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18 Years of Travel

The 1st February 2022 marked 18 years since I left New Zealand to live abroad and travel the world, and it blows my mind that I am still doing it.

What was meant to be a year in Australia and a couple of years in the UK before probably moving back to New Zealand, turned into 18 years of travel and experiences when I caught the travel bug real bad. I have come to terms that I have a terminal case and that’s OK with me.

Hiking-Bryce-Canyon-National-Park

I have legally lived in five countries, traveled to 64, been nomadic for the past 6.5 years, and have worked lots of different jobs to be able to continue living this lifestyle. I have had to make hard decisions, say goodbye to some friendships and relationships, and there have been times when I have wanted to give it all up.

But it has been a hell of an adventure and I wouldn’t want my life to look any other way. This is me, travel is a big part of who I am, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon, if ever, although I do want more of a permanent base at some point.

To celebrate 18 years on the road, I decided to put together a timeline of my life and travels over the past 18 years, since I left New Zealand just two months after my 21st birthday. I admit I am mostly doing this for myself but for all of you that are curious, it’s for you too.

Mount Maunganui

I have also included what jobs I have worked along the way to fund this lifestyle – and there have been A LOT!

So here are the past 18 years of my life and travels in a nutshell.

Please excuse the bad quality of my early photos, I have no idea where the originals are so I had to pull them off Facebook. Also, I didn’t have a digital camera until mid-2006 so I don’t have any digital photos from the first part of my travels.

Me and Rob on the Aotea Track

The Last 18 Years in Travels

Pre-2004: Two Countries

I really didn’t travel a lot before 2004. I knew I wanted to travel but didn’t know where to start, and I was scared. I did visit Australia three times before moving to Sydney in 2004, to the Gold Coast, Sydney, Brisbane, and the Sunshine Coast. 

I also visited the South Island of New Zealand twice, doing a road trip then visiting a friend in Dunedin, and I traveled through the top half of the North Island to numerous places with my family and with friends over the years.

Katie at 21

Amazingly my Mum allowed me, my best friend, and our boyfriends to do a 10-day Coromandel camping road trip when we had just turned 17. I still remember the joy of my first trip without my family.

And that was about it. Looking back I wish I was braver when I was younger and had started traveling earlier, but I just wasn’t ready yet.

2004: Two Countries

In February I left New Zealand to move to Sydney, Australia with a friend. We spent the first three months living in Hornsby, a boring suburb in northern Sydney, before moving to Newtown which is still one of my favorite places in the world all these years later although it is a lot more polished now than when I lived there!

I got a job as a Hotel Receptionist and after six months I was promoted to Conference and Catering Coordinator and Wedding Planner. Not bad for a 21-year-old.

Other than the move, I didn’t travel a lot in 2004. I mostly just explored Sydney and visited my friend’s family in Port Macquarie. I also went home to New Zealand for a couple of weeks because I was super homesick.

If you asked me during this period if I would still be living abroad and traveling 18 years later, I would have laughed in your face. And then started crying.

2005: Six Countries

The first half of 2005 was spent in Sydney, mostly partying to be honest. I was a very different version of myself then and partying was my priority – not travel. That version sometimes still comes out, but usually only a couple of times a year.

In June 2005, I made the biggest move of my life: to London! I had a 12-hour stopover in San Francisco and crammed in as much sightseeing as possible.

I would end up living in London for nearly six years total, which was definitely not the plan when I moved there on a two-year Working Holiday Visa.

Snow in London

This is where I started on a path that has served me really well over the years – temping in offices. This was how I managed to travel so much during a lot of my time in London and I worked in numerous roles from 2005  – 2007 in Project Management and Recruitment, including at BBC Television Center where I got to go to Top of the Pops (when it still existed).

In the second half of 2005, I traveled to Oktoberfest in Munich, Paris, a few places in the UK including Glastonbury for Glastonbury Festival, Manchester, Lancashire, Oxford, and Edinburgh for Hogmanay (New Year).

2006: Twelve Countries

I was based in London for 2006, and this was the year I did my first multi-month trip. I was working three jobs in the first half of the year to save money for it, full-time temping in offices, event waitressing, and as a receptionist at indoor paintball.

Early in the year, I visited Majorca in Spain, and Cambridge, Oxford, Isle of Wight for Isle of Wight Festival, and Brighton in the UK, before taking off on a three-month van tour in Europe. 

Cambridge 2007

There were six of us in my friend’s van and we convoyed with other vans we met along the way, forming a drunken, fun-loving community of Kiwis and Aussies on the road.

My friend’s van ended up breaking down two weeks in and was irreparable so one of my besties and I bought a little van off an Aussie surfer who had to go home. We called it Blue Wave and I couldn’t drive it because it was manual.

Blue Wave van

We traveled through France, Spain (for Running of the Bulls), Portugal, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria, before meeting up with around 50 other vans at Oktoberfest in Munich for one of the biggest parties ever.

Sleeping on beach 2007

From there we traveled through Belgium and the Netherlands before returning to London where I met up with my Dad who was visiting from New Zealand. Dad and I rented a car and spent three weeks exploring England and Scotland then it was back to London just in time for Halloween.

Halloween 2006

2007: Fourteen Countries

The first half of 2007 I was mostly working and saving, although I did fit in trips to Glastonbury Festival for the second time, and Dublin. I met the man that would end up being my partner for nearly 9 years in early 2007 and knew I wanted to stay in the country after my visa expired in June.

Glasto 2007

I found an Event Management course I could get a student visa for then when my visa expired, I set off on a two-month Euro trip with one of my best friends.

We traveled by train and bus through Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, before flying to Turkey to do a two-week adventure tour.

Germany 2007

I was very broke after this. After a week back in London, I flew to New Zealand for the first time in 2.5 years to visit my family and apply for my student visa. 

I got a temping position at Auckland Council for a couple of months, then headed to Sydney for a month to visit friends there where I did some event waitressing, before flying back to New Zealand for Christmas.

NZ 2007

I finished the year with an East Cape road trip with friends to welcome in the New Year at Rhythm and Vines Festival in Gisborne.

2008: Six Countries

I started out 2008 still in New Zealand, then flew back to London at the end of January to start my one-year Event Management Diploma course at a private Event School in East London.

Event School 2008

2008 ended up being one of my slowest years for travel as I was only allowed to work 20 hours per week on my student visa so I didn’t have a ton of money.

I managed to get three jobs on top of my three days a week at my course – working match days at Chelsea Football Club in the Director’s Lounge, event waitressing, and working two days a week as a Personal Assistant at a Property Development company in Mayfair. 

Greece 2008

I did a few short trips during my school holidays visiting France (Nice and Strasbourg), Scotland (Edinburgh), Greece (Athens and Ionian Islands Sailing Trip), Saranda (Albania day trip), Germany (Stuttgart for Volksfest, Munich for Oktoberfest, and the Black Forest), and Stratford Upon Avon and Oxford in England.

Black Forest 2008

2009: Seven Countries

I spent the first three months of the year working in London, including seven weeks nannying for a family in Chelsea as well as some temping, then left the UK when my student visa ran out. I did fit in one weekend break to Cobh, Cork, and Blarney in Ireland during this time.

Cape Town 2009

My ex and I got around the world tickets, and our first stop was South Africa for six weeks. I met his family for the first time (he is from Hillcrest, near Durban) and roadtripped from Durban to Cape Town along the Garden Route, then through the center of the country to Pretoria and Kruger National Park.

Our next destinations were Perth for two weeks to visit one of my besties and do a bit of roadtripping up and down the coast, and Melbourne and Sydney for five days each to visit friends and see the sights.

Melbourne 2009

Next up was New Zealand for two months, where my ex met my family for the first time and we took my Dad’s van on a one-month road trip around the South Island along with my brother.

We then spent two weeks traveling in Oahu and Maui in Hawaii, the beginning of my love affair with this incredible group of islands, five days in LA, before the final destination of our trip – Vancouver. 

Hawaii 2009

I had a one-year working holiday for Canada so I did some temping in offices as well as event waitressing and bartending, and a short stint of nannying.

My ex couldn’t get a work visa with his South African passport so we only ended up staying for five months, something I was really sad about because I LOVED Vancouver and British Columbia, and it remains one of my absolute favorite places in the world.

Vancouver 2009

During our five months living in Vancouver, I visited Kelowna, Victoria, and Tofino on Vancouver Island, and spent a winter weekend snowboarding in Whistler.

2010: Ten Countries

I spent the first couple of weeks finishing up my time in Vancouver before heading back to Hawaii for ten days to visit the Big Island and Oahu. Hawaii was further cemented as one of my favorite places in the world.

Hawaii 2010

After that, I flew back to New Zealand for three glorious months of summer to apply for my Partner Visa for the UK (although my ex is South African, he had an Ancestry Visa through his English Grandad). I got a job bartending in a gay bar in Auckland and it remains one of the most fun jobs I have ever had.

I received my five-year partner visa and left for London with a one-night stopover in Incheon, South Korea. Back in London, I got a temping job as a secretary for three months and visited Copenhagen and the New Forest for weekend trips.

Moraine Lake

Then it was time to leave again for a 2.5-month trip traveling through Canada for 3 weeks (Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast, and the Canadian Rockies) then meeting my Dad in Seattle where we rented an RV for six weeks to travel through Washington State, Oregon, California, Arizona, and finishing in Las Vegas. My brother joined us for the second half of the trip.

After a quick stopover in Toronto where I did a day trip to Niagara Falls, I flew to South Africa for ten days for two weddings in Hillcrest. I also visited Durban and the Drakensberg Mountains.

Drakensberg Mountains

I got back to London in October and got my first full-time job since leaving Sydney in 2005 – as an Executive Assistant to the Head of Imaging Sciences and Medical Engineering in the School of Medicine at Kings College. I would end up holding this job for two years and was still able to travel a lot during this time because of the generous leave allowances.

I did a few trips at the end of the year including a weekend in Paris, a crazy 18-hour day trip to the Christmas Markets in Brugge, and a six-day road trip through the mountains and along the coast of Andalucia in Spain. I also spent a day in Gibraltar.

Ronda Spain

2011: Eight Countries

2011 was a great year, I was working in a job I enjoyed, I moved into a houseboat on the Thames in Richmond, and I still managed to travel in eight countries.

Richmond Riverside

My first trip of the year was two weeks back home to New Zealand for a friend’s wedding. I also spent a few days roadtripping around Normandy and Brittany in France, a few days in Portugal visiting Lisbon, Sintra and Lagos, a week sailing the islands of Croatia with a day trip to Montenegro, a week in Sicily on a girls’ road trip, just over two weeks in Italy backpacking solo (my first big solo trip!), and ten days in the Canary Islands for Christmas and New Years visiting La Gomera, La Palma, and Tenerife.

Amalfi Coast in Italy

2011 was also a great year for UK travel. I visited Marlow, Henley, Loose, Leeds Castle, Isle of Wight, the Pembrokeshire Coast in Wales, and the Cotswolds for my 29th birthday.

2012: Nine Countries

I started the year still in Tenerife then it was back to London to work and save money for further travels and a big trip at the end of the year.

I went on a dream trip to Egypt in spring, two weeks touring around the major historic sights in the country and including a couple of nights sailing the Nile on a felucca, and five days in Dahab learning how to dive.

Egypt Tour

Another dream trip was Iceland, and I spent a week driving the Ring Road. It was definitely not enough time in this magical country but it was a great taste.

I also visited France twice – Burgundy for a long weekend and 9 days in the Dordogne, Carcassone, and Avignon, and I did a number of UK trips to Windsor, the Cotswolds, Whitstable, Canterbury, the Forest of Dean, the Peak District, and the Brecon Beacons and Wye Valley in Wales.

Beautiful Dordogne

On the 1st of October, I left the UK for good, starting a 13-month trip through the Americas before moving to Australia via a couple of months in New Zealand. I spent seven months traveling overland (and sea) from Mexico City to Buenos Aires and up to Rio, five months in Canada, and 6 weeks in the US.

The first stop of my biggest trip to date was the US for a month, where I visited New York City, New England -where I did a fall road trip, and Florida where I visited Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and the Florida Keys.

Key West Beach Key West beach

From Florida, I flew to Mexico City and spent five weeks traveling through Oaxaca, Chiapas, and the Yucatan Peninsula. I spent 5 days on Caye Caulker in Belize then it was into Guatemala for what was meant to be 2.5 weeks but turned into a month after my passport was stolen on a chicken bus.

Cowboy in Guatemala

2013: Thirteen Countries

I spent almost the whole of 2013 traveling and I would love to say that it was the best year of my life and that I loved every second but that was certainly not true. 

After a string of travel failures including being robbed a couple of times, food poisoning, altitude sickness, a crazy boat journey from Panama to Colombia, a broken toe, constant strikes in South America which changed our travel plans, and travel burnout, I became a hollow, jaded version of myself a couple of months into 2013.

San Blas Islands

I definitely still had a lot of moments of joy but there were a lot of hard times too. In retrospect, I should have left South America earlier than I did, or I should have slowed my travels right down but I didn’t do that.

For the first five months of the year, I traveled through Guatemala, San Pedro Sula in Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, took a boat to Colombia then traveled through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Northern Argentina and ended in beautiful Rio, Brazil for a week.

Flamingos in Bolivia Hot Spring in Bolivia

From there I flew to Canada for five months of traveling through the east and the west of the country. I came back to myself and was brimming with joy during this time. I love Canada so much – the people, the landscapes, the food, and something else I can’t explain other than to say that there is something about that country that touches my soul.

I traveled through Canada on a very tight budget and I think that made me enjoy the trip even more because it forced me to get out of my comfort zone and I met so many more locals traveling this way. I traveled through Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia, and Alberta.

Quebec City

After having such a wonderful summer in Canada, it was time to end our epic 13-month trip in New Zealand. I got a temp job as a receptionist at a cleaning company and sank into a depression brought on by the end of my trip. Post-travel depression is very real and it was definitely the worst case I have ever had.

Despite feeling like this, I did a few short New Zealand trips to the Coromandel, Waiheke Island, Hobbiton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Hamilton, and I hiked part of the Hillary Trail

Hobbiton

2014: Six Countries

I had two more weeks in New Zealand which included a five-day roadtrip to the top of the North Island, then I moved to Australia!

Maitai Bay in Northland NZ

I spent a week with one of my best friends in Mona Vale in Sydney’s northern beaches then visited friends in Bellingen and Kingscliff for a couple of weeks before heading back to Sydney to start looking for work.

It took me a couple of months to get a job, the longest time I have ever spent job searching, and it was stressful. We spent a couple of months in a one-bedroom sublet in Coogie during this time and it did allow us a lot of time to explore and beach hop in the Eastern Suburbs beaches so it wasn’t all bad.

Beautiful Coogee Beach in Sydney

I finally got a two-month admin contract at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians then followed that up with a one-year contract as an Education Officer working on the specialty handbooks. We rented a room with an Italian couple in Randwick for a couple of months then sublet another one-bedroom apartment in beautiful Balmoral Beach before saving enough to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Manly – my dream.

I started volunteering as a Penguin Warden one evening a week, protecting the Little Penguins that live under Manly Wharf from people and dogs. I loved it.

So I'm a Penguin Warden

We became Airbnb hosts and hosted people from around the world, as well as subletting our spare room out for one-two month stints. We met some amazing people this way and it was fun to show them around Manly.

As well as exploring the beaches, hiking trails, and different suburbs of Sydney every weekend, I also visited the Blue Mountains twice, Melbourne and the Grampians, Uluru and Alice Springs, the Hunter Valley, and Nelson Bay in Australia.

See incredible Uluru on a 3 Day Uluru Tour

My Grandmother died in June so I also spent a week back in New Zealand for her funeral and I spent ten days in beautiful Fiji on Nacula Island and Barefoot Island in the Yasawa Island chain, as well as a couple of nights in Nadi.

At the end of the year, we did a one-month trip to Singapore, South Africa to visit Trav’s family, and Lesotho.

Lesotho

2015: Ten Countries

After finishing up our travels in South Africa and returning to Singapore for five days on the way home, I spent the first half of the year in Australia.

I revisited my beloved Blue Mountains as well as doing trips to Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road, Kangaroo Island and Adelaide, Cairns and Fitzroy Island, Jervis Bay, and Orange for the autumn colors.

Jervis Bay

I also spent a long weekend in Auckland and Matakana in New Zealand to visit family before embarking on what was meant to be a one year, mostly solo trip to Alaska, British Columbia in Canada, Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, although this trip turned out to be very different than planned.

I spent 3.5 months traveling in Hawaii, Alaska, British Columbia, Seattle, and the Canadian Rocky Mountains where I did a Help Exchange for 6 weeks in a hostel in the tiny town of Field.

Field BC

I was meant to do two Help Exchanges in Homer, Alaska, and Haida Gwaii islands in British Columbia instead, but after the first one fell through I couldn’t afford to hang around in Alaska or Northern British Columbia so I changed my plans and went to the Canadian Rockies instead.

I returned to Sydney for a couple of weeks and cracks started to appear in my long-term relationship. I pushed on with my travel plans because I didn’t know how to stop and I didn’t want to. I met up with my Dad and did a ten-day road trip through Otago, Mount Cook, and Tekapo in the South Island of New Zealand.

View over Lake Wanaka

From there I traveled to South East Asia and spent the rest of the year traveling in Singapore (quick stopover), Thailand, Myanmar, and the Philippines, where I had one of my best New Years ever in Coron. This is also where I met my now-husband, who started out as a travel friend.

Trav met me in the Philippines for Christmas and New Year and everything felt off. It was a really hard time for me as I felt like the strong connection and love we had for many years was out of reach. We were so different and my solo trip really made me realize that compromising on our life and future wasn’t working anymore. We wanted completely different lives.

Dreamy Kalanggaman Island

2016: Nine Countries

I finished up with my travel in the Philippines then headed to Vietnam, where Trav and I ended up breaking up by phone.

It is one of the biggest regrets of my life that it happened that way and I have literally felt deep guilt and distress about this for years even though he is living the life of his dreams now with a beautiful wife and son. He didn’t deserve it, and I should have flown straight home and told him in person.

View over Sagada

My 3.5 weeks traveling through Vietnam in a haze of grief are a bit of a blur but I remember loving the food, partying in Hanoi with friends for Tet, and being captivated by Hoi An and the mountains around Sapa.

Back in Sydney, I got to have a proper ending with Trav, did a couple of weeks of temping in an office, then packed up all my stuff and moved it to New Zealand.

View from North Head in Devonport - one of the best Auckland day trips

I didn’t know what I was going to do at first and traveling to India, Nepal and Sri Lanka as I originally had planned seemed like too much of an adventure in my fragile state, so I decided to spend a few months in the US instead, visiting different friends and doing some Help Exchanges.

What ended up happening is that when I visited Denver, the spark I had felt with Toby when I met him in the Philippines ignited and we quickly fell into a relationship. This was probably a terrible idea because I wasn’t over Trav, it took years for this to happen, but you can’t help when you meet someone special.

Horseshoe Bend

We ended up doing a road trip through the West, driving through the Southwest then up the coast to Washington before looping back to Colorado. I did do one Help Exchange in Big Bear Lake, working for two weeks in a hostel there.

Boulder Bay Park in Big Bear

I also revisited Seattle and Vancouver to visit friends. It was really hard to be back in Vancouver because it reminded me so much of my time there with Trav but it was also important for me to return because I love that city so much and I needed to make it my own.

I went back to New Zealand for six weeks to make some money temping then I traveled back to the US where I spent the end of summer and fall, housesitting in Utah and Colorado, before island-hopping in the Caribbean for six weeks between Barbados, Dominica, and Guadeloupe.

We spent New Year in lovely Les Saintes, one of the smaller island groups that make up Guadeloupe.

Incredible Pain du Sucre beach on Les Saintes

I started working online for the first time in mid-2016, as an Editor for a story-telling website, editing for a Travel Blog, and as a Pinterest Manager. I also wrote some guides for The Broke Backpacker and managed his inbox for a short period when he was traveling. My Digital Nomad journey had begun!

2017: Nine Countries

After traveling more in Guadeloupe and Dominica, we flew to Mexico for 3.5 weeks of exploring the Yucatan Peninsula, focusing on beautiful colonial towns and cities, beaches, cenotes, Mayan ruins, and islands.

Tulum Ruins in Mexico

I returned to New Zealand for a couple of months and really enjoyed being back in Auckland in the summer. I got a nine-week temping position working as an Executive Assistant to the new CEO at Southern Cross Health, and it felt great to be back in an EA role.

Despite the fact I was working, I still managed to do trips to Wellington and Cape Palliser, Matakana, Tauranga, Tiritiri Matangi Island, Waitomo Caves, Ohakune, and I hiked the Tongariro Northern Circuit solo.

Mount Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park

After a few days of visiting one of my best friends in the Northern Beaches of Sydney, I flew back to the U.S. where I hopped around New Mexico and Colorado, got engaged, and bought a tiny van that we converted to be able to sleep in the back. His name is Casper and we still have him now. We have put 120,000 miles on him in the past four years and he is part of our family.

I picked up more Pinterest clients, and by the middle of the year, that was the bulk of what I was doing for remote work.

I flew to Canada for two weeks in early summer, traveling between Field in the Canadian Rockies, Vancouver, and Salt Spring Island. A week in Vegas was next for a cousin’s 40th birthday then I flew to Europe for three weeks, traveling between London, Edinburgh, and Malta.

Tower Bridge in London

Back in the US, I spent a week in New York City visiting a friend then flew back to Colorado for a couple of weeks before hitting the road for two and a half months, roadtripping and housesitting through Arizona, California, Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico.

I spent the last couple of months of the year back in New Zealand, via a few days in Sydney on the way there. I spent a few days in Queenstown for my birthday and hiked part of the Routeburn Track then got a temp role as a Receptionist in Auckland for a couple of months.

Ben Lomond Saddle Kea on Ben Lomond

I wasn’t feeling Auckland on this visit, I felt lazy and unmotivated and it took a while to get out of the funk. Spending Christmas with family in Waihi definitely helped.

You can read about 2017 in more detail in my 2017 recap.

Beautiful Waihi Beach

2018: Seven Countries

Toby came to New Zealand for the first time in early January and we traveled around the North Island for a month in my Dad’s campervan, then we flew to Indonesia for nine days – me to Bali, and him to Raja Ampat to dive.

We met up again in Malaysia for three weeks of travel, then I headed to Cambodia for another 3.5 weeks of solo travel before flying back to New Zealand for a couple of months to get my K-1 Fiance Visa for the U.S.

Amazing blue waters in the Perhentian Islands in the Shoulder season

I got another ten-week position at Southern Cross, this time supporting the Head of Sales and the Head of Marketing and their teams. I mostly stayed put in Auckland but did squeeze in some quick trips to Nelson, Papamoa, and Hamilton.

After being approved for my K-1 visa, I flew to Thailand, via a three-day stopover in Sydney. I spent two weeks in Thailand, including getting dental work done in Bangkok and visiting Koh Phangan and Ayutthaya.

Thong Nai Pan Noi beach

I spent the rest of the year in the U.S., where I couldn’t leave if I wanted to because I didn’t have an active U.S. visa. My K-1 visa was only for three months so we had to get married within that time and file for adjustment of status.

We had a shotgun wedding at the Denver Courthouse to get the paperwork started within two weeks of me flying in, then had a larger wedding celebration in the mountains near Denver in September which my friends and family flew in for.

Wedding photo 2 Wedding Photo 1

In summer I did a southern road trip with my friend Dani, driving down through Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, and Illinois to meet her in Tennessee. We visited Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Asheville in North Carolina.

I also did a road trip with my Dad for a week from Denver to Las Vegas, through New Mexico, Southern Colorado, and the Mighty Five National Parks in Utah.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

After a short stint back in Colorado, Toby and I set off on our two-month honeymoon through the South, visiting New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, before returning to Colorado for my first U.S. Christmas.

You can read about 2018 in more detail in my 2018 recap.

Downtown Charleston

2019: Six Countries

After another ten days of winter in Denver, it was time to leave for sunnier climes – Hawaii! We spent six weeks doing a Help Exchange at a mac nut and coffee farm in South Kona on the Big Island.

I worked two Farmers Markets a week manning a pizza oven as well as doing some food prep, painting, and gardening, while Toby mostly did home maintenance.

Beautiful Kailua Bay in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii

My Dad visited during our last week and stayed on the farm with us then we moved to a tiny house village in Holualoa for another week of exploring the Big Island, before hopping over to Oahu for a week of touring around.

Toby and Dad both left and I flew to Maui for a two-week housesit in Makawao, looking after a dog and cat. I had use of a vehicle so I explored the island for a few hours every other day. Then I headed back to Colorado for my Green Card interview!

View over Makena Beach in Maui

Spoiler alert: I got my Green Card and was free to leave the country again, although I didn’t do so until September.

I spent the spring and summer hopping around the U.S. – like usual. I spent a few days in Phoenix, a week in San Diego, a week in LA housesitting, Vegas on three different occasions, New York and Washington D.C. for three weeks, a two-week road trip up the coast from LA and to some Californian National Parks, a short Utah National Parks road trip, a week in New Mexico, a week exploring western South Dakota, a few days in Seattle, a New England road trip in fall, and a few days back in New York. Phew!

La Jolla in San Diego

I also spent quite a bit of time in Colorado, both in Denver and traveling around the state, and I got my first temping position in the U.S. – a 4.5-month remote gig with a software company in Denver.

I worked in the office for the first week, then a couple of days a week for the next month, then I went fully remote with the OK of my boss. It allowed me to travel and base myself in different places and I ended up working from Seattle, Rapid City, Santa Fe, and for nine days in my soul city, Vancouver.

Third Beach in Vancouver

I left the U.S. at the end of October, flying to New Zealand via a few days in Waikiki, and a week in Sydney, where I spent a month in the North Island visiting friends and family, and doing a little road trip to Taranaki to hike the Pouakai Circuit with my bestie.

I spent three weeks in Thailand next, getting work done on my teeth in Bangkok and visiting three islands in the Trat island group near the Cambodian border. The last week of the year was spent traveling in Laos and we rang in the New Year in Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang in Laos

You can read about 2019 in more detail in my 2019 recap.

2020: Six Countries

2020 started out great for me. I continued traveling through Laos for another 2.5 weeks before spending a month in Sri Lanka, and a month traveling through Rajasthan, the Golden Triangle, and Varanasi in India. I loved Sri Lanka but I really fell hard for India.

Nahargarh Fort

Two days before we were due to fly to Nepal, the border was shut, and I believe it was a day after that the pandemic was announced. 

We were due to leave India anyway as our one-month visa was expiring so on the spur of the moment I decided to fly back to New Zealand via Hong Kong, and Toby flew to the US.

Promenade in Hong Kong

I had an 18-hour layover in Hong Kong and I was nervous about being in China during the pandemic, but once I got there I realized that they were in a dip with cases so I ended up staying for a week, eating all the delicious food and seeing the sights.

Once I got to New Zealand the whole country went into lockdown and I could only see my brother who I was staying with for the first five weeks. I actually thrived in the enforced rest time, working on this blog and walking different routes around the city to different beaches, volcanoes, and parks every day.

View from Mount Hobson in Auckland

After two months in New Zealand, I flew back to the U.S. and spent most of the summer either hanging out in Denver or traveling in our van around Colorado, as well as doing a couple of road trips to nearby states including Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

I lost a few Pinterest clients when the pandemic began so I picked up a part-time Virtual Assistant position for a blogger who has two websites. I was mostly editing posts and adding affiliates, but also did some behind-the-scenes WordPress tasks.

Hiking in Idaho

I decided to fly back to New Zealand at the end of October for summer – at that stage I didn’t have to book a slot in managed isolation and I made sure to book a direct flight. I did two weeks in managed isolation which was actually very relaxing, then I was free to enjoy COVID-free New Zealand for another 3.5 months. 

After visiting friends and family in Auckland and Papamoa, I drove down to Wellington for a few days then took the ferry to the South Island for a one-month solo van trip around the top third of the South Island.

Kaikoura Beach

I spent five days hiking the Abel Tasman track, I spent time in the Nelson area and toured Marlborough wineries, I drove down the West Coast then cut through Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch where I visited a couple of friends, then I drove back to Nelson via Kaikoura and Hanmer Springs to fly back to Auckland.

I spent Christmas at Waihi Beach with my Mum, brother, and my Step-Dad and his family then had New Year with one of my best friends at her place in Hamilton where we hosted a house party.

You can read about 2020 in more detail in my 2020 recap.

Temple Basic Hike in Arthurs Pass National Park

2021: Four Countries

Due to COVID, I only traveled to four countries in 2021 – the least amount of countries I have traveled to in a year since 2004! But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t traveling as I traveled a lot within the countries I did visit.

I spent the first six weeks of the month still in New Zealand, hopping between Tauranga, Auckland, Nelson, Great Barrier Island, Raglan, Hamilton, and Uretiti. I returned to the U.S. for six weeks of winter in the mountains of Colorado, then we headed to LA to work an event for six weeks.

Iceskating in Keystone

Toby had bought a 1980 Brougham Class B RV while I was in New Zealand from his cousin, and we drove it out to LA where we lived in it, in a Hollywood RV Park. I really loved it and didn’t feel like the space was too small at all. 

After camping and hiking in Channel Islands National Park for three days, we drove back to Colorado via a few days in Phoenix, and spent five weeks between Golden, Boulder, and Denver.

Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island

I gave notice for my Virtual Assistant role because I wanted to focus more on events and I also lost a couple more Pinterest clients so for the first time in a few years, I wasn’t doing a whole lot of online work – and it has been amazing. I did pick up some remote event planning work but it is intermittent, mostly just in summer, and only a light workload.

We left Colorado for five weeks of roadtripping through the Mid West to the Great Lakes Region, working the Kansas City BBQ Festival along the way. We ended our Great Lakes Road Trip through Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin in Chicago, where we spent five days before I flew out to Greece for five weeks.

Naoussa on Paros

I loved my time in Greece, one of my favorite countries. I visited Athens, Meteora, Naxos, Paros, and Crete and it was one of the best trips I have done in a long time. 

Back in the U.S., I worked my first Music Festival for two weeks – Lost Lands in Ohio. The first week was great as it was before the event started and was pretty chilled, but in the second week everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and it was definitely a challenge!

La Piedra Beach in Malibu

From Ohio, I flew to LA to work at a family-friendly Halloween event called Haunt O’Ween. I did all the recruiting and HR for it as well as managing a team of ten so it was a lot of work and very stressful at times. We did get a few days off so I did trips down the coast to San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente, and to Big Bear Lake. 

We headed back to Colorado via Phoenix and Santa Fe and spent three weeks chilling with family and friends before flying to Miami for three nights and then onto Colombia where I spent the last three weeks of the year, traveling on the Caribbean Coast and to San Andres.

Beach on San Andres

You can read about 2021 in more detail in my 2021 recap.

2022 and Beyond

I am currently still in Colombia with plans to visit the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and Central Mexico next before returning to the U.S. in mid-May. Then after a summer of U.S. (and hopefully Canada) travels, I want to visit New Zealand, Nepal, Japan, and Taiwan at the end of the year – if they are open to travel.

Maybe I will even escape to Europe again for a month this summer if I can fit it in – Cyprus, Albania, and Romania, in particular, are calling my name.

Travel is still my life and I hope to ramp it up a bit in the next few years after three years of being restricted – firstly waiting for my Green Card and then COVID.

Taganga Views

There are still so many parts of the world I haven’t visited including the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia, large swaths of Africa, Japan, Borneo, India’s Himalayas, Patagonia, Mongolia, the Cook Islands, Romania, Nepal – I want to experience all these places.

And I want to return to my favorites too – Hawaii, British Columbia, France, Iceland, Turkey, Greece, the United Kingdom, Alaska, Mexico, Thailand, India, Italy… the list is endless.

Beautiful Bang Bao beach on Koh Kood

Honestly, my wanderlust is just as strong as ever and I don’t see that changing, although I do want a proper home base at some point in New Zealand, whether that’s an apartment in Auckland or a tiny house somewhere more remote. 

I’m going to keep doing this travel thing for the rest of my life unless one day it doesn’t make me happy anymore. But I just don’t see that day ever coming.

If you liked this post, check out my yearly travel recaps since I started writing them in 2017:

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My Life in Travel 18 Years Traveling and Living Abroad How I Have Traveled and Lived Abroad For 18 Years

2 Comments on My Life in Travel: 18 Years Since I Left New Zealand

  1. An amazing read. There are so many of the places I have been to as well. I also worked for BBC.
    You have done so much travel all over the world
    it will be very hard for you to stop. Even after my traveling which was no way as extensive as yours I still had a long time settling back into the norm in NZ. I am so proud of your accomplishments.
    Love you honey , Mum xxx

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