August 29, 2017… I took the red-eye from Chicago over the Atlantic ocean for the very first time in my life. My only emotion I remember feeling was pure excitement. I remember landing in Reykjavik, Iceland for a very quick layover on my route to Sweden. Going through immigration felt so surreal because all my life, I dreamed of visiting Europe.
I remember walking through the Reykjavik airport, thinking that it smelled like IKEA, and just smiling to myself at that thought. It was my first time traveling alone and I had no idea where to go, just following the crowd. I quickly made my way to my connecting flight with the fear I may miss it; because my flight leaving Chicago was delayed.
I was then on my way from Iceland to Stockholm, Sweden. I think it was about noon that I arrived. Flying for 9 hours total, jumping forward in time 6 hours… and I still had one more flight to go. From Stockholm, I flew to a smaller city, Kalmar. At about 3pm, I finally made it to my final destination.
When I exited the airport, I remember the weather was perfect that day. The grass was vividly green… and everything around me was perfect. I took a breath of fresh air… and welcomed this new chapter of my life.
And that’s a day that I will never, ever forget.
Today, I’m celebrating traveling for one year. Here’s a timeline of it all:
- 3 months in Kalmar, Sweden
- 1 month in Bangkok, Thailand
- 1 month in Canggu, Bali
- 1 month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- 6 weeks in Penang, Malaysia
- 3 weeks in Chiang Mai, Thailand
- 1 week in Bangkok, Thailand
- 2 weeks in Paoay, Philippines
- 3 days in Manila, Philippines
- 1 month in Lovina, Bali
- 6 weeks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- 4 weeks in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
It’s not over either! Here’s what’s to come:
- 3 weeks in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- 1 month in Chiang Mai, Thailand
- 2 months in Kalmar, Sweden
And then… well, it’s undecided. But, Europe is the plan. So, if you’re a travel blogger currently in Europe; please leave a comment below. I absolutely would love to read about where to travel to.
I’m so happy to have started blogging about my travels over the past year. I’ve met some great people, collected a few interesting stories to share, and have grown much more than I could ever do if I was still living back home in St. Louis.
Everyone who has been part of my journey, whether we’ve talked or you’re simply just witnessing it all unfold; thank you. I get so giddy and overly-excited when someone links to my blog saying, “check out Dianna – she has great info” or just us having a normal conversation. I appreciate all those little moments so much!
If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I recently reached out to answer some questions you may have to celebrate my travel-anniversary. Here’s what you guys asked:
From @sophiemarak – Do you have a bucket list? If yes, what’s your top 5?
Absolutely! It’s not something I have written down, although I should, my bucket list is always ever-changing in my mind. This is it at the moment: Barcelona, Budapest, Iceland (during the Northern Lights), Porto and Tokyo.
From @suzystories – Where do you hope to be on your next travel anniversary?
Another year from now… wow, that’s tough to think about. It just feels so far! I think it would be amazing to be in Amsterdam. I feel like it would be a beautiful city to be in at the end of summer.
From @albell42017 – What was your most exciting travel experience over the past year?
Aside from my actual initial travel from America to Europe, it would have to be visiting a castle for the first time. I spent so many nights at the Kalmar Castle and it’s so unique to me because I would never be able to find anything like it back home. So many of my first travel memories are at that castle… I just love being there.
From @elleloutravels – What are your best tips for saving money/making your money go farther when traveling long term?
Booking accommodation for at least a month. I use Airbnb because many hosts offer monthly discounts. During my recent visit to Kuala Lumpur, I paid about $390 for my own apartment. Since I booked for a month, it was about 50% off and should have cost me nearly $800. Even if you stay somewhere for 3 weeks, booking for a month can still save you money rather than booking your exact dates.
I also try to eat local. Since I’ve been in Asia, western food comes with a price (it’s not as high as what you may be used to) but I know I can eat meals for a dollar or two if I just eat what the norm is for that area. And if eating out is too expensive, like places in Europe, then I just cook meals at home. I enjoy home-cooked meals and it really helps me settle into these unknown places while saving money at the same time.
One last thing, keep your priorities straight. There’s not many things you need to pay for: travel, accommodation, and food. Yes, you may need to grab a new shampoo once a month or replace an item or two every now and then. However, don’t buy unnecessary items.
From @theblissbean – Any tips that you’ve picked up along the way for traveling light (especially for clothes)?
I have an entire post written about this! You can read all about that here. The post is directed towards traveling in southeast Asia, but honestly you can use the same guidelines for traveling in more cold climates also. But here’s the TL;DR of it all: you don’t need a million body products, your makeup collection, and your entire closet. Limit yourself to only a small bag for toiletries and pack clothing that can be worn with multiple outfits. You want to have the ability to turn 3 shirts and 3 pants into 9 outfits.
From @recommenderthe – Do you always try and get a stamp in your passport when you travel somewhere new?
Yes, yes, yes! I’ve never really had a collection of anything in my life, but seeing the different stamps in my passport is very exciting for me. Although, I’m already counting how many pages I have left and am wondering the easiest way to apply for a new passport (hopefully a larger one) overseas… anyone have experience on doing this? Please let me know!
From @theweekendfox – What’s one thing you never travel without?! (Besides the obvious like passport, camera, etc.)
This may sound so unnecessary, but I have a pretty big bluetooth speaker. It probably takes up 1/4th of my suitcase, but it’s so worth it to me. If there’s one thing that makes me feel at home, it’s being able to blast music when and wherever I please. It can easily fit in my tote bag, so if I want to have a beach party or chill out on my balcony with some music to set the mood – I can!
From @laurencetobias1 – Do you ever feel unsafe in certain places? Or have any guys “bothered” you?
I haven’t encountered any situations like this with guys, mainly because I always try to be around someone or a group of people. When you isolate yourself is when these situations happen and I learned that very early on when I was younger from when I started going out with my friends.
However, I have for sure felt unsafe in places though, I’m already a little paranoid at times – I blame living in the states honestly. I just have never felt 100% safe. I’m always trying to read into people’s body language and am always thinking of the worst that can happen. But, there is one place I’ve visited that was unreal to me: Sweden. Never had a worry in my mind! Chiang Mai, Thailand is also a place that I felt quite safe in, just not 100%.