2018 in review

In 2017 I finished my thesis in Malaysia, flew back to Europe, got a job in Sarajevo and settled down there for a bit. It would have been easy to stay. Too easy. Being comfortable makes me uncomfortable, so in 2018 I became once more an everything-I-own-in-a-backpack no-fixed-abode full-time digital nomad.

I posted logs or photos or blogposts to my site 4,817 times and posted 9,520 individual photos.

tl;dr

Goals for 2019: Proceed on current trajectory, but write more.

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Words

I wrote 437 things. On my site I posted 350 short notes or commentary with photos, and 87 longer articles. I also logged non-blogpost writing 34 times. These all comprise approximately 122,401 words in total (47,804 off-site). That's a mean of 335.35 words and 1.20 posts per day.

I wrote about 217 different topics, with the most common being travel (181), life (89), food (46), week in review (44), vegan (38), hacking (26), Georgia (the country) (13), sloph (13), tourism (12), Sarajevo, Bosnia (10), Poland (10), and nanowrimo (10).

My NaNoWriMo project was Birds, and I also wrote small bits of Quest for Brothers and Offcast.

Travel

I stopped in a total of 24 countries; I visited 9 countries for more than a couple of weeks, 7 of which I had never been to before, and passed through (with a stop of 12 hours to 10 days) 15 others (6 new). I achieved my goal of not flying at all, and have way better travel stories as a result.

I spent 31 nights sleeping in transit (on buses, ferries, trains, etc). Apart from that, I spent 77 nights in short-term rental accommodation, 71 nights in AirBnbs, 69 nights in hostel dorms, 56 nights at friends' places, 24 nights with family, 23 nights at Vipassana meditation centres, 8 nights in hotels, 5 nights shared AirBnbs covered by work, and 1 night camping.

In total I spent 2 months, 26 days, 6 hours, 56 minutes, and 21 seconds in transit (this includes walking between places). To travel long distance or internationally, I took 52 bus journeys, 18 long distance trains, 9 ferries, and made 8 journeys in a car (either hitchhiking or a ride with a friend). I also bought tickets for local bus, tram or metro 44 times, took 10 taxis, and had 3 rides on a cable car.

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

Work

I worked remotely one day a week for W3C through January, in-person 3 days a week for OCCRP from until February then remotely for OCCRP from February until May flexibly between 10 and 40 hours per week. I joined Open Data Services Co-operative at the end of May, and work 3 days per week with a fully remote team, with a couple of trips back to the UK for in-person meetings. Towards the end of December, I picked up an extra one day a week of spec-writing contracting work with Digital Bazaar.

Code

This is my Github commit log:

Github counted 790 'contributions'. This includes commits over 27 repositories, 10 of which I created (in 2018).

This is significantly less than last year. Which I think means I successfully did less work, which was one of my goals.

Here is the list of repos (expands inline). I'm too lazy to link them. Some of these are private.

  • alephdata/aleph
  • alephdata/flexicadastre
  • alephdata/followthemoney
  • alephdata/memorious
  • csarven/articles
  • csarven/lr-thesis
  • linkeddata/dokieli
  • linkedresearch/linkedresearch.org
  • occrp-attic/exactitude
  • occrp/tech.occrp.org
  • open-contracting/extensions-data-collector
  • open-contracting/kingfisher-scrape
  • OpenDataServices/cove
  • OpenDataServices/developer-docs
  • OpenDataServices/fireproofbox-standard
  • OpenDataServices/lib-cove-web
  • OpenDataServices/sedldata
  • openownership/cove-bods
  • perma-id/w3id.org
  • rhiaro/admin
  • rhiaro/birds
  • rhiaro/cashcache
  • rhiaro/ch-seco-sanctions
  • rhiaro/evieblue
  • rhiaro/homeiswherethehammockis.com
  • rhiaro/ocds-memorious-crawlers
  • rhiaro/pym
  • rhiaro/questforbrothers
  • rhiaro/salvage
  • rhiaro/sloph
  • rhiaro/sloph
  • rhiaro/unknown-sample
  • rhiaro/vocab-logs
  • rhiaro/zulip2md
  • w3c/activitystreams
  • w3c/credweb

Stuff

I purchased or otherwise acquired something on 928 occasions, spending a total of approximately €11,080.72 for the whole year. I used 13 different currencies (EUR, RSD, BAM, PLN, GBP, CZK, UAH, GEL, TRY, BGN, HRK, USD, HUF). This is an average expenditure of €30.36 per day, €213.09 per week, or €923.39 per month. My rough budget for everything has been €1000, so I call this a success.

This includes donations to charities/organisations/people, gifts, and buying other peoples' food or bus fare. This does not include ATM fees, bank fees and loss through currency conversion. It would be too depressing to try to add this up.

Naturally the things I acquired the most often were food (435 times), restaurant (345), transit (147), groceries (143), takeaway (98), and leisure (75).

On accommodation, I spent €4,175.61 in total, averaging €11.44 per night, and €347.97 per month. I spent €1,891.64 on transit (buses, trains, etc).

I spent €763.49 on groceries, buying them 143 times. I bought food that was ready to eat on 435 occasions, spending €3,012.56; 79.3% of the time this was in restaurants and 22.5% to take away.

On 43 occasions I got something for free. The most expensive thing I bought was 20 nights shelter in Tallinn (AirBnB) (€597) and the cheapest thing (which wasn't free) was Old Oyster card refunds (x3) (€-27.49). I spent on average €11.94 per time. 97.4% of my acquire posts have photos attached. You can see them all at /stuff

January: travel practice

I woke up on the 1st of January 2018 in Malta, with a resolution not to fly at all this year. I made my way back to Sarajevo by two ferries and four buses, over three days, via Catania and Napoli (Italy) and Zagreb (Croatia). Did some touristing in Bosnia, this month, in the environs of Sarajevo (Goat's Bridge, Bobsled track), and to Visocko pyramids and Mostar. Watched a lot of Star Trek the Original Series, which was a slog. ActivityPub finally made it to W3C Recommendation, and so did WebSub.

19 January posts. Weeks in review:

February: re-finding my nomad

My last Sarajevo adventure was to Vrelo Bosna. I convinced nice people at OCCRP to let me go remote, and said farewell. I made plans to head south to Montenegro, then promptly changed them and went to my Mum's for two weeks. There was a wee bird and a Grandma who needed a bit of looking after, and I got to catch up with old friends and deflate a little. And let my Mum cut my dreads off, and then shaved my head. I saw Bown, Laurel and Jamie in London and Pete and Alan in Lincoln.

I took a bus to Prague (Czech Republic) via a day in Amsterdam, and spent the final few days of the month freezing my ass off there.

24 February posts. Weeks in review:

March: slow down

The month started with a long weekend in Ljubljana (Slovenia), visting Elizabeth and her family.

Then I headed to Budapest (Hungary) for the rest of the month. Naomi came to visit, and we went to thermal baths.

23 March posts. Weeks in review:

April: new experiences, and academia flashbacks

From Budapest I got a ride to the mountains near Mariazelle, Austria. I served on a 10 day Vipassana retreat, working in the kitchen to prepare food for 175 people every day, which was some of the most fun I've ever had. I got a ride back to Vienna, then took a bus to Bratislava (Slovak Republic), where I spent a week. I had a comically tiny flat, and immediately fell in love with the city.

My sister turned up for the weekend, and then together we went back to Vienna. She had a conference, and I bummed in her university-sponsored AirBnb for a week. I dyed my buzzcut purple, blue and green.

After that, I headed to Brno by bus, and met my roommate Petra from the earlier Vipassna retreat. I stayed for a week with her and her family in South Moravia, in the Czech countryside. We meditated and did yoga and went on walks in nature and that was lovely. We spent a night at her friend's in Prague, and then I caught a bus to Lyon (France).

I stayed there for TheWebConf, chaired the Developers' Track, and helped out with the Researcher Centric Scholarly Comms workshop. It was nice to not be seeking something from the conference, no need to further my academic career or make certain contacts. I could just hang out with cool people, and complain about the food.

I bussed from Lyon to Munich (Germany) and spent a day there before continuing to Krakow (Poland).

Then Open Data Services offered me a job, though I wouldn't start til June. I thought I might take a month off, but worked another month for OCCRP anyway.

43 April posts. Weeks in review:

May: beaches and history and solitude

I spent a couple of days in Krakow, before taking a train to Gdynia in the north. Here I settled in a shared flat for a month. There was a heatwave, and I got to spend my downtime hiking astonishing white sandy beaches, dunes, and wild pine forests. I walked the Hel Peninsula. I also learnt more about the history of Eastern Europe from museums in Gdansk and Gdynia than I ever learnt at school.

I met Adam at a CouchSurfing meetup and he drove me far enough that we could walk along the beach to the Kaliningrad (Russia) border with Poland, we got caught in a rainstorm, and then I introduced him to the marvels of vegan pizza.

I bussed back to London (via Amsterdam where I saw the Soton crew at WebSci) for my induction into ODS and some training.

42 May posts. Weeks in review:

June: home again home again

I spent a couple of weeks in the UK, met ODS colleagues in London and saw family and Tigo and Laurel, TomSka, Polly, Chloe, Doc, Oli. I went to Edinburgh to catch up with friends as well.

I went back to Sarajevo via Vienna and Prague for a couple of weeks. Handed off some work, swapped my work laptop back for my personal one, and of course saw friends and enjoyed Sarajevo in the summertime. I spent the last night on the sofa in Prana Yoga Studio, then rode with Aida (my yoga teacher) and others to Croatia.

29 June posts. Weeks in review:

July: off-route

The first week of July was a yoga retreat with Aida on the beautiful island of Iz, just off the coast of Zadar. It was hot, the sea was clear, and the hotel was all vegetarian and there was no wifi in the rooms. I took most of the week off work and relaxed, and talked about yoga and veganism and Yugoslavia with Juliana and Amila (and Sofia).

I stayed another night in Zadar, before bussing to Sofia (Bulgaria). There I spent a few days in a hostel, and met Franzi.

I bussed directly from Sofia to Istanbul (Turkey), bought another ticket and waited a few hours, then went all the way through Turkey to the Georgian border. Unexpectedly the bus didn't actually cross the border, but dumped the few remaining passengers at Sarp, the most chaotic border crossing I've ever seen. It was hot, there were hundreds of people, many carrying giant carpets, and actual fights broke out in the 'lines'. After passport control the Georgian side was airconditioned, and more civilised. I don't know where all the people dispersed to. I caught a marshrutka to Batumi, a city on the Black Sea, and spent some days there in a hostel. It's a very strange place, but in a nice way.

Then I bussed to Tbilisi. I was advised to take the train, but left it too late and there were no tickets left. I stayed in Tbilisi with Jason and Elspeth for a little over a week, and attended the Open Governence Partnership conference. I met some of my ODS colleagues I hadn't met yet IRL, as well as some folks from OCCRP, and it was pretty fun. I met Eric, Jason's vegan friend, and Georgian food blew my mind. We went to the Rachuli mountains for a long weekend after the conference.

I took a train back to Batumi, spent a few days deflating in a nice apartment on the seafront, and absorbing more Batumi weirdness. My ferry out was postponed a day, and then delayed another day after boarding. Eventually it left, and I spent two days traversing the Black Sea to Ukraine on a hand-me-down Lithuanian vessel crewed only by people who spoke Russian, with all the customs forms and other documents in Turkish. It was a bit weird.

I arrived in Odesa (Ukraine), which was hot and as weird as Batumi but in different ways. I stayed in an awful hostel, and took the train out across the country to Lviv.

56 July posts. Weeks in review:

August: back on plan

I spent a few days in Lviv in a lovely hostel, in the company of some of the amazing and generous people (Sasha and Roman) who work at Quinta Group with government procurement data.

My explore-the-Baltics-in-the-summer plan was a little delayed, but eventually I made it to Estonia. Almost a week in Tartu to begin with, and then on to Tallinn for the rest of the month. I started out by almost immediately getting locked in the City Library. I had an AirBnb to myself, and spent my time wandering beaches and woods and wildlife conservation areas and touristy things. I met Vandesh at a vegan picnic in the park which I found through CouchSurfing.

I got a cool sideshave haircut, and bleached my hair blonde, aiming for white but not quite getting it. I also applied for Estonian e-residency.

I took the ferry to Helsinki in time for the MyData conference.

45 August posts. Weeks in review:

September: Lithuania is underrated

I didn't attend the MyData conference, but bengo let me crash in his AirBnb and I went to the social events. We went back to Tallinn, which I had planned to leave immediately but struggled a bit and stayed an extra night. I managed to drag myself away eventually, and stopped in Parnu, Estonia's seaside town.

I spent a week crawling my way around the Baltic coast, aiming for Klaipeda (Lithuania). I took a bus from Parnu to Riga, then Riga to Kolka (Latvia). One night on the beach of the Cape in a barrel-house in one of the most beautiful places ever. I hitched a ride from my barrel-house-neighbours, Tomas and Eva (from Warsaw), around the coast to Ventspils, then on to Liepaja, where I stayed in a hostel for a couple of nights.

I took a bus to Klaipeda, and spent a week there. I cycled the Curonian Spit, but could only manage one way. It was beautiful.

Then I spent two weeks in Kaunas, in a super friendly small hostel. I met Paul, who worked there, and they started referring to me as the "long term resident". Kaunas is a highly underrated small city, with oodles of river and nice places to walk, as well as a cute old town. The Pope also came by while I was there.

I went to Vilnius for a week, by train. Stayed in a hostel over a giant club, and had either attend or sleep through a rave or two. Cafe worked and touristed and treora showed up for a few days. Spent a day in Trakai too.

59 September posts. Weeks in review:

October: writing, stability, then a detour

After a month of hostels and buses, it was time to slow it down again. I spent the whole month in Riga (Latvia), with a studio apartment AirBnb to myself once more. On the first weekend, Claire (who I met in Malaysia, in Wholey Wonder) came to visit. I lied, I didn't spend the whole month. At the last minute I decided in the third week to head back to the UK for the ODS OGM in Nottingham, and had just enough time to squeeze in a visit to my family before heading back to Riga. Some touristing, and mushrooms!

I did NaNoWriMo, a month early, managing over 43k words of a story I love despite the travel and work and guests. I picked up my Estonian e-residency from the embassy in Riga.

The weather started to deteriorate.

24 October posts. Weeks in review:

November: I LOVE POLAND

I went back to Poland, where the weather was much better. I spent a week comprehensively falling in love with Warsaw, and then went out into the countryside to sit a 10 day Vipassana retreat. I had made no onward plans, and got a ride to Wroclaw, which I spent a week comprehensively falling in love with as well. There are lots of islands, rivers, bridges, but the weather was getting colder still.

There's a direct bus to Bratislava (Slovak Republic), so that's where I went next. I met up with Helmut, who I met on the Vipassana retreat in Austria, for an afternoon and evening. I still loved Bratislava, but it kind of pales in comparison to Poland.

I went to Vienna, then on to Sarajevo (Bosnia i Herzegovina). Logically this is not a sensible thing to do in the winter, but if you zoom the map out really far it's sort of in the right direction. And of course I saw Elizabeth and Almedina and jen and Edin and Rysiek and Czesiek and Aida and whomever happened to walk into the Data Team office at OCCRP while I was hanging out there. And unexpectedly I bumped into Juliana (are you paying attention? I met her at the yoga retreat in Croatia in July).

22 November posts. Weeks in review:

December: to the sea, better late than never

Then it got smoggy. Really smoggy. I carved my way through the air to East Sarajevo bus station, and left for Belgrade (Serbia).

I spent a few days in Belgrade, because I hadn't been there in quite a few years. I'll never love Belgrade, but it's alright. Bus ticket negotiation was tricky by email and the web, but in person I was helped very well, and went directly to Thessaloniki (Greece). It was a relief to reach the sea, and the threat of freezing temperatures was finally abated.

After a week of cafe working and very gentle touristing, I went to Kavala for a day, then caught a ferry to Mytilene, Lesbos. I took the bus across the island to Petra, when it eventually left, and settled in to a studio flat right on the sea front. The town is very small, and quiet in the off season; most cafes and restaurants are closed down. My host, Eleni and her family are extraordinarily generous, and I'm really being looked after. Lesbos is an island rich in variety of flora and fauna with beaches and mountains of all kinds to explore. Local olives are great, and Greeks are generally a hospitable, if loud, bunch.

Got one day a week of Web standards related contracting work. Should be fun, but 3 days a week suits me well so not sure if will live to regret an extra one, we'll see.

I got a great haircut, and dyed my hair dusty grey-purple.

39 December posts. Weeks in review:

Reflection on 2018

A pretty successful year, I think. My tl;dr goals were "write more, travel more, work less." I achieved all of those, right up until this month where I picked up some extra work, but still not enough to make me full time.

I aimed to sit another Vipassana retreat, and I managed to serve one and sit one.

I focussed a lot on conscious eating, reduced the amount I eat, and waste I produce from takeaway food.

Some specific things I didn't do were:

Some things I did that I didn't expect were:

I've become a lot better at understanding my own needs and rhythms. I have a good idea of when I need solitude, or when it is going to be bad for me, and what I should do to feel better if that happens. For most of the year I roughly alternated between staying in hostel dorms, with friends or family, and getting a flat to myself. I mostly got it right, but there were times when being with people too much or being alone too much got to me.

I continue to meet people who are astonished that I travel alone, and this reminds me just how important it is to me. Of course it's nice to spend time with friends and friendly strangers, even long stretches, but ultimately I still need my day-to-day to be completely untethered from anyone else. I appreciate never having to compromise, being able to make decisions and change my mind and never having to explain myself or convince someone else. I know how to plan a day for me, the kinds of places I'm willing to stay, how fast I walk, how long I spend in museums, how much effort I'm willing to put in to find a vegan restaurant with a wrong address on happycow; throwing someone else into the mix makes that impossible. Even someone I think I know well, or someone with whom I have a lot in common. Call me selfish, but never having to check in to see how someone else is doing is absolute bliss.

I discovered, or perhaps for the first time managed to vocalise, the feeling of arriving in a brand new place I know nothing about. I felt it a lot this year, and very distinctly on some specific occasions. It's easy to get swept up in the rhythm of travel. No trip feels special when your whole life is making trips. Things become a haze of movement, bus schedules, logistics, finding food, taking photos, pretty landscapes, walking tours. But I take it as slow as I can, and stop to appreciate the rush of being somewhere for the first time. Especially somewhere I know nobody, and nobody knows me. And every time I do, nothing compares.

Sort of related is enjoying making do with what's available in a new place. My diet changes every month based on what local food I can buy, and how I prepare meals and coffee changes because of the kitchen facilities I can access. I've stayed in places with only microwaves, only stovetops, only grills, or no kitchen at all, and figured out how to make meals. I learnt at least half a dozen different ways to make coffee, and that a great many different household objects can be re-purposed as a rolling pin.

Having a low-pressure job and working 3 days a week is enormously good for my mental health. Writing code is often frustrating, and often boring, but I don't miss academia or deadlines at all. Having a schedule that ensures I have time to hike, to read fiction, to hack on my own stuff, to write, and most importantly to just be with nobody expecting any outputs or results, is amazing. I really appreciate having a flexible job, where I can switch days or hours around if I need to for travel reasons, or if my head just wasn't in the right place to be productive on a work day, I can make it up another time.

It's been well over a year now, but I still feel the lightness of being free from you-should-be-writing guilt. Of course, there is always more to do. But I don't feel bad about not doing it. I could be a hundred times more 'productive' if I wanted to. But I don't want to. And that's okay.

I also value being part of an amazing remote team now. Checking in by video call has become a habit; one I thought would be too social for me before I started, but I have acclimatised. Text-based communication is still my preferred, but seeing the faces of my colleagues every workday morning is.. just nice.

I thought a lot this year about how to provide safety and comfort for people who need it. My Vipassana kitchen experience cemented in me that I want to one day open a pay-as-you-want hearty healthy vegan kitchen, and my social media timelines full of people who are having a hard time and just need a place to go has had me thinking about how a pay-as-you-want hostel/shelter might work. One thing I miss while I'm travelling is not being able to offer people a place to stay. It's a way off, and I have no idea yet where that would be, but it's on my mind. Meanwhile, what I can do is donate money to organisations who can provide these kinds of things, or to individuals who ask for help on the internet (or sometimes in person, on the street).

In the medium term, I would definitely not mind transitioning away from tech.

2019

I plan to continue to travel in the same way through 2019. How much time I spend in EU countries may depend on Brexit and like wow, really who knows how that's going to go. It may have no effect on my travelling at all, or I may suddenly be hit by a need for visas or uncertainty at borders. Really no idea. Not flying is now baked in to my psyche, so I don't expect that to change.

But hopefully I will spend at least two weeks in the following countries:

It could also be nice to spend longer in Croatia and Slovak Republic, if the opportunity arises.

I should exercise more. No, I will exercise more. I still hike a lot, but I only did yoga this year in the presence of Aida (and she knew it) and I stopped running (except with my sister, in Vienna, and once in Tallinn). So there's that new year's resolution cliche.

I refresh my aim to sit at least one Vipassana course.

And did I mention? Write more. I will strive again to draft Quest for Brothers, finish Milo's World and Of the Moon, and now I have Birds to finish as well. I wrote half of it in one month, surely I can write the second half in another month.

🏷 transit logs food year in review quantified self writing week in review 2018 travel life occrp sloph ods digital nomad