A happy new year to all!

As the clock inches toward midnight on the last night of 2013 in Koh Chang, Thailand, we take a break from the sun and the sand to look back at the last few months. The year began in the city of Mumbai, with friends and good wishes, with us living in our small apartment and not knowing where we’d be a year later, and tonight we’ll bring in the new year on a beach with new friends and happy strangers.

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But today is the last day of the old year and the beginning a a new one. And it’s time to examine your life and what you’ve done and make bright hopeful plans for your future. In the last few months, we’ve met friends, family and loved ones and been delighted to see that 2013 has been kind to them. From new babies to watch grow, new homes to furnish with dreams, new travel plans to light up work weeks, new dream jobs to rejoice in, new college lives or school grades to enter – we were so happy to see them all prosper and do well. 

And what about the strangers on the roads, in the campsites, at gas stations and supermarkets, who have had warm hearts and friendly smiles, and who helped us out a little?

To Eve and Pat, at Shenandoah campsite, who kindly gave us a tarp that kept us warm at night for months, showed us the trick to lighting blazing camp fires, and gave us invaluable tips on where to go and how to spot bears – we hope 2014 brings you much travel and happiness.

Tracking a bear for an hour, all for a picture as fuzzy as he is!

Tracking a bear for an hour, all for a picture as fuzzy as he is!

To the strangers on the streets of all the cities we visited, who stopped to help a couple of scruffy backpackers with directions and local places to get cheap meals – we hope the new year shows you as much kindness as you showed us.

Because, honestly, would YOU help this guy on the street?

Because, honestly, would YOU help this guy on the street?

To the street musicians and artists who played and performed and enriched our days, but whom we didn’t always have enough money to drop in the hat – we hope this is your year to be discovered and to make money doing what you love.

Keeping it jazzy in Philly

Keeping it jazzy in Philly

To the kind and enthusiastic park rangers and volunteers at all the national parks, for being out there in the cold and the rain, smiling and marking maps of the best hikes and scenic spots for the millionth time to new travellers – we hope this is a year of happiness and beauty for you all.

The thrilling hike to Angel's Landing, recommended by a ranger and now a lifetime memory

The thrilling hike to Angel’s Landing, recommended by a ranger and now a lifetime memory

To the friendly campers we met at all the campsites, and bonded with over cups of tea and pints of beer – may you always find smiles to greet you and a clear sky to camp under.

Camping neighbours in Utah

Camping neighbours in Utah

To the good angel who picked us up when we ran out of fuel in Utah, took us to the nearest gas station to get a can, and then dropped us back to our vehicle – far out of his way and a good half hour of his time – thank you so much. We paid it forward to a hiker who needed a lift and thought of you again.

Out of fuel, out of prayers - or so we thought!

Out of fuel, out of prayers – or so we thought!

If there is one thing we learned on our trip, it is that the world is a magical place, filled with natural beauty and wonderful animals and glorious sunsets and good food. We read the papers or watch the news and shake our heads at how horrible the world has become, but there are good and noble people out there and they make the world go round. All it takes is a will to find it and eyes that look for the good around you. So our wish to you all is that this year, may the world seem like a better place and your smiles come a bit easier.

And here’s a photograph to prove to you that nature has miracles like we’ve never seen before – Seal Rock near San Francisco, a small rock just a few hundred yards from a seashore, that seals come to bask on. They cover the rock, bark like puppies till the air fills with their sounds, and flip about in the water just a few swimming strokes away from us.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!

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