At level 16 now, made it to Nameless Isle. I was frequently stuck between about level 11 - 14, hitting upon battles that I was just not sufficiently levelled for and struggling to find anything that was at my level. Once I did scrape my way to level 15 though (which involved silly things like going back to driftwood and killing all the magisters for no reason other than XP), I seem to have become unstoppable. Did a tour of the blackpits cave, bloodmoon island, Roost and his crew, the red princess without being remotely troubled - all of which were like hitting brick walls when I tried them at level 14.
I do feel like the fact that levelling up by just one level can make such a difference, and there are no random encounters or means of grinding, that I'm being forced into making choices based on XP to be gained, rather than properly role playing. I'm basically killing everyone I meet on the Nameless Isle now.