Year 2019: new countries, hikes and house-sitting
2019 was for us the second full year as nomads and location independent entrepreneurs. We didn’t have any home base, so we traveled around a lot, but also stopped every once in a while for a bit longer time, to be able to focus more on working. In the beginning of the year we started our career as house-sitters, and did several short gigs taking care of houses and pets. We stayed most of the year in Europe, but the last couple of months were about traveling in Latin America. In this post we first shortly sum up the travels of the year, and then open up all the costs of out lifestyle, and provide some other statistics of FinnsAway year 2019.
January and February in Cyprus
We celebrated the new year in Nikosia, the capital of Cyprus, and then soon moved to Kolossi near Limassol to begin our first house-sit via Trusted Housesitters. We took care of four adorable dogs and five cats, became friends with the house-owners, and ended up coming back for several house-sits during the spring. In January we also got friends from Finland coming over to Cyprus, and had great time together. We stayed near Ayia Napa and visited North Cyprus, exploring Famagusta and visiting Salamis ruins.
In February we continued house-sitting in Cyprus, but also had some time to explore the island more. We made a road trip to beautiful Karpaz Peninsula in North Cyprus and shorter trips up to Troodos Mountains and along the south coast. In the end of the month we flew to our home country Finland.
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Work, friends and family-time in Finland in March
Like last year, we worked two weeks in Oulu Music Festival in our former home town in March. It was again a great combination of working and earning some income for upcoming travels, enjoying the hectic but great atmosphere of the music festival, visiting our families and meeting with friends.
Back to Cyprus via Bulgaria
We stayed in Finland the first half of April still, enjoying the snowy scenery, cross-country skiing and celebrating with friends. In the second half of April we made a short visit to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, and then flew back to Cyprus for more house-sits and road trips in the western part of the island. In late May we flew to majestic Vienna in Austria and continued by bus to charming Strasbourg in France. It was time to rejoin with our car, that spent the winter in our friends yard in Alsace.
Road trip and hikes in Europe in summer
We spent June and July on the road, exploring southern France and northern Spain, and visiting Monaco and Andorra, two new countries for us. This road trip included a lot of mountain scenery, but also coastal towns and historical sites. We started from Alsace and drove to French Riviera over the lower French Alps, and explored beautiful Provence, visiting historical towns of Avignon and Arles. In Languedoc area we visited the amazing citadel of La Cite in Caracassonne, and then explored French Catalonia.
In Spain we first stayed in Catalonia, and then drove along the Pyrenees all the way to Basque Country before heading to Bordeaux in France and driving through southern France back to Alsace via Lyon and Besancon. During the road trip, in addition to exploring towns and villages, we made some great hikes, like the one in Chamechaude in French Alps and a long three peaks hike in Sorteny Valley, Andorra. We also hiked and made trail runs in amazing Verdon Gorge in France, beautiful Montserrat Mountain in Catalonia, Spain, dramatic Ordesa Valley up in the Pyrenees and tranquil Anso and Echo Valleys below Pyrenees Mountains in Spain, just to mention the most memorable locations.
House sitting in Alsace
In the end of July we returned to Gueberschwihr village in Alsace, and like last year, were house sitting while our friends living in there were in Finland for the summer. We stayed put for almost two months, working online, taking care of the garden and running on the slopes of Vosges Mountains. Like last year, we also joined in local wood wind orchestra for a few weeks, and made some gigs with them in village festivals. In autumn we got to participate in wine harvest for a day, and picked grapes for Cremant, Alsatian sparkling wine. In late September we made a short house-sit in charming Engen village in Germany, taking care of two lovely dogs.
Cuba in October
We planned already over a year ago, that we’ll stay the winter 2019-2020 in warmer countries than Europe. So in October we left our car again in Alsace, and flew from Brussels in Belgium to Varadero in Cuba. We explored Cuba for two weeks, and loved this unique country! We explored the colorful streets of Havana, the nature around rural Viñales and the quiet fishing village of Puerto Esperanza, and moved around using local transportation instead of tourist buses. It was a great adventure, and two weeks without using internet at all was a refreshing experience.
Mayan Ruins and colonial towns in Yucatan in November
From Cuba we continued to Mexico, first to Cancun and Riviera Maya, then to explore some inland towns of Yucatan Peninsula. We stayed for a bit longer in Merida, getting some work done, and made short trips to Valladolid and Campeche. We explored Mayan ruins in popular Tulum and near Xpujil village, where we visited the more quiet but stunning ruins of Becan.
Exploring Central America in December
In late November we headed to Central America, and made a month-long tour in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. It was a wonderful trip, and as we traveled pretty quickly, it reminded a lot of our holiday trips before nomad life. Some of our favorite destinations were Antigua in Guatemala, Copan Ruinas and Lake Yojoa in Honduras and Santa Ana in El Salvador. Blog posts will follow later.
FinnsAway statistics in 2019
Visited countries: 16, out which 7 new for us
Ways of traveling: 8 flights, roughly 7 500 kilometers road tripping with our own and rental cars, 2 longer train trips, dozens of long and shorter bus rides between cities.
Accommodation: A lot of apartments and rooms rented via Airbnb, also some hostels booked via booking.com and home stays like casas particulares in Cuba. 6 nights in hotels, 36 nights in a tent, most of them in camping sites. We stayed in total 215 nights free of charge, most of them house-sitting or staying with friends or family, some of them as collaboration (in exchange of advertising) and some wild camping.
Total costs of the year: 15 163 €
Cost summary of the year 2019
Here is the summary graph of all the costs of our life during the year 2019. Accommodation sums up to 2 253 €, which is on average 15,02 € per night (excluding all free-of-charge accommodations). Taking into account that we spent most of the year in Europe, the accommodation costs are quite low. Regarding eating and drinking, we used 2 813 € in restaurants, and 4 071 € for groceries. We cooked most of the meals ourselves whenever we had a kitchen in use, which explains the high grocery costs. These sums also include all alcohol drinks in restaurants, pubs and microbreweries during the year, as well as wine bottles bought from grocery stores. Divided to daily level, we used 18,86 € per day for eating and drinking (9,43 € per person).
Traveling costs, which means mostly flights, bus tickets and rental cars, as well as fuel, sum up to 2 610 €, which is 7,15 € per day. Other costs, 1 997 €, include healthcare costs like doctor bills and medications (237 €), some clothes, shoes and accessories (378 €), car repair costs (117 €), entrance fees to archaeological sites and other sights (117 €), and all small purchases like cosmetics and toiletries, as well as entrance fees to gyms and ATM withdrawal fees. The biggest and most unusual item in other costs in 2019 were the flight tickets to Cuba (532 €), that we booked from Thomas Cook, a company that soon after our purchase went bankrupt. We never got our money back of the canceled flights, but luckily quickly found new cheap last minute flights to Varadero.
In addition to all these costs of traveling and living abroad, altogether 13 786 €, there is a category for the so called Yearly costs, 984 €. This sum consists of travel and health insurances (458 €), insurances and taxes of our car (208 €), phone bills (170 €) and membership fees to Trusted Housesitters and Housesit Mexico (148 €). In addition, there is a category called Equipment, that includes bigger purchases like electronics (393 €). Adding up everything together, the price tag of our nomad year was 15 163,04 €, so in average 1 263,58 € per month or 41,54 € per day for the two of us. This means we managed to maintain our long term budget target of 50 € per day very well. Check out also our monthly cost summaries and travel cost posts from different countries on the finances page.
On the revenue side, we had salaries from our web-development, design and content creation work for Finnish companies and from working in the Oulu Music Festival in Finland. We also got rental income from our apartment in Finland. These sum up to roughly 21 500 €, which means that we earned enough to cover all our travel and living costs. On the other hand, we still have quite hefty mortgage to be shortened monthly, which means that we need to use also our savings.
FinnsAway travel blog
We published in total 41 blog posts during the year, most of them lengthy travel or hiking guides to destinations in Europe and in Cuba. Most of the readers of the blog came to the blog via Google searches, and during the year there were around 1,2 million impressions and 50 000 page views. The most popular article published in 2019 was a post about renting a car in Cyprus, which has been helpful for bunch of other travelers interested in road trips in the island.
The plan was to write more about life abroad as digital nomads, but we are way behind even with publishing travel articles of all the amazing destinations we have visited. I guess in 2020 we’ll try to “clean the backlog” of travel stories from year 2019, and write about new adventures as well of course.
Most read articles during 2019
Best nine in Instagram
This is the collection of top nine Instagram posts during the year. The most liked picture is a view from our tent during a hiking trip in beautiful Sorteny Valley in Andorra. The second shot is from Cyprus, of the Larnaka Salt Lake, that is home to huge amount of pink flamingos during winters. The third most popular pic is from Finland, taken from along our snowshoe hike in Rokua National Park.
The pictures of us two were taken in Kantara Castle in North Cyprus in Feb, and from Riga airport in April, when FinnsAway Season 3 begun. Then there is a pic of National Palace of Culture in Sofia, and coastal view from Paralimni in Cyprus. The huge castle is La Cite de Carcassonne, and the ninth pic was taken in lovely Collioure in France. Follow us in Instagram: @finnsaway
Sports and activities
We maintain sporty lifestyle when on the road, and always travel with hiking boots and running shoes. We love hiking and trail running in the mountains, and often also explore new destinations by making sightseeing runs. During the year we ran altogether 1 004 kilometers, hiked 219 kilometers, but went to a gym only 16 times. In addition there was some cross-country skiing, volley ball, kayaking, snowshoeing and cycling, and of course a lot of walking. It was pretty active year, but included way too less weight training in gym. You can read our monthly activity summaries and posts about hiking on the sports page.
How does 2020 look like?
The year began house-sitting in Mexico City, and for sure will include several other house-sits, hopefully also some longer sits with pets. Regarding traveling, we haven’t made any big plans yet, but will visit Finland again in March, and probably we’ll spend the spring and summer mostly in Central Europe. As we have a short visit to Finland planned for early November, we won’t be flying overseas before that. Autumn would be a good time to visit countries like Iran, Jordan or Israel for example, but let’s see. One goal could be visiting Iceland, the only European country we have never traveled in.
We hope that the year will include a lot joy and laughter, and bring better balance between working and traveling. May it also include many hikes and trail runs in beautiful places around the world!
Thank you for following our journey, we wish you wonderful New Year 2020!