Each year I put together an Annual Review to reflect on what has happened over the past year and share future plans for Travel Dave.
Here is what Travel Dave got up to in 2015:
Saying goodbye to Tilburg, Holland
At the start of the year was when I made a drastic decision to make a big change, that was to move out of my home in Tilburg and do something different.
It was a tough call as I had just spent the past 3 years of my life calling the student city of Tilburg, home. I had many good friends, created a comfortable life for me and I enjoyed being there.
The only problem was it was too comfortable, I had always enjoyed the freedom that travel can bring and I needed to get out of my comfort zone.
It was a nice feeling to finally create some sort of security net and call a place home, something I hadn’t done for a long time.
There just come a moment when I looked at the bigger picture and discovered that I was wasting my life away and stuck above, a student bar renting out a cheap student room with no look into the future.
That’s not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, even though I loved it, I wasn’t completely happy.
After the worst new years eve on record, after being sober, working behind a bar and cleaning up after the last drunken party goer departed at 05:10am, that’s when I thought enough was enough.
That night I went to my room, Booked a flight ticket to Thailand, scheduled a leaving party a day before my flight, sold everything I owned on Facebook, put my room up for rent and the rest was history.
It was time to close a chapter in my life, Holland, you were awesome, you are always home, I just needed to escape comfortable and do something awesome with my life, I will never forget those amazing years, time for a change.
Chiang Mai, the Digital Nomad paradise
Can you see that smile on my face? Chiang Mai was totally a good idea and I’m happy it all worked out.
When you make such a drastic leap of faith you really hope that shit doesn’t hit the fan.
Chiang Mai did that for me and jump started my blog again, it made me happy.
Can you believe that prior to 2015 I had never been to Thailand? It was not because I was avoiding it, Thailand just never appealed to me.
I’m always seeking to explore new undiscovered lands and Thailand sort of took a back seat until this year, before I simply didn’t have any desire to visit.
I had always dibble dabbled with the coined phrase Digital Nomad and it becomes a hot topic this year and I wanted to try this lifestyle out for myself.
Chiang Mai was the number one destination to live according to the Nomad List at the time so I decided to dig deeper.
Within 30 minutes of arriving in Chiang Mai I Managed to secure a rental apartment and sort out my new Thai SIM card, I was sort of left amazed with how smoothly everything went.
There had to be a catch surely?
After joining a handful of Chiang Mai Facebook groups and finding others working on the same stuff online I quickly surrounded myself with a fun circle of close friends to hang out with, it all took me by surprise.
Here I am doing what I love, surrounded by fun people doing the same thing and all made possible by living rather frugal, but not having to make any sacrifices.
My apartment was £100 a month and it had a double bed and a swimming pool, going out to eat with my friends never broke the bank, I could just focus on all the massive projects I’ve been dying to work on, living a frugal life with great people and being happy.
Wow, what a massive shift from the first month, I loved it, such a positive change that needed to happen and happy it worked out.
Meeting other Travel Bloggers really helped to fast track a lot of aspects for me, before Thailand I had been on my own and a lot of things didn’t make sense.
Not that there is any secret sauce to travel blogging, just hearing from others what works for them and focusing time on the best areas that needed attention really helped towards following a succesful path, saved myself a lot of time and it was totally worth it.
Now I look back at my time in Holland thinking to myself, I’m so happy I got myself out of that place, it was really holding me back.
Naturally Langkawi, a Malaysian island worth exploring
2015 Would also be my first time on the island of Langkawi, I’d spent some time in the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand and fancied checking out my first tropical South East Asia island.
After a few flights booked I managed to make my way down and spend the next 10 days discovering everything the island had to offer.
Langkawi, Malaysia simply blew me away and I had a wonderful time exploring its white sand beaches and wide selection of Geo parks totally worth exploring Naturally Langkawi has it all and look forward to exploring this action packed island again some time in the future.
My very first TBEX, Lloret De Mar, Costa Brava, Spain
This was my first TBEX in Lloret De Mar, Costa Brava, Spain and it was about time too. I had in fact purchased tickets for TBEX Greece, Toronto and Dublin, just never managed to fit in TBEX with my travel plans, this year I made no exception and was determined to make this one.
It’s true what they say about your first TBEX, your first is always going to be your best. I was blown away by all the never Bloggers I met and finally putting names to the blogs I enjoyed reading the most, many brands were present and found it a great networking platform to build some future projects and listening to other bloggers talk and share their wise words of wisdom was a wonderful added bonus.
The whole TBEX surprised me and I wish I went to my first one sooner, made some great friends and built some lovely relationships.
Europe By InterRail: 30 countries in 30 days Challenge
It was a challenge that I had wanted to complete for some time, to visit 30 countries in 30 days and see what happens.
I was turning 26 this year, which would mean I would be too old for the youth rated discount of the Interrail pass and Europe would be the only continent where this challenge would be possible.
The day after TBEX I went for it.
The date was April 1st my birthday was 31st of May,
I had one month to visit as many countries as possible and all the transport was covered on my Inter rail pass, all I simply had to do was do it.
That was the tricky part, It wasn’t a sense of travel it was in the sense of the challenge and the adventure.
I reached out to my closest friends about the challenge to try and find hosts in each country to show me around and create some small entertaining video’s.
However, travelling to a new country each and every day as expected had its toll.
I made some fatal errors from the start such as:
• Not starting in Portugal.
• Going the wrong way around Andorra to enter Andorra and wasting a day and never visiting Andorra!
• Took a local slow scenic route across the Pyrenees that lost me valuable time and almost freezed to death sleeping in a doorway of a train station in a random small French town that had no hotels or people for that matter.
• Accidently jumping onto private trains that were not covered by the pass and almost getting fined hundreds of Euro’s
• Looping around countries the wrong way.
• Going to Norway and spending an extra day in Norway when I shouldn’t have had (Norway I mean that in the nicest way!)
• Going the wrong way to Finland to see a friend, having too much fun with said friend, getting too comfortable and spending too long at her house watching TV series.
• Busing through the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania which were not covered by the pass as the trains are not connected yet.
• Having to head back to Germany as Frankfurt is the only cheapest place I could find to get a flight back to the UK.
But apart from that it all went very well! I visited over 20 countries, caught up with old friends and had an amazing time using the railway system across Europe with Interrail.
I’m excited to share with you this adventure as I launch the web video series and blog posts this spring to gear everyone up for rail travel around Europe this summer, the videos are very entertaining and can’t wait to share with you this amazing challenge attempt.
Laos Adventure with Busabout Asia
Busabout this year launched many new routes around South East Asia and I was invited along to check out and try the first Busabout Asia adventure around Laos.
Laos had never been on my radar and found this a fun opportunity to get around to exploring this country I had not heard much about.
Going along on a tour was also something fairly new for me and found the whole experience rather exciting.
Laos is a stunning country, travelling along the Mekong Delta and getting to meet the local people and try out the local food was all an amazing experience and I was very grateful to find the time to check this place out and I encourage others to do the same.
Koh Phangan Tropical Internship
At the end of my crazy rail adventure around Europe, I was a little lost for options on what to do next, that’s when listening to the travel like a boss podcast I first heard about the Tropical internship.
The idea was to bring 6 like minded digital nomads from around the world, over to the island of Koh Phangan in Thailand and work with local businesses to create a new Digital Nomad hub in cooperation with the Co working space.
When I first heard about this opportunity I wanted to be apart of it instantly and I wanted to be there from the start to help plan and get the ball rolling.
I ended up heading over to the island a few months prior to the intership to help set it all up with the Internship manager and help prepare for what was to come.
The internship was simple: food, work space and accommodation was all covered and you were very welcome to work on your own stuff as long as the internship stuff got sorted, something like a few hours a day, not much, sounded like a win win.
What more could you possibly need, right?
The intership filled me with hope and I worked extremely hard on putting it all together with the others.
To be honest, I was at the growth stage where I wanted to get down to work, put all my skills ive collected over the years to good use and make a big project happen, something more secure and I needed a mentor, someone who had been doing business and had contacts and had time to push me in the best path.
To cut a long story short, The internship manager departed, on the first day of the internship happening, a few selected interns for the program departed shortly after that and it all folded up instantly before it could even get started.
I on the other hand had just done months of solid work running around putting my heart and soul into this project as I had big believe in it and what the future could bring only to have it all explode in my face and nothing to come of it.
You could imagine how I felt, very upset and to see new friends who I was committed to getting to know better simply walking out and leave without even giving it a chance.
I bottled my anger and frustration as maybe I was indeed not seeing what they saw, just upset from putting in a lot of time into a project that never come about.
What was a team turned into a few who wished to remain, the big project was taken off the shelf and reduced to a smaller manageable scale.
It left me deflated and alone at times and upset that I had been silly enough to think that such a thing would go so well.
It’s difficult for me to write this into words as I’m extremely grateful to the resort and staff that looked after me on the island for 6 months, by the end of my stay they all become my family and made me feel very welcome.
I was happy to help them out with social media as part of the agreement and the project to host the Travel Blogger Retreat would have not been possible without them, I’m truly grateful for them giving me a chance and I’m happy that side of the intership went to plan.
I’ll talk more about the Travel Blogger Retreat soon and happy that I had this project as it kept me busy for the remaining months.
But to live in a luxury resort on a tropical island for 6 months you would think it would be impossible to be unhappy,
I really wish that this was the case and I don’t want to come across ungrateful as I’m aware that it was an amazing opportunity and I tried to make it work as best as I could have.
It got to a stage with the Co working space where Conflicts occurred on a weekly basis beyond frustration, agreements were not being met and little things started to pop out of the wood works that made me feel uncomfortable that I didn’t wish to continue any more, even if I was just rolling on autopilot to keep the peace.
It’s come to a point where I asked myself the question that you should never ask yourself:
Why am I still here?
It got to a point where I was not happy, life was counting down the days and that’s when It hit me that I had created this lifestyle to simply avoid exactly the situation I was in.
I decided to pack my bags and leave before it went deeper down the rabbit hole, beyond that I would not be able to climb out again.
It was a tough decision to make but one I’m happy with making, I wasn’t happy and I needed to think about myself.
I’ve since returned to the island to see the staff of the resort again to say a proper goodbye and happy we have a good relationship still, they were what made this experience along with the friendships with the other interns and the Travel Blogger Retreat doesn’t make this period of my life a total waste of time.
You move on, learn from your mistakes and become a better person.
Travel Blogger Retreat, Koh Phangan 2015
After an amazing time in Chiang Mai, Thailand at the start of the year I really enjoyed the focused aspect of group collaboration, getting around a table and sharing knowledge with other bloggers.
Whilst on the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand I spotted an opportunity to bring that moment back to life.
Buri Beach Resort Koh Phangan was looking at hosting International conferences, I had been helping them with social media for a few months and pitched the idea to have a travel blogger retreat and they liked the idea.
We put the resort and the concept together and made it happen.
Only problem was I had 2 months to pull off the whole thing, from planning to promotion it was a tough feat, but I had the passion and drive to give it ago and make it happen.
My theory was that if I could make the first one a success and pull it off then then next few travel blogger retreats would be plain sailing, the first one is always the most difficult.
• No vouches or referrals from past attendees
• No content such as video or photos from what happened
• Samples of guest speakers
• Difficult to get resort’s on board with a concept not proven theory
These were the tough challenges, but once the first one happened and worked then this could something that could keep going on in the future if there was a demand for such an event.
I noticed a lot of these pop up events happening around South East Asia, had heard many travel bloggers were heading over to Thailand I put the two together and made it happen.
First of all I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends and the travel blogging community, especially those who offered to help with guest speaking and believed in this event as much as I did, that truly meant the world to me that they saw the same in the event that I also saw. It helped give me a lot of confidence and bring the event to where it should be.
In the end, amazingly, 35 attendees for the travel blogger retreat managed to make it, we had 5 guests
First visit to South Korea and Seoul.
I missed the sense of adventure and excitement after spending 6 months on a tropical island. Not that I just ungrateful for the island life, I just missed the feeling of a big city.
That’s when I got an email from AirAsia advertising a killer sale deal for return flights to Seoul, South Korea.
The old me got excited like when I used to book random Ryanair flights to cities around Europe I had never heard of such as Kaunus, Graz or Bratislava and just turning up without any plans but a few Couchsurfing contacts.
Korean culture and food excited me and it was all still a mystery, It was on my to visit list for some time and this was the perfect opportunity to go.
I had met many friends over my travels from South Korea and I was dying to hang out with them again.
I remember them all inviting me over to spend some time with them in South Korea so I sent out around 6 messages to close friends about 4 days before my arrival to see who would be up for sorting out a meet up.
That’s what I love most about international travel, creating friendships that last a lifetime and carrying of your conversations from where you last ended, and slightly ignoring the fact you haven’t seen each other for 5 years.
Just like the old days I avoided googling and planning my trip and decided to just turn up with an AirBnB booking and those contacts with old friends and seeing how things end up.
It turned out to be one of the highlight trips of the year, South Korea was beyond what I expected and I was slightly gutted that my trip was only one week long, every day was an adventure and I can’t wait to return again.
What took me by surprise was going back to how I used to travel, sort of leaving the whole trip a mystery and going with the flow, but making sure I catch up with old friends who know how to showcase the local life.
It’s for sure inspired me to go back to my old ways to try and use Couchsuring as much as possible to connect with locals.
It puts the fun back into travel and South Korea has so much to offer.
Every day I was excited that it was eating time again from the Korean BBQ’s, to Korean kimchi street dumplings, it was all rather tasty and I want to eat more Korean food again, never had a bad meal the whole trip which come as a surprise as normally mystery dishes in Asia don’t normally have that outcome.
I will look forward to sharing with you more blogs about South Korea in the future, have much to say about that trip and this was simply just a taster of what’s to come, stay tuned.
Guess who’s back, back to Chiang Mai again.
After hearing many travel bloggers were heading to Chiang me after Travel Blogger Retreat, I just had to head back. Chiang Mai has sort of turned into a little comfortable temporary home for me, its a reliable base and it seemed the right thing to do.
I didn’t want to not go to Chiang Mai and instead see all these amazing meet up and events going on like what was happening back in january so decided to make a last minute drastic change.
Just like last time, managed to find a room and fit in within a few hours of arriving to Chiang Mai and boy oh boy the meet ups and workshops with other travel bloggers who were also blogging from Chiang Mai where awesome and so happy I didn’t manage to miss out on this great time.
Saying Goodbye to Thailand
I’m currently writing this wrap up post for 2015 on my final flight of the year and I’m soon to land in Helsinki.
Finland will be my destination of 2016, who would have thought that from a crazy spare of the moment trip back in 2005 to Finland that would kick start my travelling bug and its nice to relive those moments and return the country that started it all 10 years later.
I will be heading to Vaasa in Finland for new years eve, partying with some friends and then getting down to some serious project’s and getting back on form with my writing which has been rather lacking with all the travel over the past few months.
Next month will be the start of #NBE2016 where I’ve been luckily to have been chosen from a large selection of bloggers to go and explore the Lapland area of Finland and do some arctic swimming and Ice climbing before returning to Helsinki to take part in MATKA one of the Nordics biggest travel fairs.
I’m excited to have been chosen and I’m delighted to have been given this amazing opportunity to kick start 2016.
I’m looking at shifting my focus towards the Nordics and Nordic travel in general over 2016 so this is the perfect foundation to kick start it all, 10 years on from my first ever trip.
Am I excited to be visiting Finland again? I feel like a kid again honestly, many memories from 10 years ago are flooding back, I can’t wait to see the snow again and try out my basic Finnish 🙂
Wishing you all a fantastic 2016 and I hope it’s filled with loads of travelling adventures
Let’s have a great 2016 with Travel Dave
That Wraps up travel Dave in 2015. I would like to take this time to thank you, the readers of Travel Dave for following me along on this incredible journey, without you all this would have been impossible, thank you and I hope you’re all excited to follow me into 2016 which is going to be the biggest year yet for Travel Dave.
Wishing you all a fantastic 2016 and hope you have many more travel adventures.
If you would like to read my Annual reviews from previous years you can find them here:
Thank you for Reading Travel Dave’s Annual review.
Feel free to post below in the comment section what your personal highlights for 2015 have been and what you have planned for the future, always fun to come back to every year and see if you’ve been able to reach your goals, thank you for reading.