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Today is my anniversary: One year in the life of a full time traveler, and one year in the life of this blog.

One June 9th, 2011, I watched the Manhattan skyline disappear into the distance as I flew towards Scotland and the unknown. An hour earlier, hunched over my laptop using airport WiFi, I launched Meihoukai in Wanderland.

From sailing in luxury through Santorini to having a motorcycle stolen in Vientiane, from working as a Coyote-Ugly style bartender in Koh Tao to winning a scuba diving grant in New York… what a ride it has been! I think it’s high time for a little stroll down memory lane, don’t you?

My Year in Travels

I go through all my highlights and lowlights in my monthly roundup posts, and I show you all my favorite pictures in my Photo of the Week posts, so this is more of a general journey through my year than a tops-and-flops-and-best-pictures thing. That would take me weeks!

1. Bon Voyage

The journey truly began about a month before my first flight, when I graduated from Pratt University. I admit that it frequently felt like school was holding me back from the “real life” I so desperately wanted to start living abroad, but I look at my diploma today and I feel great pride. That final semester almost killed me: I worked multiple jobs to build my savings, I was preparing to move across the globe (you long-term travelers know this is practically a full time job!), and I still managed my highest ever GPA. Not to brag, but… yup I’m bragging.

Then my family threw me the most beautiful, amazing Bon Voyage/Graduation party a girl could ask for. Excited as I was for the life in front of me, this was a hard goodbye.

2. Scotland

Scotland was the first destination on my great escape and a place I hold so dear in my heart. Mark had not been home in over two years and the time was finally right for us to go spend a nice chunk of time there. I spent five weeks exploring the country I had been hearing so much about for two years, I developed an intense infatuation with highland cows, and I attended a Scottish wedding, kilts and all. There is nothing like having locals (bonus points if it’s someone you love all their family and friends) show you around a country. Scotland charmed me, plain and simple.

3. England

I spent less than a week total in England, just breezing through Manchester and spending a few days feeling totally broke in London. I met more of Mark’s family and reconnected with old travel friends, which was the highlight.

4. Spain

And by “Spain” I obviously mean “I got boozey in Ibiza for a week.” We went on vacation, or holiday for all my Brits out there, with some of Mark’s childhood friends to this beautiful Spanish island. Of course Ibiza is mostly about the insane club scene but we also made time to go relax on the beach, go diving, and rent a scooter to explore the island.

5. Greece

At this point I shifted gears from the Family and Friends Tour to what I refer to as the Mediterranean Luxury portion of my year, sponsored by none other than my globe-trotting Mama! We spent a few days exploring Athens, a city I fell madly in love with, before hopping on a luxury cruise through the Greek Isles. This was a lot of firsts for me: First time in the Mediterranean, first time on a cruise ship, first time drinking wine that did not cost $2 at Trader Joe’s. I think my mom and I will be talking about this trip until the end of time, it was that good.

6. Turkey

Our cruise wrapped up in Turkey and we spent a few lovely days exploring Istanbul and staying in my top hotel of the year. After all my travels in Southeast Asia, that region feels very familiar to me. But Istanbul was so completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced; it just felt deliciously exotic.

7. Thailand

Oh, Thailand. What can I say about Thailand, a country that has held a piece of my heart since my first trip here in 2009? That 2009 trip is where I first started hatching The Great Escape in my head, so returning really made everything come full circle. While the year would eventually bring me to Bangkok (about a million times!), to all the islands of the Samui archipelago, and up North through Ayutthaya, Lopburi, and Chiang Mai, it was really always all about Koh Tao.

Koh Tao is where we settled down and actually lived for the vast majority of the year, and was home base for our Southeast Asia travels. I worked many an odd job but really fell in love once again with underwater video, a career I first flirted with in Grand Cayman. I partied like crazy, I loved my creative job, I made lifelong friends, I trained in Muay Thai… I lived the life I had dreamed of, and it was everything I could have hoped for and more. I never summed up my time there better than I did in this post.

And I could never go through a roundup of my year without mentioning the fact that I spent three weeks hosting family and friends from back home over the holidays. What a lucky girl I am, and what a fantastic holiday season in Thailand that was!

8. Cambodia

This was my second trip to Cambodia (I visited here in 2009 as well) and I’m not shy about saying this is my favorite country on earth, and this was the happiest point of my year. Famous ancient ruins, an untouched countryside, a captivating capital city, and pristine islands and beaches. What more could you want? When our three weeks here were up I just did not want to leave.

9. Vietnam

I have a complicated relationship with Vietnam. My three weeks there challenged me, and that is sometimes what you need in your travels. There is just so much beauty and heartbreak and so many raw emotions in this country.

10. Laos

Laos was my final destination this year and it really stole my heart on my too-short two week trip here. I can’t wait to start blogging about my adventures here, and I even more can’t wait to go back!

11. And back again…

No one was more surprised than me when I spent nearly two months out of my year of travels in my home country! While I wish my trips had been a bit better timed and spread out, I think this is a good reflection of the kind of balance of home and travel I’d like to have in future years.

The greatest part about coming home after 10 months away was adapting my traveling lifestyle to being “home.” I’m really enjoying this new lens I’m looking at New York through.

My Year in Numbers

Countries Visited: 10 (including the US!)
New Countries: 6
Plane Rides: 10 (not including layovers)
Dives: 58 (I think this is right, but I’m never very good at logging them when I’m working!)
Jobs Worked: 7, at least (blogger, freelance designer, freelance writer and editor, underwater videographer, bartender, flyer girl, babysitter)
Posts: 253 (!)
Dollars Spent: I truly have no idea. I have $8,000ish less in my bank account than I did this time last year, but I worked cash-in-hand jobs along the way and in the past few months started earning a decent living off this blog. So it’s really, really hard to say. This is probably the most asked question though, which is why I included it here. I have a longer post coming about how I fund my travels, since it seems to be something people are interested in.

My Year in Blogging

My final semester in college I decided I wasn’t busy enough and took a travel writing class at NYU (this turned out to be an amazing decision!) At one point our teacher asked us to do an in-class exercise and write freely about why we wanted to be writers, or get out of a writing career. After 15 minutes this is what I had on my page: “I want to be funny and I want people to like me.” PROFOUND STUFF GUYS.

Well, here’s the miracle: I don’t know if I’m funny and I don’t know if people like me, but people read this blog. Like, every single day hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of people come to this website and read my frequently incoherent rambling confessions and sometimes they even take the time to write comments or send me emails and even more shockingly they often come back the next day. I have poured my heart and my passions and my secrets into my corner of the internet, and somehow it has resulted in deep connections, wonderful support, and real friendships. It’s enough to bring a non-ironic tear to my eye.

And then we reach a whole new level of crazy when I think about the fact that this is my job. One year ago I switched from my little WordPress hosted site (and some of you readers have been with me since then and for that I love you) to the blog you are reading today. I was spending hours and hours and hours on this, all for the love. Then magically one day the money came. It came slowly but it came steadily, and today this blog is beginning to finally support me! This year I’ve guest posted on some of my favorite travel blogs that I’ve been reading for years, I partnered with amazing hotels and tour operators, and hell, I even let my readers vote on what country I was going to next. Like I said, crazy ride.

And just for fun, here are some of my favorite posts of the year. So hard to narrow done!

Funniest: Hiking Ben Nevis For the Desperately Out of Shape, Shit I Make My Boyfriend Do, Windsurfing in Mui Ne
Most Creative: Greece: 40 Years Through the Lens, Vote on Where Meihoukai in Wanderland Goes Next
Musing-est: On Being Robbed, Breaking Strike and Broken Hearts, The Odd Sensation of Returning Home, War Tourism in Vietnam, The Children of Cambodia
Most Beautiful: Santorini Sunsets, Southwest and Shark Island, Mui Ne Sand Dunes
Most Useful: Angkor Wat by Bicycle, The Complete Guide to Koh Nang Yuan
Most Commented: Expat Fat, Becoming a Solo Traveler, Vietnam Love it Or Hate It

Deciding to document my life and travels with a blog has been one of my most rewarding decisions. And Meihoukai in Wanderland just simply would not be, would not exist as the place it is today, if it weren’t for you lovely loyal readers. It’s both exciting and terrifying to try to imagine where I might be on June 9th, 2013! I can’t wait to share this upcoming year with you, if you’ll have me. There is really no way to begin to express my gratitude, so I will just leave it at this:

Thank You.

  • Diane
    June 9 2012

    Hi, I’m a new reader of your blog and loved reading your one year update here. Sounds like you had a blast. Looking forward to seeing what’s next…

    • Meihoukai
      June 9 2012

      Thank you so much, Diane! So glad to have you here!

  • Sarahsomewhere
    June 9 2012

    Wow! What an amazing reflection on a MASSIVE year for you! You should be very proud of everything you have achieved and experienced. I thought your blog had been going longer, it’s so professional! And you are twenty something, that blows my mind! Your photography is insane, and your writing just wonderful. Happy, happy anniversary Meihoukai πŸ™‚
    Sarahsomewhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2012

      Thank you so much for these blush-worthy compliments, Sarah! Actually I’ve been blogging for around three years but only in the past year did I switch over to a self-hosted domain. Still, those years gave me tons of practice and brought me pretty far… I cringe going back and reading really old posts sometimes!

  • Diane C
    June 9 2012

    Wow! Many Congrats Meihoukai! You inspire me so much–to write and also to keep moving forward No Matter What. Thanks for your blog…and keep writing.

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2012

      Thank you so much for reading Diane, I really appreciate it!

  • EM
    June 9 2012

    Congrats on an amazing year Meihoukai – you should be very proud of yourself. I can only hope to follow in your footsteps! You have carved out a beautiful little online space here and you inspire more people than you probably know about. I can’t wait to hear about Laos!!
    EM recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2012

      Thank you so much Em! It’s always strange to imagine that I have inspired someone with a little travel blog but when I think about it that is the way that I first became inspired to travel long-term! Viva blogging!

  • Hannah
    June 9 2012

    Meihoukai, I have loved following your journey and find your honesty so refreshing. Your blog is a huge source of inspiration to me, and I am amazed by how successful you have become in such a short space of time – you should be very proud of yourself indeed! I can’t wait to follow your adventures over the next year, and am certain that whatever lies ahead for you, you will share it with your usual grace. I hope our paths will cross at some point too πŸ™‚
    Hannah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2012

      Thank you Hannah, what a sweet comment! I definitely try to keep it honest and I appreciate that others appreciate it! Super excited for our hopeful meet up in London…

  • Krista C.
    June 9 2012

    What a year Meihoukai! I’m very much looking forward to what comes next for you. I followed you over from your Turtle blog and even though I haven’t met you in person I’m proud of you! Your writing and photos are so professional and I enjoy every story. I’m happy for you, your success is well-deserved.

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2012

      Krista, as I said in this post I am super appreciative of the readers who have been with me back since the Turtle days! I really appreciate your kindness and your support πŸ™‚

  • Amanda
    June 10 2012

    Congrats! I only discovered your blog a few months ago but I have enjoyed reading about all your travels through your archives. And I can’t wait to hear where you’re off to for your dive master! Keep us updated πŸ™‚
    Amanda recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2012

      Hi Amanda, so glad to have you around here! Glad people are still poking through those archives… makes me sad sometimes when things leave the first page and I wonder if anyone will ever see them again! Thanks for reading… πŸ™‚

  • Sarah
    June 10 2012

    Happy Anniversary Meihoukai! I’m a long term reader of your wonderful blog and felt like I’ve been on a great journey with you. Yours was one of the blogs that inspired me to have the guts to start my own travel blog when I left Ireland on my travels in March. Also thanks to you I didn’t miss Siam Ocean World a real highlight of Bangkok for me! Keep up the great work, I can’t wait to read all about where you go next.
    Sarah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2012

      Sarah, thank you so much for telling me, I’m off to check out your blog right now πŸ™‚ And I’m SO glad that you went to Siam Ocean World…. it’s the best!

  • Cat
    June 10 2012

    Wow! Can’t believe this version of your blog has been around for a year already. I’ve always loved reading it (even during the traveling turtle days) but it’s been amazing to see the improvements as well as all the traveling you have done in that relatively short period of time. Love hearing that your blog is able to support you now too, I’m sure that’s super rewarding for you. Keep doing what you’re doing because you’re doing it right! Like others above said, you are an inspiration and do a great job of keeping it real with your personality and humor.
    Cat recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2012

      Cat, I think you’ve been one of my longest loyal readers! πŸ™‚ Love you for that! Thanks for your kind words and for sticking around all this time!

  • wes
    June 10 2012

    I’m going to get a blog about your blog.

    • Meihoukai
      June 10 2012

      Send me the link, I’ll add it to my Google Reader πŸ™‚

  • Dad
    June 10 2012

    A very remarkable review of a very remarkable year by a very remarkable young woman. Oh yea…and she’s my kid!!!! (bursting with pride!)

    • Meihoukai
      June 11 2012

      Dad, you continue to be one of my most loyal readers and commenters… thank you! Love you so much!

  • Thursa
    June 10 2012

    Hi Meihoukai, I only discovered your blog a couple of months ago and was so impressed I have been working through the posts from the beginning – I’ve literally just come up to speed on this post. I’ve hugely enjoyed your writing and feel like I’ve been on such an incredible journey with you – so thank you and congratulations on your anniversary! You’ve absolutely stirred up my wanderlust too, I feel I’ve been stationary for much too long… πŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      June 11 2012

      Thursa, I’m so glad to have you here as a new reader! Be careful about that wanderlust, the itch only gets stronger! πŸ™‚

  • Sam
    June 10 2012

    Oh such a good recap, I am proud to say that I think I have read nearly all 253 posts from the past year! Congratulations clever lady x
    Sam recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 11 2012

      Sam THANK YOU for your continued reading and support! I love love love knowing friends I’ve met along the way are keeping up with me…. keeps me honest πŸ™‚

  • Megan
    June 11 2012

    Love reading your blog! It’s exciting to travel vicariously through you!

    • Meihoukai
      June 11 2012

      Thank you so much Megan! I really appreciate it and I’ll try to keep the adventures coming!

  • Vicky
    June 11 2012

    So happy I came across your blog a few months ago – I love the writing style, content and gorgeous photos. Sounds like all in all you’ve had a great year and it must be incredibly rewarding to see the blog views/readers growing and more money coming in!
    Vicky recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2012

      Aww, thank you so much Vicky. I definitely look forward to the last day of every month when I check all my stats and see that things keep growing, slowly but steadily!

  • Zoe
    June 11 2012

    love, love , love this post. love your rundown of ‘favorite posts of the year’


    PS you make a great nurse

    • Meihoukai
      June 12 2012

      Thanks! It was hard to narrow down the 265 or whatever it was, but some just stand out in my mind still πŸ™‚

  • Edna
    June 13 2012

    Congrats on the travel/blogaversary! Can’t wait to see all the things you do in Year Two. Also, that cake looks awesome. Our stories are so similar, I really hope I can catch you for a drink in London this summer!
    Edna recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 16 2012

      Edna you should click through to the links about that party…. there were many travel related details πŸ™‚ I forgot that you are located in London, we should definitely meet up!

      • Edna
        June 17 2012

        I actually live in Paris! But I’ll be in London for a job with the Olympics πŸ™‚ Look forward to meeting up!
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  • Nicole
    June 13 2012

    Great post and congrats on your blogaversary! I’m just getting started so I find posts like these very inspirational…hopefully in a year I’ll be writing one too!
    Nicole recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 16 2012

      Good luck Nicole… I think you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish in a year! Wishing you all the best!

  • Can’t believe how much you have seen and done in just one year! The places you’ve been and the experiences you’ve had… many people live an entire lifetime and don’t even do a fraction of what you’ve crammed into 12 months! I can only imagine what the next 12 will have in store for you!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 16 2012

      Thank Steph! I loved listing it out this way and realizing what I had done. It actually makes it seem like a super jam-packed and stressful 12 months but in reality it was pretty luxuriously relaxing!

  • Gerald Armstrong
    July 18 2012

    Great adventure. I’m amazed that you managed to travel all 10 countries. Thanks for sharing your photos and writing a review about it. I’l bookmark your post for more of your fun adventure stories. Keep up the good work!

    • Meihoukai
      July 18 2012

      Thanks Gerald! I didn’t realize how many countries I had been to throughout the year until I sat down to write this list! It was an amazing adventure for sure… and there are more to come!

  • Audrey T.
    September 27 2012

    My God, what an amazing blog you have! I just love it! You have a brand new follower, I am really glad I found you.:)

    Keep up the good work!
    Greetings from Transylvania
    Audrey T. recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 29 2012

      Thank you so much Audrey! What a sweet comment πŸ™‚ I’m so glad to have you!

  • Abby
    October 24 2012

    You’re so interesting! I don’t think I’ve truly read something like that before. So great to find someone with some original thoughts on this topic. Really.. thanks for starting this up. This site is one thing that’s needed on the web, someone with some originality!
    Abby recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 24 2012

      Thank you so much Abby! Hope to see you around here more often! πŸ™‚

  • Ardun
    November 10 2012

    Congratulations Meihoukai! Your blog is amazing and you have come so far in a year. I’m inspired and look forward to my year ahead. I wish you continued success and look forward to reading about your next adventures πŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      November 13 2012

      Thank you so much for this sweet comment, Ardun! I can’t believe it’s been six months already since I wrote this post!

  • Jessica
    January 13 2013

    Just found your blog and wow, I am hooked! SO fun reading about all of your travels. Would love to be able to travel as much as you. You are such an inspiration.

    Just started writing in my travel blog. Take a look!
    One question: how I get more followers to my site? I know I don’t have many posts yet, but am still wondering this.

    Jessica recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 15 2013

      Hey Jessica! Congrats on starting a travel blog. Unfortunately there is no easy way to get new readers to your site… its taken me years of blogging to get to this point. Just think of it as a slow burn! In the meantime keep creating great content, comment on other blogs and travel forums, and consider a travel blogging course like the one I recommend on my Gear and Products page. Best of luck! πŸ™‚

  • Katie
    October 16 2013

    Hi Meihoukai,

    I’ve just started reading your blog. It’s great!
    I am about to leave Australia (I’m from the UK) and embark on a trip through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos… who knows where after that. Just wanted to say that you’re articles are greatly helping this whole ‘planning’ malarky.
    I just wanted to know… how did you start the blog and what made you so successful?

    Ta ta for now,


    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2013

      Sounds like an amazing trip, Katie! In terms of technically starting the blog, check out my Gear and Products page for the resources I used to get going! As for being “successful,” I think it was a mix of luck, time (I’ve been blogging since 2009) and I’d like to think a touch of hard work and personality!

  • Jana
    October 6 2014

    I just stumbled over this page today and read about your travel writing class. Do you know if there are any classes like that online as a self-study-thing? I would really like to improve my writing skills for all my blog work and a class like that sounds like a great idea!

    Thanks a lot in advance!!!
    Jana recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 6 2014

      Hey Jana! Check out my Obsessions page — I highly recommend the Travel Blog Success course that I link to there! It focuses on content creation as well as the business side of running a blog. Hope that helps!

      • Jana
        October 7 2014

        Thanks Meihoukai! That was really helpful!!! I am definitely going to look into that! I really love what you have created here!!! And I really love the new design!!!
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  • Marie
    March 24 2015

    Cool list of places you’ve been to! I’ve been the same place in Turkey and got exactly the same kind of picture you have πŸ˜€
    Marie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 25 2015

      This was years ago, but I’m still itching to return to Turkey to do the famous hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia!

  • Pamela
    October 23 2015

    Love reading your blog! It’s exciting to travel vicariously through you! Such a great recap.
    Pamela recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 24 2015

      Thanks Pamela! I love sharing my travels… thank you for reading.

  • Jimmy Baloukas
    December 2 2015

    I love your pictures. They make me feel that I am right there.

    • Meihoukai
      December 3 2015

      Thanks Jimmy! That’s a great compliment.

  • I just read your article and it is amazing! I love the way you write. I just recently started my travel blog and hope to make it my job like you. Thanks for being an inspiration! πŸ˜€
    Alkisti @ Travel Bananas recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 14 2018

      You’re so kind! Thank you very much — and best of luck in your blogging journey!