Ah, the yearly recap post. I personally love reading recap posts on other people’s blogs because I find it both fun and inspiring to reflect with people on their past year, where they went, the goals they accomplished — and the ones they didn’t — so I thought I’d keep the yearly tradition going.
This past year was definitely SO much better across the board than my 2017, which was filled with personal tragedy and a lot of down times after both of my parents passed away in the spring (you can read my 2017 recap for more details here).
This year was still marked by a lot of healing and recovery, and let’s be honest that will probably continue for many more years to come, but I was finally able to see my business start moving forward in a really exciting direction and had the motivation again to plan some incredible trips around the globe.
In 2017, I visited 7 countries total, only one of them being a new destination I had never visited before. That year I spent a lot more time closer to home, mourning and surrounding myself with friends and family. This year however, I visited 14 different countries with the majority (8) of them being brand new destinations, so that was definitely an exciting jump from 2017.
All in all, I spent about 4 months in total out of the country, 3 months of the year traveling within the US and about 3 months in total at home, which if you’re wondering where the heck that is, I decided to base myself in Charlottesville, Virginia this year to spend my in-between travel times with my step-dad and King Charles Cavalier, Bogey, as we all adjust to life without my Mom.
While I’ve loved being home, comforted by the presence of my mom’s energy in the house and have enjoyed cooking for family and relaxing in our little A-frame in the woods (it’s quite remote!), I’m feeling ready for a change. In particular, to be back in a place where I can have more of a social life, have easier access to a major airport and more exciting destinations within driving distance.
This past year has felt quite isolating in a lot of ways, but I realize that sometimes you have to make sacrifices to follow your dreams and build a business, and that was definitely a huge theme of my 2018.
Below, I’m breaking down everywhere I traveled in 2018 trip by trip and sharing some of my goals and plans for the year ahead, so make sure to stay tuned to the end!
New York City
New York is always a place I go back to year after year, mostly because I once called it home back in 2009 and so many of my friends still live there.
This past year though, my main reason for visiting was to attend the New York Times Travel Show in the hopes of sparking more business development and making great contacts within the industry. I don’t know that I would personally attend again as I felt that the show was geared more towards consumers and travel agents, but the highlight for me was meeting a ton of other bloggers with whom I’ve build lasting relationships. I also got to stay in this Funky Loft in Brooklyn (literally that’s what it’s called), which was such a fun base for my short but sweet trip to the Big Apple.
After road tripping down to NYC, I made a detour from there and headed west to Cleveland, Ohio to visit my friend Lauren who recently had moved there with her soon-to-be-hubby Matt.
I had never visited Cleveland before, and Lauren kept insisting I come by for a visit and I have to say, despite arriving in the dead of winter (literally mid blizzard), Cleveland really surprised me.
Lauren and Matt were great hosts, showing me all the cool foodie spots like Heinan’s, which is an old bank that’s been renovated into a cool grocery store slash wine tasting room where you can literally self-dispense tastings from tons of bottles from all around the world (my kind of place!). Another great spot was Cleveland classic, Sokolowski’s, a buffet-style Polish restaurant that literally has lines wrapped around the place daily. It’s safe to say we ate well!
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico was my first trip out of the mainland USA in 2018, and it also ended up being one of my favorite trips of the year. It was short and sweet, but an exciting trip because not only was it my first hotel sponsored trip ever in my blogging career, but I also got the opportunity to help support the island in a time of crisis as it was (and still is) rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
The amount of love and support I got back from the locals who thanked us for helping to promote Puerto Rico was so heart-warming and I hope that my 2019 travels allow me to give back in bigger ways.
I also got to invite my Instagram friend Jess of @Bontraveler along and meet her for the first time in real life. I knew we would hit it off immediately and that we did, so much so that the whole trip ended up consisting of many laugh-til-your-abs-ache moments, late night dance parties at the local salsa clubs and many long life talks which I’ll cherish forever.
St. George, Utah and Zion National Park
As February started to wrap up, I flew out west to Las Vegas, where I joined a group of other Instagrammers and bloggers for an Instameet in St. George, Utah, an incredible base for exploring the area’s local state parks, hikes and of course the ultimate gem: Zion National Park. The best part? I got to invite my brother along for the trip which was such a treat and we had a blast checking out all of the beauty that Southern Utah has to offer (literally one of the prettiest states in my opinion)!
Mexico is hands down one of my favorite travel destinations, and I was super lucky in March of this year to visit thanks to a press trip invitation with the Unico 20°87° Hotel.
Unico is an incredible resort in Playa Del Carmen that blows the all-inclusive stereotypes out of the water. From a no-kids-allowed rule to the stunning earthy interiors and top-notch restaurants on site, this is definitely one hotel that is worth going all-inclusive for.
From Playa del Carmen, I headed down to Tulum for the first time in about 20 years (you could say it’s changed since then!) and spent some time beach club hopping and eating my way through the best restaurants while I waited for three of my girlfriends to arrive for our friend Devon’s bachelorette party. We had so much fun as a small group of four sipping margaritas, visiting the Yaan Spa and celeb spotting at Gitano’s. If you haven’t added Tulum to your bucket list, do it now — obsessed with this place!
Read More: The Complete Tulum Travel Guide
Abu Dhabi, UAE & South Africa
My first really big trip of the year was to South Africa with a free stopover in Abu Dhabi thanks to Etihad Airlines. During my 24 hours in Abu Dhabi, I stayed at the beautiful Jumeirah Hotel and got to visit the new Louvre Museum and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque which is hands down one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen.
From there, I flew on to Cape Town where I visited my friend Sandra (a friend I met in Bali during my year-long trip around the world) and she showed me around the beautiful seaside city she now calls home.
Beyond exploring all of the highlights of the city itself (check out some of my favorite views in Cape Town here!), we also visited the local winelands for some amazing vino and did a 10 day road trip along the Garden Route where we went on an incredible safari – a first for both of us!
Read More: Where to Go on Safari Near Cape Town
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Another place that surprised me this year was Virginia Beach. I was invited out by the tourism board and was enticed by the promise of an up-and-coming creative community and burgeoning restaurant scene, yet wasn’t entirely convinced that’s what I’d find. Turns out, I was SO wrong!
From the amazing brunch scene and coffee shops using local and unique ingredients to gorgeous state parks and epic strawberry picking, there was so much to do in this beach community that went beyond that Americana boardwalk vibe I’d expected. I even went for a ride in a 1940s biplane for the first time ever (hence the headgear above).
Read More: My Weekend Guide to Virginia Beach
Los Angeles, California
Another place that’s on my frequent hit list, Los Angeles, was home for me for four years and is also still home to many of my close friends. One of my dearest, Devon, whose bachelorette party we celebrated in Tulum was getting married in late May, so I headed out for 2 weeks prior to the celebratory day to help with maid of honor duties and visit with old friends.
Since LA is basically like 10 cities in one, I always stay in Venice where I feel most at home. If you want my ideal Venice Beach itinerary, you can check it out here.
Once June hit, Bali was calling…as it always seems to be. The island was one of the places I felt most connected to during my year-long adventures in 2016 and I was craving a trip back. It has a tendency of pulling you in like that.
This time around, I planned the trip with my friend Jess of @Bontraveler (you may remember her from our Puerto Rico trip earlier in the year) and we focused on visiting the areas of Canggu, Ubud and the Eastern coast, an area which neither of us had been to before.
This trip was especially exciting for me because we got the chance to work with one of my absolute dream clients, the Aman Resorts, who have a location in Eastern Bali called Amankila. It is hands down the most incredible hotel I’ve visited to date — from our pool suite overlooking the cliffside and the impeccable service that made us feel so at home, to the eye opening day we spent touring a local Balinese village, our stay at Aman really exceeded our every expectation (and trust me, expectations were already set very high).
After Jess headed back home to San Francisco, I camped up in Canggu for a couple of weeks, spending time cafe hopping and working out of my favorite coworking space in the world, Dojo.
Then it was off for a quick stopover in Hong Kong to visit my friend Meredith and eat all the dumplings. Enough said!
There’s nothing quite like Maine summers in my opinion, and this summer was extra special because one of my best childhood friends got married on Chebeague Island just a short boat ride away from where we grew up.
It was such a special weekend celebrating her and her incredible husband, Ellis. Plus I got to reunite with all of my best friends from growing up — one of my favorite memories of the year! I naturally decided to stay in town for several weeks extra to soak up all of the fresh Maine air and summer sunshine before heading off to Europe…
One of my big travel wishes for 2018 was to spend a good chunk of time in Europe for the summer, so my friend Sandra and I schemed up a month in Portugal where we could use Lisbon as a base and explore the surrounding areas.
I fell completely in love with Portugal. We spent a full two weeks in Lisbon before heading south to the Algarve Coast to work on our tans and explore the cute little white-washed towns that are strewn throughout the country’s coastline.
Then to finish off our trip, we headed north of Lisbon to Ericeira and Sintra where we explored beautiful castles and the local surf vibes.
Read More: A First Timer’s Guide to Lisbon
I wasn’t planning on heading back to Maine so soon, but then I got offered the biggest job of my career so far, working with the Maine tourism board, Visit Maine, in collaboration with Travel Mindset. So of course I had to take it!
This was a trip completely tailored for me which was so exciting considering I grew up in Maine and always dreamed of working with my home state on a project — I just never imagined it would happen so soon!
The best part of this trip was that I got to invite my bestie Lauren along for the ride, and we spent a fun-filled three days learning about the impressive lobstering industry, taste testing local brews via Maine Foodie Tours and taking in the beautiful rocky coastline that brings back so many memories from my childhood.
If you haven’t visited Maine during the summer yet, you’re seriously missing out. It’s so charming!
Austin had been on my bucket list for so long and it seemed like everyone I knew was moving to this funky city. I was so glad that I finally had an excuse to visit when Nomadic Matt announced that his very first year of the TravelCon conference would take place in the Texas capital!
I learned a ton during the three days of panels and keynotes, but the best part was connecting with other bloggers and getting to visit with blogging friends who I hadn’t seen in awhile. I also took some time to explore the local sites of Austin — thanks to Haley of @readysetjetset for showing me around her hometown!
A bonus to the trip — I got to stay in the newly renovated Four Seasons Hotel there and tick another dream client off my bucket list!
One of my most highly anticipated trips of the year was to Iceland as it’s definitely been a trending destination for quite some time now — don’t you just feel like it’s all you ever see on your Instagram feeds?
When my friend Betty invited me to join her with her tour company No Moon Travel, it was the perfect opportunity to bite the bullet and go and I’m so glad I did. I got to experience some epic adventures this trip, from off roading across rivers into territory that looked straight out of Game of Thrones, to road tripping all around the Snæfellsnes peninsula, and even free diving between the tectonic plates at the Silfra Fissure — holy freezing.
I even got some solo time in Iceland to drive around the south part of the island, which was the perfect way to end the week-long adventure.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
After spending a few much-needed weeks at home, I flew off to Buenos Aires, Argentina in collaboration with Unsettled, a global retreat company that offers 2 week and 1 month long co-living/co-working experiences in incredible cities around the world.
They invited me to experience their Buenos Aires trip, where I got to meet 11 other incredible individuals from around the world and explore a new city alongside them. I loved the Unsettled experience because I really got to feel like I was living like a local for two weeks — I even took Spanish lessons!
During one of our days in Buenos Aires, we decided to take a trip to Colonia, Uruguay which is just a one hour ferry ride from the shores of BA! As the name suggests, Colonia is a cute little colonial town with cobblestone streets and tons of colorful buildings, and I had a blast wandering and photographing the area (basically my favorite thing to do in any place that I visit).
Definitely looking forward to getting back to Uruguay some day and exploring what this cool South American destination has to offer! If you’re not convinced that you should visit Uruguay, check this post out.
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
After wrapping up with Unsettled in BA, a new friend I met on the trip and I flew out to Chile to get a big dose of nature which was much needed after spending two weeks straight in the city.
San Pedro de Atacama is one of the most awe-inspiring places I’ve visited to date and I’m so grateful I was able to make this trip happen. We spent our days exploring other-worldly landscapes, lagoons high up in the mountains and salt flats where flamingos were plentiful, and then spent our nights sleeping in the luxurious Tierra Atacama Hotel — another favorite hotel stay this year. Such a dream trip!
Read More: My Full San Pedro de Atacama Itinerary!
With a quick pit stop back home in Virginia, it was back up to Maine for Thanksgiving to celebrate with family friends before prepping for my last big trip of the year.
But first I snuck in a quick trip to Montreal over a weekend after my computer crashed and I needed a little tech break. I tried to go totally tech-free, so literally don’t have any pictures from the trip, but Montreal is such a cute city and I can’t recommend a visit enough. The food scene is out of this world!
Norway and Munich, Germany
I guess I saved the best for last, because Norway was definitely my favorite trip this year. To be honest, I wasn’t overly enthused to go on this one. The flights were expensive and I was mentally preparing to freeze my butt off, but I had promised my friend Betty I would join her so I made the plans.
However, I can’t emphasize enough how glad I am that I went. Norway is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, even in winter when there was literally only three hours of daylight (and we’re not even talking full daylight as the sun doesn’t technically rise this time of year).
I had some of the most epic adventures of the year on this trip, from dog sledding and snowmobiling to reindeer sledding (yes reindeer actually do exist) and spotting orca whales in the wild to watching the northern lights from a glamping tent on a remote island. This trip was one for the books and I can’t recommend it enough! Blog posts are still to come but you can learn more about how to do a similar trip via my friends at No Moon Travel.
So, what are my main takeaways from this year?
Well, it was definitely a busy year of travel and one of the most adventurous of my life. With that said, I felt run down and burnt out…a lot. I did a lot of self reflection this year to really discover what I truly need and as much as travel is my biggest passion and obviously my job, I need to find a better balance between being at home and on the road.
At the end of the day, the moments that bring me the most joy are ones spent with friends and people I love and I really want to foster those relationships in 2019…and perhaps even date a little. Ha! It was virtually impossible to do that this past year.
Another reason I want to slow down a bit on travel is that I feel like I still have so much content that I’ve gathered but have yet to actually put out there because my time in front of an actual computer to produce has been tight.
In 2019 I want to put out way more content and hope that if I have more of a stable home base that I’ll be able to get into a better routine to meet this goal.
What I’m most proud of this year
- I did my very first hotel press trip back in February AND worked with my dream hotel client (Aman) all in the same year.
- I started freelance writing for Jetsetter.com
- I added Visit Maine (my home state!) to my client roster
- I quadrupled my blog income from 2017
- I also quadrupled by blog traffic from 2017!
- I put myself out there more and made new friends in the industry who have been total rocks for me through an up and down year of self doubt and self reflection
- I worked on my first interior photography project, which is something I’ve been wanting to get more into this year
- I was interviewed on three different podcasts, which at first terrified me — but really proud of working through that fear
- And I was featured in Forbes — twice!
I’m not very good at celebrating the wins, so it’s actually amazing to see what happened this year when I didn’t even realize it.
I hope this inspires you to go out and chase your dreams in 2019, whatever they may be! Cheers to beautiful new beginnings and a new year full of love, peace and prosperity!