2017 in the Rearview Mirror (and What’s Next for 2018)

Atherton Tablelands road trip
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As 2017 draws to a close, we’re looking back on an amazing year of travel and getting excited for another one to come! While Aaron is more the fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants type, I’m a BIG planner and lover of lists. In fact, even before we had this blog I kept a list of all the places we traveled each year and a tentative itinerary of trips for the year ahead. So in that spirit, here are some of our milestones from 2017 and big plans we’re looking forward to in 2018:


» We rang in the New Year on a sailboat in the Bahamas with our best friends 

We watched the fireworks show on the tiny island of Staniel Cay from our vantage point on a sailboat moored offshore. 2017 began as our week with the fantastic Amarok Sailing Charters ended. That trip had us exploring deserted islands, snorkeling in crystal clear turquoise water, and dining on delicious meals prepared with whatever we’d caught in the sea that day (who knew conch was so delicious?). We adored the Amarok and its captains so much that we’re going back to sail with them again in just a couple of months!


» We started this blog! 

It all happened because I love to write and Aaron loves to take photos, and those creative muscles were atrophying because we didn’t have a place to let them run wild. Seeing all the gorgeous photos Aaron takes on our travels just living in folders on his computer where no one ever saw them drove me crazy. He felt the same about my writing. Thus, Two Dusty Travelers was born!

» We traveled a LOT 

We set foot in 4 new countries (Bahamas, Australia, Uganda, and Aruba), over a dozen cities, and 17 distinct islands on 11 separate trips in 2017 (despite having full-time jobs at home!). We traveled by golf cart, sailboat, kayak, dive boat, ferry, train, plane, and automobile (and plenty on foot, too!).

Just a few of the modes of transportation we used this year!


» I completed my 10th medical mission 

I spent a month in Uganda volunteering as a nurse in refugee camps with Medical Teams International. I also joined MTI’s disaster response team after an intense week-long training in Oregon, and I’m ready to deploy to natural and humanitarian disasters around the globe. (And in case you’re wondering, yes – I often travel solo for medical missions and here’s why I think solo travel rocks even for people who are coupled up!)

» I hit my 5th and 6th continents! 

We returned to Aaron’s native Australia and were lucky enough to explore the quickly-disappearing Great Barrier Reef on an amazing live-aboard scuba diving trip. And during the last trip we squeezed into 2017, we realized that Aruba is technically part of the South American continental plate! (Ok, this one felt like a bit of a cheat, but I promise we’ll get to South America proper soon!)


» We bought a rooftop tent and fell in love with it

We’d been coveting these amazing rooftop tents for months and finally just took the plunge (even though they don’t come cheap!). Waking up after our first night sleeping soundly atop our car, we knew it was worth every penny! We squeezed as many weekend camping trips as we could into the short time left before winter fell on Washington State.


» Worst Moment of 2017:

It can’t all be perfect! Sometimes travel is, uh, less than glamorous. We snap at each other when we’re hungry; we spend MANY hours being uncomfortable on various modes of transportation; we scratch a ridiculous number of mosquito bites.

I think our low point was when we over-estimated exactly how waterproof the new iPhone 7 was, and took it down the natural waterslide at Josephine Falls (genius idea, I know). It took a swim, died shortly thereafter, and led to some tense moments in which we thought we lost a bunch of great photos and we’d have to buy another really expensive phone. It did eventually mostly recover (after an extended convalescence in a bag of rice) and we salvaged this delightful video of a happier time:


» Best Moment of 2017:

It’s so hard to choose! Our favorite memories alway seem to be created when we get off the beaten path and discover a little-known corner of nature that we can have all to ourselves. We got to do this over and over again while road tripping through Australia’s Atherton waterfall circuit.

We enthusiastically skipped the tour bus, rented a little car and took two days to frolic in as many swimming holes as we could. Our itinerary went out the window and we explored wherever the waterfall signs (and our whims) led us. We blasted our road trip mix, stopped in little towns to eat, and pulled over to take pictures just about every five minutes. Aside from the few popular falls, we mostly had these gorgeous spots all to ourselves. It was unexpected, unplanned, and completely unforgettable.

This year was packed with memories and experiences that we’ll cherish forever – but we’re pretty stoked about 2018 too! Here’s what we’re planning to get up to in the coming year:


2018 Intentions:

» See more of America 

We’re super guilty of neglecting our home country in favor of far-flung nations on the other side of the globe. In fact, we’ve spent waaay more time traveling in Africa than we have in the United States. And while we’ll always be fascinated by places and cultures so distant from our own, we also know that there’s a lot to be explored in the good old USA. With national parks and monuments coming under fire, we want to see more of our country’s stunning natural heritage for ourselves and encourage others to do so as well. Speaking of which…

» Road trips! 

The impulse-buy of the rooftop tent also resulted in a slightly less impulsive purchase of the perfect new (used) vehicle to mount it on: A Subaru Forester (In case you’re wondering, we’ve named him Forrest).

Aaron is hard at work completing modifications that will allow us to travel and live out of our new home on wheels for weeks at a time. We’ve got a few epic road trips sketched out for this summer! We just keep adding more stops, so we’d love to hear your favorite spots that we can’t miss in the Western US. Bonus points if they’re dog friendly – we can’t wait to finally bring our rescue pup, Jude, along on our adventures!


» Meet other responsible travelers 

One of the best, most unexpected perks of starting this blog has been the opportunity to meet other like-minded travelers. Within the first week of getting our space up and running, the barrage of luxury bloggers selling the “Quit Your Job and Travel the World!” lifestyle with profile pictures of themselves proudly perched atop an elephant made me want to hide under a rock and quit this blog. No offense meant – I just didn’t feel like I connected with any of those people. And trying to keep up with them made me feel like anyone but my genuine self. As someone who is constantly, compulsively, probably irritatingly striving to make the world a better place (while trying to get everyone around me to do the same), I didn’t feel like I fit into the travel blogging world.

But as soon as I stumbled on a couple of ethical travel bloggers (Like Two Wandering Soles and The Life of A Solivigant), and through them a whole bunch more, I was excited about blogging (and traveling!) again. Seeing so many travelers having fantastic adventures while also addressing issues like sustainable accommodations (on Soul Travel Blog), animal welfare (on The Travel Rebellion), and ethical volunteering (on How Not to Travel Like A Basic Bitch) is incredibly inspiring. I’m stoked to be a part of this effort and can’t wait to meet more of these amazing folks along the way. (And hey, if you’re linked into this community as well, drop us links in the comments for ethical/sustainable travel bloggers we should be following!)

» Travel more consciously ourselves 

Writing about our ethical and sustainable travel efforts for this blog has taught me more than I ever expected. We thought of ourselves as pretty “green” and definitely more sensitive to our effect on local communities than the average traveler, but of course we still have plenty to learn.

We’re working on editing as much plastic as possible from our lives, finding ways to reduce and/or offset the carbon footprint left by so many plane flights, and seeking out ways to support local communities with our tourism dollars. We firmly believe that we vote with our money, and we want to make sure we’re voting for what we want to see more of in the future. Nobody’s perfect (us included!), but even small changes make a difference.

» Deploy with Medical Teams International’s disaster response team 

Of course I’m not hoping for an international crisis, but it does seem like more are happening as we continue to disrespect our planet. Between hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and humanitarian emergencies, 2017 was a busy year. Since I was already committed to serve in Uganda, I wasn’t able to deploy to any of those emergencies, so I’m keeping my schedule a bit more open in 2018 to see where the needs take me.

» Write more! 

I love that this blog gives me a reason to write every day. I’ve written more in the past few months than I have in the few years before this. I’ve spent hours (days?) in front of my laptop, pouring out words in fits of inspiration – all thanks to this blog giving me the motivation to stretch my writing muscles again.

There just aren’t enough hours in the day to finish all the stories I want to share about our travels. I’m dying to write about our week sailing through the Bahamas and our disastrous self-drive attempt through Kenya (which was super fun in retrospect and perfect practice for the much longer African road trip we’re planning!). And since I get so many questions about volunteering abroad, I’m constantly jotting down ideas for a post about how to pick an ethical volunteer program.

» Hear more from you guys! 

What do you want to read about? What new places do you think we absolutely need to see? What aspects of ethical travel have we missed out on? We’d love to hear from you, because sharing with you is the whole reason for this blog! Thanks for making our first six months as Two Dusty Travelers super fun, challenging, and rewarding. We can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!


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  • Reply wegowithkids December 31, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Such a great year in review! I kept finding myself saying, “me too” in a good way! I also started a website and now yearn for the part of my day where I can do a bit of travel writing. And, this new world has also connected me with so many wonderful, like-minded travelers. Keep it up, and all the best in 2018.

    • Reply Emily January 2, 2018 at 11:06 pm

      Thanks so much! Getting the blog up and running has been challenging (as you know!) but meeting so many other travelers who “get” us has been totally worth it! Happy travels in 2018 🙂

  • Reply Tiffany December 31, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    After March you will have a Jude friendly place to land in Maine…hint, hint

    • Reply Emily January 2, 2018 at 11:08 pm

      Perfect, we’ll have the Forester live-able by spring! I feel like Maine has some fall foliage that would rock our world. We’ll pick your brain when we head that way!

  • Reply Samantha January 2, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Looks like an amazing year for you two! Happy New Year and all the best for continued blogging success! I agree with writing more – it’s on my list of resolutions for the new year.

    • Reply Emily January 2, 2018 at 11:09 pm

      Thank you! I always tend to write only when I feel inspired, but keep trying to remind myself that it’s a muscle and I have to keep it in shape. Here’s to more writing in 2018!

  • Reply Julien Mordret January 3, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    What a fabulous year you had! But I am not surprised, that’s how it is when you have been bitten by the travel bug. It’s really cool what you did in Uganda, it’s always nice to make trips truly useful and not just enjoyable for yourelf, it’s much more meaningful! And this rooftop tent is amazing!!

    • Reply Emily January 7, 2018 at 3:22 am

      Thanks! Volunteering is definitely a great way to get to know a place beneath the surface, and to do some good! And yes, we’re completely obsessed with the rooftop tent!!

  • Reply Brianna January 3, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    Dude! Rooftop tent?! I am sold. My hubby and I need to invest in one of those puppies immediately! Overall, it sounds like a great year! I can’t believe you took your iphone in the water with you! Risky move.

    • Reply Aaron January 4, 2018 at 4:12 am

      Rooftop tents are the best! Stay tuned for a post all about setting up the car for overland camping.

  • Reply Jessica Carpenter January 4, 2018 at 12:40 am

    Sounds like an awesome year! I feel like I really identify with you as a steward of the earth and someone who strives to do it with the least impact as possible while still following my passion. I also failed to identify with the travel blogging frenzy of quitting your job to travel. As much as I would love to do that, blogging is a ton of work and a huge commitment to make it your full-time career. Congrats on all your accomplishments this year and I wish you the best in 2018!

    • Reply Emily January 7, 2018 at 3:27 am

      Thanks so much!! It’s so encouraging to meet other like-minded travelers out there. It would be lovely and all if we could live off blogging, but bottom line for me is that I want it to be fun and aligned with what I’m passionate about. Now I’m gonna go check out your blog 🙂

  • Reply Carmen Edelson January 4, 2018 at 4:10 am

    Wow, your 10th medical mission? So many great accomplishments, congrats! I’m surprised that this was the first year of your blog, seems like you’ve been doing this for awhile! I can’t wait to see where 2018 takes you 🙂

    • Reply Emily January 7, 2018 at 3:42 am

      I kind of got addicted to medical missions after my first one 🙂 We blogged a little just for friends and family over the last several years, then finally decided to get more serious about it last summer. It’s a lot of work but I love getting my writing and Aaron’s photos out there! Thanks so much for reading!!

  • Reply Lara Dunning January 4, 2018 at 11:02 am

    Sounds like you had a great 2017 and had some wonderful experiences. I look forward to reading about your 2018 adventures! And, I’ve never heard of rooftop tents. I’ll have to check those out.

    • Reply Emily January 7, 2018 at 3:46 am

      We’d never seen rooftop tents either except on safari in Africa, until last year! We’re basically obsessed with ours 🙂 It’ll be getting a lot of use in 2018!

  • Reply Jing January 4, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    Congratulations on your 2017 milestones. I love how you travel with a heart and in a meaningful way, more than just adding up the numbers and ticking off bucket list items. I work in the field of environmental management and it makes me happy to meet other travelers who make conscious efforts to reduce their environmental impacts while traveling. It’s challenging and takes effort but I believe it can be done. Cheers to 2018!

    • Reply Emily January 7, 2018 at 3:48 am

      Thanks so much! It’s so awesome to see so many people getting on board with sustainable travel, and awareness of the environment in general. Certainly none of us are perfect but I think we’re turning the tide bit by bit!

  • Reply lukeandmeagan January 5, 2018 at 6:14 am

    What a wonderful list of accomplishments – and things you’ve survived 🙂 you guys look like you have a blast together, and I have to admit I’m super inspired to get a rooftop tent now! hah

    • Reply Aaron January 5, 2018 at 11:20 am

      Thanks a ton! We are really having a great time!

  • Reply hellowithmichelle January 8, 2018 at 2:04 am

    What an amazing 2017! The rooftop tent looks really cool and I love the honesty in this post. Its not all rainbows and sunshine and my travelling companion and I get irritated at each other when we get hungry too. Im so excited for your upcoming adventures! Happy new year and best wishes for 2018 and beyond.

    • Reply Emily January 8, 2018 at 1:08 pm

      Thank you so much! Haha I think the key to enjoying travels with your partner is to always stay well-fed! Anyway nobody wants to hear only the perfect stuff all the time – we’ve all had travel disasters as well as the incredible moments 🙂 Happy new year to you, too!

  • Reply Daina January 9, 2018 at 11:50 am

    What an awesome year! I’ve always been so intrigued with the roof top tents, how is it in the wind? I’m so happy that your iphone came back to life for you to get the files off. It would have been devastating to lose all those memories! Happy New Year!

    • Reply Emily January 10, 2018 at 6:25 am

      Happy New Year back! The tent has been very sturdy in the wind for us, though we haven’t put it through a super intense test yet. It’s going to be put through the paces in 2018 though!

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