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2017 In Review: A Strange But Fulfilling Year

2017 has come to an end, and it’s been a funny one.

Following on from my 2014, 2015 and 2016 reviews, I’m going to take a moment to reflect on 2017 and my thoughts on the year.

As I always say, you should do the same 🙂

Blogging

 

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I did do quite a lot of writing in the first half of the year. When In Berlin, A Tammisaari Story, and Things Are Nice In Switzerland were some stories I added to my collection. I actually love all three of them, and I read them every now and again. Some musings I put together were also popular – We Should All Be So CuriousThe Real Reason You’re Afraid To Chase Your Dreams and What Do You Do When Your Dreams Come True?

Then later in the year, and my email subscribers already know this; I took a hiatus from blogging. I became quite disillusioned with blogging in general, and decided I needed a “holiday”. I know it can sound funny for a travel blogger to need a holiday, but we need them too, like everybody else. I decided I would let my blogging schedule go – no promotion, no writing, or any other blogging duties for the rest of the year.

So what did I do?

Funnily enough, I couldn’t stay away too long and just kept working. But taking the pressure off myself to write regularly was a huge change. In that time I wrote a short (and free) course on building niche sites, I wrote a few accommodation guides just to keep the site active, and I did some niche site building of my own. Working only when I wanted, rather than forcing myself to work, was a refreshing change I needed.

Other than that, there really isn’t much to tell you about the blog. There were no big redesigns, no big product launches – it just kind of chugged along. I’m not sure exactly where it goes in 2018, but I’ll be writing, that’s for sure.

Finances

Everything is going fine. As you’ve probably heard, Bitcoin went through the sky this year which has made me a handsome sum, as has the stockmarket which I also have skin in. The blog income continues to trickle in, although I’m still reluctant to monetise it heavily which has put a ceiling on how much it can make. 

As I touched on earlier, I started investing time in building niche sites this year which has been a lot of fun – something to get me away from the blog but still do something productive. The problem is I have too many ideas and I keep trying to start more projects, which isn’t good, I need to focus on a small few! So that will be something to focus on next year.

Other than that, nothing eye opening to share here. I’m just ticking along.

Hobbies and learning

I was in New Zealand until June, and was training at Auckland MMA five times a week. I love the complexity of martial arts and how you can never finish learning – there is always more to challenge yourself with and always someone better than you. Plus getting punched in the face helps you learn stuff pretty quickly. I also did some self training while on the road and spent a few weeks tuning up at a gym in Namibia – I’ll talk more about that in the travel section below.

 

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I also spent some time surfing during those early months, but not as much as I wanted to. It started with another surf camp with the guys at Rapu, which is always awesome. I’m at that annoying point with my surfing where I’m stuck between “not a beginner” but “still kinda shit”. I’m good enough for small waves, but still getting smoked on medium waves. And I’ve graduated from a longboard but still not good enough for a shortboard. I’ve noticed this happens with pretty much every new thing you learn, and if you just grind it out you’ll pass the plateau. Hopefully I’ll get my wave count up next year and start shredding some real ocean.

 

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I also started writing music this year. It’s been a lot of fun. Poetry, songs. I can’t make beats so I steal them off Youtube, but it was a regular outlet for me early in the year. On the road it’s a bit harder to write, but I still did a little writing out there. Nothing to pursue professionally but a lot of fun.

As for next year – I still want to learn an instrument. I’ve come to terms with the fact the guitar doesn’t like me, though. I’m moving on to something new.

Also, I read 15 books this year! New record.

Friends & Family

I’ve become a total travel SNOB. I became really choosey this year about who I spent my time with. I passed on a lot of social events, because I already knew what was going to happen – people were going to get drunk, spend lots of money, take selfies and get a hangover. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but I was super selective about who I would do that with.

 

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In hostels I used to always head to the lounge and chill with people, this year I avoided that almost entirely to read or work. I couldn’t sit there and listen to how another person was finding themselves and how travel was teaching them so much (told you – total travel snob). But the people I did take the time to know were awesome – smile.

I also got the chance to connect with a lot of old friends this year. I’ll touch on that in the travel section, but it was nice to see lots of familiar faces around the world. As your travel network grows the world becomes a lot smaller and friendlier.

As for family I was home in New Zealand for almost half the year, plus I travelled with my parents for a few weeks, and saw all my extended family in Australia for the grandfather’s 100th birthday. All good stuff.

 

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Health

It’s tough staying in shape on the road, but I did a pretty good job this year. I’m actually in the middle of a juice cleanse as we speak, which I do once a year or so, but I’m starting off in better shape than usual. At the end of the year I often have a tendency to let myself go, but I stayed in control this time – lots of fruits, veges, and minimal alcohol.

 

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Overall, the first year of my thirties was almost perfect healthwise. A few ailments to be expected here and there, but nothing that affected my day-to-day life.

I’ve also had no serious injuries this year. The shoulder has been perfect and everything else has stayed together pretty well. I did a lot of maintenance and mobilisation work while I was in New Zealand, and I’ve been learning about that stuff for a few years, so it seems to be paying off now. I also follow a lot of mobility channels on Instagram which always give me fun and easy exercises to do on the road. @moveu_official is one of my favourites.

The one thing I do want to work on next year is my paddling fitness. People always assume I’m the fittest guy in the squad until I get into the surf. Five minutes of paddling and I’m stuffed! I think it’s because my arms are so short. That’s the next obstacle to getting my surf game on point.

Travel

When I looked back on the year my first thought was “I didn’t travel that much”, and compared to last year that may be true, but I did actually do a lot!

I left New Zealand for Tanzania in June. I spent the about five weeks there, tutoring some of my students. I visit this part of Tanzania almost every year, so it’s always nice to come back and see how things have changed. My Swahili also improved a lot, which I was really happy with.

 

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After all my kids went back to school I had a month to spare, so I caught the bus up to Kenya and spent about five weeks in Nairobi. One of my old classmates from France lives up there, so we connected and she showed me what today’s Nairobi is all about.

 

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It has changed so much since I first visited there in 2012. Before all the coffee shops were filled with white expats and businessmen. Today, they are all filled with young Kenyans. The younger generation are all coming out of university talking about social issues and building startups and NGOs and are out socialising and having fun on weekends. It’s going to be a great city when it matures.

After Nairobi I had to fly back down south to Australia. I had a family reunion in Coolangatta – my grandfather turned 100 and we all gathered to celebrate. What an awesome thing to be a part of. 

 

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From there, I joined my parents on a trip back to the motherland. My parents have gotten over the Africa phobia most people have and have now seen Morocco, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Botswana and Tanzania. More countries than me!

We spent about two weeks in Namibia, visiting the famous sand dunes and Etosha National Park. Namibia wasn’t a country I knew much about, but I was intrigued after seeing it for the first time. It’s unique, unlike any other country I’ve been to. As it turned out, I would return soon.

 

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From Namibia, we ventured up to Zimbabwe to visit the Victoria Falls. The falls were, in a word, overrated. But Victoria Falls itself was a cool little town, not the hopeless Zimbabwe that CNN makes you believe it is. 

 

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After Victoria Falls, I had to return to Tanzania. On the journey over I spent one night in Zimbabwe’s capital – Harare – where I Couchsurfed with a girl and her mother. She showed me around Harare which turned out to be quite different than I expected. It’s a slow city, obviously not without problems, but not hopeless either. I think it has great things ahead of it with the right leadership.

That second stint in Tanzania was about a month, to see one of my students graduate. This was a special moment for us and I was so grateful to be there to share it with her. Other than that, Tanzania is much like home now. Travelling there isn’t so much a holiday but returning to a familiar place and routine. Travellers have a tendency to build homes in different places around the world. Tanzania is one of mine.

 

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Next – Germany! One of my biggest inspirations – J.Cole – was touring his new album this year, and I bought tickets to his Berlin show back in March. This was only because his New Zealand show sold out in about ten seconds, so I bought a ticket for his Berlin concert instead. I really had no intention of actually going to it, I just wanted to buy a ticket to support him.

As it turned out, my schedule cleared just in time and I realised I could actually go! I booked a flight to Berlin and the show was incredible – the highlight of the year.

 

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I was only supposed to be in Germany for about a week, but as we know it never works out that way. My dear friend Fernanda had an empty apartment in Berlin (long story) where I was able to sleep for free, so I stayed on for a while. I got to meet up with all my old friends from last year’s Berlin chapter, and it was just like old times. Berlin’s a funny city – not very pretty, but always a good time.

Part of the reason I was in Germany so long was, I couldn’t decide what to do! I thought I could travel Europe a little, or head back to Africa, or even just go home. But something about Namibia was calling me back. I had driven past the surf there on my earlier visit, and it looked special. Surfing Africa. I checked flights and, like a sign, Germany to Namibia turned out to be insanely cheap (Namibia is an old German colony). 

The flight was from Cologne, so I caught the overnight bus to Cologne, explored that city a little, and then jumped on the plane a few days later.

 

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Namibia was a good finale to the year. I actually got stuck in Windhoek – the capital – for longer than expected. I didn’t want to head to the surf right away, plus I was a little tired, and wanted to see what Windhoek had to offer. I got an Airbnb for a month, joined the kickboxing gym down the road and tried to see what the city was about.

 

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Windhoek is sleepy for a capital, but it can be a lot of fun too. It’s quite unique – both the racial mix and the culture. I’ll probably be able to write a whole post about it. Also, my buddy Janika, who I met during last year’s Eurotrip, was in town on a volunteer post. I got to see some of the local scene and mix it up with her crew for a few weeks.

 

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Finally in December I headed out to the coast. I stayed at a surf hostel in Swakopmund called the Salty Jackal; the passion project of Olli – a young German Namibian guy.

 

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I spent about two weeks here, and lots of good times were had in this hostel, from early morning surfs to sandboarding to barbecues and just all-round good fun. I was sad to leave, but soon it was time to head home for Christmas, as always.

The route home for Xmas had one last little adventure. I flew through Doha, and I’ve had some pretty long layovers in that airport. However this particular one was 20+ hours, so I decided to venture out and get a hotel for the night. That meant I finally got to walk around Doha and see what it was like. Cool way to cap off the year.

 

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Overall I knocked over three new countries (Qatar, Namibia and Zimbabwe), and visited four oldies (Germany, Tanzania, Kenya, Australia). Not the wildest of years but still a lot of hours on the road!

Plans for 2018

Absolutely nothing!

As for travel, most likely I will be Africa bound again but I’m not sure. Re the blog, I plan to go back to old school writing, and move away from the more monetised posts. I wrote some slightly more commercial stuff in 2017 mostly as an experiment, and it didn’t seem worth it or bring the results I was hoping. Rather than keep the blog as a central part of my life, I feel it needs to be more as a side hobby, a labour of love, where I can write freely when I feel like it. I suspect it will move that way for most of 2018.

That of course doesn’t mean I won’t be busy. I always have something to work on, and my laptop will continue to come with me everywhere I go. 

Again, thank you all for being here! Even though I’ve been absent for some months, it’s been amazing to have you tag along as always. This blog continues to bring so many great people into my life, I couldn’t be more grateful. Hopefully will meet many more of you in the coming year.

Keep on living,

Bren

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