After many years of regular private journaling, I’ve decided that it’s time to share my yearly review with you guys. 2021 was a pretty epic year, but it also had low points. This post is all about recapping the past 12 months and seeing how far I’ve come.
Yearly reviews are a critical part of self-reflection. By looking into the mirror and revisiting your goals and projects for the year, you’ll see what you accomplished. Better still, you’ll be able to celebrate your wins, but you’ll also have to confront your failures.
On this basis, here is my 2021 review and outlook for 2022.
2021 Year Review: Travel
Here is a month-by-month breakdown of my 2021 travels.
On January 1st, I woke up in Luxembourg, my home country. The country was in lockdown with no bars and restaurants and a 9 pm curfew. Great…
In late 2020, I had decided that I would head somewhere warm in January. And most importantly, I would go to a country that wasn’t C*vid-crazy. Europe was out of the picture, so I decided to go to North Africa.
On January 3rd, I landed in Morocco, country n°55. I spent almost a month in the country, working remotely from Casablanca and Marrakesh while squeezing in trips to Rabat and the Atlas mountains.
Morocco was great, and there were ZERO tourists. To be honest, I enjoyed the landscapes and ancient cities, but in the end, it was a bit too quiet.
It was also the first time that I spent my birthday with strangers. I opted to challenge myself and booked a Moroccan homestay for my birthday. They were lovely people and went out of their way to make me feel welcome in their home – Arabic hospitality at its finest.
The homestay showcased one of my cardinal beliefs: you have to get out of your comfort zone to have genuinely memorable experiences.
At the end of January, I decided to return to a country that I know and love.
I had visited many times before – and even with strict C*vid measures, Istanbul was still amazing.
I spent most of February working remotely, planning new projects, and checking out some lesser-known corners of Istanbul. After three weeks in the megacity, it was time to embark on an epic road trip.
Together with my ex, I spent the first three weeks of March road tripping around Turkey, and it was undoubtedly one of the highlights of 2021. Turkey is an incredibly diverse country with so much beauty, culture, and some of the friendliest people on earth.
Driving over 1,700 km, we visited Edirne, Canakkale, Gallipoli, Troy, Bursa, Lake Uluabat, Eskisehir, Ankara, and finally, Cappadocia. The trip was nothing short of sensational and ended with a romantic balloon flight in Göreme. Cheers to Turkey!
After finishing my Turkey road trip, I took a plane straight to Cairo.
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During the first two weeks of April, I traveled all across Egypt (country n°56) – from Cairo to Giza, Aswan, Luxor, and Hurghada.
The pyramids and temples were great, but in my humble view, Egypt is just a bit too tourist-oriented. I haven’t seen this level of touts anywhere else in the world.
Worse still, tourism is highly-segregated from local life in Egypt. As such, it’s challenging to travel Egypt solo if you aren’t into tour groups.
There is, nevertheless, a silver lining: the Nile River. It’s a wonder of nature that will take your breath away if you spend enough time on it.
During my cruise, I took some of my best 2021 pictures. In conclusion, boating on the Nile River alone is worth a trip to Egypt.
In late April, I left Egypt for Barcelona.
It’s one of my favorite cities in Europe – and an excellent digital nomad base. Barcelona was charming, but after four months of nonstop travel, it was time to head back home for a breather.
In May, I decided to take a break from traveling and returned to Luxembourg for a month. It was a quiet month during which I focused on work and fitness.
Once June rolled around, it was time to hit the road again.
I flew to Kyiv and spent three weeks in Ukraine (country n°57). I got the chance to explore the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, an incredible location. If you, like me, enjoy weird places, this is as good as it gets. The abandoned towns around Chernobyl are unique and spooky, and seeing them was definitely one of the highlights of 2021.
At the end of June, I took a bus from Ukraine to Moldova (country n°58). Moldova is officially the poorest and least-visited country in Europe. So, what does it have to offer?
The capital Chisinau is nothing special, but it was better than I expected. From Chisinau, I headed to Transnistria, a country that doesn’t exist. And let me tell you this, Transnistria alone is worth a trip to Moldova.
Like Chernobyl, this place is so weird and quirky that it warrants a trip. If you want to see what the Soviet Union was like, Transnistria is the closest you’ll get.
July was another relatively quiet month in Luxembourg with lots of work, administrative stuff, and a few mini-trips to neighboring countries (Belgium, France, and the Netherlands).
The primary reason for heading home was the vaccine, which I got.
Remember when we all felt that after those two jabs, they would leave us alone? Well, sitting here in December, that didn’t go so well.
After spending a month focusing on business, it was time to get the passport out again. Many destinations were on the cards, but I decided to go with a no-brainer and flew to Mexico.
I spent two months in Mexico, and these included some of the best moments of 2021.
September was spent living in Mexico City, catching up with old friends, and exploring lots of regions I hadn’t been to before. In short, life was good.
During September, I organized several trips from my nomad base in Mexico City, including Puebla, Hidalgo, Querétaro, and Teotihuacán.
I then moved to Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita to check out how they work as digital nomad hubs. Both places were great, albeit in a different way.
I spent the first part of October traveling around Guatemala (country n°59).
The country has some gems, but the highlight was undoubtedly climbing the Acatenango Volcano. If I had to pick one single standout moment of 2021, it would probably be standing at 4,000m at sunrise.
From Guatemala, I took a plane to the Dominican Republic, my 60th country. I met up with some family members and spent most of my time working remotely in paradise.
The DR is one of the best places for digital nomads in the Caribbean and much more than an all-inclusive holiday destination.
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My time in the DR came to an end in November, and I endlessly pondered where to go next.
In the end, I headed back to Mexico because I felt that there was some unfinished business.
As John Krakauer writes in Into the Wild, “happiness is only real when shared.”
Traveling with my partner again was magical. I love roaming the planet solo, but couple travel undoubtedly also has a lot going for it.
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And here we are, the last month of 2021. I came back to Luxembourg to work, spend some quality time with my family, and plan next year’s adventures.
After Christmas, I ended the year with a skiing trip to Livigno, Italy. Hitting the slopes again after a one-year break was a superb experience and a great way to finish this eventful year.
So, that’s a wrap for my 2021 travels. I managed to travel to 6 new countries and revisit some of my favorites.
Overall, 2021 was a superb travel year, but I will try to pick up the pace in 2022 to get some more countries under my belt.
- Total countries visited: 15
- Total new countries visited: 6
2021 Year Review: Content Creation Business
I currently run three blogs, including this one. I started Jack Roaming in June 2021, and it has been growing steadily since then. My other sites are also doing well. So, blogging-wise, 2021 was an excellent year.
My stock portfolio has grown to over 10k images across various agencies. I now have almost 8k images on Shutterstock and 6k on Depositphotos. Next year, I really have to focus on making more videos as my video portfolios are still small.
Aside from blogging and stock, I have grown my Medium page to over 34k followers. I have seen quite a bit of success on the platform, but it’s been plateauing for a while.
If you want to support my work, you can use this Medium link to sign up. It’s 50 dollars a year for an unlimited number of articles and insightful stories from thousands of independent creators.
I failed in two projects: starting a print store – and putting together an ebook. Let’s see how those two develop in 2022.
2021 Year Review: Health and Personal Life
My fitness has been going up and down in 2021. I started the year in good shape but didn’t do enough during my months in Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt.
I got back at it around May and became much fitter again in the summer. During my three months in Mexico, Guatemala, and the DR, I didn’t diet properly and stopped working out regularly. Upon returning to Europe, I did a super-intense 30-day program which helped me get fit again before the festive season.
All in all, my fitness was never terrible, but I definitely need to stop taking long breaks from the gym in 2022.
Personally, it was a year of lots of changes. I made new friends on the road and solidified older friendships.
Above all, I realized this year that it’s better to commit to a small number of high-quality relationships than to have many fleeting ones.
2021 Year Review: Goals Set in 2020
It’s time to confront the goals that I set in 2020. So, here’s how I did:
- Have over 10k images selling across various stock sites: DONE.
- Have over 200 stories on Medium: DONE.
- Write an ebook: FAILED.
- Complete 60 countries: DONE.
- Visit 10 new countries: FAILED.
- Start my digital nomad blog Jack Roaming: DONE.
- Double my freelance income: DONE.
2022 Outlook and Goals
I didn’t do too badly in 2021, so now it’s time for a 2022 outlook. My first big trip in February is already booked, and I might do something spontaneous in January. Other than that, I’ll take it as it comes, and I’ll try to visit new countries.
Aside from traveling, I have some massive projects for 2022. And these will demand efforts and sacrifices.
On this basis, here are my goals for 2022:
- Complete 70 countries: that means ten new ones. It’s doable, but it will require some effort.
- Do a motorcycle trip. I’ve been dreaming about it for quite some time. After putting it off for years, I am finally planning to buy a bike in 2022 and go on a long-distance ride somewhere. Where? No clue, but I have a few ideas. Norway, the Balkans, or Turkey are definitely on the table.
- Become serious at videography. I have been doing photography for years – and started making videos for stock in 2021. In 2022, I want to invest more time and effort in videos. I don’t yet know whether it will be Instagram, Youtube, or just stock, but making videos is undoubtedly one of my major projects for 2022.
- Launch a print store – on an existing platform or independently.
- Grow my social media channels. I have been blogging for many years – and made a living as a freelancer for the past three. Social media, however, is something I always struggled with. I never did regular Instagram and Facebook posts, but that will change next year. By the way, if you want to support my social media journey, check out my Instagram and Facebook page.