Happy New Year everyone! I’ve been inspired by the year-in-review type post over at Thrilling Heroics and I’ve decided to throw out one of my own.
I had a great time in 2009 but, looking back, it sort of doesn’t seem like I did much. I spent the first few months of the year finishing up a volunteering project in Haiti and then went straight down to Nicaragua where I spent two months on a feeble attempt at studying Spanish and another two months working on a farm on the side of a volcano. I also spent a couple of months at home in Canada and two months in Sumatra. Besides a couple of weeks in Australia and three weeks in New York City, all of my travels have been done in big chunks with little movement from place to place and even less time spent doing the backpacker thing. As a result it feels like 2009 was a bit of a light travel year but it still somehow managed to be the most rewarding so far.
- Haiti (January to April)
- Australia (2 weeks in February/March)
- USA (a short visit to Miami, and a stint in NYC)
- Nicaragua (April to August)
- Canada (home for two months, house boating and a couple of trips to Toronto)
- Indonesia (November and December)
- Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur for a week)
- Having some crazy experiences and meeting lots of great people while volunteering in Haiti.
- Catching up with a friend I haven’t seen for nine years in Miami.
- Heading to a wedding in Perth, Australia and having a reunion with about 20 Aussie friends from my years in London.
- Hanging out on the side of a volcano in a hammock in a treehouse – my new favourite spot in the world.
- Learning all sorts of new skills and meeting some interesting people while working on a farm on Ometepe, Nicaragua.
- Watching the evil Red Sox at the awesome Fenway Park.
- Spending a couple of weeks living in my friend’s apartment in New York City and a weekend with my mum over Halloween.
- Hanging out with my parent’s on a houseboat for a week (and crashing it twice).
- Heading to Sumatra, volunteering, catching up with old friends, meeting new friends and really enjoying the area.
- Spending New Year’s Eve on Lake Manangau in Sumatra, Indonesia with a bunch of my favourite people from volunteering in Indonesia.
Things I Learned in 2009
I learned that I love to wield a machete. Working on a farm for two months in Nicaragua meant that I got to do all sorts of cool things and hacking trees to bits with machetes has to rank up there as one of my favourite things to do. Machetes = best tool ever. It’s not just the machetes I love about life on a farm… I love the simplicity, the hard work, being outdoors, eating food grown beside your tent, the fresh air, and being around the local workers. There are lots of opportunities to do farm work worldwide in exchange for food and accommodation and it’s something that I will be actively searching out in my future travels.
I also learned that I’m not really that into travel for the sake of travel anymore. I still love to be on the road visiting new places but the actual destination doesn’t hold as much excitement for me as it once did. These days I get much more excited about travel with some sort of purpose in mind: visiting a friend, going to a festival or sporting event, volunteering, doing a work exchange, couch surfing, learning a language or some skill or even renting an apartment and attempting to do as the locals do. Hostel life and the backpacker scene is something that I’m growing less and less fond of as I get older which is surprising to me since I used to love it so much.
I have also come to the conclusion that I’m not the best at budgeting. When I have money in my bank account and some money coming in each month, I will always choose fun and worry about the financial consequences later. Evidence of this being my ridiculous two week trip from Haiti to Perth, Australia for a wedding. Ridiculous, yes, but also totally worth it. Same goes for the crazy amount of money I have already spent on World Cup tickets and will no doubt spend when I actually get there. But again, I seem to have no problem spending now and worrying later. I would always rather spend the money to do something great because I can always *gasp* get a job to top up my funds or stay somewhere really cheap as the internet money rolls in and tops me back up.
The other thing I’ve come to realise that doesn’t go well at all with my lack of budgeting is that I am not as committed to working online as I once was or maybe as I should be. I really do love the work but I also love being in remote places that don’t usually have an internet connection. This doesn’t go very well with the whole working online thing and I’m often only able to do work in short stints between trips. I’m not sure if this is something I can continue to do, but I will push it for as long as I can.
2010 Travel Plans
My new year’s resolution for 2009 was to keep advance travel planning to a minimum and I did a pretty good job keeping it. I didn’t really book any flights too far in advance and sort of rolled with the punches for the whole year. I really love not being totally sure what the next month or even the next week will hold so I’m going to attempt to stick with the same resolution for 2010. But I do still have a few rough travel non-plans to think about in the new year:
Stay in Sumatra with HODR until the project ends in February then do a bit of travelling around Indonesia.
Visit a friend in Islamabad and either attempt to get a job or just rent a room somewhere and work on my websites.
Head to South Africa in June to meet up with some Aussie friends for the World Cup (this is the only plan that is locked in).
Find a gig working on a farm in exchange for accommodation in South Africa (or maybe also do it in Bali before I leave Indonesia).
Couchsurf as much as possible around Southern Africa while looking for volunteering opportunities in the area.
Follow HODR to their next project, wherever it is and whenever it will be.
Travel around Africa (probably mostly the East Coast for now) while gathering information for my new Africa website.
Work Related Goals for 2010
I’m not really a hugely ambitious type so I don’t have a huge list of lofty goals to achieve in 2010. But I do have a couple of things that should keep me pretty busy for the next little while.
- Volunteering Ebook – As I wrote about in a previous post, I want to raise $10,000 and I think writing an ebook and giving it away for a suggested donation is the best way to go about it. I have been working away at it but I still have a long way to go, not to mention the work that will be involved in getting the word out. It’s turning out to be a pretty big project and I want to have this thing finished and released sooner rather than later.
- Wanderstruck – This project will be huge and I might have bitten off a bit more than I can chew on this one. My goal is to create a website for independent travel across Africa. I have a vision and I am starting to get the site the way I want it but filling it with content will be a mission involving my own travels and finding other travellers to write for the site. The only place in Africa I’ve been to as of right now is Egypt which makes this whole project idea even more ridiculous. But I am going to throw myself at this site and see what happens. Getting this to work will require a big commitment from me so I hope I’m ready to give it once I get to Africa.
What will 2010 look like for you? Has 2009 been everything you had hoped it would? I’m pretty happy with life and really excited for the future. It looks like 2010 will be a busy travel year for me and a busy year in general and I’m looking forward to it!