It’s been an amazing year. I’ve made so many new friends, caught up with some old ones, seen a few new countries and have learned so, so much.
Now’s the time to reflect and put it all together.
Let me first say that this is more of a personal post; a way for me to collect all my thoughts on this past year and give me something to refer back to down the line. I’ve spent a long time thinking about direction in my life, and I know in future I’m going to want to look back and see where I’ve come from. But I also thought it might be a good idea to make it public, and perhaps one or two of you might find value or learn something from it as well.
Below I’ve written personal reflections on various areas of my life this year, breaking it down into the things that are most important to me right now – blogging, finances, health, friends and family, travel, and future goals. As an exercise in clarity it’s actually been very helpful, and I’d encourage all of you to do the same.
Wow – it’s been an amazing ride. I sent this blog live on January 23 this year, and am still so blown away by how much it has grown. When I first started out I had goals of 1,000 Facebook likes in my first year, didn’t even know what an email list was, and hoped to one day beat the 800 page views I got when I first shared the blog with my friends on Facebook.
Today, after being live for just over 11 months, I have around 5,700 followers on Facebook, just under 1,000 email subscribers and have almost hit one million page views in the first year. Compared to many blogs those stats are mere child’s play, but they have completely blown my expectations out of the water and I still find it hard to believe anyone but my mother is actually following my blog and my story.
More importantly, the blog has allowed me to meet and connect with so many amazing people, and become a part of a community that loves and understands nomadic life as much as I do. In a world where I once felt like the odd one out, I’ve now discovered a community of people who also see and embrace travel as a way of life. As a result, my travel dreams have grown even bigger than before.
For those out there who are looking for an outlet, I’d highly recommend starting a blog. It acts as your window to the world, giving people a look into your world and the chance to share their story with you as well (if you need help setting it up, just ask). Even if you don’t grow a large readership, the process of putting your thoughts into words can be extremely liberating. Overall I’m extremely happy with where the blog has gone this year, and will definitely be continuing to write and grow in 2015.
I didn’t make as much money this year as I probably should have, and that’s because I didn’t really spend much time “working”. I turned down most freelance writing projects I was offered, including a large one that would’ve netted anywhere between $5,000-$10,000, in favour of working on the blog and getting it to a level I was proud of. In the small amount of freelance writing I did do, I tried to move out of the finance niche and try and find something related to travel. Not much came my way, but I did do some writing for G Adventures’ Looptail Blog, which has been a lot of fun. I am not sure if freelance writing is something I’ll pursue aggressively in 2015, but we’ll see.
The other reason my earnings were down is because I rejected 99% of the blog-related income opportunities that were sent my way. During the year you may have noticed a few ads on this site as I did some Adsense experiments, and those did net a few hundred dollars, but for now I’ve canned them in favour of having a cleaner blog. I’ve also been offered countless paid posts and advertisements, a couple of press trips and a few partnerships as well, all adding up to several thousands in potential income, but none of the opportunities really felt right to me so I politely turned them down. In truth, this blog has never been about money. It’s been about sharing stories, advice, and a wider message of venturing out and chasing your dreams. When I’m more comfortable with my identity as a blogger I may be more open to opportunities like this, but for now I’m happy to let them slide.
One thing I did do was accept a few freebies from some NGOs who had a greater message to share (I’ll cover these below in the travel section), and despite not earning me any income it was fun to connect and put together some content for them.
In terms of money going forward, I have so many projects and ideas on the go that I simply don’t have enough time in the day to work on everything. I have a few experiments I’ve been running with affiliate marketing, niche websites, e-commerce and with this blog as well, and hopefully when I get a grasp on things I will share the details of these with you. Whether I do that on a new blog or on this site is still a question mark, but I know people are very curious about how to earn location independent incomes and I’m excited to one day be able to teach people to do this. The first guide I put out on freelancing has been quite popular, and I’m looking forward to put out more posts like this when the time is right. All in all these are still just side projects though, and my focus remains on my writing.
As for my old career, I can now say with 150% certainty that I will never work as an accountant ever again. I know people always say you should never say never, but in this case I’m saying never. Simply by starting this blog, I have been introduced to so many opportunities that the only difficulty has been deciding which one I want to pursue. Ever since I quit my job I’ve always had in the back of my head that I might one day need to return to my old career, but now those reservations have well and truly gone. From here on, it’s full steam ahead.
Concerning this blog in particular, I’m currently working on a blog re-design and two new books, and I’ll keep you updated on these things during the new year.
In terms of personal development it’s been an incredible year. As you know, a priority of mine has always been to incorporate learning into my travels as much as possible, whether it’s language, martial arts, dancing, teaching – wherever I go I always find it important to leave with skills or knowledge that I didn’t have when I arrived. This year I was lucky enough to spend 3 months in South America tuning up my Spanish and completing a salsa course, which was incredibly rewarding. Following on from my Spanish classes in 2010 and 2011, I can now converse very comfortably in Spanish and my dancing isn’t too bad either!
And then of course is my new career on the internet. Nowadays I spend at least 4-5 hours a day listening to podcasts, reading books and guides, reading blogs and running experiments, and the amount of information and opportunity out there is astonishing. I went from not knowing a single thing about building a website to generating several (but small) streams of income online, and I’m excited to learn more and grow these streams in the coming year(s). The balance between work-related learning and hobby-related learning can be hard to find sometimes, but I’m happy with how I managed to make it work for this year.
Friends & Family
One of the hard things about travelling is keeping a balance between spending time on the road and spending time with your family and friends. I was lucky this year to spend the first 5 months at home in Auckland with my parents after spending basically all of 2012 in China and all of 2013 on the road. I also joined my parents in September for a few tours through Ecuador, and then managed to make it home for Christmas. I feel like this year has been good in that regard and I’ll be planning to spend several months at home in 2015 as well.
As I get older, I always start to take my health more and more seriously. This year I started introducing juice to my diet, which has been really beneficial and a lot of fun. I have also been introduced to MobilityWOD – a body maintenance program that has made a huge difference to some “permanent” injuries I’d been starting to give up on (thanks Spartan Traveler). After working through some rehab, I was finally able to get back in the gym in the later half of the year and start some light lifting, and I’ve also learned to start focusing on my endurance and flexibility as well. Although not 100%, the body has been feeling a lot better than it did last year, and I’m hoping to continue to improve my durability in 2015.
One of the silver linings of not being able to max it in the gym like I used is I’ve needed to eat healthier. I sometimes frustrate friends with how clean my eating is sometimes, but it’s definitely helped me stay in decent shape and has been really positive for my productivity as well. Of course I have lapses from time to time, but discipline with eating hasn’t really been a problem this year, so hopefully it stays that way.
I continue to fall in love with the world. Although I only visited two new countries this year (Cambodia and Ecuador), I did spend a lot of time on the road and made some really amazing new friendships.
The year began in New Zealand, where I stayed home and worked full time on the blog from January to May. This brought many headaches and sleepless nights, sometimes working 16-18 hour days, and when winter came around I knew I had to get back on the road to regain my sanity.
First I headed back to Bangkok, a city I am now completely in love with, and I know the food especially will continue to bring me back. I also got to meet fellow blogger James from Nomadic Notes, which was really cool.
After that I crossed the border and visited Cambodia for 3 weeks. My first stop was Siem Reap to visit the famous Angkor Wat, but the true highlight ended up being my time at Phare; an NGO who is doing amazing things. After that I spent a few days in Battambang and then boarded the bus to Phnom Penh where I stayed for a good 2 weeks. I left with nothing but good memories of Cambodia – it was a country that both inspired me and broke my heart at the same time, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Before leaving Asia I spent another month in my favourite country ever: The Philippines. I’d received an invitation from Smokey Tours; an NGO who wanted me to help spread the word about the work they were doing in Manila’s slums, and decided I’d go check it out since I was only a short plane ride away. Like Phare in Cambodia, this organisation was doing amazing things and I was happy to share their message. I also met up with Anton from Our Awesome Planet and Yoshke from The Poor Traveler; two incredibly successful bloggers who were awesome to meet and showed me some classic Filipino hospitality.
After that I spent a week in transit in New York – a city I’ve always wanted to visit. I faced some old demons of mine on Wall Street, visited some old friends I’ve met on the road, did the typical tourist circuit and then headed to Ecuador to join my parents on their Amazon and Galapagos tours. The Amazon was a lot less scary and Galapagos a lot more touristy than I’d expected, but both were great experiences. After that I had planned to backpack Central America for the first time, but I suppose my travel fatigue kicked in (I’m getting old!). Instead, I ended up living in Quito for 3 months, which definitely ended up being one of the year’s highlights. I spent my time completing a salsa course, tuning up my Spanish and working on some of my projects, but the incredible people I met during my stay was what made it all something to remember. A city that has never been on my wishlist, Quito now feels like a second home.
Goals and plans for 2015
Africa! As some of you know, I’m connected with a teaching and sponsorship project in Tanzania and I try to visit on a regular basis. 2014 was the first time in 3 years that I didn’t make it over there, so I will definitely be going in 2015, which is going to influence my travel plans a lot. I will probably spend the first few months of the year in New Zealand working, and if funds allow I will add a few Europe stops onto my trip as well – we shall see, but as of now East Africa will be the central focus of my travel plans.
As I’ve always done in previous years, I’ll be aiming to learn something new next year as well. Right now I’m thinking it will be a new language, and a French course has been on my agenda for a while (I’d had it planned for 2014, but plans changed). If funds and time allow it, I’ll look to do a 4-6 week intensive somewhere in the world. My Spanish teachers tell me I should pick it up rather quickly as the mechanics of the languages are very similar, so that’s encouraging.
I’ll also be taking this blog to the next level, with some great new ideas in the pipeline. I’ve always written this blog with the intention that it should be able to help someone, whether it’s tips on how to save money on your travels or sharing a lesson I’ve learned through some story or situation. If you ever feel the blog has shifted from that, please let me know! The blog definitely sucks up more time than anything else, but as long as I’ve got at least one person reading I will continue to write.
As for my other side projects, they will remain exactly that – side projects. Travelling, writing and my desire to learn is still where I will be giving most of my time. I will definitely still be working hard on these other muses though, so it’s looking like a busy year ahead.
A big, big thank you
Lastly, I need to take this chance to thank all of you for an amazing year. By far the best part of publishing my writing on this site has been getting to know all of you, and every time you leave a comment or send me an email I’m reminded of why I started this blog in the first place. There have been times this year where I’ve been so frustrated and tired with the workload this site brings that I considered throwing it all in, but receiving emails and comments like this always inspired me to keep on writing, so thank you.
One of my favourite things to write is my monthly newsletter, which always seems to start email conversations where I get to know more about you and who is reading my site. I know many people come here for life and travel inspiration, but you should also know that hearing your stories and thoughts and ideas always inspires me as well. It’s been amazing connecting with you all, and I hope to get to know even more of you in the coming year.
(If you’d like to subscribe, you can do so here).
Overall the year has definitely been one of discovery and new direction. I’m proud of the growth I’ve had as a writer, a traveller and an entrepreneur, and am really excited for the challenges and opportunities to grow even further in 2015. The year has also brought many incredible people into my life who I’m so grateful to have met, and I feel truly blessed for all the friends my travels have connected me with. While life on the road has brought its share of self doubt and loneliness, I know that the good has far outweighed the bad, and I continue to fall in love with travel and this lifestyle more and more.
As for now, it’s time to enjoy a few days of rest, and then I’ll be knuckling down to kick 2015 off with a bang.
Thanks so much for following along, and see you all in the New Year!