2012 is coming to an end and it’s time to look back on all of the experiences that we have had in the last 12 months. This has been our first full calendar year as digital nomads and during this year we have visited 8 very different countries. We started off the year amid 10 foot snow drifts and freezing wind storms in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada and we have finished the year in hot and humid Bangkok, Thailand. We have seen and done so much in this incredible year!
Let’s look back at some of the highlights of 2012:
After backpacking across Canada in the fall of 2011, we decided to spend the winter in Newfoundland to get the full Canadian experience. We fell in love with this frozen rock. It’s got a totally unique character that is quite different from the rest of Canada.
After spending the first few months of the year in the capital of St. John’s we set out to make our way around the island to a few of the smaller towns and villages to enjoy even more of Newfoundland’s quirky culture. We missed our bus leaving St. John’s because we got seriously “screeched-in” the night before. We decided to try hitch-hiking and it worked so well that we did it multiple times during this trip. If anywhere is safe enough to hitch-hike, it’s Newfoundland as you are probably more likely to be killed by a moose than a murderer.
After traveling around the island and Couchsurfing with some amazing people, we headed down to the USA.
New York City
We had both dreamed of visiting the Big Apple for years, so getting a chance to see it was a big travel moment!
We stayed in Roanoke, Virginia for 3 month with Lee’s brother, his wife and their new baby. We enjoyed family time, lots of hiking, plenty of cheesy country music and more barbecued food than we could eat.
New Orleans, Louisiana
We even got to hold a gator in a Louisiana swamp!
We found a cheap flight to Bangkok from Washington, DC and we went there a few days early so we would have time to check out this great city. It’s got a fantastic collection of impressive monuments, beautiful streets that feel almost European and tons of excellent museums.
From Washington we boarded our flight to Bangkok, departing North America and heading to Asia for the first time in both of our lives.
When we arrived in Thailand back in June we were blown away by the sights and sounds of this massive high energy tropical metropolis. Arriving in Southeast Asia for the first time is absolute sensory overload as everything is so strange and different, from the unrelenting heat to the spicy food to the lizards scuttling up the walls and the cats and dogs wandering the streets. We loved it instantly and spent a week exploring what Bangkok had to offer before heading down south to the islands.
We visited two Thai islands, Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi, which couldn’t have been more different. Koh Lanta was peaceful and nearly deserted and we had the beach resort almost all to ourselves and Koh Phi Phi was absolutely heaving with partying backpackers. Both were fun in their own way and we enjoyed plenty of swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling in between getting our work done!
We had thought we might need proof of ongoing travel before entering Thailand and so we picked the cheapest flight on SkyScanner which happened to be to Kuala Lumpur. We decided to take it and see what would happen. Yup, visiting countries randomly is how we roll.
Malaysia was a wonderful surprise. It was a country we knew very little about, so we didn’t really have any expectations but it really blew us away. We ended up spending a total of three months exploring it in detail, from the amazing food of Georgetown, Penang to the tea plantations and hiking trails of the Cameron Highlands, to the bright colours of Melaka.
After exploring Peninsular Malaysia for a while we took a quite trip to Singapore. This city is dazzling but very pricy, so we did what we have done with all super-expensive major world city destinations such as London and New York, we stayed for only a few days, covered as much ground on foot as possible to see the sights, then got out of there before things got too expensive! We managed to get a great taste of this amazing city even on our small budget.
By the end of September we flew down to the other part of Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. This is a fantastic place to go if you love nature and the great outdoors, as you are never far from some incredible experience trekking in the jungle. We relaxed in a beautiful rustic hut in the jungle, got hopelessly lost in Lambir Hills National Park, took a ride on the North Borneo Railway and we saw orangutans just outside of Kuching. One of my favourite Borneo memories was celebrating my birthday in Bako National Park and having wild bearded piglets wander right up to us!
Brunei was another quick trip like Singapore, as it is another one of those extremely tiny and super expensive destinations! We saw a lot in our short time there, from the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque to the world’s largest water village.
After Brunei we returned back to Borneo via the island of Labuan and hung out in Kota Kinabalu for a couple of weeks before heading to our next destination:
We started off in the crazy chaos of Manila and took the long way to the island of Boracay on a ferry which was like sleeping on a floating hostel. Boracay was the ultimate beach resort and we had an amazing time there just relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. We also visited Cebu City, Roxas City and Bacolod before taking an overnight boat back to Manila.
Macau and Hong Kong
Here’s a great travel tip: sometimes when you are booking flights you can add in a stopover for a few days which does not add anything to the cost of your flight. That’s what we did when flying back from the Philippines to Bangkok. We stopped in Macau, a Special Administrative Region of China and took the 45 minute ferry to Hong Kong as well.
Both of these Chinese cities are fantastic travel destinations that I would love to go back to and explore in further depth. Macau has lots of beautiful colonial Portuguese architecture and parts of it’s maze-like cobbled streets feel very European except for the Chinese characters on the signs and the dumplings frying in the street side stalls. (Oohh the dumplings…)
Hong Kong rocked my world as well. Everything is on such a grand scale, especially the harbor and the impressive skyline.
We watched the Symphony of Lights, a huge light show where all the buildings light up in time to music. This happens every night!
Back in Thailand
Today is Christmas Eve and we are currently back in Bangkok, Thailand. Work has been super busy these last couple of weeks so we have just been taking it easy and seeing a little bit of the city. Of course, we managed to have some fun as well, such as going on an elephant riding adventure.
From snowy Canadian wilderness to Times Square chaos, to Virginia mountains and New Orleans cafes, Thai Islands, Malaysian Jungles, Philippine beaches, Chinese skyscrapers and so much more, we have really covered a lot of ground in 2012 thanks to our digital nomad lifestyle. We have done amazing things, met wonderful people and seen some sights that have really taken our breath away. We are so thankful for the adventures that we have had and we are looking forward to what 2013 will bring.