2017 was a year of HUUUUUGE CHANGE!!!
I began the year behind a desk at a job I didn’t really enjoy anymore, still living in a city where I no longer felt like at home.
But all that changed, as two short weeks into the year, I was boarding a flight for what was going to be my first gap year travelling abroad.
When I left Canada I had a plan.
I was to begin my 2017 travel year by visiting family in South America. I was to travel through Peru, Bolivia and Argentina for the first 3 months of the year. Once in Buenos Aires, I would make my way to South Africa and travel through Africa for about 3 months. Then, I would make my way through Europe for another 3 months, visiting friends I had made through my previous travels, and finally getting to the eastern part of the continent. Finally, I would end the year in Asia, where I would look for a job to teach English for a year or so.
Well, that whole plan went to shit…..and it’s not a bad thing.
Anyone who travels extensively will tell you: PLANS CHANGE. And, man! Did they change for me, big time! 4 continents, 18 countries, and 44 cities later, this is how my 2017 travel year went down:
I fell quite ill while hiking to Laguna 69 in Huaraz, Peru; so much so that it took away any desire of going through more cold weather and high altitudes (for the time being). So instead of going south, I decided to bus my way north through Ecuador, making a quick stop-over in Cuenca, all the way to Colombia, where I spent close to a month-and-a-half.
And man, I fell in love with Colombia!
I know I say this about a few countries every now and then, but Colombia is definitely one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to!
Cities like Salento, Medellin, San Gil and Sogamoso will always stay engraved in my mind and heart. Colombia offered many highs (like doing my first bungee jump) and very few lows (like running out of water on an 8-hour-long hike), and the people that I met (both locals and travellers) were simply amazing. Some of them I would even see again later in the year in a totally different continent.
I had only been once to Belgium up until that point, only having visited Brussels. Not having particularly liked it, I decided to give the country a second chance, and headed towards the cities of Gent and Bruges. In between both cities, I would spend a totally awesome weekend in the city of Lille, in France, simply because why the hell not? I’ was in Europe!
I got in touch with a friend from previous travels, who offered me to stay at his place in Amsterdam. That wasn a hard decision to make; a chance to being hosted in a city like Amsterdam was hard to pass, especially after having spent a small fortune touring Luxembourg just before (which I also loved and is my favorite country in western Europe). This stopover also allowed me to see a friend I had met in Tanzania a year earlier.
Finally I arrived in Berlin, where I stayed with a girl I had previously met while in Colombia. As my luck would have it, I spent my stay in Berlin sick with a man-cold, and even though I was able to experience much of Berlin like a local, I could not go out and experience the great nightlife of the city (not for lack of trying, I got lost once…).
Overall, I spent about a month and a half travelling through western Europe. It wasn’t particularly cheap (click here to see the cost of this part of my trip), but it was definitely worth adding some new countries to my list.
After spending close to two months travelling through Eastern Europe, I wondered why I had waited so long to visit it.
Not only was my dollar stretched (click here for my list of expenses while in Eastern Europe), but damn!, was it everything that I expected and more!
Cities like Prague in Czech Republic, Krakow in Poland, and Timisoara in Romania left me with countless memories. Sighisoara in Romania will always remain as the most colorful city I have ever visited. And what about that time where I almost shit my pants while hiking in Romania’s haunted forest of Hoia Baciu???
On the other hand, Budapest failed to amaze me. For a city that had been hyped as “one of the highlights of many trips”, I was quite disappointed by how little I liked of it.
And it was during this trip through Eastern Europe that I would make a decision that would shape the second part of 2017. While nursing a hangover in Bratislava, I decided to “test” my CV and apply to a few teaching jobs in Asia to see if I got a reply. Little did I know that this test would prove successful, and within 72 hours I had a job offer to teach at an university in China.
A Short Return to Canada
I returned to Montreal with mixed feelings about it, not feeling quite ready yet to stop my travels, but thinking ahead and how living overseas as an expat would be a totally different experience than what I had lived through so far, and how this could finance a further period of travelling once I would be done teaching……whenever that might be.
With two full months of summer to spare, I did my best at playing tourist in my own city. I tried to discover new things to like about Montreal, and rekindled with some things I will forever hate about this city. I also made a point of travelling around Montreal, taking day trips whenever possible.
I also took on rock climbing, going up Montmorency Falls in Quebec City and Mont Tremblant, went hiking to Ausable Chasm in the USA, and took a few days to visit Toronto, a city I found has very little to offer tourists.
As the summer came to an end, so came the time to pack my bags and leave for China.
Life as an Expat
It has been 4 months since I arrived to China. Living in Changchun, a city in the northeast part of the country which sees a very little number of tourists; and even though there are many things I would’ve liked to know before moving to China, it has been so far an incredible experience.
In the last four months, I’ve had the chance to visit many Chinese cities which are way off-the-beaten-path, such as Shenyang, Yanji, Dandong, and Erdaobaihezhen. I also had the chance to tour Beijing, the capital of China, on a weekend.
Teaching has also been an amazing and rewarding experience, one which I’m loving every minute. Living as an expat, although quite different from the traveller life I had become accustomed to, is also something I’m quickly falling in love with.
What’s In Store For 2018
Discovering the rest of China.
Definitely, discovering the rest of China. And with the Spring Holiday only two weeks away, my first of many trips throughout the country begins.
As for the rest of the year; I still have half a semester left in my contract with the university in Changchun. After that, it is all up in the air, but more travel is definitely in the books for 2018.
Where? I’m not sure exactly.
When? I also don’t know.
But like any long-term traveller will tell you: because plans change so often, the best way to go about it is to remain open to a change of plans.
4 continents, 18 countries, 44 cities, and countless memories. That’s how amazing my 2017 travel year was. I am definitely excited by what 2018 might have in store for me in this brand new life of mine. Anything you think I should see or do?