2016 Travel Year in Review

January 4, 2017

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This wasn’t the biggest travel year in my life, but it certainly held a few firsts. After spending a few months in San Francisco, bouncing from Airbnb to friend’s spare bedrooms and couches, I decided to try and work remotely in Asia. It’s funny how easily I can now make this kind of leap from finding comfort waking up in the US (with all its sandwiches and pastries) to deciding to hop on a plane to China. Even after living in Japan for two years, I wasn’t so spontaneous.

My goals this year, should I buckle down and try to carry them out, will be as follows: get myself out of crippling credit card debt, and accepting the sacrifices that come with achieving that; get myself into better shape; meet someone new; focus more on reaching out to different publications and extending my network to work remotely. I have my own list of experiences I’d like to add to the ongoing list, but honestly, it just doesn’t seem so important anymore.

I’ve learned and had lessons reinforced during my time traveling last year. For one, when left to my own devices, I’ll typically do little more but eat, sleep, run, and work. Even abroad, even when there are new sights and experiences within reach. I hopped from country to country this trip and didn’t stay in one place for more than 2-3 weeks. If I go back to Asia that needs to change, with me finding accommodation with a kitchen and perhaps room to host a friend or two. However, even these observations may be moot, as I just don’t feel the drive to go out into the world on my own.

I’m not depressed or lacking in motivation when it comes to work and achieving the aforementioned goals, but for my leisure time, everything seems meaningless without someone at my side. Honestly, it’s kept me from moving forward in more ways than one. I had a taste of that kind of happiness two years ago, and losing it was more devastating than I’m willing to admit.

I’ve tried to do a better job socializing this past year by arranging time to meet friends I had primarily spoken to on Facebook and Skype, but for some, it’s made me realize just how far removed our lives are from each other. My Australian friends in the Middle East are good people but they’ll soon have two children in their home; their priorities are just different now. I enjoy hanging out with friends in the Bay Area, but they tend to be busy with regular jobs; we have to schedule time to meet. Travel friends are anywhere and everywhere and though I enjoy the time we do spend together, it’s hardly consistent.

This is my life. It’s not perfect, but there are advantages to it. I still appreciate my flexibility: the ability to drop everything and just travel. I don’t want to be tied down to a 9-to-5 job or a mortgage. However… I do wish there were more people around me, more opportunities to share life with others. I think I’d enjoy having my own space. I don’t really want a car because of traffic, parking, contributing to pollution, and the additional tie down, but I would take advantage of the freedom it provides. I do want a place to hang my hat, but I can’t afford to keep it if there’s work in another city or I feel the itch to travel for even a month.

Countries I’ve traveled this year:

Cambodia – strictly as a tourist, to see Angkor Wat
Thailand – stayed in Chiang Mai and worked remotely
Indonesia – visited a flight attendant friend on her vacation; worked remotely in Canggu
Sri Lanka – worked remotely in Mirissa and Weligama
United Arab Emirates – visited Australian friends living the domestic life
China – entry point; quick stopover to access Asia
Hong Kong – visited my brother and his wife; last chance to get a decent burger

Previous years:

United Kingdom – in the dead of winter, but ended up making a few friends
France – primarily to see my ex on her stopover, but I also did the tourist route
Czech Republic – housesitting for a friend, seeing the sights
Italy – one summer studying Latin in Rome
Peru – teaching English in Arequipa; sand boarding in Ica; Nazca Lines
Costa Rica – only three days, en route to Peru
Canada – Toronto and Vancouver, to see friends
Haiti – rebuilding after the 2010 earthquake
Philippines – market research in 2014; vacation with ex in 2015
Vatican City – same as Italy
New Zealand – working holiday for six months; lived on a Buddhist monastery
Japan – worked as an English teacher and private employee for two years; a few visits for Mt. Fuji and visa runs
South Korea – teaching English for a year
Turkey – Izmir, Pammukale, and Istanbul
Greece – Acropolis and peninsula; all hotels on points
Bulgaria – entry and exit point for Europe; met a few Couchsurfers
Macau – casinos, what else?
Germany – once for Heidelberg Castle in the summer; the other Munich in the winter

This brings my total to 25 out of 216 countries. It’s not a contest, and I wouldn’t mind slowly adding more to the list.

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