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2019 was all about travel in the US.
As I was waiting for my Green Card to be processed for the first quarter of the year, and then worked for a US-based company – albeit remotely – all summer, I ended up spending almost ten months of the year solely within the United States.
From when I arrived on my Fiancee Visa back in July 2018, through to when I went to Canada in September 2019, I didn’t leave the country for over 14 months – the longest I have been in one country continuously since I left New Zealand to live in Australia in 2004!
But even though I was mostly in the US, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t still traveling. I traveled to 19 states, including roadtripping the West Coast, the Great Plains, the Southwest and New England. I also traveled to 5 additional countries – including one that was new to me – so I was definitely busy. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
In regards to lowlights, 2019 was a pretty good one with no major mishaps – I still have all my limbs although I am missing a couple of teeth (which was planned, but still a lowlight). Our little van Casper gave us some more problems but he is up and running fine again now, I got sick a few times, I was stressed because I was working so much, two cameras broke within a few months, I got lonely at times with Toby away working a lot, the political situation definitely got me down, I missed my country and my family… but looking back there were a lot more positive moments than negative ones, and that’s all you can hope for.
Here’s what my 2019 looked like month by month. But first off – here are a few quick stats:
Countries Visited: Six – USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Laos
States Visited: 19 + District of Columbia – Hawaii, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Virginia, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, South Dakota, Wyoming, Washington, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine,Vermont
House Sits Completed: 8
Hikes Tackled: 77
What I Spent: $21,416 (not including international flights)
Turns out that aiming for $14,000 to $16,000 for the year was totally unrealistic. I ended up splurging on more expensive travel in the US in 2019 because I was working a full time job and could afford it. We also had vehicle costs, I had more work done on my teeth, I spent more on gifts for other people, and – like usual – I spent A LOT on food. I would like to see 2020 dip lower than $20,000 – but we will see what happens.
(To see a more detailed break down of each month, check out my monthly round ups)
January: Colorado, Hawaii
We rung in the New Year in Colorado with Toby’s brother Flip and some of his friends, then spent another ten cold and snowy days there before flying to Hawaii for the rest of the month. After three nights in Waikiki, we flew to the Big Island to start our six week Help Exchange on a coffee and macadamia nut farm in beautiful South Kona.
The last half of the month we spent exploring the beaches and towns of the Kona area with our hosts and fellow volunteers, working for around 20 hours per week – me at the farmers markets doing the oven for our host’s pizza business, and Toby doing handyman and construction work around the property, and relaxing in our studio with the little kitty that claimed us on day one.
It was nice to be in one place for a while, and we settled into our short term life in Hawaii smoothly.
We spent the whole month of February on the Big Island of Hawaii and it was fabulous!
Most of the month was spent still at our Help Exchange, and we really enjoyed our time there. We did weekly trips to Kailua-Kona town to spend the day there, we snorkeled at nearby Two Step, did a lot of hiking, swam with wild dolphins – one of the highlights of my life, played with snow on top of Mauna Kea, checked out some more beaches, met lots of locals, and I got really good at managing a pizza oven.
For the last five days of our Help Exchange, my Dad flew in to visit us and rented out the small studio on the property. He rented a car so we could explore further afield in our time off, so we did day trips to the very north of the island to Hawi and Pololu Valley, to the South to hike to the Green Sand Beach, to see the turtles at Punalu’u, and to two of the most beautiful beaches on the island – Makalawena and Hapuna.
After a farewell breakfast, we said goodbye to our Help Exchange hosts and fellow helpers, then moved into a tiny home near the artist village of Holualoa for the last four nights of the month, complete with a waterfall hot tub.
Now that we had finished working, we amped up the adventure, visiting Hilo on the East Coast, Volcanoes National Park, and undertaking a tough two day hike in and out of the remote Waimanu Valley.
March: Hawaii, Colorado, Utah, California, Arizona
Like February, I spent most of March in Hawaii too, but we were on the move pretty much constantly.
We still had another couple of days on my beloved Big Island, then we took an early morning flight to Oahu to spend a week exploring the best of the busiest island in Hawaii.
I am a big fan of the more laid back North Shore, so that is where we based ourselves for the first five nights. On the North Shore, we checked out the classics like Waimea Bay, the Dole Plantation, the cute town of Haliewa and lush Waimea Valley with its excellent Toa Luau.
As we had a car we also traveled to other points on Oahu including the rugged West Coast, some of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii on the East Coast, Koko Head and Makapu’u Point for hiking, the peaceful Byodo-In Temple, Kaka’ako for street art and hipster cafes, and we learnt more about Hawaiian history at the Bishop Museum.
Toby flew back to the mainland for work after that, and me and Dad had a couple more nights in Waikiki. Then I said farewell to Dad too and flew to Maui for a two week solo housesit.
I was looking after a dog and a cat in the lovely upcountry town of Makawao, and was able to explore more of the island as the homeowners let me use one of their vehicles.
I couldn’t leave the dog for more than six hours so I did a lot of half day trips, to the chilled town of Paia, the resort region of Lahaina and Kaanapali, the beaches of Makena, and to Haleakala National Park.
Hiking was a big focus of my time on Maui and I did some fantastic ones – the Sliding Sands trail in Haleakala National Park, Waihou Spring trail, Pipiwai trail, and Waihee Ridge. I also had a friend of the homeowner look after the dog for me one day so I could drive the Road to Hana and visit the red sand beach there, which was so amazing.
Maui was just as great as I remembered it when I first visited back in 2009.
Then it was time to get back to the US for my green card interview – which was thankfully successful – followed by a long two days of roadtripping to get Toby to Indio in time to start work at Coachella Music Festival. I spent a night in Utah on the road, and another night with Toby, then the last four nights of the month were spent staying with a friend in Phoenix, Arizona.
As always, I had a great time in Phoenix, hiking and enjoying the spring wildflowers, visiting Mesa for the first time, going to three different museums, and eating like a queen.
April: Arizona, California, Colorado, New York, Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland
April was another busy travel month which saw me flying from the West Coast to the East Coast.
After one more night in Phoenix, and a night visiting Toby in Indio and Palm Springs, I drove to San Diego for six nights and fell head over heels for this cool city on the beach.
I loved everything about my stay in San Diego – my excellent hostel in the quiet Point Loma neighborhood of the city, my room mates in our cosy dorm, all the beaches and fun neighborhoods, dreamy Balboa Park, ritzy Coronado Island, hiking in Torrey Pines and Cabrillos National Monument, roadtripping up the coast to Carlsbad and Oceanside, and all the history at Old Town San Diego. It was all so fabulous!
It was hard to say goodbye but I was on a schedule, so I drove back to Indio where I ended up spending three nights after my flight to Denver was delayed for two days because of storms, then I finally flew into Denver for three nights for my mother-in-law’s wedding in Brighton.
The wedding was epic, and so was the hangover, but somehow I dragged myself out of bed for an early morning flight to New York City.
I had three nights in New York City and it was still pretty chilly and pretty rainy, although the cherry blossoms and daffodils were starting to bloom, so I was still pretty happy to be there, and to see my friend Dani.
New York City was a whirlwind of jetlag and eating, then me and Dani drove to Washington D.C. for a couple of days of exploring together, before Dani drove back to New York.
I ended up spending eight nights in D.C. and I LOVED it! I never expected it to be so beautiful – both nature-wise and architecturally – and it fast became one of my favorite US cities.
I crammed so much into my time there, including numerous museums, the mall and its memorials, the US Capitol, lots of parks, the Arboretum, Theodore Roosevelt Island, various neighborhoods, food markets, and even day trips to Arlington and Alexandria. I could have easily spent weeks longer there I loved it so much and there was so much to do!
Then it was back to New York City for the last six days of the month, which were also very busy with lots of carefully planned meals out, lots of time in different parts of Brooklyn where I was staying with Dani, and trips to parts of the city I haven’t been to before like Arthur Avenue in the Bronx for the real Little Italy experience, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and Harlem for a walking tour.
I also got to do Dani’s Brooklyn Pizza tour and was so impressed!
May: New York, New Jersey, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado
I was still on the road hard in May, starting with three more nights in New York City where I traveled to Astoria in Queens, the newly opened Vessel, and to Jersey City for an afternoon of exploration and amazing pizza.
From New York City I flew to LA, where Toby picked me up and we set out on a week long California road trip up the coast to Monterey, then to some new to us National Parks – Pinnacles, Kings Canyon and Death Valley.
We loved the whole road trip but highlights were beautiful Morro Bay and seeing sea otters, the lovely town of San Luis Obispo, driving the coast in Big Sur, hiking in Pinnacles National Park, and pretty much everything in Death Valley National Park, which we never expected to like so much.
Toby had a job in Vegas so I dropped him there, stayed just long enough to gorge at one of the buffets and check out the Bellagio Conservatory display and fountain show, then I drove to LA by myself, to do an eight night housesit in East Hollywood.
Every time I go to LA I end up coming away liking it more, and this time was no different. I got to explore places I haven’t been to in the past like the Venice Canals, downtown LA, hikes in Runyon Canyon and to the Hollywood Sign, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and the neighborhoods of Larchmont Village, Los Feliz and Silver Lake. And I got to cuddle a ginger cat called Justin – it was pretty great.
After all that LA love it was time to go back to Vegas for a couple of nights, this time staying in Old Vegas – right on Fremont Street. I had only visited this part of Vegas very briefly before so it was nice to explore some new spots like the Neon Museum and Fremont Street East.
From Vegas we took our time driving back to Denver, exploring St George, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. We had planned to spend even longer and go to Zion and Canyonlands National Parks too, but the weather had other ideas so we pushed on to Denver, where I spent the last few days of the month.
After a crazy (but fun) couple of months of full on travel, I spent the whole of June in Denver.
I housesat the whole month, for a week in the Highlands, then three weeks in my favorite little town of Golden. I got a temping job and started working full time hours for a Software Company on the 10th June. I also did the Whole 30, well, the Whole 25 as I cheated on day 26 with a donut (my kryptonite).
Overall, it was a pretty chilled out, quiet month – especially for me. I found myself alone a lot as Toby was away working for most of the month, but I got into a nice rhythm and got used to it fast. I went to a few different local meet-ups for hikes and meals, and met some great new people, as well as doing a few local hikes with the dog I was looking after in Golden.
It was actually just the reset I needed.
July: Colorado, New Mexico
Most of July was also spent in Colorado, between a couple of different housesits and airbnbs in Denver.
We celebrated my second July 4th by brewery hopping with friends, and watching fireworks the night before at Civic Center Park. We hung out with family. I worked – a lot.
We also made it down to New Mexico to stay with Toby’s Dad in Espanola for a week – I worked remotely from there – and that was fantastic, as New Mexico always is.
As well as working between a co-working space in Santa Fe, and cafes in Albuquerque and Espanola, we also went to the Taos Pueblo Pow Wow and a local pueblo’s yearly fiesta which was so special, picked lots of cherries at a friend of Toby’s Dad in Dixon, drove some of Route 66 in Albuquerque and the scenic Turquoise Trail between charming villages in the mountains, and I re-visited the Plaza and Canyon Road in Santa Fe.
On the way back up to Denver, I did a two day solo Colorado road trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park, St Elmo Ghost Town, Cottonwood Hot Springs and Buena Vista.
August: Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota
The first half of August was spent mostly housesitting in Denver and spending lots of time with family. We also hiked a 14’er – my third.
The second half of the month we were traveling, with a road trip up to Rapid City over two days, visiting Cheyenne, Fort Laramie, Devils Tower, Spearfish, and Deadwood. As I was working full time still, we based ourselves in Rapid City for the work week and did afternoon trips to Custer, the Tri-State Fair, Mount Rushmore and Keystone.
Driving down to the Aspen area from South Dakota, we spent a night in Badlands National Park and visited Fort Collins, then did a two day backcountry hiking trip to beautiful Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen, followed by a couple of nights in historic Leadville.
After dropping Toby in Vail for work, I drove up to Estes Park to spend the long weekend hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and checking out the supposedly haunted Stanley Hotel.
September: Colorado, Washington, Canada
From Estes Park, I spent a few days back in Denver working, then flew out to Seattle for three nights in my favorite US city.
As well as visiting friends, I returned to a number of my favorite places including Fremont, Gas Works Park, Capitol Hill, Pike Place Market, Green Lake and the waterfront. I also did a day trip to Bainbridge Island – my first time.
Next I took a bus up to Vancouver for nine days in my favorite city in the world, and my former home.
I got into a nice rhythm of getting up at 6.30am and starting work, getting off around 2pm, then spending the afternoon and evening exploring and meeting up with friends.
Despite the near constant rain, I loved being back in Van City, and highlights included biking around the seawall and swimming at Third Beach, eating my way around Granville Island Market, wandering the beaches and shops of Kitsilano, brewery hopping in Mount Pleasant, shopping in East Van, and taking the train out to Port Moody for an afternoon hiking and checking out the local breweries.
The last half of the month I spent back in Denver, housesitting in lovely Wash Park for my friends Pete and Venessa. I mostly laid low and enjoyed the downtime, but Toby and I did go for a two day fall colors road trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake, Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge for our one year Wedding Anniversary, and I did a couple of awesome hikes in Boulder and Golden Gate Canyon State Park with my cousin Anita.
October: Colorado, Nevada, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, New York, Hawaii
WOW, October was a doozy of a travel month, and the crazy thing was that I was still working mostly full time hours during this month too – although I did take a couple of days off and only worked 20 hours one week.
I had a few days still housesitting in Denver to start the month, then I flew to Vegas to join Toby who was working Rise Lantern Festival there. Although I had to work, I still managed to spend an evening releasing lanterns into the air at Rise Festival, I spent a couple of afternoons at the pool, I finally got to eat at Eataly, and Toby and I went to see Love by Cirque du Soleil at The Mirage.
After four nights in Vegas, Toby and I flew overnight to Boston to kick off ten nights road tripping New England. We had a day and a half in Boston, a city I love for its food and history, then we picked up the hire car, and drove down to Newport for two nights to attend a family wedding.
The wedding, and Newport, were both fantastic, and it was so fun to hang out with lots of Toby’s family for a couple of days.
On the way out of town heading north, we stopped at an Italian Festival in Providence, then spent the next week roadtripping. We followed the coast through Massachusetts and New Hampshire up to Portland, Maine, then drove the scenic Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire, through genteel small towns and countryside in Vermont, before looping back through Massachusetts to Boston, stopping at the excellent Old Sturbridge Village on the way.
After another night in Boston, Toby flew back to Denver and I took a bus down to New York City to spend three nights with Dani in Brooklyn. It was only a short trip but we did a lot, including visiting the Museum of the City of New York, Central Park for a photo shoot, Time Out Market in Brooklyn, we saw the excellent Come From Away musical, biked through Prospect Park and took the ferry from DUMBO to Williamsburg.
Then I flew back to Denver too, spending six days wrapping up my contract position at Vendavo, packing and preparing for our six month international trip, celebrated Halloween, and even squeezing in a three day housesit.
The last couple of days of October I escaped the frozen tundra of Denver for the sunny climes of Waikiki – a quick stopover on the way to Australia.
November: Australia, New Zealand
November was spent fully in Oceania, starting with a week in Sydney where I spent my time visiting friends, and returning to some of my favorite places including Manly, Newtown, The Rocks, the Botanical Gardens and the Bondi to Coogee walk.
I spent the rest of the month in New Zealand, mostly with friends and family in Papamoa and Auckland, but I also squeezed in quick trips to Hamilton and Cambridge, and did a five night road trip with my bestie Kurt through Taranaki, hiking the two day Pouakai Circuit, then spending time at our friend Eddie’s in the country town of Tokoroa.
December: New Zealand, Thailand, Laos
I had a couple more nights in New Zealand which I spent catching up on work and preparing for Asia, then I flew to Thailand to reunite with Toby.
We spent a week in Bangkok, where I had to get some work done on my teeth (and recover from it) but also fit some sightseeing, then we took a bus and a boat to chilled out Koh Chang Island in Trat Province.
Koh Chang is home to fishermen villages, beautiful waterfalls, and some lovely beaches – all of which we explored by scooter. The sunsets were also some of the best I have ever seen.
Koh Mak was next, an even more chilled out island with a big expat population. We stayed at the excellent Bamboo Hideaway and loved our bungalow and the luxurious pool. Everyone that stayed there was so friendly, as was the Manager Jake. As well as exploring the beaches, we also got to attend a couple of local parties, making us feel very at home.
It was hard to leave but we didn’t want to miss Koh Kood, the island with the best beaches in Thailand – or so we heard from multiple sources. Turns out it was true – the beaches were mind-blowingly stunning! Needless to say, we spent the four days we had on Koh Kood beach-hopping.
And then our two weeks Thai island-hopping were over, and we headed back to Bangkok for two nights before flying to a new country for me: Laos.
The last week of 2019 was spent in Laos, with Christmas in Vientiane, ziplining for the first time in Vang Vieng (as well as tubing, caving and swimming in blue lagoons), and then eating all the French pastries and bread in Luang Prabang, where we also did a half day trip to the outstanding Kuang Si Waterfall.
New Years Eve was a pretty quiet one, but we did have a couple of drinks out in Luang Prabang, then went to see the countdown at the main square. I loved Luang Prabang and it was the perfect place to round out 2019!
Overall, 2019 was a pretty great year, and I hope that 2020 will be just as amazing – it is already shaping up to be!
How was your 2019?
If you liked this post, check out my 2018 in review and 2017 in review.