My Travel and Blogaversary: Year Two
Yesterday marked a very special anniversary for me: Two years of remote self-employment, two years blogging away here at Alex in Wanderland, and two years of living nomadically.
It’s been a trip, in every sense of the word. From attempting drysuit diving in the frigid waters of Iceland to becoming a Divemaster in the warm seas of Indonesia, from throwing back $15 cocktails at a private VIP room in glitzy Vegas to surviving on $15 a day in the remote hill towns of the Philippines, from catching a wave in Oahu to catching a trapeze bar in Thailand, I’ve barely stopped to catch my breath. As always, just feel free to slap me straight across the face should I ever utter the phrase, “I’m bored.”
Like last year, I thought it would be fun to commemorate this day with a little look back over my shoulder.
My Year in Travels
My monthly roundup posts cover the highlights and lowlights of my journeys, and you guys glimpse all my best pictures in my Photo of the Week posts, so this is more general journey through my year than a tops-and-flops-and-best-pictures thing.
1. Home Sweet Home
After the devastating breakup that rocked the end of my first year of travel, I really needed time stateside to heal within arms’ length of loved ones. That’s not to say I was sitting around staring nostalgically at my passport — I made trips to Philadelphia to zip my friend Wim into her wedding dress, to Colorado to drink champagne with 700 other travel bloggers, to Martha’s Vineyard to unknowingly help my mom buy a house, to Myrtle Beach to party shamelessly with my girlfriends, and to Niagara Falls to have lunch in Canada with my older sister. In the meantime, I enjoyed getting to know both Albany and New York City again through the fresh eyes of a traveler.
For the second year in a row, my mom injected a little luxury in my life in the form of a beautiful family vacation planned by me, and funded by her. Iceland was my dream destination and I lobbied hard, much to the skepticism of my mom and sister. But after packing more action into eight days than I ever thought possible, we all left completely enamored with this Nordic island nation.
Icelandair has free stopovers in Iceland on all round trip flights, so in planning I realized it would only be around a $200 difference for me to make London my final destination and Reykjavik a stopover. Yes please! After three days in Manchester I hopped down to London for another seven, all the while crashing with various dear friends. Honestly, I would probably never have returned to England if not for the people I love there and the loophole that I found, but I’m glad I did — I discovered a few sides of London that have me looking forward to my next inevitable visit.
It’s hard for me to find words to sum up my six weeks on this beautiful island chain. Hawaii, the place I went to because I had friends and family to stay with and frankly didn’t know what else to do with myself, became a place of almost spiritual significance to me. In Hawaii I found a place that I could very well see myself calling home someday. I left with a renewed love of travel and life, excited once again about the road ahead of me.
5. Holidays at Home
It was important for me to celebrate the holidays at home after spending them abroad last year. I loved celebrating my birthday with friends, going over the top for Halloween with my fellow overenthusiastic Americans, and spending Thanksgiving and Christmas in my childhood home. Of course, I was feeling a little restless between all those designated special days, so I jetted of to Vegas for a girls’ weekend and to peek into the Grand Canyon, and then to Florida to run my first 5K, swim with manatees, and hang out with my beloved aunts.
My return to Thailand kicked off my major journey of the year — a five month stint back exploring my favorite corner of the world, Southeast Asia. I promised myself that by returning to this region for the fourth time I would explore new countries and new corners, and though I started my trip with a few weeks in my old home base of Koh Tao I devoted much of my ten weeks in the country to exploring new destinations.
After getting my Southeast Asia legs back in Thailand, I was ready for fresh new adventures in the Philippines. My three weeks here were challenging and occasionally frustrating, but I was awed by the natural beauty and wild variety that this country has to offer. The Philippines is definitely off the backpacker’s banana pancake trail of Southeast Asia, making it all the more rewarding to take on.
Singapore was an unexpected addition to my itinerary — turns out the cheapest way to get from Manila to Denpasar includes a twenty-four hour layover in one of Southeast Asia’s most glamorous metropolises. I had never had much of a desire to go to Singapore, expecting it to be sterile and cold. I’m so glad for the turn of fate that brought me there and showed me how wrong I was — I can’t wait to return.
Aside from a week in Bali and a few days in Nusa Lembongan, I spent my six weeks in Indonesia on a teeny speck of an island called Gili Trawangan. I went there to get my Divemaster certification but walked away with much more — a sense of pride in having accomplished something that challenged many of my weaknesses, a sense of serenity that comes from weeks of ritual sunset bike rides and afternoon scuba dates with sea turtles, and an overwhelming excitement about a new relationship in my life. And it turns out Indonesia is not quite done with me — stay tuned for a post this week announcing my upcoming travel plans.
10. And Back Again!
Once again, I’m celebrating my travel-versary from the comfort of my home country. This visit had my flying home for my little sisters’ graduation, a conference, and some work gigs. You know I don’t sit still for long though — in six weeks in North America, I’m hitting up six different destinations!
Back on the road again soon….
My Year in Numbers
Countries Visited: 8 (down two from last year)
New Countries: 4 (also down two from last year, but bringing my grand total to 20!)
Plane Rides: 27, not including layovers. Yikes! This is almost three times the amount of last year. This mainly a result of traveling through Hawaii (island hopping flights are the only option between major islands) and non-mainland Southeast Asia (in the Philippines, flying was cheap and at times literally shaved days off of transport time). A number of domestic trips that involved round trip flights (as opposed to my usual, linear and long term travel) racked up this number as well.
Dives: 53 (I didn’t keep perfect records during my divemaster course, so this might be off by one or two!)
Posts: 227 (Down 26 from last year — wow, I can’t imagine writing more than I do now!)
Dollars Spent: I don’t have solid number on this, but I like to address it as it’s one of my most frequently asked questions. Last year I netted an $8,000 dollar loss (calculated by looking at my bank statements one year later), and this year I netted a mere $4,000 loss — progress, but that cushion of savings is going to run out soon. [See how I saved up here.] Luckily business is growing rapidly and I think I’m close to reaching the point where I earn more than I expend. Using loose math it’s safe to say this lifestyle costs me just under two grand a month.
My Year in Blogging
This has been an explosive year for Alex in Wanderland. I doubled my unique visitors to over 11,000 per month, and doubled my page views to over 51,000 a month. While I’m proud of those numbers and somewhat overwhelmed by them, it’s the interaction I have with my loyal readers that means the most to me.
It still blows me away to think that my posts are the first thing someone reads in the morning when they wake up, or the first thing someone reads before they go to bed, as two readers have told me recently in person and via email. Or that when I’ve said my blogs name, people from tourism board representatives at a major travel conference to backpackers I meet at the Full Moon Party have nodded and said, “Oh yes, I’ve been to your site.” MIND BLOWN.
But really, guys. Considering that I primarily just over share personal information and abuse proper grammar and rarely provide anything more useful than “Look at this fun thing I did/beautiful place I went!,” I’m humbled that so many of you check in with me so regularly. Your emails, comments, and social media shout outs are what puts the love into this labor of love. There are tough times on the road — blog hacks, heartbreaks, non existent internet access and missed deadlines, distance from home in times of tragedy. But thanks to the community that I have here, I never really feel alone. I am humbled by your support, your feedback, and the time you give me in your day. Truly.
I’ve also reached a point where I’m partnering regularly with brands that I love and freelancing for outlets that make me proud. Do I feel like I’ve “made it,” as one reader recently asked me? Hell no — I’m still a little fish in a vast pond. But as I put it to a friend lately, I certainly don’t think I’m one of the cool kids. But I do think the cool kids know who I am, and they give me a little nod when I walk past their lockers. And that’s not a bad place to be.
And now, some of my favorite posts of the last twelve months.
Funniest: The Time with the Tigers in Chiang Mai, The Saga of the Stolen Motorcycle, Surviving a Blog Hack, Cooking Class for the Domestically Challenged
Most Creative Content: Welcome to Iceland, My Bedroom Makeover, Introducing the Big Island
Musing-est: Tourists Behaving Badly, On Envy, Happiness at Twenty Three, To Hawaii with Aloha, In Memory, Only Twenty Three
Most Beautiful Subjects: Five Days in Kauai, Reykjavik Rocks, Walking with Giants, The Beauty of Railay, Diving Donsol
Most Useful: Five Fantastic Hikes on Oahu, Staying Fit on Koh Tao, The Perfect Travel Camera, The Hawaii Hostel Experience, Where to Eat on Koh Tao, My Philippines Travel Budget Breakdown
Greatest Adventures: Scuba Diving in Iceland, Skydiving in Hawaii, Running My First 5K, Hiking Haleakala, Flying over the Vegas Strip, Swimming with Manatees, Rafting Through the Thai Jungle, Diving with Sharks in Malapascua, Hiking to Batad
Most Commented: One Year Later, Getting in Shape for Travel, Whaling in Iceland, The Next Piece of Paradise
All this reflection has me filled with gratitude and nostalgia for the road behind me, and bursting with excitement about the possibilities of the path ahead. I have the same question that I ended my Year One recap with: Where will I sit on June 9th, 2014, as I hopefully write a recap of my third year of living out of a backpack? If you’ll have me, I’d love to share another chapter with you. For a girl who spouts around 1,000 words a day, I can only think of two that sum up what I want to say to all of you reading this post:
WOW what a year!So glad to be part of it and read along. You can be really proud of yourself for everything that you have accomplished. I can’t wait to read about your next adventures.I wish you all the best for another year on the road.xox
Thank you so much Caty! As always I appreciate your readership and comments x
Beautiful. I’m a loyal reader who rarely has time to comment anymore. Never stop having fun Alex 😀
Thanks Scot! And I understand, believe me — I rarely comment on my favorite blogs anymore, because I’m usually reading them when I’m in a line somewhere on my iPhone. It’s the only spare moments I have these days!
What an amazing year you’ve had! You are by far my favorite travel blogger and I always look forward to reading your posts. Congrats on the 2 year mark, what a wonderful accomplishment – you should be so proud of yourself! Can’t wait to read and see what the next year has in store for you 🙂
Erica, thank you so much! You’re making me blush 🙂 I really appreciate your loyal readership!
I discovered your blog a while ago but hadn’t had the time to read any of my fav blogs daily (or even weekly) – but, I just clicked on this post off your twitter page, and I must say, I am SO sorry that I’m not more caught up! It looks like you had an AMAZING time this past year and it makes me want to reach out of my little hobbit hole and travel a LOT more than I do currently (read: not much at all.) Thanks for being an inspiration and an example of what life has to offer if you go for it! 🙂
Hey Maddy, I know how you feel! I used to love my blog reading…. now I rarely have time. And I feel a lot of guilt about that, especially as so many bloggers take the time to read and support me! And thank you a million times for your kind words and link love <3
Well done Alex. A big congrats from a loyal fan 🙂 I’m looking forward to hearing all about what’s coming for you in the next 12 months!
Thanks a million, Rika! Hoping to get a post up this week about what’s on the road ahead (so far at least!)
Wow! I love reading your blog, and as much as I thought I’d caught up, there’s still so much I seem to have missed. Congrats on year two, I can’t wait to see what your next year brings!
Ha, I don’t blame anyone who can’t keep up with the two-hundred-fifty-whatever posts per year I’ve been writing! I need to slow down at some point, but I’ve been doing so much! And I want to remember it all 🙂
Well done on reaching two years Alex. I look forward to enjoy reading further posts.
Thanks Steve! I really appreciate your reading and your comments 🙂
As a loyal reader, THANK YOU for sharing your adventures, and doing it so well with eye popping photos and a very well written chronicle. I would say that even if you were not my daughter but because you are I am also very proud of you. I need more of your business cards to promote you more in Philadelphia and other random places I travel for business. Headed for Boise tonight. whoa whoa
Thank you Dad… As I told you, I recently looked up my most frequent commenters, and YOU topped the list. Love you lots x
Alex ! I’m speechless. What an amazing round up. Your outlook is inspiring ! Funnily enough I was just thinking about you – I’m at work reading a novel that I bought from that little travel bookshop that you introduced me to in New York! Anyway, you’re a cool kid in my eyes and I’m very proud to call you a friend x
PS – if Sydney Australia isn’t in your June 2014 round up, shit is going down.
You are the sweetest. I love that you read and comment here. And I love that little bookshop and am heading there this week!
Your gram is awed, amazed, wowed, and proud!
Thank you Gram! I appreciate all your warm comments and enthusiastic support over the years 🙂
Congrats on your second Blogaversary! It’s so much fun to follow along your journey and I’m already excited to see what you’re going to be up to next! 🙂 Reading your blog really has inspired me in so many ways – to explore more, to dare more and to work harder on my photography and blogging efforts. I really wish you all the best for the future!
Melanie, this is such a lovely comment! You’ve really warmed my heart. Best of luck in all of your photography and blogging xo
Sounds like an amazing year Alex! Hope the next one is just as good 🙂
Thanks so much Caroline! I’m guessing it won’t be boring 🙂
EXTREMELY glad to see that “Whaling in Iceland” made your Top 3 of most-commented-on posts. Measuring deeper meaning, re: comments on web blogs, is an inexact science, surely, but it just as surely must be a good sign of … something.
Also, it did my heart proud to read the words: “Considering that I primarily just … ABUSE PROPER GRAMMAR … ”
Keep up the good work,
Haha, at least I know where my weaknesses lie! Perhaps over time with enough mentorship from you and my mother, I will learn to properly write in the English language. Here’s hoping.
That was an incredible read sweetie!! Gonna head back for seconds. And find you some new followers. So amazing to see the recap. Loved that world map with the little plane, too.
Thanks Aunt Karen! Love that little graphic, glad someone else enjoys it too 🙂 Fun to see my year mapped out like that… and put some of my graphic design skills to work!
Congrats on 2 years! You’ve had an amazing journey and this is just the beginning!
Your blog is one of my all-time favorites because it’s obvious that you do this because you LOVE to travel. Your #1 goal is not to make a ton of money off your blog but instead to share your travels and that comes through in your writing. I always leave with a smile when I visit your site!
Sky, thank you SO much for this sweet comment! I truly appreciate that you recognize I do it for the love and I really am so grateful that it comes through in my writing. Maybe I am getting better at this writing thing…. 600 posts later, I better be!
Congrats, this is such a wonderful accomplishment! Keep it going as it’s so inspiring to us all!
Thank you so much Alex! I am really touched to know you are reading.
Congratulations, Alex! Best wishes for Good Times and Memories in the years ahead!
I am staying tuned…
Thank you for this and all your wonderful comments! They are much appreciated and always leave a smile on my face.
Congrats on 2 years! That is an accomplishment for any career path or lifestyle. I only found your blog this year thank you to lost girls world website but I have been hooked ever since, I check my phone at work and count down the hours until im home and can read and view your pictures! Cheers to two years, and to many more!
Wow, that is such a compliment Breanna! You’ve made my morning 🙂 Thank you for making me a part of your day.
Congratulations on your second blogaversary! You had an amazing year and it was such a joy to follow along 🙂 Your posts and photos are truly inspiring and thanks to you, we’ve added a whole bunch of places to our travel wish list!! Hope we’ll get to hear some of the stories that didn’t make it on the blog in person next weekend! 😉 All the best for Year 3!
I was just thinking about you in the car (when I do all my best thinking and of course can’t write it down) and how I need to email you about next weekend. Will do today! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. You guys are some of my favorite bloggers and it humbles me that you find what I’m doing here to be worth supporting!
You may think all you do is over share personal information and tell us about all the cool stuff you do but it is sooooo much more than that! You are putting something into the world that is good, honest, creative and inspiring. Keep it up! One of your loyal readers – Michelle
Hey Michelle! I really appreciate all your kind words here… I’m halfway joking when I say that’s all I do, but I appreciate hearing your perspective! PS — Congratulations on scaling Rinjani! I’m hoping to do the same someday, but I’m a tiny bit terrified!
Wow! You went so many places. I wish to like you. I think you should also explore the beautiful country that is Vietnam. Where have long coastline, tropical climate, and particularly the people here are extremely friendly. I went to Vietnam and discover Halong Bay, one of “the 7 natural wonders of the world in 2013” and really love that place. You can choose Vietnam as the next destination in your travels.
I’ve actually been to Vietnam already! Check out my roundup from Year One 🙂
oh, I check out your roundup, you’ve been gone too many places. Now, Do you want go to place the most?
This was an awesome post, and you definitely inspire me to be a better blogger. What you’ve done is so awesome. When you’re back in BK, have a slice of pizza for me. Or two. Or seven. ciao x
Thank you so much Alexandra! Believe me, I’ll eat enough pizza for three people. Oh, and it goes without saying that you have the greatest name ever 🙂
Congratulations on another incredible year! Your achievements truly are remarkable, and it blows my mind that you are still only 23. You are an incredible young woman Alex, and I have no doubt that your third year on the road will be even more spectacular. Can’t wait to see you next month! xxx
Thank you so much Hanna, your support means so much to me. And yes! We need to coordinate our Gili dates…. I’m so excited to see you again!
Your life is amazingly colourful 😀 Congrats for your anniversary and keep doing this nice work! I am happy to find you and read your interesting stories!! 🙂
Thanks Sujin, I’m so happy to heave you as a new reader. Glad you found me 🙂
Love the map, the visual summary of your travels…partly ecause I find it really hard to keep up with where you have been/are/are headed! Congrats on all the success! You’ve worked intrepidly and deserve every accolade and the satisfaction of work well done.
Believe me, I find it hard to keep up with as well! Ha! These roundups are a lot of work but help me organize my thoughts and remember my travels much more clearly 🙂
Great to so many fun photos – congrats on your two-year anniversary!
Thank you so much Craig! It’s a fun milestone to celebrate 🙂
Maybe one day your picture will be here:
That would be an honor! Although, there are so many amazing images there… WHY are they all so pixelated?!
Wow! I am so inspired by your journey(s!) and so excited to read more. Congrats on an incredible year!!
Thank you so much Regan, that is very sweet of you to say. Much appreciated!
Thanks for sharing so much with us. Your experience & advice have been very inspiring for my upcoming trip to Thailand this summer.
To be continued!
Thanks Vi! Enjoy Thailand, it’s such an amazing country! I hope it is as good to you as it has been to me.
Congratulations on a pretty epic two years Alex! Some amazing stories and amazing photos there, and I can’t wait to read more! Keep up the good work and keep having fun! 🙂
Thanks Carl! Much appreciated… and I agree, it does seem quite epic when you lay it all out like that!
Congratulations, Alex – looking forward to seeing what you doing next!
Thanks Alana, much appreciated!
Congratulations! What a wonderful way to look back at two years of travel. Amazing photos.
Thanks Ayngelina! These posts are so much work, but I really love looking back on them later. So worth it.
Reiterating everyone else, WOW, what an amazing year you’ve had!
You are seriously an inspiration to people (like me!) who want to create an unconventional life for themselves in travel… So thank YOU!
To the next year 🙂
Thank you so much Jade! I have met so many people around the world making paths for themselves in ways I never would have thought of… I know you can do it too! Best of luck x
Congratulations Alex! I look forward to reading more about your adventures this year. Keep up the good work, I love how inspiring and when needed, refreshingly honest your posts are!
Thanks Naomi! I’m definitely not one to keep anything under wraps… you can always count on brutal honesty here on Alex in Wanderland 🙂
I was especially excited to read this post today when I got into work 🙂 Here’s to another great year of travel for you and hopefully crossing paths again somewhere along the road!
Thanks so much Melanie! It was so lovely to meet you at TBEX, thank you for introducing yourself! You made my day.
Happy Blogiversary! I loved following your adventures over the past year and will do so in the coming years. Keep up the great work.
Thank you so much Tammy! I really enjoy having you here 🙂
Congrats on all that you have accomplished in this past year, Alex! You should be so incredibly proud of everything you have seen and done; I know that I am so impressed by you and your site continues to inspire me in so many ways. I can’t wait to see what you get up to in your third year…
And from some comments above, it sounds like you will be heading back to Indonesia in the coming months… Tony & I make our way there in late July, so perhaps our paths might cross (not another near miss like Krabi/Ko Lanta, I hope!).
If you check today’s post you will see that yes, indeed, I’m heading back to Indo! I will be in Gili T in July… let me know if you are around!
Happy Blogaversary, Alex!
as your new fans, I’m speechless 😆
It is a very enjoyable moment reading your blog and it itches me to do something with my rusty blog.. haha..
Big hugs for you, keep traveling, keep blogging and enjoy Indonesia 😉
Thank you some much Aftri! You are too kind. Good luck with your blog! 🙂
That is incredible… what a year! BTW, is that you doing the yoga pose on the SUP! Well done, I love your pictures!
Thanks… and yes! It was a Stand Up Paddle Yoga class that I took in Tampa. I LOVED it, and wish the trend would catch on! If I lived in Tampa I would be there every Sunday.
I love your blog so much and I love this! Thank you for doing what you do, for letting us in to see your world and your amazing life! 🙂
I love sharing, Erika! Thank YOU for coming along for the ride!
What a beautiful post the writing, photos, the memories, everything! Congratulations!! You are such a star.
You’re the greatest Abby, thank you!
Congrats on two years! Here’s to two more! (and two more…and two more…) 🙂
Let’s hope I can keep it up that long 🙂
Thanks for visiting my country. Please come back! anyway, I stumbled to you blog while researching for a trip to thailand next year. I shall explore you blog futher. 😀
I definitely did not get enough of the Philippines… I’ll be back again some day for sure! And thanks for reading 🙂
Congrats Alex on your milestone! Hopefully soon we can meet up somewhere in this world and celebrate with a beer, or wine, or wine and beer ;).
Well I’m not much of a beer drinker… so I’ll have both the wines, and you can have both the beers! 🙂
I’m not good with words, so I’ll just say thank you! Thank you for sharing these 2 incredible years of your life with us, and I hope there be many more years to come!
Thank you so much for reading, I truly appreciate it! 🙂
Sounds like it’s been a crazy ride, enjoy all your posts and stories, thanks girl! Absolutely love that black and white diving photo!!!!!!
Thank YOU for reading, Jessie! And I love that photo too… underwater selfies ain’t easy 🙂
Congrats on your second year of travel and blogging, Alex! It has been such a pleasure to read your blog this year and use your tips for my own travels!
Thank you so much Ashley! I’m pleased and flattered that you’ve been able to / wanted to use info you’ve read here. Happy travels!
Well thanks for making the rest of us look bad! I, uh, graduated college?
Congrats sissy <3
Well I bet if we recap with you two years from now, you’ll be blowing this out of the water!
That is quite the adventure you’ve had! 😀
No complaints here… it’s been a wild ride!
Love the shot of buddha with the golden hand in the foreground!
You look SO happy! It’s lovely, uplifting, and inspiring! Thank you for sharing, Alex!
Wow, I really appreciate this comment! Thank you so much for all your kind words.
Congrats! And this is why a traveler should blog. So awesome you have all this recorded to remember your adventures. Cheers to many more!
Agreed — it’s a special thing to be able to have all these stories and memories tied up in a bow in one place like this. I love looking back through my own blog!
After only two-years on the road you’ve accomplished SO much, huge congrats!
I’ve enjoyed being a reader for the past several months, as you do a superb job of virtually bringing us along on your journey; it’s nearly just as good as experiencing the destinaion myself!
I want to say my favorite posts from this year are from your time in Hawaii, but each of your Southeast Asia points could just as easily take the cake. This can’t be fair…you never let us down, even your stateside adventures sound exotic and bountifully intriguing!
Hahaha, no, but keep bringing a smile to my face as I inspire to one day escape as well =]
Kristen, thank you so much for this sweet comment 🙂 I especially appreciate what you’ve said about my stateside adventures… traffic tends to drop when I’m blogging about the continental US, and that makes me sad! So I’m really happy to hear you enjoy that coverage as well.
I love your blog and admire your work. Congratulations on the milestone you’ve reached. I’m glad you enjoyed the Philippines, come back soon, there is so much more to discover here.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, it does help fellow travelers like myself in many ways. Wishing you more success. 🙂
Hey Iza, thanks so much for the kudos and congratulations! I appreciate your warm comment! All the best, Alex