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As of today, I’ve been a full-time traveler for five years! A huge milestone and one for which I am deeply grateful.
Five years ago today, I hopped on a plane from New York to Bangkok, excited and a little bit terrified. Within 24 hours, I went from eating at The Spotted Pig near one of my favorite TV stars (Will Arnett) to chowing down on crickets on the streets of Bangkok.
I thought I would travel in Southeast Asia for seven months, then go home for a bit and maybe get a job teaching in Korea. Not at all! When I got back, my blog was making almost enough money for me to continue traveling, so I ramped up the advertising and never went back to traditional work.
My travels in the past five years have taken me to 57 countries. (I visited an additional six countries prior to 2010.) I’ve danced with Vikings and had water fights with children. I’ve eaten kudu and kangaroo and sipped snake blood. I’ve appeared at the White House and worked with the U.S. State Department.
It’s been wonderful and exactly what I’ve wanted. And I thought this would be a great occasion to go through the best adventures of the last five years for those of you who joined me on my journey later on.
There are some things you will notice as you go through all of these photos at once.
The good: in five years, my photography went from fairly horrible to pretty fucking fabulous. Considering that I look back at photos from even six months ago and wince, I’m glad that I keep moving forward.
The bad: in five years, I went from the skinniest I’ve ever been as an adult to yo-yo-ing weight-wise all over the place. Not good, a major challenge not made easier by this lifestyle, and something I’m continuing to work on. That, and you see the creases under my eyes grow deeper and deeper.
The intriguing: I’ve always had far more adventures when single than when in relationships. Does that mean that I’ve always chosen the wrong partners or that I become a more reserved person when in a relationship (or in those particular relationships)? It’s probably a mix.
Either way, I came across this Elizabeth Gilbert quote today and I thought it was worth sharing:
What advice would you give to your twenty-something self?
Beware of romantic entanglement and how much it’s going to take you off the path of becoming the person you need to be. I wince when I look back at all the time and energy that I gave of myself to boys and men in those years, and I just wish that I could have everyone of those hours back for my health. I say that knowing that I needed those experiences too, to become the person that I became. I just see it as such a waste of my life and there’s so much I could’ve been doing. I was doing a lot anyway, but God, I wish I could’ve just said, “I’m going to learn French!” instead of sitting on the couch watching Robocop for the eighth time with this dude.
And with that, I present you with the most comprehensive collection of my adventures around the world in the past five years. I hope you enjoy them!
YEAR ONE: THAILAND TO ITALY
My first day on the road five years ago! Eating insects in Bangkok with Matt.
Despite my fear of motorcycles, I learned how to ride a motorbike in Pai, Thailand. Couldn’t have picked a better place to learn!
Seeing those Petronas Towers for myself in Kuala Lumpur.
My brief career as a German movie star took place on the beach in Ao Nang! Twelve hours of filming netted me around $50. Not bad for a backpacker. Still need to see the final product!
My biggest mistake — getting into a boxing ring in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, getting beaten to a pulp, and having a bloody eyeball for three weeks. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Don’t do this.
And then there was Koh Lanta. The first destination that I fell madly, unequivocally in love with, and a place that I hold close to my heart to this day. I’m heading back for my third visit next month!
And then there was the Thai holiday of Loy Krathong! I celebrated in Koh Lanta, cutting my hair and fingernails and setting it off on a krathong, or floating lantern, to bring me good luck.
(You can see my bloody eye from the boxing fight. I was posing for photos like this, trying to hide the blood, for three weeks.)
I learned to rock climb in Railay, Thailand. The verdict? Not my thing. But that’s okay.
One of the big offbeat adventures in my earlier days was motorbiking solo from Pakse to Tat Lo on the remote Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos. I was the only solo female on a motorbike I saw during the whole trip.
I may have lost my map and broke my motorbike, but I survived!
Tubing down the Mekong in Laos’s 4,000 Islands (Si Phan Don), close to the Cambodian border. We had a fish barbecue, drank quite a bit of Lao Lao (firewater), and then tubed behind the boat as the sun set behind us.
The Killing Fields were my first exposure to Cambodia’s painful recent past. Absolutely devastating, and something that you must do in order to understand Cambodia today.
Another solo motorbike ride took me from Kampot to Kep in Cambodia. That resulting plate of crab was SO good that I forgot how dusty it was and how awful the roads were and did it again three years later.
And then there was SNOOKAY! I had the craziest time of my life in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, including a Christmas booze cruise to remember. Christmas on the beach!
I went back a few months later, but I wouldn’t return again. Things have shifted there.
And then there was Cambodia’s most iconic site Angkor Wat. And the scrambling up and over lots of temples at Angkor.
There was New Year’s Eve in Bangkok, which became the first of many occasions when I pulled together a group of life friends, travel friends, blogger friends (including Steph and Mike), and real friends. Now I do that all the time!
I had gone to my first Bangkok ping pong show alone — YIKES. Super crazy. Insane. Expensive. Scary. Odd.
It wasn’t my last show.
The overnight party train from Bangkok to Vientiane ended with me and four of my best friends from my travels all crammed into a tiny upper bunk with a bottle of Sangsom!
Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos. The parties. The dancing. Ba ba Americano. I’ve seen nothing like it before or since.
Tubing was complicated — it led to a lot of deaths, and it devastated the local community while simultaneously allowing the locals to make a lot of money off its infamy. Either way, I’m glad I got to experience it in 2011 before it ended shortly after.
And there was that time that I almost didn’t get into Vietnam because my visa was dated 1900! I had to bribe my way in and almost got left behind.
And then there was the time I went to the snake restaurant and ate snake bones, drank snake blood and bile, and made out with a dude who looked like Justin Bieber…
Sailing through Halong Bay. It was chilly and the weather wasn’t the best, but what a beautiful and magical spot. And also the home of the craziest booze cruise of my life and the place where I first met the guy who became my boyfriend for a year and a half — though at the time I was oblivious and thought it was weird that he kept coming over to talk to me!
Being in Hoi An for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, brought forth celebrations and one of the best fireworks shows I’ve ever seen. As well as a collection of new custom Vietnamese clothing!
I will NEVER forget my day of motorbiking around Mui Ne, Vietnam, when my friends and I raced the sunset, got stuck in rush hour traffic, drove like maniacs in the world’s craziest driving country, and still survived!
Back in Phnom Penh, my friend Ste finagled an invitation for us to a party in the countryside. Dinner in a local home, carnival games with beer for prizes, and a rusty, falling-apart “merry go round of death” where all the kids wanted to ride with me, taking my hand and yelling, “My friend! My friend!”
Going to Thailand and living on the beach in a $6 a night bungalow. That’s the dream for many, but there aren’t many places where you can do it for that cheap anymore. Except for Koh Chang, that is.
It wasn’t quite ON the beach, and the bathroom was a shared outdoor squat toilet, but I loved it.
Singapore was all about the hawker food. And the henna.
I learned to surf in Bali! I’ve taken several lessons and I seem to get worse every time, so this was the pinnacle of my surfing career! (And yes, I know. They forced me to wear the helmet.)
And we definitely can’t forget that time I was shipwrecked in Indonesia! A horrific night and definitely the worst experience of my travels, but to be frank, it did more for my blog than any other experience I’ve had.
I landed back in Bangkok just in time for Songkran — a three-day water fight celebrating the New Year! One of the best festivals ever. NO ONE IS SAFE.
Love Harry Potter? Make a visit to Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station in London!
Next up, I pushed myself at a fitness retreat in Sayulita, Mexico, and proved that you don’t have to be super in shape to get a lot out of a week of fitness.
I surfed again! This time in Sayulita, Mexico, with no helmet and no board shorts!!
My sister and I teamed up for an Amazing Race-like event called Race to the Alamo in San Antonio and I got lassoed by a cowboy. Strange and awesome.
The prize for winning that day’s event was a great — a ride over San Antonio in a helicopter!
After that summer, I returned to Europe, which became my base for a few years. This hike through the Tirolean Alps, near Innsbruck in Austria, was way beyond my fitness level and I couldn’t walk for days afterward. Probably the most physically taxing thing I’ve ever done. That view, though!
I called Liechtenstein “The Strange and Beautiful” — and this tiny country certainly was! Nothing like sipping wine in the prince’s private vineyards.
At the Chester Races in Chester, England, I dressed up, wore my fascinator, bet on the horses, and won big! (Exactly once. Then lost the rest of the day.)
Climbing Mount Snowdon, Wales’ highest peak, was another major physical achievement for me.
Hunting for truffles with dogs in the hills of Romagna, Italy. A fun way to gather one of the world’s most glorious foods!
YEAR TWO: JORDAN TO SWEDEN
Petra, Jordan, is probably the coolest ancient site I’ve ever seen. And that climb to the view of the monastery is rewarding!
Waking up at sunrise for a camel ride across the desert in Wadi Rum, Jordan. Incredible.
Getting muddy and floating in the Dead Sea? Absolutely! And then I cut my foot in the Dead Sea (SO SALTY, SO PAINFUL) and tracked blood all over the resort while being followed by a staffer with a mop.
Up next was my first-ever hammam experience, in Istanbul. In short, getting totally naked and taking a rogue boob to the face during a massage. 10/10, would do again.
Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey, is the ultimate cliche — and so totally worth it.
To this day, I say that Up Helly Aa, the Viking Fire Festival in Shetland, is the best thing I have ever done on my travels. It’s like nothing else.
And visiting the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, is probably my favorite architecture experience in the world. As was watching the sunset from Plaza San Nicolas while listening to flamenco.
Then there was the time my friend Kevin and I crashed a wedding in Pennsylvania! We did not know this bride!
Iceland is chock full of adventure opportunities, and I started my five-day stopover with glacier hiking in the south.
Don’t forget the ice climbing! Surprisingly, I loved it far more than rock climbing.
And the Blue Lagoon on a gloriously sunny day, of course.
Would you ever snorkel in near-freezing water? Thanks to a dry suit, I snorkeled the cold geological fissure between the European and American continents in Silfra, Iceland.
Horseback riding with the furry and unique horses of Iceland.
Sailing the islands off Croatia, from Split to Dubrovnik, was an incredibly fun week! This trip to Croatia ignited my love for the Balkans, my favorite region in the world and a place I return to every summer.
When sailing through Croatia in the summer, sometimes you’ve got to do crazy party things — like have sunset cocktails on top of a decrepit tower of the city walls in the Old City of Korčula.
Swimming in the saltwater lakes of Mljet, Croatia. With only 15 minutes to enjoy the national park, was it worth it? HELL YES. We ran in like maniacs, splashed around, and ran back to get our ferry.
You really can’t understand the Balkans until you confront their devastating history firsthand — like here in Mostar, Bosnia.
Whitewater rafting is super fun on its own — but there is nowhere so beautiful to do it as Tara Canyon, Montenegro. I was agape the whole time!
The Faroe Islands are definitely the most off-the-beaten-path place I’ve ever visited — and definitely among the most beautiful. I loved it there and want to go back.
The Douro Valley of Portugal is super underrated and super delicious — and I spent the entire time there drinking my body weight in port, which it turns out I love!
Being served ice cream by the chef from the #1 restaurant in the world. Literally. That’s Jodi Roca, pastry chef at El Cellar de Can Roca in Costa Brava, Spain. And sometimes he pops in to serve customers at his gelato shop, Rocambolesc!
In Stockholm, I started a new tradition — sending my friends’ babies their first postcard. It’s a keepsake for the babies and I guarantee it makes their moms cry some happy tears!
YEAR THREE: SOUTH AFRICA TO AUSTRALIA
And then there was South Africa. A country with which I fell madly in love and hold close to my heart to this day. Nothing in the world will blow you away like a safari! I feel so privileged to have seen endangered rhinos, and all the more compelled to work to save these beautiful animals.
The Blue Train — across South Africa on one of the world’s most luxurious trains. Just wild. And we spent the night drinking cognac and smoking Cuban cigars like we were in a rap video!
And then our train was attacked by rock-throwing protestors the next morning…
On top of Table Mountain in Cape Town. What a view of one of the most beautifully set cities in the world.
The Fête des Lumieres in Lyon, France, was an underrated (albeit cold!) festival with some of the best lighting special effects I’ve ever seen.
New Year’s Eve was in Edinburgh that year, which meant bringing in the new year with a peaceful torchlight procession.
I bought myself a few more years of good skin in Sligachan on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, where soaking your face in the waters brings eternal youth!
I’ve done a lot of wine tasting, but the best ever was in Chianciano Terme, Tuscany. So many wines, so many brilliant cured meats (my introduction to finocchionna!), all in a wine cellar that was more of a closet.
Road tripping from Cape Town to East London in South Africa — the best, most fun, most adventurous, and most visually stunning road trip I’ve ever done.
Horseback riding at sunset in Swellendam, South Africa.
Hanging out at Ronnie’s Sex Shop in South Africa, the coolest rest stop in the world, filled with lots of underwear.
Crocodile cage diving in South Africa! Screaming with Nadine as the crocs lazily swam around us.
And then there was attempting to get over my fear of birds by letting ostriches surround me and peck at a bucket of feed. Yes, it was terrifying. 10/10, would never do again.
My first-ever SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) session on the lagoon in Sedgefield, South Africa! Wetsuit unnecessary.
Seeing dolphins in the wild for the first time ever was so moving! Seen on a safari in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa.
Forget city sidewalks — go on a Segway trip through the Tsitsikamma Forest in South Africa!
While I keep getting worse in each surfing lesson, at least I got to experience sunset surfing in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.
Seeing more elephants than I’d ever seen — even more than in Kruger National Park! — in Addo Elephant Park, South Africa.
Sometimes you’ll walk into a shipping container in Amsterdam and find THIS inside. A place called Pllek, and their food is fabulous. You’d never guess this was inside.
There’s nothing more quintessentially Parisian than a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower with Edna, Ashley, and Julika!
One of the happiest moments of my life — running through a parmigiano reggiano cheese factory in Parma, Italy!
I love visiting micro-nations. One of my favorites? Mountainous San Marino. And I loved getting to meet their national football team’s keeper!
I’ve been on many beautiful train rides, but I don’t think anything can top the Lucerne-Interlaken line in Switzerland. It looks like you’re riding through a toy world!
Celebrating the Festa of St. George in Qormi, Malta, watching an entire town come together in quintessential Maltese piety and opulence.
Lake Ohrid in Macedonia was one of the most lovely places I visited. I’ve never seen the sky and water meld into each other so seamlessly.
Visiting Kosovo was incredibly moving as an American, and I was welcomed with open arms (and asked for my phone number!) by virtually every person with whom I conversed. And, of course, there’s posing with Bill in the capital of Prishtina.
In Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, I was at one of the lowest points of my travel life — and survived the worst train of my life, which was overheated and falling apart.
In Dubai on your 29th birthday? Celebrate with camel milk cocktails on top of the tallest building in the world!
“Geisha hunting” is a sport in Kyoto, where tourists keep an eye out for the elusive female entertainers. I was so lucky to catch a brief glimpse of one — and this photo — in the Gion neighborhood.
South Korea is famous for its puppy and kitten cafes, and in Seoul, I had this adorable little dog stick to me all afternoon long.
Swimming in (crocodile-free!) rockholes in the Northern Territory was probably my favorite experience in all of Australia. This one was in Litchfield National Park.
Crocodile cage diving, round two! My experience at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia, which included teasing a testy croc with food, was far scarier than my South African experience.
Witnessing the sunset at Uluru, glass of champagne in hand. And witnessing the sunrise, coffee in hand.
Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It looks like a terrifying experience, but trust me — it wasn’t scary at all! Just exhilarating.
YEAR FOUR: THAILAND TO NORWAY
Getting stuck in the mud on a rainy day in Kampot, Cambodia. Turns out that when it rains here, the whole city floods — but that doesn’t stop people from biking through the knee-deep water!
Brunei is a country that left me perplexed and uneasy, but I’ll never forget the day I spent visiting a school in a water village.
The best sunset I’ve ever seen was in Boracay in the Philippines.
Hong Kong was riveting, but nothing could top doing dim sum in a very traditional place, feeling like I’d stumbled in on a huge secret. Except maybe the night I ate a whole fried pigeon with my hands.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans was astonishing — the parades! The costumes! The music! The camaraderie! The good times rolled, and I grabbed as much of them as I could.
Road tripping through the American South was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my own country. I especially loved the food, the white beaches of Florida, and stopping in small towns where the culture was so different from my New England upbringing.
I usually shy away from scary activities, but in Savannah I went on the Dead of Night Tour, a late-night adults-only ghost tour, and scared myself shitless. One of the best tours I have ever done.
Wading into the Wadden Sea in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, carrying a net and wearing tall rubber boots, was the kind of thing I’d ordinarily hate — but I loved getting muddy and exploring the wildlife on the shoreline!
Flyboarding! I got to fly like Iron Man in Malta. Super fun — you’ve got to do this!
Climbing to the top of Skellig Michael, off the southwest coast of Ireland, home to ancient beehive-shaped stone huts built by monks, and a very difficult place to land a boat even to this day. I can’t believe this island isn’t more famous.
Watching Croatia win a World Cup match against Cameroon in downtown Zagreb, to much chaos and celebration. Major sports events are electrifying, but nothing tops the atmosphere of the World Cup!
Walking the walls of Dubrovnik. It was the second time I had done so, but let’s just say that these photos are far and away better than my first round!
Kayaking around the Old City of Dubrovnik with Rachelle. What I love about the Balkans is how both the natural and manmade beauty comes together so beautifully. Seeing Dubrovnik from the water was another example of how this city was built in the perfect setting.
Experiencing Ana Desetnica Festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, possibly the most charming and lovely street theater festival in the world (and it couldn’t be set in a better city).
Getting a private tour of the Skocjan Caves in Slovenia. My friend Peter and I got to explore those gargantuan caves on our own, and it felt like being in The Magic School Bus Goes to the Center of the Earth.
And then there was beautiful Lake Bled — and rowing across it while Peter swam next to my boat, to the great delight of Chinese tourists who took about 100 photos of us.
Getting naked beneath the midnight sun in Kuhmo, Finland. One minute I was in a sauna with a group of female musicians from around the world, and the next we were skinny-dipping in a warm lake as the sky turned from pink to ashy blue. I’ve never felt so wild and so at peace simultaneously.
Going local at Carpino Folk Festival in Puglia, Italy with traditional music and concerts. This is a very local and traditional festival and I’m almost certain that Abi and I were the only people there who didn’t come from the immediate region.
After the festival, an impromptu Puglia road trip led me here: Alberobello, home of the white trulli homes.
Cruising through fjords in southwest Norway. The scenery was unforgettable and this has since become my new default photo!
YEAR FIVE: SRI LANKA TO SPAIN
Climbing to the top of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka. Getting to the top of this giant rock and seeing the landscape made me feel like I was truly one with Sri Lanka.
Visiting my 100th UNESCO World Heritage Site: Kandy, Sri Lanka! (Since then, a few newly named sites I visited prior to 2014 knocked Kandy to #102.)
Getting invited to the White House! The White House had their first-ever Travel Blogger Summit and invited me to come. It was a huge honor to be part of it and brainstorm how to get more Americans to study abroad.
Time to hit up a new region: Central America. Ziplining through the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica was gorgeous. I even went through a rainbow!
Surviving (and thriving!) at Sunday Funday in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. This is the most legendary all-day weekly party in Central America and I rocked every minute of it. And by that, I mean I was home by 10:30 PM. #thisis30
All the adventure in Ometepe, Nicaragua. Kayaking, chicken buses, brilliant sunsets, and hanging out in a swimming pool on an isthmus on an island in a lake on another isthmus.
Spending a windy Valentine’s Day swimming in the volcanic waters of Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua. A day of pure joy.
Discovering an undiscovered corner of the Caribbean: Little Corn Island, Nicaragua. And it’s not going to stay undiscovered for long!
Volcano boarding — quite unsuccessfully — on Cerro Negro, outside León, Nicaragua. I wouldn’t do it again, but hey, at least I have the photos in that way-too-big prison jumpsuit.
Running my first tour with Leif in El Salvador and Guatemala. And the most Guatemalan mode of transportation: standing in the back of a pickup truck!
Not to mention having a pizza booze cruise on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
In between tours, I gave the keynote at the Women in Travel Summit in Boston, talking about how to fix gender inequality in the travel blogging industry.
Running my second tour with Leif. Catching every sunset (and a few waves) in El Tunco, El Salvador.
And our kayaking pub crawl took place through the rain in Lake Atitlan!
Swimming in the pools at Semuc Champey, Guatemala, was a lot of fun, but even better was swimming through the nearby caves while decked out in war paint and holding candles for light!
Seeing bones of human sacrifices in Belize. The ATM caves are one of the spookiest, most interesting, and most unique places I’ve ever seen, and I can’t believe people are allowed to actually go in and see the untouched skeletons! (Nope, not naked there. It’s the lighting.)
With a lifelong fear of feeling fish touch me while I swim, swimming with sharks was the last thing my family expected me to do. But I did it in Belize! And yes, it was frightening. But not as frightening as the tuna that swam near the sharks.
Spending three days sailing on a catamaran through the Belize Barrier Reef was pure bliss. Snorkeling, tanning, dancing, partying, camping on uninhabited islands, and making a wild array of new friends. I want to go back!
On my fourth trip to Mexico, I finally swam in a cenote! Spooky in the best way, and chilling out with swimming turtles was super-fun.
Went to Milwaukee to lead a Bloghouse; won more than $100 in the casino!
Watching a modern and pragmatic Scandinavian city — Copenhagen — do an about-face and light a bonfire to scare witches away. Sankt Hans was not the typical Danish holiday I expected!
Visiting the random little country of Andorra and discovering that, well, it wasn’t really for me.
Finally making it to Santorini! Walking through the white villages, photographing the brilliant sunsets, and having the whole island seeing my underwear after I ill-advisedly wore a flouncy dress on a windy day.
Getting way off the beaten path again in Ksamil, Albania. Discovering some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen in Europe — and nobody knows about them.
The other end of the Albanian spectrum — climbing to the top of the decrepit pyramid in downtown Tirana. A very weird place.
At age 30, I went to my first-ever music festival, Sea Dance in Budva, Montenegro! I had an absolute blast with my buds Jeremy and Ryan and had one of the best nights of my life there (if not the best).
In Kotor, I spent five days living in a haunted apartment. Seriously. It wasn’t advertised that way, but after my experience, I have no doubt that there was a presence in the room where I slept, and it made itself known on a frequent basis.
I’ve been saving that story for the right time! I’ll be writing about it soon.
Also in Kotor, I climbed to the top of the fortress — for the second time! Definitely the best early morning workout you can have!
Belgrade was wild and wonderfully weird — it seemed like wherever I went, guys would appear with guitars and accordions and they would start playing music for us! Almost like a mariachi band that follows you around and narrates your life.
In Riga, we brought our very American selves to very non-American karaoke and gave a few performances for the ages!
In Sicily, my mom, sister and I were the first family relatives to return to my great-grandfather’s village, Castanea delle Furie, after he left as an 11-year-old in 1899. After seeing Castanea in person, we feel like we understand him a bit more — he was trapped in a tiny, isolated town and had nowhere else to go. So he most likely ran away.
Ever hiked a volcano while drinking wine made from grapes endemic to the volcano? Mount Etna in Sicily has you covered.
Even after many trips to my beloved Edinburgh, I fell in love with it again after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! Such a fun festival with so many cheap (and often weird) performances and unlimited ways to spend your time.
Second time in Iceland? Let’s go see some waterfalls. Like Gulfoss.
Swimming in the rain? Steam fogging up the lens? Lifeguards in winter coats? Must be the Blue Lagoon in August!
Back home in New York, decked out and dancing at 7:00 AM. It’s a Daybreaker party and I know there are many more in my future!
And there was the time I became a gin specialist in the UK.
The time I indulged my inner Beatles fan in Liverpool…
And the time when I hung out in the lawless land of Christiania, Copenhagen.
So where am I today as I write this?
I’m in Mallorca, chilling in a villa and enjoying lots of cava with Cailin, Vicky, and Candice! Because of all the rewards I’ve had from this travel lifestyle, friendship is the greatest reward of all. I love that I have so many friends I can meet in random places around the world.
What’s coming up in the next five years?
Quite a bit! Obviously I don’t have much planned out, but I’d love to go to Antarctica and New Zealand, see islands in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, walk the Camino de Santiago, finally learn to dive, and live in New York City, of course. My 64th country, I can tell you almost certainly, will be Myanmar later this fall.
But after five years, I’m ready to slow down, so to speak. That’s not to invalidate the past five years — far from it! Change is good and while being a vagabond has been the best thing for me and my life, I’m now ready to build more connections at home and reduce my travels in favor of trying new and cool things in my business. It’s been fun and it’s time for something new.
142 thoughts on “Five Years of Travel: The Best Experiences”
Kate, this is amazing and HAPPY ANNIVERSAIRY.
It must be incredible to see the person you were at the beginning and how much you have seen and accomplished in that time. To now seeing the person you are today (with your Cava).
Congrats, and here is to the next five *clink*
Thanks so much, Sarah! I appreciate it!
Rogue boob… pretty much sums up my hammam experience, too (though I got warbling from the lady). And a first day abroad with Matt? Definitely an omen. Many congrats, and may the years be many more!
Thanks so much, Cat! Haha, got to love the rogue boobs.
Congratulations on five years! It’s flown by, hasn’t it? I was scrolling through the Sayulita and San Antonion posts and thinking that was only just recently…can’t believe it’s been so long! Friendship-wise, I’m happy I randomly found your twitter while in Singapore that day in 2011 🙂 Here’s to your next adventure and the next five years!
Thanks so much, Edna! I’ve loved having you as a friend during all this time and I can’t imagine how Singapore would have gone without you!
This is just incredible – I hope you are working on a book about all of this 🙂 Happy travel-versary!!! Can’t wait to follow along for more adventures.
Haha, thanks so much, Jenia!
What an amazing 5 years! I also read that Elizabeth Gilbert quote, and it really resonated with me as a single 22 year old to keep doing things that I know I want to do and there’s no need to compromise right now.
My favourite ones have to be surfing with a helmet on (what the hec?!), eating gelato from a top chef and crocodile cage diving. It’s also really cool how you’ve used the opportunity to voluntarily confront your fears, there’s a lot to be said about that.
Thank you so much, Rebecca! You’re smart — it’s good to be single in your early twenties, as these are such formative years.
Congratulations! You have always inspired me and I am currently planning my next travel venture! I am glad Parma’s cheese factory made it in there – hopefully we will meet again in another random place! 🙂
Thanks so much, Alex! We are overdue for another random meeting!
Oh my days! What an incredible five years! Congratulations!
I love that you rave about Up Helly Aa, I’ve been seriously considering doing this this winter but unfortunately I’m not going to be able to make it now. Gutted!
‘Rogue boob’ hahaha!
I hope Myanmar blows you away as much as it did me – incredible!
Hope your next five years are just as amazing!
Thank you so much, Rachel! And try to make Up Helly Aa next year; it’s incredible!
Kate, I absolutely loved this post. I’ve only been reading your blog for less than a year, so it was fascinating to read about your earlier adventures. As for myself, I’m just starting my second year of life in Europe — when asked to move to Switzerland to be with my now-fiance, I parlayed an intensive, soul-sucking desk job in New York City to into a remote position I can do from anywhere around the world — and we’ve been taking full advantage of that! I really, really hope that in three more years I’ll be able to look back on my life and have it full of as much adventure, craziness, wild experiences and memories (good and bad!) as you do in this post. In any case, I know it’ll have been better than 5 years of working 12 hour days at a desk. Thank you so much for being a continual inspiration — can’t wait to see what’s next for you!
Good for you, Michelle! So many people are too afraid to ask to do their job remotely — I’m glad you were able to do so!
Wow! It must’ve been great to write this post and look back at all your experiences! I for one enjoyed reading about them! It was a great five years and I can’t wait for your upcoming adventures!
Thank you so much, Dominique!
What an epic post!! I really enjoyed the first year as it’s like a diary of what I’m doing now. I’m in Vang Vieng as I write this comment. It’s definitely mellow compared with what I heard it used to be like, but there are plenty of plastered Brits keeping the party alive… I’m impressed you did the Bolaven Plateau by yourself. I decided at the start of this trip that I wasn’t going to ride a motorbike unless I was a passenger and the driver was someone I trusted. It’s a massive pain not riding a motorbike in Asia and now I’m wondering if I should have learnt before I came out here… Anyway, congratulations on your amazing five years of travel. I hope there are many more to come!
Thanks, Arianwen! You can still learn to motorbike — I found Pai to be the perfect place for that. Cheap rates and empty roads with lots to see in the surrounding area.
I absolutely enjoyed reading this. Happy 5 year anniversary. You, my dear, are simply amazing, and somehow manage to always look beautiful and put together in every photo! When I’m traveling, well, yeah, let’s just say I don’t haha! I’m so excited for you having done all this, and if I can ever manage just a fraction, I’ll say that I lived well. Wish you the best on your next adventures, stay safe, and keep on smiling!
Awww, thank you, Roxy! What a kind comment! Believe me, I look weird in most photos; these are just the best ones!
Congrats on an amazing 5 years!! Loved seeing all the highlights again 🙂
When I first found your blog I went back to the beginning and read each one of your adventures. I’ve loved hearing your honest take on each and every destination. Thanks for continuing to inspire me and a lot of other wanderlusters out there. Can’t wait to see whats next for you!
I appreciate that so much, Kassie! Thank you!
Wow – what an amazing 5 years you have had. Cheers to beautiful new adventures for you!
Thanks so much, Cathi!
Looks like you didn’t waste a day 🙂 I really enjoyed reading this post as I am a fairly new reader and it was fun to catch up on all of your adventures. The highlights of the last five years for me were two cross country road trips with my dad, moving back home to New Orleans, and backpacking through Southeast Asia this past spring and summer!
Welcome, Tempesst! I’m glad you got to see some of the old adventures! New Orleans is awesome.
What an experience!!! Your life in 5 years is probably more than a lot of people’s 50. It was very inspiring and I’m looking foreard to hear what happened in Kotor! 😉
Haha, thanks so much, Matin! And you’ll find out soon!
I started following your blog and travels in early 2012 and I can’t believe your stories have been accompanying my life for over three years now! I loved reading this post and remembering where I read about these adventures for the first time! Can’t wait to see where the next five years of travel take you!
Aww, thank you so much, Julika! Hope to see you again soon!
Happy Anniversary! I’ve enjoyed following along on your adventures over the last five years – I started following your blog way back in 2009, when I was 26 and quite unhappy with the current state of my life. At the time, I was planning my own open-ended trip to Australia (which I did end up taking). I didn’t end up traveling as long as you have, but that trip definitely sent my life into a different and ultimately, better, direction. I’m looking forward to reading about your next five years!
Thank you so much, Brandy! I’m so glad that adventure was able to change your life in such a positive way.
What experiences… what a life! Happy anniversary and congratulations!
Thank you, LC!
What an amazing and exciting five years!
No one could ever accuse you of not living life to fullest.
I now know what you mean about your travel photography 😛
Can’t wait to see what the next five years will bring
Thanks so much, Britt!
I’m happy to see women, who like me, live life to the fullest no matter what and stay true to themselves.
Bravo to you!
Thank you and thanks for reading, Elena!
What an incredible and jam-packed five years! I can imagine mine would look quite similar if I were to write down but with settled breaks in between. Good luck for year six! I am sure you will love New Zealand – my home country 🙂
Thank you, Katie! I bet you’ve had a ton of adventures in the last few years!
AWESOME. Congrats, Kate!
I’ve been following you for awhile and love hearing about your travels! This post is an awesome look into the benefits and unique opportunities that come with travel. I hope to venture internationally more in the next few years and have used your blog as a guide for choosing destinations. Thanks for sharing your world!
Thank you, Hannah! I’m so happy to hear that. Thanks for reading.
Looks like an amazing five years jam-packed with incredible adventures. Cheers to living life to the fullest!
Thank you, Nick!
Such glorious five years ! I am so inspired. Keep seeing the world and have an even greater 10 years post in future 🙂
Thanks so much, Puru!
Kate, congrats on a wonderful five years! I have loved following your adventures from the day you landed in SE Asia, and I can honestly say that I don’t even begin to plan a vacation without consulting your site first (and many times after that). Here’s to the next five!
Mary, that means so much to me to hear that. Thanks so much!
What a fantastic time you’ve had in five wonderful years. Cooooongratulations to you. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer girl! Well done!
My favorite adventures in the past five years have been fnally learning how to ride a horse in Wales. Properly! And learning how to ride a bike. Don’t ask! Going to the USA, organising a family trip around Thailand, Indonesia, Qatar & Korea all by myself, hiking up a live volcano in Bali and nearly killing myself in the process, my German husband producing 3 music albums, my son on the books of a modelling agency, becoming Germany’s expert on the British monarchy and finding myself on prime-time radio and German TV!
Most importantly, starting my blog which as of October 21st, became 2 years old. It has been fabulous!
Thank you for reading all along, Victoria, and I’m so glad we got to meet in Berlin! You’ve been off on so many adventures in that time!
Wow, you have had some incredible memories the past 5 years. We love reading your blog and keeping up to date on your travels. One of my favorite blog posts of yours would have to be your shipwreck in Indonesia! I still can’t fathom what that must have been like. Your success has inspired so many others. We look forward to following your future travels!
The shipwreck is the craziest experience I’ve had. And people always ask what the most dangerous situation I’ve been in has been — that is always at the top!
What an adventure!!! Kate, congratulation with 5 years of traveling!
You are rocking it with all your stories!!
Thank you, Paulien!
What an epic half a decade!! Looking through this “timeline” I can’t believe how long I’ve been following your blog! Thanks for inspiring me to spend a lot longer in Asia than I would have done, and for all your hard work showing us the world! 🙂 I’m looking forward to all the adventures you have in store!
Thanks so much, Clazz! I’m so glad you’ve had adventures in Asia!
I have been reading since 2013 and and LOVE your blog ( i also follow you on snapchat). Your travels inspire me and I have discovered so many new places that I want to experience and explore from reading your blog.
Congratulations on the past 5 years! Hears to another epic 5!
Thank you, Erin! Thanks for reading and for sticking around so long!
I have been reading your blog for a few years now and its really you who has inspired me to take the leap, and so leave for my round the world trip in January. I’ve never commented on one of your posts before (even though I have never missed a single one), but I just felt like I needed to say how amazing this post was, how inspiring your writing, storytelling and photos are and how much each and every one has meant to me. Thank you so much for all of your hard work in making this blog a truly amazing resource for me and others like me. Charlotte x