2019 in Review – A Year of Growth

I still find it strange to think about just how many hours Alesha and I spend on airplanes.

Transiting through airports, crossing timezones, watching safety videos in foreign languages, adding stamps to our passports – through some weird twist of fate, fortune and luck, these are things that are a regular part of our extraordinary lives.

When we are confined to an aircraft soaring 30,000 feet above the earth, isolated from wifi and phone service, we find ourselves often reflecting on the experiences we’ve had and where we want to progress in the future.

Today we’re sitting on a flight to Tokyo. It’s our first international trip of the year, and I can’t help but reminisce on all that has transpired over the last 12 months.

Now that I’m 3 beers and 2 plum wines deep, with my current favourite band Ocean Alley playing through my headphones, I feel like it’s time to note those experiences.

Writing these ‘year in review’ posts isn’t something that we always do on NOMADasaurus (although if you want to read last year’s article, here it is).

But as the business grows, and we grow older, it’s nice to have something jotted down so we have something to reflect on in later life.

They aren’t meant to be a way to brag about what we do, but to document this insane journey that we have found ourselves on.

The blogging world, and our business, has shifted dramatically in recent years, and I rarely take the time to write purely for the sake of writing anymore. I’m taking this opportunity now to do just that.

It’s probably going to be a long post, but I hope you’ll humour me (or skip through if you’d like).

Here’s a personal insight into the year that was.

Our Travels in 2019

The year started in the most incredible way possible – at an electronic music festival (more like a bush doof really) in Australia’s southwest, surrounded by new and old friends as we danced until sunrise and celebrated life.

Music festivals have always been a huge part of our lives, but it’s been quite a while since we had the chance to let our hair down and attend one with our hectic schedules. Kicking off the year at the Wild Campout was exactly what we needed.

Soon afterwards we flew back to Sydney, where we have set up a temporary base and got stuck into work. We had a few weeks before our first campaign of the year would start.

New Years Eve 2018
Celebrating the end of 2018, and the beginning of 2019, with friends at a bush doof in Western Australia.

February – Back to Canada

When February rolled around we flew off to Canada, the country where we first got our taste of travel back in 2007, when we moved there on working holiday visas to be ski bums.

We were working with Destination Canada for the second time, now to promote winter tourism in two places that often get overlooked by international travellers – Yukon and Quebec.

On the day we left Sydney it was 40 degrees celsius. When we got off the plane in Whitehorse, it was -36. To say it was a shock to the system would be an understatement.

Our brief was to check out the Yukon Quest, Canada’s most challenging dog sledding race, and then to spend 4 days learning how to be dog mushers. We are huge animal lovers and were hesitant at first about taking this job. But after doing a bunch of research we decided to give it a go.

We’re glad we did, because it was an incredible experience, and the company we worked with and the people we met at the Yukon Quest showed to us that they really do care about the dogs.

The freezing temperatures were extremely challenging, but we managed to come away with some great content.

Afterwards we flew to Dawson City, drank a cocktail with a human toe in it, then headed to Quebec for the Winter Carnival and to go on a road trip.

We used to live in Montreal and had travelled to Quebec City during the summer in 2009, and it was a lot of fun to return to see it covered in snow.

Once our time in Quebec was finished we headed to Banff to spend a few days snowboarding, ice climbing, and staying at the lovely Emerald Lake Lodge in one of the most surreal places in the country.

Dog Sledding In The Yukon
Dog sledding in -40 degree temperatures. Such a crazy experience.

March – A Secret Trip with GoPro

We flew back into Sydney on a Saturday night, and Sunday morning I received a call from our buddy Ed who, among a dozen other jobs, is one of the marketing wizards at GoPro.

“What are you doing tomorrow mate?”

“Probably working dude. Why, what’s up?”

“Want to come on a trip? I can’t tell you where, but I promise it’ll be epic.”

How could I say no?

Alesha stayed home, and the next morning I headed back to Sydney airport, met Ed and a bunch of awesome GoPro creators in the international terminal, and he handed us an envelope.

We were flying to Queenstown in New Zealand to launch the limited edition GoPro HERO7 Black Dusk White camera.

The next 3 days went by in a whirl of helicopters, bungy jumping, cliff diving and far too many beergaritas, before flying back to Sydney to spend a few weeks at home.

After the secret adventure in New Zealand we had an assignment with Kathmandu up in the Blue Mountains.

It involved documenting a 2-day adventure photography workshop, which basically meant taking photos and sharing stories of a bunch of incredible people getting excited to go hiking and camping. A pretty fun job if you ask us!

Here’s a video recap of the GoPro trip:

April – Cook Islands and Czech Republic

At the beginning of April we flew to the Cook Islands, one of the most stunning archipelagos in the Pacific Ocean, for a 7-day job with Cook Islands Tourism.

From the moment we landed in Rarotonga we fell in love. We envisioned white-sand beaches and swaying palm trees, but there was so much more to the island than that.

The whole interior was mountainous dense jungle, and the culture of the Cook Islanders was infectious. Laid back, good-natured and welcoming.

It was one of the best jobs we’ve had in recent years. Normally when we have these campaigns the itinerary is jam-packed, with clients wanting us to fit in as many activities and attractions as possible. This one was different (a reflection on the culture no doubt).

The tourism board had booked us a few activities, but for the most part, they kept our itinerary pretty open. We were met at the airport, handed the keys to a rental car, a tourist brochure, an envelope full of cash, and told to have fun.

And fun we had. Holy damn, it was incredible. Scuba diving, hiking, stand-up paddleboarding, visiting Aitutaki (home to the most beautiful lagoon in the world), checking out cultural dinners and dance shows – We thoroughly enjoyed it, and ended up making our best YouTube content since Antarctica.

We flew back into Sydney for a few days, then headed off to Czech Republic for our next project.

We had been commissioned by Czech Tourism to explore the south of the country with the theme of a sustainable tourism road trip, then present our findings at a large travel conference.

This was our third time to Czechia, and we feel that it’s one of the most underrated parts of Europe. Sure, everyone goes to Prague (as they should), but few people visit anywhere else in the country.

The 12 days here were great, and we had the pleasure of sharing the trip with an old friend Jiri, while making some new local friends as well.

Us In Aitutaki
Hanging out in Aitutaki, Cook Islands. Perhaps our favourite trip of 2019!

May – Off to Thailand and Attending a Business Growth Seminar

We had a total of 48 hours back in Sydney before our next trip started, and then it was time to head to Thailand.

This was another job with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and we spent a week in Trang, down in the south of the country, and a week in Kanchanaburi, in the west.

We’ve spent a lot of time in Thailand over the years, even living in Chiang Mai for a while, and it was wonderful to check out some new parts of the country that don’t receive as many tourists.

After coming back to Sydney we headed straight into a 3-day business workshop called NiSi (Nail It and Scale It), hosted by Aussie business coach Kerwin Rae.

NiSi was all about learning the psychologies, practices and techniques to grow and scale your business to the next level, and it was an intense and jam-packed event.

We walked away from this feeling inspired to take our business even further.

Raft House Kanchanaburi
Hanging out at a raft house in Kanchanaburi was definitely a fun thing that happened in 2019.

June – Home for a Month

For all of June we stayed in Australia, and it was exactly what we needed.

We signed back up to our local gym, finished off all the content from our previous trips, attended a few PR nights, hosted a NOMADasaurus hiking event in Sydney, and Alesha flew to Perth to visit her family for a week.

For us, not travelling is a holiday. It might seem strange to most people, but for us there’s nothing better than being able to unpack our backpacks, knowing we don’t have to go anywhere for a while.

Narrabeen Beach Panorma Drone
We’ve started to enjoy spending more time in Australia. And with beaches like this on our doorstep, it’s no secret why.

July – Snowboarding in New Zealand

Many moons ago, snowboarding was my biggest passion. I lived for it, and it consumed some of the best years of my life.

When our good friends at Kathmandu (who we work as brand ambassadors for) got in touch and asked if we wanted to head over to New Zealand to capture some photos of their new Styper snow gear, it was like a lifetime of birthdays coming all at once.

We flew into Queenstown, spent a few days hanging out with friends there and in Wanaka (where I got to tick off a dream of mine to go heli-boarding), and then made our way up to Christchurch to start the job.

We partnered with Haka Tours, the country’s best small-group tour company, to go on a 7-day trip hitting up the South Island’s top ski resorts.

Normally we prefer to travel independently, but being on a ski trip with Haka Tours was fantastic, and we’ll definitely do it again next time we go back to NZ.

After the tour we headed back to Sydney, spoke at a large event for Tourism Chile about travelling in the country, and then got ready for the biggest adventure of the year…

Reasons Why Haka Tours Snow Safari
Our amazing Haka Tours crew at the top of the Remarkables.

August – Our NOMADasaurus Tours, and Alesha’s Tourism Project

In 2018 we launched the most ambitious project of our lives – organising and running small-group adventure and photography tours in Kyrgyzstan.

They were a roaring success, and it was our greatest pleasure to show 24 intrepid travellers around one of our favourite countries.

For 2019 we decided to run another Kyrgyzstan tour, and expand into nearby Tajikistan to take 10 people on a road trip along the Pamir Highway.

After a lot of discussions, it was decided that only I would lead the tours for 2019, and Alesha would stay in Australia to look after the business.

But plans changed, and Alesha was actually contracted for two back-to-back tourism development projects in Central Asia with Helvetas, a Swiss government organisation, and USAID, a United States international development agency.

I flew to Bishkek and met up with our group for the Kyrgyzstan tour, and Alesha flew out a few days later.

The 14 days our group had in Kyrgyzstan were sensational, and seeing our guests fall in love with the country, its people and landscapes is something that will stay with me forever.

While I was with our group, Alesha headed deep into the Alay Mountains on a 5-day trek. It was just her, a hiking guide and a porter, completely isolated from the outside world, and it turned out to be one of the most physical challenges she’s had in recent years.

Alesha never ceases to amaze me with her strength and passion for adventure.

Fann Mountains Hike
Alesha enjoying the views on her 3-day Fann Mountains hike in Tajikistan.

When she got back from the south of the country she flew across to Uzbekistan and met up with a group of other travel bloggers to start her project with USAID. This involved exploring Tashkent, Samarkand, and going on a gorgeous 3-day hike in Tajikistan’s Fann Mountains.

The photos from her hike are jaw-dropping, and she loved being able to experience it with a group of friends after her solo mission.

Meanwhile I was back in Kyrgyzstan, preparing for the first-ever NOMADasaurus Pamir Highway Tour.

I met 10 people in Osh, then embarked on a 16-day road trip in 4×4 vehicles through some of the most remote and least-explored parts of the world.

We visited villages that receive less than 100 tourists a year, hiked to the base of glaciers, hung out with Afghans at a cross-border bazaar and slept in yurts beneath a 7000m-high peak.

I’ve done a lot of trips in my life, and without meaning to blow our own horn, this Pamir Highway tour seriously had my jaw to the floor the whole time.

Once the trip was over I flew back to Sydney and met up with Alesha, who I hadn’t seen for 6 weeks. It was the longest we’d been apart since we met in 2008, and we both promised to never spend that much time away from each other again.

Tour Group Pamir Highway
The intrepid travellers who joined our first-ever Pamir Highway adventure tour.

September – The Land of the Rising Sun

We managed to spend a full 10 days in Australia before getting on our next plane, this time to a country neither of us had been to before but always wanted to visit – Japan.

Thanks to a connection from a friend of ours, Dave, we ended up working with a local PR company that represents a number of local tourism boards.

Before the job kicked off we spent a week in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, and we immediately understood why so many people fall in love with Japan.

With our personal travels out of the way we started our job, which saw us visiting 4 different places over two weeks – Yokohama, Yamakoshi, Tohoku and Murakami.

Japan is very popular with international tourists, but they tend to visit the same spots. We’ve built up a reputation for exploring more off-the-beaten-path destinations, which is why we had been hired to promote these lesser-touristed towns.

Once the job was over we flew back to Australia, repacked our backpacks, and headed off again just 36 hours later.

Us Deer Nara Japan
Hanging out with deer in Nara, Japan. We absolutely loved our first visit to the Land of the Rising Sun.

October – Beachtime in the Philippines

Our buddy Justin was getting married in the Philippines, and we were excited to be able to attend the ceremony.

For a week we hung out with Justin, his new wife Judia, and our mates Nick and Dariece on the island of Siquijor. Plenty of good times were had.

The Philippines is one of those places we had always heard about, so as we were there for our first time, we decided to spend another 3 weeks checking it out.

This was the first trip of the year where we weren’t working with anyone, and it was so nice to be able to arrive in a destination and not be on the job. No deliverables, no deadlines, no commitments.

We checked out Moalboal, El Nido and Coron, and we can now understand why so many people love travelling the Philippines.

Besides a few photos on social media, we haven’t published anything online about our trip there. One day we will though. Maybe.

Us Boat Philippines
Chilling on a boat in the Philippines. Such a good way to cap off months of work.

November – Exploring New South Wales

After we landed back in Sydney we had just three days to repack (why do we always do that to ourselves?) and then we flew down to Albury.

We had been hired by Destination New South Wales to promote the Murray Region, a place that we’d never been but instantly fell in love with.

For some reason it’s been really difficult for us to find work with Australian tourism boards, so we were thrilled to finally have the opportunity to break into the local market after all these years.

The road trip was awesome, if a little short in only 4 days, and then it was time to fly back to Sydney.

This time we had 3 weeks to finish off all of our Japan and NSW content before our final international trip of the year.

Talo Retreat Yurt Stay
One of the beautiful places we stayed on our Murray River road trip.

December – A Family Cruise and Back to Perth

My grandfather celebrated his 80th birthday, and rather than throwing a party, he decided to take his immediate family on a cruise around the South Pacific.

Even though we’ve been on plenty of smaller boats in our lives, Alesha has never been on a big cruise ship before (I went on one when I was 16), and we were excited to spend this quality time with the family.

Cruises aren’t really our style, but we can definitely see the appeal of them. Regardless, it was amazing to be able to hang out with the family for 7 days.

With the cruise over we flew over to Western Australia to spend Christmas with Alesha’s family. It was our first Christmas all together in years, and we had a great time hanging out in Jurien Bay. We now have two nieces, and it was an absolute blast playing auntie and uncle.

Christmas came and went, and on New Years Eve we flew back to Sydney to end 2019.

We touched down in Sydney at about lunchtime, and despite having a couple of parties to go to, we decided to forego the festivities and instead stayed home.

The year had been crazy, and we really just wanted to have some downtime. We played music, had a few drinks with my mum who came to see us, and went to bed just after midnight. A bit uncharacteristic, but it was exactly what we needed.

On New Years Day we woke up for sunrise and walked down to the beach to witness the start of a new decade.

We don’t usually get sentimental when it comes to a day on a calendar ticking over, but we had a feeling 2020 was going to be the start of something big.

Looking back again on all that happened throughout the year, we realise that we might be some of the luckiest people in the world. Not only to get to experience all of the things and places we do, but also to have each other.

So that brings me to this moment in time. Now getting ready to touch down in Tokyo to kick off another year of experiences.

That is everything that happened in our travels for 2019. Now I wanted to chat about an aspect of our lives that we can’t ignore – our business.

Us Isle Of Pines
Hanging out at the Isle of Pines. We managed to fit in quite a few beach days this year!

The Business of NOMADasaurus – A Year of Growth

2019 was a crazy year for our business. We’ve talked a bit about how this travel blog has developed over the years (if you’d like to read more about it, check out our post ‘The Evolution of NOMADasaurus‘), but it’s not really something we focus a lot on with our content.

But with how enormous this year was for us, we couldn’t help but talk about it in our year-in-review post.

If you don’t build your own dream someone else will hire you to help build theirs.

Tony Gaskins

When I first heard that quote while working 12-hour days for 4 weeks straight at a time in the outback of Australia, it hit me hard.

I never had a desire to be a businessman or entrepreneur, and neither did Alesha. But neither of us wanted to follow society’s expectations either.

A house with a mortgage, 2.5 kids, car repayments, keeping up with the Joneses – Even though it was what our friends and family had, and they were all very happy, it just didn’t interest us.

Travel has always been a passion of ours, and through a mix of hard work, determination and a bit of luck, we’ve now managed to turn this lifestyle into a career.

We’ll talk about the money side of things soon, but here are some of the things we accomplished this year, on the business side of NOMADasaurus.

Yamakoshi Japan
A gorgeous sunrise over Yamakoshi in Japan during one of our campaigns this year.

Scaling the Business

We took a lot of the things we learnt at the NiSi event and applied them to our business.

During the year we hired more writers for the website and really stepped away from doing a lot of writing of our own, except for tourism campaigns we had been hired for and a select few of our business partners.

We also hired a long-time buddy of ours Chris as our new ‘Head of Content’. His job is to manage our team of writers (6 of them now, and we’re hiring more soon), develop our content strategy and create systems and SOPs to help things run smoothly.

He’s doing an incredible job, and we’re extremely thankful to have him as part of our team.

You may or may not have noticed, but we are really scaling up the content side of things over here on NOMADasaurus. This website is no longer just about our journey travelling the world – we’re trying to grow it to be one of the best travel resources on the internet.

In 2019 this little website had been read by more than 3 million people. That’s going to hopefully continue to grow throughout 2020.

Speaking of the website, we gave it an overhaul! It got a much-needed redesign, and in our opinion is much cleaner.

We also replaced our old T-Rex logo with a new Brontosaurus! We sure do miss the T-Rex (which I designed in a hotel room in Mandalay, Myanmar in 2014), but the new NOMADasaurus logo is much more modern.

Our parent company is called Peak Evolution Media, where we do content creation, SEO, consulting and other digital marketing services for a variety of clients in the travel industries. Over at PEM we had a decent year but didn’t put as much energy into scaling it as we could have.

Us Speaking Conference Czechia
Speaking at a conference in Czech Republic about sustainable tourism in the country.

We also extended our brand ambassadorship with Kathmandu for another 12 months, and being aligned with them is one of the best partnerships we could have ever hoped for.

They represent everything we look for in a sustainable adventure gear business, and it’s a huge honour to be part of their very small team of ambassadors.

One of our goals for 2019 was to do more public speaking, and we ended up presenting at a number of different conferences, product launches and tourism events.

After years of neglecting it, we cracked 1000 subscribers on YouTube (a minuscule amount compared to many others, but Alesha enjoys editing videos regardless).

We have actually stopped putting a lot of effort into social media, but we are still active on Facebook and Instagram.

The tours were a huge success as well, and they are the most challenging, yet rewarding, part of our company.

It’s definitely been a hectic year, and we’ve reached a point now where we need tools, systems and good people to help manage everything.

We’re very fortunate to be able to knock back 99% of the business offers and partnership proposals we get, which is a very good position to be in.

That allows us to only work with the companies we want to work with, and that align with our own values.

That’s it for the growth side of things. Now let’s talk about the taboo subject, money.

Alesha Ice Climbing Banff
Ice climbing in Banff – all in a day’s work for Alesha.

Does NOMADasaurus Actually Make Money?

The life of a professional travel blogger is a curious one, and we get a tonne of messages from people who are wondering just how it works. How the hell do we seem to always be in different places, and how exactly do we make cash (if any)?

On the money side of things, our advertising, affiliates, ambassadorships, and campaign income streams all grew massively, and alongside public speaking gigs, brand endorsements, consulting and all the other random avenues, we did very well in 2019, bringing in multiple six figures.

We also have the income from our tours, and while we don’t get rich doing those, we love showing people around anyway.

So just how much do we make?

2019 was by far our best year for business, and looking back at how it started, we really end up pinching ourselves.

When NOMADasaurus first started making money, we did some calculations and worked out that if we could just make $50 a day, we’d be able to travel forever.

We now make 15-20x that.

Again, this is not to brag, and all of that money doesn’t land in our bank account. We invest a lot of it back into our business, and are continually investing in ourselves as well.

But in short, yes, this is a profitable business and we’re extremely happy that this is what we get to call our full-time jobs.

Palm Trees Aitutaki Landscape

What’s to Come in 2020

We’re only a month into 2020, but already most of our year is booked out with various jobs.

Right now we’re in Japan, about to start a 2-week job exploring some unique winter destinations.

Afterwards I am flying off to Kyrgyzstan to work on a winter tourism development campaign (snowboarding in Central Asia, how damn cool is that?!), while Alesha flies back to Sydney to work on a personal project in some fire-affected regions of Australia.

March, April and May involve a number of very exciting jobs, and so far we have June at home organising visas and the end of the Australian financial year.

Come July I am flying off to Ulaanbaatar to run our first-ever NOMADasaurus Mongolia Tour, where I’ll be showing 10 absolute legends around the country.

At the same time Alesha will be leading 10 travellers around Kyrgyzstan, before running our Pamir Highway tour in August.

This is her first time leading tours without me, and she’s extremely excited for it.

We’re already in talks with a number of tourism boards about jobs in September and October, and all will be revealed in due time.

At the end of October we’ll be back in Australia to attend Alesha’s sister’s wedding, then who knows for the last two months of the year.

More on the business, we have launched a new website (we’ll reveal what this is soon), and the plan is to grow this quite substantially throughout 2020.

We have also come onboard as official brand ambassadors for Trover, a travel photography platform that allows users to publish ‘discoveries’ of beautiful and exciting destinations around the world.

We’ve worked with them before, and we’re stoked to be partnered with Trover for 2020 again.

We’re currently in talks with Kathmandu about the plans for the next 12 months, and while we can’t reveal anything just yet, there’s a lot of cool stuff happening over with our favourite adventure gear company. Stay tuned!

It’s going to be a very busy year, but we’re so excited to reveal everything that’s going to happen.

At the end of the day though, none of this would be possible without you, our incredible readers and followers. It’s your support and viewing over the last few years that has allowed us to grow to this incredible position, and it means a lot to us that you have been part of our journey.

Thanks very much for reading our 2019 recap! Here’s to the next 12 months.

Picture of Alesha and Jarryd

Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Hi, We’re Alesha and Jarryd!

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