I finally felt like I was starting to find my groove with the whole ‘digital nomad’ thing (you can read my first year’s recap here). I was excited about the future. I didn’t have many concrete plans, but I had a lot of ideas.
As you all know, most of those didn’t come to fruition since that lifestyle pretty much depended on traveling. And of course, once the pandemic hit, all leisure travel came to a halt.
Here’s what I ended up doing after those first blissful couple of months during which everything was still normal!
JANUARY2020 began surrounded by new friends from Coworking Bansko. A couple of the members kindly offered up their apartment with a huge balcony that looks over the town, as it was perfect for watching fireworks (seriously, there were HOURS of fireworks!).
A friend from Hamburg came to visit for a couple of weeks after Christmas. We wanted to do some exploring, so I rented a car and learned to drive stick shift!! I know almost everyone can drive stick in Europe, but it’s not very common in America anymore.
We took a couple of day trips around Bulgaria and drove to Melnik, Sofia, Plovdiv, and the Rila Monastery. We even picked up two hitchhikers from Russia on our way to Plovdiv and had spent 2 hours in the car with them. They told us all about life in Russia, which neither of us knew much about, and we swapped travel stories while I tried not to hyperventilate each time I entered a roundabout (driving a manual car in a roundabout is seriously the most stressful thing ever).We even went skiing since Bansko is a ski town after all, which was, well, a terrible idea. I used to ski when I was younger but hadn’t in about 15 years. Everyone told me it was like riding a bike, but let me tell you – it IS NOT.
I didn’t take lessons since my friend assured me he could teach me (even though he’d just learned last year, LOL), and we started out slow. Everything was fine on the bunny hills, and so he convinced me to go to the top of the mountain since it was still a blue (beginner) slope. IT WAS NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST. I have no idea who decided on the difficulty level, but I basically fell the whole way down. It was incredibly steep, my skis kept getting tangled and at one point one popped off, and then I sat in a restaurant until my friend was done for the day.Needless to say, I did not try to ski again after that.
I spent the rest of that month falling even more in love with Bansko. I even decided to try snowboarding after my skiing disaster since one of my friends was teaching a few other coworkers, and I actually found it much easier than skiing! I went to the hot springs 3958493 times, hyped myself up to go ice bathing, did aerial yoga, shopped at the weekly farmer’s market, remembered how much I loved ice skating, and just settled into life there.
Looking for more about Bansko? Here’s what it’s like to spend a week there as a digital nomad.
FEBRUARYCovid conversations swirled around the coworking space but I mostly ignored them (gosh I miss innocent 2020 me). I never actually thought that anything would change…But of course, I was wrong!
February was mostly spent in ignorant bliss. I think things had started getting worse in other parts of the world by the end of the month, but Bansko was still relatively unaffected. I didn’t actually think anything would come of it.I celebrated my ‘half-birthday’ (seriously, I jokingly – okay, half-jokingly LOL – mentioned it and my friends threw me a surprise party), went snowshoeing, went snowboarding at least 2x a week, and soaked up my last full month in this new town that I loved.
You can check out all the ways I’ve made money online here!
MARCH-MAYI had to leave Bansko because my visa was up. I was bummed to leave, but also excited for the next chapter. I’d always wanted to see what a slower way of life was like, so I changed up the pace and went to live in the Austrian countryside!
I’d originally planned to stay for a month or two before moving on, but of course that all changed quickly…I remember even making plans for all the weekend trips I wanted to take when I first arrived. Of course, none of that happened LOL.
I also read The Artist’s Way during this time and it totally changed how I view creativity! I highly recommend it to everyone, honestly.I debated going back to the US but ultimately decided to stay in Austria. I felt safe there since we were in the countryside and our daily lives weren’t affected at all. My hosts owned sheep and sold cheese, so I was able to learn all about the cheese-making process while I was there. I really really enjoyed that, as I knew nothing about it before!
I even tried to get my visa extended so that I could stay for the summer, but was ultimately told by two different immigration officers that it wouldn’t be possible since there were flights to the US available. I considered just going to another country outside of the Schengen Area that was still accepting US tourists, like England or Ireland, but decided I’d rather just go home since I hadn’t been back in almost a year and missed my family.
I also just wasn’t keen on being alone in Europe during this time (thoughts of those incredibly lonely two months alone in England came to mind), so that also factored into my decision, and I flew home at the end of May.
JUNEAfter a 5am wake up, four airports, three layovers (Vienna->Frankfurt, Frankfurt->Newark, Newark->San Francisco), and almost 24 hours of travel with no sleep, I finally made it home to San Jose!
I quarantined at my mom’s house and soon saw some of my friends, dad, and brother that I hadn’t seen in a year. It was nice to feel grounded and back with familiar faces after an entire year of new people, places, and experiences.
JULYAfter the 4th of July, I went to stay with my dad and his girlfriend near Sacramento. I spent that month mostly indoors (Sac is HOT in the summer) but went to Auburn and Lake Tahoe a couple of times to hike and swim in the river. I even went to the Yuba River swimming holes by myself for a day which was quite relaxing!
AUGUST-DECEMBERI hadn’t seen my family in Colorado for almost 2 years, so I flew there to celebrate my cousin’s high school graduation and stay put for a while. I’d always liked Colorado, so I thought it might be nice to spend a little more time there and see if it was a place I’d actually want to live one day.
I’ve since decided it’s not – it’s incredibly dry and I forgot how desert-like it is. It’s also pretty expensive, which is one of the main reasons I don’t plan to move back to California, but I can see why. The mountains are so close and truly beautiful! There are endless opportunities for hiking and outdoor sports, and I’m incredibly grateful for all the nature I’ve been able to experience here. My family that I’m staying with live near a lake, so I walk or run there about 5x a week.While here, I’ve gotten to see quite a bit of Colorado (all socially distanced and masked, of course)! Here are some of my favorites:
- Exploring Rocky Mountain National Park twice, once during the day and once at night for astrophotography!
- Driving through Guanella Pass to see some golden aspens and for the Square Top Lakes hike
- Walking around Kenosha Pass, another fall color destination
- Hiking to Lake Isabelle, which was seriously windy but very worth it
- Visiting Breckenridge and Boreas Pass for more fall colors
- Dragging myself up Mt. Sniktau (my first 13er, aka a mountain that goes up to 13,000 feet)
- Trekking to Herman Lake on the Herman Gulch Trail
- Ice skating on a frozen lake (honestly one of the highlights of this year)
- Road tripping to WYOMING! My cousin and I took a day trip since it’s only a 1.5 hour drive. We went to Laramie and Cheyenne, as I was also considering moving there. We also stopped quickly to take a photo with the sign for Buford, a town with a population of 1!
Somehow, I also managed to hit a blogging milestone, and had 5,000 monthly sessions! My traffic has dipped back down again, but I’m hoping that it’ll recover after more vaccines are administered and travel becomes safer. I’m assuming that will be in the spring, but who knows.
I’m also pretty stoked on how I’ve grown creatively this year. I largely attribute that spike in creativity to reading The Artist’s Way. I’ve started experimenting more with my photography, took up watercolors, am journaling more often, and generally feel more in tune with myself and less concerned with other people’s opinions, which was a huge factor holding me back from creative risks before.
GOALS FOR 2021In the next year, I really want to push myself creatively. I want to experiment with video, start a YouTube channel, and keep going with watercolors. I want to take more photos that come from my soul and learn more about editing.
I’d like to grow my business to a place that I feel financially stable without teaching English online. I love teaching, don’t get me wrong, but I burn out pretty easily and it’s stressful worrying about the wifi and timezones. In 2021 I’d really like to get to a place where I no longer need to have to rely on it as an income source. To do this, I plan to start selling digital products, like social media and ebook templates.If travel is safe again, I’d love to make it back to Bansko at some point and see some friends there. I really (like really really) want to go somewhere in the Arctic, like Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and/or Finland. I’ve just always been fascinated by that part of the world, and I’d love to see more of it! I want to go back to Austria and see my friends in the countryside, and actually explore it this time. I’d like to check out Washington (I’ve only been to Seattle) and see if it really is a place I’d like to buy a cabin and settle someday. Nothing is set in stone of course, so we’ll see what actually pans out!