In 2017 I had a roller-coaster year of adventure.

 

I lived in five different countries (Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Canada and the US), visited my last remaining continent (Antarctica), stayed in nine Air Bnbs, did four housesits (a total of 4 dogs,23 cats, 4 ducks, 13 quails and 5 chickens) and volunteered at three animal shelters.

 

It was a wonderful year.

 

It was a tough year.

 

Come take a look at 2017 with me…

 

The Travel

Let’s start with where I went because I know that some of you are here for the travel eye candy.

 

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The year started quietly in Buenos Aires.

 

I had a love/hate relationship with the city the first time I stayed here as I barely met anyone. All of the usual network groups were closed for the Christmas holidays and I felt the Argentina accent impossible to understand.

 

Thank heavens that I like exploring by myself and that my apartment came with Netflix.

 

Read about my experience here – Buenos Aires – The Good. The Bad and The Ugly

Mid way through January I headed to . . .

 

Montevideo, Uruguay

Uruguay hadn’t been on my list of places to visit when I left New Zealand, mainly because I didn’t know much about it.

 

Once I was in Buenos Aires I noticed just how close it was (a short ferry ride) so I began looking into visiting. Then friends of mine from New Zealand let me know that they were going to be heading there for a month and the decision was made!

 

A month in Montevideo . . .

One of my favourite parts of being here was the people I got to meet.

 

Florencia and I connected via a business FB group. A long coffee catch up in a fancy hotel then she kindly invited me to supper at her house to meet a group of her close friends. Chatting to such a group of such interesting women was the highlight of my stay here.

 

I also met Erin and Tannia. A couple of digital nomads from New Orleans. We’d connected via Instagram as I admired their photos of the buildings in Montevideo. A friendship was born and I was to be lucky enough to see them twice more this year, in two separate countries.

 

While in Montevideo my conversation with my travel agent for Antarctica stepped up a notch as she let me know that there might be a great deal coming up soon that would mean that I’d be in Antarctica for my birthday.

 

While Antarctica has been somewhere that I’ve waited to visit for years it definitely wasn’t on my radar when I left New Zealand because I thought that going there was too far out of my budget. I saw a post that Heather had posted about her next season guiding in Antarctica and commented. The conversation started there and ended with the most extraordinary adventure.

 

Heather found a fantastic deal for me and I had to make my decision within 48 hours. Some swift thinking (and a major reshuffle of my budget) was done. I was in! And I only have 2 weeks to prepare for the trip.

 

Buses and ferries and flights were booked. Then I turned my mind to the clothes that I need to keep warm on my icy adventure.

 

It turns out that Uruguay doesn’t really have cold weather gear. I did manage to find this woolly hat but the rest of my purchases would be made back in Argentina.

 

On the way down to my cruise ship in Ushuaia (wayyyy down the bottom of Argentina) I stopped off for a couple of nights in . . .

 

Colonia, Uruguay

This small town is a gem. Beautiful old buildings and a quieter way of life.

If you’re visiting Buenos Aires I’d highly recommend getting a ferry across to Colonia.

 

A short ferry ride to Buenos Aires then it was time to fly 4 hours down to . . .

 

Ushuaia, Argentina

Ushuaia is the main port where the cruise ships from Antarctica leave from.

 

I had booked a couple of nights in an apartment here so I didn’t need to worry about delayed or cancelled flights (there was a strike on the horizon). As soon as I arrived the excitement started to build. There were lots of people who had finished their trips and were wearing their expedition jackets as well as LOTS of outdoor stores for me to wander around.

 

Read about how I spent A Weekend In Ushuaia, Argentina

Antarctica

I spent 10 days on board the Hebridean Sky, a board operated by Polar Latitudes. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve ever had. From the luxury cabin to the delicious food, the good friends I made and the great crew, to the many penguins and my close encounter with a leopard seal. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

 

Such a trip requires more than one blog post. You can read the series I wrote here . . . there are lots of photos too!

Let The Antarctica Adventures Begin!

Sailing Down The Beagle Channel

Crossing The Drake Passage (and having my birthday at sea)

Setting foot on the Antarctic Peninsular

Cuverville Island and it’s many, many, MANY Gentoo penguins

The Thrill Of Setting Foot On The Antarctica Continent At Neko Harbour

Hiking With Penguins On Danco Island, Antarctica

A Little Bit of Britain at Port Lockroy

A Cloudy Morning In Port Charcot, Antarctica

Incredible Wildlife Encounter At Cierva Cove, Antarctica

El Chalten, Argentina

When I planned this year I had thought that I would be hiking in Patagonia. I hadn’t counted on injuring myself into the lead up to the LA Salsa Festival – doing the splits from standing didn’t agree with me.

 

The injury meant that I couldn’t carry a pack or do long walks so I explored as many day walks in El Chalten as I could.

 

Come read what I thought were The Best Day Hikes in El Chalten (complete with an armadillo!).

El Calafate, Argentina

It was time to take stock about what I was doing next so I stayed in El Calafate for a week. There isn’t a lot to do here in late February so I took the time to catch up on work and photo editing.

A debate was had with myself as to whether I visit the Perito Moreno Glacier. It was meant to be magnificent but would it live up to what I’d seen in Antarctica. There was only one way to find out. . .

It did! I got two massive calvings as large sections of the glacier toppled into the lake. Amazing.

From El Calafate I had a choice; head across the country to the other coast and a ranch (where I would volunteer) that is owned by my Air Bnb hosts in Buenos Aires  or head north to Bariloche.

I choose the ranch at Bustamante. It was a good and a bad decision.

Volunteering at Bahía Bustamante, Argentina

Travelling to Bustamante meant a long hour bus trip. 4 hours to Rio Gallegos then an overnight bus to finish the journey.

I was woken up by “Aquí. Aquí” (Here. Here). Groggy with sleep I stumbled off the bus and looked around for the gas station the bus was meant to drop me at.  I could see it in distance about 2km back up the road – there was nothing else in sight. Muttering under my breath I picked up my bags and walked to my pick up point.

My first glimpse of the ranch was impressive. It was in the middle of nowhere. Down a long road with no neighbours for miles.

My first afternoon was relaxed as I met two other volunteers who had been there for weeks and was given my volunteer duties for the irrigation and the garden.

Then a storm blew in. Did I mention that the power was only on each evening for a couple of hours? And that neither our rooms nor the kitchen and dining area had any heating? It became a lesson in perseverance, as well as how many blankets I needed on my bed before I stopped shivering (4 as it turned out).

Thankfully there was plenty of good to balance out the cold. The owners would take paying guests out on excursions and the volunteers could come if there was space. I was able to visit Penguin Island and get out on a boat to see sea lions.

{More photos and a blog post about life on the Ranch will be coming soon}

Puerto Madryn, Argentina

From the Ranch I headed North to Puerto Madryn as there was a new airline that was opening a flight route directly to Salta. From there I was thinking of exploring Mendoza, Bolivia, Peru, Educator then up to Columbia.

 

It didn’t work out like that.

 

As I sat on the bus I realised just how worn out I was from the constant moving about. After a month of moving from place to place, while trying to run my business, I found that I couldn’t get excited about more travel.

 

I made the decision to head back to Buenos Aires and spend a month there catching my breath. This time the friends I met in Uruguay would be there so I would have company plus I was going to stay in a more popular area of town so it would be easier to get around.

Back to Buenos Aires

I had a few nights in the beautiful suburb of Recoleta then found an apartment in Palermo for a month.

 

I enjoyed the city so much more this time around.

During my time in Buenos Aires I made the decision to head back to Central America – somewhere I had enjoyed being so much last year.

 

I was lucky enough to find a month long house in a lake side community.

 

Housesitting in Aijic, Mexico

My house sit involved looking after Will & Grace (love those names!), the dogs, and Angus the cat. It was so lovely to have the company of animals again.

 

You can read about our adventures here A Month By The Lake In Ajijic, Mexico.

 

I was also able to get back volunteering an animal shelter (something that is dear to my heart and that I try to do in each place I’m staying for awhile).

 

Come and meet some of the beauties At The Ranch.

I was also able to get back volunteering at an animal shelter (something that is dear to my heart and that I try to do in each place I’m staying for awhile).

 

Come and meet some of the beauties At The Ranch.

I was on a roll with house sits as I secured another one. This time with one dog and . . . 20 cats! I did have a few moments of hesitation when I saw that number but I thought it sounded like a fun adventure so I was off to the beach.

 

The couple of days in between house sits were spent exploring Guadalajara.

 

Guadalajara, Mexico

When I first arrived I didn’t like it at all. There were so many people! It was quite a shock after the sleepy little town of Ajijic.

 

Once I found my feet I enjoyed strolling around the beautiful old buildings.

 

Come Explore The Historic Centre of Guadalajara with me.

Housesitting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

House sitting in Puerto Vallarta was to be one of the highlights of my year. The house I was looking after is a bed and breakfast in the peak season – it was stunning!

 

Beautiful design and views as well as a pool made for a great stay. Combine that with my own ensuite, kitchen and work area I was very happy to be staying there.

The real delight were the animals that I was to care for.

 

Ushie was such a pleasure to look after. She was so patient with all of the cats and was so well trained. She walked off lease most of the time and would happily sit and wait outside the market while I was shopping. I soon learned that sticks on the beach were her favourite thing so we’d head there most mornings.

I had initially been nervous about caring for 20 cats but they were very easy to care for as the owner had a regular routine for them. About half of them lived in the house and the other half came and went as they pleased. They could access the laundry area where their food and water was and they always had somewhere safe and dry to come.

Living in Puerto Vallarta also meant I was able to do something I’d wanted to do for ages – be part of a turtle release program. Come take a look at just how cute turtles are in The Three Amigos – A Tale Of A Baby Turtle Release

{More photos and a blog post about my house sitting life will be coming soon}

 

Housesitting in Campbell River, Canada

A month housesitting in Canada! I’d been looking for a house sit on Vancouver Island for a while as I was keen to spend some hiking and photographing wildlife. I’d last visited the island back in 1995, on my first round the world trip.

 

The sit was in a town called Campbell River.

 

I had expected a pretty marina to wander around, quaint cafes with moose carvings and easy to access wilderness. You don’t always get what you expect…

 

Come and find out how it worked out . . . 10 Useful Things I Learned While Housesitting In Canada

What do you do when you have 10 days before house sits? You head off on some adventures!

 

Quadra Island

I wanted to have some laptop free time so I headed to Quadra Island which is a quick ferry ride across the bay from Campbell River.

 

The apartment I had rented was across the other side of the island and it was a fantastic spot. There was a grocery store, a café and a casual restaurant within walking distance. What more do you need?

 

A kayak you say?

Victoria, Vancouver Island

Time to head to a bigger city and some decent coffee shops! Victoria is such a pretty city to walk around and explore.

Housesitting in Port Ludlow, Olympic Peninsula (US)

My next month long house sit was caring for Luna (a Portuguese water dog), 4 ducks, 5 chickens and 13 quails.

 

I nearly didn’t take this house sit. It’s in a rural location which meant I’d need a car, and learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road (for me).

 

Gaining my confidence driving was a slow process. The first day out I went for a short drive along my quiet road, talking to myself the whole way – “Keep to the right, the right, the right”.

 

My bravery was tested when I drove to the supermarket, 20 odd minutes away with the crossing of a floating bridge being a unique experience. Once again I was talking myself through the entire trip, especially when I was going through intersections!

Road trip from Portland to San Francisco

While on my house sit I got the rather crazy idea to do a road trip. After all, I’d got the hang of driving on the “wrong side”.

 

I decided to do the longest road trip I’d ever done and drive from Portland down to San Francisco over a week.

 

First stop was Edmonds to catch up with a friend from Antarctica and a friend who I’d known years ago. Then onto Portland to enjoy the vibe of this great city and to catch up with friends from New Zealand who had recently moved there as well as the host of a podcast I’d been interviewed for.

 

These catch ups were absolutely wonderful as having spent so much time by myself over the last couple of months.

 

I’ll be writing a blog post (or two!) about this road trip soon so I’ll share a couple of photos for now. . .

Two months in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Mexico was calling to me again! I had researched San Miguel before I left New Zealand and the beautiful colonial buildings appealed to me.

 

November and December are a busy time of year so I ended up needed to move apartments so I went from the tiniest apartment I’d ever stayed in (let’s say the pictures were a bit misleading) to a beautiful 3 storied home where I looked after a fantastic cat called Dulce.

 

The animal shelter I volunteered at was only a short walk away and had both cats and dogs.  Due to a foot injury I wasn’t doing a lot of dog walking so that meant playing with kittens and puppies! Not exactly a hard ship.

 

Once again my friends who I’d met in Uruguay, and then in Buenos Aires, were in town too so it was great to catch up with them.

 

{I’ll be sharing a blog post soon about my 2 months in San Miguel}

I decided to spend the last night of 2017 back in Puerto Vallarta, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.

 

So where does the rollercoaster come into this year of adventure. As many people kept telling me, I was “living the dream”.

 

The Highs of My Year of Adventure

 

Antarctica

I made it to Antarctica. This has been a dream of mine for years and year. I had even started a separate Antarctica Fund before I left London in 2009 (to return to New Zealand).

 

Once people know that I travel a lot they usually ask what my favourite place was. This has always been a hard question to answer – was it the three week trek I did in Nepal or seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time? Now it’s easy. Going to Antarctica is the most incredible experience I’ve ever had.

 

I’ve met some wonderful people on my travels. From fellow digital nomads to locals to expats who have decided to permanently move to a different country I feel blessed to now count them among my friends.

 

Winning the Polar Latitudes photography contest

While on the cruise in Antarctica I entered 3 photos into the photography competition on board. The finalists in each category were chosen by the on-board photographer and one of the expedition leaders who is a fantastic photographer. The winners were then chosen by the audience.

 

I was thrilled to win both the landscape and the wildlife sections of the competition.

This gave me much needed boost  about my photography skills.

 

1000 followers on Instagram

I reached 1000 followers on Instagram. I know numbers are largely to do with my ego yet it is a wonderful feeling to be building a community of people who love travel and nature as much as I do.

 

My photography store

In December I took a leap of faith and opened an online store to sell prints of my photos.

 

I had wanted to do this for ages but kept talking myself out of it. “My photos weren’t good enough”. “Once I learn to use Lightroom better then I’ll do it”.

 

Eventually I got tired of my excuses and took that leap of faith. After all, what was the worse that could happen?

 

I’m happy to report that I’ve now made my first sale from my store.

 

The Lows of My Year of Adventure

 

Technology

Issues with technology meant I needed to wipe my laptop clean – twice.

 

Even though I had a good back up system it was still a stressful and energy draining time as I worked through the many options before making the decision to wipe my laptop each time.

 

It then took days to restore all of my files, reinstall my various software packages and get everything back the way that I wanted it.

 

Not great when you’re trying to work online.

 

There was one point where I was on my phone reading instructions in an online forum for how to fix my laptop when my phone decided that I could no longer post in that forum. I ended up emailing my posts to a friend in Mexico for her to post so that I could continue the conversation. That was not a good day for my stress levels.

 

Much chocolate was consumed during this period.

 

Injuries

I strained a tendon in my left leg. The same leg that I’d torn my hamstring on the previous year.

 

It was so frustrating to be in the situation as I love to be active. The situation wasn’t helped by my new travel insurance company and their appalling customer service. I was sent round in circles then they took forever to confirm that I was covered.

 

There were a couple of times when I sat at the kitchen table of my housesit in Canada in tears because I was so frustrated at the lack of service. Being in pain and not being able to get treatment because you don’t know if you’ve covered is not a good combination.

 

Later that year I developed Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot. I’d never heard of this before but it turns out that it’s really common. Whenever I got out of bed, or stood up after sitting, I’d get a sharp pain in my heel. Not my idea of fun and an injury that takes months to heal.

 

Loneliness

This really hit me in 2017.

 

The first patch was over the holiday period coming into 2017. I was in Buenos Aires and not enjoying myself a whole lot as it was proving really hard to meet people.

 

I couldn’t understand the accent of the locals (Argentina Spanish is VERY different to Central America Spanish) and many of the groups I was hoping to use to connect with people had closed down over the Christmas period. I was lucky if I had one English conversation a week.

 

A saving grace was that I had Netflix in my apartment. I discovered the Gilmore Girls and they became my link to a happier place.

 

The second patch was after arriving in Canada. I had thought that being able to speak English for awhile would be a nice break. I hadn’t factored in that the town where I was house sitting was not quite as advertised.

 

Add to that I had left behind some lovely people (and animals) in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico so I ended up wondering what the hell I’d done leaving.

 

A friendly cat, cable TV and a fantastic second hand book store helped me keep my sanity.

 

In November I made the decision to return to New Zealand in the New Year to catch up with friends and family and see what kiwi living was all about after 20 months on the road.

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