A Look Back at the Year-Long Party

by Sasha Savinov
Olinda Carnaval

Back in the fall of 2017, we were living in Medellin, Colombia. It was the very beginning of our stint as digital nomads in South America. We got a nice Airbnb for the month, I signed up for Spanish lessons, and Rachel sought out the best cafes and co-working spaces in the City of Eternal Spring. At the same time, we had to make plans for the rest of our trip around the continent. When it became clear that we were going to start 2018 off with two huge parties in back-to-back months, the idea for the year-long party was born.

Little by little, the crazy idea started to take focus. Our intention was to hit one big event each month, be it a cultural celebration, music festival, sporting event, or whatever else seemed interesting. While life threw us a curveball or two along the way, we managed to make it through all 12 months. Read on for a look back at the year-long party to see how it all went down.

Short on time? You can see everything we did in the year in this quick 6-minute video. But read on if you don’t mind a few words!

January: New Year’s Eve in Valparaiso

When you search for “best places for New Year’s Eve” in South America, one city usually tops the list – Valparaiso, Chile. This artsy, bohemian city on the coast of Chile throws an absolute rager to ring in the New Year, complete with a massive fireworks display over the bay.

After a month of working our tails off in Lima, we headed down to Chile. We dropped our bags off with a friend we were staying within Santiago and caught a bus bound for Valpo. Since we have to stay in Airbnb places these days thanks to our online teaching jobs, it was awesome to finally stay in a hostel again and meet some fellow travelers.

Psst – If you aren’t already on Airbnb, follow our link to get up to $55 off your first booking!

Actually, we are hippies…

We spent the last day of the year seeking out the city’s amazing street art, including the steps that read “We are not hippies; we are happies.” As you can see, we blocked out the “not” to make it more accurate.

The party started at the hostel with a few drinks. We got a group together and walked up the hill to find a spot to take in the fireworks. There were beers, mojitos, bottles of wine – you name it. Of course, we also popped a bottle of bubbly at midnight to go along with the fireworks extravaganza.

Valparaiso fireworks

¡Feliz año nuevo!

From there, we moved over to another, more lively square. This place was absolutely packed full of people. They had a DJ spinning tunes and tons of vendors selling drinks and snacks. The night gets a little fuzzy here, but I know we had a good time!

Patagonia

While NYE in Valpo was the year-long party stop to kick off the year, that wasn’t the only cool thing we did in January. After a few weeks of working in Santiago, we flew south to Patagonia for a 3-day hiking and camping trip in the stunning Torres del Paine National Park.

Torres del Paine

The amazing Torres del Paine

Spots in the park fill up months in advance, so we had basically given up on being able to go. I somehow managed to snag two separate campsites just a few weeks in advance thanks to some careful research. They weren’t close enough to be able to hike between the two, but we decided to go for it anyways.

While it was a very expensive outing, we’re really glad we pulled the trigger and decided to go. It’s hands down one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been to. Hopefully, we can make it back sometime to do the full W or even the O trek. Now that we’re caught up on the year-long party posts, you can expect to see a more detailed post about our trip to Patagonia sooner than later.

February: Carnaval in Brazil

Attending Carnaval in Brazil is one of those things that was on our bucket list for years. We even thought about applying for teaching jobs there a few years ago to attend this famous party and the Olympics. Thanks to our newfound location independence and a bit of clever travel hacking, we finally made it happen in 2018.

Sambadrome in Rio

One of the many floats.

You can read the post for more details about our Carnaval experience in three different Brazilian cities – Olinda, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro. Be sure to check out our short highlight video as well:

We had an absolute blast celebrating Carnaval in Brazil and can’t wait to get back and do it again. With the 10-year visas we got, that option will be on the table until 2028!

Waterfalls and a Birthday

With it being the shortest month of the year, Carnaval was really the only big thing we got up to in February. We managed to fit a trip to Iguazu Falls in as well, where we saw both the Brazil and Argentina sides of the falls.

Ig

The amazing Iguazu Falls.

Once we got back to Chile, we celebrated Rachel’s birthday and bid farewell to yet another temporary digital nomad home. We had a great time in Santiago staying with our amiga and highly recommend you visit the Chilean capital if you get the chance.

March: Holy Week in Peru

The debauchery and hedonism of Carnaval is all about getting your ya-yas out before Lent. Since a majority of South Americans are Christian, we decided to follow up the madness of Carnaval with Semana Santa (Holy Week) when planning our year-long party.

Cusco Easter Procession

So glad I flew my drone there!

There are many excellent places to celebrate the Holy Week in South America, and Cusco is definitely one of the best. There’s a massive procession there dedicated to the “Lord of the Earthquakes” who is believed to have saved the city from complete destruction hundreds of years ago.

Click the link above to read all about it, and give our short video a quick play as well. I’m really surprised I got away with flying my drone there. It produced some pretty incredible shots! See for yourself:

Peru Hop and Macchu Pichu

That wasn’t the only awesome thing we got up to in March. Before we made it to Cusco for the processions, we took the Peru Hop bus from La Paz to Lake Titicaca. If you’re looking to travel between Bolivia and Peru in a convenient and comfortable way, then Peru Hop is the way to go.

Machu Picchu Trek

We made it!

Once we made it to Cusco, we got ready for our 4-day jungle trek to the Ancient City of the Incas – Machu Picchu. We took our trip with American Inca Trail and had an amazing experience. Read all about our Machu Picchu jungle trek and be sure to contact them if you’re hoping to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

April: WrestleMania in New Orleans

I’ve been a pro wrestling fan ever since my uncles took me to see Hulk Hogan battle the Undertaker way back in 1991. While I already crossed WrestleMania off my bucket list back in 2007 when it came to Detroit, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend the show of shows in my favorite American city – New Orleans!

They don’t skimp on production value.

My brothers and their buddy all jumped on board, and we even convinced Rachel to tag along. Needless to say, she won the Rage Belt for putting up with our shenanigans, and she is still the reigning champ to this day.

In addition to the wrestling, you know we got our fill of delicious Cajun food and saw a ton of live music. We have several friends who call the Big Easy home now, so it was great getting to visit them. There aren’t many cities in the US we would consider moving to, but NoLa is one of them.

A Wedding and Reunion

One of the big reasons we decided to go to WrestleMania is that it put us back in the US in time to attend the wedding of some really good friends. After a week visiting Rachel’s family, we rented a car and drove to Nashville to watch our old friends finally tie the knot.

Not only was it a beautiful wedding, but it served as somewhat of a reunion for our crew of friends who we saw tons of shows with back in 2007-2010. We have spread out all over the world at this point, so it’s rare that so many of us get together.

May: Summer Camp Music Festival

Back in high school, I convinced some friends to skip senior prom to attend our first camping music festival. As such, Summer Camp will always hold a special place in my heart. I took several years off when we lived in China, but returned in 2016 and brought Rachel to her first one.

Festy squad!

Two years ago, I even got on the illustrious Camp Counselor team to cover the festival with photos, videos, and blog posts. I guess I did alright in my first year because they invited me back in 2018. SCamp was the stop for our year-long party in May, and it was a blast as usual.

I’m pretty proud of the way my short video recap turned out from this year’s Summer Camp, so check it out!

June: World Cup in Russia

A major highlight of the year-long party for me was finally crossing the Motherland off my list. My dad is from Russia, and I had never been until this past year. With the World Cup being there, my brother and I decided to put in a request for tickets and see what happened. We got all four games we requested and headed to Moscow and St. Petersburg for a 2-week trip.

Russia World Cup

Mexico vs. Germany

In addition to seeing the games – including Mexico beating Germany! – we did some walking tours, saw the sights, and of course had plenty of borscht and vodka. I must say that I was quite surprised with our trip to Russia and that I would love to go back and bring Rachel.

Along my way to Russia, I also visited London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Reykjavik. I’ll have some posts and videos about my cheeky Euro-trip soon enough, so stay tuned for those.

You can relive a bit of the World Cup magic in just 4 minutes in my video highlight reel:

July: Being a Tourist in Puerto Vallarta

While I was away being a soccer hooligan in Russia, the year-long party segued into July as Rachel showed her folks around our adopted home of Puerto Vallarta. Unfortunately, I missed them by exactly two days as I traversed the globe to get home from St. Petersburg.

One thing that has been very interesting for us in the past four years has been living in very touristy places. People come to spots like Bali and Puerto Vallarta to let loose, relax on the beach, and party. There are also plenty of expat retirees in both places. We fall somewhere in between, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

Puerto Vallarta drone

At least we live here.

On the one hand, we don’t have the ability to go on a bunch of tours and go out to party every night. We have to work (quite a bit, actually), stick to a budget, and generally avoid pricey things that tourists do. Hell, we barely go to the beach and we live right down the street from one…

Anyways, Rachel was thrilled to host her mom and step-dad in PV for a week. Since they were on vacation, the three of them did all the awesome touristy things that PV has to offer:

  • Rhythms of the Night cruise and dinner show
  • Day-trip to San Sebastian del Oeste
  • Luxury sailing cruise
  • Puerto Vallarta 360 tour
  • Hit the spa and a bunch of amazing restaurants

I was particularly butt-hurt about missing out on the Rhythms of the Night show. Rachel and Co. confirmed that it is well worth the hype, and I hope to check it out this year when we get back to PV.

After living there for a over a year in total, I’d like to think we know our way around Banderas Bay a bit. If you ever want to visit Puerto Vallarta or any of the surrounding towns (Bucerias, Sayulita, Yelapa), please drop us a line and let us help you plan an awesome adventure there!

August/September: Celebrating Mexican Culture

Ever since Phish announced their 11th festival, the year-long party stop for August was a no-brainer. You see, Phish is by far our favorite band. We even got engaged at their New Year’s Eve concert in 2014.

Unfortunately, life went and threw us a huge Curveball. We used all of our miles, rented a car, loaded up the gear, and drove five hours only to find out it was being canceled. No joke, we had just bought groceries. Talk about a buzzkill. Not only did we not get to a Phish festival, but we also wasted our summer vacation.

Rather than let the year-long party stop dead in its tracks, we searched for an alternative. We couldn’t take more time off of work or book flights somewhere, so we looked close to home. When we realized there was an international mariachi festival and a Cirque du Soleil performance going on in Guadalajara, the year-long party was saved.

Mariachi festival

Mariachi band + symphony orchestra!

We absolutely love living in Mexico, and the vibrant culture is a big reason. It’s awesome that we were able to take a bus for six hours to a major city and attend some really amazing cultural events in one long weekend.

The trip to Guadalajara saved the year-long party for August, but September had already been planned for months. We knew we were going to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day in Puerto Vallarta. While there may be bigger festivities in the capital city, we wanted to enjoy the holiday without having to take a flight.

Viva Mexico!

Celebrating the holiday in PV was a great experience, complete with parades, mariachi bands, fireworks, and more. Hopefully, we’ll get to participate in the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico sooner than later. As for the year-long party, however, our plans for fall were pretty obvious.

October: On Tour and Hulaween

After being deprived of a Phish festival, we were pretty hungry for some live music. As such, we took our Curveball refund and put it right towards another festival – Hulaween in Florida. The main reason for doing this was to finally cross Jamiroquai off of our live music bucket list. We did, and it was hands down one of the best concerts we’ve ever seen.

Jamiroquai Hulaween

Jamiroquai!

We’ve been to a ton of music festivals over the years, and Hulaween is already one of our favorites. The production of the place was absolutely insane, especially the super-psychedelic Spirit Lake. See what it looks like in our short video highlight:

Before we went to Florida for Hulaween, we actually went in separate directions. Rachel flew south from PV to Medellin for the 7-in-7 digital nomad conference, and I flew north to New York City to be a w00k. What can I say – some things never change…

While my wife was away making connections and learning things, I was busy jamming to some crunchy grooves. I saw Spafford in Brooklyn, Umphrey’s McGee at the historic Capitol Theatre, and two nights of Phish in Albany. Oh yeah, and then I saw two more nights of Phish in Nashville. I had to compensate for my wasted summer vacation.

November: This is What Space Smells Like

Las Vegas. Sin City. Some love it, some hate it. We lean to the former. While neither of us is big on gambling, fancy pool parties, or strip clubs, we love being in Las Vegas. We’ve been there four times in the last five years now, making it our most-visited American city in that time outside of our hometowns and the places we always need to connect in to get to them (Chicago, Charlotte, Nashville).

This time around, we went to Vegas for the Phish Halloween run along with the Disco Biscuits late nights. Since Halloween was on a Wednesday night, it was actually the first night of the run. As such, this ended up being the year-long party stop for November.

Phish in Las Vegas

What a run in Las Vegas!

We got a nice Airbnb apartment off the Strip with my brother and some friends and had an awesome six nights in Vegas. In addition to the concerts, we got to see the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil performance. Holy shit was that awesome!

Once again, the Phishcuits Vegas run was one for the books. It’s hard to beat seeing your two favorite bands in a city that lets you get absolutely wild. We even stayed up partying with old friends until sunrise on the last night. That’s something we never do anymore!

November/December: Home for the Holidays

To wind down the year-long party, we decided to go home for the holidays. I hadn’t spent Thanksgiving at home since 2007, so we went to Michigan from Vegas and stayed for the rest of the month. Of course, we saw a few shows and partied with friends on the weekends.

In December, we headed to Rachel’s neck of the woods to spend some time with her family. First up was the Christmas Jam in Asheville, which is basically a 2-day indoor music festival. We got to hang with some of Rachel’s college buddies and then enjoyed being snowed in up in the mountains for a couple of days.

A great way to end the year-long party.

As usual, Christmas was a bit hectic. We had three different family gatherings in three cities in two states. It was a bit tiring, but we had a great time visiting her family and are really happy we got to have such long visits with each of our fams. That’s definitely one of the major perks of making your own schedule!

The cherry on the top of the epic year-long party was Phish’s four-night NYE run in New York. It was our first YEMSG New Year’s and we had an amazing time. We didn’t do any touristy stuff – been there, done that – but we did see the best band in the world at the World’s Most Famous Arena.

As silver balloons dropped on the crowd while Trey and Mike floated above us singing “This is what space smells like, you will always remember where you were!”, the year-long party officially came to a close. What a perfect way to end the year, too. We will always remember where we were.

Final Thoughts

When I first came up with the idea for the year-long party, even I thought it was pretty far-fetched. I knew we’d be able to get through the first half of the year, as we already had plans for all those big events. When the Phish festival got canceled, though, we almost thought it was over.

We had used all our miles, spent a ton of money, and taken a whole week off of work in the busy summer season. There was no way we could afford to fly somewhere else to catch another event in August. Thankfully, Mexico is awesome. We actually had a great time in Guadalajara, and that weekend really salvaged the year-long party.

In the end, I’m glad we went for it and I’m really happy with the way the whole thing worked out. We crossed some serious bucket-list items off (Carnaval, World Cup, Machu Picchu, Phish NYE at the Garden), returned to some of our favorite places/events (Puerto Vallarta, Summer Camp, Vegas), and we got to spend a lot of time with friends and family.

Thanks to everyone who shared in this crazy journey with us, from our hostel mates in Valparaiso to our crew on the Sky Bridge at the Phish show in NYC. The year-long party wouldn’t have been half as fun without all the amazing people we got to spend it with!

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