“Sometimes, I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast…” – Alice in Wonderland
I recently came back to Toronto for Christmas after 13 months of traveling around the world.
I’m still digesting my experience. While I was away, traveling long-term seemed like it was no big deal. Everyone I met was hopping across countries and continents. Now that I’m back and catching up with friends, I’m starting to realize that this past year was actually an incredible achievement.
I traveled around the world by myself for a year.
I’ve been reflecting on my experiences, looking through the 17,200 photos I took, organizing ticket stubs from World Wonders I visited, and reminiscing about spontaneous moments shared with other travellers.
But what stands out the most, is that this year I accomplished a lot of things that seemed impossible – things I didn’t initially know how to do or things I didn’t know could be done at all.
1. Turning 5 travel months into 13
Without a doubt, the turning point of this year was deciding to travel past the five months I initially planned.
My trip was only supposed to involve India, Southeast Asia and Austrialia/New Zealand. When the 5 month mark approached in Southeast Asia, I was torn between going home to work again, and continuing to travel but not knowing how I’d fund all of it.
After some clarity from 10 days of silent meditation, I realized there would be difficulties no matter what path I chose. With some encouragement from another traveller, I took a leap of faith and decided to aim for 7 more months of travel to hit the one year mark.
Wait… I’m allowed to make crazy decisions like these?! How empowering.
With this leap of faith, the next few impossibilities unfolded.
2. My blog… it’s an asset?!
With Turkey and Europe next on the itinerary, I knew funds would be a challenge.
I started by taking an inventory of all the assets that I could use to make or save money. I listed physical assets like my laptop and camera; skills like web design; contacts and friends around I could maybe stay with; and I brainstormed ways I could fit these pieces together so I could hit make it to one year of travels.
A travel friend saw a Europe rail article by another blogger and got the idea of approaching Eurail.com, the online seller of Europe rail passes, to ask if they’d consider helping us with passes if we promoted them via blog articles or shared photos of our rail travel experience.
They generously agreed to an exchange, and that was the first time it clicked that this blog is actually an asset.
Which brings me to the next impossibility…
3. Traveling in Europe, for 20 weeks!
Even when I was working, the idea of visiting Europe for 5 weeks would’ve been a mental and financial stretch.
It’s been almost 3 months since my 14,000 km Europe rail trip finished. Looking back, I sometimes still wonder how I pulled it off.
All I know is that between my Eurail passes, cooking or packing most of my meals and staying only at hostels/guesthouses, I some managed to see 18 countries from as east as the Bulgaria, to as west Spain, as south as Italy, to as north as Copenhagen. I even had the good fortune of seeing friends I made while travelling on other continents and spent my 29th birthday in Berlin eating a homemade cake from a Toronto friend.
During this 13 month trip, the Europe portion probably took the most energy and felt the least like a vacation; but I was determined to make it work, so at least stepping up to the challenge came with ease.
4. Going to the Middle East, alone!
With the Europe visit ending in the fall, North Africa or the Middle East seemed like logical areas to visit afterwards.
I’ve wanted to see the Pyramids since elementary school and the Jordan travel articles I saw from other travelers were fascinating. I was scared to visit this area of the world, but reputable tour companies like Gap Adventures and Intrepid both run trips in Egypt and Jordan, so I figured these countries must be reasonably safe.
I ended up spending 20 days in Egypt and 8 days in Jordan. I was solo for half my stay in each country and with a tour or guide during the other half. To my great surprise, both countries were relatively comfortable to visit and were less overwhelming than India.
Of the the 27 countries I visited this trip, these two were the most surprising in terms of the difference what I expected and what I experienced. Neither were anything like what the North American media had led me to believe.
5. Growing a little blog from 1.6K visits to 74.5K/month
I started this blog on April 1, 2010, the last day of my corporate job, as a way to document my journey during my year off. In the 9 months between April to Dec 2010, I only wrote 14 blog posts, so it wasn’t a surprise that in January 2011 I had less than 2K visits/month.
When I first started reading travel blogs, I was amazed by the amount of reader comments and feedback on some of the larger sites. I once asked a few bloggers about their website traffic and I remember thinking that I’d have to increase my traffic twenty to forty-fold to get to their size. How would I do that?!
Regardless, I wanted to continue sharing my experiences and connecting with others interested in career breaks, travel and personal growth. I stuck with it and decided I’d just do my best to copy the social media and promotion techniques of the blogs I most looked up to.
In July, I had my first month with over 5,000 visits. In October, I reached 10,000 visits and recently in December 2011, Google Analytics recorded 74,525 visits and 90,976 pageviews.
Numbers aren’t everything, but I never thought I’d reach numbers in this range.
Coming back in Toronto for Christmas
Being back in familiarity of Toronto has been nice. It’s comforting and relaxing to see old friends, to have my old cell phone number and to eat delicious home cooked family dinners.
This blog was an essential part of how some major milestones in 2011 unfolded. I don’t know if I could’ve continued travelling the way I did if it wasn’t for your support, whether it’s your readership, comments, emails or your nod of acknowledgement in the form of a Facebook Like or Tweet.
Thank you for helping make my one year travel dream a reality.
For now, I’m going to stay in Toronto while I digest my whirlwind of a year. My goal for this trip initially was to travel solo, then the goal became to hit the one year mark. The next time I travel, it’ll be a different goal.
I don’t have concrete plans for 2012, but then again, most of the adventures from 2011 (and 2010) weren’t planned either. I am going to continue blogging and I will keep you updated.
Happy 2012 and cheers to another year of making the impossible, possible.
>> What were some milestones of your year? Did you do something that you initially thought was a stretch or impossible goal?
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