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Wow, 2017 has been quite the year and SO much better than 2016 – for me at least. There has been so much shit and turmoil going on around the world but that is pretty much standard these days unfortunately.
I am just so happy that after a really emotionally hard 2016, 2017 was a more stable and happy year for me – although of course it wasn’t perfect. No year ever is.
In 2017 I got engaged, bought a little van with my fiance, visited nine countries and eight states, started the process for my fiance visa in the US, spent lots of time with friends and family in the US, Canada and New Zealand, revisited London – my old home – for the first time in five years, road-tripped through the US for two months, and housesat a lot. I also gained more freelance clients, and started earning enough that I wouldn’t have to rely on my savings.
That was the good. The bad included food poisoning, terrifying boat and plane trips, travel burn out, anxiety attacks, stress over money, being a victim of credit card fraud, struggling with my work/life balance, extreme heat, extreme cold, needy dogs that I was pet sitting for, sickness, fights, injuries, scary situations, loneliness, disappointment, bad WiFi when I was trying to get work done, FOMO… but it was all worth it and the good by far outweighed the bad. And that’s all you can ask for really.
To reminisce and remind myself how damn lucky I am to live the life that I do, here’s what my 2017 looked like month by month. But first off – here are a few quick stats:
Countries Visited: Nine (Guadeloupe – France, Dominica, Mexico, USA, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Malta)
States Visited: Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Nebraska, New York, Nevada
House Sits Completed: Nine
Hikes Tackled: 66
What I Spent: $14595 (not including international flights or purchasing my van)
(To see a more detailed break down of each month, check out my monthly round ups)
January: Guadeloupe, Dominica and Mexico
January was one of my busiest months of travel last year. I started the year on the relatively undiscovered islands of Les Saintes, part of Guadeloupe in the French Caribbean. After a few days there we headed back to the main islands of Guadeloupe – Basse Terre and Grand Terre – for a week, where we hiked, chilled out at the beach and ate as much delicious French food as we could get our hands on.
From Guadeloupe we headed back to Dominica, where we had spent a week at the end of 2016, for another five days. I hiked to a Boiling Lake and through the jungle, swam under waterfalls, soaked in natural hot springs and enjoyed the hospitality of this friendly island.
After a night back on US soil we flew out again – this time for Mexico! Mexico has been one of my favorite countries since I first visited back in 2012 and it definitely didn’t disappoint this time either. We stuck to the Yucatan Peninsula and visited incredible beaches, swam in cenotes, reunited with a couple of friends, wandered historic colonial villages, climbed ruins, dipped our toes into a pink lake, snorkeled with turtles, and ate lots of delicious Mexican food. There were so many highlights including Valladolid, all the cenotes, Isla Mujeres and Tulum.
Although it sounds like we had an amazing time – and we did – January was actually quite a hard one for me as I struggled with trying to get work done as well as explore all the wonderful places we were visiting.
I cried a lot, I felt anxious constantly, and it was a pretty hard month in a lot of ways. This is when I learnt that for my own well being, I couldn’t keep up this travel pace long term while working.
February: Mexico, Colorado, New Zealand
The first week of February saw me still in Mexico. We visited Chichen Itza for the first time and found it to be overrated, loved the lesser known ruins of Uxmal, fell in love with Merida and were disappointed by the touristy rip off island of Isla Holbox. I could have stayed in Mexico for much longer but we had a flight to catch back to the US.
We had planned to spend a few days road tripping from Fort Lauderdale down to Key West but with the car hire turning out to be much more expensive than advertised, we changed our flight and headed back early to Colorado instead, and I am so glad that we did.
Being back in Colorado for a week and just relaxing with friends and family was exactly what we needed, and my stress levels finally dropped for the first time in weeks. It felt good to be home!
But then it was time to head back to my other home: New Zealand!
I spent the first two weeks just relaxing after two and a half months of fast travel, visiting friends and family in Auckland, Matakana and Tauranga. At the end of the month I started a two month job placement as an Executive Assistant at Southern Cross Health Society.
March: New Zealand
It felt good to be in one place for a while and I began to feel a deep sense of well being and happiness returning after going through a hard break up and everything that was involved with that.
I worked the whole month but I really enjoyed my job. After a week there they changed my position to work for the new CEO and the Head of HR. And I loved it. It felt great to be challenged professionally again and to further build my skills. Both my bosses were great and the company was a wonderful place to work.
In the weekends I made sure to get out and explore around Auckland – I swam at local beaches, ate at new and trusted favorite restaurants, I saw Adele perform live at an outdoor venue during a massive downpour, I hiked the incredible bird sanctuary island – Tiritiri Matangi. I also had a long weekend down in trendy Wellington and glamping near Cape Palliser with friends.
March may read like a boring month but it was one of my favorites of the year. Even though I was juggling a full time job, my freelancing work, spending time with the people I love and getting out and exploring, I felt like I had everything under control and had finally found the elusive work/life balance.
This month proved to me even more how important balance is, and that you can have too much of a good thing (that would be travel).
April: New Zealand, Australia
Most of April I was still working, and loving my job. I planned and went on the two day Management retreat in Matakana which went off without a hitch and included a fun wine tasting at The Vintry followed by dinner at Matakana Market Kitchen. I ended up staying up in Matakana for another night at my Auntie’s because I didn’t want to leave – I love it up there.
I also had a weekend back in my teenage home of Tauranga – where my Mum still lives – to catch up with old school friends, and over Easter Weekend I tackled three days of the Tongariro Northern Circuit, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and I did it solo. I loved it, and it was nice to stop in Waitomo Caves and Ohakune along the way too. Shame my DSLR died just before the hike though.
At the end of the month I finished up at work, packed my bags, and caught a flight to Sydney. I spent my last weekend of the month with one of my closest friends in Sydney’s Northern beaches, where we hit up the local brewery and restaurants, visited my old home of Manly, and went to a new place for both of us: Scotland Island.
My travels had truly begun again, in earnest!
May: Colorado, New Mexico
The first of May marked my return to my beloved Colorado, and Toby! After two and a half months apart, we only had a couple of days together before Toby had to leave to work a festival for a week. It was hard to say goodbye to him again so soon.
We had four different house sits in Denver during May but my favorite was house and chicken sitting for my friends Pete and Venessa for two weeks in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Denver: Washington Park. I loved walking around the sprawling park, checking out the shops in South Pearl and South Gaylord precincts, and working in one of my fav Denver Cafes: Wash Perk.
I also visited some places in Denver that I hadn’t been before and I had a number of family events. I made some new friends through the excellent Digital Nomad Girls Facebook group, and headed up to Boulder on three separate occasions for hiking, festivals and Boulder Startup week.
Oh, and we got secretly engaged and bought a van! It was busy month despite spending it mostly in one place.
The last couple of the days of the month we headed down to Toby’s Dad’s place in Espanola, New Mexico and ticked off one of our must dos when we are down that way – soaking at the relaxing Ojo Caliente Hot Springs.
It was a pretty great month although I struggled with loneliness and fear a bit when Toby was away – I don’t do well when I am house sitting big houses by myself as I get scared at night.
June: New Mexico, Colorado, Canada, Nevada, Nebraska
June was a busy one!
After a couple more days in New Mexico where we visited Santa Fe and the otherworldly Meow Wolf, we drove back up to Denver for a few days to attend a family Christening and to say goodbye to a beloved feline family member: Lucy ‘Lulu’ Chavez. Lulu was my kitty niece and had Cat Leukemia. She ended up hanging in there for a few more days and died a week later. R.I.P. Lulu.
Toby had two weeks of festival work after that so I decided to fly into Canada for a couple of weeks. After missing my initial flight because no one had bothered to tell me that Canada had introduced visitor visas since my visit eight months earlier – ugh – I flew into Calgary for a week in the Canadian Rockies: one of my favorite places on earth.
I stayed with a friend in the village of Field, in Yoho National Park. As well as spending time in Yoho, I visited Kootenay and Banff National Parks to hike. We also camped at a secret local spot one evening by a beautiful lake, ate out in Banff, Radium, Calgary and Field, and saw a crap load of wildlife including ten bears, one moose, one porcupine, one fox, three hummingbirds, and loads of deer, ground squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks. Oh, and I re-learnt to drive stick shift – kinda.
I flew from Calgary to Vancouver – my favorite city in the world. I had a couple of days in Van City to hit up a couple of my favorite attractions and catch up with friends before catching a ferry to Salt Spring Island, the fifth Gulf island I have visited. I stayed in an awesome converted bus and checked out Ganges town, St Mary Lake and the Saturday Market. Not having a car was somewhat restricting, but I really enjoyed my stay on the island nonetheless.
After a couple of days back in Vancouver I flew to Vegas to reunite with Toby. We had a week in Sin City, which was much too long, although I enjoyed when the family flew in a couple of days after we arrived for Toby’s cousin’s 40th Birthday.
We did the lazy river at MGM, wandered the Strip, did an Escape Room, and ate and drunk a lot. I wasn’t feeling that well during most of the stay – I’m not sure why – which put a bit of a dampener on it for me. Maybe I am allergic to Vegas. I was definitely ready to leave when we did.
We only had three nights back in Denver before we hit the road again on the last day of the month, for a family 4th of July camping trip by a lake in Nebraska!
I mostly really enjoyed June and as I was working with less clients than earlier in the year, I didn’t have the time stresses. But I did stress about money and worried that I wouldn’t be able to find more clients. It all worked out in the end luckily.
July: Nebraska, Colorado, Malta, United Kingdom, New York
July was another crazy travel month which saw me traveling to three countries and three states!
I started the month celebrating my first 4th of July and it was a fun one with lake swims, boat trips, fireside chats and family time in Nebraska – my only new state of the year.
After one night back in Denver I jetted off to New York, then London, where I had to rush to Clapham Junction to meet a guy I was house sitting for the next week, back to the airport then finally Malta. My longest and most painful travel day of the year.
I had eight glorious days in the tiny country of Malta and I loved every. single. minute of it. I ate some of the best food of my life, drunk delicious (and cheap) Maltese wine, swam every day in the clearest water, aimlessly explored historic and beautiful towns, and caught up with good friends that had met me over there.
It was the first time in a long time that I actually felt like I was on vacation. Malta completely and utterly won me over – but damn, it was scorching hot!
It was back to London after Malta for an eleven day house and dog sit in Clapham Junction. I loved being back in the city that I once called home for six years, and it didn’t feel like five years had passed since I had last been there. I quickly got into a routine – taking the dog for a long walk every morning, setting out to explore for a few hours, then working for a couple of hours in the evenings.
I was busy every day, revisiting my favorite neighborhoods, parks, restaurants, museums, markets, and historic landmarks. I managed to fit in catch ups with friends, I made a new friend through a Digital Nomad Girls meetup, and I visited a number of new to me London sights.
I loved my time in London but was ready to say goodbye after eleven days there, for now at least.
I spent one night up in beautiful Edinburgh, another favorite of mine, where I wandered the Royal Mile and Haymarket in the sunshine, then did a free walking tour the next morning before my flight to New York.
In New York I was reunited with Toby and my friend Dani, who had set us up with a sweet cat sit in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
My week in New York was pretty much all about eating, drinking and street art peeping our way around Brooklyn, but I also made it over to Manhattan to walk the Highline, visit Chelsea Market and wander Greenwich Village. And we did a great brewery hop in Long Island City.
I left New York liking it so much more than my first visit in 2012 where I mostly hit up the touristy spots. Offbeat New York is definitely more my style!
Despite it being a busy month, I didn’t feel stressed and really loved being constantly active. I did miss Toby though when I was in Europe, and I did get a bit lonely during the end of my solo house sit in London. I had gained one new client by this point but was still worried about money.
But mostly – it was a downright incredible month that I look back at now with stars in my eyes.
August: Colorado, Arizona
I flew back to Colorado without Toby, which felt weird, and stayed at his Mum’s for the night before starting a house sit in Golden, looking after a cute Russian Blue kitty for a week.
It was a great sit in a quiet neighborhood only eight minutes drive from downtown Golden, my favorite little Denver mountain town. I went into town a lot, to eat out, work at a local cafe and walk by Clear Creek, and did a couple of hikes on North Table Mountain and Mount Falcon, as well as visiting family in Denver.
When the sit finished I spent a night with friends then went away with Toby’s cousin Anita for a couple of nights in the mountains. We hit up Georgetown, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Iron Mountain Hot Springs, Hanging Lake, Buena Vista and Manitou Springs – the perfect Colorado weekend away.
I had a couple of nights with Toby’s Aunt when I got back, and then picked Toby up from the airport after not seeing him for two weeks. We stayed another couple of nights with another of Toby’s Aunts then hit the road – to go back country hiking and camping in Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness!
We had an amazing time hiking – my new favorite place in Colorado – then headed down into Flagstaff in Arizona via Telluride, Navajo National Monument and Monument Valley.
The last week of August we were house and pet-sitting for two beautiful dogs in the cool College town of Flagstaff. As well as checking out town we did day trips to Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, Slide Rock State Park and the Grand Canyon.
I was feeling a bit off by the time we got to Flagstaff, a bit depressed, and I’m not sure why. Possibly I was more burnt out than I realized. It took me a few weeks to get out of my funk.
September: Arizona, California, Oregon, Nevada
After a couple more days at our Flagstaff house sit, we said goodbye to the dogs and hit the road again – firstly down to Phoenix to visit Toby’s best friend for a couple of nights, via the old mining turned hippy town of Jerome.
The road trip continued over to Ojai in California where we had scored another house sit for a week looking after two cats and a dog. We spent the scorching hot days either at one of the nearby beaches of Santa Barbara, Ventura or Carpinteria, or at the local swimming hole.
From there I dropped Toby off near San Bernardino to work a festival for five days and I headed down to LA’s South Bay to stay a few nights at a hostel on the cliffs of San Pedro. Both the South Bay of LA and Long Beach turned out to be two of my travel highlights of the year and I loved exploring the area.
Then it was time to pick up Toby again and head north to Yosemite National Park, where we hiked and took a million photos, before staying a week with my Mum’s cousin and her husband between their homes in Roseville and Sun River, Oregon – we even got to fly back in their private plane. While in Oregon we visited a friend in lovely Bend, and biked and hiked around town.
The end of the month saw us traveling to a massive California oversight for me, Lake Tahoe, where I did lots of hiking and fawned over all the cute little towns in the area. After a night in Reno we drove straight through to North Las Vegas where Toby was working and where we ended the month.
At the beginning of the month I was still stuck in my mild depression – until I got to the South Bay and just completely fell in love with the place. It managed to snap me out of it and the rest of the month was fabulous.
October: Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado
The beginning of the month I was sick with a cold that had first hit me in Reno, so I stayed at the hotel with Toby for a couple of nights in North Las Vegas to recover. From there I drove a section of Route 66 over two days on the way to Flagstaff to house sit for a week, at the same place I had been house sitting in August.
I finally connected with Flagstaff this time around and really, really loved my stay. The town was ablaze in fall color and the weather was perfect.
I checked out some of the nearby attractions that I had missed the first time around including a handful of National Monuments, hitting up some of the hiking trails, and attending some local community events. And a friend visited me for a couple of nights from Phoenix.
This time around I was sad to leave Flagstaff, and I hope to return soon.
Next it was back to Vegas for a night to pick Toby up, then we had a long drive into New Mexico, where we attended the Albuquerque Balloon Festival for the first time, checked out Old Town Albuquerque, and revisited Ojo Caliente, Santa Fe and Meow Wolf.
The last two weeks of October we finally returned to Denver via Salida and Breckenridge, where we had a ten day house sit in Morrison. Although we enjoyed our two months away house sitting and road tripping, it was great to be back in Colorado where we hiked, ate out, found our wedding venue, saw my favorite band live (Arcade Fire), had three days of celebrating Halloween, and officially got engaged – my ring finally arrived!
October was another great month.
November: Australia, New Zealand
I flew out from the US on the evening of the 31st October and arrived in Sydney on the 2nd November where I had a few days visiting my friend on the Northern Beaches. The weather wasn’t great but we made the most of it and I hit up a couple of my favorites in Sydney including Paddington, The Rocks and one of my favorite Sydney walks: Balmoral Beach to Taronga Zoo through Sydney National Park.
The rest of November was spent back home in New Zealand. I was only back in Auckland for a couple of days before I hit the road again for a five day South Island jaunt. I met up with my friend and we were supposed to do the three day Routeburn Track Great Walk, but part of the trail was closed so we only ended up doing a day in, before having to hike back out the way we came the next day. No matter, it was still fun and it gave me an extra day in beautiful Queenstown where I celebrated my 35th birthday by hiking to the top of a mountain.
Back in Auckland I just chilled out, got work done and found a temping Reception role that I started at the end of the month. I also visited my Mum for her birthday in Papamoa for a few days with my brother.
I was very unmotivated for the second half of November and felt lazy and bored, it took me a while to snap out of it. Being away from my partner in crime didn’t help – I missed that crazy guy.
December: New Zealand
The whole of the last month of the year was spent back in New Zealand and the first three weeks were pretty boring and repetitive to be honest – it was all work, go home, cook, go to sleep, most days. I did a couple of cool things in the weekends like attend a beach clean up out at the West Coast beaches, saw Jack Johnson live at a winery, and swam at Mission Bay.
Things got more exciting when I finished work for the holidays and headed to Mum’s in Papamoa. On Christmas Day we went to beautiful Waihi Beach to spend Christmas with my Step Dad’s family and ended up spending five days there. It was such a fun time with a load of awesome people.
I swam every day, went boogie boarding for the first time in years, read a lot, hiked to another beach, randomly bumped into friends from London, went out dancing, and spent a lot of time just hanging out with my step family. I couldn’t have asked for more.
I got the bus back up to Auckland on the last day of 2017 for my best friend’s 35th Birthday celebrations and the party he had at his house was epic – the perfect way to ring in the New Year.
So that was my 2017! This post has turned out to be a lot longer than I had planned – sorry for the waffling.
All in all 2017 was one of my favorite years to date and I’m hoping 2018 will be even better!
How was your 2017?