Getting lost in 2016: where we’ve been, and where we’re going

Where was Lost With Purpose in 2016? And where will we be going in 2017?

 

Simply put, this year was wild.

On February 24, 2016, we said so long to a life of rainy, orderly Netherlandian normalcy. That evening, we boarded a Tbilisi, Georgia-bound plane and began a new, transient lifestyle.

The journey begins in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport - Lost With Purpose

The journey begins in Amsterdam Schiphol. My god, look how pale we were.

Trading in an apartment and furniture for backpacks and rucksacks, we wandered hither and thither across Western, Central, and South Asia. Ten months and 10 countries have passed since that pivotal date, and in the process we’ve…

On top of that, we actually managed to blog for more than a week (success!), were published several times, and amassed thousands of absolutely awesome followers on Instagram and Facebook who help us and support us on a daily basis.

If that’s not #winning, I don’t know what is.

 

Lost With Purpose in the Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan

Chilling atop a tank in the Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan.

Where was Lost With Purpose in 2016?

2016 is winding down, and the end of the year is a time for champagne nostalgia and reflection. All kinds of crazy experiences have happened to us, and we blogged about a fair number of them!

Before looking to 2017, let’s take a stroll down memory lane with our favorite stories from each country in 2016.

 

The interior of the stunning Gelati monastery in Kutaisi, Georgia - Lost With Purpose

The stunning Gelati monastery in Kutaisi.

1. Georgia (February – March, 3 weeks)

A friend once told us Georgia has a Mediterranean climate. We foolishly interpreted that to mean constant warm weather, and packed only light fall clothes. Needless to say, they did not suffice. Luckily, Georgians have warm hearts and a love for warming alcohol.

Favorite post: Spirit dogs and snowy slogs: hiking in Mestia

 

Sebastiaan exploring the rocky surroundings of Goris, Armenia - Lost With Purpose

Exploring the rocky surroundings of Goris, Armenia.

2. Armenia (March – April, 3 weeks)

Despite a painfully frozen start thanks to a slurry of accommodation-sans-heating, this proud little country amazed us with its charmingly sweet people, endless array of stark, epic cathedrals… and the most delicious homemade breakfast spreads we’ve ever had. My god.

An Armenian breakfast spread in Gyumri, Armenia - Lost With Purpose

Favorite post: The view from the top: a visit to Haghpat Monastery

 

Riding the rickety Dorud - Andimeshk train in Iran - Lost With Purpose

Riding the rickety Dorud – Andimeshk train in Iran.

3. Iran (April – May, 8 weeks)

Our whole trip revolved around visiting Iran, and that proved to be an absolutely brilliant decision (a rarity for us). We only planned to stay for one month, but ended up staying two!

The Shah Jehan mosque entryway in Isfahan, Iran - Lost With Purpose

Hospitality runs in Iranians’ blood, as we learned time and time again, and we’ve yet to see architecture more intricate than what we saw in Iran. If you have the chance, head to Iran ASAP.

Favorite post: Tales of Iranian hospitality: Part I

 

Street food at night on Burns Road in Karachi, Pakistan - Lost With Purpose

Bonding with all of the delicious street noms in Karachi.

4. Pakistan (June – July, 6 weeks)

We were warned Pakistan was a dangerous country to be avoided… but it turned out to be one of the most fantastic stops on our trip! Insanely friendly people welcomed us at every turn, tourist sights were completely devoid of foreigners, and the country hosts some of the tallest mountains on earth. We can’t recommend Pakistan to other travelers enough, and hope to return soon ourselves.

Favorite post: Rolling with the stoners in Hunza

 

Hitching a ride with a trucker from Karakul Lake to Tashkurgan, China - Lost With Purpose

Hitching a ride with a trucker from Karakul Lake to Tashkurgan along the epic Karakoram Highway.

5. Xinjiang, China (July – August, 3 weeks)

China was a bit of a letdown after Pakistan. We expected to stay in China for two to three months, but instead left after one in favor of traveling through Central Asia.

Xinjiang was a strange place to travel. Han Chinese moved in and claimed Xinjiang as their own, slowly eradicating the heritage of the Uighur people living in the region. The result is a tense—and contradicting—experience for everyone involved. Of all the places we’ve traveled to so far, Xinjiang, China was the only region we didn’t like.

(Least?) Favorite post: Why we didn’t like traveling in Xinjiang, China

 

Taking in the views of Aksu park near Shymkent, Kazakhstan - Lost With Purpose

Taking in the views of Aksu park near Shymkent.

6. Kazakhstan (August, 2 weeks)

Oh, Kazakhstan—we’ll be coming back to you one day. Our two-week, visa-free dip into the country (after escaping China) just left us wanting more. Vast Kazakhstan is the most unexplored of all the Central Asian countries, and it boasts the friendliest people we met in Central Asia. What more could you need?

Favorite post: Photo itinerary: two weeks in Kazakhstan

 

Hanging out post-chai and snacks with a super sweet family in Min Kush, Kyrgyzstan - Lost With Purpose

Hanging out post-chai and snacks with a super sweet family in Min Kush.

7. Kyrgyzstan (September, 3 weeks)

Kyrgyzstan is all about being in nature: we horse-trekked through epic scenery, witnessed all kinds of nomadic sports, and took sunny strolls through lush walnut forests. Though not our favorite Central Asian locale, Kyrgyzstan was a pleasure to travel through.

Favorite post: Abandoned places and smiling faces in Min Kush

 

Sunrise in Samarkand, Uzbekistan - Lost With Purpose

Sunrise in Samarkand

8. Uzbekistan (September – October, 3 weeks)

Though Iran had the most beautiful architecture, Uzbekistan had the grandest. Uzbeks were also the people most convinced that I resembled one of them, and the warm welcome I received as a result was a perpetual source of amusement. History buffs and aspiring Silk Roaders, Uzbekistan is calling and you should answer.

Favorite post: Why you need to see sunrise in Uzbekistan

 

A shrine to Hazrat Ali in Dara-e Azdahar, the Dragon Valley, near Bamiyan, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

A shrine to Hazrat Ali in Dara-e Azdahar, the Dragon Valley.

9. Afghanistan (October, 3 weeks)

An adventure like nothing we’ve had before, Afghanistan was a wild ride, and the most off the beaten track destination yet. We had to be constantly on our guard, plan everything out much more carefully than usual, and break our overland travel streak for safety reasons.

Flying over Bamiyan, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Favorite post: Bong rips in Balkh, capital of the Bactrian Kingdom

 

The flower section of the KR flower market in Bangalore, India - Lost With Purpose

The flower section of the KR flower market in Bangalore

10. India (November – present, 9 weeks)

Two months have already passed since we entered India—time really does fly—and India is living up to all of our expectations. The food is spectacular, the people friendly, and we’re smacked in the face with insanely foreign culture every day. We’re already giddy over our Indian adventure plans for the next year.

Favorite post: Dance of the gods: Theyyam in Kerala

 

Lost With Purpose in 2016

Where will Lost With Purpose be in 2017? 

2017 is a year of uncertainties.

We originally planned to spend parts of January and February in Pakistan, until we encountered a major bureaucratic roadblock in getting another Pakistani visa. Unless someone with power helps us to get a visa (if you’re one of those people, please do get in touch), it looks like we’ll be spending that time in India. We’ll also be hitting up Bangladesh sometime in spring, if all of our [very shoddy plans] hold up.

Hitchhiking in Kazakhstan - Lost With Purpose

On top of that, our savings are scheduled to run out around fall of 2017, around the same time our Indian visas will expire. Hopefully we’ll be making enough money blogging by that point to extend our travels indefinitely… but if not, who knows?

Only time will tell, so stay tuned in 2017 to see just how lost Lost With Purpose ends up 😉 Happy holidays, and a very happy new year!

 

Lots of love,

Alex and Sebastiaan

In 2016, we backpacked in some of the most dangerous countries in the world, nearly died by drink, and played with Kalashnikovs... just to name a few things. Here's a look back on everything we got up to as Lost With Purpose in 2016.

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

17 thoughts on “Getting lost in 2016: where we’ve been, and where we’re going

    Joan Torres says:

    You’ve done great and I’m really jealous of your trip to Afghanistan!! So jealous! Everybody think I’m crazy, but I would think it twice before going to Afghanistan by myself!! But I will definitely keep it as an option for 2017. Maybe Wakha Corridor? The other day I read that article about an American couple of backpackers who were kidnapped in Afghanistan by the Talibans two years ago. The Talibans just relased a new video where those backpackers are still asking for help. They won’t release them unless Kabul changes his brutal policy against the Talibans. Crazy! I swear I thought of you! Glad you came back safe. Happy new year!

    We’ve seen some photos of the Wakha, and it’s definitely gorgeous. Very different from the rest of the country, though, in terms of experiences.

    When we see stuff like that, we really count our blessings. But, in the end, it was worth it for us. Thank you for following along, and happy new year.

    Emily Wechter says:

    I hate you guys. I am so incredibly jealous. So jealous. You’re going to be famous one day…someone will make a movie about you, and I want it to be known that I knew you before you were famous and did all these cool things. In fact, I was there the day you guys met!!!!!!! Don’t forget me. I think this may be the fourth or fifth time I’ve commented something like this on your posts. Well, I mean it.

    If you could get Emilia Clarke to play me in the movie, that’d be cool.

    So much hate…. We love you too! Maybe next time come visit us, so you’ll feature in the before and during part of the movie 😉

    Anyway, you’re much cooler than us, castrating bulls like it ain’t no thing. We’d shit our pants.

    Have a great end of the year xxx

    Talha Dar says:

    You guys had a great year. Best of luck for 2017

    Antonio says:

    Thanks guys, it was really interesting reading you these last few months. I found the blog while researching Armenia and I was able to visit some of the same places a few months later. I am sure many people have already found useful information here.

    I hope you are having a good time in India and I wish you the best for 2017.

    PS: Could you write about all the fuss with the banned banknotes in India? From here, it seems like a massive fuckup!

    Hi Antonia,

    Great to hear from you. Best of wishes for 2017. Glad we could be of use while planning your trip.

    India is great. It’s such a diverse country, and so much to see.

    The demonetization issue is very political, so we prefer not to write about it, since we try to stay clear of politics. But if you read Western media then you’ll probably have a decent idea of how things went down and how poorly it was handled 😉

    Alina Linca says:

    Iran! That’s a place I really want to visit! I am only worried that after that I might run into problems visiting other countries, such as the USA. Do they stamp your passport?

    Almost everyone needs a visa for Iran, so yeah, they do stamp your passport.

    You won’t run into any trouble, although you’d have to apply for a US visa if you want to visit the US, since they considers Iran a state sponsor of terrorism. They require you to get a visa if your visit to the US falls withing 5 years of your visit to Iran. This also applies to citizens of countries that fall under the visa waiver program (most of Europe). It’s a bit annoying, and rather expensive to get a US visa, but we think it’s totally worth it.

    Almost everyone needs a visa for Iran, so yeah, they do stamp your passport.

    You won’t run into any trouble, although you’d have to apply for a US visa if you want to visit the US, since they considers Iran a state sponsor of terrorism. They require you to get a visa if your visit to the US falls withing 5 years of your visit to Iran. This also applies to citizens of countries that fall under the visa waiver program (most of Europe). It’s a bit annoying, and rather expensive to get a US visa, but we think it’s totally worth it.

    Alexis Rivard says:

    This looks amazing! I’m endlessly jealous as I’ve been meaning to do the silk road trip as well! It looks like 2017 will be great for you both too.

    Thanks a lot. We highly recommend the Silk Route, it’s so incredibly diverse. Cheers!

    Luz Noi says:

    Hi, A & S— I just wanted to say that xinjiang is an autonomous region (not even a province) and that is just a tiny (population wise) part of China even if it is large in landside. It’s similar to the Muslim (dangerous) provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat in the Thai far south. (Culture and language are different, to say the least). It’s has more a Turk feel than Chinese. Agreed, Chinese follow order to a T often, but it has to in many ways (the sheer amount of people, for instance). And it’s also true that China monetizing its tourism, but the intricacies are nuanced and it requires time and experience (yes, 40+ nations backpacking isn’t quite enough;). China, often times, is the inverse of the west. Lastly, China is pricey, but it’s still (not by much though) cheaper than Iran, S. Korea, Japan, HK, Singapore and most of the West, especially if you know mandarin & the Chinese way. Good site, cheers!

    Monica says:

    You guys are very brave — to be honest, as a watcher of ever-negative world news, I would struggle to convince myself to visit some of these places. Iran is high up on my list, but I’m not quite there yet with arranging a trip! The architecture indeed looks like something you just cannot see anywhere else. Looking forward to following your adventures in the new year!

    To be honest, all we do is board a bus or plane, nothing brave about that 😉

    You should definitely go to Iran. It’s a very safe country and absolutely gorgeous. You’ll love it!

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