So it’s the end of another year and it’s time to do as all good bloggers do and publish our round up of 2016. It’s been a bit of a strange one, for us as well as it seems to have been for the world at large.

After a really crappy few years of losing treasured family members and seeing others go through illnesses and all kinds of stress, 2016 was supposed to be the year where things came together a bit. As we’ve talked about in some of our other posts, we had no long planned intentions of taking to the road long term, much less of becoming travel bloggers in the process. We started the year with high hopes for our careers and plans to achieve further progress in our jobs as well as greater financial stability and have ended up achieving neither.

I remember sitting with family last New Year as we discussed our plans and hopes for the year ahead and detailed the typical wishes to get thinner, healthier, richer and more successful. With this in in mind the turns the year has taken for us have been all the more surprising. Sadly we’re neither thinner, healthier, richer or more successful, but as cliched as it sounds I do believe that we’re happier. Taking the decision to leave our jobs and take time out to travel before working out our next steps has probably been the boldest decision we’ve ever taken – and that in itself was a new and valuable experience for us. We’re not exactly renowned for our sense of spontaneity or for making ‘out there’ life choices, but in 2016 that’s what we did and it’s been a breath of fresh air.

There’s definitely a part of both of us that’s a bit gutted about how things have worked out – we loved our work on the whole, had built up pretty good careers with 7 years of serious hard work and still we think from time to time about what our lives would be like if we’d spent the money on moving to a bigger better house and ticking another one of those life goal boxes rather than abandoning it all to travel. I suppose I’m trying to say that as happy as we are with our decisions overall and in spite¬†of how lucky we know we are to be able to travel longterm, it’s not exactly been an easy journey, regardless of what our Instagram might seem to show.

In retrospect we may have been sleepwalking a little earlier in the year – trying to keep ticking off each one of those relentless sets of boxes that we felt were meant to be ticked, and having what was really quite an appalling worklife balance as we continued in this pursuit. If nothing else, this year has given us a greater level of perspective on how much choice you have over the life you live and how ticking boxes is only important if those boxes mean something to you. It sounds quite obvious but we know now that when we do inevitably return home we will choose the home, job, friends and lifestyle that will make us happy and not just settle for what’s there because it’s what’s easy and what we’ve always done. Things don’t fall into place so much when you’re travelling – if you’re not proactive then little happens, so we’ve had to apply a new sense of consideration to what we want to do and achieve. We’re looking forward to applying this back home and achieving goals that are more meaningful to us rather than doing things because they’re comfortable, familiar and easy.

The decision we took to do something completely different for a time in our lives before it was too late has taught us some great lessons this year. I think we’ve learnt not to be afraid of change, which we struggled with before. Overall, our travel experiences have been incredible and we are still loving every day we get to see new places, experience new things and meet more people from all over the world. So this, tempered with the disappointments from earlier in the year and the sense of sadness for the hopes we had that didn’t quite make it into reality, makes us feel on balance that 2016 hasn’t been too bad.

And before I ramble on for too much longer, when we think back over the year, these have been our highs and lows:

Highlights of 2016
  • Visiting the US and falling completely in love with it! We didn’t expect to like it anywhere near as much as we did, and the places we spent time in were amazing. We can’t wait to go back to Vegas, do a proper Southern states road trip and visit Denali national park in Alaska, amongst many other places we want to see in the states.
  • Campervanning in NZ was awesome, the most relaxing but busy 5 weeks of our trip as we were able to go completely at our own pace and fit in as much or as little as we wanted to. New Zealand is beautiful and we loved exploring new cities, hiking around stunning places and seeing amazing wildlife and nature at every turn.
  • Surviving the Salkantay Trek and making it to Machu Picchu was also a huge highlight. The trek was so hard, easily one of the toughest things we’ve done, but it was so amazingly worthwhile. It’s definitely the most impressive world wonder we’ve seen and our day at Machu Picchu was pretty perfect.
  • Cruising the Gal√°pagos Islands and seeing all the wildlife was exceptional as well. We didn’t expect to go on a cruise and whilst we’re pretty much broke now no thanks to that it was worth every penny! Snorkelling with marine iguanas, sea lions, sea turtles and all manner of other wildlife is something we’ll never forget.
  • We also loved our time in Argentina – Buenos Aires is one of our new favourite cities, and we loved the food, wine, horse riding in the desert, tango lessons and so much more.
  • Before we came on our flight travels we were lucky enough to visit Thailand earlier this year on a family holiday for my Mum’s 60th birthday and had an amazing time. Sometimes now when we’re staying in grotty hostels and eating noodles for the third time in a week we like to think about the luxury villa we stayed in and hope one day we’ll be able to travel like that again!
  • And on a smaller scale, actually surviving almost 6 months abroad together when previously we hadn’t been out of the country for more than about 2 weeks. I was so scared when we were waiting for that first flight out of Gatwick to NYC with my worldly possessions in a backpack and even more scared once we arrived! I remember my Dad’s predictions that I’d be home within 2 weeks and I was kind of worried that it might actually happen, but turns out we’ve made it half way around the world and had an absolute ball in the process. Yeah I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t had bad days and there’s been more than a few arguments along the way but on the whole we’ve had a brilliant time and I do feel like we’re lucky enough to be living the dream.

Lows of 2016
  • Homesickness is rubbish. It hasn’t actually affected us as much as we were worried it would but Christmas has been tough. We miss our friends, even though we’re pretty sure most of them have forgotten us, and we miss family even more. One thing we are looking forward to is seeing everyone again when we get back, especially our dog and cat!
  • Being ill abroad is even more rubbish. We’ve both had episodes of illness, from colds and flu to stomach bugs and sickness while travelling is really rubbish and has to go on the ‘lows’ list.
  • Losing out on the house we were hoping to buy and leaving our jobs earlier this year. Yes it’s led to the most amazing travel adventures we could have hoped to have but like I said above it’s still kind of sad, especially after we worked so hard for so long.
  • The fear of going home is real – even though we knew we’d be away til the end of 2016 and beyond, the occasional nagging feelings of what are you doing with your life and how are you going to get back on track back home are pretty unpleasant and something we try and ignore as much as possible!
  • Disappointing places – especially ones we were really looking forward to and just didn’t like all that much. It’s wondering as well whether it was just bad timing / state of mind and if you’d like them better if you gave them a second chance. Examples being Mexico, San Francisco (even though we loved the rest of the US!), Rio de Janeiro, and oddly enough, Australia. It’s not that we hated our time in these places by any means, just that we didn’t gel with them as much as some others we visited, which is a shame when you have high expectations.
  • Horrible journeys – like the ones I wrote about here, the difficult and long journeys are a continued part of travel that I don’t think it’s possible to learn to love, so that’s also got to go on the ‘lows’.
On Hopes for 2017

This is a really tricky one – as I said in my last round up post, I really don’t feel ready to go home and I’m worried that there’s so much more we want to see that if we do end up going back home in 2017 that it’ll be closing the door on our travel hopes. We’re getting to the point of being pretty skint, and even though the freelance work is coming in, at the moment it’s not sustainable for us to stay on the road indefinitely – unless we stay somewhere cheap like south east Asia which kind of defeats the object when we’re trying to travel the world! We’ve also got things like the house to sort out and I suppose we can’t be away forever even if money wasn’t running low. So our hopes for 2017 are a mixed bag – on the one hand we hope to make more money from the blog and the work we’re doing so we can tick off a few more places before heading home, whilst on the other, if we do come home as planned this summer we need to have our goals straight for what we need to get done when we’re back.

Overall I suppose we’re hoping to be able to continue to apply some of the approaches we’ve started to take since travelling to help us make decent decisions and appreciate what we’re doing. Continuing to embrace change, be more patient whilst taking a proactive approach to what we do with our time can only be a good thing! We’re also trying not to look too far into the future – we have some amazing places to visit in 2017 including China, Japan and India so we want to enjoy these as much as we can without worrying too much about what happens afterwards until we need to.