4 Years a Traveller

March 2014 – March 2018

Has it really been 4 years travelling since leaving Australia? I’m on the road again…

Indeed, it has and what an amazing journey so far – hope it doesn’t end just yet.

It was suggested that I write this post to celebrate the four-year travel anniversary this week since leaving Australia, back in March 2014. And whilst a lot of countries have been traversed and continents crossed, I am hoping to give you a quick summary of places and experiences during the past four years.

To be honest, I’ve been travelling for most of my life as I started back in 1985 and only stop to earn money to take off again.

Chalalan, Madidi National Park, Bolivia
Hatching a plan? Chalalan, Madidi National Park, Bolivia (2011) Photo: Neil Lintern

Journey’s Inception

In the beginning – this time…

Back in 2011, I had an incredible time travelling in Morocco for a month and continuing to South America for over ten months. Sadly, I received the call to return to Australia.

The decision was made then to work hard for a couple of years and go on an extended travel journey.

Travelling is a drug. Full stop.

Just as a drug slowly filters through one’s veins, creeping up on its victim and seeping into mind and body, travelling is no different.

And it is at this stage when you finally realise that travelling is a drug, which morphs into a lifestyle choice, replacing the concept of a quick two to four-week holiday each year.

Perhaps you can relate to this re-wiring of the brain? Re-conditioning?

No restrictions?

To live out of a backpack? Move when you want and to where you want? Not to be based in one city, town, or country for decades, working until retirement or you drop dead?


Well, I have a little secret for you, loads of people unshackle society’s burdening chains and take flight…it really isn’t that hard or that difficult…try it!

Freedom. Mind-blowing adventures. Lessons. People. Pure fun.

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’, comes to mind – an oldie but a goodie for you from 1977. Many thanks, Lynyrd Skynyrd on MV.

Getting back to the inception of another very long travel journey.

Our minds were made up whilst in South America and before we even returned to Australia.

Although certain events in South America of which I haven’t yet written about made me want to leave and travel elsewhere, I knew I would return to this continent one day. But for now, it was to be Australia.

Resigning yourself to hanging up the backpack in a corner for a while collecting cobwebs to instead work again, is daunting for me, and comes as a rude reality check or should I say, shock. I wasn’t born rich.

dong hoi, vietnam
Fully laden – Dong Hoi, Vietnam (2014/2015) Photo: Neil Lintern

The Plan

The plan? Well, there wasn’t really a plan, as such.

I am not a traveller that usually plans a journey.

Why restrict yourself? And with all best-laid plans, things inevitable go wrong and plans always change, so why bother?

The only decision was to book a one-way ticket, some nights in Singapore, then travel through SE Asia, see how we liked that and reassess.

If this panned out, we would either continue travelling ‘somewhere’ until the money ran out, or return to Australia to become ‘comfortably numb’ (exaggerating now).

Simple plan.

Leaving the Land of Oz

Two years in a fleeting moment of life passed with only little holidays in-between, as we worked and saved hard.

Renovating, finishing work, a solo photographic exhibition in Brisbane thrown in, and the time finally came to leave The Land of Oz, once more – a recurring theme in my life.

Following an extremely busy few months finishing up everything, packing up our house with all belongings dismantled and rammed into a tiny garage with car and motorbike, I hoped we may be gone for one to two years.

With backpacks dusted off once again, packed and ready for all weather conditions that would be hurled at us, the day finally came to say our goodbyes and leave Australia.


I find it really interesting when friends, relatives, or colleagues ask: “when will you be back?”

You have no idea how many times I have been asked this question, each time I leave a town, city, State, or Australia. It seems that many people can’t get their head around the fact that you’re leaving a good paying job ‘just to travel’.

Throw in ‘indefinitely’ and some people go into a complete meltdown with the next barrage of questions.

Life is short.

“Go now my friend, it’s later than you think…” – a good yachting friend said this to me years’ ago and it’s one that stuck.

So why hang around for retirement, until you’re almost dead, or no longer able to enjoy life?

Roman Satirical poet Decimus Junius Juvenalis, eloquently advises:

‘The noiseless foot of Time steals swiftly by, 
And ‘ere we dream of manhood, age is nigh!’ 

Hope I haven’t depressed you?

Anyway, back to travelling…

The last 4 years

So, you may be asking yourself: what on earth has she been doing for the last four years?

Well, seeing earth is a pretty good description.

After some five nights in Singapore (too expensive on Australian dollars), crossing overland to Malaysia and travelling from south to north of the country, then again crossing into Thailand, we volunteered for the Foundation for Education and Development (FED) in a couple of their offices.

More travel in Myanmar (Burma), CambodiaLaos, and Vietnam saw over ten incredible months spent in SE Asia, during 2014.

Zakopane, Poland, blizzard
Snow blizzard shopping! Partner in crime. Zakopane, Poland (2015)

After Vietnam, the decision was to cross overland into China and start a long journey of many months or possibly years on the Trans-Siberian, through China, Mongolia, and Russia. As visas were either too short, too expensive, or too difficult to obtain once outside my country of residence, this journey would be saved for another time. For travellers doing organised tours or short trips, this isn’t such a problem.

Not ready to return to Australia and needing another destination: ‘why not Eastern Europe?’, I heard. 

Sure, why not.

The fact that we not only would be changing continents but also going from temperatures of 35°C to -18°C, didn’t seem so daunting, right?


Sometimes, what sounds like a great idea, isn’t always a great idea, in reality. Especially when it is January, winter in the Northern Hemisphere, snowing, and you are not equipped for the extreme bitter change in weather.

Anyway, ‘onwards and upwards’ as they say.

And on our way we were, to gorgeous EstoniaLatviaLithuania, and Poland.

After an extraordinary time in these four amazing and underrated countries over three months (my allocated time in Schengen countries as an Australian), a flight to the United Kingdom saw another spur of the moment decision…

Why not buy a motorhome (Reg) to drive around some of the UK?

What an excellent idea.

motorhome, Burton Bradstock, UK, camping
Reg at Freshwater, Dorset, UK (2015) Photo: Neil Lintern

During this time, I returned to Australia for a short visit but also for a wonderful two-week sailing trip in Fiji with long-time friends.

sailing, Fiji, Oceania
Tehani-li sailing along crystal Fijian waters (2015)
Rurago Bay, Waya Island, Fiji, sailing
Some inspiration for you! Rurago Bay (Waya Island), Fiji

Returning to the UK, we started the fantastic drive through Europe: France, Spain, and Italy.

As I could not extend my three-month Schengen visa at all, I had to leave. So, the long drive of over 2,500 kilometres from south of Naples back across the Channel and onto the UK, took nine days.

I had to stay out of Schengen countries for three months (visa requirement), so we returned to Thailand to volunteer again with FED but this time, for a very busy three months.

Returning to the UK saw me detained at Heathrow airport for six hours before I was eventually released and granted entry. By this stage, I just wanted to leave the UK again. So, leaving the motorhome behind in storage this time, we bought a cheap car (Lola) to cross into Europe once more.

Destination? Cosenza, Calabria (southern Italy).

Driving from the UK to Italy wasn’t free of disasters. Lola decided to die in central France and had to be towed to Wrecker’s heaven.

Four buses and thirty-six hours later, we arrived in Cosenza, ahead of our boxes that we emptied from Lola.

What a ride.

Monlucon, central France
Unpacking Lola into boxes – Montlucon, Central France (2016)

Another quick trip to Australia for a wedding, a visa, and overseeing more roof work, then back to the UK for various things including the Glastonbury Festival, and it’s great to be back in Italy.

Photo booth, Newcastle, NSW Australia
Niece and self (2016) Photo: Photobooth
Glastonbury Festival, United Kingdom
Hijacked! Glastonbury Festival (2017) Photo: Steve Collins

Oh and I also held another exhibition in January of this year, in the beautiful village of Cerisano, close to Cosenza: Image Earth Faces Photographic Exhibition, if you are interested to read how this went.


Siem Reap, Cambodia, fish tank
Ticklish little beasts! Siem Reap, Cambodia (2014) Photo: Neil Lintern

Wrap Up

This was only supposed to be a short post.

But, how do you wrap up four years of travelling through seventeen countries over three continents, in five-hundred words?

Should be easy for a Technical Writer, I hear you say.

For the moment, the backpacks are hung up, in lieu of experiencing the Italian culture with my expanding waistline, which is the flavour of life.

Still loving Italy, so hope to stay longer, if I’m allowed.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this little self-indulgence of my nomadic tales. But this is also a good summary of my posts with links, should you plan to travel to any of these amazing places.

I highly recommend all of these countries. And before you ask, I really don’t have a favourite as they are all brilliant.

So what are you waiting for? 🙂


Check out my global travel images at Nilla’s Photography or more posts at Image Earth Travel.

Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria, Italy
Home for a while – Old Town, Cosenza, Calabria (2017)

64 responses to “4 Years a Traveller”

  1. Abirbhav Avatar

    Another gem of a post from you..!!
    From all the experiences you have shared, I would perhaps not have my feet nibbled upon by some fish.. I had refused one such opportunity during my trip to Sri Lanka.. I don’t know why, but I can’t trust them not to bite my toes.. 😛

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you!
      Ha, ha it’s the most bizarre feeling, which I still remember. The fish don’t have teeth or harsh beaks so it wasn’t a problem.
      I should write another post in March to “6 Years a Traveller”! 😉

      1. Abirbhav Avatar

        Well, I am looking forward to that post of yours.. 😊
        Wishing you all the Best..!!

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thank you, no pressure then! 😉

  2. The Moon & Molly🌙 Avatar

    amazing blog 🙂 I have just returned from Asia backpacking and the bug has bitten me terribly. I am back in work when all I want to do is travel long term. trying to read as many posts like this to give me the courage to pack it all in again lol. you’re an inspiration!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey Katie…thank you for your feedback and glad that my posts give you a little push towards the right direction. It’s a lifestyle choice for me and hope it becomes that for you… 🙂

      Many thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with me – much appreciated.

  3. Hasu Sarkar Avatar

    Adventure !

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Always adventure Hasu! 🙂

      1. Hasu Sarkar Avatar

        U have a super life experience .

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thank you! Try and live life to the full – only get one shot at it… 😉

  4. Francis.R. Avatar

    Belated congratulations, Nilla. Four years or adventures (despite the bureaucratic misadventures) I am glad to have found your blog. You are quite detailed and for every traveler that follows your steps there is a treasure of information; not only that but there is as well plenty of beauty in your way to register your travels, so diverse details that make your travels more than travels complete life experiences.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Such lovely feedback Francis – very kind.

      Ah well, without misadventures, something would be missing…spice? 😉

      I hope that my posts help other travellers that may be a little reticent about taking that first step overseas, away from their home. Sometimes I think that I might provide too much information but hope that people read most of my posts. Many thanks again.

      1. Francis.R. Avatar

        If I were traveling to there I would trust to the information you post, is quite valuable and very generous to share carefully the details. Thank you very much. ^-^

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Very cool and thank you for your great feedback! 🙂

  5. artinmanyforms Avatar

    Reblogged this on artinmanyforms and commented:
    A brilliant piece of writing Nilla….

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Pat! Very kind words indeed and appreciate the re-blog. 🙂

  6. Miss A Avatar

    This is how life is suppose to be. On the road! Adventure and experiences and meeting really cool (and uncool) people 😉

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Exactly! Look forward to reading your blogs. 😉

  7. gillmorris Avatar

    I love reading about your adventures Nilla and you are certainly enjoying life to the fullest! And life is definitely short, so we must all make the most of everything, every day.. I am so happy I found your blog! Can’t wait to hear about your next adventure! Have a wonderful weekend 🙂 xx

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks Gill and glad I found your blog also – you keep me busy reading about your life.

      I’m starting to write about my travel in 2011 and will be throwing that in with Italian posts to spice things up. So expect a different country on Sunday. Hint…somewhere in Africa. I have so much to write yet!
      Have a great weekend! 😉 x

      1. gillmorris Avatar

        Can’t wait to read it! 🙂 x

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thanks Gill 🙂 x

  8. Patty Avatar

    Marvelous four years, I am sure. Looking forward to ‘travel’ with you the upcoming four years 😉

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Patty. Indeed it has been marvellous and so am I. 😉 x

  9. Aixa Avatar

    I love your sense of adventure, Nilla!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Aixa – so do I! 😉

  10. Ishita Avatar

    Congratulations!! It is so great too be on this side of the community and travel and inspire others as well. Love your enthusiasm and zest for travel! Restricting yourself to travel only kills it. Keep traveling!!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Ishita. I try not to restrict myself in too many things. 😉

      1. Ishita Avatar

        Me too 🙂 So nice to learn more about you. Are you in Calabria??

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Hi, I am indeed and you?

      3. Ishita Avatar

        Never been there 🙂 where exactly are you?? I would love to meet you when I am in Calabria..maybe next yr.

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        In Cosenza. That would be great.
        I’m still hoping to be here next year but it depends on my visa renewal, which I have to apply for in August (2 months before my current visa expires). Keep fingers crossed. 😉

      5. Ishita Avatar

        In bocca al lupo 😉 I hope to meet you there then. Tell me the best time to visit??

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thank you – love this saying. Definitely not during June-August as summer is too crowded, expensive, and most of Italy head to the beach. Many businesses close for 1-4 weeks during August. Any time around these months. 😉

      7. Ishita Avatar

        Yeah I thought so…the usual rules then 😉 well hopefully next year. For now, I have Camapania on my mind as even after all these years, I’ve never set foot!

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Yes, especially for Italy. You’ll have a ball in Campania. I have a few posts around this region, but you may have already read these: Amalfi, Naples, and Pozzuoli.

      9. Ishita Avatar

        Thank you for these! I had actually read them earlier haha. But if I plan on visiting, I’ll ask your advice. It’s usually the stay part that I always end up thinking about most. Rest is easy because ITALY!!

      10. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        No problem at all and happy to help. Italy is an easy country to travel in, you just need time.

      11. Ishita Avatar

        That is the reason I always plan at least 3 weeks in Italy. It’s also not easy (and cheap) traveling to and fro from India every few months so one good trip in a year makes sense. x

      12. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Indeed is does and it sounds as you have this down-pat now. 🙂

      13. Ishita Avatar

        yes 😉

  11. Velvet Underground Taipei Story Avatar

    Travelling is a drug~just like the music!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Indeed it is. Both go hand-in-hand and I couldn’t live without either.

  12. The Year I Touched My Toes Avatar

    Hi Nilla, I enjoyed reading your post in full. There are a few classic shots of you, having fun. I can back you on those ticklish fish. I was screaming with laughter when I did it in Cambodia, there were some big fish too! Well I learnt something” Schengen” had never heard the term but knew the concept. I had to google it. Also found out I would have three months. So you started the post by saying you are on the road again, but didn’t say where to? Or have I misunderstood something? Louise

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Louise, thank you and it’s cool you enjoyed my post and those ticklish fish – I too was screaming with laughter as the photo shows (a little).

      I usually add a link to ‘Schengen’ in my posts but this time I didn’t as I’ve written about it so much in the past. Mental note to self, I’ll add a link.
      Yes, I believe you would only have 3 months across 26 countries (not 3 months in each country) until you have to leave the area for 3 months.

      I’m currently on the road in Southern Italy exploring what this spectacular country has to offer. Nilla 🙂

  13. the eternal traveller Avatar

    I wonder where the next four years will take you. Our daughter, who has been away for nearly six years, tells us when her Canadian work visa expires and she comes home for her sister’s wedding in November she will be staying put. I’ll believe that when I see it!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      I have absolutely no idea as I don’t plan anything.

      Ha, ha, Let me know if she does indeed ‘stay put’. Once the travel bug bites, then…

      1. the eternal traveller Avatar

        She’s been on the move since 2007, so I’ll be surprised if this is it!

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        That’s a no then! 😉

      3. the eternal traveller Avatar

        Probably! Oh well, it just means more overseas trips to visit her. We’re off to Canada later this year.

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Not a bad excuse really. Hope you have a wonderful time in Canada, I haven’t been there…yet. 😉

      5. the eternal traveller Avatar

        I’m sure we will. We did tell our daughters we didn’t mind where in the world they lived as long as they had room for us to come and visit. But no, she is house sharing, so we have to find our own accommodation. 🙂

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        The space is always a bonus and at least you get to travel around the world with your daughter. 🙂

  14. karenincalabria Avatar

    Wow, what a whirlwind! Congratulations on your incredible lust for life and an energy to match!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Karen – just the way I love to live life. 🙂

  15. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

    I really needed to read this blog post today! I’ve been suffering from my lack of “movement” and hope I can push past that “numb” feeling and finally get to experience Italy (and other places) the way my heart and soul wants to!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Glad you found this post beneficial Lulu and excellent it has given you a little motivation – always a good thing. My work is done here… 😉

  16. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2] Avatar

    Nilla, when do you do “short posts”? 🙂 Great post!. Time does go by so fast. Good on you for doing what you want to do while you can, memories to be treasured while rocking that chair later on 🙂 x

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      I know, I know, for a Technical Writer, I’ve sure lost the art of ‘short and concise’ when writing – it’s only taken 3 years.
      Ha, ha, my rocking chair will be substituted for a speed mountain wheel chair, so as to keep travelling! 😉 x

      1. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2] Avatar

        No, I really do believe there will be a time in our lives where stillness and enjoyment of other things will be enjoyed far more. It is all about energy and believe me your head wants to just the body lags behind 🙂 We shall see 🙂

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I’m sure you’re right, but I’m not hanging around for that time to come. I’ll probably be growing a veggie and herb patch somewhere in the world, in true Italian fashion.

        Meet back here in ten years. 🙂

      3. Suzanne [globalhousesitterX2] Avatar

        Lol sounds like a plan. I could not imagine having buying a house without a garden. Always have one ☺

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Exactly. 🙂

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