Highs and Lows From One Year of Travel

Travel Wish List

November 10th marked the one-year anniversary of the date I flew from New York to Costa Rica! It started as one month of solo international travel, to test the waters. And one year later, I’m on the road indefinitely working as a digital nomad! This first year has been a wild ride, learning more about the world and my place in it. The learning curve has been steep, but the journey well worth it.

Even though I was sick on the actual anniversary, I thought better late than never! Here are my highs and lows from one year of travel.

One Year of Travel

Countries Visited: 13

Out of these thirteen countries, I had only visited one previously (The U.K.) and one is the USA, my home country. I didn’t count Qatar, as I only stopped there in the airport for a 9-hour layover.

Lows From One Year of Travel

Getting Bedbugs. Twice.

This is pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? I got bedbugs in Panama, and just couldn’t seem to shake them (or at least the feeling that they were crawling on me in the middle of the night) for the rest of my Central America trip. The bugs themselves aren’t the worst part, it’s the psychological toll of waking up in the middle of the night every night convinced that one had just been sucking my blood! Ah, well. Some things are unavoidable when you’re backpacking in Central America – and one of them seems to be bedbugs. At least they don’t carry diseases! My mom actually met me at the airport at the end of my 3 month trip with garbage bags to put my backpacks in.

save money to travel the world
First day of my first solo international trip: climbing Rincon de la Vieja!

Dealing with Loneliness

I don’t write about this much because it’s not very becoming of me to talk about all the amazing places I’ve been and things I’ve done and then follow up with “But sometimes I get lonely.”

I struggled with loneliness (probably more so) when I was living in New York City. But when I got the idea to travel the world, I was convinced that would cure my loneliness. Well, you know they say not to run from your problems because they will always find you, right? I read so many travel blogs in which it seemed like the author was making friends left and right, having the time of their lives. I figured that would be my reality, too.

Beautiful sunset in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Now that I am traveling full time, I know that’s not always accurate. Not that I haven’t met friends while traveling – the opposite! I’ve met more friends while traveling this past year than probably the entire past 4 years combined! But these friendships are fleeting, as one of us is always moving on to the next place. It’s hard to form a community when you’re always on the move.

And that’s what I miss most – a sense of community. People who ‘get’ me. People with whom I don’t have to re-tell my entire life’s story to whenever I meet them in a hostel common room. Traveling to places in Central America I saw so many deep-rooted communities. Families and friends that sat outside late into the night chatting and laughing. I walked past them and felt a deep sense of loss. How did we come so far from that simplicity? Staring at screens instead of engaging with the people around us. The more I travel to so-called ‘developing countries,’ the more I learn about the importance of family and friendship.

Almost Running out of Money on my Road Trip

Thank God for tax returns. (Probably the last time I will ever write that phrase!) I ran out of the $10,000 I had saved to travel just before my planned 6-week road trip around the USA. The only things that got me through those 6 weeks on the road were my hefty tax return from my nanny job, and my generous little brother (I’ll pay you back someday, I promise!)

This past year of travel was all about the hostel life.

Thankfully, I started my job at WeTravel just before leaving on my road trip, so I was bringing in a little bit of money the entire time. Unfortunately, I had planned the road trip before I knew I would have a job, so I had packed my trip with driving and sightseeing plans. Instead of checking out national parks, I was sat in a coffee shop working in between driving stints. Luckily, I love my job and I love coffee! But still, it didn’t make for very impressive blog posts (which is why I haven’t written much about it).

Not Wanting to Leave

When I left New York City in November of last year, I had every plan on moving back in April. Well, obviously that didn’t happen. I did need somewhere to stay still for a few months to save up more money before traveling to Europe, though. Enter my childhood home in Syracuse, New York! I hadn’t lived at home for about 9 years, so I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing. My parents are super chill, so I wasn’t worried about that. But would I get restless “stuck in Syracuse,” as I had been all throughout my adolescence?

Happily, I found that those two months at home were exactly what I needed to recharge (in body, mind, and bank account). I had gotten so into my routine at home (AKA working 24/7) that I didn’t really want to leave for Europe. I know – crazy, right? In the end, I’m super happy I chose to continue the adventure, but it’s nice to know that my home will always be there for me.

Wanderlust Wednesday
Can I stay here forever?

In fact, not wanting to leave has been a major theme of the past year. I’ve arrived and departed so many cities, towns, hostels and Airbnbs, I’ve lost count. Being a nomad is thrilling, but I miss having a home base. I don’t think I’m ready to settle anywhere for more than a month at the moment, but I am looking forward to immersing myself deeper in the places I travel to.

Highs From One Year of Travel

Women’s Wellness Retreat in Costa Rica

The impetus for this entire journey, the retreat I went on in San Juanillo, Costa Rica changed my life. The women I met, the lessons I learned, have stuck with me through this pivotal year. Read all about my experience in my post How To Go On A Retreat That Will Change Your Life.

Wanderlust Wednesday

Making Friends in Puerto Rico and Learning that I Could Travel Solo

After years of dreaming about traveling the world by myself, I was finally doing it. But..why was it so hard? In Puerto Rico, I struggled with solo travel. One night, in a hostel in Old San Juan, I broke down in my private room. Everything seemed too much. I just wanted to go back to normalcy, to my regular life back home.

Instead of whining and giving up, I decided to try a different tactic. I switched hostels, to the Mango Mansion, and stayed in a dorm room (my first dorm room I stayed in as a solo traveler!) I hung out in the common room and met new friends from all over the world. By the end of my two weeks there, I had traversed Puerto Rico with my new group of friends – all fellow solo female travelers who came to the Mango Mansion by themselves.

Learning Spanish with Habla Ya in Panama

Panama will always have a special spot in my heart as the place where I started to learn the Spanish language. From Boquete to Bocas del Toro, my travels in Panama were so much deeper because I began to speak Spanish. It allowed me to practice with locals, and get a feeling for what things are really like in Panama. My classes spent discussing everything under the sun in broken beginner Spanish were valuable in so many ways.

bocas del toro
Spanish + Smoothies = Perfection

Read about my Spanish Language Journey:

  • Do You Need To Learn Spanish To Travel In Panama?
  • How To Improve Your Spanish in Boquete With Habla Ya
  • I Went Cacao Crazy In Bocas Del Toro
  • Better in Bocas del Toro: Learning Spanish On the Road

    Solo Road Trip in the USA

    This is a trip that I’ve been wanting to take for SO long. I’ll be honest, there were times on my drive that I started crying out of pure JOY at being able to live out a dream I’d had. There’s nothing quite like finding yourself in a situation and having a sense of deja vu because of all times you dreamed about yourself having that experience. It’s surreal and really enforces the idea that anything you dream you can do. So as I sped down highways in the southern countryside, around treacherous bends in northern New Mexico, and stopped repeatedly for photo ops, I couldn’t stop the thought running through my head – “Is this real life? Or a dream?”

    Read About My Road Trip (More Coverage Will Be Added Soon!):

  • How To Save Money On Your Solo Road Trip
  • How To Go On The Ultimate USA Road Trip
  • Top 6 Things To Do in Cincinnati, OH
  • How To Love Los Angeles As A First Time Visitor

    Spending My 27th Birthday in London & A Very Special Gift

    I turned 24 in London. It was the tail end of my two-month backpacking trip around Western Europe, and my first slice of what travel could mean to me. The period between that birthday and my 27th one, again in London, marked what one might definitely call a ‘quarter life crisis.’ There were times when I had no idea what I was doing, lost hope in the direction of my life, and couldn’t even find a part of myself that felt like ME anymore. I know now that it was necessary in order to get to where I am today.

    24 VS. 27
    24 VS. 27

    The difference between 24-year-old me celebrating a birthday that scared the shit out of her, as opposed to 27-year-old me, scared but ready to see what was in store anyways, was marked. And having the same backdrop, London, in which to set the scene helped make plain the ways in which I have changed.

    On top of THAT, I got to live a dream that 11-year-old Eva would have simply DIED over – I saw the new Harry Potter play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! I was giddy with excitement before, during, and after – and wish I could go back and relive the experience again!

    Digital Nomad
    Dreams do come true!

    Following in My Ancestors’ Footsteps in Eastern Europe

    Central America was fascinating because of the complete difference between that area of the world and the one in which I grew up. My road trip across the country was fascinating because of the differences found in each and every state, almost like a new country when I crossed a border. So it was amazing to travel in search of similarities.

    My mother’s side of the family immigrated from Eastern Europe, mostly in the early to mid-20th century. We are still not entirely sure where they came from since they were Jewish and regularly forced to leave whichever place they called home. But we know that at least a few relatives called Poland home for quite some time and that some of them made the journey from Poland to Russia via the Baltic countries.

    To walk on streets, and ride in buses down roads that my ancestors may have walked down was a surreal experience. It’s hard to describe how it felt, so I’m still trying to put words to those feelings. Expect more posts about my time in Eastern Europe in the near future.

    Poland Photo Diary

    Attending my First TBEX AND FAM Trip in The Philippines

    If this was the year of firsts, these firsts felt most surreal. How many times had I read about other travel bloggers attending TBEX (a travel blogging conference) or bringing to life on screen the experiences they’d had on a FAM trip (literally “familiarization trip,” hosted by a travel operator)? To step into the shoes of travel bloggers come before, after only one year of doing this myself, was a dream come true.

    And to live out that dream in The Philippines? I couldn’t have asked for anything more! And that is exactly what you will be reading about this upcoming week. [See my post on 20 Photos That Will Convince You To Visit The Philippines.]

    TBEX Manila Philippines Travel Blogger Eva Explores
    I’m a real blogger now!

    Here’s to Year Two of Travel!

    Happy Exploring, Wherever You Are!

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      1. Yes, maybe TOO many countries, if I’m honest! I hope to see places more thoroughly this year 😀 Oh you definitely should if you get the chance to go! It was one of the best theatre experiences I’ve ever had!

    1. I can relate to so many of these points, Eva. I also got to a point where long-term solo travel was starting to wear me down. I’m currently on a 6-week trip through Spain and of course I’m so happy to be here but not speaking Spanish is making it much harder than I realized. My solo trip this summer was a lot easier because most of it was in France where I speak French so I had a fabulous time. I didn’t realize how much of a barrier the language would create. Part of me just really misses home! Enjoyed reading, x
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      1. Language definitely creates a huge barrier! I remember when I first got to Central America last winter and I was surprised by how my lack of Spanish was creating problems. Luckily, I got to take some Spanish classes, and then I felt much better! I’m glad you can relate, especially about missing home! It’s funny because we spend so much time dreaming about going far off places and then once we get there sometimes all we want to do is go home!

    2. I seriously love reading your posts! This one struck home with me because I’m currently on my year of travel only 2 1/2 months in. I LOVE IT, but find myself worrying about what I’ll do when I get back etc. etc. So dumb, but I totally thought I’d move back to San Francisco where I was living and now I’m not sure I’ll even want to! I’m already looking into ways to be a digital nomad 🙂 Anyway, thanks for inspiring me! I’m going to be in SE asia starting in January so if you’re ever around it would be so fun to meet up! – Katie

      1. Thanks SO much Katie!!! I totally understand that, I’ve changed my mind SO many times about when I would “go back” or “stop traveling” etc. I’m learning to stop trying to think of the future in terms of concrete plans haha! I would love to meet up! Do you know where you’ll be in January? I am starting the month in Thailand, but after that I have no idea!

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