2013. Wow. What a year.
We completely changed our lives this year. It will be a year we’ll always remember. And if we’ve learnt anything from these past 12 months it’s that if you want to do something then get off your butt and do it.
Stop saying you’ll do it when you have more money / you quit your job / you move overseas / you break up with your boyfriend / your sister’s neighbour’s dog has puppies.
If you want to change your life, do it now. You could be dead tomorrow.
I recently read this article about the five regrets people have when they’re dying. The first point really resonated with me – Don’t live the life people expect you to live, live the life you want to live.
It was a difficult choice for us to quit our jobs in the UK and travel the world indefinitely. We were leaving what people considered to be ‘good’ jobs. Dave was a successful TV producer of World News at the BBC and I was working my way up to become an account manager at a creative content agency.
From the outside looking in, some people would think we almost had ideal jobs. But neither of us were particularly happy in our roles.
We weren’t doing work we were passionate about and we were so sick of office politics. Blergh.
So we bit the bullet and decided to save our money and travel.
Anyway, I’d like to reflect on our most memorable moments of this wonderful year… and those we’d rather forget.
Looking back on 2013 – the highlights:
1. Quitting our jobs to travel indefinitely
I have a secret to tell you – quitting our jobs to travel the world indefinitely was SCARY.
Not having a regular income and living off your savings can certainly make you nervous at times. I might seem pedantic about calculating our travel budget each month, but that’s because I don’t want our funds to run out.
Thankfully, we’ve made the money last and now it looks like we’ve got two regular freelancing jobs, as well as income coming in from the blog, so we might be able to travel for longer than we expected.
Which is awesome.
And now we’re also working for ourselves, meaning we’re in charge and no longer have to deal with petty office politics.
Which is even more awesome.
And we’re working for ourselves while we sit on the beautiful island of Dominica in The Caribbean living in a mansion rent-free thanks to our newly found love of house sitting.
Which is probably the most awesome thing of all.
So if there’s anything we’ve learnt this year, it’s not to let your fears stop you from doing the things you want to do. If you rise to the challenge and live the life you want to live, rather than the life other people expect you to live, not only will you feel much happier but you’ll also feel rewarded.
As the great man, Nelson Mandela, once said:
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
2. Our amazing house sitting assignments
I mentioned briefly our current house sitting assignment in The Caribbean and I’ve written about house sitting in the past.
But I cannot go on enough about how awesome it is.
During our time in the US, we lived in the states of New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Washington and Colorado – all rent free.
We spent about two weeks in each location. If we were staying in a hotel for US$50 a night, this would’ve cost us US$2,800. Not to mention our two-month long house sit we’re currently on in Dominica.
In total, we’ve saved nearly US$6,000 in travel expenses thanks to house sitting. It’s certainly helped our budget stretch further.
3. Food tour of NYC
When I reflect on the best things we’ve done this year, it’s really difficult for us to choose a highlight. There were so many AMAZING experiences that it’s tough to nail one down.
But, given that we LOVE food and we LOVE New York City, going on a food tour in New York City has to be one of the highlights.
Our only regret about doing the tour was that we did it towards the end of our stay in New York. The tour shows you all the best places to eat in Greenwich Village but we didn’t get the chance to go back there because we had to leave.
Fortunately, we did get a chance to sample some of the best food the city has to offer on the tour and it was delicious. If there’s one thing you do in New York, make this it!
Please note, Foods of New York Tours gave us two complimentary tickets for this tour. BUT I sincerely believe it’s AWESOME. Try it and see for yourself.
4. America’s National Parks
Coming to the US, I knew the cities would be amazing. Boston, New York City, San Francisco – I’d heard so much about them from Dave, our friends and other travel bloggers that I fully expected to love them.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
What I didn’t realise was just how amazing America’s natural beauty would be.
Each and every National Park we visited in the USA blew me away. Whether it was marvelling at the rock formations in the Badlands, feeling the spiritual beauty of Devils Tower, waiting in anticipation for a geyser to erupt in Yellowstone, walking among the magical trees of the Redwood Forest or walking under the arches in Utah – each and every one of America’s National Parks were stunning.
My only regret is that we didn’t schedule enough of our time to enjoy them all!
Truth be told – and I never thought I would admit this as a self-confessed city girl – I think I preferred the USA’s national parks over its cities!
Exploring all of these natural places also helped us to discover our newfound love for hiking, too. And one day I want to get back to the US and explore every single national park the country has.
5. Spending time with our parents
The hardest thing about being on the road for so long is that we are away from our families and friends. We’ve missed weddings, births and funerals. I haven’t even met some of my best friends’ children. It can be tough.
Luckily, we had the fortune of seeing both sets of parents this year – and twice for my parents!
And perhaps the biggest highlight for this year is that my parents are joining us on The Caribbean for Christmas.
It has been the five years since we’ve had Christmas together as a family.
That is a very long time.
And I’m so grateful that we can spend this Christmas together in a location as exotic as The Caribbean island of Dominica.
Looking back on 2013 – the moments we’d rather forget:
1. Car problems
One of the most stressful days of the year was when our car broke down the day after we bought it. We’d just spent a large whack of our travel budget on a vehicle, only to find that we had to pay that much again and then some to get it fixed.
It was not a happy moment for us.
I think we ended up taking Hannah to the garage a further four times, spending more money on her each time. By the time we finished our trip, she’d cost us a little over than US$5,000.
Considering we bought her for US$2,200, it was a bit of a pain in the butt.
2. Government shutdown
We’d just left California to go on a 10 day road trip to our next house sitting assignment in Colorado. During this time we were going to visit the Redwood Forest, Yosemite, Sequoia National Park, Arches and the Grand Canyon.
We arrived at Yosemite first, at nightfall, and quickly set up camp and went to bed early for a big day of hiking the following morning.
Overnight the US government shutdown.
All the plans we had for our road trip were ruined. We had to make alternative plans and ended up visiting a variety of state parks instead, like Red Cliffs in Utah.
We ended up meeting some amazing people who were stuck in the same situation as us, and we managed to retrace our steps once the government re-opened, so it wasn’t a complete failure.
3. Getting sick
Both Dave and I have been ill in the past six months. Dave got food poisoning at the beginning of the trip in Toronto, and I had an awful stomach bug that lasted for more than a week.
If you’ve ever been sick when you’re travelling, you know that it’s one of the worst feelings in the world.
If I was in any other country other than America, I probably would’ve gone to the doctor for some medicine. But the thought of seeking medical care in a country that has such an EXPENSIVE health care system scared the beejeezus out of me – even though we both have travel insurance.
I’m not the only one who’s scared off by the cost of the health care system in the US – our American friend told us he nearly died once because he couldn’t afford to get his wisdom tooth out. It became extremely infected and he went into severe sepsis shock.
Severe sepsis shock is actually the leading cause of death in American hospitals – showing our friend is not the only one who leaves it to the last minute to seek medical aid.
In the end, his parents paid for his operation and our friend made a full recovery.
Frightening story though, and makes me grateful that I am from a country that gives affordable medical aid to everyone.
4. Las Vegas
Perhaps surprisingly, Las Vegas was my least favourite place in the USA.
We probably made a few bad choices when we were there – the main one being that we stayed in the worst motel on earth.
It was called Crestwood Suites, but I quickly renamed it ‘crusty sheets’. There were cigarette burns in our blankets, holes in the walls and drug dealers selling crack in the parking lot.
And then there’s Vegas itself – I just didn’t like it! It’s completely sleazy, with pimps walking around handing out hookers’ business cards.
I also found all the replica cities – the fake Eiffel Tower and Venice – strange. Why not visit the real thing?
To me, Vegas was all the parts I liked least about America mashed into one. In fact, going through our photos for this blog post I could hardly find any photos of Vegas – which goes to show how crappy our time was there.
Have a Merry Christmas
And there you have it – a (long) rundown of 2013 for us.
What about you? What were your highlights? What did you learn this year? What do you want to change next year?
And most importantly…
Have a very Merry Christmas!
May this time be filled with joy and laughter, and spent with your loved ones.