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Digital Nomad Life: 2021 in Review

Overall, 2021 was not a bad year for travel although I mostly traveled within the U.S. due to COVID, visiting 14 states over the year on numerous road trips. 

I also spent six blissful weeks of summer in New Zealand, six weeks living between different mountain towns in Colorado during winter, five weeks island-hopping solo in Greece, and three weeks exploring old favorites and new places in Colombia.

Colorful Cartagena Street

2021 was the year that I let go of some of my online work and started doing event work with Toby, a decision that I am very pleased I made. I ended up living and working in LA for almost three months this year and also worked events in Kansas and Ohio.

Most of my lowlights for the year were pretty general ones – stress and anxiety over COVID and the political situation in the U.S., vehicle breakdowns, money worries, scary flights and boat trips, extreme weather, bed bugs, stressful work conditions, a dodgy Airbnb, minor health issues, and canceled trips. Nothing I couldn’t handle and the highlights outweighed the lowlights.

La Piedra Beach in Malibu

Here’s what my 2021 looked like month by month. But first off – here are a few quick stats:

Countries Visited: 4 – New Zealand, USA, Greece, Colombia

States Visited: 14 – Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Florida

House Sits Completed: 3

Hikes Tackled: 102

Not as good as last year but not too bad. I did a lot of walking in general and managed to keep my step count above 10,000 for a lot of the year.

What I Spent: $22806 (not including international flights)

I didn’t quite achieve my goal of keeping my spending under $20,000 for the year but I was only around $3000 off which isn’t bad at all taking into account that we had some big expenses for the RV and van, and my impromptu 5 week trip to Greece.

Prevelli Beach in Greece

Now that I am working more events and have more money coming in, I am going to up my budget to $25,000 for next year which I should hopefully be able to stick to. I am also now making more by working events so I want to feel a little more relaxed with money and treating myself occasionally.

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

January: New Zealand

I spent the whole month of January in New Zealand and it was glorious. I spent New Years Day hanging out in Raglan with one of my besties and her family, then flew to subtropical Great Barrier Island for a wonderful week of hiking and beach-hopping.

Tryphena on Great Barrier Island

After a couple of days back in Auckland, I flew down to Nelson for a week with my Dad where we mostly just relaxed and explored the city and its surroundings, then it was back to Auckland for a week to hang out with friends and soak up the summer vibes in New Zealand’s largest city.

The last few days of the month I spent camping at Uretiti Beach in Northland, a gorgeous place with turquoise water and silky white sand. 

Uretiti Beach

February: New Zealand, Colorado

I spent the first two and a half weeks in New Zealand between Auckland, Tauranga, and Hamilton visiting friends and family, as well as hiking and beaching, then it was time to fly back to my husband in the U.S.

Breckenridge in winter

I spent the rest of the month in Colorado, between Denver, Silverthorne, and Canon City. Toby was working as a COVID tester and I did a couple of shifts to fill in, as well as hiking in the mountains, soaking in our hotel hot tub, and visiting friends and family in Denver.

March: Colorado, Utah

I spent almost the whole month hopping between Denver and different mountain towns in Colorado, including Breckenridge, Vail, Glenwood Springs, Frisco, Silverthorne, and Leadville.

Dog Sledding in Leadville

I got to do some fun winter activities including skiing for the first time, ice-skating on a frozen lake, dogsledding, hot springs soaking, and hiking along snowy trails. It was a wonderful month and I am so glad I finally got to really experience the beauty of Colorado’s mountains in winter.

The last day of the month we started our long trek to LA for work, stopping in Utah for the night.

April: Utah, California

After a short stop for lunch in St George, Utah, we finally reached our destination for the rest of the month: LA!

We checked into a fun mural-filled RV Park in Balboa Lake which was our home for the rest of the month, and started working a walk-through, candy-themed event in Woodland Hills called Sugar Rush.

Disco Dome at Sugar Rush

I only had one day off a week (as well as mornings before work) but I made the most of it, visiting the beaches in Malibu, the Getty Villa, Downtown LA, Venice Beach and the canals, and numerous mountain parks to hike, as well as doing nearly daily walks around pretty Lake Balboa and eating all the donuts, tacos, and In-N-Out.

This is the month that I REALLY got to know LA, and I came away loving it even more than I already did.

Santa Monica

May: California, Arizona, Colorado

We spent the first ten days of the month in LA, working Sugar Rush on the weekends only which gave us more time to explore and explore we did.

We hiked to the M*A*S*H filming site in Malibu Creek State Park, visited the La Brea Tar Pits and the Original Farmers Market, went out for dinner and drinks in Hollywood, hiked to the Old Zoo in Griffith Park, and went brewery hopping in DTLA.

MASH Filming Site in Malibu

From LA, we spent an afternoon and evening in Ventura, one of my SoCal faves, then caught an early boat to Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park. We camped on the island for the next three days and despite the weather not being stellar, it was a wonderful trip.

Highlights were being surrounded by a megapod of dolphins on the boat ride there (literally thousands of dolphins), lots of encounters with the super cute Santa Cruz foxes which are the size of housecats, and stunning views on numerous hikes.

Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island

After a quick couple of nights back in LA where we got to go to the Stranger Things Drive-Thru experience (loved it!), we headed to Phoenix for five nights to visit friends and family there, then drove back up to Denver over a few days via Flagstaff, Durango, Pagosa Springs, Salida, and Buena Vista.

We had a couple of nights staying with family, then we checked into Clear Creek RV Park in Golden along with Toby’s cousin and her family and spent a rainy Memorial Day weekend walking by the river in the rain, eating out at the restaurants in town, and holing up under rain shelters rigged up outside our RV.

Visiting the Golden History Park is one of the best things to do in Golden

June: Colorado

I spent the full month of June in Colorado and I soaked up as much of the brilliant Colorado summer as I could because I knew I wouldn’t be back for months.

We spent another two weeks at the RV Park which was so nice. I loved being right by the river and walking distance away from town and so many hiking trails. I hiked nearly every day I was there apart from a couple of days I spent mostly in bed sick with a cold. Golden in early summer is hard to beat.

Hiking around Golden Colorado

After a couple of nights in Brighton with my Auntie and Uncle, we spent the next twelve days housesitting in Boulder, looking after a sweet dog. This was one of my favorite sits ever. The location was perfect being only a block off Pearl Street, and Bear the dog was such a good boy. It was such a treat to stay in Boulder because we only usually visit from Denver for the day.

I definitely made the most of our time there, hiking lots of trails near town, hitting up local restaurants and breweries I had wanted to try, and going to the weekly Farmers Market. We also did a day trip to Lyons, Nederland, and Estes Park.

Red Rocks Trail in Boulder

We spent the last few days of the month back in Denver starting to get ready for our big road trip!

July: Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan

We were meant to leave on the 1st to Kansas but ended up being delayed till the 3rd because of issues with Brownie the RV. After spending a night near Hays, we were in Lawrence for a couple of days to celebrate July 4th with friends and then worked the Kansas City BBQ Festival for six days.

From there we had a crazy few days where we traveled through Iowa (Des Moines) and South Dakota (Sioux Falls), before reaching Minneapolis where we spent a few days exploring the city and staying with Toby’s friends just outside of town.

Minneapolis downtown

Leaving Minneapolis we had a breakdown and ended up in a middle of nowhere town for 28 hours while we waited for the RV to be fixed before hitting the road again and finally reaching our first Great Lake of our road trip – Lake Superior – in Duluth. 

We traveled to the impressive Apostle Islands of Wisconsin from there then spent eight days driving through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula which is a massively underrated part of the country.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

I wish we had more time to explore but I loved what we saw including the pretty little city of Marquette, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, the boat trip, hikes and beaches of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and genteel Mackinac Island.

We ended the month with a couple of days in Wisconsin’s lakeside gem: Door County. Door County is full of lovely little towns, pretty lake beaches, lighthouses, orchards, and hiking trails with an abundance of wild berries and flowers. We also went to a super local Door County dining event; a fish boil. We loved it!

Beach in Door County

August: Wisconsin, Illinois, Greece

We spent the first two days of the month in Door County, on Washington Island and Rock Island, then a couple of days getting to know surprisingly cool Milwaukee and five nights in steaming hot Chicago exploring the architecture along the riverwalk, beach-hopping, checking out different neighborhoods, and eating lots of deep dish pizza.

Chicago River

From there I said goodbye to Toby (who was due to start working an event) and flew to Greece! I met my friend Heidi in Athens for a night then we caught a ferry to the beautiful island of Naxos where we spent six nights together. I loved Naxos and it was fun exploring the villages and beaches of this magical island.

Heidi then flew back to Copenhagen and I took a ferry to neighboring Paros where I spent five days getting to know this lovely Greek Island. My highlights were Naoussa, Kolymbithres and Marcelo Beaches, the mazelike streets of the Chora, a full day of sailing, and a day trip to Antipaxos.

Naoussa harbor

The last nine days of the month I spent in Crete, staying in Heraklion, Rethymno, and Plakias. I absolutely fell in love with Crete and my highlights were Matala and Red Beaches, Spinalonga Island, hiking Samaria Gorge and visiting Agia Roumeli, and my cultural day trip to mountain villages and important historical sites around Rethymno.

Red Sand Beach in Crete

September: Greece, Ohio, California

The first half of the month I was still traveling in beautiful Greece. I started the month in Plakias in southern Crete which I used as a base to visit some of the nearby beaches, then moved to my last destination in Crete, Chania. I adored charming Chania and did two day trips from here to Elafounisi Beach, and Balos Lagoon and Gramvousa Island.

View from Gramvousa Fort

After a quick night and day exploring Athens, I took the train to Meteora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for two nights to hike between the awe-inspiring clifftop monasteries, then it was back to Athens again for two nights before flying out to Ohio to start work.

The second half of the month I worked my butt off, most of it working Lost Lands Music Festival near Thornville, Ohio, where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and the last few days of the month flying into LA to start working a family Halloween event in Woodland Hills.

Meteora Monasteries

October: California

I spent the full month of October in California working at Haunt O’Ween, and it was a stressful month with so much work – I was doing the recruitment and HR, as well as working in the installation managing a team of ten people so it was a lot. But, I just picked up the responsibility and ran with it, and although I hated the pressure at times, I also loved my job.

Haunt O'Ween in LA

The first half of the month we got two days off a week – Mondays and Tuesdays – and I made the most of it, hanging out at the beach in Santa Monica and Malibu, and doing a couple of mini road trips to Big Bear Lake to see the fall colors, and down the coast to Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente, and the South Bay of LA.

We also didn’t start work until 4 pm so I spent lots of mornings hiking in the mountain parks around LA, at my favorite beaches in Malibu, as well as trips to the Getty Center, the Art District, and Little Tokyo in downtown LA.

Santa Monica beach

The second half of the event we worked straight through – 12 days in a row – which was A LOT. This was the time I felt most stressed as we started getting multiple people calling in sick on a daily basis and we were very short-staffed on a lot of nights.

I also lived in a house with nine other people which was actually not as crazy as I thought it was going to be but there was still conflict, differing expectations about noise and cleanliness – you know, the usual when you have a whole lot of roommates.

Overall, it was the people that made this month special to me – the FSG staff that I got to know as well as my new hires. I met some truly fun, sweet, and dependable people in October and I hope to see them all again soon.

San Juan Capistrano ceremony

November: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado

The first day of the month was the last day of our time in LA, and finishing the event definitely made me feel more relaxed. From LA, we spent a quick two nights visiting Toby’s Mum in Phoenix then we drove to Pecos, New Mexico via a night in Holbrook for the famous family Outlaw Party. 

After a fun weekend of debauchery with the family, Toby and I moved to Pa’s place (Toby’s Dad) in Espanola for a few days then spent nine wonderful days roadtripping through the mountains of Colorado for my birthday, visiting some of my favorite mountain towns and hot springs.

Crested Butte

The last couple of weeks of the month we spent in the Denver area, staying with family for a couple of days then housesitting and looking after two dogs for ten days.

We prioritized visiting loved ones, and finally made it to Meow Wolf in Denver – it was amazing! Even better than Santa Fe which hurts me to say because I have a big soft spot for the original and have visited many times.

Meow Wolf Denver Denver Meow Wolf

December: Colorado, Florida, Colombia

The first week of the month I spent in Colorado after a last-minute change of plans – I was meant to spend it with a friend in Long Beach but she got COVID so I ended up spending more time with friends and family in Colorado which turned out to be pretty awesome. 

Central City

I also revisited Golden, did an impromptu half-day trip to Central City and went brewery-hopping in Denver.

From Colorado, Toby and I spent three nights in Miami where we spent time in South Beach, Little Havana, and Wynwood. We also accidentally went to our second one-man show of the year, a take on A Christmas Carol where it was from Marley’s point of view. No more one-man shows for me.

South Beach Miami

Then we flew off to Colombia where we spent the rest of December, starting with a week beach-hopping on San Andres Island, four days walking our butts off in gorgeous Cartagena, three days beach bumming in Taganga, four nights hiking and doing yoga in Minca, two quick nights to check out hippie Palomino and go tubing on the river, then finishing the year back in Cartagena to celebrate the New Year.

San Andres Beach

And that was my year! It was even busier than I remember but it felt more balanced. I have realized over the last few years that I prefer working hard for short periods then taking breaks to travel, rather than just working solely online all the time. We also spent a lot of time with family and friends this year which gets more and more important the older I get.

I love writing these recap posts because it makes me look back and reflect on all the incredible things I have accomplished – things I often take for granted. Looking back at 2021 I realize how lucky I am to live this life that I lead, the life I want and that I chose for myself.

It may not be perfect and there are things I need to work on but I love it so much and 2021 was another great year.

How was your 2021?

If you liked this post, check out my 2020 in review, 2019 in review, 2018 in review and 2017 in review. 

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