2012—How I traveled

Michelangelo’s David according to a Renaissance Pigeon
December 24, 2012
Eating Rome
January 7, 2013

2012—How I traveled

Me on top of the caldera in front of Mt Bromo and

Mt Bromo Indonesia

Me on top of the caldera in front of Mt Bromo, Indonesia

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.

In Guangxi Province, famous for its picturesque karst mountains, we spent a week in Yangshuo. Besides floating down the scenic Li River, the day cycling around Yangshuo was definitely a highlight.

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.

Yunnan Province

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:

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.

Europe Trip

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:


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.

Where did you travel in 2013? Share below in the comments:

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine GoMadNomad.com. He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. Stephen Bugno says:

    Thanks so much Jenna. Glad you enjoyed. Hope you get to New Mexico and Iceland in 2013!

  2. Stephen Bugno says:

    Sure did, Michael. Good, though, that I had time to meet up with you those couple times!

  3. Michael says:

    Looks like you had a busy year!

  4. Jenna says:

    Wow, it really was a busy year of travel for you! I followed your (and the other bloggers’) coverage of the Indonesia trip because that is a country I really loved and one I would like to see much more of. New Mexico and Iceland are two places I would love to visit soon. All the best for 2013!

  5. Stephen Bugno says:

    Thanks so much, Michael. It means a lot to me. So glad you could join me for those couple trips this year. Hopefully we’ll make something good happen in 2013!

  6. Stephen Bugno says:

    Thanks Kami! I enjoyed following your travels too and appreciate the fact that you go to many of the lesser-traveled places.

  7. kami says:

    what a wonderful year you had, cheers to that! and let’s hope 2013 will be even better!

  8. Stephen Bugno says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Aggy! Hope 2013 is great for you too!

  9. Michael B. says:

    This is a great post. I feel like I just relived 2012 with you. It was a pleasure to be able to travel with you to Hong Kong and Vietnam. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I’ve seen half the world because of you and I am grateful! I am looking forward to 2013 and “Oh the Places You’ll Go” or I’ll travel to with you!

  10. Aggy says:

    What an amazing journey it has been for in 2012! I very much enjoyed your travel updates, very inspiring indeed. Here’s to a great 2013!

  11. Juno says:

    Well presented blog post indeed! What a great year 2012 was. It must be hard to pick highlights, since there was so many. Hopefully this year with you will be as awesome as last year.

  12. It was awesome meeting you at the Indonesia blogger trip – you are definitely quite a character! So much fun. I’m checking out your Hong Kong and Macau posts for some tips as I am heading out that way this weekend. All the best for 2013!

  13. jenn says:

    U r so.lucky to have visited all these places. I’m still trying to get to Italy. Its on my bucket list along with going to times square NY for new years eve. Lol. Good luck to u and all u do.

  14. Stephen Bugno says:

    Thanks Bino! Hope your 2013 is all you want it to be, too!

  15. It’s good to know that you had a blast last year. Cheers to more great adventures. Happy Travels!

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