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Digital Nomad Life: 2018 in Review

2018 was a pretty great year.

The first half of the year was spent in Asia-Pacific, traveling and working, before traveling back to the US for the second half of the year after eight months away.

Although I traveled to less countries than 2017 – seven countries down from nine – I was still very busy. I managed to travel through 19 states in only six months, as well as getting married, completing nine house sits and filling out and submitting two complex and time consuming visa applications (Fiancé Visa and Adjustment of Status).

I also explored more of my beloved home bases – New Zealand and Colorado, did three big road trips around the US, hiked my first 14’ers, introduced my close family and friends to Denver, and spent my first Christmas in the US.

Colorado National Monument

There wasn’t anything particularly bad that happened this year, just the norm really – wedding planning stress, money stress, flat tires and mechanical problems with our van, food poisoning, a failed IUD placement, visa issues, bad WiFi, fights, boredom, travel burn out, a difficult housesit, trolls on this blog, losing things etc. I am grateful that it was a pretty great year all in all, with a lot more positives than negatives.

Here’s what my 2018 looked like month by month. But first off – here are a few quick stats:

Countries Visited: Seven – New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Australia, Thailand, USA

States Visited: 19 – Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Utah, Nevada, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois

House Sits Completed: Nine

Hikes Tackled: 55

What I Spent: $22719.50 (not including international flights)

Ouch, it was an expensive year for me with vehicle costs, wedding costs, and visa costs. I spent more than $7000 over my 2017 spending and went to less countries! My goal is for 2019 to be back around $14,000 – $16,000. Wish me luck!

(To see a more detailed break down of each month, check out my monthly round ups)

Folly Beach and pier in South Carolina

January: New Zealand

I spent the first two weeks of January finishing off my temping placement as a Receptionist in Auckland, with Toby flying in for his first visit to New Zealand on the 5th January!

While I was working, Toby explored Auckland and got to know my Dad, then as soon as I finished up, we hit the road for a three week road trip around the North Island of New Zealand.

Roadtrip around the East Cape of New Zealand

The first stop was Northland where it was all about the beaches, then we picked up my brother back in Auckland and headed to one of my favorite parts of New Zealand – the Coromandel Peninsula – where we did some further beach bumming and hiked to a backcountry hut in the mountains.

After a few days at my Mum’s place in Papamoa, where we hiked to the top of Mount Maunganui and went out on the boat to a remote island for the day, we explored the thermal and adventure attractions of Rotorua, drove around the rugged East Cape where we barely saw another tourist, surfed in Gisborne and rounded out the month in the Art Deco city of Napier.

My home town of Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

February: New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia

The first few days of the month we were finishing off our New Zealand road trip.

We drove up through Taupo where we visited Huka Falls and soaked in a natural hot springs, then onto Waitomo Caves to see glowworms and go on an epic caving adventure, finishing up at the West Coast beach towns of Kawhia and Raglan, before returning to Auckland.

Natural hot springs at Kawhia Beach in New Zealand

From Auckland we flew out separately to Indonesia – Toby to Jakarta and then on to the remote islands of Raja Ampat, while I went to Bali.

I spent nine days on Bali, split between the hipster Digital Nomad paradise of Canggu, and the hippy enclave of Ubud. I met some cool people, visited temples, ate loads of vegetarian food, traipsed through rice terraces and along beaches, and enjoyed getting back on a scooter.

Rice terraces near Ubud, Bali

From Bali, I flew to Kuala Lumpur to meet up with Toby again, and we spent the last two weeks of the month traveling around Malaysia – through the steaming hot metropolis of Kuala Lumpur, the colorful river town of Melaka, the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands and the rainforest of Taman Negara, before finishing the month on the paradise island of Perhentian Kecil, where we treated ourselves to a nice hotel by the beach.

Swimming on Perhentian Kecil Island in Malaysia

March: Malaysia, Cambodia

After a couple more nights on Perhentian Kecil, we took a boat and a bus to the other side of the country, to enjoy the street art and street food of Penang.

Toby flew back to the US to work after Penang and I traveled back to Kuala Lumpur for one more night before flying to Cambodia, where I spent the rest of the month.

I fell head over heels in love with Cambodia, and met some incredible people during my travels there.

Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia

My first stop was a week in Siem Reap, where I hopped around the temples of Angkor Wat, chilled out by the pool, ate amazing street food, visited a Floating Village and biked around town.

From Siem Reap I took the bus to Battambang, where I met a great group of travelers and we visited the local sights together, including the bamboo train, a local lake, the killing caves, the Battambang Circus and a dinner at our guide’s house.

We went to Phnom Penh next where we visited the somber Killing Fields and S21 Museum, then spent five amazing nights in Kampot, which turned out to be my favorite place in Cambodia.

There is so much to do around Kampot and we headed out on our scooters every day, to Kep for beaches and crab, to a pepper plantation, and to the crazy Bokor Hill Station. Kampot has a great dining scene so we ate out at quite a few places, and did a river cruise to see the fireflies one evening.

Bokor Hill Station near Kampot, Cambodia

From there our cosy little travel group – we named ourselves Fambodia – split up, with a few of us going to the beautiful island of Koh Rong Sanloem, including me.

I booked into a very rustic treehouse for my six nights on the island, with my friend Ryan staying at the resort next door. Despite a bad case of food poisoning, I really loved my time on the island, and  made the most of it by hanging out with friends and relaxing. Unfortunately it was raining for half of my time there so I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to – guess I will just have to go back.

My last night of the month was spent on Otres Beach, a bit of a let down after the beauty of Koh Rong Sanloem, but I stayed in a beautiful boutique hotel and enjoyed some downtime while it rained outside.

Saracen Bay on Koh Rong Sanloem in Cambodia

April: Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand

My first four nights of the month were spent in four different countries. I spent my last night in Cambodia in Otres Beach then flew to Bangkok where I had a night before my flight back to New Zealand. Trouble was that my flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur was delayed by two hours, and that was where I was catching my onward flight to New Zealand.

I ended up missing my flight and had to spend a night in Kuala Lumpur as there is only one Air Asia flight a day to New Zealand – luckily they put me up in a nice hotel and gave me meal vouchers so it wasn’t so bad.

Papamoa Beach in New Zealand

Once I was back home in New Zealand things calmed down a lot on the travel front. I started a ten week contract back at Southern Cross Health Society where I worked a contract in 2017, so I spent most of the rest of the month in Auckland working, although I did make it down to Hamilton and Papamoa to visit friends and family on two different weekends.

May: New Zealand

I spent the whole month of May in New Zealand working, catching up with friends and just generally keeping my head down, saving money. May was also the month that I finally had my Fiancé visa interview and was told I got it on the spot – definitely something to celebrate after a whole lot of paperwork and stress!

Dad and I flew down to Nelson for a long weekend and unfortunately it was rainy and freezing for most of it. I really loved Nelson anyway and it is now a definite on my shortlist of places to live in New Zealand when we move there at some stage.

Downtown Nelson in New Zealand

I also spent another weekend at Mum’s in Papamoa where I was forced to watch the Royal Wedding (boring).

Despite not doing a lot of travel this month, I was really enjoying my job and the chance to catch up  with friends and family. As I don’t always get to do this, I really appreciate it when I do.

June: New Zealand, Australia, Thailand

The first half of June I was still working in Auckland, but managed to do quick trips to Cambridge and Matakana to visit family. From there I packed my bags and flew to Thailand, via a couple of nights in Sydney where I hung out with one of my besties and picked up my wedding dress.

Thong Nai Pan Noi beach on Koh Phangan in Thailand

I spent two wonderful weeks in Thailand including five nights in Bangkok where I got some dental work done and discovered some new to me neighborhoods and markets, six nights in Koh Phangan where I scootered all over the island checking out the different beaches and hanging out in chilled out Thong Nai Pan, and finally Ayutthaya, where I got to see the temples that are Thailand’s version of Angkor Wat.

As always, I loved my time in Thailand and can’t wait to return.

July: Thailand, Colorado, New Mexico

The first night of July was my last night in Thailand, and I spent it checking out some rooftop bars with a fellow traveler and former local, then I flew to Manila where I had an eight hour stopover before continuing on to LA, where I connected for my final destination: Denver.

It was so great to be back with my love and into a beautiful Colorado summer. We spent just over a week in Denver, housesitting and catching up with family and friends, then we drove into the mountains for a two week housesit in Eagle.

Colorado State Capitol in Denver

One of the dogs we were looking after was hard work but we still mostly enjoyed our stay in Eagle. Along with walking the trails around town, we also ventured further afield to Glenwood Springs and Vail to do some hot springs soaking and hiking. I also went to my first rodeo while we were in Eagle and it was definitely an eye-opening experience.

As the housesit was split into two parts with five nights in between, we decided to do a mini road trip rather than head back to Denver. We visited the small country town of Palisade, the bigger city of Grand Junction and the beautiful desert landscapes of Colorado National Monument, before circling around to one of my favorite mountain towns for three nights: Crested Butte.

Downtown Crested Butte in Colorado

I loved our time in Crested Butte, trying the different restaurants and hiking in the surrounding mountains. We got two flat tires during our time there but it still didn’t manage to ruin it.

Once we finished up at our Eagle sit, we drove down to Espanola in New Mexico to spend some time with Toby’s Dad and to see the sights, taking a French traveler with us that we met in Eagle.

August: New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Illinois

I hit up a large amount of states in August, including five I hadn’t been to before.

The month started in New Mexico where we had a couple more days visiting our favorite sites including Santa Fe and Meow Wolf, then we drove back into Colorado to do a house sit for a couple of days in the hippy mountain town of Manitou Springs, where we visited the cliff dwellings and played some skee ball at the old skool arcade in town.

Manitou Cliff Dwellings in Manitou Springs, Colorado

From Manitou we were back in Denver for a week, then I hit the road on a solo road trip through Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois to meet up with my friend Dani for a week, then together we traveled in Nashville, Chattanooga and Asheville.

We had a great time sampling all the amazing food and craft beer, and hiking in the Smoky Mountains and along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Exploring Nashville's street art scene

Toby met me in Kansas City on my drive back, and we stayed a couple of nights with his friends there, where they showed us around the city and the cool college town of Lawrence.

The last week of the month we spent back in Denver, getting wedding stuff done.

September: Colorado, New Mexico

The first couple of days of September we had a great housesit in the mountains near the town of Green Mountain Falls, then we were back in Denver for almost three weeks.

On the 20th September we got married at beautiful Chief Hosa Lodge with my friends and family arriving into town from the week before. As well as sorting last minute wedding arrangements, I also managed to hike two 14,000 ft peaks, visit Rocky Mountain National Park, show my loved ones around Denver, and do a day trip to Idaho Springs and St Mary’s Glacier.

Our wedding day at Chief Hosa Lodge in Colorado

Everyone left a couple of days after the wedding, except for my Dad. From Denver, Toby, Dad and I drove down to New Mexico where we stayed with Toby’s Dad and showed my Dad around one of our favorite parts of the US. We visited Taos via the wineries along the low road, Santa Fe, the small town and sanctuary of Chimayo, and went for a soak at Ojo Caliente hot springs and spa.

Toby flew to Vegas to work from there and the last couple of days of the month Dad and I explored one of the most underrated National Parks in the US: Mesa Verde in Colorado.

Canyon Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico

October: Colorado, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana

Dad and I continued our one week South West road trip through the mountains of Colorado and the National Parks of Utah before ending in Vegas, where Dad stayed a couple more nights before continuing his travels through Arizona.

I stayed four nights in Vegas where Toby was working, spending some time at the pool and one afternoon exploring the Strip.

Incredible Arches National Park in Utah

From Vegas, Toby and I flew back to Denver where we both worked our butts off for ten days, building then working the Pumpkin Nights event in Brighton.

And then our two month Southern Road Trip Honeymoon began!

The last eleven days of the month we roadtripped down through New Mexico and Texas, finishing the month in Louisiana.

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico

We visited the mystical sand dunes of White Sands National Monument, the alien-obsessed town of Roswell and the incredible Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico; historical San Antonio and hipster Austin in Texas; and the Cajun heartland of Lafayette, and vibrant New Orleans in Louisiana.

The last night of the month we celebrated Halloween in New Orleans, and what a party that was!

November: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina

The first three weeks of November we were on the road, traveling at a break-neck speed through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, following the coast most of the way.

Highlights included the incredible food and architecture in New Orleans – one of my new favorite cities, chilling out on the small and relaxed island of Cedar Key, swimming with manatees in Crystal River, enjoying the street art and craft beer scene in St Petersburg, celebrating my birthday in St Augustine, and wandering the moss-draped squares (and eating a whole lot of comfort food) in Savannah.

New Orleans in Louisiana

The last week of the month we slowed down the pace a bit at our house sit in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina – just over the bridge from genteel Charleston.

Along with celebrating Thanksgiving, we explored historic downtown Charleston, checked out Fort Moultrie and the beach on Sullivan’s Island, visited the stunning grounds and swamp garden of the Magnolia Plantation, and did a self-guided walking tour of Mount Pleasant’s Historic District.

Historic Charleston in South Carolina

But we also had a few days just chilling out at the house with the sweet dog we were caring for, which was exactly what we needed.

December: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado

December saw us still housesitting for another two weeks, where we started getting into the Christmas spirit with lots of Christmas movies, seeing A Christmas Carol at a historic theatre, going to a community Christmas tree lighting, and participating in a Ugly Christmas Sweater pub crawl.

We also further explored Charleston, the Isle of Palms and Fort Sumter, and I did a day trip to the cute southern town of Beaufort and colorful Folly Beach while Toby stayed home with Griffey the dog.

Historic Charleston in South Carolina

After finishing up our three week housesit, we spent a week roadtripping back to Denver for Christmas.

Highlights of our road trip included drinking beer at the excellent Terrapin Brewing in Athens, learning about Civil Rights history and seeing the Peabody ducks in Memphis, visiting the cute town of Hot Springs and the very interesting Hot Springs National Park, and driving part of Route 66 through Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.

Abandoned motel on Route 66 in Texas

We got back to Denver on the 21st December, just in time to go to the German Christmas Market, see the Christmas lights in town, and go on a boozy ugly Christmas sweater brunch and pub crawl.

It was my first Christmas in the US and I loved spending it with my American family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And now I am really part of the family because I got the gigantic pink and black lace Christmas panties, a family tradition for the past twenty years – a member of the family gets re-gifted them each year.

Christmas lights at Union Station in Denver, Colorado

The Christmas period was pretty busy with family events and birthdays but we also had a lot of time to cosy up inside, and it got pretty cold and snowy right around New Years Eve. A great excuse to watch movies, play games, and cuddle up with my brother and sister in law’s kitties.

All in all, 2018 was a pretty fabulous year!

How was your 2018?

If you liked this post, check out my 2017 in review.

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