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January had me on the verge of a burn out. Six countries in one month, four of them new, might just have been a tad too ambitious, I guess. I started the month in the snow and ended it on a tropical beach – but let’s start at the beginning…
What I’ve been up to
I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the New Year – for weeks I had been pondering over the most epic way to ring in 2015, and then everything fell into place in the very last minute. I then had about five days to say goodbye to family and friends back home before heading to Berlin for a couple of days of fun and catching up with old friends in one of my favorite places in the world. But I experienced a major planning fail while I was there – more on that and on my other planning fails below in ‘What went wrong‘.
From Berlin I flew to Helsinki, and later that day I took the ferry over to Sweden. The next morning, I was in Stockholm, where I spent a fantastic couple of days, before I returned to Helsinki in time for the MATKA Nordic Travel Fair. Another small travel fair & blogger conference, and another big success for me. The networking aspect – discussing potential partnerships with travel industry professionals – resulted in an interesting opportunity for me to visit another new country that I’ve been wanting to visit, but since we haven’t discussed any details, I’m not going to spill anything just yet (but it would be on a continent I haven’t been to!). I was a bit apprehensive about traveling to Scandinavia in the winter, but I actually enjoyed my week in the snow. I had followed the Scandinavian saying ‘There’s no such thing like bad weather, only unsuitable clothing‘, and borrowed all sorts of warm clothes from family and friends. In the end, I even had too many warm clothes since temperatures were hovering around 32F/ 0C instead the anticipated 5F/-15C.
That week, plus the three in Germany beforehand, were enough winter for me though, and I was glad to escape to Asia right after. I went to Hong Kong with a stopover in Istanbul (best idea I’ve had in a while!) and knowing that I’d spend another few days in Hong Kong in the spring, I didn’t waste much time there and continued straight onto the Philippines… because I was in urgent need of a beach.
My actual plan was to start with a few days of hiking (the rice fields of Banaue, the Hangin Coffins in Sagada) before moving on to the islands, but as soon as I arrived in Hong Kong I realized that I was completely exhausted and just wanted to relax on a beach instead of hiking. I was so burned out that I slept ten hours straight two days in a row and still was dog-tired. I just wanted to lay and sleep. My ambitious sightseeing plans for Hong Kong didn’t happen as much as I would have liked to, and I knew that there was no chance I was going on some hikes before I hadn’t recovered from the past few weeks of running around like crazy and sleeping only for 4 hours on most days. Luckily I was still able to move my flight forward which is why I am finally at the beach… Slowing down. I’ve come to a few important realizations over these past few weeks which I’ll talk about in ‘Lessons learned’ below.
What went well
I know this might sound silly since I’ve been doing this solo for months now, but my Asia trip is my first true solo trip (the only other trip on which I did some solo travel was Israel, but I ended up spending barely any time on my own there) and I am happy to report that it is going well (so far!). Somehow, I always ended up traveling with other people last year, and in the end I was craving solitude. But I also wasn’t sure how I’d do as a solo traveler – after all, I’ve never traveled solo before. That said, starting next month I won’t have much solitude for my remaining time in Asia – several people who excitedly proclaimed they’d come visit me in Asia actually booked their flights (usually it’s been much talk without much action..) and are getting ready for their beach vacation (and I should get started planning some cool things for them!).
Another thing that went well: selling myself. At networking events like MATKA where dozens of bloggers mingle with industry professionals and discuss possible collaborations, it is hard to stand out and to leave an impression. The speed networking at TBC Asia was a good practice run in November and I am finally getting comfortable at presenting and selling myself and my website. The positive feedback I get sure helps to make this aspect of being a professional travel blogger easier.
What went wrong
I’ve already said it: I am pretty burned out at the moment. After my busy itinerary in Sri Lanka (21 beds in 37 days) I just kept going instead of resting and recharging my batteries. Being home for Christmas was lovely but it also meant lots of family gatherings, meet-ups with old friends, babysitting duties for my nieces and nephew, which then led to many night shifts catching up on work until the early hours. The Nordic Blogger Experience was amazing, but also meant little sleep and long days. When I left for Hong Kong I was dying for some ‘me time’.
I’ve learned quite a few lessons this month… But the most important one is that I need to make time for me. And listen to my gut feeling. I’ve already done that when I realized in Sri Lanka that I craved beach time instead of running around sightseeing for a few weeks. So I changed my travel plans for this month – instead of meeting up with friends in Thailand and traveling to Myanmar, I decided on a whim to fly to Hong Kong and to the Philippines instead. I did the same again this month when I decided to push back my hiking plans until I’ve recharged my batteries at the beach. And I plan to continue doing this – I have already drastically reduced my Asia travel plans which were – as always – way too ambitious. I am still dying to get to places like Vietnam and Myanmar but I know I’ll do it next time I come to Asia.
I also learned that if you need new pages in your passport (I’ve finally filled mine up) you shouldn’t wait to deal with it until the day before you leave the country. It turned out that the Bürgeramt in Berlin couldn’t see anyone without an appointment when I was in town – something that I could’ve avoided had I dealt with it right when I got there and not waited till the very last minute. I hope to be able to get new pages at the embassy in Bangkok next month.
Don’t wait till the very last minute – that’s the motto of the month I guess, because it turned out that waiting to book a Hong Kong hotel until the very last minute (I was already in Istanbul, ready to board my flight to Hong Kong, when I started looking) is not a great idea, because what’s left 24 hours prior to your arrival is not where you want to stay.
Talking to my fellow travel bloggers in Finland also made me think about setting up a base somewhere – at least for part of the year – as many of them seem to have a base now to which they retire after a period of heavy traveling. This seems to be the best way to organize my travels in the future, too, to ensure I’ll keep my sanity and don’t lose my wanderlust. Now if I only knew where this base would be.. Until I’ve made a decision, I’ll use housesitting as a method of slowing down and recharging my batteries, I guess.
When I talked to another blogger this month about my story and how I got started blogging I noticed that 1 February marks my 5-year escaping-the-cubicle anniversary! That’s when I handed in my notice in 2010 and said goodbye to corporate life. In honor of that milestone I wrote a whole post on that and how my life has changed since then. I wrote some thoughts on my ‘job-quitversary’ (that’s a word, right? 😉 ) and the things I learned from quitting my job to travel the world.
I will wrap up my time in the Philippines in a few weeks and fly to Bangkok! I splurged and booked a nice hotel to ease into Bangkok life (the city and I weren’t off to a good start when we first met in 2011, and on return visits, I’ve never grown to love it) before showing my first visitor the best of Thailand.
Best posts of the month
I’ll finish with a round-up of this month’s posts:
- 10 things that surprised me about Stockholm
- Introducing my favorite new travel planning tool: Trover
- Road trippin’ in Southern Israel: Masada and Timna Valley
- More interested in what I am up to on a monthly basis? Check out my other monthly round-ups.