2012 was another incredible year of travel and I feel extraordinarily grateful for being able to maintain a mobile lifestyle.
For those of you who are new here, I haven’t inherited a great sum of money, nor did I quit a high paying job to travel. I just learned to gradually transition into making an income from my blogging and freelance writing in order to sustain my travels. Throughout 2012, I tried to continue cataloging my journey through location independence. Earlier in the year I made temporary offices in Luang Prabang, Laos as well as working as a digital nomad in Dali, China. Much of the year was spent in transit on four major trips, culminating in one of my fullest years in travel yet. I travel on a tight budget and try to share this information with you here on Bohemian Traveler as well as on my sister site: GoMadNomad.com.
Most of all I am intrigued with place. From the places I travel, I try to bring readers an accurate, un-romanticized, description of a destination. I believe people, food, history, art, culture, and nature all contribute to better understanding a place.
This year was epic and crazy-packed with travel. I visited 18 countries in all—10 of them are ones I visited for the first time. I spent the first 10 ½ months traveling and only spent the last half of November and December at home resting and writing.
Hong Kong & Macau
2012 started off half way up Victoria Peak watching the fireworks explode over one of the most classic urban skylines on earth: Hong Kong. That culminated almost three weeks in Hong Kong. Discovering that I actually liked Hong Kong was a bonus. The city was more than just my first impressions, but a stimulating fusion of tradition meets modernity. That, with a little bit of quirkiness (Quirky Hong Kong).
The next morning we were on a ferry boat for Macau. Ignoring the half of Macau that makes it bigger than Vegas (yes, more money is gambled there, than in Las Vegas), I enjoyed the mélange of this former colony: Old Portuguese architecture combined with old Cantonese customs and food. I particularly noticed 7 Observations from Macau.
Frustrated in Mainland China
We shouldn’t travel with too many expectations, and I did. That’s probably why I was so disappointed with so much of China. Granted, I saw a lot of amazing things, but much of the time travel was frustrating and uncomfortable. I’d rather focus on the positive aspects, but to give you a brief glance at the reality of China, I posted Night Train to Kunming and Vomit and Cigarettes: a ride on a Chinese sleeper bus and It’s time to leave China.
A tropical digital detour to Laos
We went to Laos for three reasons: to be someplace warm, to be someplace online, and to be someplace not China. Let me explain. 97% (approximate calculation) of Chinese territory is cold in the winter. Even if it is seemingly cool, the lack of indoor heating makes it feel colder. We needed a place to work online with a low cost of living; Laos fit the bill. Thirdly, Juno needed to leave China after 30 days because of her visa. Only then was she allowed to reenter for another 30 days.
Our digital nomad quest was a success and we spent two weeks hard at work in Luang Prabang. It wasn’t all coffee drinking and computer time. We got a chance to explore our environs and even explore some other villages: Muang Ngoi and Luang Namtha.
Luang Prabang is a serene town and I think I captured its essence in Luang Prabang in Photos.
Itself the size of most of Southeast Asia, Yunnan Province could be its own country. Not to mention all its cultural and physical diversity. We spent more than a month there. Yunnan is a phenomenal place to travel. I’ll give you the highlights:
- Rice Terraces of Yuanyang
- Zhu Family Gardens
- Tasting Tea in Kunming
- Eating Barbequed Insects [video]
- Photographing Shaxi’s Friday Market
- Witnessing sidewalk dentistry
- Getting my palm read
- Walking through the old streets of Lijiang
- Temporarily living in Dali old town
Sichuan and the Yangtze River
To the north of Yunnan, Sichuan Province is another exceptional destination for travelers. I have to admit that visiting pandas in Chengdu and relaxing in tea houses were my primary reasons for visiting. We traveled to some historic towns and lesser-known cities around Chengdu before taking (a nice) train to Chongqing to catch a Yangtze River Cruise. After organizing our own hotels and transportation for more than two months, it was a relief to board the ship and watch scenery of the three gorges for a few days. Here’s a peek in that cruise on the Yangtze River.
2012 also brought in my first visit to Vietnam. I have mixed feeling about the country. It is a fascinating place in many ways, but on the other hand it is very touristy and aggressive. Vietnamese selling any number of things to tourists can get really aggressive and sometimes dishonest. I had traveled extensively in other parts of southeast Asia, and I learned that Vietnam is a very different from the other countries.
Although I haven’t written up my entire experience in Vietnam, some of the highlights were:
Road Trip to the Western United States
From Vietnam, I returned to the US for a wedding and afterwards headed on a road trip with Juno to Colorado for a travel blogging conference. The western United States is one of my favorite places in the world. The landscape and natural beauty is impressive nearly everywhere you go. On the drive out to Colorado, we passed Nashville, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and other out-of-the-way locales.
From Colorado we got invited for a quick trip up to Spokane, Washington to stay at the incredible Northern Quest Resort, which was a luxurious reprieve from our camping and rest area spent nights along the interstate.
New Mexico was another highlight, and one of the most physically and culturally interesting states in our country. From Santa Fe, to the telescopes of the Very Large Array, to the American Indian cultures, to hiking among petroglyphs.
On the trip home, we passed through Oak Ridge Tennessee, one of the more random stops. You’ll have to read that post to find out why we went. By the end of the trip we had racked up 6,141 Miles (9,883 kilometers) on the car.
In August we left for Europe. The destinations of this trip are too many and speed at which we traveled was too quick. The journey began and ended in Iceland, one of the most interesting places I’ve been. It continued through the Baltics and central Europe before utilizing a Eurail pass to breeze through the countries of Western Europe. You can see all the Europe trip posts here.
Surprise Indonesia Press trip
I was hanging out somewhere in Olomouc, Czech Republic halfway through the Europe trip when Juno got an email inviting us to be part of the International Blogger Trip to Indonesia. The Ministry of Tourism would be hosting eight travel bloggers from around the world to blog and provide social media coverage in exchange for this all-expenses paid trip. The five main highlights of the Indonesia trip:
- Visiting the Komodo Dragons
- Surfing in Bali
- Sunrise over Mt. Bromo
- Observing the orangutan in the wild
- Photographing the Temple of Borobudur at Dawn
Two Random posts that explain more about my travel history and philosophy of travel:
I realized this post was much longer than I thought it would be. I wanted to give a more comprehensive description of the year, rather than a quick and dirty version. Thanks for making it through to the end. I hope 2013 is even half as good.
Thanks for all your continued support! Visiting the site, sharing with friends, keeping in touch via Facebook and twitter, enjoying photos on Flickr! I hope you’ll stay with me in 2013 and offer any suggestions or comments.