New Year, now what? As another 365 days have passed, people usually tend to look back at the good and bad, make a ton of well-meant but hard-to-follow-through resolutions and feel cautiously optimistic about goals they failed to really chisel out in a clear shape.
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On the Soul Train
For me, 2018 was a year of a lot of personal development, emotional upheaval and tough love lessons. It involved far less travel than the years before but more than I had wished for.
I am slowly turning into a homebody, a person who is desperately seeking a homebase where travel is a slight annoyance rather than a relief or escape as it has previously been. Life is funny like that.
Looking back, I can clearly see how I used travel not to try to figure myself out, unearth all the sites of construction that I really need to work on, but to set down some roots and truly start standing my ground.
That’s one thing I love about travel, it really challenges everything you believe in, what you think you know and lets you see experiences that shaped you and you saw from your own narrow perspective in a much broader light.
Travel mostly teaches you about yourself whether you like it or not. But before I go all Eat, Pray, Love on you here, I want to briefly give you an overview of a life through travel.
While I cannot recommend solo travel enough for a multitude of reasons, you may just want to get some travel inspiration for yourself, for no other meaningful reason other than to see the world and relax a bit.
More Wanderlust Inspiration:
- The Best Books on Confidence Building for Kickass Ladies
- Unique Travel Journals to Kickstart Your Adventures
- How to Save Money With the Right Timing + Infographic
2018 – A Blog & Travel Year In Numbers
Countries visited: 10
Flights taken: 22
Videos made: 42
Blogs published: 159
Having forgotten my sunglasses, the sun was trying its best to blind me. My light sensitive eyes were fighting back the welling tears as I was listening to the evaluation my friend had come up with.
She had just started her counselling business and I was one of her first customers. I seriously needed some clarity, needed to set intentions and be held accountable. She needed a review for her portfolio. This was perfect.
So she told me straightup what she heard me say in all my rumbling, what I really wanted at the core. What I felt I lacked. Even though I knew she was right but I still resorted to my classic response.
I summoned all the excuses and petty priorities that I needed to focus on instead of sharpening my laser beam focus. She had none of it.
I would be pleased to report I followed through on all of the points, slayed the goals like a knight a hapless dragon. But alas, I got distracted along the way and slayed some other goals that came up. More on that later.
One of my infant goals was to make more videos, to publish regularly and hone down on my efficiency in the creation process. While I absolutely could spend hours scripting, acting out and editing my videos, the fact that they are highly unique is also their major drawback.
They certainly aren’t as shareable as a Unilad video with a few interesting tidbits of information. Mine are just random splurges of creative visions I have in the moment, sometimes without much rhyme or reason apparent that’s to other people’s brains. But I didn’t care.
While I was cuddling kittens with Thai tea in hand, I was editing videos. I traverse the “bridge to heaven” in Chiang Rai and made a video. I rose above the fog at Doi Inthanon National Park (and the video will be released soon), I visited a fairy tale princess’s stony tower, I floated on a lake covered entirely in pink lotus.
There were lots of videos made over the span of only three weeks. Check out my playlist here and don’t forget to like and subscribe because more will be coming. But next is…
More travel tips from Thailand:
- Why Foodies Need to Visit at Least One Cafe in Chiang Mai
- 3 Day Itinerary for Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Surroundings
- Chiang Mai Hiking Like the Locals – Chasing Waterfalls
The original plan was to check out why all the digital nomads were mingling in Bali in November. I had chosen to live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for a month for that very same reason. But the city didn’t appeal too much to me. It just didn’t feel like a good fit.
Of Bali I didn’t expect too much. I do this thing that when everybody hypes a place, I expect to be underwhelmed. This will soften the blow of discovering that I, in fact, did have (unrealistic) expectations after all and subconsciously validate my dislike of herd thinking.
But you know, Bali has this weird way about it too that just slowly draws you in and then you really don’t want to leave. People like to paint it as this paradise but I see it as a two edged sword. You will feel #blessed if you remain in your little tourist/expat bubble.
Rise with a little yoga session by the beach, sip from your smoothie bowl on a rice field terrace and scoot carefree through the landscape. There is always something going on, new people to meet, spiritual practices to learn about, activities to do, foods to try.
It’s highly transitional but the island also holds enough power to make people move there semi-permanently. Now houses are popping up everywhere, locals are always smiley and friendly, life is affordable and much more balanced than in the Western world. It’s perfect on the surface level.
I did a little visa run to Singapore where I spent three days on the floor of my friend’s room, always ready to creep back in pain to the toilet. Bali belly and food poisoning are no joke. Upon my return to Bali, things shifted a lot and with it my view. That would be tested later year, leading to literal crashes. (Keep reading to find out.)
My fave Bali travel posts:
- Best Beaches in Canggu and Surrounds for Photographers
- Where to Find the Best Canggu Restaurants
- Is Bali Safe for Solo Women? 10 Bali Travel Safety Tips
Japan was just what I needed. It is my #2 favourite country in the world and makes me deliriously happy. It’s insane how wide my smile became as I shamelessly danced to music blasting from my headphones on Tokyo’s impeccable sidewalks.
It took quite the adventure to get there and I almost didn’t end up on the plane. Wanting to stay in Bali as long as possible, I had booked my flight out on the very last day of my visa but the plane had some fuelling issues and never left Osaka.
I couldn’t leave Indonesia either and slowly my overstay fees were piling up. Too bad that my credit card was blocked as I just then discovered that someone had helped themselves to 1000€. Credit card skimming in Bali is sadly rather common.
The airline wanted to bunk me with some fellow strandees but I refused and was given a cosy little hotel room in which I just had to make a little parody of French movies for no reason other than the flowers brought to my room inspired me to. Watch it here.
Anyway, I made it out thanks to my backup credit card, making the airline cover my overstay fees and finally checking into my hostel. For a few days I met up with Anna from Anny Everywhere and we paddled underneath the low hanging cherry blossom trees at Chidorigafuchi in Tokyo.
We made a video together in which I dressed up as Sailor Moon, naturally eating my way through Tokyo. I then hopped through the country in search of more hanami (cherry blossom festivals), suspiciously eyed the cheeky Nara deer, revisited Shibazakura Festival by Mount Fuji and danced underneath wisteria tunnels.
But one of the best things was me renting a room at an airbnb in Shibamata, an outskirt of Tokyo on the edge of Chiba. It was in a typical Japanese house and me seeming to be a rare tourist, I felt like I actually lived in Tokyo for the time being. It was amazing because it was just so darn mundane and uneventful.
More sakura season travel tips:
- Top 100 Things to Do in Kyoto + Free Download
- The Top 15 Epic Spots for Seeing Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto
- 100 Things to See & Places to Visit in Tokyo + Free Download
- Top 20 Things to Do in Wakayama
Back home, the first thing I did is hop into the shower and dye my hair a deep burgundy. Why not? I needed a change and promptly sorted out bags of clothes to give to charity.
When you travel, you really don’t need that much and the more you do it, the more a minimalist lifestyle becomes normal. You realise how little you actually need. Always.
I didn’t do any travel but worked relentlessly on all the blog posts I had planned while travelling Japan. My goal was to skip on videos for the time being and grow my blog from 8000 monthly readers to 25000 monthly readers as fast as I could.
This meant I could switch to a new ad platform that would allow me a small monthly passive income from content I had already created, so I wouldn’t get cold shivers and a small panic attack everytime I had to renew my server costs for hosting this blog.
By the way, if you want to support this blog, please use one of my affiliate links for making your amazon purchases or reserving a hotel room on booking or agoda.
That doesn’t cost you a thing extra but it helps me get some blog upgrades to make this blog even better, faster and more user friendly.
Best Germany travel tips:
- The 3 Top Places for Orchids and Hiking in Jena, Germany
- Feasting on German Potato Dumplings at the Thüringer Kloßwelt Museum
- Which Restaurant in Erfurt To Hit Up – Best Foodie Hot Spots
May: Poland, Finland and Latvia
Another of my year’s goals was to speak at a conference. Over the past four years of travel I have had my fair share of trials and tribulations not just with travel itself but with blogging. It’s an ever changing landscape but my newly ignited passion still lay mostly with video.
So I got a gig as the official photographer and workshop speaker at TRABLIN conference in Krakow, Poland. For nearly two weeks I documented every step of my fellow bloggers as they discovered the main attractions of Poland’s capital.
It was a lot of hard work, being up and about for eight hours straight, trying to capture all events, edit the same night if possible, getting around town to make the most of it while I’m there for my own content. In the end I was so exhausted I wrote nothing about Poland nor made a video. That was for This Year Me to deal with.
Check out my portfolio here
No rest for the weary, I jetted over to Finland just in time for PING Festival. That’s not just another travel conference. It was absolutely epic with a giant stage, highly impactful and inspiring speakers that paired their #inspirationoftheday with a super impressive presentation and setup.
The pre conference mingle/meetings were held at a sauna – because Finland. And as part of the conference I got the chance to fly across the channel and hit up a new country: Latvia. It’s long been on my list.
In Riga, I explored the old quarters by bike, ate the prettiest and yummiest fusion dishes, made dessert in a historic mansion, danced by the beach and hiked a swamp in snow shoes. Seriously, the area in and around Riga is absolutely worth staying for quite a bit. All the things to see in Riga took me totally by surprise.
June – August: Bulgaria, England
As soon as I finally made a decision to set up base for a while, I got a job offer in another country. Sofia in Bulgaria had become my headquarter of choice. I even scored the cutest and largest apartment that was also very affordable. But then plans changed.
I was to be a photographer at a summer school in England. I love England. And the school looked like Hogwarts. Also, I was given a decent amount of money while still being able to work on the blog. I couldn’t possibly say no.
And so I sadly parted from my apartment and moved on campus of a mansion that Queen Victoria once had one of her sons built. I dined in a hall with giant windows above which Henry VII was glaring down us. Naturally, I made a video dressed up as Hermione.
As part of the job I got to travel on short day trips to nearby cities, such as Bournemouth, Bath, London and Windsor. Luck was on my side and the British summer actually stuck around and amazed everyone. We only had rainy days out of 5 weeks and I kept my tan from Bali!
More England travel tips:
- Where to Go for a UK Road Trip – Your England Itinerary
- How to See the Bluebells in London and Surrounds
- How to score super cheap West End tickets in London
Before my trip to England, however, I joined forces with Christina from Happy to Wander, Susanna from Wandering Chocobo and Kate & Jeremy Storm from Our Escape Clause on a roadtrip to celebrate the famous July 1 by the Black Sea. That’s a Bulgarian tradition.
Along the way, we made it up Bulgaria’s UFO, found pink lakes, ran through lavender fields and had quite the adventure. A lot of it was sheer chaos as most things just didn’t go according to plan at all. Read out Bulgaria disaster story here – because it was quite the story!
But all in all, we had the best of times. Bulgaria is always worth a trip. Sadly though it is highly underrated and not as well visited as it ought to be. (Which is also good because there are no crowds.)
More Bulgaria travel tips:
- How to Get to Pobiti Kamani Near Varna
- Top 10 Things to Do in Veliko Tarnovo
- Most Instagrammable Sunset Spots in Plovdiv Bulgaria
September – November: Thailand, Bali, Singapore
While in England I realised how much I missed the community and my productivity I had when I was in Bali. Since I couldn’t stay in my Bulgarian apartment anyway, I spontaneously booked a flight ticket back to Bali and Thailand.
While in Bulgaria, I got myself a 60 day visa for Bali – at a much reduced hassle and even cheaper than in Bali, so I went for it. Then, at the airport I was told I had to use it right away.
But since I had already booked my flight to Thailand after a month, I got it for nothing. And then reapplied in Bangkok. So I can say that getting a 60 day tourist visa for Bali abroad is a splendid idea. But only if you want to use it as soon as you get into Bali, not just when you return from a visa run.
Anyway, while the first time I was in both Bali and Bangkok, I didn’t really do or see much, this time the situation was different. While I did get myself a fancy apartment in a skyscraper, I did get out quite a lot. My schedule was jam packed.
In Thailand, I went on a day trip to the former capital Ayutthaya. It’s filled to the brim with historic temples, it has THE Buddha head in a tree and is excessively picturesque.
As a small getaway from my city lifestyle, I decided to go back to my backpacker roots. To be honest, I’ve kinda outgrown it and that’s totally fine by me.
The floating market in Bangkok was quite the wonderful site as well and I got to go with Mindi and Daryl from 2Foodtrippers. Also, I revisited a giant Buddha most tourists don’t know about and made a creepy video at the airplane graveyard.
On my way back to Bali, I stopped for a week in Phuket, where I had a terrible bed bug experience that actually wasn’t so bad after all. I’m very grateful I spotted the bedbug signs and took precautionary measures into my own hands immediately. (Here are my tips on how to deal with bedbugs.)
It rained most of the week, so the only day it didn’t I hired a scooter and zipped around the southern part of the island, covering multiple beaches, waterfalls and the Big Buddha as well. Here’s my exemplary day trip for Phuket. There was also a snake encounter. (As can be seen in my recap video.)
Back in Bali the adventure bug had me in a tight grip and so I made it all over the island. A group of friends and I scooted from Canggu all the way up to Lovina, visiting the 80 metre high Sekumpul waterfall, Banyumala waterfalls and the famous water temple Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.
In West Bali, I stumbled upon the Police Anniversary, got into a bike accident (my scooter slipped in a puddle), was nearly attacked by monkeys in the national park and found yet another lost airplane.
My trip ended with a short stop in Ubud at the Tegelalang Rice fields, the Elephant Cave and yet another scooter accident when a dog ran into my bike.
At that point, I called it quits and nursed my scraped knees back to health the last week before flying back home.
Singapore was a 4 hour layover from Denpasar in Bali to Berlin in Germany. As it happened, the Harry Potter exhibition was still going on. Yay!
Since I had to grab my luggage and check back in due to some online booking flaw, I got to experience it after all! (Here’s my Potterhead video about the Changi Harry Potter Wizarding World exhibit.)
More Bali off-the-beaten-path sites:
- 12 Reasons to Visit Tegenungan Waterfall near Ubud (Blangsinga Waterfall)
- Taman Festival Ghost Town- Bali’s Abandoned Theme Park
- Is Gunung Kawi Sebatu the Prettiest Temple in Bali?
I made it back home just in time for Christmas. Christmas markets in Germany close a few days before Christmas so time was running out. After all, they are the best way to get into the Christmas spirit.
Plus, I figured if I had to get used to the cold, I might as well do it with a hot cocoa in hand surrounded by the smell of fresh food underneath a 20m tall Christmas tree. Within 4 days, I got to see the Christmas markets of Erfurt, Jena, Chemnitz, Dresden and Gotha. (Watch the full video here.)
On Christmas Eve, I even saw a few snowflakes! Snow is something I seriously miss when I’m abroad. Not that we ever have much at home, but I’m an eternal optimist with these things. Do you love snow, too?
Conclusion for 2019
So yeah, this was my year 2018 in review. It was full of personal and professional milestones, amazing experiences, unexpected trips and jobs and with just enough travel. I really want to tune it down for next year.
Then sit myself down and actually write about all the cool places in depth, with details on how to get there, what to prep, etc. There is so much I’ve seen and would love to share with you! On top of that, video is gonna be a focus.
I’ve shot 8 videos during my last two days in Bali alone. Editing takes a loooooot of time. So I need to get back into the flow. Subscribe to my youtube channel and expect a lot more content on there.
Places I’d like to see are: Sweden, bluebells in England, a winter chalet in the snow (maybe Switzerland or the US) and Iceland.
What about you? What are your travel goals in 2019? What were your 2018 highlights?