А Year in Review From a 28-Year Old Digital Nomad (Part II ) — Day 42 of 99 Days of Wander
Travel highlights of my 27th year of adventure through Latin America, Australia and Europe and all the impressions it brought with it.
For Part I on what I've learned during my 27th year of travelling go read here
The continent of Latin America was always a this magical place I’ve seen on TV growing up in a small city of Chisinau, Moldova. Latin America was a place where only rich people could afford to travel to. An average Moldovan can only afford to travel to Ukraine, Bulgaria or Romania for a summer beach vacation. Today the standard has risen to Turkey or Egypt for a short summer trip for some families.
If you’d tell me two years ago that in 2016 I would live in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil for a couple of months, I’d say that you’re totally crazy and this would have been be impossible. It appears that you might have been right :) Not only I’ve travelled and lived in these three amazing countries, but I did so with my future husband whom I met during my first week of travels in Colombia.
I still remember how I landed in Medellin (yes, the city of Pablo Escobar) at midnight and was totally excited but very overwhelmed and scared. I had arranged for a driver to pick me up at the airport through some online booking service but I wasn’t sure whether he will actually be there. I trusted that the Universe will take care of me. And so it did.
As soon as I passed immigration, a nice Colombian man was standing in the waiting area holding a handwritten poster: “Anna Ceachirova.” Relief. Nothing else, just relief 😃
As soon as I was in the car the driver turned on some sort of a salsa music radio station. That’s when I knew I was in Latin America. The next few days were really intense. I didn’t speak Spanish, I couldn’t say anything to anyone, I didn’t know where and what to eat and what shall I do next with myself. In fact, the first week in Colombia was quite a blur — I was just taking everything in, step by step.
My remote full-time job was keeping me sane and provided a bit of stability. I met a friend whom I connected with through a digital nomad network (hello, Toby ;-) and the next evening we got together with a couple of digital nomads in a local pub. That is where I met String, my future husband, and the rest is history 😃
I also attended a 2-month intensive Spanish course so I learned the language that half of Latin America as well as Spain speaks. Yay!
I didn’t have a plan after Colombia, I thought I’d go with the flow (as usual). So when String asked me whether I want to join him for a couple of months to live in Playa del Carmen in Mexico by a beautiful beach and work in a co-working space, I went with the flow 😃 This is where I knew this relationship was serious and I thought this would have been some sort of a test for our partnership. A couple of weeks later I found myself living in Mexico with a man I barely knew in an amazing apartment by the beach and a rooftop pool. I guess you can call me brave but I trusted him. He had proven to be a man of value in the short time we‘ve been together so I went with it.
We both loved Mexico and its chill vibe so similar to Thailand. When a friend told us about the tiny surf village of Sayulita near Puerto Vallarta, we decided to go there after we visit String’s parents in Australia. We spent two months in Sayulita during Christmas and New Year’s. String was surfing and working while I was miserable enduring my last two months of work and doing lots of yoga. It was great but it wasn’t my kind of a place.
We both bought tickets to this crazy 12-day Nomad Cruise adventure crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Colombia to Portugal last May. I thought it would be an incredibly crazy and rewarding experience.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy that experience but I am glad I went through it. At least now I know that I will never go on such a long adventure in the sea on a huge boat without stepping my feet on land for 9 days and with people who I really didn’t have much in common. There was a such a great variety of people in our group from the beginner nomads to established location independent business owners that I felt there was a big disconnect.
The people who went on the Nomad Cruise were not really my tribe and the organization of the cruise was not the best experience for me. Perhaps if I didn’t feel like I’m constantly rocking from side to side even when I’m sleeping in bed I’d feel better about it. And perhaps if I saw some land and stepped on it now and then, it would help. I just felt trapped the whole time. The boat made me feel claustrophobic and fake in a way. It was awesome and awful at the same time. Every day was the same: wake up, buffet breakfast, workshop or a presentation done by one of the nomads (level was very basic), lunch, another workshop, dinner, some sort of event.
Every. Single. Day. For. 12 Days.
Would I recommend the Nomad Cruise? Yes, for sure — to try it out once and see if you like it or not. There were plenty of people who really enjoyed the experience and went to two more cruises just like this! #everyoneisdifferent
Although, I’ve spent only seven days on this magical island but my experience was unforgettable. I am thinking that maybe I should go live there. Not only because my lovely friend Isa is a local but also because it has some of the most amazing nature, people and wine. I absolutely loved it. Definitely worth the visit.
“Barcelona is your city, just like Melbourne.” There two cities have been constantly on my mind because so many people told me I would love it. I am so lucky to have visited both of the magical cities this last year! We lived in Barcelona the whole summer and it was incredible indeed. Especially since I already knew Spanish and could communicate with people. I spent some time with my family and flew my aunt over for a lifetime vacation 😃 I went to the Beyonce concert with a girlfriend. I ate great food, worked in amazing co-working spaces and simply enjoyed life in this beautiful city. I rode my bicycle everywhere and felt quite safe.
The comfort of living in a European city can’t be compared to living in any developing country. I would definitely live there again. The only thing I didn’t really like was the gloomy heavy energy that had accumulated during centuries of people, culture, ways of life, suffering and wars. The gothic buildings gave me a bit of a creepy feeling and I could literally feel the years and years of history weighing down on my shoulders. I don’t really know how to explain it but the energy was heavy.
We also hopped onto Ibiza which was quite historical but weren’t that impressed. If you’re not into electronic music Ibiza is just another touristy island.
I felt very different in Australia and I loved every single bit of it. Especially since I have always dreamed about visiting Australia, its nature, kangaroos and koalas. I’ve never thought I would actually visit one day, let alone marry an Aussie 😃
Aussie men are the best. WORD.
The Aussie exceptional ability to laugh at the world and themselves, to take everything in with a sense of smile and ease was so close to my heart. To this day I think I should have been born an Aussie. But that’s ok cause I am marrying one so I’ll achieve my goal anyways. LOL
I was refused the tourist visa by the Australian Government before I managed to visit Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. Don’t ask, it was stupid and very frustrating. Especially since I was legitimately going to meet my future husband’s family and friends. (I didn’t think it was that easy, did I?)
Unknowingly I had applied for the visa through an agent and not through the official visa website (as I should have.) I got rejected because of insufficient funds on my bank statement (basically I supplied a bank statement that showed that I only have $1,000 to spend for three weeks in Australia. Anna, seriously?)
But now that the kangaroos and the koalas were so close, I couldn’t let it go and give up on it so easy. So I gathered my funds and applied again in a couple of days through the official Australian visa website. After seven long excruciating days of hopeful waiting, I got a message that my one-year tourist visa application was approved. OMG, yay! (I guess having $4,000 on my account was seen as “sufficient funds” and that I had a genuine intent to visit Australia. Thank you!)
Australia is a new land that was built by people who were starting with a clean slate (as well as a couple of convicts that were sent there by the British government. Not a bad place to serve your sentence, eh?) I could feel the energy of “new” in the air. I could imagine myself sailing all the way around the planet in order to settle here and start a new life among the kangaroos and koalas and strange trees and plants. I loved every part of it.
The kangaroos hopping up and down looking like they don’t give a damn, the koalas peacefully sleeping like they’re dead in the eucalyptus trees and the Havaianas flip flops sold from vending machines. The legendary Bondi beach, the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour, the CBD, Melbourne’s food and culture and much much more! I would definitely see myself living there. And guess what?! I can 😃 LOL
The only thing I didn’t like was the astronomical cost of living. Basically, I could live in Mexico on a higher standard of living for one-third of a cost in Australia.
This was one of the hard truths I learned about travelling: there will never be a perfect place to live. So what I have to do is find a place that fits the majority of the criteria I have for living a “good life.”
I was supposed to attend the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. I have even booked my hostel bed and bought tickets to the Sambodromo. But it wasn’t meant to be. Last year around this time I was looking at the astronomical prices of flights from Colombia to Brazil and I was extremely sad to realise that I can’t make it. To be fair, I was living in my second Airbnb apartment for the last two weeks, studying Spanish and just settling in Medellin so I wasn’t able to take another crazy trip. And Rio with Carnaval would have been crazy!
Besides, my relationship with String was just starting to develop (I didn’t even know it at that time.) So who knows whether I would have been even engaged if I left for Carnaval!
But now I am here and I’m loving it (not so much in the beginning.) I’m writing this on the plane back to Rio de Janeiro from Recife, in the Northeast of Brazil where I spent amazing five days with girls. And again, travelling or even living (!) in Brazil was something of a dream that I didn’t even think was possible in my lifetime. But I am here now, getting to know this rich incredible culture and trying to blend in. We just bought the tickets for my father to come visit for two weeks in April. Carnaval is coming and I’m ready for it with my newly purchased “Captain America’s wife” and Wonder-woman costumes! Bring it on, Carnaval, I’m ready!
So that’s it. Awesome year, eh? I think so :) I don’t know whether I’ll be able to go crazy on travelling again. But hey, when you’re 27 that’s what you should do right?
Travelling plans for next year:
- Rio de Janeiro: until May
- Bali: May — July
- Wedding in Moldova (Romania & Serbia): August — Septmeber
Blank. Don’t know what we’re doing after. We’re in an ongoing discussion of having a “honeymoon” travelling through Africa. I would also love to live in Cape Town for a couple of months. Maybe :)
The “Nomad” Wanderova