It’s been quite the eventful year and one that we never really anticipated would be possible. We started 2017 at home, in England, dreaming of setting off travelling again and earning enough through freelancing and our blog to support that. We’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve in Mexico, having been here for 7 months and visited a total of five countries this year too.
I love looking back on what we’ve up to and where were’ve been at this time of year because it just makes me feel so grateful and helps to process the crazy amount of accomplishments that we’ve achieved in order to get to this point. We actually started writing this update together as a single post but we each had so much too say that we’ve had to split it into three!
So first up here’s where in the world we’ve physically been during 2017, which places have been our favourites, which not so much and some highs and lows of our adventures.
England - The Good & The Bad
We came back to cold, wet England from a year of epic travel adventures in November 2016 and so after the excitement of catching up with friends and family and spending Christmas with them, January was a pretty miserable month for us. Even though well before we set foot back in England we’d made a commitment to continue to travel, we had a serious case of travel blues.
Not long after we landed back in the UK, we received a notice from our tenants, who we were renting our house out to in Nottingham, that they would be moving out in January. So we had a choice to make. Did we rent it out again straight away? Or did we move back in for a period whilst we decided what our next moves were?
After having been staying with family and friends for a few weeks we opted to move back into our house to allow us some space to work from to build our freelance work up to a stage where we could set off on our travels again. The only issue was that bills and a mortgage are obviously expensive, so to start with much of what we were earning was going on that, leaving us feeling kind of ‘stuck’.
And we kind of felt in limbo being back in the house, enjoying being settled but also not at the same time. The internet took ages to be installed so we were spending most days in the library in town, bidding for contracts and pitching for writing gigs. Needing something concrete to work towards, it’s in the library that we one day spontaneously booked one way flights to Mexico.
We spent a total of five months back in England and in hindsight although it was kind of necessary, it was too long. Don’t get us wrong, England will always be home. We just definitely prefer you in summer Blighty. We came back at completely the wrong time of year. We hate the cold. Like seriously hate it and being surrounded by grey dark skies through an English winter was just not good for our mental health.
Ireland - A Flying Trip
So to combat that, once we had a bit more income flowing, we planned a few trips to feed our travel obsessions and first up was Ireland. Not that the weather was so much better. But each of us have family connections with Ireland so it was a place we were excited to explore and it was an absolute blast. We took a 12 day road trip around pretty much the whole of the country, North and South, saw the most stunning scenery and met some incredible people.
It was quite an intense time because we were not only working with a car rental company and hotels, we were moving almost every day and trying to keep on top of our regular freelance work that we were still building up. But it solidified the idea that in order for us to work and travel simultaneously, we were going to have to slow right down so as not to burn ourselves out.
Sweden - Friendship Perks
Next up we popped over to a little known place called Lidköping in Sweden, on an invite from one of our good friends who lives in London now, but grew up there and was going over to visit family. Again it was pretty bloody cold, but Sweden is much brighter and it was such a beautiful thing to be able to experience a foreign country through the eyes of the people who live there.
We learnt so much about Swedish traditions, practiced the art of fika, ate some amazing food and saw some seriously gorgeous countryside. And the articles we wrote about what we got up to there even got picked up by the local and national tourism boards which was was an incredible achievement for our fledgling travel blog. Win!
Scotland - We’ll Be Back
Our final adventure close to home before we left on our second one way ticket to the other side of the world took us right up north to Scotland and was a bit of a last minute thing. We were working with a company who were sponsoring us to walk the 100 mile West Highland Way in return for promotion of their brand and it was a little on and off until a couple of weeks before. Fortunately my good friend, Rachel, was on hand to receive us in Glasgow, a place we so want to get back to next year.
But unfortunately the last minuteness meant that we weren't in the best shape and our bodies struggled with the stress of walking so many miles day after day. Annoyingly I busted my knee pretty badly on the third day and James had to carry on on his own whilst I experienced the rest of the way by bus, meeting him at each overnight spot. But despite the difficulties, the Scottish Highlands was an incredible journey, definitely cementing our love of hiking and Scotland in general.
Mexico - A Country Misunderstood
So that was pretty much the first half of 2017 and in June it was time to head off with our backpacks once again on a much anticipated 8 month odyssey around Mexico. Although we had one way tickets booked we knew that we would be back for my sister’s wedding in March 2018, but it felt so good to be hitting the open road again without too much of a plan.
And so I’m writing this sat in a cafe in Mexico City having spent since June travelling around this vast, intriguing and beautiful country. It’s so funny to us looking back that we had no comprehension of just how big Mexico is and are now firmly of the understanding that you would need a lifetime and then some to get anywhere near to seeing everything on offer here.
But we’ve had a good go! We started in Mexico City and needing to catch our breath and get into a bit of routine for figuring out this working travel lifestyle we are creating, spent nearly 2 months in Mexico City. It’s a place that we have fallen head over heels for and can see ourselves spending a considerable more amount of time in in the future.
The route we then took around the country, spending a week or more in each place, lead first to the state of Quintana Roo and along the coast from Cancun to Isla Mujeres, Tulum, Mahahual and Bacalar before we dropped over the border into Belize to renew James’s visa. Unfortunately whilst in Cancun my Nan sadly passed away and I took the decision to go back home for a couple of weeks to support family, leaving James to explore Isla Mujeres on his own before rejoining him in Tulum.
We hadn’t intended to spend long in Belize but were so drawn in by the beautiful island of Caye Caulker and the Caribbean vibe that we decided to stay a while longer. From the east we travelled through Belize City and over to San Ignacio and then through to Guatemala, spending a few days in Flores before abandoning ship and fleeing the torrential rains back into Mexico.
Both are countries we will return to one day I’m sure, particularly Guatemala. But rainy season there was too much even for us. So we stepped back onto Mexican soil again in the state of Chiapas, hitting up Palenque and San Cristobal after around a month out. By this point we were craving some beach time, so after celebrating the beautiful Mexican Day of the Dead holiday in Oaxaca we headed to the small beach town of Mazunte on the coast of Oaxaca state.
It’s a place where I think, if we didn’t have the travel bug or the travel blog, we could have happily lived out the rest of our days in. There's just something magical about it. But the wifi is super shitty so some days were a mixed bag of both incredible sunsets and deadline frustrations. From the Oaxaca coast we then headed up to Mexico’s second city of Guadalajara. Another part of Mexico that we absolutely adored and wish we had had way longer time to spend in.
But there were two more parts of Mexico that we had been dreaming of exploring from before we had even stepped on the plane and were eager to get to. So next up was the Baja California peninsula, originally we had planned to hire a camper van and spend a few weeks road tripping from north to south, but lack of internet options en route scuppered that plan.
Instead we spent a few weeks stationed in the port town of La Paz and hired a car to explore the southern tip over a few days instead. Unfortunately we didn’t really enjoy this part of Mexico, mainly because, well, it just wasn’t very Mexican. You can read more here. So we were glad to get onto the next leg of the adventure, which was the epic Copper Canyon in the state of Chihuahua.
And epic it was. So epic in fact that this part of Mexico holds some of our favourite and dearest travel escapades to date. Which more than made up for Baja being such a let down. Magical train rides and zip lining over the canyon. Yes, yes and yes! Then we came full circle back to our beloved Mexico City, immediately feeling like we were home once we got here and sad to leave again before we’ve even left!
Our friends and family were pretty anxious about us choosing to travel in the ‘drug ridden’, ‘violent’ country that is portrayed by the international media, but that image of Mexico couldn’t be further from our truth. And so through our blog and modest social media channels we’ve been flying the flag for Mexico and encouraging everyone and anyone who will listen to get over here.
At least two people have been listening to us, because as I write this two of our best friends from England are on their way over to visit us for two weeks and we are so excited to show them around Mexico City before we head over to explore Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita for some much anticipated beach time again.
Which give or take a few weeks will bring Mexico to a close for us and we will more less start the year again back in the UK. But we’re not staying for so long this time, we have big plans for 2018…
Friendships - On The Road
We’ve met loads of incredible people during our travels in Mexico in particular, some of whom we have become really good friends with. After leaving friends and family behind in England we were welcomed to Mexico City by Laura (who blogs over at Eternal Expat) and her fella, Luke. We had such a blast hanging out them in the craft beer bars around Roma during our time here and are sure we’ll catch up again somewhere else in the world.
And our time on the Baja was pleasantly punctuated by meeting up with more fellow bloggers, Fiona and Jerry of A Couple of Drifters and talking about Yorkshire Puddings, good pubs, savvy travel and our mutual disappointment for the Baja. We also became really good friends with our Airbnb hosts in La Paz too, Mona and Juan Carlos, and hope to see them in Europe next year.
In Chihuahua we met a couple of guys that made our stay there great. Roberto was another airbnb host that we really clicked with, the bottle of wine he gave us as a leaving present from his brothers winery was a lovely touch. And then there was Ricardo the brewer who we met in a coffee shop and he invited us to to his brewery for a beer tasting session. Just such generous, lovely people.
One of the great things about having a blog and associated social media channels is that it means people following our travels often reach out if they’re in the same place. We had so much fun hanging out with friends of friends, Alex and Lena over Day of The Dead celebrations in Oaxaca and Jim and May from Spanish and Go - check out there videos on Mexico, they are incredible!
And before we head back to England we get to catch up with our good friends, Nick and Dariece, of Goats on the Road. We actually also met up early in the year too so it’s such a fab coincidence that we’re all in the same place again.
2017 has been a big confidence for booster for us, and a realisation of a dream that we can continue to travel and support ourselves financially. Not only working remotely, but doing work that we genuinely get up on a morning and look forward to. Minus the internet issues, ha ha!
Stay tuned for more specifics about how we are earning a living these days, how we got started and what our plans are going forward in this amazing freelancer/blogging world.