Looking Back on 2013 – A Year of Firsts

The year 2013 has come to an end! We’ve been reflecting on all that we did, the people we met, the food we sampled and the countries we experienced…all in 365 days. It was a very adventurous year! I like to call it “The Year of Firsts”.

2013 started off with a hangover in China. We were living and teaching English in the city of Yangzhou. We rang in the New Year with all of our expat friends from around the world, it was a great party! We spent January to the end of July teaching English, exploring nearby cities in our province and enjoying our life in China.

suzhou china
A woman weaving in Suzhou, China

That was the first time we had ever lived abroad and the first time we had ever taught English for more than a week!

Around 7 months after signing our teaching contract, we started to get itchy feet. We’re travellers, it’s hard for us to sit still! So, we began planning and dreaming about what we would do after our year-long contract was finished.

We came up with a plan to travel on the Trans-Mongolian Train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar and then travel around Mongolia for a month. From there, we would hop back on the train and make our way through Siberia in Russia and into Kazakhstan. After that, we would be finished with trains, but wanted to backpack through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and finish our journey in Iran, somewhere we had been dying to see for a long time.

travel around the world
Lots of planning went into our trip through Mongolia, Russia, Central Asia and Iran!

Lots of planning went into this epic 4.5 month trip. Buying everything we needed, booking train tickets and figuring out visas were all difficult tasks, but we got the job done. Between the two of us, we were able to save $21,000 teaching in China and had enough money to go on our trip. When July arrived, we said goodbye to China and all of the wonderful friends and memories we made there. It was a very emotional time for us, but we were ready to move on. We were off on a very long train journey from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar!

living in china
Moving out of our apartment and saying goodbye to China

This was the first time we had travelled on an international train.

We did many exciting excursions while in this region. A few that stand out in our minds are:

Trekking by foot through Mongolia for 8 nights.

Doing a two night horse-trek over a 3,700m high pass to Lake Song-Kul in Kyrgyzstan.

Flying in a helicopter over the Pamir Mountains.

Sleeping at a stranger’s home for 5 days while being treated like royalty in Esfahan, Iran.

Eating camel meat and drinking fermented mare’s milk!

All of these were firsts for us. We had never trekked in the middle of nowhere, while relying on only ourselves for navigation, food, shelter and water. We had never done a horse-trek before. This was our first time in a helicopter. We had never stayed overnight in a stranger’s home, and it was an amazing experience. Eating strange meat and drinking gross milk was also a first!

friends in esfahan
Us with Mehsa and Saroosh, the awesome new friends we made in Esfahan

Apart from all of the fantastic things we’ve done over the past year, we also learned a lot about ourselves as individuals and as a couple.

Our website has taken off (thanks to you guys!) and this was the first time in our travel career that we had to balance working with travelling. It proved to be quite a task and we had to deal with many down days, but over time, things got easier.

We’ve learned that we now enjoy travelling at a slower pace than we used to. In fact, if we’re going to be full-time bloggers, we have to travel slower or we’ll burn out. Spending 5 nights or so in a city before moving on will give us a chance to catch up on emails, social media, writing and will give us more time to explore the city we’re in.

having a travel website
Travelling slower will give us a chance to catch up on the website and meet local people

Speaking of slowing down, we have also joined a program called Trusted House Sitters. This year we will be experiencing a new career: House Sitters/Pet Sitters. This will be an amazing way for us to incorporate everything we love: slow travel, experiencing new cultures, living like a local, enjoying the company of a furry friend and on top of all of that, it’s a way for us to travel without spending money on accommodation.

We’ve house sat before, but this will be our first time exploring this as a career.

Phew! That’s quite a year. We’re now in Canada spending the holiday season with friends and family, but we’ll be taking off again in the middle of January. We’re both so excited to see what this year has in store for us. Stay tuned to find out where we’re heading to next!

How was 2013 for you? What exciting things did you get up to? Share with us in the comments below!

Written by

Dariece Swift

Dariece is a co-founder of Goats On The Road, and an expert in saving money, finance management, building an online business and of course... travel. She loves meeting new people, trying new cuisines, and learning about the unique cultures of our world. She has over 10 years of experience helping others to realize their travel dreams and has worked in numerous jobs all over the world to help pay for travel. Her advice about long-term travel, remote work, and location independence has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider and Forbes. Learn more about Dariece Swift on the Goats On The Road About Us Page.

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