
I'd like to give an extra special shout-out to my big brother for all of his achievements this year. Congratulations on both graduating AND getting married! I was so honoured to be a part of your wedding day, and to help officially welcome your wife and her family into ours. Also, I'm sorry that I missed your graduation day, but I hope you know how proud I am of you. Bruh, you're one of my best friends, and I love you (and our ridiculous selfies) lots.
And now here's a long list of the exciting and fun times with family and friends over the year! Thank you family and friends, for joining me in:
All the shows and big events: the wedding of a close friend, one grandma's 80th birthday party, the No Filter Show, Wonderland festival, Science Union Ball, SciTech After Dark, Cirque du Soleil, Chris Hadfield: A Spaceman's View of the Planet, Profs 'n' Pints, WA Day Fair, the Colour Run, Sherlock Holmes Room Escape, Sculptures by the Sea, The Book Club taping with special guest Elizabeth Gilbert, plenty of Christmas gatherings...
All the parties and chill hangs: Pal-entines day, roller-blading, bowling, plant horror movie nights, both indoor and outdoor cinemas, soccer games, boardgames, karaoke, postgrad connects, conetiki reunions...
All the exploring and relaxing: camping trips, field trips, meteor shower hunting, 4WD courses with horsies, sunsets at the beach, family trips, wild-flower festivals, hanging out in the glasshouses...
And all the slightly weird times: dressing up as fairies and critiquing art ("it's a lot like life!"), climbing on the Wicked Witch's sparkly shoes, being painted on for a friend's art project, rainbow cakes and hybrid pies...
You're all legends, and I'm so glad to have each and every one of you in my life. Thanks for supporting me throughout the year - whether in my PhD, my creative endeavours, or my love for anything to do with cats and/or cool plants. I appreciate it more than I can say.
BRING IT ON, 2016!
Well, that just about wraps it up for my 2015, what a year it has been! Now here comes the New Year, which is already looking to be pretty exciting, with a research trip to Germany, conference in Japan, travel around the United Kingdom, and further fieldwork in the south-west of Western Australia already planned for 2016 - I say bring it on! In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your favourite parts of 2015, and any exciting plans you have for the new year! Let me know :)
Photo Credits: All photos taken by myself, except for the photos of me in the Kimberley, which were taken by A. Cross.