Reflections on a Decade of Travel

by Sasha Savinov

It’s hard to believe we’ve reached the end of not just the year, but the freaking decade. A lot has happened for us in the last ten years. We’ve lived in three different countries and traveled to dozens of others. We started this website about halfway through the decade and have been documenting the adventure ever since. Here are some reflections on a decade of travel and a look ahead at the one to come.

Moving to China

Ten years ago, we were gearing up to go see Phish in Miami for New Year’s Eve. While there, we got the unfortunate news that our place in Tennessee had been broken into. Rachel’s computer, my guitar, and several other things were stolen. Weeks later, her car was also broken into.

We were both under-employed and were living on food stamps, despite both having college degrees and plenty of internships, extracurricular activities, and more under our belts. In short, we felt defeated. Needing a drastic change, we booked one-way flights to China to teach English.

That one year ended up turning into five. We spent 3.5 years living in Beijing and another year down south in Kunming. In that time, we managed to travel all over China. We did epic things like sleeping on the Great Wall and trekking in stunning national parks.

Gubeikou Camp

Camping on the Great Wall

Getting Bit by the Travel Bug

During longer holidays, we went backpacking in Thailand and Laos, took a short trip to Japan, and vacationed in the Philippines. We also visited Bali and absolutely fell in love with the island.

The travel bug bit us hard and it was an itch we just couldn’t scratch enough with full-time jobs. That led us to quit those cushy jobs, leave our nice apartment, give away many of our things, and hit the road on a 14-month gap year.

During our gap year, we went on an unforgettable road trip across the US, visiting national parks and seeing concerts. We also went back to Southeast Asia and spent more than half a year exploring the region. We got scuba certified in Thailand, visited Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and did a motorbike trip in Vietnam.

Of course, we just had to return to Bali. After backpacking across Java, we spent another two weeks on the Island of the Gods. This time we visited more off-the-beaten-path locations and our love for the island only grew.

Bagan, Myanmar – part of our gap year travels.

Living in Yunnan

As much as we wanted to keep traveling, we were running out of energy and money. We set up shop in Kunming, where Rachel went back to teaching full-time and I dove into the world of freelance writing and blogging.

We couldn’t sit still for too long. Despite limited time off for Rachel, we still managed to squeeze in some big adventures. From trekking at Tiger Leaping Gorge to celebrating Chinese New Year in a remote village, we really enjoyed our year in Yunnan province.

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A slice of Tibetan culture in Yunnan.

Getting Hitched

Speaking of love, we finally got engaged at the end of 2014. Not surprisingly, it happened at a Phish concert. We were once again in Miami to ring in another New Year with our favorite band.

I wanted the engagement to be a surprise, which was a bit stressful. The ring almost didn’t make it in time, and actually ended up being delivered to my brother’s grimy Miami motel just hours before the show. Thankfully it all worked out, and we started planning a wedding in 2015.

Thanks to lots of help from our amazing mothers, we had a great engagement party in Detroit and the wedding of our dreams in Asheville. We got married on Cloud 9 surrounded by our favorite people.

That summer also included the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary shows and six Phish shows. We met at a festival, got engaged at a Phish show, and started married life on tour. It was only fitting.

Marriage rocks!

Living in Bali

Our love for Bali was so strong that we returned for an entire year. It was right after our wedding and we decided to take an extended honeymoon in our favorite destination.

I was in a scholarship program where I actually got paid to study the language and culture of Indonesia. While the program itself was kind of a joke, I learned plenty outside of the classroom. From going to a cremation ceremony in my teacher’s village to watching the processions for Balinese New Year, it was an amazing year.

While we didn’t have many visitors in China, everyone wanted to come see us in Bali. We welcomed over 20 visitors throughout the year and had plenty of fun adventures with family and friends.

We also stepped up our efforts on the blog and tried to find ways to move all of our work online. At the end of our stay in Bali, we found out about teaching English online. Rather than sign a contract somewhere to teach again, we hit the road with our newfound location-independent jobs.

teaching English online Bali beach

Enjoying life in Bali.

South of the Border and Over the Moon

We headed south of the border this time and moved to Mexico. One month turned into seven as we found ourselves a new sweetheart – Puerto Vallarta. It’s been our home away from home for half of the year for the past three years now. We love eating all the tacos and hanging out on the beach with margaritas in hand.

In between those longer stints in PV, we’ve had some grand adventures. The biggest one was definitely spending seven months traveling South America as digital nomads. We tried out nomad hubs like Medellin, Santiago, and Lima. Traveling as a nomad is definitely quite a bit different than traveling as a backpacker!

While we had to fit in plenty of time for teaching and blogging, we also managed to cross some big items off of our bucket-list. We visited the Galapagos Islands, went hiking in Patagonia, and did a 3-day trek to Machu Picchu.

Jengle Trek to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu! We had to wait til the end of the trip but we did it!

We Like to Party, Sorry if You Don’t

Even though we were working, we still like to party. #SorryIfYouDont. So much so that we decided to make 2018 a “year-long party.” From Carnaval in Brazil, to WrestleMania in New Orleans, to a mariachi festival in Mexico, it was a wild year to say the least.

I also finally made it to Russia, as I traveled to the Motherland with one of my brothers. We hit four World Cup games in Moscow and St. Petersburg, with plenty of borscht and vodka along the way.

As you might expect, there were also plenty of shows and festivals. We went to Summer Camp again and I even became a Camp Counselor. Our first trip to Hulaween was unreal, as we finally got to see Jamiroquai.

Of course, we saw Phish again, and again, and again. Another trip to Las Vegas for Halloween was a raging good time, and we finally crossed New Year’s Eve at MSG off the list.

Hulaween Festival

We love music festivals!

Living the Nomad Life

After the year-long party, we had to slow down a bit and focus on work. This final year of the decade saw us try out a few new digital nomad hubs – Playa del Carmen, La Fortuna, and Antigua.

We managed to be pretty productive despite moving around quite a bit. I started writing for some of the best travel blogs out there and even got offered a cover story about digital nomad life for a major publication.

Rachel has been busting her ass all year working on creating a course to help people teach English online and transition into nomad life. She’s also set up some new affiliate programs and the website is finally earning an income.

With her motivation, I have put a lot of effort into making new videos and growing our YouTube channel. It isn’t easy and it can get frustrating at times, but we hit the 1,000 subscriber mark just last week. We’re both really excited about growing our channel moving into the new decade and have some great ideas we’re working on.

It wasn’t all work this year, though, that’s for sure. We grooved under the Spanish moon seeing Phish on the beach in Mexico and then went straight to Costa Rica for Envision Festival. A return to SCamp came in May, and then I got my 100th Phish show during our hippie vacation to Colorado.

I managed to mix work and play when I won a spot on the Selina Nomads Roadtrip. Myself and a dozen other nomads from around the world traveled to all seven Selina locations in Mexico.

We went surfing, visited ancient ruins, and so much more. It all wound down with the Nomad Summit in Cancun, which was a super fun conference to experience.

While we enjoy bouncing around as nomads, Puerto Vallarta called us back once again. It’s really started to feel like a home away from home, and we spent another six months there this year. It really checks all the boxes for us, and it’s a place we’ll continue to visit as long as we live.

Check out our entire 2019 year of travel in this 3-minute video!

A New Decade, A New Journey

As much as we love PV, we only plan to spend a month there in 2020. It’s a big world out there, and there’s a lot we want to see. Rachel has never been to Europe, I’ve never been Down Under, and neither of us have visited Africa.

At the moment, our plans are to spend January in the Yucatan. We’re showing my brother and his fiancée around Mexico for their first trip and couldn’t be more excited.

From there, we’re heading back to Colombia to focus on work and learning Spanish in Medellin. We’re also going to Barranquilla for Carnaval, which should be tons of fun.

Other ideas we’re throwing around include taking the boat trip from Colombia to Panama, hitting some more national parks in the US, and finally taking a Euro-trip together.

After a few years of bouncing around and living out of our backpacks, we’re both contemplating the idea of finding a home base again. That being said, there are murmurs of a Phish festival, we have a wedding to get to in South Korea in October, and there are just so many places we want to visit.

Medellin Digital Nomad

We’re excited to get back to Medellin!

Final Thoughts

As I sit here writing this at the end of the decade, my heart is full. We just finished up a massive 2-month backpacking trip and made it home in time to celebrate the holidays with Rachel’s family.

We’re spending the next week seeing some of our favorite bands before flying back to our favorite country. Forgive me for being so Millennial, but we really are #blessed.

Our lifestyle is fun, but it can be lonely and exhausting. We feel so grateful for all the support and encouragement that we get. Not only from friends and family, but also from everyone who reads the blogs, watches the YouTube channel, and sends us e-mails.

Thanks so much for following along on this long, strange trip we call life. We’ll see ya’ll in 2020 as we kick off the “Raging 20’s.”

 

 

What’s your biggest highlight of the decade? Tell us in the comments 🙂

1 comment

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1 comment

Mike Scott December 31, 2019 - 5:38 pm

Nice work! Always enjoy your exploits, enthusiasm and honesty.

Reply

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