2017 for me was kinda shit.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting to the end of my twenties and have become less hopeful about life as I used to be.
I don’t remember ever looking at a year ending and actually feeling happy to let it go.
2017 was this year for me.
I mean on paper, my year looks awesome.
- I brought in the New Year in Chiang Mai, Thailand at a great house party.
- Stayed there until February where we went up to wintery New York for a few days before flying down to the Caribbean, Dominican Republic for a month until jetting off to Medellin, Columbia for a few months.
- Then tiring out of travelling and choosing to go back home to Sydney, Australia for 5 months until finally heading back to Chiang Mai, Thailand in December.
So I visited 4 continents in a year. Awesome right?
Wrong. Not awesome.
Chiang Mai Thailand was lovely and such an easy city to visit. And because it has burning season where farmers burn their tops in the mountains, taking pollution dangers to unsafe levels, we couldn’t stay.
So we thought we’ll head somewhere awesome like the Caribbean to live for a few months.
My boyfriend Damien and I are Australian and the the Caribbean to us is the most exotic it gets. It’s the other side of the world – we don’t meet many people who go there.
So we went to the Dominican Republic. And quickly found out it’s overrun with retired Americans whom we have nothing in common with.
Not to mention our internet was terrible, no one really spoke English and the weather was just a tad too wild for us to really appreciate it.
To add insult to injury, Damien contracted a fever so we had to head to emergency where the nurse was trying to inject him with non-FDA approved medication to get his fever down.
Trying to communicate that I needed to know what was going on coupled with Damien terror at not being able to get proper help at a time he was freaking out made us decide to high-tail it out of there to Columbia.
Ahh, Columbia. We chose it because of the great medical facilities available.
And we tested this theory when I got my eyes lasered for around $700 AUD. A complete bargain and the doctor spoke very good English and knew what he was doing.
The nurses didn’t know English but they were super nurturing which I appreciated immensely because I was SO nervous.
It’s my eyes!!
Apart from that, I did not love Medellin.
Again, no one spoke English so it was very hard to get around alone.
Damien spoke some Portuguese so that helped us get the things we needed but I just couldn’t relax there.
I know people keep saying that Columbia is safe and I’m sure it’s SO much better than it was but I did not feel safe as a woman. The one time I went to a coffee shop by myself, I got followed home.
This person got stopped by the guard at the ground floor of my apartment and they both started arguing loudly, presumably about why he couldn’t follow me inside.
Another time, we got lost in a taxi and went a little further out of the tourist areas and saw a man physically dragging another shirtless man across a crowded street.
We were shocked to see the shirtless man’s body scraping along the road.
The english-speaking taxi driver said nothing about the incident and none of the bystanders around did nothing either.
Another time, I swear I heard gunshots at the park next to my building.
Now I know that Nomads living there will swear up-and-down that Medellin, Columbia is safe.
And I agree it’s probably getting there.
But I don’t think it is safe.
Whereas in SE Asia, I still practice duty of care for my safety, I do not expect any of the above things to happen there that happened in Columbia.
Maybe Columbia is new at tourism whereas SE Asian countries rely on tourism for survival.
Whatever it is, I realise I require this type of safety. And Columbia does not have it for me.
The safety issue, the language barrier and just not being able to get to events close-by without getting taxis (or having to plan for travel) made it difficult for us to make friends.
This was hard for me I realised, as it had been months since I could banter with a group of people and just BE funny. I hadn’t realised how important that was to me until then.
Two months into out 3 month stay, I had enough. I wanted to go home.
We cut our losses, decided South America is not for us (yet), tucked our tails between our legs and headed home.
I managed to make it to my best friend Ann’s 30th birthday, to my sister’s 20th birthday and Damien even managed to spend his birthday with the family.
I have never in my life missed family like I did then.
I felt like travelling kicked my ass. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. I have been travelling for 2 years so it was time to head home.
When we got back, Damien and I decided to spend time with our families. I lived with my parents and visited him 1.5 hours away on weekends.
It was nice to have the break. We had been together by ourselves with no real friendships made in months.
I loved living at my parents more than I thought I did. I enjoyed Dad’s food. He enjoyed having someone to cook for that loves his food. Bad combinations because over the 5 months I was there, I was fatter than I’ve ever been before.
Historically, I’ve always allowed myself to indulge in home-cooked meals because I don’t know when I’ll have that again. I just didn’t know I would stay for 5 whole months of it.
Those 5 months really helped me heal from earlier in the year. I suppose I needed that to really appreciate the value of having stability in a way that I’ve never before understood it.
You know, people think that those who travel constantly don’t seek stability. I realise now that the opposite is true. Traveler’s like me seek stability, just in different way. Whilst some people may seek stability in a house with roots, travellers will seek stability in friendships and coworking spaces. That’s why you’ll find people whom have traveled longer only work to establish friendships with those staying long-term. It becomes too painful after a while to keep saying goodbye to people.
But having said that, the Digital nomad community is small. When I was in Columbia, I met up with friends I made in Chiang Mai and Bali. Our ex roommate from Bali started a job in New York so we could visit him. I’m in Chiang Mai now and I’ve run into many people that I’ve met all over the world.
This in some way, is stability.
Regardless, either I’m getting old or I’ve always felt the need to prioritise stability – I just needed to have a shit 2017 to realise that.
So in conclusion – with last year, having moved around so much and living at my parents and shuffling myself back and forth from seeing my boyfriend to living with my parents, I have had no stability.
This year I’m ready to create a home, to have roots with which I can conquer the world with.
What do you think?
Much needed break before heading to the other side of the world
Playing in the snow. Very rare for most Australians
New York, United States
Eating my sorrows and disappointment
Playa, Dominican Republic
Right before going in for Laser Eye Surgery. Nervous!
The most beautiful city I’ve been in, even if not the safest.
Home Sweetest Home
Central Coast, Australia