On the long winding road of life you have 2 options – stay where you are or keep pushing forward. In 2019 I chose the latter.
From emotional rock bottom I, with the unwavering support of my family and incredible girlfriend Carolina, managed to claw myself out of the pit of depression. That clawing became contagious and I ended 2019 on the highest point of my career:
- Dream job
- Financial security
- Amazing company
Add to that the knowledge I’ll soon be reunited with my soulmate plus the endless potential for 2020… this ‘Year in review’ has a decidedly more positive tone than the last.
Before diving straight into the year that was, I’d like to address a few things from the 2018 year in review.
In my own British way, I’m a fairly emotional guy. The events of 2018 – stolen phone, broken camera, loss of livelihood, loneliness, a lightless tunnel… they hit me hard. I reread those words and I can feel the same knot in my stomach.
Even though I’m in an infinitely happier place now, those scars are still fresh.
While I’m all about looking forward, it’s also important to look back, evaluate, adjust and use this knowledge to shape your future path.
Writing the 2018 review was cathartic. It lifted a weight. Some people prefer to cry, others talk out their problems. I choose to write.
The act of pouring your heart and soul onto the page… it’s a beautiful release.
I fed off the previous pain, coupled with the overwhelming words of kindness and support from family, friends and strangers alike. I used that fuel to rekindle the spark and get the train rolling again.
Off to the races
A couple more weeks of isolation in northern Argentina got 2019 off to a slow start. Things picked up decidedly when I hopped a bus to Cordoba.
I’m not sure what it is, but Cordoba, Argentina, has a soothing effect on my soul. I’d journey back towards the end of the year and on both occasions was able to dust off the cobwebs and switch my productivity into a higher gear. Maybe it’s the people, maybe it’s the unique atmosphere of business yet chill… It’s certainly a funny city and well worth a visit.
I began contributing travel posts to Worldpackers.com. I’ve spoken about my love for them several times before and, during 2019, it blossomed.
February saw my return to Brazil and marked my 2nd year anniversary on the road.
Reunited with the love of my life, things settled back down and I was able to form routines.
For all aspiring digital nomads, if you want to succeed you absolutely must learn to establish routines!
Arriving in Brazil in February is also like walking into a crazy house. Carnival season’s in full swing, the sun is unforgiving and the streets are jammed-packed with tourists.
In 2018 we were working the festival which carries an extra level of intensity. In 2019 we were able to take our time, plan whether to visit a bloco or say “Goodbye world” and hide indoors with the AC cranked up to 11. Choice is fun!
With no 360 camera for income we were unable to travel far afield, but that was fine. This period, from February to July, was an absolutely transformational time.
Who’s in your corner?
There’s a saying – “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. It may sound like guff and nonsense but I believe it to be true. If you surround yourself with negative, lazy people, chances are you’ll lack motivation and be unlikely to push yourself to greater heights.
I’m lucky to extend that number to more than 10. None of them are padding or filler… they’re all incredible people who provide me with daily inspiration. They celebrate my victories and pick me up when I inevitably faceplant. They also never allow me to wallow.
This support structure was absolutely vital in the 2019 transformation. While they’ve always been there, unwavering and radiating love, this time they aligned with my mental shift.
I read a book called Self Discipline by Handmade Publishing. This book set my head spinning!
I’ve now read it 4 or 5 times and listened to the audiobook countless times. Setting clear and achievable goals sounds simple, yet unless you’re taught how to do it, how to track them and constantly rethink and evaluate, you’ll likely fail. This book does it in a way that clicked like never before.
I’ll also hold myself up to ridicule now and admit that it was also at this time I began exploring manifestation.
I’ve always been one for the more ‘alternative’ approaches. I wrote my first book listening to nothing but binaural beats. The extra focus, attention and creativity may have been all in my head, but they helped me cross the finishing line and I’ll take that any day!
The Self Discipline book advises you leave a sticky note on the home screen of your phone (using a sticky note app… not an actual sticky note). On it list 1 or 2 short affirmations you wish to become reality. I was in need of money and clients, so they became my affirmations.
Every single time I unlocked my phone I’d see these messages. Even if it’s just a fleeting glance, I saw them hundreds of times per day. I don’t claim to understand the physics behind it, but it resonates.
So… add together a loving relationship, an unflinching support base, a new approach to monitoring my progress and an unshakable belief in what was to come, I was armed and ready to achieve my dreams.
Knowledge is power
It was around this time I really stepped up my learning. I’ve studied SEO and Copywriting for around 10 years, always dipping in and out. I’d keep up to date on best practices and new techniques, but the implementation always lagged behind.
Not any more.
Rather than spreading myself paper-thin with a million an one random projects, now I began to focus.
For those unaware of the geeky rabbit hole that is SEO, it basically means structuring your writing online so that search engines love you and share your work with the world. Google’s forever moving the goalposts so you can never rest on your laurels. What works today may not work tomorrow.
I studied hard! I read blog posts, articles, white papers and Google’s own best practice announcements (they’re a dry read!) I watched tutorials, took courses, listened to podcasts/audiobooks and read countless books. I studied SEO, copywriting, marketing, the psychology of language and word choice… everything related to my field, I hoovered it up.
Slowly my writing began to improve.
I’m far from the finished article, but I look back on blog posts from even a year ago and wince.
If you’re hungry for success, you have to be hungry for knowledge.
Don’t take your guns to town
A trip up north to the state of Ceará should have been relaxing, yet turned into a little tornado of stress and panic.
I’ve attended weddings in several continents, each special and different from the last – beach weddings in Australia, medieval castles in the Alps, stately homes in the Irish countryside etc. All special and unforgettable memories.
This time it was a classic church wedding in the baking Brazilian heat. College friends of Carol were tying the knot and we were invited to share their special day.
Keep in mind, in the last 2 years I’ve worn underwear maybe 1.7% of the time. It’s just too darn hot! Beach shorts and flipflops have been the standard wardrobe with shoes and socks making rare appearances, usually when crossing borders to appear respectable.
With the coming wedding I’d been required to not only wear clean underwear, but also shiny shoes, pants and a shirt??? Deus me livre! Too much man! Too much.
Despite drowning in clothes and sweat, twas a lovely ceremony.
The true adventure began when it was time to come home.
Who knew carrying weapons through the airport would be frowned upon? Apparently not I.
A little context:
In 2013 I was minding my own business in Venezuela when their beloved president Hugo Chavez died. The country went wild overnight and bullets started flying.
As an intrepid travel writer I thought it my duty to hit the streets. I documented as much as I could and picked up a souvenir or two. One such souvenir was a bullet. Shell casings were easy to find but a real Venezuelan bullet? Awesome! Without a second thought I picked it up and dropped it into my rucksack.
Fast forward 7 years, several transatlantic flights, multiple trips through European customs, an incredibly intense grilling at in Israeli airport and an untold amount of border crossings in South America. Not once… NOT ONCE… in all those x-rays and security screenings was this little scrap of metal ever deemed to be a problem.
It was happily long forgotten and just gathering dust at the bottom of the bag. Not hurting anyone, not causing any problems.
That was until we got to the tiny airport of Juazeiro do Norte in the northeast of Brazil.
It’s so small if someone sneezed at the opposite end you’d probably catch a cold.
It was there, late on a Sunday evening, that they decided enough was enough. This tiny bullet had clocked up too many Airmiles and it was time to ground him. It also meant a trip to the Federal Police, a signed statement to be sent to a local judge and a cancelled flight.
Word to the wise: Always, always, always check your bags before flying!
While Carol flew back alone, I used the time to catch up with my in-laws and shake my booty at a local village festival… so not a complete disaster.
A brief trip to Sao Paulo and then it was time to leave the country again… stupid visa requirements!
I’ve had a deep connection with Paraguay since my first trip back in 2014. For those willing to venture off the beaten track and take a leap into the unknown, it’s an incredible country.
Waterfalls, wine barrels, hiking, kayaking, adventures, parties and paradise… rarely have I felt so safe, excited and grounded all at once.
It was the start of 6 months without my girlfriend, but Paraguay offers a warm embrace for the weary traveller.
A fine time for feeling Chile
I probably could have extended my visa and remained in Paraguay for the full 6 months but I decided on a change of scenery. I found a Worldpackers volunteering experience in southern Chile, milking goats and making cheese. This was the perfect distraction for a broken heart and hyperactive sweat glands – Paraguay is HOT!
A 48 bus ride would deliver me from Asuncion to Santiago, a few days to relax and then down to Osorno to begin a month of farm life.
Word to the wise: Always check the local news before visiting a country
I was so caught up in the joys of cheese production that I failed to check the local Chilean news. If I had, I may have been slightly more prepared for walking into a city in flames.
Yeah, what are you going to do? You win some, you lose some.
I got to see tanks driving down highways, buildings burning less than 50 yards from the hostel and the uncomfortable end of an assault rifle when I attempted to take a photo of a pool of blood near some military folk.
Fleeing to safety
With the situation in Chile showing no signs of letting up I decided to say my farewell and run screaming like a little child.
I fled across the border to the safety of Mendoza, Argentina and back to an incredible family from a previous trip. Some public speaking in a local High School to motivate the students to study and travel, then on to Cordoba to celebrate my birthday.
I’ve stayed in the same place for both my visits to Cordoba and I’d stay there again and again and again. If you fancy going then feel free to use my Airbnb Promo Code to get £34 off your first booking.
Cordoba’s a funny city with some incredible natural beauty just a short ride away. Don’t leave Argentina without visiting it. It’s smaller than Buenos Aires but much more approachable. BsAs is stunning, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a busy big city so the locals can be a little cold. Cordoba is a big city yet it maintains a subtle warmth.
With my failed Chile experiment behind me it was time to retreat back to the safety and madness of Paraguay.
More exploration, more adventures and more bonding with incredible people. It was also a time to get super productive with my writing!
I finished up the year with a trip to Ciudad del Este on the border with Brazil. There I met my girlfriend for our very first Christmas and New Year together.
Long-distance relationships suck and require twice as much work to keep them alive. Sharing everything, maintaining honesty and empathy and celebrating every little victory.
Christmas and New Year were certainly a victory as it’s a milestone to tick off our list. Admittedly it wasn’t exactly the magical time we’d dreamt about as I’d recently fallen down some concrete stairs and ruptured my Achilles tendon, but hey ho. Hobbling around with a bright blue broom handle for a walking stick just screams romance, right?
With the year being much happier (despite the Chilean riots), more productive and finishing in the arms of my girlfriend, you’d think things couldn’t get any better.
Think again my friend!
Remember that company I’ve been harping on about? Worldpackers? I’m now officially part of their team as their Email Marketing Specialist.
After 10 years of studying, grinding away at the blog, succeeding and failing miserably in unequal amounts but never losing sight of my dream of writing about travel for a living… I made it.
What does that mean for the future?
Will we stop travelling? No, it’s a remote job.
Will our style of travel change? Yes. I’ll need to put in a shift during the week so things will slow down.
Will this site become an abandoned graveyard? Not at all. The content may change to reflect our new travel style and goals, but it won’t be neglected, that’s a promise.
Once the dust settles and things start to calm down then the content will begin to flow again.
So may I say thank you to everyone who read the blog, reached out, commented, liked and shared the posts over 2019. Infinite love and hugs to each and every one of you.
My writing will hopefully continue to improve as I level up my skills, meaning we’ll be delivering even more valuable content to your eyeballs.
Stick with us in 2020… I promise you won’t be disappointed.