Since I haven’t done any update in a while, I thought it would be a good idea to hit two birds with one stone and combine it with my yearly review.
Because I skipped a yearly summary last year, I wanted to do one for 2022 as it was much more eventful than expected. It is always a fascinating process of sitting down and going through all the photos, reviving memories and looking back at my goals.
Like every year, time goes by so fast that I barely get the chance to sit down and reflect on all the great experiences in detail. Thousands of photos get lost in the sea of google backups and journal entries barely get a revisit.
Especially when living the nomadic lifestyle, plans are changing on a constant basis and it feels like my energy gets spread into all hemispheres all the time. This is not necessarily a bad thing because my life is amazing and I couldn’t be more grateful to travel and work remotely, but one of my main goals for the upcoming year(s) is for sure to get more settled and have a home base somewhere.
2022 – The year of traveling (almost) freely
After 2 years of the global health theater, it was finally time for the world to go back to normal. While the beginning of 2022 was still a bit rough around the edges, it turned out to be a pretty good year overall.
I wouldn’t refer to 2020 or 2021 as nomadic years after all, but 2022 definitely felt more like it. Usually, I tend to pursue the “slo-mad” approach and stay up to 6 months in one place to keep productivity high and travel burn out low.
But so it happened that 2022 was more on the fast paced side and in the end, I spent moving countries every 90 days. In the end, I lived in 4 countries this year and had amazing experiences, so I can’t really complain.
When I went back to review all the photos for this post, I felt a lot of gratitude for living this life of freedom and having all the wonderful friendships in different countries.
It is sometimes not the easiest to keep relationships alive and sometimes I feel guilty for not keeping in touch with everyone. But it’s part of it. If you’re reading these lines and thought that I haven’t reached out to you in a while, don’t take it personal 😘.
The hardest thing for a yearly summery like this, is to keep it short. I would love include so many memories and photos but this would be a never ending blog post and probably load forever. So for 2022, I will try to let photos speak and refer to previous updates so I don’t repeat myself.
Let’s jump in…
The year started out pretty much unexpected. The plan was to re-unite with Andrea in Bulgaria (where I was at the time) but things changed quickly when Bulgaria closed it’s borders because you know why.
As a backup, we decided to meet up in Portugal instead and it turned out to be a pretty good start of the year. Much better than I could have imagined because we could meet up with good old friends and live in different places across the country. I wrote more extensively in a previous update: January to March 2022 – Quarterly Life & Business Update
Being there for the first quarter was actually perfect, because the temperature was much better compared to the cold snowy mountains of Bansko and it was low season in Portugal. This means, cities were quiet and accommodation affordable. Luckily, the travel situation was also getting much better in Europe towards spring time and so it was easier to go back to Bulgaria for the summer.
Bansko Vol 2.
After spending a month in the south of Portugal, Andrea’s Schengen visa was running out and we booked tickets to Sofia.
Luckily but strangely though, even with Bulgaria being part of the the EU, it is not part of the Schengen area. It was a great safe heaven to go back to and gave us a bit of breathing room for another 90 days. While Andrea was a bit skeptical at first when we arrived in the dark nights in Sofia, she started to really enjoy Bansko after a few weeks.
For me, it was great going back to a familiar place and seeing Bansko in a different season. I actually really enjoyed the summer there. The weather was almost perfect every day and having BBQ’s almost every week was really benefiting my low carb diet 😬
I also managed to get my Bulgarian residency that gave me a bit of peace of mind during these unstable times. The location independent lifestyle sometimes in unpredictable, so it’s good to have a fall-back option just in case. And at the moment, going back to Germany ain’t one for me.
Related Post: Welcome Back to Bulgaria – Digital Nomad Life Update June 2022
Ohrid, North Macedonia
While the first two quarters were somewhat familiar and predictable, we actually had no real vision what was coming after Bulgaria. During the summer months, prices for accommodation and traveling were also skyrocketing everywhere in Europe and going back to western Europe didn’t seem like a smart decision.
Since Asia was still not fully open as well, not many options were left. The best places that were easy to reach from Bansko, and not part of the Schengen area, were either Albania or North Macedonia. As life had it all planned out for us, the Airbnb guy in Albania never got back to us and so we ended up with a super friendly host in Ohrid instead.
To be honest, I NEVER would have thought that I would end up in North Macedonia. I remember our friends in Porto mentioning Macedonia and this lake called “Ohrid”.
At the time, I was listening but didn’t really consider the possibility to visit Ohrid. It just seemed far away from anything else and cumbersome to reach. To make traveling there from Bansko less exhausting for us, we decided to split up the journey into two parts.
We took a private car from Bansko to Skopje (capital) where we stayed for a week and explored the city. Then from Skopje to Ohrid was another short journey with a private car for 3h. Overall, the journey wasn’t as bad as I initially envisioned.
We stayed in Ohrid during the summer months and I really enjoyed this beautiful little city with its medieval character and lake scenery. It was pretty packed during high season, but it made the town much more alive compared to the months that came after.
In North Macedonia, we both only had a limit of 90days and so we had to think about what to do for the winter. The initial plan was to go back to Germany and visit my family in autumn and escape the cold winter in Europe. But as always, plan ahead but stay flexible…
Almost a week before I booked my flights back to Germany to see my family and my dad for his 60s birthday, my family decided to spontaneously fly back to Vietnam. I initially resisted the thought of flying across the world again, especially also because Ohrid didn’t have the most convenient connection to the next airport. I had to take a private car through Albania to reach the next airport.
But I couldn’t help to imagine how it would be, to surprise my dad in Vietnam without him knowing. It was exactly! a year ago since I left Vietnam and I quite missed the lifestyle. So there was our winter destination…
Part of the fun was also going out of my (financial) comfort-zone. A few days before my flight, I got a message from Emirates with an offer to upgrade to business class. Since I’ve never done this before or even considered the fact of flying business, I didn’t hesitate long and pulled the trigger… never looked back and no regrets!
It was such a cool experience getting served a welcome champaign and eating sushi on the plane 🍣🥂
But that was not even the best thing. I think the most valuable experience is just being able to lie flat and have a good sleep. Not being cramped into a small seat and bumping elbows against each other for 15h was also life changing.
Expanding my prosperity / abundance consciousness has been something I’m working on for quite some time and this was definitely something that elevates my thinking about wealth to another level.
Last year during lockdown, I always visualized how it would be when the world goes back to normal and I could travel to Vietnam with my family. Show them the place I called home for so long.
This year, it came true.
I had some amazing weeks with my family in Hanoi, celebrating my dads 60s birthday with my extended family and friends circle. We finally also ended up in Da Nang at the place were I stayed last year. It felt soooooo good being back and I felt a sense of coming home.
After a few weeks, my family went back to Germany and I decided to stay longer and waited for Andrea to join me. Since then, we’ve been to our favorite places again and catching up with old friends.
Enjoying Da Nang to the fullest with everything being back to normal. Some of our places didn’t make it through covid times, but other very nice places opened instead. The universe works in cycles. Things always come and go. It’s part of life.
The same goes with people. Lot’s of our friends left last year, but we made new ones instead. It was also incredible traveling back to Hanoi for my cousins wedding and witnessing a somewhat “unconventional” vietnamese wedding with 900 people…
Besides my travel stories, I also want to reflect on other areas of life and see how I’ve progressed.
My biggest focus in the last 2 years has been living more at ease and letting things flow to me easily.
In particular, this means that …
- I’m learning to become less attached to everything that happens around me and focus on what’s happening inside of me
- stressing out less about business and “making” money
- focus more on my creativity rather than watch what others are doing (and comparing myself)
Of course, expanding consciousness in those areas is a continuous process but paying attention to becoming a little more aware every day is a good exercise.
This year in particular, I moved my attention a lot to things I can control and away from outside circumstances. This means that I learned to argue less with people about things we generally don’t know. Or that no one knows.
This was a game changer as it kept my positivity high and not waste time discussing personal opinions or different belief systems. In the end, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of life.
Another big area of personal growth for me was also setting stronger boundaries and not let other peoples limitations define my reality. Coming from an asian background, I have a lot of belief systems in me ingrained of how I should live my life.
This year, I made the commitment to not give a shit about what other people think of me or how someone wants me to live my life according to some made up societal standards. It’s freeing as fuck.
Personal development is a very subjective and personal process and it’s hard to quantify how far one has come. The most useful things that help me with this is journaling. I tend to have multiple journals:
1) My Day to Day Journal
This one functions like a diary to capture what I’m up to at the moment. I don’t write in it every day, but try to capture thoughts and feelings at least once a week. Sometimes I sprinkle little sketches in there to break the monotony.
2) My Vision & Goal Journal
This is my most valuable asset as it documents my journey with more tangible measures. It is mostly business focused and I capture numbers around my business and goals. This makes it much easier for me to look back and see my progress. I gotta admit that I just started this briefly in 2021 and more seriously in 2022. I wish I would have started it when I started traveling 4 years ago.
3) Idea Notebook
In addition, I have a small pocket notebook to capture daily ideas and quick notes. I don’t use it as often as the other ones as I’m on my computer most of the time and capture notes in Notion. It is still a very useful addition as I have ideas in there with quick sketches that I can’t do on the computer.
Books I’ve read
In recent years, I’ve moved my attention away from reading personal development books and shifted my focus more on meta physical literature. This includes old classics about spirituality and manifestation. Besides that, I’ve also embracing more science fiction to spark my imagination these days. Lately, I found myself reducing the number of new books drastically. I really enjoy going back to old ones because every time, I find something new to learn.
My goal for 2022 was to 3x my business in terms of revenue.
While I managed to 3x the amount of products I have, I quite didn’t manage to get to the level of revenue I wanted to be. At least it didn’t get worse but stayed on the same level.
I’ve noticed that the online business sector in general has slowed down a bit in 2022. That gave me a bit of comfort as it wasn’t just me. As you may have seen, many publicly traded companies also took a bit hit and the stock market in general is currently going the opposite direction of the moon. We’re going through some interesting times right now and I don’t think 2023 is gonna be much better to be honest.
When things like this happen, I try not to dwell on it for too long, but rather move on and focus to prepare for the upcoming up-cycle. It’s the only thing I can control and whatever happens in the world is outside my power.
A very positive side effect of all this is that I managed to get my own Woocommerce shop up and running and not solely rely on Etsy anymore. This gives me an additional income stream and much more power over branding and storytelling.
The organic traffic for my shop has already been picking up traction and I hope the growth continues in 2023. Even when people are not shopping as crazy, going up in ranking and getting more exposure in the long run will help when things get better.
Here is a quick biz milestone recap:
- Grow number of products (SKUs) from 693 -> 1131
- Setup independent Online Shop as second income stream
- Hired Content Editor for SEO Articles & Social Media
- increased organic traffic to my online shop and got first organic sales = great validation
Since I use Print on Demand as a business model, I’m not worried about keeping products in stock, as it was the case during my Amazon FBA times. The other thing is that my sales are mainly coming through organic sources at the moment and marketing costs are pretty much non existent for now. This is something I want to change for 2023.
For 2023, my goal is to grow my revenue for my online shop while keep growing my Etsy revenue as well. It would be amazing if I could finally reach the 3x revenue I had initially had in mind for this year.
To achieve this, I plan to…
- … continue growing my organic traffic with SEO articles and social media, in particular using Pinterest
- Start driving paid traffic on FB, Insta & Google
- Diversify product portfolio to rank for more keyword in related niches
- increase AOV with bundles
- Build up an email list to increase LTV
Health & Fitness
One of the most impactful habits that I developed during my stay in Bulgaria in 2021 was my low carb diet and working out in the gym frequently. I continued these habits even while traveling this year and it seems to work quite well.
What I love about places like eastern Europe or Asia is that you can just walk into a gym, pay cash for a month and start immediately without signing 12 months contracts or so. In Portugal, some places asked for 70€ / week while a 12 month contract was like 15€/month 🤔
Even though it was much easier to embrace a low carb / keto diet while being on my own, I found a good balance while traveling with Andrea and living in Asia where eating rice and noodles is as natural as breathing air.
More often or not, I found that keeping a very strict low carb diet is not very conducive to my social life. So I became more Ok with finding a balance between days of enjoying nights out without feeling guilty and days where I go back into my 18/6 intermittent fasting, OMAD and low carb mode. As you can see in my photos above, the food is just too good in Asia…
What’s in for 2023?
Besides growing my e-commerce business and taking further steps towards financial freedom, I will not stop traveling and would love to see new places in 2023 as it was the case with the Algarve in Portugal and North Macedonia this year.
But before doing that, I will probably need to make a stop in Europe at some point to get a new passport in order to continue traveling. For now I don’t have any concrete travel plans but coming back to Europe for the summer wouldn’t be a bad idea.
I hope that more people will feel inspired to travel in 2023 embrace the remote work lifestyle. It is time to let go of old ways of thinking and how we get work done. Even just the way the majority thinks about “work” is a flaw because the word itself is associated with something we “have” to do and not what we “want” to do. That terms like OGIM or TGIF exist is proof enough that the system was not created with life expansion in mind.
But I’m happy to see that since 2020, more people start to embrace their inner calling and waking up to the fact that grinding it out day in and out until retirement and then starting to enjoy life might not be the smartest life decision. Sometimes I have moments where old friends reach out and are curious about this lifestyle and living in a different country. Curiosity is one thing but it often takes courage to take the leap of faith.
Everything is a choice. Life is choice. Make better choices and you have a better life.
With that being said, I wish you a great start into the new year. Stay safe everyone. Make great choices this year that propels you towards your visions. Whatever happens in 2023, don’t get into fear and stay in your personal power ✌️