In 2012, I began to find my footing in the world as a location independent consultant. Though it would be my least profitable year as a digital nomad, it allowed me to gain the confidence that I could maintain (and even acquire new) clients while traveling around the globe. As 2013 began, the internal doubts slowly subsided and my adventures hit another level. This year would see me start mostly in California, then take me across the United States to Mexico across the pond to Europe up to Canada, and end the year in Central and South America.
January 2013: San Francisco Bay Area
While very little can top being in Puerta del Sol in Madrid for New Year’s (as I was back in 2012), if I can’t travel internationally to celebrate the occasion, then I’ll do my best to be in the skies – somehow. So I started the year by taking a New Year’s Day flight around the SF Bay Area to celebrate the awesomeness of being a black pilot. Later in the month, I bottled my third and last bottle of wine – Cerillo 718 – though it wasn’t named and labeled until March 2013.
February 2013: Houston & Austin, Texas
Texas had never been high on my list of travel destinations but after one of my closest friends got married a few months earlier, I promised him that I’d make it a point to visit and meet his new wife. Although the trip included getting our car towed and walking in a shotty neighborhood at night to get the car back, like most good stories they involve events that you never planned. We also hadn’t planned on taking the 3hr drive to Austin but it was surely well worth it. Today, Austin is an emerging digital nomad location within the US, and while I enjoyed my day there with friends, I can’t say it’s a place to which I’d relocate anytime soon.
March 2013: San Francisco Bay Area & Palm Springs, CA
One of the best things about being a pilot is the ability to share my passion for flight (specifically general aviation) with people who may have never flown from the cockpit or seen the world travel below at 2,500 ft. In March, I was able to introduce one of my oldest friends, Steve, during his trip out to the Bay Area.
Earlier in the month, I was able to check off one of the items off my bucket list – attending the Indian Wells tennis tournament in the Palm Desert of California. Not to mention visiting the Palm Springs Air Museum, which is definitely in my list of Top 3 air museums in California.
April 2013: Northern California & Phoenix, AZ
Things really started to pick up in April. At the beginning of the month, I traveled to Phoenix to celebrate my friend Mohamed’s 40th birthday and rekindled so many, many fond memories of my college days at Arizona State University. Then just over a week later, I was able to merge my location independent status with my love of being of a pilot.
Over a two day period, I flew myself to a business meeting in Cotati, CA and then down to Fresno, CA for a different client meeting the next day. Though it was stressful (not knowing if the weather and aircraft would both hold up), it was a memory and privilege I’ll never forget. But apparently that flight wasn’t enough to satisfy my cockpit cravings, so I flew my girlfriend (now wife) up to Santa Rosa for a sushi date and sunset bay tour flight at the end of the month.
May 2013: The Engagement Trip (Rome, Florence, Venice, Trieste, Bologna)
Sometimes the best things happen when you least expect them. After my girlfriend and I reached Rome – on what she thought was simply her 30th birthday trip – we soon realized that our luggage would not being arriving with us. It was the result of us landing in Washington, D.C. during a rain storm and having to run clear across the god awfully long concourses at Dulles International to reach our connecting flight. We made it but our bags didn’t. All that frustration went away around 7:15pm that night when I proposed to her on the Spanish Steps in Rome. So the trip soon turned from a 30th birthday trip to our engagement trip – through Rome to Florence, Venice, Trieste, and Bologna.
May 2013: Exploring the Italian Language (Bologna, Naples, Parma, Verona, and Paris)
Since I’d studied in Bologna in September 2012, I continued Skype sessions with my instructor and was eager to go back and immerse myself in the language again. Being a digital nomad definitely made it easy to set the date and make it happen. My 5 weeks in Europe during the late spring was a dream come true, as was attending the 3rd round of the French Open – another two checks off the bucket list.
June & July 2013: Chicago, IL & San Francisco Bay Area
I hadn’t even been back more than 2 weeks after my Eurotrip before I got on a plane again to head to Chicago for my annual family visit. Not to mention, while I was gallivanting around Europe by myself for 3 weeks, my fianceé was busy finding us a new apartment back in the Bay Area. So during that two weeks, I came back, packed, moved, and then headed to Chicago for two weeks. Once I returned to the Bay and finally got settled, I enjoyed a couple of simple Saturdays visiting two of my favorite Santa Cruz Mountain wineries – Ridge (my absolute favorite) and Testarossa. Then to top it off, I brought a little bit of Italy into our new home by making my favorite Italian dish – Tagliatelle al Ragu.
August 2013: Northern California & Mexico (Puebla, Cholula, and Mexico City)
Since I’d earned my pilot license back in 2008, my father and I had only flown together in the Chicago area during the summers when I’d visit home. But in August 2013, he visited me for the first time in Northern California and I knew I wanted to make a special flight. Luckily the weather and the aircraft held up, and we enjoyed an awesome day visiting the Castle Air Museum. Like my flight with my friend Elvis in April 2012, it was my special way to give back to those who helped me reach my dream of becoming a pilot – and there’s no way I’d be a pilot a today without my dad.
Towards the end of the month, my fianceé and I traveled down to Mexico to visit the beautiful, chill city of Puebla, the pyramids in Cholula, and the lovely chaos that is Mexico City.
September/October 2013: Northern California & Vancouver, BC
There is just something spectacular about flying in Northern California during the late summer/early fall. It’s even more spectacular when I can take newbies on an afternoon lunch/dinner getaway to along the coast to Santa Rosa or Monterey – as I did in Sept/Oct 2013. The sunsets tours are just a bit more gorgeous in the fall.
But not only is Northern California beautiful in early fall, so is Vancouver, BC. Little did we know we would be visiting during the Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday, which is celebrated on a Monday and doesn’t involve any ridiculous shoppalooza holiday. So I can say in 2013, I celebrated Thanksgiving twice in two different countries. Not quite a bucket list item but cool nonetheless.
December 2013: Panama City, Panama, Bogota, Colombia, and Las Vegas, NV
It’s obvious that I have a thing for immersing myself in the languages that I love. This passion drove us to spend 2.5 weeks in the final month of the year exploring Panama and Colombia for the first time. Outside of the humidity and god awful traffic, I really enjoyed Panama City and the surrounding areas. I can actually see myself spending significant time there in the future. While I’m not sure how the Wifi is for digital nomads, given that I was staying in hotels during that experience, Panama is in a great spot to hit most cities in North and South America within 3-6 hours and it’s an emerging international city. For me it was like visiting Hong Kong in Central America.
Bogota, on the other hand, was a great for a quick visit but definitely not a spot that I’d like to stay for an extended period. I prefer a bit more sunshine and warmer temperatures throughout the year. So it was no surprise that upon our quick return to Panama on Christmas day we found ourselves laying next to the pool at our resort for 3 days straight. It was the first time since I’d become a digital nomad that I could actually not use my laptop for 3 days. What a moment to treasure!
As a I turned another year older, during our 6 hour midnight layover in Vegas, I said cheers to another amazing year and looked forward to 2014.