12 Countries and 29,000 miles: This was 2013!

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2013 was an odd year for me. It was one full of incidents and tragedies (many of which I haven’t written about, some of which I have). It was also one of serendipity and opportunity, and of course, a few new travel adventures.

All in all, I managed to hit up 12 different countries (returning to a few more than once), covering 28,904 miles (46,517 kilometers).

Here is 2013, in a nutshell:

This post was originally published in 2013. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 

January: Grenada

Nora Dunn in Grenada

I opened the year in Grenada, tootling along on my scooter and loving the island. However I started feeling guilty for not feeling motivated to work (despite the new year bringing with it a few gut-wrenching upsets that left me understandably distracted). I started writing about digital detoxes and considered what it would be to take a break and unplug.

February: Grenada, USA

Well, didn’t I get the digital detox of a lifetime on February 1st, when my partner and I were in a head-on collision, struck by a car who pulled out in front of us on our scooter. My partner spent the month in hospital with a severe hip injury, and I – somehow, with the help of some friends – took care of him and fended for myself given my own debilitating injuries.

So. February was kind of a write-off.

Three weeks after the accident I was wheeled through a series of airports to get some TLC from a friend in Florida as well as some medical tests and second opinions.

March-May: Grenada

I returned to Grenada in early March and remained there, still recovering from the accident (and trying to push the juggernaut of an insurance company into action).

With three months of relatively sedentary life, I had a lot of time to reflect and (hopefully) grow.

And I took a lotta pictures of sunsets.

sunset in Grenada

I questioned what the universe was trying to tell me, and soon started to feel like I was missing out on the travel blog industry’s massive growth.

I re-wrote my bucket lists, and eventually unveiled the first picture of me since the accident – amused by my own funky haircut.

And although I’m trying out the whole home-base thing in Grenada, it was still (and is still) a very foreign place to me, full of new discoveries and cultural explorations (and kissy faces) each time I leave the house.

In May one of my oldest friends came to visit me in Grenada for four short but very sweet days. It was so special to show off my adopted little island country to somebody so dear to me.

June: Canada

The Professional Hobo in Toronto

If I ever needed an excuse to visit my home town of Toronto, I got it when the travel blog conference TBEX was held there. But being in Toronto for the month rang home that when you travel full-time, the concept of having a “holiday” is much more difficult to define – and achieve.

I was still in my “reflective” mode after the accident, feeling grateful for my life and friends. When a reader emailed me and asked for “the real deal” of full-time travel (no candy coating), I decided to publish my response for the world to see: Brace Yourself: Travel Isn’t all Roses and Lollipops.

Then, after scaring a bunch of readers with that post, I reminded everybody that travel is still pretty cool by highlighting some of my awesome experiences in the last six years.

July & August: Grenada

Carnival dancers in Grenada

Summer in Grenada is very hot and very sticky (mental note: spend future summers somewhere else), but some more necessary time was required to attend to legal and other matters pertaining to the accident.

So I drew some inspiration from TBEX and gave birth to some new business ideas including my recent e-book release How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World.

However despite having just spent a month in Toronto, I found myself getting antsy in Grenada and my itchy travel feet were suffering. Thus when a friend suggested that it’s time for me to “settle down and return to an ordinary life” – I lost the plot.

So I started mentally packing my bags and reviewing my packing list, trying hard to revel in the uncertainty that had enveloped my life. And when I was capable of getting out of my own head, I realized I was still living in Grenada – a country that is still so full of wonder (and random observations).

September: Grenada, England, Scotland

Revelling in uncertainty paid off with a good dose of serendipity when, out of the blue, I was offered an awesome trip to Europe courtesy of Club Carlson. My prayers having been answered, I hopped on a plane to embrace my inner tourist in 8 countries over the next 3 weeks. I started the trip and capped off September in London and Glasgow.

October: Holland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Ukraine, France, Holland (again), England

6 countries and counting...

October was my heaviest travel month of the year, being in the midst of my Club Carlson trip of hotel bliss. With 2-3 days in each location, I:

  • Fell in love with Amsterdam,
  • Dealt with some emotional crap in Oslo,
  • Discovered the fairly tale city of Copenhagen,
  • Had a ridiculous amount of fun on a Segway in Berlin,
  • Cooked and ate my face off in Kiev,
  • Discovered love (again) in Corsica.

When the trip finished, I hopped back on a plane to Amsterdam to attend the swanky Art’otel Amsterdam VIP opening party, stayed for an extra week of Dutch bliss, then spent a week running errands in London before returning to Grenada.

November: Grenada, (Canada), Panama

I realized after my European trip that despite the year’s setbacks, I’m pretty lucky to have the career that I do, and that it’s actually made possible by a marriage of random skills I’ve collected through the years – years that I was chastised for flitting through too many careers.

How to Get Free Accommodation Book Cover

I launched my book How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World, and packed my bags for a two-month house-sitting gig in Panama.

Then struck the next (and hopefully last) tragedy of 2013: Four days before my flight to Panama, my passport and thousands of dollars was stolen…by a house-guest in Grenada. It caused a long and expensive detour to Canada to expedite a new application (since there was no consulate/embassy in Grenada).

But I finally made it to Panama, where the breeze is cool (at least, by Grenada standards) and the people are warm.

December: Panama

So here I am in Panama. I just spotted my first toucan in the wild (from my terrace no less), and am enjoying the crush of vibrant life in the jungles that encroach on anywhere that isn’t lived in (not to mention the geckos, hummingbirds, bats, moths, butterflies, and other house guests that keep life interesting).

And after a few weeks of slowly organically integrating, something happened that made me realize why I love slow travel so much.

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014

I have a lot to be thankful for in 2013. I got to see a dear friend in Florida (despite the reason being a head-on collision; granted it taught me a lot about what’s important in life), and I had a friend visit me in Grenada. I got in some quality time with family and friends in Toronto (twice). I had some awesome European adventures, and I eventually made it to Panama (my first time in Central America) for a lovely house-sitting gig. In between these destinations I chilled out in the Caribbean – life could be worse.

Although 2013 brought with it many blessings, it also brought a lot of pain – literally and figuratively. Thus, I’m ready for a new year. I’m bringing into 2014 a positive attitude, open mind, and sense of adventure.

How was 2013 for you? Successes? Tribulations? And what’s on tap for 2014?

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20 thoughts on “12 Countries and 29,000 miles: This was 2013!”

  1. Your life sounds so cool. How I would love to go to different places too. Your idea of slow travel is starting to get into my head 😀 My 2013 wasnt too bad, although quite monotonous. Last April I went to Mexico though, Its my first time, I stayed for a week half the time in Playa del Carmen and the other half in Tulum. Then come September I went for a 2week quick vacation to my home country, was supposed to drop by Hong Kong too but my flight got cancelled because of a typhoon 🙁 Well at least when i came back to Canada I got a promotion at work <3 Oh yeah I also went to Seattle twice this year, so far the only place in the USA that Ive visited. 2014 Im trying to decide which state in the US I should visit~~ I would really love to go to Machu Picchu one day though.

    • Hi Jessica,
      You did a fair bit of travel yourself this year! Before I sold everything, I used to maximize all my vacation time to travel as much as possible too. And Machu Picchu was high on my list of places to visit….it still is, but I haven’t made it there yet, believe it or not! Soon enough…maybe we’ll run into each other at the summit! 🙂

  2. Your year certainly had its ups and downs. I hope you are healthy now….

    My friend Dave recently went to Grenada. I haven’t been there but was in Panama a couple of months ago. Where are you house sitting? We are house sitting in Malaysia at the moment. I’ll check out your ebook soon!


    • Hi George,
      I’m house-sitting in Veracruz, about 20 minutes outside of Panama City. I’m enjoying it very much! Where in Panama were you?
      How is the house-sitting in Malaysia? (And how did you get that gig?)

    • Hi Brendan – Wow! Eerie coincidence. (Cue in twilight zone music now). Where were you? Are you okay now?

      I do feel that 2013 held some “bad ju-ju” for a lot of people. Let’s all make 2014 a year to remember…for better reasons!

  3. Nora, love the blog and I’m sure 2014 will be a great year for you. Remember good things happen to good people.

  4. I find these round-ups of 2013 to be really interesting. I love reading about what other bloggers get up to, what they’ve learned, where they’ve been, etc. I think you had more things to overcome this year than most people do…but you came out on the other side still having a positive attitude and ready to embrace a new year!

    We wish you nothing but success, health and happiness in 2014 🙂

    • Thank you Dariece,
      You know what they say….whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…..I’ve learned a heck of a lot and I’m ready to apply those lessons and newfound strength to this year to come, and the many years after that too.

  5. Wow, I just happened upon your blog in my sudden lust for travel, I’m truly inspired. I’m 18 and I’ve been going to college so that I can make those around me proud but all I’ve wanted to do is travel. So I think I’m going to give it a shot. I have a bit of money, hopefully enough to last me three years of travel. I’m really excited to begin my journey. Thank you for your inspiration!!

    • Thank you, Morgan! What are you studying in college? Any chance it will give you skills that you can take on the road with you?

  6. Hi Nora! You seem to have had a wonderful year. Cheers to an exciting year filled with travels, adventures, and happy memories. Also Thanks for sharing your travel experience to inspire us to explore this world.

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