Before you read this post, please check out my new GoPro Recap Video of 2015!
Well, it’s that time of the year again — when we can’t believe another year is in the books.
And holy s#&%, I don’t even know where to begin reviewing my year in 2015. It has been the biggest year for my travels, my career and my personal growth thus far.
It’s funny, because looking back at my previous year-end wrap-ups in 2013 and 2014, I have almost explained this exact same introduction. But this year has seriously gone above and beyond anything I’ve ever accomplished.
When 2015 began, I completed my teaching English job in South Korea, and since then, I have been traveling and blogging on a full-time schedule. Completely nonstop — living out of my 40 liter carry-on backpack.
I can’t believe how much I’ve grown this year. Just one year ago today, I had visited about 50 countries in the world– now I am at 74.
Also, when this year started, I had about 22K monthly visits to my blog and 2K Instagram followers. Now, those numbers are 75K and 52K, respectively. I have figured out how to grow and monetize a global audience on Snapchat, and I’ve quickly become recognized as one of the best travelers to follow on Snapchat.
Here is a look at some more statistics from my travels in 2015:
– 33 countries visited
– 97 cities visited
– 52 flights taken (including layovers)
– 36 trains taken
– 27 buses taken
– 58 coffee shops worked at
– 77 different beds slept in
– 7 times couch surfed
– 5 times getting food poisoning
– 5 music festivals attended
– thousands of new friends made
If you are a visual person like myself, then here was my exact route around the world in 2015:
I am very thankful for the opportunities that have been presented to me, and I have done everything in my power to capitalize on them.
That being said, I want you all to realize how much time and effort I’ve spent growing my website and social media channels. This kind of success does not happen overnight. It’s a full time job, with as many ups as downs. I’ve consistently put in about 40 hours a week building up my blog and social media networks, all while maintaining a life of nonstop travel. It’s not that easy to do.
As I’m writing this, I’m currently in Hong Kong filming a travel series that has been in the works for the last 6 months! The crew is comprised of four talented film-makers and producers (all friends of mine) who have flown out from NYC and LA for three weeks of shooting. Together, we have been running around Bangkok, Taipei, and Hong Kong, filming fun and compelling content to be released in early 2016.
Stay tuned on Snapchat (@drewbinsky) for a behind the scenes look at what we are filming!
Without further adieu, I will now present you with My Top 15 Travel Highlights from 2015 in no particular order. Hope you enjoy!
Top 15 Highlights of 2015
1. Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey
My top travel moment of 2015, and probably of my entire life, was in Turkey. I took a hot air balloon for sunrise in the magical land of Cappadocia — located in the exact center part of the country. No words can describe the blissfulness (is that a word?) and spectacular views I saw as I was flying high over the volcanic tundra of Cappadocia. Highly recommended!
2. Scuba Diving in the Philippines
I finally crossed a big item off my bucket list when I got PADI Scuba certified in Coron, Palawan, Philippines this year! I received my open water certification, so I can freely dive anywhere in the world that I visit. Scuba diving has instantly become an addiction for me (I just went again in Boracay, Philippines) — and I plan to go a lot more in the coming years because life is so amazing underwater.
3. Trekking 70km in Myanmar
During my 2 week trip to Myanmar, I had the opportunity to do a 3 day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. Every morning, we woke up at sunrise and walked until sunset — 70 Kilometers in 3 days. We spent the night in villages with the locals, and ate amazing food that was prepared for us by a local chef. The countryside of Myanmar was absolutely breathtaking, and it was an experience that I’ll never forget.
4. Seeing the Taj Mahal
One of the highlights on my 2 month backpacking trip across India was witnessing a New 7 Wonder of the World. The Taj does NOT disappoint and lives up to every minute of its hype. In fact, I was so awe-struck by this 400-year-old masterpiece, that I visited TWICE — for sunset and sunrise the following morning. The most impressive part about the Taj is the perfect symmetry. Every millimeter is exactly in the right place.
5. Camel Ride at the Pyramids of Giza
Another dream came true when I was able to explore the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo. This was such a surreal experience. I had a private 2-hour tour across the desert with my camel, and I was even able to climb one of the Pyramids. I still can’t believe that humans built these things so accurately 2,000 years ago — or maybe it wasn’t humans?
6. Tomorrowland Music Fest in Belgium
I’ve been to over a dozen EDM festivals around the world, and nothing comes close to the fun at Tomorrowland in Belgium! Can you imagine hundreds of thousands of people, from every country in the world, coming together for one giant celebration of happiness? I loved that everyone represents their own country, hence my American flag cape that I wore all weekend. I definitely have to go back next year.
7. The Open Championship in Golf
Many of you probably don’t know that I am a single digit handicapped golfer, and golf is one of my favorite sports to play and watch. I had the opportunity to attend the biggest golf tournament in the world — The Open Championships at St. Andrews in Scotland. It was awesome to see all of my favorite players competing right in front of my eyes!
8. Cruisin’ Ha Long Bay in Vietnam
Ha Long Bay in Northern Vietnam should be at the top of your bucket list. It exceeded all expectations for me. I visited on an overnight luxury cruise boat, and I couldn’t have been happier. The natural beauty of turquoise sea and thousands of small islands are unreal. It really makes you appreciate our lovely planet, and it’s something that you have to see to believe!
9. Climbing the Motherland Monument in Kyiv, Ukraine
I spent a week in Ukraine’s Capital to end my 13 week summer Eurotrip. And unexpectedly, Kiev turned out to be one of my favorite cities in Europe! It’s extremely cheap, has great nightlife, amazing architecture and friendly people. The best moment I had in Kiev was getting exclusive access to climb up to the top of the 102 meter, stainless steel “Mother Monument” which overlooks the city. Check out this view!
10. Arizona Road Trip
I had the wonderful opportunity to road trip around my home state of Arizona with my best bud, Jake. We explored al over the beautiful state, including The Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, The Four Corners and Monument Valley. My favorite part was seeing Antelope Canyon — the 130 million year old canyon that was formed by flash flooding and erosion of sandstone rock. Unbelievable.
11. Visiting Lake Bled, Slovenia
Although it’s overwhelmingly full of tourists, Lake Bled lives up to all the hype. It’s just a short ride away from Ljubljana — the capital of Slovenia. The nature all around Bled is spectacular, and there is an island in the middle of the lake with a cathedral. I rented a kayak and had a great time roaming around the Lake on my own (except when I stupidly crashed my kayak into a big tourist boat).
12. Kayaking in Ohrid, Macedonia
If you think Lake Bled is cool, then you have to check out my favorite lake in the world — Lake Ohrid in Macedonia! This place takes beauty to a whole new level. I had 3 nice days to explore around, go swimming and cliff jumping in the fresh Lake. I rented a kayak with my fiend and we explored remote areas of the Lake. The water in Lake Ohrid is so clear, deep and clean that I never wanted to leave.
13. Bungee Jumping in Latvia
This was my 4th time bungee jumping, and it was a hell of a fun time! My Latvian friend drove me an hour outside Riga to a beautiful town called Sigulda, where we did the 60 meter jump. We jumped over a river and the landscape around us was gorgeous! I was wearing a mounted camera on my helmet, so here is an action shot, mid-jump!
14. Camel Safari in Jaisalmer, India
My camel selfie part 2 was from India. And even though camels are some of the strangest and smelliest creatures on earth, I never pass up on an opportunity to ride them! This time was in the outskirts of Jaisalmer India, when I took an overnight camel ride deep into the desert. We slept overnight on blankets in sand dunes, ate local food prepared by our tour guide, and gazed all night at the midnight stars. An experience that I’ll never forget.
15. Riding Motorbikes in Bagan, Myanmar
Can you imagine a land that is covered in 10,000 original Buddhist temples built from the 9th – 13th centuries? That is Bagan in a nutshell. It’s truly a magical place on earth! I met these two guys in my hostel (from Spain and Indonesia) and we explored around the city together. We rented motorbikes and got lost riding around the temples. I also rode in a hot air balloon for sunrise. You have to visit Bagan (or Myanmar in general) on your next trip to Southeast Asia!
Bonus #16: It’s More Fun in the Philippines
I just visited The Philippines for the 3rd time, and once again, it did NOT disappoint! This South East Asian country is my absolute favorite country in the world because of the beautiful natural landscapes, amazingly friendly people and affordable prices. I had the best time of my life in Manila a few weeks ago with an amazing person.
For more inspiration on The Philippines, please see my blog post “50 Reasons Why Life is Better in The Philippines.”
Of course, I had MANY more amazing experiences over the year, but these are just a few that stand out most.
That being said, I want every one you reading this to know that traveling full-time is not all fun and games.
For every positive experience, there comes a negative one.
Here were some of my worst moments of 2015:
– Getting in a fatal bus crash in India, at 3 AM in the middle of nowhere and I was the only foreigner around
– On board a flight from Delhi to Kathmandu (sitting on the runway) when the 7.9 Earthquake hit Nepal on April 25… So, the flight was cancelled and I had to cancel my 3 week trip to Nepal including trekking Mt. Everest that I had already paid for.
– Denied entrance on my flight from Kiev to Bangkok because I didn’t have a Russian visa (for my 2 layovers in Russia). Then, I had to spend $600 on another flight the following morning.
– Scammed 50 Euros by a taxi driver in Belarus
– Money stolen out of my hand by a Gypsy in Georgia (the country)
– Horrible food poisoning in India (twice), and therefore, I lost 6 kilos (14lbs) on my 7-week backpacking trip around India
– Another food poisoning in Laos — I won’t go into any more details…
– Getting verbally harassed and chased down by Taxi Drivers on the streets of Cairo
– Being sick for 2 weeks as I was backpacking around Europe. It was really exhausting to travel and be sick a the same time.
If you’re still reading this, I would like to give a special THANK YOU for joining me on my travels! Thank you to all of the new friends that I have made and all of the people who were with me during these new experiences. I love you all.
So, What’s Next for 2016?
A lot of fun things are in the works for 2016. I have never stepped foot in South America or Africa (except Egypt) — so those are two continents that I would like to explore.
The first few months of 2016 will be spent in the USA, visiting my family in Arizona and spending time in LA helping the film crew edit videos for the travel series that we are currently filming. I’ll be going back and fourth between AZ and LA for until early March.
After that, everything is up in the air. I am planning to go back to Asia and possibly make a base there, because I love it so much. But during the summer months, I would like to visit South America, and hopefully attend the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro! I’m sure there will be some other spontaneous trips in the mix as well.
And the rest … well … who knows ?
Thanks for reading! The best way to follow my travels in 2016 is on Snapchat and Instagram (@drewbinsky for both)… Also, please comment below with your travel plans because I always like to connect with my readers and hear about your stories!