It’s hard to believe we’re already a week into 2024, but here we are. We usually like to do year-in-review posts as they’re fun to reflect on. This year, it’s also essential so we can let you all know about what we’ve been up to, as we haven’t had much time to post.
It was a huge year of travel for us, and this is a travel blog after all. Let’s start with the trip we took this time last year to start 2023.
We went all the way to the end of the world then took the scenic way back to the USA, starting with…
Thanks to a big travel hacking win, we booked flights from Asheville’s little regional airport to Buenos Aires. We used 22,000 American Airlines points and spent $5.60 each for the trip to the Argentine capital.
On the way there, we also got to check out the swanky Capital One lounge in the Dallas airport. It has an exercise room, showers, delicious food, and craft cocktails on draft. That long flight down to Argentina wasn’t so bad after that!
We spent around two months in Argentina, using the capital as a base. Here’s what our itinerary looked like:
- Buenos Aires (Villa Crespo) – 17 nights
- El Calafate – 3 nights
- El Chalten – 6 nights
- Ushuaia – 4 nights
- Buenos Aires (Recoleta) – 7 nights
- Buenos Aires (San Telmo) – 14 nights
As you can see, we had three stints in Buenos Aires and stayed in three different neighborhoods. In between those last two, we took the ferry over to Uruguay and spent 2 weeks there.
There’s lots to say about our trip to Argentina. In short, we loved it.
Buenos Aires became one of our favorite cities we’ve ever been, and we’re considering going back for a much longer stay. We really fell for the place.
And what can we say about Patagonia? Words don’t even do this place justice. It’s so stunningly beautiful that it takes your breath away.
It also literally takes your breath away as you’re on the trails doing one of the countless hikes in the region. We logged some miles on our hiking boots in El Chalten, which might be the best hiking destination we’ve ever been to.
To top it all off, we went to the end of the world to the city of Ushuaia. In addition to Tierra del Fuego National Park, we also got to walk with hundreds of wild penguins. Check that one off the bucket list!
After all that, we were very, very sad to leave Argentina. To be honest, we wish we were going back there to start 2024, but we made other plans… It’s high on our list to return, next time for much longer.
While we were down in that corner of South America, we figured we might as well check another country off our list. We took the ferry from Buenos Aires over to the town of Colonia del Sacramento and spent a night there.
It’s a quaint little colonial town with some nice architecture and coastal views. Much to our dismay, we soon realized that traveling in Uruguay is about triple the cost of what it is right across the river in Argentina. Ouch.
As such, we ended up eating more street hot dogs than steaks in Uruguay. In hindsight, we wish we had just popped over for a few days rather than booked two full weeks in Montevideo.
Anyways… from Colonia, we made a stop in this tiny town of Santa Ana because I found an awesome yurt on Airbnb. See for yourself:
Santa Ana is a beach town, but the weather had different plans for us. We ended up needing to stock up at the little markets in town and hunkering down while some nasty, unseasonably cold weather passed over.
Surprisingly, their WiFi worked alright and we managed to catch up on work while staying warm in the yurt, cooking simple meals, and drinking boxed wine. We couldn’t afford the fancy bottles like we could over in Argentina.
From there, we took the bus to the capital of Montevideo. Our Airbnb was great and our hosts were so friendly. It was a good place to hole up for a few weeks and get to work.
As it turns out, Carnival in Montevideo isn’t much of a party vibe at all. Most locals who can afford to leave town head up the coast to the nicer beach towns to escape the city. So a lot of the city is shut down and empty.
Some of the shows are fun to see, but the tickets are expensive and it’s a very tame affair compared to the Sambadrome in Rio. We finally found a cool local party in the street towards the end of our stay at least.
The moral of the story is – if you’re coming to Latin America for Carnival and you want to party, don’t come to Uruguay. Go to any of the other places we mentioned above.
By our last night in town, more locals were out and about, and more businesses were open. We wouldn’t mind going back to Montevideo again when half the city isn’t out of town.
Chile and Panama
To make our way back north for summer festivities, we first paid for flights from Buenos Aires to Santiago. We spent a few months in Chile back in 2018 on our first trip to South America, so it was nice to go back.
This was just a quick 3-night visit and we had to work a bit, so we didn’t do much. We got to see our old friend who’s from Santiago, though, and had a nice dinner and drinks together.
Another travel hacking win got us from Santiago up to Mexico City. We booked this one with the points we got from our new Capital One Venture X card’s sign-up bonus.
Since there was a layover in Panama City, we decided to make it as long as we could and spent a night there. We stayed at Selina Casco Viejo and used the hotel credit from another card, so both the flight and the room were covered.
Between the Asheville-Buenos Aires flight and this one, we probably saved around $3,000 in flight costs by using credit card points. Travel hacking for the win!
It was hotter than Hades there and Selina has a rooftop pool, so we spent most of our time up there. We eventually ventured out to explore the Old City on foot, get some dinner, and check out a brewery.
Not bad for a layover! We’ll have to go back to Panama to explore more of the country one of these days…
These days, it feels weird if we go a calendar year without going to Mexico. We just love it there so much and there are many familiar friends and places.
Since our flight brought us to Mexico City, we stayed for a few days to hang out with friends. We’ve done most of the touristy stuff already, so it was nice to just eat some good food, get drinks, and chill out a bit.
Of course, I couldn’t resist the urge to bring the group to lucha libre on Friday night. I would probably go every week if we lived in Mexico City. It’s just that much fun.
Next up, we visited a new city in Mexico as we headed to Queretaro. Some of our oldest nomad friends moved there and bought a place to rent on Airbnb, so we were glad to be some of their first guests!
Queretaro is a city of around one million, so it has a lot of amenities minus the traffic, pollution, and crowds of Mexico City. We can see the appeal, but it’s a bit too quiet for our tastes…
We didn’t get to see a whole lot of the city as we were busy working. Plus, we went there to hang out with our friends, so that’s what we did!
Over the years, we’ve been fortunate enough to stay in some nice places in Puerto Vallarta. Just watch this video tour of our condo where we stayed for six months in 2020.
Now picture the exact opposite. We ended up in a tiny “studio” with roosters and dogs right outside the window and zero privacy. It was a less-than-ideal situation, to say the least.
That being said, Puerto Vallarta is our home away from home and we have so many friends there. We ended up staying with several of them on the weekends, which helped salvage our stay and our sanity.
For some reason, my teaching schedule got crazy busy for the month we were in Puerto Vallarta. I was waking up before 6 AM some days, usually after going to bed well after midnight.
Rachel had to pack her computer up and head out to work from several different places throughout the month. It was tough balancing it all while trying to spend quality time with friends.
At this point, I was teaching on four different platforms in addition to doing freelance writing for a few clients. I had six or seven different colors on my Google calendar and spent so much time just making my schedule that I was starting to lose it.
It was starting to feel overwhelming keeping up with everything while also planning travels and running our own business. After over seven years of being a digital nomad, I was starting to feel ready to hang it up.
I told Rachel we could enjoy the month in Puerto Vallarta but that I would be… gasp… looking for a job when we got back to the US. Ideally a remote one, but a job nonetheless.
My resume was super out of date and I hadn’t been on LinkedIn since I taught English in China over a decade ago. The plan was to update all that stuff after our trip to New Orleans for Jazz Fest.
Then one day while scrolling on Instagram, I saw a post for a remote job with a company I knew very well and whose mission I supported wholeheartedly. I figured I’d give it a shot and skipped a beach day to get my application together.
I didn’t want to psych myself out too much about the interview, so I didn’t even tell Rachel until the night before. It was wild having a remote job interview so soon after deciding to look for one. Not only that, but in the live music realm doing what I love to do.
The interview went well and I was excited to get called back for another one. I still had to teach a bunch while trying to enjoy our last few days in PV with friends. We did, with plenty of tacos & tequila.
I had my second interview bright and early the day we were set to fly back to the US to make our way to New Orleans for Jazz Fest. It was wild having a remote job interview then packing everything up and once again heading to the airport.
Of course, the roosters started crowing and the power dropped out. Just my luck. Despite those hiccups, I thought it was great. We left Mexico hopeful for what the future might bring.
Somehow, this was our first time going to the New Orleans Jazz Festival. I know – it’s crazy. This was a long overdue trip.
We spent a whole week in the Big Easy but only went to the actual festival one day. To save money, we signed up as volunteers. Fun Fact – that’s how we met 15 years ago – volunteering at the Rothbury Festival in Michigan.
In addition to volunteering at Jazz Fest, I was doing a bunch of promotional work for other shows around town. We went to a whole other festival during the week and also went to late-night shows every night.
I couldn’t help but think that everything was falling into place, and I kept hoping I’d check my e-mail and see a job offer. The week flew by in the blink of an eye and we headed to the airport exhausted.
As it was a Friday and it had been over a week, I figured the clock was ticking. We got through the long bus ride and finally got through airport security.
We put our names on the waiting list for the lounge (more travel hacking I’m telling ya…) and plopped our bags down. I went to fill my water bottle and got my phone out while I waited.
Lo and behold, there was an offer letter to start a job at CashorTrade!
If you’re not familiar, CashorTrade is a social platform where fans can buy, sell, and trade tickets for events with each other, but only at face value. No scalping is allowed and neither are scammers.
After years and years of promoting shows, writing blogs, managing social media pages, and editing graphics and videos, I get to bundle all of these things together. It’s my dream job and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
It was a great run of being a jobless, freelancing jack-of-all-trades backpacker turned digital nomad. I left my full-time teaching job in Beijing on August 1, 2013, and I started my job at CashorTrade on June 13, 2023. That’s just about a decade!
While it was great and I wouldn’t trade that journey for anything, I was ready for a bit of stability. I was so sick of fighting to pick up classes and balancing several different platforms in addition to writing, catering, and whatever else I could do.
Now I get to work alongside some awesome people and talk about the bands I love all day. All the while, I get to be creative, engage with fans, and help folks score tickets to their favorite artists.
Life is good.
Just because I got a fancy new job, though, doesn’t mean we’ve stopped traveling. Far from it. In the next post recapping the 2nd half of the year, we’ll tell you all about our round-the-world trip.