As a travel blogger, it’s hard to get the right equilibrium between talking about yourself too much and not talking about yourself enough. For me, there’s no bigger turn off in a travel blog (of the informative type, not the personal journal on the Internet type which I very much enjoy, FYI) than 150 pages of “I did this, I ate this, I thought this” without any substance or advice on, you know, how to actually do the stuff.
Like, I don’t click on a post called “23 of the Greatest Places to see in the entire Universe” to read what you had for breakfast the day before your trip (I had a cheese wrap this morning, in case you were wondering) or what size shoe you wear (UK 4, EU 37).
But at the same time if I wanted to read something written by a faceless, nameless soul then I’d turn to Wikipedia, everyone’s favourite void on the Internet.
In travel blogging, I find there’s this almost unattainable perfect balance between coming across as narcissistic and sounding like a dictionary. It’s a balance I really struggle to hit at times, and often read my own posts back and think “Shit, I sound like a right arsehole here – DELETE“.
So, in honour of trying not to sound like an egotistical so-and-so, here is my most self-indulgent, borderline narcissistic post of 2018 – the annual year in review!
Not only are these some of my favourite posts to write, but I also LOVE reading other people’s yearly reviews! The chances are if you’ve published yours already, I’ve already read it…twice.
There’s just something so bloody lush in having the ability to look back at our lives, actions and decisions and analyse them with clear eyes, empty minds and, of course, the benefit of hindsight.
Although I’ve only visited 2 new countries this year, by the year’s end I will have spent more than 150 days outside of the UK. That’s almost half of the year, which is weird as it definitely doesn’t feel like that long!
Malta & Wales
Despite the blog not really reflecting much in January, I actually enjoyed 2 mini getaways in the first month of 2018!
The first was a lovely few days spent with family in Talgarth. Non-Cymry readers likely won’t have a clue where I’m talking about right now but Talgarth is a beautiful – dare I say quaint –little market town in Brecon. Its population is less than 2000 and it still has a mill, so gives off very Emmerdale-esque vibes minus the murders, falling chimneys and incest. It’s absolutely gorgeous, though, and definitely worth a stop if you’re planning a Wales road trip!
Unfortunately I spent the majority of this trip frantically tapping away at my laptop as I had a huge freelance deadline to meet, but I was still able to enjoy my auntie’s delicious cooking and nights of board games with the fam.
The second January trip took me all the way to Malta, an altogether peculiar yet endearing little country in the Mediterranean. I won’t talk too much about Malta as I still have a few half-written posts wasting away in my drafts that I will eventually get around to finishing (a year late isn’t too bad, right?), but let’s just say that it surprised me in all the best ways.
I first visited New Zealand in April-May and loved it so much that I decided to up my Welsh sticks and move here semi-permanently!
It was a huge decision and not one that I took lightly at all.
Moving from Wales to New Zealand is almost the same as moving from Mars to Saturn, they’re that far apart. Except you probably won’t spontaneously combust on arrival at Auckland International Airport. Probably.
This isn’t the first time I’ve moved out of the UK, but unlike the last 2 countries (Spain and Italy) New Zealand definitely isn’t connected to the UK by £20 a pop Ryanair flights. If I want to return to the UK for any length of time I need to first sell all of my belongings to afford the plane ticket, maybe sell a few kidneys for a bit of spending money then take a full 4 days out of my life to travel from A to B.
It’s one hell of an exhausting journey, but New Zealand is so wonderfully brilliant and bold and beautiful (all the B’s) that I definitely made the right decision. It also helps that I have an easy on the eye Indian man over here too…
My first trip to New Zealand was a whirlwind.
This time around things have been moving a lot slower, which has made me sort of forget that I am technically travelling right now. I mean, New Zealand isn’t my home after all.
A few notable trips taken since arriving back in New Zealand in August include a breathtakingly beautiful road trip around the Coromandel Peninsula (including a stop at Cathedral Cove, of Windows XP background fame), a jam-packed few days in Wellington and a few trips to scout out local gems. I also visited a town which is home to 50+ painted cows (blog post coming soon!) so that’s fun.
I haven’t seen anywhere near as much of New Zealand as I would have hoped by now, as G (my boyfriend and driver because LOL still no licence for me) has only just finished college and I work 4 days on 4 days off. Up until now most of our trips have been squeezed into the odd few days we both had off at the same time, but here’s hoping now he’s free from the reins of full-time education that we can really dig our nails into The Land of the Long White Cloud!
Slow and non-existent travel does have its perks, though, and I’ve been able to FINALLY get around to writing up some posts from the archives of my travel life.
Although this blog has existed since 2013, I only really began writing in it properly in 2016 so any travel tales, tips and tricks from before then are totally absent. And when you think that my life of travel started way back in 2011, that’s a lot of missing stories! Staying in one place has given me a lot more time to rack my brains from years gone by, which is why there’s been a lot of Peru content recently.
So if you ain’t into World Wonders, cute alpacas and beautiful landscapes then I can only apologise for the Peru-fest that’s been going on here the last couple months.
I’m hoping to eventually work my way through all forty of the countries I’ve visited so far, so here’s looking forward to that!
Okay, I’ll admit it: I completely lost focus on what’s important in terms of my blog this year.
I became so
obsessed determined to get this baby on the road to monetisation and the long-term dream of a life of full-time travel that I lost my voice.
And not in a curable laryngitis kind of way, but in a “Fuck, I sound as boring as a history teacher reciting the dictionary” kind of way (no disrespect to any history teachers, I’m sure you are very interesting!).
I fell into a deep, dark pit of SEO hell which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (good SEO is actually a very, very good long-term blog strategy) except for the fact that I started letting keyword research tools dictate what I wrote instead of writing what I actually want to write. And that would have been fine and dandy except my writing was starting to morph into a cross between badly written Buzzfeed articles and HowStuffWorks.Com.
I’ve been flinging around adjectives like “incredible” and “amazing” like they’re confetti, and as much as it pains me to admit it, I think I even used amazeballs once. Like, who even am I anymore?!
Until very recently I haven’t sounded like myself and the impact on my page views, bounce rate etc. have definitely reflected that! My listicles and what to do in X, Y or Z were informative enough, but they weren’t engaging. They didn’t keep people on the page wanting more which, ya know, is what you kind of want as a writer of any kind.
It’s only in the last month or so that I think I’ve finally worked out how to write for SEO while still sounding like me and I am SO relieved about it!
The thing is, at some point in the hopefully near-ish future, I do want to take the blog forward. I want to start to monetise it in a sensible and robust way, and not just an arty-farty booking.com referral here, GetYourGuide recommendation there, cross my fingers and hope for the best manner. But I don’t want to sell-out and become an Encyclopedia of facts with zero personality.
I want to be a person with a blog, not a robotic couple of Megabytes on the Internet. Ya get me?
For any non-bloggy people who just read the last few paragraphs, a lot of it might have sounded like nothing but computer-y mumbojumbo. Sorry ’bout that, we’ll go back to English now…
An Internet Phobia
This is going to sound absolutely flipping ridiculous, but this year I seem to have developed some weird phobia of comments.
It’s totally and utterly bizarre and I have zero idea where it came from! A few lovely ladies who I know regularly read my posts will comment their thoughts, or answer my call-to-action (for any non-bloggy people, that’s the little question I often put at the end of posts) and it will literally take me days to pluck up the courage to read what they’ve written. It’ll then take me a few more days to actually respond.
There’s no logical explanation for it, but the same fear translates to when I try and comment on other people’s blogs too. I just can’t do it! I find myself thinking “What if they don’t approve the comment? What if they don’t like what I have to say? What if I come across as judgemental/insincere/downright rude?” It’s almost as if I’m back in my first day of school, trying to make friends but worrying what everyone will think of me.
It’s come out of nowhere and I have no explanations and no idea how to stop feeling like such an arsehole. Probably should work on it in 2019 really…
Some of my favourite posts this year:
A Day in The Shire: Everything You Need to Know About Hobbiton – This was a labour of love born from nowt other than an intense desire to share the delightful abode of the hobbitses with the rest of the world. I absolutely loved writing it, and am shocked and surprised that Hobbiton haven’t whipped me up as a tour guide now I’m living down the road.
The Perfect 2 Day Udaipur Itinerary – If I write “I love India” on this blog one more time, I’m going to have to trademark the phrase. It’s been over a year since I was last in my heart home, so writing about it felt sort of therapeutic. This was also the turning point in when I finally worked out an ideal balance between writing for SEO and writing for a hopefully engaged audience, so I’m pretty proud of it.
To All the Girls who want to Travel… – Written in the aftermath of Grace Millane’s tragic murder here in New Zealand, I wanted to write an open letter to all the girls who may have been affected by what happened. Although I don’t always travel solo these days, I will always be a passionate advocate for solo female travellers and their rights to feel safe and secure on this planet we call home.
I’m delighted to announce that I did not attend one single funeral this year. Hoorah for people staying alive!
If 2017 was the year of death, 2018 was the year of luuurve. *Cough, splutter, wretch*
I was reading my 2017 year in review post a few days ago (to prep myself for this one, of course) and I came across this paragraph towards the end:
“I will achieve so many great things, big and small. I will see so many magical places and make so many memories with loved ones. I will bite the bullet and reach out to meet online friends. I will reply to my emails sooner than I do now (3 months, not good). I will take and publish more photos of myself, and others. I will make the move to the other side of the world to spend some time with my best friend…”
Truthfully, I’d completely forgotten that I made these affirmations but looking at them now, I don’t think I did a bad job!
At the start of the year I finished a HUGE freelance project that paid for my entire trip to New Zealand (big thing achieved ✔). Throughout the year I’ve also done lots of little tiny things that aren’t really worth mentioning but definitely earned me another ✔ for small things achieved!
If there’s one place on this planet that can be considered magical, I’d go with New Zealand. So while I may have skipped out on the “so many” aspect of that, I can get a big fat ✔ right?
I met the wonderful LC of Birdgehls just a few weeks ago and although admittedly she reached out to me and not the other way round, I still risked death at the hands of an Internet stranger (meeting online friends ✔). As infrequently as they may pop up on the blog, I have started taking and publishing more photos of myself, oddly-shaped head, monster munch feet and all (taking more photos ✔). And moving across the world to spend time with my best friend? Yeah, he’s my boyfriend now (double ✔).
Replying to emails on time will always be a lost cause but other than that, I think I smashed it.
In all, 2018 has been a lot more chilled back and relaxed than its predecessors. 2016 was a year of manic travel and 2017 a year of manic emotions. I do wish I’d squeezed in a bit more travel to new countries this year, but if I had I don’t think I would have been able to enjoy New Zealand as much as I have, or feel as chilled out as I do.
The first couple of months of 2019 will see me pretty stagnant as I have a few pet-sits lined up here in Waikato, which is bittersweet as it means no long trips but also no expenditure and hopefully I’ll be able to get a lot of writing in! But I’m so, so, so excited to get back to a life of non-stop travel some time in the Southern hemisphere’s Autumn/Winter, hopping from one place to the next and sipping virgin mojitos on a beach somewhere. Because we all know piña coladas don’t got s%!$ on the minty freshness of a mojito.
I’m planning on going into 2019 full speed ahead, eyes, mind and heart open and 100% focused on my goals and what I want to achieve this year. So who knows – maybe next year’s year in review will be a lot more exciting than this one?!
Happy New Year! Without sounding like a Wotsit (cheesy, geddit?), I hope 2019 brings you everything you dream of.