Celebration time! Kristina and I have reached a milestone: We have been on the road and dedicated 100% to Off Path Travels for one year! And that’s not all. We also just celebrated being married for one year as well! We are thrilled and can’t wait to see what’s ahead.
It’s been a wild ride from the security of an office job to living life on the road. We’ve had ups and downs, learned a lot about ourselves and the world, and stuffed away more memories in one year than I ever thought possible.
We are thankful to have the opportunity to live this dream and we are thankful to each and every reader that stops by our website – which is well into the thousands per month at this point! We’ve had tens of thousands of readers over the past year and our audience grows every day! How amazing is that?!
Most importantly, we are thankful for the ability to share so many incredible locations in the world with you and provide you with the information needed to create your own memories. Or just live vicariously through us – anything works! All of the encouraging feedback we have heard from so many keeps our spirits high and dreams afloat.
This post will share where we’ve been over the past year along with more insight into our process and daily lives. Then I’ll talk about our new overlanding adventure and let you know where we’re off to next!
Our Evolving Itinerary
You probably think that Kristina and I have it all figured out. To travel this much, we must plan it out months in advance. We knew exactly what we were going to do over the past year and we have next year all planned out too.
Nope. That did not happen. While we do a ton of research and usually have a good idea of what we’re going to do, our plans evolve all the time.
We started by backpacking in southern Mexico. We didn’t have return tickets when we left but planned to be in the area for about 6 months. Eventually we made plans in Belize and Mexico lasting through April, and finally purchased tickets back to the US – making our total trip in the area 7 months long.
Mexico shocked and amazed us both. Oaxaca’s Dia de Muertos celebrations kicked this adventure into full speed right away. And as we went through the beachfront communities in Oaxaca, into the stunning heart of Chiapas, then all around the Yucatan Peninsula, and down into Belize, our minds were blown with the incredible variation of environments and landscapes we witnessed. Seven months sounds like a lot of time, but it FLEW by for us.
We originally planned to begin our overland adventure after we completed that first backpacking leg. Instead, we ended up taking a completely unplanned trip to Southeast Asia. Crazy, right? I thought so too. But one day, we realized that our plans didn’t match our goals, so we adjusted.
And it worked out perfectly. You see, the timing wasn’t right for overlanding. We would have been boiled alive during the summer heat of Baja and wouldn’t have been able to catch up on the office side of things. To accomplish our goals before a big family trip to Sweden, we hopped on a plane to the other side of the world.
We visited two locations in Thailand for almost a month each: Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Both awesome in their own very different ways. Chiang Mai on the smaller side of city life, but full of history. And Bangkok provides all you could need in a giant metropolis.
After much debate on exactly where to visit, we ended up heading to Vietnam, where we visited a handful of locations, including Hanoi, Cat Ba Island, Ha Long Bay, and Hoi An. We loved the quiet community of Hoi An the most. We finished it off with a visit to the spectacular Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia – which turned out to be one of my favorite archeological visits ever. And we still have a long list of places to stop by the next time we visit the region.
Then we completely flipped the table and went to Sweden. And boom: culture shock. Sweden is so vastly different than the areas of Asia we visited, we were thrown into a bit of tailspin. But honestly, when it came down to it, people are people. We eat, we sleep, and we all are just looking for happiness.
Three weeks in Sweden with family flew by, as did some time back home in Colorado after we flew back.
Then – about eleven months into traveling fulltime – we finally started overlanding! And that’s where we’re at now. More details on the overlanding later on in this post.
Constant State of Learning
You can’t do what we do without learning. Of course, we have to learn about each location we visit and each subject we post articles about. Where should we stay? What should we eat? What is most interesting about that area? What can we feasibly visit during our stay?
But that’s not all. We’re also learning about this business. Dealing with massive amounts of photos and videos, the constant technology needs, web design and maintenance, and even dealing with the lovely IRS. Are you even considered a business if you haven’t had to fight the IRS?
We also have to keep focused on building Off Path Travels. It’s not just about going places and writing blog posts. We also want to engage with our readers, create useful tools and products, establish relationships with companies we love, and constantly push for the next big thing.
There’s one learning process that we love the most. Learning about ourselves and the world at large. The people we run into. The trees that provide us with shade and oxygen. The food that nourishes us and keeps us going. The drinks that relax us. The activities that fill us with joy.
This isn’t a life for everyone. The constant flow of unknown leads to a lot of uncertain situations and a lot of the time we have to be very flexible with our desires and expectations. But we’ve loved it and thrived. The unknown calls our name and even after we spend weeks in a location, we can’t wait to go back to see what rocks we left unturned.
New Lifestyle – All On Our Own
It has been a major change in lifestyle for me. One that I feel incredibly fortunate to now have. I no longer wake up because I need to be in some office to prove to someone else that I’m there.
Now the boss is me. I decide when to get out of bed. I decide if today is a weekend play day or a weekday office time.
It’s a dream come true and it’s also a major challenge. Kristina and I have to find a very delicate balance between exploring and building the website. After a long day of adventures, we usually are either taking notes, dealing with the photography aspects, or getting ready for the next day. Most often it’s all three of those. While we love this job, it still does require a lot of work and dedication. We are essentially always “on” and focused on doing what’s best for OPT.
Another challenge is being away from our support systems, friends, family, and in a lot of cases, stores/food we’re familiar with. No kidding! It’s fun trying new things, but you know how sometimes you just want to stop and get a Chipotle burrito? That’s impossible when you’re out of the country for months on end.
Yeah, I know – boo hoo. And I agree. I would trade all the Chipotle in the world to live the life I am living.
We still face a lot of uncertainty. We are very proud of this website and are thrilled to share so much information with you, but we still have to keep pushing to get to where we need to be. It’s a cutthroat world out there in the world of travel blogging. We know we have what it takes, and we also know it’s going to take a continued effort and dedication to reach our goals.
Memories from the Past Year
Some things stick out more than others over the course of the past year. Sadly, the most impactful event for me was not positive. One of my very close friends from high school passed away. And with that, the world lost an incredible human being. I have no doubt his spirit lives on and still provides this world with love and positivity.
As the well-known philosopher Butters (from South Park) once said: “The only way I could feel this sad now is if I felt something really good before.” Matt’s smile shines bright in my memories and I know that he had a strong impact on many. His spirit lives on through us all.
Kristina and I created countless other memories throughout the past year. Sunsets on the beach. Hikes in epic jungles. Scuba diving next to giant turtles, sharks, and rays. Dancing in the street with hoards of people in Oaxaca. Swimming in the crystal-clear waters of underground cenotes. Eating bowls of noodles in Asia. Boating in oceans, rivers, and bays all around the world. And so much more.
With each memory we create, this blog is kept in the forefront of our minds. Sharing the incredible world with all of you is what keeps us going and we hope that we have been able to bring you along for the trip.
Getting Ready for Longterm Adventure Travel
A little over a month ago, we left Colorado with our trusty Tahoe and headed west. It was another step into the unknown.
Sure, we’ve both camped extensively. But that was with a return date. That was when we would end up eventually back at the house we called our own.
This would be different. Much different. We would hit the road and just keep going. With no plans on returning to any specific spot. Just a life of adventure and exploration.
Before leaving, we had a lot of details to iron out. First and foremost was the gear. Amazon delivery isn’t around in most of the areas we visit. Neither is Costco or Target (I’m not sure how my mom would fill her time).
We already had a VERY big start on our gear. I’d say I’ve been working my whole life to get the right gear for this trip. Every camping trip has given me a bit of experience and knowledge. Certainly things have changed quite a bit since the college trips where beer topped the priority list, but still, the idea remains the same. Have fun in the great outdoors.
When Kristina and I met and joined each other’s lives, it allowed our love for the outdoors to grow. Our car camping adventures were quickly full of new and exciting gear. And we committed to exploring via backpack only – one that we quickly conquered and love.
And now, as we set off to overland for an extended period of time, the gear from all of the past experiences has been fine-tuned. We’ve ditched the stuff the broke, found the brands we love, and made sure that we are ready for anything. At least to the extent it fits inside of our Tahoe.
As we progress, we’re going to make sure to share more about our gear. What we chose. Why we prefer specific brands. What your options are. You’re going to see a lot more gear reviews and discussion of travel preparedness. Don’t worry. We are not selling out. Our goal, as always, is to bring the best of the best to your attention. We put in the hours researching and testing so that you don’t have to.
Wild Ride from Colorado to California
After we filled up the Tahoe with all of this gear, we hit the road. The itinerary was fairly simple: we had about 30 days to explore as much of Colorado as we could, then head over to Utah to visit a couple of national parks, before making our way down to a family birthday bash in Tijuana. The countdown was on.
In case you don’t know, Colorado is awesome. I’ll admit I am biased as it’s my home, but it’s hard to deny the magnificence of this state. And it continues to surprise me with the staggering amount of hidden gems all around.
Our first major destination was the Great Sand Dunes National Park. And we loved it. Used the 4WD to barrel through some deep sand to get to a lovely campsite. Eventually went hiking on top of the dunes and had a blast. The sand shifts under your feet as you hike along the ridgeline of these massive piles of sand. You can read more about our experience in the Great Sand Dunes here.
We stopped at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and were floored by the giant, black, rock walls painted with stripes of white. We found a nice campsite only 5 minutes from the park entrance with mesmerizing sunset views.
After a quick stop in Crested Butte and a soak in some hot springs in the town of Ouray, we drove to our final stop in Colorado: Telluride. Arriving there was awesome, but it was quite crowded due to the Brews and Blues festival. Didn’t bother us though – we were able to park and find a great rooftop patio to enjoy a lovely afternoon of snacks and drinks.
Alien Landscapes in Utah
After Colorado, we explored two National Parks in Utah: Arches and Zion. Giant, red sandstone arches fill Arches near Moab. And our favorite feature activity in Zion was hiking through The Narrows, a narrow crevice with a river running through it.
We hiked around 7 miles in the water at The Narrows, scrambling over river rock the entire time. It was worth it. In fact, it was one of my favorite hikes of all time.
Las Vegas was up next. But not a long visit. Just pitstop at In-n-Out. Yum.
With our bellies (and the cooler) full, we made our way to Joshua Tree National Park. We chose a campsite in the park for this one – unusual for us – but it was perfect. Just behind the campsite was a vast field of giant boulders and rock formations. We explored those – and the entire park – like madmen.
Surprise Visit to Catalina Before Family and Office Time
We thought this would be essentially the end of the leg from Colorado to California. But life surprised us once again. We ended up joining two of my cousins near Long Beach, then hopped on a sailboat to visit Catalina Island! It was a blast! We saw dolphins, whales, and a ton of sea lions.
Now we’ve had some great family time here in Southern California and northern Mexico. Went to the awesome birthday celebration, explored town with Kristina’s family, and even stopped by the beach for a brief moment.
More recently, we have been once again huddled away and focused on building the website. But very soon we are hitting the road and exploring all of Baja! The final gear preparations are almost complete and the countdown is on!
Which reminds me. It’s time to go to the beach again…
Until next time,
Michael (and Kristina)