The third year of blogging and travel is over! It’s tough to believe that another year of travel has passed us by and what a year it was. In 2018, we traveled more than any year previously. It led across four continents, 24 countries, seven states, and over 80 flights.
It was a big year for our blog and our personal lives. One that was a roller coaster ride filled with plenty of highs along with moments that made us want to throw our suitcases in a river and book a flight home.
In the last hours of 2018, we’ll pick up the keys to our new place in Canada and finally settle down. Don’t worry it’s far from the end of the journey! You’re probably wondering how did we get to this point?
The World Pursuit 2018 Rewind
We will never snowboard in Bansko again
After an epic New Years Eve in Scotland, we started our year in Bulgaria. We had plans to snowboard the entire season in Europe and North America and wanted to warm up our legs somewhere affordable. We heard that Bansko ski resort was a good cheap option in Europe so we made our way to Bulgaria to check it out.
We booked seven days, but after three I wish we had moved on. A ski holiday in Bansko is something I could never recommend to anyone – especially beginners in the high season or experts. Because lift tickets only cost 58 BGN (€30) the resort is terribly overcrowded – I couldn’t believe the sheer amount of people on one run, plus the multiple fist fights we witnessed from head-on collisions.
Had it been my first ski holiday and I was learning I would have given up and said the whole sport sucked. It put a damper on the beginning of our ski season, but thankfully we made our way to the beautiful Dolomites right after and quickly forgot all about Bansko. You can read more about Bansko here.
Lift tickets in Europe are so much cheaper than in North America
After Bansko, we spent the next month or so in the Swiss Alps, Austrian Alps, Italy, and even made a pitstop in Liechtenstein! All were amazing and we can’t wait to return for more snowboarding in the Alps. Compared to Bansko the skiing and pistes were like heaven.
The Alps were a bit of surprise as Americans because we think a ski holiday in Europe is for the rich and famous when in reality, it’s more affordable than North America. For a one day lift ticket in say Italy or Austria you can expect to pay between €45-60. Compare that to a lift pass at Big Sky in Montana for $140 or Aspen, Colorado which is upwards of $180!
With lodging and food options costing about the same as America, I actually think taking a ski/snowboard holiday in Europe is pretty good value. As a massive bonus, it’s very cultural if you pick the right region, We loved Trentino, Vorarlberg, and 4 Vallees!
We fell in love with Canada
After snowboarding in Europe we made our way to Canada. Although, we are both American we had never traveled to Canada as adults (and I’m from Michigan!). Our trip began in Mont Tremblant with another epic snowboarding trip in the most charming ski resort village we’ve seen in North America.
With small mountains and limited snowfall in the East, we made our way out West to explore the Canadian Rocky Mountains. For a month we drove around Alberta and British Columbia and visited a handful of towns and ski resorts. At the time we had been itching for a more permanent home and had a feeling that Canada might be our future home.
By the time we left, we knew that it was meant to be. Western Canada had the mountains and outdoor culture that we love in the US – without the gun violence and social issues we see at home. They’re our “socialist” neighbors to the North! Pretty much I can walk to the supermarket in my yoga pants and sweatshirt and buy coconut milk creamer without fear of being shot in the supermarket.
We finally explored the Western United States
After Canada, we made way for Colorado to check out some more of the ski resorts and mountain towns. Despite the fact we’re Americans we haven’t traveled our own country extensively – pretty hard when it’s bigger and has more states than all of Europe.
So for the month of March, we hit up some amazing ski resorts like Aspen, Breckenridge, Big Sky, Whitefish, and Schweitzer. We also visited some smaller ski resorts in Idaho like Silver Mountain and Lookout Pass. It was a tremendous time and really enjoyed exploring more or our own country. Now, we are making room in our schedule to check out more states like Oregon and Utah next year!
We visited Las Vegas
When San Fransico startup TravelBank reached out to us last minute to see if we wanted to take a weekend in Las Vegas we were intrigued. It’s a city known for its excess smackdab in the middle of the desert filled with casinos and clubs.
We were flown out to have an “Instagram” weekend in Las Vegas. Which basically meant we could go to all the best photo spots without having to coordinate anything ourselves or look ridiculous taking hundreds of photos. I’m not going to say that Vegas is our my cup of tea, but it’s definitely worth doing once in your life.
It was great to visit as a group as we did things on a much larger “Vegas budget,” than I ever would have. Staying in one of the best hotels, bottle service at the clubs, great restaurants, and drinking top-shelf cocktails is the way to do Vegas your first time around.
We made it to the Galapagos Islands
Visiting the Galapagos Islands has been high on our bucket list for years. When I first backpacked Ecuador in 2015 I wanted to go to the Galapagos, except I had no idea they were an expensive plane ride away from the mainland, so I abandoned that idea very fast.
As we found more of a passion for wildlife conservation, especially after our year in Africa we only wanted to visit more. The Galapagos Islands are one of those bucket list wildlife destinations. We didn’t know what to expect, but our Galapagos cruise exceeded all expectations. Wildlife that can be seen nowhere else in the world is abundant on wild undeveloped volcanic islands. It’s an unreal destination that only a lucky few get to visit due to high prices and strict conservation regulations.
A real highlight was in the waters around Isabela island as we found ourselves surrounded by a flotilla of at least 50 sea turtles – literally bumping into us. Unlike other places, we had snorkeled these turtles didn’t seem to mind our presence and let us hang out with them for as long as we wanted. That is the beauty of the Galapagos Islands.
The government caps visitors to the islands, and it’s also a very expensive destination, meaning there aren’t hordes of tourists everywhere. For some animals, it was their first time seeing humans so they weren’t afraid of us! Read more about that trip here.
and Machu Picchu!
Yes! When we had five spare days in South America we went to the most touristy place in Peru – and it was incredible. Sometimes touristy places can be a huge letdown, but Machu Picchu is anything but a letdown. Exploring the mysterious Incan city blew our minds, for example, much of the construction was done without mortar – just stacked stone. The site is fascinating and begs to be explored more as does Peru. In fact, we loved Machu Picchu so much we went two days in a row – read the full blog post here.
We didn’t love Tulum
We picked a few bad destinations this year, and for us, Tulum was one of them. I know that the beach town is loved by many and hailed as “The Bali of the West,” but it didn’t do it for us.
To start the trip off right we had our first catastrophic Airbnb experience with a nasty and mean host. We went out of or the way to book a rental car with Alamo as we have had good experiences with them in the past, and ended up getting scammed with them trying to charge us for damages we did not do.
And to top off the trip, when we got to the airport to depart Chase froze our credit card and alerted me of possible fraudulent charges on our account. The waiter at the taco place the night before had swapped out our Chase Sapphire card for an expired card that was the exact same. He or his friends then went on a little shopping spree at the electronic store later. Thankfully, Chase flagged the charges immediately and declined the purchase. However, we did have to cancel our main credit card which meant we couldn’t use it at our next destination.
In the end, we didn’t want to be in Cancun or Playa Del Carmen as we aren’t those Spring Break party people. We were searching for a more chill holiday in Tulum, but also found it incredibly popular, and overpriced, and the poor beaches were suffering from another year of sargassum. We would still give Tulum another try, but it’s not at the top of our destination list. You know it’s bad when I don’t even have a photo to put in this section because we didn’t take any…
We found Hawaii too American
This year was the year of new states, at least for me as I had never traveled to Hawaii before. We were set to travel around Kauai, the Big Island, Oahu, and Maui over the span of two weeks. It would be an epic introduction to Hawaii. I prepared myself with multiple watches of Lilo and Stich and Moana before we boarded our flight to Honolulu. Hawaii was another contender on our list of “we could live here places,” and we were eager to explore the islands.
There is no denying that Hawaii is downright jaw-dropping and it’s easy to see why it’s a vacation destination. Cruising along the Na Pali coast on Kauai feels like another world and is jaw-dropping. It was only the first of many Hawaiian landscapes that would leave us blown away by the beauty. They’re incredibly diverse with almost every biome possible on earth which is wild for the small island chain.
The beaches on Hawaii are spectacular, the marine life is abundant, and much of the islands are draped in verdant tropical plants. We would return to Hawaii in a heartbeat and know we’ll be back someday soon. But we realized quickly that our preconceived notions of Hawaii like Polynesian culture and an untouched paradise are not reality.
Instead, we found that Hawaii is as American as the mainland, and has been for years. Oversized trucks, large corporations, Walmarts, and dare I say guns? Seriously, it was the first time in all of our travels someone threatened to shoot our drone down because it was “too close to his property”/
weed farm. (*sidenote: It’s highly illegal to shoot down any aircraft in the US in addition to damaging personal property)
Obviously, we couldn’t help but think about how Hawaii’s cultural identity has been stripped away over the years by the mainlanders. And if we as Americans, “transplants,” were to move there we would only be a part of the problem. If you’ve been to Hawaii I know you’re probably thinking DUH! But I hadn’t been there before, so it was new to me.
We ended up loving Bali and the Nusa Islands
When we had an open August and September we didn’t really know where to go or what to do with ourselves. When you are given too many options and choices, you can’t make a decision, at least we can’t. After lots of time in Africa and Europe, we knew we wanted to make our way over to Asia. After doing a lot of online research we determined that Bali had great weather in August. Plus we knew people have been rushing there for the past for years after the ideal digital nomad lifestyle.
I visited Bali in 2011 and loved it. It was my first introduction to traveling in Asia and it was eye-opening. But how would it be in 2018? Tourism and travel have changed drastically in just a short time frame.
Unfortunately, it is another place that has exploded on Instagram, so I was nervous to see what was to come. Was Bali too popular for its own good? Have prices shot through the roof life many other parts of the world? Has Airbnb ruined yet another destination (yes)? Needless to say, we were both a little hesitant to visit Bali – it just felt so…cliche.
Regardless we boarded the 20-hour flight and made our way to Indonesia. After we checked into our little bungalow in Ubud I knew it was a good call to visit Bali and I felt so refreshed to be there. Our place sat on top of a lush tropical ridge, there was an amazing yoga studio right next door, two minutes away from that was an idealistic vegetarian cafe, and an hour-long massage would cost us all $6.
Yup, we were definitely in heaven and despite the popularity, will return sometime soon. We’ll admit Bali is crazy popular now, but we see the appeal and why so many people of our peers choose to live there.
We got open water dive certified
We had heard a lot of good things about the Nusa Islands right off the coast of Bali so knew we had to make the short trip there. They are absolutely gorgeous and have some wonderful white sand beaches. Apart from enjoying the baby blue water, we accomplished another feat while on Nusa Lembongan.
We had been wanting to get dive certified for a few years, and it just so happened that there was a well-reviewed dive center with some of the cheapest prices in the world to get open water certified. In addition to having world-class dive sites, it was an easy decision.
We signed up for a three-day course and got ourselves open water certified. Now we have completed a total of ten dives between Bali and The Maldives and are itching to get Advanced Open Water before heading off to Raja Ampat in 2019. Read our full diving experience here.
We renamed Langkawi
Earlier this year I asked a random Facebook group where some good places to travel in Southeast Asia. Langkawi popped up a few times for its lush jungle landscape, out-of-this-world beaches, and for being well-developed. So after Bali, we figured we should go check it out for ourselves. We stayed a total of 12 days, but looking back eight would have been ideal.
Thankfully we got in some beach time at the beginning of the trip, because the last five days it poured rain without ever stopping. Later we found out it was the start of the rainy season so we just hunkered down and did some yoga, ate sushi for my birthday, watched a few movies – and changed the name of Langkawi to Rainkawi.
We did our first Facebook live
When Lonely Planet reached out to us to ask if we wanted to work with them and promote the Galway Oyster Festival in Ireland we couldn’t say no. Oysters and Ireland? Sign us up! So we flew the 20 hours from Singapore to Dublin to gear up for a week of seafood and oyster festivities.
The only kicker was we would go live three separate times on Lonely Planet’s and Tourism Ireland’s Facebook channels! I’ve never been on live television, but I imagine the nervousness we felt is something like it. We did a whole cooking demo with Galway’s top chef, learned how to make a Claddagh Ring, and shucked an oyster with a professional oyster shucker – all live!
The events were a blast and the Facebook lives went incredibly well. We’re thinking about building it into our whole business model.
We did our first speaking gig
Since we were already in Ireland we were asked to fill in last minute due to cancellations as speakers on the subject of social media at Vital Voices Global Ambassador Program. It’s a tremendous program and we felt honored to contribute a small part.
Speaking is another aspect of this whole travel blogging/content creators industry that we still hadn’t tried. However, we had been wanting to speak about the power of the online world, social media, and influence for the past year. We had no choice, but to say yes!
Like the Facebook Lives, we were a bit nervous to get in front of incredible women far more successful than ourselves and talk about the power of the social media/digital world for their business, but it went over well!
Unlike giving an oral presentation in college about some far off-topic, it was all something we know a LOT about. We’ve been working with media outlets, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and our blog for over three years now so we have learned a thing or two. It was tremendous to share some of our knowledge and insights.
As a last-minute presentation, we think the talk went over super and we got great feedback on the experience. In 2019, we’ll be heading back to Puerto Rico and Paris to speak again!
We lost our new camera
When I am looking for a brainless activity to do I’ll start editing photos. So, when we had a short layover in Abu Dhabi on the way to Dublin I took the chance to edit some recent Singapore photos. I asked Cam for the memory card, and he pulled out our brand new Sony RX100V to get it out. However, he didn’t put it back in our bag and it fell on the floor.
Anyways, we left the airport lounge for our flight and boarded the plane. As soon as we got on the flight we noticed we didn’t have the camera. I knew at this point there was nothing we could do, but pleaded with the flight attendants to at least call the lounge and ask that they put it in a safe spot.
They couldn’t do that – but they did give me reassurance that we left the camera in one of the safest countries in the world and there was no way that anyone would steal the camera. There were security cameras everywhere and anyone that took something that wasn’t theirs would be sent to jail. The skeptical American in me knew that camera was long gone and we sat through the entire 10-hour flight kicking ourselves.
When we made it to Ireland I sent the help desk an email and they replied right away saying they had the camera! The only downside was the only way to retrieve it was to fly back to Abu Dhabi.
Our airline went Bankrupt
Out of all our ups and downs with the year, it was this one instance that I believed changed everything and our mindsets for us. It’s a bit long – but here it goes.
Since the speaking gig was last minute we had to change plans and cancel our flights from Dublin to Kuala Lumpur. We decided to take that chance to rebook our flights and head somewhere warm after Ireland instead of Malaysia’s capital city. We found some pretty cheap last-minute flights to Cyprus, and then onwards to go to Abu Dhabi, which was where we needed to be for an upcoming trip and to retrieve our camera.
We picked an Airbnb near Ayia Napa, the one place I hated the first time we visited Cyprus in 2015. But honestly, since we had to book the Airbnb so last minute in the high season it was one of the only places we could find and I knew there were some nice beaches in the area. We spent the week catching up on work and cliff jumping off Cape Greco. We felt refreshed when we checked out of our apartment and made way for the airport.
Our scheduled flight was from Larnaca to Abu Dhabi, at 2 am in the morning with a low-cost carrier called Cobalt Air. We flew Cobalt Air from Dublin to Larnaca and it was honestly the shittest flight we’ve ever been on. Honestly, Ryan Air is luxury compared to this carrier. The entire interior was like some cheap Chinese knock-off of an airplane. Tray tables didn’t sit flush, seat arms raddled, and the legroom was non-existent.
After spending the entire day twiddling our thumbs in Larnaca (since our flight was at 2 am and we had to leave the Airbnb at a normal time), we got to Larnaca International Airport at 11 pm. It was strange because there was no one at the check-in counter for our Cobalt Flight. So we waited, and waited, and waited for the check-in desk to open up.
The clock ticked past midnight and still no sign of Cobalt staff, but there were a few news crews in the airport which was very strange. Something was up – I quickly Googled “Cobalt Air” and saw the latest news reports that they had just declared bankruptcy. Within seconds I saw news crew rushing towards Cameron and me. I had my usual red-eye, no makeup on flight attire drab on so I ran away and let Cameron handle the cameras.
It was true – Cobalt Air announced bankruptcy at 12:01, once all of its aircraft were officially at their home base in Larnaca. We were scheduled to be the next Cobalt flight out, and it would not be happening. Que a bunch of confused, mad, and frustrated people.
Just in case you are wondering when an airline goes bankrupt all operations cease. There are no staff members to help you, or really any information at all. You are completely out of luck and left to sort the planning and financial pieces for your trip yourself. It’s a plan now and worries about the money later type of situation. The worse part wasn’t that we just missed our flight to Abu Dhabi, but we had a connecting flight onward to Sri Lanka that we would also now be missing.
Between rebooking flights, the canceled tickets, extra hotel fares and taxi cabs I would estimate this whole bankruptcy thing set us back at least an extra $1500. The Cyprus government promised to pay back all passengers affected, but I think we’ll see a leprechaun riding on a unicorn across the North Pole before that ever happens.
We weren’t the worst passengers affected, far from it actually. We’re fortunate to have time, flexibility, and financial stability to handle these kinds of problems. We met people unable to pay for onward flights, couples bringing in their whole family to Cyprus for their wedding that just went to hell, and found out people were stranded in Cyprus on their connecting flights.
Yes, Cobalt Air knew they were going bankrupt but still let people board an aircraft that was flying say Athens to Abu Dhabi with a layover in Larnaca on the flight fully knowing they wouldn’t be flying past Larnaca. One guy could barely speak English, ugh it was so terrible for everyone involved.
In other words, it was an absolute mess, and honestly, it pushed us over the edge. We had already been feeling tired of traveling after three years straight. We were burnt out and had been contemplating our lifestyle for a while. When this happened it was another one of thoseI’m fed up with this kind of moments. Read the whole airline bankruptcy story here.
We Loved Jordan!
Cyprus isn’t well connected to the rest of the world, but when our flight was canceled we had to make other arrangements fast before airlines realized the scandal and raised rates or sold-out from other holidaymakers trying to change their plans.
We were supposed to fly to Sri Lanka and have some beach time, but since that wouldn’t be happening we searched for other alternatives. The best flights out that we could find were to Amman, Jordan. We’ve always wanted to travel to Jordan and see Petra so now seemed like the perfect time to make that happen!
We only had five days so we made the best of it and traveled at a rapid pace to Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba, and The Dead Sea. We absolutely loved our time and Jordan exceeded all expectations!
A week would have been the ideal amount of time to spend there, but I was happy we were able to make something out of our situation. Suddenly, I was in love with travel again! (My mood changes day by day 😝).
I found out I really hate group trips
Our trip to Sri Lanka was a group trip that we planned way back in July. Unless it’s absolutely necessary we don’t do group trips as we prefer to travel on our own. We were supposed to arrive in Sri Lanka five days before the start of our trip and enjoy the country on our own, but when the whole bankrupt airline mess happened all we could do was make it there in time for the group trip.
We had a five-day tour around southern Sri Lanka, followed by TBC Asia, a conference, and an awards ceremony in Colombo in which we were up for “Best Adventure Travel Blog.”
While we both thought what we saw of Sri Lanka was amazing, I found out the reason we never go on group press trips or really do any group tours. They really aren’t for us. While I enjoy the social aspect of meeting new people and chatting to someone other than Cameron I really hate being on someone else’s schedule or spending hours on buses to do things I have zero interest in.
Not having a say on what I do or just taking an extra hour during the day to enjoy a cup of coffee at a cool cafe bothers me. Yes, I’m an only child.Cameron and I both enjoy traveling on our own. We don’t enjoy the most touristy aspects of a place and would rather walk through a neighborhood for a few hours rather than see 15 things in one day. However, we are stoked that we were finally able to meet some other bloggers and win an award! All we want to do is get back to Sri Lanka now and give it the time it deserves.
We had a holiday!
Did you know that a one-hour flight from Colombo will get you to The Maldives? We did – so you can guess which country we weren’t missing out on this year. We spent an incredible two weeks in The Maldives. Yes, the series of atolls are just as spectacular in person as they look in photos.
While we spent a lot of time there creating content and catching up on the blog we also relaxed on the beach, went diving, and snorkeling. It felt like a real holiday the kind of normal people have.
Bangkok and travel started to depress us
As great as traveling is it also can be very depressing. We arrived in Bangkok for a week to catch up on some blog work and eat some food. What we found was a lackluster Airbnb, expensive prices, and a very dirty/loud city. In the right light Bangkok is a vibrant and cultural hub that people love it for good reason, but for us, it was hell on earth. Everything has to do with your frame of mind and ours was broken from the neverending travel.
Like the Cobalt flight, it felt a lot like the straw that broke the camel’s back. All at once we felt confronted by all of the problems in the world that we exasperate. Maybe that’s because we are seeing so much instead living in a comfortable bubble at home, but this year was the time it smacked us in the face.
Here are just a few of the reasons this lifestyle has made us unhappy.
The glaring trash epidemic
Last time we traveled to Asia was in 2013. Maybe I didn’t notice it as much then or the problem is truly out of control, but waste management and the use of single-use plastic in Asia is appalling.
Throughout most parts of Southeast Asia, the water is not drinkable so many get by purchasing plastic water bottles. You’re given a plastic bag for everything and I mean everything, even if you are just purchasing one single item from 7-11. We would always decline the plastic bags, to which the employees always look confused. I mean, why wouldn’t we want a plastic bag?
Even in Japan, we found every single orange, banana, and avocado wrapped in plastic. In the Maldives – at the highest-end resorts plastic bottles float on the surface of the ocean and wash up on beaches. This isn’t just in Asia though, it’s everywhere. Jordan was single-handedly the dirtiest country we’ve ever visited and the grand ole USA is one of the world’s top polluters.
Single-use plastic is an epidemic. Everything from coffee cups to hotel toiletries, fishing nets to the commercial packaging is used for nearly every product in the world. We are quite literally drowning in a sea of plastic. Anyone who’s visited a coastal destination in the last few years has likely witnessed it firsthand.
This isn’t news to us though, but it has worn down on me more and more and feel we need to take action. Please buy those metal straws (they’re awesome!), invest in reusable grocery bags, buy a good water bottle, and just seek out products that eliminate plastic waste.
We are part of the problem
We took more than 80 flights this year alone which is not something we are proud of. I’m not sure where the year got out of hand, but at one point I felt like I was on an airplane every five days – and I hate flying.
We generated a lot of greenhouse gases this year and even though we eat vegetarian, don’t have kids, and avoid plastic consumption our carbon footprint is huge. I hate to think that we are part of a problem we so actively campaign against and it depresses me. Another reason we are settling down this year!
We’re also considering offsetting our carbon footprint when we travel from now on.
I hate Instagram
This really needs a whole separate blog post. I joined the Instagram community in 2011 and began actively posting travel content when we started our blog in October 2015. Over the past three years, this one platform has changed drastically for users. It’s hard to believe that a social media app can increase vanity, lower self-esteem, and make people unhappy.
It feels increasingly like a platform of excess and jealousy – there are no bad days on Instagram, everyone lives a lavish life with an excessive floaty breakfast every day. Then there is the slew of “travel bloggers” popping who offer nothing more than pretty photos of “perfect lives” with nothing of value and no blog. A large portion of what we see is just so fake. It’s all frustrating for those of us who travel, and have done so long before Instagram, conduct research, and work hard to deliver helpful travel advice.
I could ramble all day on that, but it’s changed travel and has turned beautiful once secret spots into overrun tourist traps. Would you like to see those rice fields in Bali? So do 10,000 other people that day. Or how about a trip to Horseshoe Bend? The park service has now put up railings so Insta wannabes don’t die and built a large parking lot in the park to house the droves of people seeking it out.
Iceland, a country with a population of 340,000 seems beautiful, doesn’t it? It’s stunning, but they receive over 2 million visitors a year and counting! You’re more likely to meet an American than a local. They’re even faced with a literal crap problem from tourists going to the bathroom on the side of the road, because their infrastructure can’t cope with the visitors.
I’m not saying Instagram is the only reason tourism is up around the world. People are traveling more than ever because travel is easier to plan, more accessible, and affordable. Then you have the unstoppable boom of Chinese tourists.
BUT Instagram has definitely ruined certain destinations, driven prices up, and encouraged selfie stick zombies to waltz in and out of a destination without seeing it for their own eyes.
I hate to see it, be a part of it, witness over tourism, and watch social connections break down. It feels many would rather stare at their phone than have a human connection.
Yes, it’s caused us to travel to some epic places for a photo, get up at sunrise or wait for sunset. Then there is no denying that we have profited from the platform through sponsored posts and campaigns. We also still find it one of the best ways to connect with people as more and more people turn to Instagram over other social platforms (We love receiving everyone’s messages and comments on Instagram).
But that being said if Instagram’s servers went up in flames tomorrow we wouldn’t shed a tear…
We’re lacking a community and connection
We’ve met great people while traveling and had very interesting conversations. But rarely do those connections last for more than a day, a week tops if we are lucky until everyone must go their separate ways.
The first two years of this we were fine, but we’ve been yearning for friends, community involvement, and having more people that we care about in our lives.
Another platform that we used to love soured on us in 2018. Airbnb. We hate it but use it all the time when we travel. When we first started traveling in 2011, we stuck mainly to the hostel/backpacker route. Then in 2016, we transitioned to cheaper hotel rooms and guesthouses. Now, since we have been traveling full time for three years and like to cook our own food we opt to rent apartments for stays longer than five days.
As a couple, it’s much easier and usually a better deal for us to go this route rather than hotel rooms. Airbnb is the most convenient option to book apartments. However, the platform has taken the entire world by storm and prices are out of control. Not just for us as visitors, but for residents.
The platform has transformed the housing market around the world often hurting some of the greatest places on earth. Five years ago, getting a one year lease may have been an easy and affordable affair. Now, it is common to purchase property as an investment to rent on Airbnb. With Airbnb, landlords are able to double or even triple what a monthly tenant would pay. Residents around the world are being forced out of their communities. Places hit hard are Barcelona, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, and…actually this list could go on forever. Hell, we just signed a lease in Canmore, Canada only 15 minutes away from Banff National Park and our townhouse could fetch more than $300 a night in the right season.
Besides that as travelers, Airbnb is not a good budget option anymore. We often can’t find decent Airbnb’s in places like Bangkok for less than $50 a night. Do a quick search for Bali nowadays and see what comes up – the prices creep up year after year. Housing market prices have risen around the globe driven largely by the demand for short-term rental properties by foreigners.
I’d say we have stayed in over 50 Airbnb’s around the world, and it’s a rarity that we meet a real host nowadays. When we do it’s a management company that has been contracted out by the overseas owner (there are exceptions). It went from someone trying to make a few extra bucks renting their extra place or room to full-time jobs for many. Now before booking we strive to do extra research and make sure the host is actually a local and involved in the Airbnb. In other words…having a home in 2019 will cut our Airbnb usage out.
Travel is still amazing – Taiwan & Vietnam
While Bangkok reminded us of why travel has soured on us. Our next two destinations would quickly remind us of why we love to travel so much. From Bangkok, we flew to Hanoi, Vietnam and found a fascinating destination. It had been a while that we heard wonderful things about Vietnam and it absolutely lived up to the hype.
From Hanoi, we took a direct flight to Taiwan and found another really unique destination with hardly any western tourists. It felt nothing like the other popular destinations we’ve been in over the last year. The majority of our time on the island we were the only white people we ever saw. Taiwan has a fascinating history with a crazy mix of Chinese and Japanese cultures.
They have all the food of China and Japan with more outgoing people like the Chinese, but who are more respectful and orderly like the Japanese. There were multiple instances in which people stopped us to say “welcome to Taiwan.” We really love small moments like as it brings us back to reality and connects us with people all around the world.
The breaking point, but not the end
On top of all the negatives of travel, doing this long-term has taken a toll on our diets, fitness, mental health, and our financial income through this blog. We’ve been feeling this since last year and made a vow to get a home base in 2018.
That didn’t happen.
This next year will be the end of the nomadic era for us. I could write a whole post on the woes of living on the road, but let’s just say it’s exhausting planning, packing, working, and always searching for the next destination, hotel, unknown restaurant, or coffee shop. We miss familiarity like crazy!
We each made six figures
Financially 2018 was a huge year for our blog and our bank accounts. Despite traveling at a steady pace for over three years we have managed to put 417 blog posts, 940 Instagram images, 1000 handcrafted pins, and over 50 YouTube videos out into the world.
The average post here is well over 2000 words and when combined with social media captions/posts we’ve put out at least a dozen novels worth of writing in three years – well over 1,000,000 words.
On top of all that the maintenance of our website and social channels behind the scenes is laborious and time-consuming. However, all of this work has started to pay off for us.
This isn’t a blog about blogging or finances, but long story short we each managed to generate a low six-figure income. More than double what we made working in small offices in New York City. We went from dwindling bank accounts our first year traveling to having far more in our savings accounts than when we set out on this journey. Now time to track our travel expenses for the year…😖
If you’re interested in how travel bloggers make money see this post here.
What’s next for The World Pursuit?
We were supposed to spend the winter snowboarding in Japan. We had a place sorted, shipped our snowboards over, and had been traveling Asia with suitcases full of snow gear for the past four months.
In late November, just two weeks before our arrival in Japan we had a change of heart. The main reason was we couldn’t find proper accommodation and didn’t like the option we had sorted out for ourselves in September (sharing a small basic basement apartment with a stranger for $1400 a month – yes Niseko is insanely expensive).
It never sat well with us and after some thought, we decided to shift gears. It was time for our own place, so we made last-minute plans for a big move to Canada. It’s where we have thought about making a more permanent home base for the past year. So, we signed a lease on a two-bedroom townhome right outside of Banff National Park in Canmore, Alberta.
We’ll have to get a car and furnish the ENTIRE place – which really scares me. We are excited about the move and joining a community after many years of constant travel, but the idea of being bound to furniture, a lease, and a car is a little daunting as there are still so many places we still want to go to. I still have dreams of living on a sailboat in the Caribbean, managing a safari lodge in Africa, backpacking South America and learning Spanish. But then I also want a furry friend again, to go hiking every day, and look out the window and see miles of mountains with a smoothie that I made in hand. Ugh – life is too short.
Right now, we own very little and possessions can quickly feel like a ball and chain. Plus as strange as it sounds integrating ourselves back into society is going to be different for us.
We’re going to take the first portion of the year to enjoy our new home, spend some time snowboarding around Canada, and catch up on a mountain of work. Unless necessary we’re going to stay away from airplanes during the winter.
We do have a few trips planned for work so far, but not many things are final. There are also some awesome destinations on our radar in 2019 we’re keen to make happen. I also want to make it a point to go back to Indonesia and see somewhere other than Bali and check off the Philippines to do more diving this year. Cameron is hoping to get to South America for some culture and mountain time.
As for The World Pursuit, we’re hoping to build more in-depth guides on destinations we know well. Work hard to deliver real advice on testing new travel products through gear guides. Then we’ve long been itching to get serious about Youtube and video. Film production is the world that we come from and it’s time we put that to good use. Stay tuned for the launch of a regular show!
Natasha & Cameron