As we go through the last days of 2022, we see lots of social media posts (TikToks and Instagram reels) of well-traveled people, reminding you where they’ve been. It’s a time to say how lovely 2022 was and that things will get next level in 2023.
Truth be told, if you don’t have a set of 50 photos to showcase just how amazing your 2022 was, then don’t bother posting anything at all. Because social media is a place where we show our best lives. We want to inspire others, not make them feel bad for us.
But we’re talking about the year that just passed.
A year of joy and sorrows, mistakes, cute and low moments, all bundled up together as a huge present that defines you.
What I’m trying to point out is that other people’s “good” moments are only that – moments, out of a sea of random moments, some better and some worse.
Whenever you’re reading about them, remember that they also had some low moments, days when they didn’t feel like that person you see in their videos and that they’re human too.
Just like you.
And when I realized that we’re creating this illusion of perfect online lives that may even draw some unexpected jealousy, I decided to share some thoughts on this.
It shouldn’t be all about the great moments of 2022, but about the important moments that made 2022 what it was.
So, if you may, let’s go together through some real moments of 2022, some that may apply to most of us and others that may only apply to me – which may surprise you. Ready?
A reality check of 2022
For the first 3 months of 2022, I had no travel plans. We were still in a worldwide quarantine, it was uncertain where you could travel to and what the conditions were.
The GRAM was filling up quickly with exotic photos from paradise islands. However, most of us were still stuck at home for various reasons – lack of money, living in a country that was not allowing us to travel, or fighting a depression that had been settling in for the past 2 years of the pandemic.
By the end of February, a war between Ukraine and Russia sent the entire planet into a death spiral. Spoiler alert: it hasn’t ended since. But I remember the first 10 days or so, I was in utter shock. Living in Romania, less than 1,000 km away from the war, made me realize we are never safe.
The war did not end after a few weeks, as most of us anticipated. And my boyfriend and I started to plan how to move away from it.
That’s why we made plans to stay in Morocco for 1 month in April.
Coincidently, April 2022 was also the month of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. What you saw on Instagram was all nice and cute, but I was slowly starving. You can’t begin to understand that the simplest need, such as the need to eat, can become such a huge task when it’s disrespectful to eat in public for an entire month.
I don’t often attend big events or celebrations, but I went to a friend’s wedding in May 2022. I realized it was not that bad, and the groom was a high school colleague of mine. There comes an age when you realize that you need to make an effort if you want to keep your friendships alive.
I also planned a short 5-day trip to Istanbul with my mom.
It has been her dream for decades to visit Istanbul, and I finally made her dream come true.
It’s moments like these that make the best memories. I haven’t shared much of it because it was just my mom and me. And I also work every day, so I usually had to wake up earlier to finish work before we could get out of the hotel and explore.
I visited Prague together with a couple of friends. This was a long time in the making trip to visit our friends that had moved to Prague earlier this year. It was fun, but it wasn’t without events.
Our plane back home was canceled, and we had to book another (overpriced) ticket for the next day. Yes, this was the beginning of the “2022 revenge travel” season. At least we have the memories. And Prague is always a good idea.
But it was at that moment I decided I would not step foot in another aircraft that summer.
After arriving back home, I had the craziest idea ever. I said to myself, “What if I drive to Scandinavia and spend the summer there, away from the summer heat and safe from the war?”
It wasn’t without bargaining, but after numerous discussions and compromises, I convinced Eduard (my boyfriend) to join me on this crazy Scandinavian experience.
It all started on a chilly morning on July 1, in Bucharest. It took us exactly 5 days to reach Stockholm.
I spent the month in Stockholm. We quickly realized the standard of living was way above everything else in Sweden (and Scandinavia in general), and we had to adapt. It’s not hard to adapt. It’s easy, but it forces you to get your credit or debit card out of your wallet much more than you realize. It compensates for the lack of conversations between people.
And this got us working more than ever. It seems all nice and cute and easy when you watch my travel stories. But most days end when my laptop battery dies for the 3rd time in a day at about 1 AM.
The next big thing was to explore Norway. Call me a fool, but we drove to Norway without a single plan in place. We only knew the directions we wanted to drive. And that we had 2 weeks to get through this adventure.
After the first stop in Trondheim, Norway, we realized that we had landed in a totally different world.
We also had some fights because Eduard is not always the photographer I wish him to be. But girls, always remember your partner is not a professional photographer, and that’s perfectly normal. It’s not their fault, it’s yours.
Looking back, I realize how silly it is to spoil such beautiful memories with moments of frustration. But for us, it’s mostly when we’re hungry. And I always tend to chase him around, hoping to see it all before finding a place to eat.
After a really long drive through Norway (you can’t truly understand how big this country is until you drive in Norway), we spent another month in Sweden. It was a much-needed break from the financial chaos that was settling in.
And this is a pivotal moment in my freelance life. It was August 2022 when I truly understood that financial abundance is a mindset. It’s not luck or chance.
I had set new goals of returning to Norway and seeing all the places I missed on the first road trip. And I knew that to make that happen, I needed to step up my game and work for it. And I had one month to do it.
And somehow, I did it. I talked about mindset and creating your opportunities before, and with each year that passes, it becomes clearer than ever that this is the only way to get things done.
And I have to say that this month in Sweden was also lovely. We stayed in a small town just 1.5h away from Stockholm.
This was our cue to go back home before the weather turned bad, but not before I got through my second Norway road trip.
Looking back, it was madness to drive from the South all the way up to the North Cape (the northernmost point in Europe). I had no clear day of when and where, but I like spontaneity.
I also so the Northern Lights for the first time, and it was magical. Although it was already a bit cold at night.
To make things even more interesting, we switched things a bit and drove back to Romania through Finland and then the Baltics. It was a long drive, with many days of 9h+ of driving (although we stopped every now and then for a few days).
I took the concept of road trips to an extreme.
And I did it for 1 month.
This is not a bragging moment but a moment of truth, a reality check. When we see people traveling like crazy, moving every day, it means that they’re pushing themselves really hard. It’s either an obsessive passion of it’s their job. Eduard and I were still working almost every day!!!!
For me, it’s a bit of both, but after moving and switching hotels every day (with a couple of exceptions when we stayed 2 nights in the same place) for an ENTIRE month, it’s excruciatingly exhausting. Three months later, I don’t know if I am fully recovered. September 2022 remains the craziest travel month.
At the end of the first week, we reached home. The last day consisted of a solid 15h drive through Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania, with only a couple of stops.
It was only to prepare to go back to Prague and do some petsitting for my friend there. I love Prague, so it was hard to say no. But it was extremely tiring.
Prague was lovely, as always. But it was a lot of work since I had to recover all that I couldn’t finish in September while being homeless.
Since we couldn’t make it to Oktoberfest (which happens in September), we made it to Munich in November for a couple of days. Since we were already in Prague, it was easier like that.
The drive home was again very painful.
In November, I also attended my first-ever travel conference. It was the WTM London. It stands for World Travel Market. It’s where most tourism boards from all countries across the globe meet. It’s a massive event, with bloggers and hotel and tour agency representatives meet.
I bet that it looked cool on Instagram stories, but I got either a terrible flu or food poisoning on the second day. I spend 5 days sick in London, out of a total of 6 days, in a very expensive apartment. That I had to pay for myself.
I still haven’t contacted anyone I met at the conference, and I realize I have zero skills to introduce myself as a digital creator.
The cherry on top is that on the last full day in London, it was my birthday. It was sunny outside, and I was sick and had an urgent deadline that took much longer than expected. I spent what was left of the afternoon crying uncontrollably. I told you Instagram looks better than real life.
And then I was finally home and made no more travel plans for the rest of the year. I felt really tired and unappreciated.
I had so much work to do I still can’t realize that all I did in December was work.
Out of the blue, I had a paid collaboration to visit Vidin, Bulgaria. This is an off-the-beaten-path town on the border between Romania and Bulgaria that has a lot of history to offer.
And It was work, work and work the rest of the month. I am trying to grow my YouTube channel because I always film so much when I travel. And this is what I do in am extra time (if there is such thing).
And now for the fun part.
Lessons of 2022 from a freelancer and digital nomad
With all the gloom out of the way, I can point out some lessons I learned in 2022. Remember, there is always a lesson you can learn when things get tough.
1. Being a digital nomad is not a fashion; it is a lifestyle choice.
It gives you the liberty to be wherever you want to be, but it also means that you are truly responsible for your financial and physical safety. Not all individuals are made for this lifestyle. And we should not judge (or shame) each other for choosing or rejecting this lifestyle.
2. Traveling and working is HARD.
I am burned out. I need a holiday from my holidays and a couple of virtual assistants to help me put everything back on track. I am constantly making to-do lists and keeping phone notes of my ideas, and I am always falling behind. I am tired. If you want to travel and also work, then you need to travel slowly, at least a couple of weeks to a month, in a place.
3. Hard work pays off.
I know this contradicts lesson #2, but it’s also true. I worked a lot and also gained a lot from it. I’m not talking just about my finances but also my reputation as a freelancer and content creator. I stretched myself really thin, but it was also worth it to get to do and see all the things I wanted to do and see.
4. When you have a clear goal, it’s easier to achieve it.
This is as simple as this. Know the goal, plan for the goal, work to get whatever tools or money you need for it, and then execute. That’s it. And It works for everything else in life. People have built entire online courses and mastermind programs on this simple idea. People don’t believe it because they never actually committed to something. That’s because we mostly live our lives in our comfort zone. But the true magic comes when you exit your comfort zone.
5. It’s more important to do it than to wait to make it perfect.
Perfect doesn’t exist. Waiting to write the perfect blog post, film the perfect video for youtube, or create the perfect piece of content is not a goal. It’s procrastination. Looking back, you will only see the things that you did do. Like the world you sold to a client or the trips you took. You will not remember your plan to visit that new country or your brilliant business idea that was never tried because you had no time or money or confidence or employee. As a human, we complain a lot. But as successful individuals, we need to learn to get things done, as imperfect as they may be at first, and get better by doing more, not by waiting.
And I will stop here.
I hope this was an inspiring reality check of a normal life of a content creator and full-time freelancer that spends all her money to fund this glorified online lifestyle. Next time you watch my Instagram stories, or any other story from your preferred online influencer, remember that it does not paint the entire story.
Can you relate to any of this? If yes, please leave a comment and tell me about it. Thanks!