2019 in review

In 2018 I travelled all over Europe, mostly alone, and got to know myself better than ever. 2019 was a continuation of this, with a few unexpected twists, new lessons, and reinforcement of things I discovered last year.

I posted logs or photos or blogposts to my site 4,974 times and posted 9,032 individual photos.

tl;dr

Goals for 2020: more of the same really. But with more solitude.

Words

I wrote 321 things. On my site I posted 261 short notes or commentary with photos, and 60 longer articles. I also logged non-blogpost writing 34 times. These all comprise approximately 95,722 words in total (52,001 off-site). That's a mean of 262.25 words and 0.88 posts per day. That's less than last year; missed my 'write more' goal.

I wrote about 153 different topics, with the most common being travel (99), life (69), week in review (50), nanowrimo (29), writing (21), food (15), tourism (13), vegan (12), Bulgaria (10), ods (9), montenegro (8), and hiking (8).

My NaNoWriMo project was Quest for Brothers, but I didn't write much else.

Travel

I stopped in a total of 22 countries; I visited 12 countries for more than a couple of weeks, 5 of which I had never been to before, and passed through (with a stop of 12 hours to 10 days) 10 others (3 new). I failed my goal of not flying at all, having taken an unexpected trip to Zimbabwe in May, but within Europe I stayed ground- and water-bound.

I spent 17 nights sleeping in transit (on buses, ferries, trains, etc). Apart from that, I slept in 62 different places. I spent 151 nights in AirBnbs, 60 nights at friends' places, 57 nights in short-term rental accommodation, 37 nights in hostel dorms, 24 nights with family, 10 nights in hotels, and 9 nights shared AirBnbs or hotels covered by work.

In total I spent 2 months, 10 days, 14 hours, 9 minutes, and 12 seconds in transit (this includes walking between places), logging 201 journeys. I took 109 bus journeys (local and long-distance), 16 long distance trains, and 18 ferries. I bought tickets for local bus, tram or metro 27 times. I also travelled by boat 6 times, took 12 taxis, and made 8 journeys in a car (either hitchhiking or a ride with a friend). I took 4 planes: two each way to Zimbabwe and back. I utterly failed to ride a cable car in 2019. I'm not sure where all those taxis came from.

When I wasn't on the move, I spent:

Work

I still work 3 days a week with Open Data Services Co-operative! Go me for keeping the job, and enjoying it. Co-op life involves a lot of meetings, and if you're comparing this year to last year, see above, you can see I spent considerably more time in meetings. I ended up going to more Co-op events in the UK than expected, again. Usually because they lined up with other reasons to go back.

I also contract approximately one day a week for Digital Bazaar, working on things related to the Decentralized Identifiers Working Group. This came in bursts, with busier times being during and after Rebooting the Web of Trust conferences. W3C WG and CG meetings add to my meeting count.

Code

This is my Github commit log:

Green squares from github

Github counted 783 'contributions'. This was 62% commits, 19% code review, 4% issues and 15% pull requests. I can't be bothered to list all the repos. This is a little bit less than last year. There are absolutely no patterns. Obviously you can see NaNoWrimo in November.

Stuff

I purchased or otherwise acquired something on 879 occasions, spending a total of approximately €12,898.77. I used 14 different currencies (TRY, GBP, EUR, BGN, USD, RSD, CZK, MKD, HRK, BAM, ALL, PLN, HUF and Zimbabwean Ecocash). This is an average expenditure of €35.34 per day, €248.05 per week, or €1,074.90 per month. I logged 1,340 meals or snacks, an average of 3.7 per day.

This includes most donations to charities/organisations/people, gifts, and buying other peoples' food or bus fare, but I didn't log it all well. This does not include ATM fees, bank fees and loss through currency conversion or the GBP diving.

I spent €3,006.08 on transit/transport and €5,080.86 on accommodation. I spent €849.34 on groceries, buying them 120 times. I bought food that was ready to eat on 339 occasions, spending €3,367.91; 78.2% of the time this was in restaurants and 22.7% to take away.

Some things I acquired the most often were food (339), restaurant (265), transit (200), transport (193), groceries (120), bus (109), and takeaway (77).

On 85 occasions I got something for free. I expensed €2,455.32 of stuff for work. The most expensive thing I bought was Asus Zenbook 14 (Cex) (€856.14) and the cheapest thing (which wasn't free) was Toilet use at old tree place (€0.15). I spent on average €14.67 per time.

I came in well over budget. I added a setting to sloph so I could track purchases I expensed for work without them adding on to my own expenditure totals. I used this for my new laptop as well (I didn't expense it, but it doesn't come out of my normal montly budget). Even excluding all of that (€2,455.32 worth), I spent €898.77 more than would have been ideal (about €75/month extra). It's easy to see how though. In August I spent about €300 in Split, feeding Dave and Juri on whatever their hearts desired, and another €100+ on my travel and accommodation there. August + Croatia (Split, of all places) + two kiddos with a taste for fancy seafood, steak, beer and ice cream = bankrupt big sister. That's okay though, it meant they could enjoy their holiday without worrying about money, because - despite my warnings - Split was more expensive than they'd expected as well. The other half of that was another €400 on flights to Zimbabwe, which was sort of offset by staying with Elizabeth and low cost of food there. Whenever I meet friends for a meal who I know don't have as much disposable income as I do, I pay for the food. Finally, I gave quite a lot away; to people begging on the internet, and IRL. I bought several strangers' bus or train tickets and if I have it, give cash to anyone who asks me for some, which I'm hit and miss at logging.

My gut feel was that I spent more on accommodation than I probably should have - €5,080.86 in total - more than last year's €4,175.61, but this still averaged out to less than €500 per month, so that works out. I spent a bit more on eating out than last year: €3,367.91 compared to €3,012.56. So I guess what really did it was transit: €3,006.08 compared to €1,891.64 in 2018! Is the cost of things going up? Am I getting lazier and taking easier/faster options instead of cheaper ones? Am I leaving it last minute to book and missing good prices? Probably a combination of these.

January: solitude and the sea

I started the year where I'd ended the last one: on the island of Lesbos, Greece. From there I moved to Syros, and spent even more time alone (besides the company of a fluffy cat, Zizi). I slowed right down; my apartment was comfortable, I had a proper toastie maker and a source for vegan cheese, and it was easy to be lazy. I had a good view of lightning storms over the bay. I did manage to join a local hiking group though, and went out with them a few times to explore the island.

All January posts. Weeks in review:

February: emerging back into the world

Arriving in Athens was a shock to the system. A huge city after two months on quiet islands. I socialised; I met people from Mastodon and friends-of-friends in Exarchia squats, and Jane and Felicity came to stay with me for a week. This helped me to ramp back up a bit for impending conference chaos. I dyed my hair light green, with purple roots.

All February posts. Weeks in review:

March: zigzags

From Greece I took the direct route to Barcelona - two ferries (Patras to Bari, Civitavecchia to Barcelona), three buses (Athens to Patras, Bari to Napoli, Napoli to Rome) and a train (Rome to Civitavecchia), with as little time in Italy as possible. My first Rebooting the Web of Trust conference was great and productive. It was nice to see old friends from the W3C Standards circuit, and make some new ones. After that I made my way back east overland via the sceneic route: stops in Spain (Girona), Andorra, France (Nice), Monaco, Slovenia (Ljubljana), Hungary (Budapest).

All March posts. Weeks in review:

April: offgridding

I met up with Felicity again in Krakow for a bit. I love Warsaw, and was super happy to have the opportunity to stay in a squat there as a guest of someone I met in Athens. I made the snap decision to visit Elizabeth in Zimbabwe, and fly out of Vienna. The stars aligned, and H (who I met at the Vipassana retreat in Austria last year) and B invited me to house- and pet-sit for them for two weeks in the woods of Dubravka, near Bratislava, in their homemade container house. Water came from a spring in the woods and wifi came from taking a tram to Bratislava. I took a few daytrips to Vienna as well.

All April posts. Weeks in review:

May: to Africa and back

I stayed with Elizabeth for two weeks in Harare, Zimbabwe. Bussing was not feasible, so I had to break the no-fly rule. I got chased by a rhino, lost Elizabeth's sunglasses and almost died, but it was worth it. I dyed my hair bright green. I returned to Europe and made a beeline to the Adriatic coast, socially exhausted and in desperate need of some alone time.

All May posts. Weeks in review:

June: by the Adriatic

I lived in a tiny studio in a small town on the Montegrin coast, a few minutes walk from the sea. Which came in handy as the temperature skyrocketed, and my AC cost extra so I didn't use it. I swam almost every day, and dried off in the sun, getting heat-induced migraines far too often. I daytripped to different cities in Montenegro, and at one point got lured to Sarajevo for an extended visit as well.

All June posts. Weeks in review:

July: Balkan summer continues

I reunited with Aida again for her annual yoga retreat on the island of Iz, just off Zadar in Croatia. This time I explored the island more, and meditated in the pyramid every morning. I was the only non-Bosnian speaker (though my time in Montenegro increased my level of ambient understanding greatly, that is, if someone interjected a conversation with "does she understand?" I could understand enough to say "no I don't"). We did TRE too, and a few of us took a wee boat to a wee island to swim naked.

I transited through Albania, stopping at Dubrovnik (ugh) on the way, and spending a week in Skoder which was lovely, and a weekend in Tirana.

In a misguided attempt to reduce the sun-induced migraines, I moved on for my next long stay to the landlocked city of Skopje, Macedonia. The upshot of this was I was perpetually too hot with very little opportunity to jump into water to cool down though. The city center has fountains for frolicking in, along with other general weirdness. I hiked to the nearby canyon for swimming and kayaking in its icy depths was a great relief. So was going to the air-conditioned mall to see movies.

All July posts. Weeks in review:

August: hot and hectic

A full 50% of Skopje's vegan restaurants were closed during my planned visit, so I extended my stay further into August in order to visit them. And also because I planned a couple of extra trips out to nearby places, and my house in Skopje was a good base to keep. I went to Pristina, Kosovo for a couple of days. I trekked to Sarajevo again, to pick up my new laptop from a colleague (and see friends of course), and then to Split, Croatia, where my brother and J were holidaying, so I could pay for all their food (half a month's budget in 4 days.. *poof*). And squeezed in a trip to Lake Ohrid too, for hiking and swimming.

I went to Bulgaria for the last week of August, better than not going at all, because the city of Plovdiv had been calling to me for no particular reason for months. It's lovely, and I had a restful time. Enough to charge a little before the next batch of conferencing. And I dyed my hair pink, purple and blue.

All August posts. Weeks in review:

September: identity and doughnuts

Prague, I can take or leave. But RWoT and the first ActivityPub conference were there, so I planned to stay a month around those. Since my last visit, there are even more great places to get vegan food, and I had a lot of fun organising the rebel conference dinners. RWoT was cool, we advanced some Encrypted Data Vaults work, and I got to see old friends again; and more at APConf.

Prague also has a good connection to London, with the RegioJet bus.

All September posts. Weeks in review:

October: back in the UK

Two Open Data Services Co-op events had been scheduled a week apart, and one more got set up a bit later when it looked like I'd be coming back for them. In between work trips to Nottingham, Sheffield and Stirling, I visited family in Lincolnshire and Brighton, and friends in Edinburgh.

All October posts. Weeks in review:

November: writing by the sea

I made it to Bulgaria in time for the start of National Novel Writing Month, with an urgent need to deflate after two hectic months of people and moving a lot. Sandwiched between week-long transit through Varna and Burgas, the 'big' cities of the coast, I found a lovely apartment with a sea view in the resort town of Obzor on the Black Sea Coast. Resort towns in the off-season are the best; there's nobody in them, nothing going on, and the beaches are gorgeous and empty. My hosts had a tiny but powerful dog who I looked after for a while. Other than walks on the beach, or occasional bus trips to other coastal towns, all I did was Co-op work and writing. It paid off: I wrote more than 50,000 words of Quest for Brothers! My first NaNoWriMo victory in 10 years.

All November posts. Weeks in review:

December: turkeytime

A long weekend in Istanbul removed the inditimidation factor that has had me always avoiding it; it's busy but quite manageable, with good public transport, and really great historical touristing opportunities. I took a ferry to Mudanya, near Bursa, and stayed in a small, old village called Misi (or Gumustepe) outside of the city. From my house I could hear chickens, goats and the Mosque. But the house was too big and too cold and the wood-burning stove and I did not get along. I moved to another house, around the corner, with central heating, but it wasn't warm enough for me to sit still in there all day. So I spent more time in the city than expected, which was busy and smoggy and so enormous; but the two vegan cafes were warm and friendly. I looked for meetups on CouchSurfing, and found the Bursa English Speaking Club, and people weekend-tripping to Uludag mountain. I joined them, and got roped into social event after social event, including New Year's Eve, until I somehow had some new lifelong friends. Turkish people are inspiringly hospitable and welcoming; I was blown away time after time.

All December posts. Weeks in review:

Reflection on 2019

Compared to the past

This is the third year I've done a comprehensive summary from my logs, so now I can make a comparison table!

2017 2018 2019
Posts total 4,656 4,817 4,974
Photos posted n/a 9,520 9,032
Coffees (total / mean per day) 471 / 1.3 431 / 1.2 484 / 1.3
Nights on transport n/a 31 17
Nights with friends n/a 56 60
Nights with family n/a 24 24
Time in transit 1mo 13d 23h 15m 45s 2mo 26d 6h 56m 21s 2mo 10d 14h 9m 12s
Time in restaurants 17d 2h 37m 3s 21d 17h 44m 22s 26d 16h 16m 9s
Time exercising 4d 9h 26m 58s 2d 1h 10m 2d 20h 8m 10s
Time in meetings 3d 1h 28m 6d 4h 45m 59s 19d 0h 13m 12s
€ per month n/a 923.39 1,074.90
€ accommodation n/a 4,175.61 5,080.86
€ per night accommodation n/a 11.44 13.92
€ eating out n/a 3,012.56 3,367.91
Words ~159,492 122,401 95,722
Topics (by tag) 237 217 153
Countries visited 13 24 22
New countries visited 4 13 8
Nights in the UK ~month 34 37

It sure felt like I travelled a lot this year, but I spent less than half the time sleeping in transit. Maybe that's how I spent so much more on accommodation? Time with staying friends and family was about the same. I did more exercise! And spent even more time in restaurants! As well as in meetings, as previously discussed. Fewer new countries visited I guess means I'm running out of new places to go in Europe... Not really, still plenty left, it was just circumstance.

Alone time

I didn't get as much alone time this year as I'm used to, nor as I need. There were tradeoffs, there always are, but ultimately the pros of travelling completely alone outweight the cons for me. I love having a place to come home to that has nobody else in, and am finding it increasingly difficult to share my space. Nothing beats being able to change my mind about plans at the last minute without having to consult anyone else; deciding where to eat without having to compromise; to stay in bed or go on an all-day hike depending on how I feel when I wake up without worrying about how someone else feels. To bring enough snacks just for me; to budget according to my own priorities; to do only the amount of logistical labour needed for just myself. I have figured out my balance between planning and winging it, and discovered it doesn't always match up with other peoples'. I sometimes found myself taking care of other peoples' tickets or accommodation simply because I got around to looking up the information first. I'm frequently the only person in a group who bothers to look at a map or remember the names of metro stops, so I always end up navigating. It's several times more exhausting than when I'm doing it only for myself, because I have to keep other people apprised as well. And more often than not, nobody else contributes, not without being asked (also exhausting) and even then not effectively or efficiently. Even when someone else is in charge of the day, I can't help but need to know where we are and how we're getting there. If everyone around me suddenly disappeared, or had their memories wiped, I'd be able to get myself home again. It's exasperating that some people aren't doing that automatically. Anyway, enough complaining. All that to say, I'm a selfish traveller, and I know what I want, and I have little patience for other people getting in the way of that.

There's also nothing quite like experiencing the world, new places, new people, without the buffer of someone else. I focus more on my surroundings when I'm alone. And other people treat solo travellers differently. When I'm with other people I vocalise how I'm feeling more; whether I'm hungry or tired or my feet hurt. Which means I focus on it more. When I'm alone, that stuff falls into the background and I'm less likely to remember any discomfort from a day. When I'm eating with others I inevitably end up talking, and lose track of the food. Food is an important part of any experience for me, and I'm disappointed when I realise I'm not paying attention to it. Not that having conversations is bad. Just, tradeoffs.

My compulsion around a tidy kitchen has got worse. If I know there's a mess in a kitchen such that if I suddenly needed to cook something I wouldn't be able to without cleaning first, I have to clean it up, or I can't focus on anything else. Even if I can't see the kitchen. In hostels this often means doing other peoples' dishes, which I don't begrudge; others come and go, it's not a long term thing. If I'm sharing a space with someone else for a while and I end up constantly keeping on top of their mess, then I get annoyed. I know some people just have differently cleanliness standards to me. I've lived with plenty of other people in the past. And my preferred solution is to just not live with other people any more.

Blogging and logging

I stayed on top of my logs, but I dropped well behind on blogging about places and vegan food. I have a few half finished drafts. I was hoping to get them wrapped up and published before this post, but I'll get to them eventually.

Things I didn't do

Some things I thought I'd do this year that I didn't, include:

Things I did do

Some things I did that I hadn't expected were:

I'm continuously astonished and thankful that my travel experiences are always so seamless. Especially as I hear stories of the bad things that happen to other people. I've never been robbed, or left my backpack on a bus. I have incredible luck with finding great places to stay for good prices. When I miss connections, I usually get where I'm going anyway, and don't lose a ton of money in the process. How can this be? I plan well (not too much, not too little), learn about places ahead of time, and am laid back and positive-minded (I naturally forget or downplay negative things where some people - I've noticed - really fixate on them, which affects how they react in the moment, and their perception of how a trip went after the fact). But there's an element of luck with all of this. Fingers crossed it keeps up.

I found a new pleasure this year in familiar places. I passed through a lot of cities I spent longer in the year before (or even earlier this year) - like Split, Sofia, Bratislava, Prague, Budapest, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Vienna. It's nice to already know the route from the bus station, and where some vegan cafes are and how the public transport works.

2020

Whenever anyone comments on my lifestyle - whether to say they couldn't imagine living on the road, or that it would be their dream - I always say I can't imagine living any other way. It's true. So the easy thing to do for me is to keep travelling. To keep bouncing, month to month from place to place, selfishly looking out only for myself on my own schedule, committing to nothing and no-one that I can't just do online. But for a very good reason, I would stop or put things on hold for a year. Such a reason is currently rearing its head. So the default is to keep travelling, but there's a small chance I might pause.

Going with the default, this year I'd like to spend substantive time in:

More time in Croatia and Slovenia would be also welcome. Another visit to Greece might also be on the cards. I have a feeling the call to revisit people in places I now know will be strong.

Once again, I'd like to not zigzag. There are no RWOT conferences or W3C meetings in Europe that I know of this year, so they shouldn't be pulling me off track. If Aida runs another yoga retreat in Iz (Croatia), I'll try to go. There's social pressure to visit Ayvalik (Turkey) and Lesbos (Greece) in the spring this year, so we'll see about that. I'll probably need to go through one of the Baltic countries to get a visa for Belarus, so I might spend some time in Latvia or Lithuania.

Again, I aim to complete least one more Vipassana meditation retreat. It's cheating to add this as a goal right now because I registered back in October for one in February in Switzerland, but it hasn't happened yet so I guess I could still fail to go.

I want to log my journeys properly, with start and end times, and make a visual map of countries I've visited. I have the backend data to do this, but the logging is arduous. I've also started work on a timeline view of my logs; maybe I'll finish it!

I've gotta stop staying in places where AC and heating cost extra, or are ineffective. Though I avoid AC unless I'm dying; actually I'm more likely to head to places this summer that don't get so hot so that shouldn't be an issue. I definitely will be triple checking the heating situation when I'm likely to be cold though, because I've been freezing in my home far too often this year and it just ruins everything. Also I need to remember to check the location of the fusebox at every place I stay before there's a power outage. And sort out a backup wifi option before that's an emergency too.

I've got to invest some of my savings into something. It's not that I am particularly interested in making the number go up, but the money I have sitting uselessly in the bank right now could be being used by someone to do some good in the world. There are lots of investment schemes for giving loans to co-operatives, housing projects, social enterprises etc. I'll be looking into that.

I've got my new backpack, a 35L RiutBag, which I'm excited to downsize my life into. It's hopefully small enough to go at my feet or over my head on a bus; not having to pack it under gives me one less thing to worry about, or potentially forget.

🏷 didwg writing food quantified self 2019 life year in review travel week in review digital nomad transit logs ods w3c