Two years ago I sat in a hostel in Bangkok using the common room computer. I was impatiently waiting for the selfie I took of myself outside the Kazakh embassy to upload, so that I could finish writing about how excited I was to have received my visa to Kazakhstan. This moment is also known as that time I wrote My First Blog Post.
I published it, and then quickly messaged my friend Danielle to tell her to check it, because we were sharing this blog, which back then was called The Roaming Coconuts. She was going to meet me in Bangkok the next morning and then we would embark on a five-month backpacking trip through Southeast and Central Asia.
I had no idea that my life was about to change in a pretty spectacular way. I’m referring to my trip through Central Asia of course, which easily earned the permanent #1 spot on my list of favorite places in the world.
Blogging turned out to be pretty cool too, I guess. Cool enough that a year later I was writing a blog post celebrating one full year of blogging, now solo at Heart My Backpack.
I was back in Thailand, having just decided to ditch the Master’s program in Denmark I had been accepted to in favor of spending more time in Asia, and more time traveling. I had enough savings to last me just about another year, but no plans for what I would actually do in that year. I had also fallen for a boy named Daniel.
Fast forward one more year, and I’m typing this on my bed in my apartment in Trondheim, Norway, which Dan and I moved into two days ago! But I also have at least two international trips planned for this fall, so if you think Scandinavia is super dull there might be still be something worth reading coming up (though I’d also point out to you that I’ll be living in Norway, not Sweden).
Once again I have little idea what this upcoming year holds for me, but luckily this post isn’t about the future, it’s about commemorating my second year of travel and blogging!
I started off the year in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which served as my base from August through December.
While in Thailand I took advantage of living in Southeast Asia to visit Laos, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It was my first time in Singapore and the Philippines, and I quickly fell in love with both!
An incident in Malaysia also inspired one of my most read posts on this blog: Kidnapped in Penang, while a week alone on a beach in the Philippines prompted me to put together one of my blog posts that I hate the least: Photography Lessons from Boracay.
When I wasn’t traveling I spent the fall figuring out how to make a small income from writing. I joined TBS and learned how to seek out sponsorship opportunities and make a bit of money from Heart My Backpack. I also used my blog as a portfolio to get some freelance travel writing gigs. My earnings were teeny tiny, but luckily so was the cost of living in Chiang Mai.
Norway and England
After several months in Chiang Mai I returned to Norway for Christmas and then spent New Year’s in London with Dan’s family, before returning to Thailand one last time. Being reunited with my family overwhelmed me with feelings, and also inspired the most lovely posts published on this blog. Most lovely because it wasn’t written by me!
In January Dan and I left Thailand to visit our friends in Myanmar. I had spent 9 months working for two different Burmese NGOs in Chiang Mai, but this was my first time actually visiting Burma. It was pretty surreal visiting a new country that felt so very familiar, and I still have weekly cravings for some of the Shan noodle dishes I tried there.
Two of my favorite people in the world joined us in Myanmar and so we dragged them with us to Beijing as well. This was my third visit to the city, and it was as quirky and bizarre as ever!
Then we all caught the train to Mongolia, where I learned that winter in Mongolia is serious business, and that stove-heated gers are super cozy when the outside world is frozen solid.
While Alicia and Bryce headed back south to thaw out after Mongolia, Dan and I embarked on a 30-day trip through Russia. Yes it was cold and yes the train rides were long, but oh my goodness, what a beautiful country! We mostly Couchsurfed our way through the country and I left with plans to visit all of our wonderful hosts again (maybe in the summer though).
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
After four and a half years living in Asia, I was positively giddy about coming back to Europe, so crossing into the Baltics was pretty exciting. It was also quite surreal to be so close to Scandinavia, yet still three months away from my return there.
Poland was a highlight for me. We spent a full two weeks exploring the country, and I can honestly say I loved every city I visited there. I can’t tell you how excited I was to find that the cheapest flights out of Trondheim are to Poland!
I was also surprised and touched to have my post on one of my favorite Polish cities, Lodz, receive quite a bit of local attention. There’s nothing more heartwarming than reading messages from people overflowing with love and pride for their hometown and thanking me for writing about it. Oh how I hope someday feel the same about my home!
Ukraine, on the other hand, took me on a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I fell head over heels for Lviv, which must be one of Europe’s prettiest cities. And I was surprised and excited to see just how absurdly cheap the country is. Of course that excitement soon turned to guilt when I reminded myself that it’s not cheap for Ukrainians. And while I loved all of my Ukrainian Couchsurfing hosts and had such a wonderful time getting to know them and their country, remembering some of our conversations about the situation in Ukraine still makes me want to cry.
Slovakia’s landscape blew me away. The Ginger Monkey Hostel is probably my favorite hostel in the world, both because of it’s gorgeous location in a village high up in the Tatra Mountains, and their sweetest little hostel dog named Wally.
Budapest is one of Europe’s sparkling gems and I’m still tempted to ditch Norway and move there instead. Meeting up with blogger friends Nate and Phillipa only made me love the city more – those guys really know how to make a place seem like the coolest spot on earth.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I had expected Romania to be a little more… old fashioned. Yes visiting the villages felt like peeking back in time, but the roads were excellent and the cities bright and sparkly. It was pretty perfect, actually.
I’m pretty sure Belgrade will always be one of my favorite cities in the world. I would also love to explore more of Serbia, though I suspect I’ll never quite manage to drag myself away from the capital city for long enough to do so.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
I could not believe how beautiful Bosnia and Herzegovina is! From the bright blue rivers to the majestic mountains to gorgeous Sarajevo – the country’s war wounds are still present, but there’s so much beauty there as well!
If I was blown away by Bosnia, Montenegro took my ooohing and aaahing to the next level. Seriously, how can such a tiny country be crammed with so many beautiful and diverse landscapes? Consider me a fan, Montenegro.
I was excited to see Kosovo, but was still surprised to find Pristina becoming one of my favorite cities. The food, the wacky architecture, and the friendliest people in the world – what more could a traveler want?
Though as much as I was blissing out over the country, I still might have had a minor meltdown when my 27th birthday rolled around and all I seemed to be doing with my “career” was running a silly travel blog. Remember this confessional post? Now can we all just forget it? Thanks.
I always joke that I would probably never read my blog because I feel like I do such a poor job of actually sharing useful information about traveling to a country – instead you guys just get rambling musings about the food and the cute hostel dogs, sometimes along with an embarrassing dose of FEELINGS.
But after my second trip to the Albanian Riviera I finally felt like I could share some helpful tips, which I did with this guide to Albania’s beaches. I think the last guide I attempted to share with you guys was about Kyrgyzstan, so this was a long time coming.
Dan and I squeezed in a detour to Bulgaria to visit Dan’s bestie (are you allowed to use that term with guys?) Matt, which was sort of the perfect wrap up to our backpacking trip. So perfect that it even managed to bring Bulgaria up from being my least favorite country I’ve visited to one of my favorites!
I only spent a few days in Croatia before catching my flight back to Norway out of Split. I’m still struggling to decide how I felt about my time there… but more on that later!
And now I’m back in Norway, with hopefully lots of exciting adventures to come!