Turning 22 – 21 Awesome Things I Did in My Year of 21

by Katja Kaven

Today, March 23rd, 2019, I’m turning 22. Looking back on my last year I can’t help but think that this must have been the craziest, most amazing, most adventurous year of my life so far. There are so many great memories I love thinking back to.

Inspired by the lovely Mollie from Where’s Mollie, I decided to share my favorite ones with all of you. Since there is no way I would be able to pick favorites, my experiences are listed in chronological order. I’ve written blog posts on some of these memories, so I’ve linked them to give you some travel inspiration and tips to plan your next travels.

Tip: To keep up with my memories in real time, consider following me on Instagram. I usually take you along with me on my stories.

Consider also checking out the 22 awesome things I did in my year of 22 here!

June 29th, 2018 – Graduated University

I had always been interested in Psychology, so it was a no brainer for me that this was what I wanted to go to university for. In fact, I was so excited to get started that I went straight to university after school even though in Germany, it is quite common to take a Gap Year right after graduating high school. For three years, I had moved to Mannheim, made amazing friends, and put a lot of time and effort into my studies.

It wasn’t always easy. My three years of university included some break downs because I had put too much pressure on myself and frustration with some of the courses that just didn’t feel relevant to me. Especially writing my bachelor thesis meant a lot of struggling. Luckily, I had already handed that in in February of 2018, so before my 21st birthday.

Finally handing in that thesis.

But my last semester at university was great, the courses were more applied and hence more interesting, and I had nailed all of my oral exams. So graduating university on June 29th, 2018 was a very proud moment for me.

I am very proud of my achievements!

August 17th-19th, 2018 – Kirchberg with Friends

At this point, I had already moved out of my apartment in Mannheim and was just about to leave for Bali. Saying goodbye to Mannheim had been hard because I had made truly incredible friends during my time there. That’s why going on a short trip to Austria with them before not seeing them for a few months was a perfect decision.

Got myself some true friends here 🙂

Our trip consisted of swimming in the lake, hiking, breakfasts and dinners on the terrasse, and lots of laughter and good talks. My year of 21 has definitely shown me who my true friends are and I am proud to say that I have some true ride or dies.

So glad I got to spend that weekend with my girls!

August 29th, 2018 – Left for 9 Months of Traveling

I had been looking forward to this day for probably 5 ½ years. That’s when I decided that I wanted to go traveling in between my Bachelor and my Master. So to say that it felt surreal when that day was finally here would be a big understatement. Naturally, leaving home, your friends and family, and also your comfort zone for nine months come with a lot of mixed feelings.

On my way into nine months of adventure!

If you look at this picture of me, you’ll probably understand why I was tested for drugs when going through security. However, even though leaving was difficult, I haven’t regretted that decision one bit. You’ll probably understand if you keep reading about my awesome adventures.

September 18th, 2018 – Sunrise at Mount Batur

For my first weeks in Bali, I was based in Canggu. But when one of the friends I had made invited me to come to celebrate her birthday in Ubud another friend asked me if I wanted to join her and some others trekking Mount Batur for sunrise. This was the first of many sunrises while traveling and definitely a special one. Even though there were a lot of people at Mount Batur, we still found a great spot just for us to enjoy the beautiful sunrise.

Sunrise at Mount Batur

Check out my blog post on my first weeks in Bali to learn more about this experience and other cool things I’ve been up to.

October 1st-5th, 2018 – Trip to the Nusa Islands

The Nusa Islands weren’t originally on my “itinerary” when going to Bali. However, once I was there everyone seemed to be talking about them. Naturally, I had to find out what all of the fuss was about. And I am glad that I did.

Taken from one of the podiums.

Together with a friend, I went to the Nusa Islands for a few days and we explored the beautiful nature there. I really enjoyed the incredibly stunning places on Nusa Penida but the even cooler experience (in my opinion) was exploring Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan by foot. We tried just walking along the coast and ended up at very nice cliffs, completely abandoned fields, construction sites and beaches with no one else around. I love thinking back to that day.

Just some impressions – you’re going to have to read my blog posts for more pictures.

Check out my blog posts on places to go to on Nusa Penida and exploring Nusa Lembongan by foot. I’ve also written a post on the most instagrammable places on the Nusa Islands for Lost World Wide Magazine which you can find here.

October 7th, 2018 – Secret Garden of Sambangan

In all honesty, this was probably my favorite activity from my time in Bali. The Secret Garden of Sambangan refers to four waterfalls that are very close to each other. Aling Aling is the most famous one and it is very impressive to look at. However, the others are way more fun. You can jump and slide down waterfalls.

Aling Aling Waterfall

Prior to going to the Secret Garden of Sambangan, the highest I had ever jumped from was three meters. I even told my guide in the beginning that I wouldn’t jump from anything higher than five meters. Little did I know that I’d be jumping from ten meters just an hour later. Going out of your comfort zone and surprising yourself is always amazing, so no wonder this is such a fond memory of mine.

Sliding Down Kroya Waterfall

I’ve written a blog post all about what to expect when going to the Secret Garden of Sambangan. In it, I also give tips on how to save money going there as a solo traveler. Check it out here.

October 10th-16th, 2018 – Learned to Surf

I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf (even though I’m terrified of waves) but I just never got around to do it. On my first day in Bali, I finally had my first surfing lesson. However, it would take me a few more weeks until I properly learned how to surf. I spent my last days in Bali, in the Surf WG where I did a beginners course for three days and then went surfing once or twice each day. It was the perfect ending to a perfect first destination of my travels.

Feeling like a pro!

October 25th, 2018 – Tamaki Maori Village

Maori are a big part of the culture in New Zealand. I really like that they play such a big role in New Zealand’s society. If you want to get even closer to the Maori, I’d definitely recommend going to the Tamaki Maori Village close to Rotorua, maybe even staying overnight. I’ve had such a great experience there.

From the moment we arrived at the village, everything was amazing. We were greeted by a Maori, sang a traditional song for him, had food, learned about their culture, played games, had a Hangi for dinner, and spent most of the night in their hot pools (not that traditional but still a lot of fun). It was hands down one of my favorite days in New Zealand.

The Haka

If you want to learn more about what to expect from your visit at Tamaki Village, check out my blog post on that here. I also tell you whether I think the overnight stay is worth the extra money.

November 2nd, 2018 – Skydive in Taupo

There is no way I wasn’t going to include this special moment when talking about my favorite memories from last year. I knew I was going to do a skydive at some point during my time in New Zealand. Soon, I decided to do it in Taupo with the view on Lake Taupo, the biggest lake in all of New Zealand and Australia (actually as big as Singapore).

I had the most amazing time!

Let me tell you, I was so nervous. But as I’ve mentioned before I think stepping out of your comfort zone makes for the best memories. And when the moment came where I was sat on the edge of an airplane at 15000 feet everything went so quickly that I didn’t even have time to be scared. Before I knew it we were already in free fall. Free falling is such a weird and amazing experience and that one minute felt like seconds but also like hours at the same time. Luckily, we took some time coming down after the freefall so that I could enjoy the incredible view.

If you think about doing a skydive, definitely do it! It has definitely been the best activity I’ve done in Taupo (I did it with Skydive Taupo). There are some other fun things to do there as well though, you can check them out here.

November 4th, 2018 – Horse Trekking at River Valley

The nature in New Zealand is absolutely breathtaking if you haven’t noticed already. So imagine exploring hills and fields full of sheep and cows on the back of a horse. That’s exactly what I did in River Valley. What I liked most about this experience is that the horses were ridden according to Natural Horsemanship. That means that they don’t have a bit.

Me on my horse Mr. T

Horse Trekking at River Valley was one of the best activities I did with Kiwi Experience. Check out my other favorite activities with them here.

November 11th-13th, 2018 – Abel Tasman National Park

During my time traveling, I discovered my passion for hiking. I’ve always enjoyed walking places but combine that with the amazing nature of Indonesia, New Zealand, or the Philippines and you will find yourself doing hike after hike.

However, I wouldn’t have thought that I would ever do a three-day hike through a National Park. But looking at pictures of the beaches at Abel Tasman National Park and thinking about sleeping in the park, waking up close to the beach, and walking along the coast for three days, had me convinced quite easily. And I am so glad I went – hiking through the National Park for three days was one of my highlights from last year.

You’ll find a lot of nice views for taking a break!

If you want to learn more about the coastal walk in Abel Tasman National Park, check out my blog post on my favorite walks in New Zealand.

December 3rd, 2018 – Saw Kiwis in the Wilderness

At the beginning of December, I went to Stewart Island which is a little island in the very South of New Zealand. Originally, my plan was to go hiking there. Unfortunately, I had just sprained my ankle because I was dared by a friend to cartwheel down the steepest street in the world in Dunedin (not a good idea by the way!). However, the trip was still a success because I got to see two kiwis in the wild – something even a lot of New Zealanders haven’t experienced.

Such a cool experience!

December 7th, 2018 – Star Gazing at Lake Tekapo

The stars you can see in New Zealand, are definitely on a whole other level than in Germany. Because there is way less light pollution, you can expect to see amazing skies. However, nothing tops the night I had at Lake Tekapo. You could even see the Milky Way. I have no words to describe this experience to you, so just take a look at these pictures taken by my friend William that night.

December 10th, 2018 (and January 23rd, 2019) – Swimming with Dolphins

I said that there was no way I could pick favorites from all the amazing memories I have of the last year. However, this one is definitely up in the top five. It is just such a crazy experience. We went out on a boat from Kaikoura and already passed dozens of dolphins. We were then let into the water close to a dolphin pod. It was then up to us to make movements and noises in order to make the dolphins curious.

That’s also the thing I liked most about the whole experience; the dolphins are wild and aren’t even fed. They just swim up to you because they are curious and they want to. Let me tell you, there is nothing as special as a mom dolphin swimming up to you with her baby and looking you in the eyes. I’ve had such a great time that I actually went to do it again when I was back in Kaikoura in January (this time with much better conditions)

This was also one of my favorite activities with Kiwi Experience.

December 30th, 2018 – Bridge Climb Sydney

So far, most of my favorite memories included nature. The next one is a little bit different but no less memorable. When I met up with my dad in Sydney over New Year’s Eve, we just had to do the famous Bridge Climb. And I loved it so much, I kept questioning our group leader on how to become a tour guide taking people on the climb.

If you ever find yourself in Sydney, check out this blog post on things to do in and around Sydney. Also check out my guide to exploring Sydney by foot as this is the best way to explore the city, in my opinion.

January 2nd, 2019 – Saw a Turtle at the Great Barrier Reef

Who would’ve thought my second time snorkeling would be at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia? And who would’ve thought I’d also get to see a turtle? Definitely not me. I am very glad I did though. There is just something special about swimming so close to one of these fascinating creatures. I still love looking back on my footage of that day.

January 6th, 2019 – Flew over the Whitsundays in an Aqua Plane

The Whitsunday Islands are part of most people’s East Coast Itinerary (check out mine here, by the way). No wonder, since the islands are incredibly beautiful with lots of white beaches and clear water. We made our visit to the Whitsundays even more memorable by flying over them in an aquaplane. The only thing that could make this trip even better is that I got to sit in the front next to the pilot.

We had a short break on Whitehaven Beach.

January 14th-17th, 2019 – WMGT Adventure in Byron Bay

Group tours can be a hit or miss, in my experience. The Where’s Mollie Global Travelers adventure in Byron Bay was no doubt absolutely amazing. Not only did we get to do a lot of great activities like kayaking with dolphins, road tripping to waterfalls, going up to the lighthouse for sunrise, dancing on tables in the club, and doing yoga at the beach. In addition, the group of people was a lot of fun to be with. I am still in contact with some of them. In fact, I am currently traveling around South East Asia for six weeks with one of the girls I met at the adventure.

Find out why YOU should go to a WMGT Adventure in my blog post here.

January 31st, 2019 – Roys Peak for Sunrise

You might have picked up on the fact that I really enjoy watching the sun rise. The more special the location the happier I am. So naturally, I just had to hike up Roys Peak in Wanaka for sunrise. Let me tell you, it was worth every step of the way. The scenery is so beautiful, I had to pinch myself multiple times to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming.

This could be you standing there!

Roys Peak is not only one of my favorite memories of last year but also one of my favorite walks in New Zealand.

March 4th-6th, 2019 – 3-Day Boat Trip from El Nido to Coron

Being in nature is a big passion of mine, so imagine my excitement about doing a three-day boat trip from El Nido to Coron. Remote beaches, incredible snorkeling spots, sleeping in tents and huts and showering with a bucket. All of that with an amazing group of people. This trip is definitely another one of my top five memories from the last year.

I’ve just published a review of my trip with Buhay Isla, check it out to be convinced to do the same.

March 16th, 2019 – Canyoneering at Kawasan Falls

Remember I told you that I hadn’t jumped from higher than three meters prior to going to Secret Garden of Sambangan and surprised myself by jumping down a ten-meter waterfall? Well, I outdid myself just a week ago. At Kawasan Falls, close to Moalboal in the Philippines, you can do lots of jumps, slides, and swings. I had a great day doing all sorts of jumps including the highest one which was twelve meters high. Definitely don’t miss out on that fun if you’re ever in the area.

Right before doing the highest jump.

Check out my travel guide to Moalboal for planning your trip there!


I’ve learned a lot of things during my year of 21 as well. Like that I could pretty much feel at home anywhere in the world. How to connect with people in all kinds of stages in their life. To let go of my habit of having to plan everything and just go with the flow. When I left for Bali 6 ½ months ago, I would’ve never thought that I would ever go to a place without having pre-booked accommodation or decide where I’ll go to next the night before. But I know love traveling without a real plan and just taking things as they come. That flexibility has allowed me to travel on with people I met along the way.

As you can see, my year of 21 has been a crazy amazing year. I am incredibly grateful for all the things I got to experience, the awesome people I got to meet and the ones who stuck around. I honestly don’t know how to top that year but I’ll give my all trying. Right this moment, I am on a three-day cruise in Halong Bay, Vietnam. So, I have no doubt that many great memories will follow.

I would love for you to keep following along my journey whether it be on here or on Instagram. Thank you for all your continuous support!

So long, Katja

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