A Year in the Life of a Full-Time Traveler
All my life, I’ve dreamed of traveling the world. And in 2011, I achieved what I once thought was impossible without winning the lottery: I became a full-time traveler.
And it wasn’t how I pictured. You DON’T need to be insanely rich to travel the world. I’m incredibly fortunate to have built myself a life rich in time and location independence with enough money to get by. That’s all I need.
So I may not be able to jet anywhere I want at a moment’s notice. But I get to live my life the way I choose: seeing the world. And that makes me SO happy!
Here is what a year in the life of a full-time traveler looks like!
January: Thailand, Laos, Vietnam
I rang in 2011 on Khao San Road in Bangkok. Two days later, it was off to Vang Vieng, Laos (via Thai party train) with a great group I’ll never forget (Chris, Jon, Mona and Anthony), where I stayed for 15 days and enjoyed a debauchery-filled existence the likes of which I’ll never see again. I’m glad to have gone out with a bang.
There was a two-day interlude in overrated Luang Prabang, and then I entered Vietnam (not without almost getting refused to the border). After arriving in Hanoi, I got sick almost immediately and was confined to my bed for days with strep.
February: Vietnam, Cambodia
After returning to Hanoi, I hopped on an overnight bus to the imperial capital of Hue. On that bus ride, I met the five boys who would become my travel companions throughout Vietnam and beyond — Ste, Darren, Sander, Mike — and yes, Dave.
Since Dave and Mike only had four weeks to work through Vietnam, we moved quickly. After a day in Hue, we designed new clothing and celebrated Tet in the beautiful city of Hoi An for three days, then to the wild party beach resort of Nha Trang. Next up was the low-key hippie beach enclave of Mui Ne, where I learned to drive like a Vietnamese madwoman, then the great city of Saigon, a city that “got” me.
On a whim, I went back to Phnom Penh with Ste and Darren, where we got invited to a party in the countryside and experienced the Cambodian Merry-Go-Round of Death, then back to Sihanoukville. After the boys left for Laos, I stayed in Sihanoukville to take a break from the manic travel and get some work done.
March: Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia
After a few more days in Sihanoukville, I practiced the fine art of beach bummery on the enclave of Lonely Beach on the fantastic island of Koh Chang, Thailand, then took a few more days in Bangkok before moving on to a new country: Singapore!
After a few days of reveling in modernity and food stalls, I flew to Bali. My not-so-welcome arrival in Kuta was quickly fixed with surfing lessons and attending my first white party with my new Balinese friends, then I moved on to Ubud for a dose of culture.
I took a ferry to the island of Lombok and shacked up on a nearly empty beach in Senggigi.
And then in the event that changed my life and defined my year, I was shipwrecked on a Perama cruise to Komodo Island.
Post-shipwreck, I recovered in the town of Labuan Bajo, Flores, before flying back to Bali.
April: Indonesia, Thailand, UK
After hearing about the shipwreck, the Alam Sari Resort in Keliki, Bali, invited me to stay with them and recover. What kindness they showed me, and I finished my final eight days in Bali in their wonderful resort, wandering the Balinese artists’ villages.
Then it was back to Bangkok for the greatest festival I’ve ever experienced: SONGKRAN! I reunited with my Vietnam buds Ste and Darren and brought them to meet my blogging friends, Adam, Rob, Poi and Kirsty for three days of throwing water on each other.
And then it was time to say a bittersweet goodbye to Southeast Asia, my home for the past six months, and fly to England, where I soon met up with Dave, whom I had met in Vietnam and who had invited me to visit him in his hometown, Chester.
May: UK, USA, Mexico
I continued my time in Chester with Dave, using it as a base to visit York in northeast England. Soon, my time in Chester came to an end, and I headed to London for a few days, checking out colorful Camden and Shoreditch with my party bud Chris from Vang Vieng.
I then flew home to America for the first time in seven months, dropping into New York City to visit my sister (experiencing some reverse culture shock) before taking the bus home to Boston.
I was home. But not for long.
June: Mexico, USA
My Nourish Retreat in chilled out Sayulita continued, and I learned that even out-of-shape girls can do well at fitness retreats. The next big event, the event for which I had come home, was helping my friend Alexa get ready for her wedding!
Once again, I didn’t get much downtime. At the end of June, Dave arrived in Boston to visit me for two weeks. In the first few days, I took him down the Freedom Trail in Boston and to the tiny fishing/artist town of Rockport, and fed him the best food in Boston nonstop. (If there’s anything I know, it’s the best food in Boston!)
I began July by taking Dave up to White Lake in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, to Maine for some seafood chowda at the Maine Diner, and to Fenway Park on the fourth of July! We wrapped up his visit with a Cape Cod road trip. I’d say that’s a damn good introduction to New England!
And then I finally had a break longer than a few days. The rest of July was spent relaxing at home. A wise decision, as it was my favorite time of year in Boston.
August: USA, UK, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein
I turned 27 at home — I still have yet to celebrate my birthday abroad! — but the next day went off to San Antonio with my mom and sister to participate in the Race to the Alamo, one of the most unique adventures of my life. My sister and I competed as a team against two other blogger teams and ran around the city, got splashed by Shamu, speed trimmed bonsai trees and even won a helicopter trip above the city!
In mid-August I flew back to England — spending my two-hour London layover having a few beers with blogger friends Dylan and Ayngelina — then after a few days back in Chester with Dave, flew to Munich for TBU Innsbruck.
I spent two days exploring Munich (and Germany) for the first time, then moved on to Innsbruck. Both the conference and the location were a fantastic experience on so many levels and one of the highlights of my year.
After the post-conference tour of mountain climbing and rafting in Tirol, I decided to check out the tiny, strange and beautiful principality of Liechtenstein for a few days.
September: Austria, UK
After meeting with Tourism Austria at TBU, I decided to extend my time in Austria, starting with a night at the Interalpen Hotel in Seefeld, a prize I won at TBU. I visited Salzburg and Vienna, then returned to Salzburg to experience a Mozart dinner concert in the world’s oldest restaurant. Right after, I hopped back to England and back to Chester.
I dropped down briefly to London for the first-ever MEARCATS meetup, but the rest of the month was spent in lovely Chester, working hard and getting to know this city better — and yes, that included dressing up and betting on the horses at the Chester Races!
October: UK, Italy
October was also primarily spent enjoying Chester. I visited Manchester a few times and Dave and I climbed Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. It was this month when I began to feel more at home than ever in the UK, especially once we had a mini-Vietnam reunion: me, Dave, Mike and Ste!
After that was the Delicious Emilia-Romagna blog trip with Wilde & Partner PR and Emilia-Romagna Tourism — a fantastic food-filled trip through Italy’s best food region, as we gathered fresh chestnuts, hunted for truffles with dogs, gorged on raw seafood, and I found a new favorite city in Italy.
And the month ended with a bang — with a great Halloween party! Who says Halloween is only in America? In Britain, you can actually buy Amy Winehouse’s exact tattoos!
November: UK, Jordan, Turkey
Immediately after, it was off to Jordan for an amazing week with the Jordan Tourism Board. From floating in the Dead Sea to camping with Bedouins in Wadi Rum, from cooking Jordanian food in Amman to looking incredibly awkward while riding a donkey in Petra, these memories cement Jordan as one of my favorite destinations of the year.
Immediately after, I flew to incredible Istanbul to start my two weeks in Turkey, and also visited creepy Cappadocia and chilled-out Fethiye. The posts from these destinations are on their way.
December: Turkey, UK, USA
I was aching to get back to England, so I spent a few more days in Istanbul before grabbing an earlier flight back to the UK. I got a full week in Chester and also a visit to the Birmingham Christmas Market, the UK’s largest Christmas Market.
Then it was back home to Massachusetts for the holidays. I’m here now and I will probably remain here through the end of the year, but I’ll be visiting New York before I head back to the UK on January 9.
The Overall Takeaway
I visited 15 countries total, 8 of them new. I had more adventures than I ever could imagine. I survived a life-threatening event and met some fantastic people who changed my life.
I officially went full-time as a travel blogger. I grew my web income from paltry to livable. I became a press trip veteran.
I became a somebody in the travel blogging world, with the resulting income, recognition, and opportunities — and that’s what I wanted most of all.
It was a good year.
Stay tuned — I have a lot of plans for 2012, and I’ll be announcing them soon!