It’s January 7, 2019, and it’s my 29th birthday. I wanted to start my year by looking back on my old year. And 2018 was a crazy year. An amazing year. A life-changing year.
I titled last year’s Year in Review post as “The Year that Everything Changed,” and I think 2018 was the year that cemented that change.
Before I jump into why 2018 was one of the best years of our entire lives, I want to back up a little bit. In December 2017, exactly one year ago, I was nervously awaiting my very first day as a full-time travel blogger. I was on the tail end of a few unpleasant months of working at a corporate job on a temp basis, replenishing the savings we’d spent on our year-long honeymoon after returning mid-year. I was still trying to transition back into regular life from long-term travel, and not doing a very good job of it. I wasn’t enjoying being back in the workforce, and I could feel my blog – and the free time I had to work on it – slipping away from me.
Even though I’d just dipped my toe back into my old life for a few months, spending 3 hours every day commuting to sit behind a desk and earn somebody else’s company money really was sucking my soul out a little bit. I felt like I was watching my life pass me by on fast-forward, and I didn’t like it at all.
So I made the decision to quit. Again.
I decided to take another wild, irresponsible chance – my second in 2 years! Maybe I should rename the blog “Occasionally Impractical Wanderlust?” – and try to make a living as a travel blogger. Without even being sure if that was like, a thing.
Like, can you just … blog for a living? I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to find out.
Table of Contents
Quitting My Job … to Blog!?
The first time I quit, I felt like I was jumping into the unknown, with no idea if what I was doing was the right decision or a horribly unpractical, stupid, and disastrously career-killing mistake.
But this time, quitting my job and jumping into the unknown felt like taking an exit ramp from the rat race and heading straight into the unknown – but like, in a cool convertible, blasting Blackout-era Britney Spears while wearing Jacki O sunglasses and a fabulous scarf tied on my head. It was definitely terrifying, but it also felt kind of awesome. Terrifyingly awesome?
When I quit my job in 2016 to take a year-long honeymoon, I had always planned on returning. When I quit in 2017, I didn’t plan on returning again at all. Ever.
In 2017, I struggled to return from a wild and crazy adventure and re-integrate into “normal” life. 2017 felt like riding a roller coast car up a giant uphill track, peering down at the tiny people below and feeling your heart beat in your ears with terror and excited anticipation.
In 2018, my car reached the top of the track, I put my hands up and screamed in excitement, flying through loops and whirls and gaining momentum. I kinda suck at metaphors, because I guess I’m still on the roller coaster, and it’s only getting more and more exciting, which I guess isn’t how most roller coasters work unless you’re playing Roller Coaster Tycoon and you build like a 2-year long roller coaster (which, by the way, someone recently did).
Anyway, sh*tty metaphors aside, here’s what I’m trying to say: 2018 was absolutely AMAZING. All of my fear and trepidation and that giant, scary risk I took in 2017 paid off – both literally and metaphorically. I can finally say: yes, blogging for a living is totally a thing!
2018 introduced me to the addictive feeling of being my own boss. Of waking up on my own terms, feeling genuine excitement every morning to do my job. The feeling of strolling into my living room – or biking to a co-working space, or walking to a coffee shop, but if I’m being honest, mostly my living room because I can wear PJs all day. The feeling of working my own hours (which is a blessing and a curse, tbh). The feeling of spending my time and energy and resources to build my own company and line my own pockets, and watching my bank account tick upwards with money that I had earned all on my own from the company that I’d created from scratch.
It is a feeling I hope to never forget or take advantage of. It’s a feeling I’ve never felt before. Earning a living as my own boss of my own company is incomparable. I pinch myself every single day in amazement that this is really my life.
The Perks of Travel Blogging
I didn’t spend every day working in my cozy living room, curled up on my couch in PJ’s with a cup of coffee. I also traveled quite a lot this year and worked on the road, cuz hello, I’m a travel blogger now, and the main perk of travel blogging is TRAVEL!
For the first time since starting Practical Wanderlust 2.5 years ago, several of my trips were taken without Jeremy. His teaching schedule allows him more time to travel than the average American, but it lacks flexibility – he can only travel during his breaks. Any off-season travel, I’ve learned, I’ll be doing without him. Which sucks, because my favorite part of travel is spending time with my travel companion. Also because off-season travel is roughly a zillion times cheaper and less crowded, but I digress.
But it’s also been a blessing: for trips that Jeremy wasn’t able to join me on, I traveled instead with my friends and family. 2018 was the year of travel with loved ones, which was FAR more rewarding than probably all of the cool, fabulous sponsored travel that I totally probably could have done if I didn’t like, completely sleep on pitching for sponsored travel because it’s hard work and I’m kinda lazy. For the record: I did do some cool, fabulous sponsored travel too. But I did a lot more travel with loved ones!
Before I talk about all the amazing places we visited this year, here’s a breakdown of our year by the numbers.
- In 2018, we traveled to 4 continents, 1 of which we’d never visited before (Asia)!
- We visited 5 countries, not including the USA.
- Most of our travel was stateside. In 2018, we travelled to 10 different states, with repeat visits to Colorado and a whole heap of spots within California. We had a Southwest companion pass this year which made traveling in the states together SO affordable! Getting another one is definitely one of my goals for 2019.
- In total, we took 30 trips in 2018. 6 of them were to Los Angeles to visit family, but we also went to Disneyland during one of them, so I’m counting that.
- 16 of the trips I took in 2018 (so, over half!) were either with my friends and family, or to visit friends and family. This is by FAR the best perk of my new travel blogging gig, and I plan to take full advantage of it. Travel is my new favorite way to reconnect with my loved ones, grow friendships, and
score a free place to staycreate new memories together! So, for any of our friends who still actually read the blog (y’all are the real MVP) and all of the new friends I’ve made all over the world since I started blogging: like, you got a couch, or nah? Cuz we want to come visit 😉
Now, here’s the breakdown of all of our trips in 2018.
We began the New Year on the tail end of our Christmas trip, still drinking mulled wine at Christmas Markets well into Advent Week. We rang in the New Year in the 600-year old town square of Medieval Bohemian village of Český Krumlov, to the blasting tune of “My Heart Will Go On” (but like, why that song, though?!) as showers of firecrackers rained down over our heads (I literally screamed and ran for cover. Meanwhile, nobody else was alarmed. Story of my life?).
We celebrated my 28th birthday a few days later in Prague before boarding a 17-hour plane ride back home, and I spent the rest of the month balancing my new job as a full-time travel blogger with a few remaining part-time hours at my temp corporate job as I eased my way out of the rat race over the course of the month.
In February, I was finally free. Really, truly, free. We celebrated with a trip to South Lake Tahoe with friends, renting a cozy cabin and spending the weekend snowboarding and hiking in the snowy woods.
A couple of weeks later, we spent Jeremy’s Spring Break in Colombia. We were joined by my best friend from home, S. (BFF’s since 1998! If our friendship was a person, it would be able to legally drink this year). The very first time I visited Colombia, 4 years ago, was actually on a trip to visit her. She was spending a year teaching English in Baranquilla, and I’ve always been the kind of girl who will jump on a plane the minute any of my friends even mention spending time in another country. It was that trip 4 years ago that made me fall in love with Colombia and want to start our year-long adventure there.
This trip marked nearly 2 years since Jeremy and I disembarked our plane in Cartagena in the sweltering heat on the very first day of our year-long honeymoon and almost immediately burst into anxious, terrified tears. S. was revisiting for the first time since her teaching position ended. So this trip felt a bit like a homecoming for all of us.
We spent the first few days of our trip exploring Cartagena together. Jeremy slept in our hostel dorm while S. and I wandered the streets after midnight, doing things like embarrassing ourselves at an outdoor dance party in Getsemani, witnessing a fight break out between what we’re pretty sure was a group of sex workers & sex worker … managers?, tripping and falling on the 400-year old wall surrounding the Walled City because we are both clumsy AF, realizing that my friend had injured her foot in the fall (those 400-year old crumbly stones are sharp!), desperately hailing a taxi at 2am with a shoe full of blood, over-paying for the taxi to take us to the nearest 24-hour pharmacy, limping around at 3am because S. wasn’t about to let a shoe full of blood prevent her from having a good time, and finally stumbling (literally) on a live concert of one my BFF’s favorite Reggaeton artists, Kevin Florez.
Without S. to drag me out after midnight, I would’ve been sleeping in bed in our hostel dorm, having zero adventures and never experiencing the magic of Cartagena after dark. I learned that travel with friends challenges me to step outside of my comfort zone in new and exciting ways.
After Cartagena, we visited tiny little Isla Baru together, then split up for 1 anxiety-filled day (because none of us had cell phone service, and my BFF is even more prone to getting horribly lost than we are) before meeting up again in Minca, Colombia. S. and I visited Minca together 4 years ago, and we returned to the same spots – we even stayed in the same amazing hostel, Casa Loma. Except this time, instead of sharing a cramped bed, we all slept in separate straw-thatched bungalows, with the jungle buzzing all around us.
In March, we visited Jeremy’s beautiful hometown, Morro Bay. It’s a few hours south of where we live in Oakland down stunning Highway One on California’s central coast. It’s absolutely stunning, incredibly charming, and we never get tired of visiting. We’re lucky we have a good excuse; we go down to visit Jeremy’s friends as often as we can!
At the very end of the month, Jeremy celebrated his 30th birthday by snowboarding in Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah. This was the year that Jeremy embraced snowboarding as his favorite winter sport (and I embraced sitting in warm, cozy cabins as mine).
We also tried snow-shoeing for the first time ever, and I was delighted to find that it was actually a blast – and not at all as athletically challenging as I was afraid it would be!
After Utah, we flew to Los Angeles to celebrate my Grandfather’s 95th birthday with my whole family. Yep, the same Grandfather who faked his death during our year-long honeymoon. Yep, he’s still very much alive. Happy Birthday, Grandpa Bob!
Later in April, we took a weekend trip up to Portland, Oregon with one of Jeremy’s closest friends, J. J and Jeremy met years ago back while working together at a local coffee shop. Although Jeremy’s years of barista experience mostly resulted in being tasked with making me coffee every morning (& my family, whenever we visit them – sorry, babe), J.’s been working her way up the coffee career ladder for years, and wanted to learn from Portland’s coffee scene. So when she asked if we wanted to tag along and drink coffee at various specialty coffee shops on a spring weekend in Portland, we were like, UM DUH YES.
We had so much coffee and ate so many donuts and looked at all of the cherry blossoms and almost got kicked out of the Japanese Gardens, and it was amazing. We even met up with another one of my friends in the area for lunch! That’s some 2 for 1 friend travel, y’all.
I would link you to the coffee guide I fully planned to write after that trip, but spoilers, I haven’t written it yet. Oops. Another theme of my 2018 was learning to balance fun travel with work travel, and a lot of the trips I took were more fun than work – sorry not sorry!
In the first week of May, I left Jeremy behind and flew to Boulder to visit another one of my best friends, C., along with our other best friend R. (we’re like, a best friend triangle). We spent a week exploring Colorado. We road tripped through Rocky Mountain National Park, saw bighorn sheep and drove straight into a snowstorm. We explored the haunted Stanley Hotel in Estes Park and tried to communicate with spirits (next time we should totally bring Tarot cards). We watched the Kentucky Derby while drinking Mint Juleps and reminiscing about growing up in Louisville together. We partook in Colorado’s most fun legal crop (wink wink) and did late-night dramatic readings of poorly translated plays (my friends are actors, and I’m just always willing to make a fool of myself).
We also attempted to learn Lyra, an incredibly challenging and beautiful aerial sport which involves doing graceful things on a hoop suspended from the ceiling. C. is an incredibly talented Lyra instructor who has been honing her talents for years and at this point is basically a walking set of toned abs with long, flowing black hair (you guys: she’s SO RIPPED). Meanwhile, R. is, like, really good at everything he sets his mind to learn how to do. Like he decided, on a whim, to take up pole last year and a few months later ended up performing in a circus. Before he was a circus performer, he took up running marathons. Oh, and wrote a book. Just like, for fun. All of my friends are amazing and inspiring, you guys.
Anyway, while my talented, far-more-athletic-than-me friends looped and dipped and did sexy arm-waving things on their hoops, I struggled to just to get myself up into the damn thing. I managed it a total of twice, with my friend’s assistance. It was not graceful in the slightest. Also, it’s really high off the ground, which is terrifying when you are me and do not have the arm strength to gracefully lower yourself to the ground without breaking your face.
By the end of the class, I checked “try Lyra” off my bucket list
forever and sat back to enjoy watching my friends perform, instead.
Literally two weeks after flying home from Colorado, I hopped back on a plane to Denver again, this time for work, not play. I was heading to IPW, a major travel industry trade fair and my first ever travel industry conference. One of my closest travel blogger buddies roomed with me, because I’m incapable of doing scary things alone (bless my friends for being so patient with me and all of my anxiety).
The conference was SO FUN. I spent a week networking 12+ hours a day with DMO’s, travel brands, and other travel bloggers & content creators. I partied all week long (me?! at parties!!? What?!) and got to see a bunch of concerts, including Rob Thomas, the B-52’s, One Republic, and like 5 Broadway musical acts performed live on stage during lunch. The travel industry is LIT and they know how to throw an amazing party. My mind was blown.
In addition to networking with brands
who I never followed up with, I met and befriended some amazingly talented content creators who I look up to and fangirl over and could not believe I was lucky enough to like, hang out with (yes, even now that we’re friends). Some of them had even heard of me and my blog, which was insanely cool! One of my favorite benefits of attending travel industry events and conferences is making connections with other travel bloggers beyond “I’ve seen you on Instagram!” or “You give really good advice in that Facebook group we’re both in.” I’ve made so many friends in the travel blogging industry – I may not have coworkers, but I have a great group of people who understand what I do (and won’t judge me for occasionally complaining about my generally awesome job).
Even though I felt completely out of my element and barely knew WTF I was doing all week long, I was glad I went. I made some great contacts (although I did not pursue anything with most of them because I am not very good at conferences yet), and I learned a lot – both from my own experience and from talking to the other world-class bloggers I met. By the end of the month, I was already developing a more strategic mindset for my brand and business.
After I returned from Colorado, Jeremy and I spent a weekend exploring adorable Cayucos, California on our first FAM trip of the year. Cayucos is next to Jeremy’s home town, so this was another perfect excuse to visit this beautiful coastal area!
BTW – for those of you who aren’t travel bloggers, a FAM trip is a “familiarization” trip, which means you’re hosted by a local brand or tourism board to visit a destination and write about it and/or post about it on social media. And yes, some FAM trips are paid. Meaning yes, I do actually get paid to travel. Again, pinch me?! I’m literally living my dreams.
I know this is like the longest section in the world, but I’m actually not done yet – May was packed. We also managed to squeeze in another weekend trip to Los Angeles to watch Jeremy’s little sister graduate high school (holy crap, she’s like, a grown-up now!?). We even spent a day in Disneyland, and ran all over the parks researching for our Disney Scavenger Hunts.
In June, while Jeremy was still in school, I flew to Indianapolis for another FAM trip. Because this was a work trip, I needed an extra pair of hands – so I invited along R. – the one who wrote a book/ran marathons/performed in a circus/is really good at everything. Unsurprisingly, he is also really good at photography. He also lives in my hometown, Louisville, so we drove up together: Indianapolis is just two hours north of Louisville!
We had a blast exploring Indy together. Although by the end of our trip, R. informed me that any desire he may have been harboring to become a travel blogger like me had entirely worn off after 3 straight 12+ hour days of nearly non-stop exploring, eating, drinking, and sightseeing. I feel like an a**hole even writing this, but it’s true: travel blogging can be hard, exhausting work, and it was actually nice to hear someone else validate that! Usually when I venture to complain about long hours and how exhausting my job can be, I’m met with a lot of eye rolling and “but you get paid to travel.” Which, yes. It’s a dream job, and I love it… but it’s still a job, and we still have long, hard days (and first world problems) sometimes.
I actually love that I’ve been able to share a piece of what I do with my closest friends on some of our trips this year. A lot of travel bloggers feel like they can only talk about their job – and vent about the difficulties of it – with other travel bloggers, which can feel isolating when you’re used to being able to vent about tough days and difficult work scenarios with your usual community. I’ve actually lost some friends since I started this crazy, amazing adventure – an experience a lot of travel bloggers seem to share.
Being able to bring my closest friends and family along on the job with me helps them to understand that what I do isn’t all sunshine and roses and fun, it’s actually WORK. Now, I’m able to talk to them honestly about my job without feeling like an ungrateful a**hole, and they’ve got a glimpse of what it’s really like. Also, they get to travel with me fo’ free in exchange for taking a few photos and notes, so it’s kinda a win/win for everyone.
Anyway, after my weekend in Indy with R., I returned to Louisville just in time to pick Jeremy up from the airport and spend a week or so in my hometown with my friends and family. My sister, brother in law, and little niece came to visit too – it was my niece’s first time visiting Kentucky!
In addition to even more friends and family time, I was able to produce some more awesome content showcasing my beloved hometown. Louisville is one of my favorite places in the world and I love shouting from the rooftops about how awesome it is (YOU GUYS IT IS SO AWESOME)!
After Louisville, Jeremy and I road tripped down south to Nashville, Tennessee. I’d never visited Nashville before despite growing up just 3 hours north of it, and I can definitely see why Nashville has become such a popular destination! One of the highlights of our trip was a night at the Grand Ole Opry, which included a backstage tour AND getting to watch a song performed FROM THE STAGE. There is no cooler feeling than watching a show from backstage while walking in the footsteps of amazing artists. Jeremy’s been singing Johnny Cash nonstop ever since the trip (I even learned some of June Carter’s parts so we can duet them at karaoke, because we’re big ol’ karaoke nerds).
We flew back home from the midwest for a total of 4 days before hopping on a plane again. This time, we took a 24-hour flight to Bali, Indonesia! Because we were coming off the tail-end of 3 back to back sponsored trips, we didn’t line up any sponsored work at all in Bali. Instead, we spent 2 weeks essentially vacationing in Ubud, Amed, and Nusa Lembongan.
Well, I say vacationing … but for us, it kind of still includes work – we’re both workaholics with jobs that come home with us. We spent about 30 hours a week holed up in coffee shops around Bali, typing away on our laptops next to other Digital Nomads. Jeremy lesson planned and prepped for the upcoming year, and I pushed out content – including finally publishing our long overdue Disney Scavenger Hunts. We also met up with friends I met on Instagram, and spent a couple of days co-working and exploring the island together. Another perk of travel blogging is making awesome digital nomad friends that you can hang out with in fabulous places all over the world!
Our Bali trip was a really nice balance of working and traveling without having to worry about deadlines or sponsors. The one downside? 6 months later, we’ve still only published 2 of the 5 Bali posts we have planned … whoops. More coming soon y’all, I promise!
In August, school started back up, so Jeremy returned to the classroom to teach youths how to take photos and make videos and record podcasts and all of the other things which just so coincidentally happen to overlap with the stuff he does for Practical Wanderlust ;). Meanwhile, I started prepping the blog for the holiday season.
In August, we didn’t travel at all. We got a lot done. We did boring people stuff like to go the gym and grocery shop and clean our apartment. We explored our home of Oakland, California, and soaked up the last of the summer sun at an A’s baseball game and watching Black Panther at Jack London Square as the sun set behind the AT-AT’s in the docks. It was awesome.
In September, we took a super quick overnight trip up to Mendocino, California. We had absolutely no intention of writing about it, but after a whole month without travel, we were re-energized, and were so overcome by Mendocino’s charm that we ended up writing a post about it anyway!
After our little romantic weekend getaway, I took off for the rest of the month without Jeremy. It was actually the longest we’ve ever been apart since meeting 5 years ago.
I flew to upstate New York to speak at my very first conference ever: TBEX, the largest travel blogging conference! I was terrified, but I had SO much fun. I got to meet a lot of people in person who I knew from blogging circles online, made some amazing friends, and networked with some fabulous brands (which, again, I was not good at following up with). Exploring upstate New York in the Finger Lakes region was amazing – it was still warm and green and wonderful. Also, I drank a TON of wine.
From Rochester, New York, I hopped on a plane for the longest long-haul flight of my life: it took me a full 40 hours to get to southern Italy, thanks to the world’s worst series of connections and layovers. Midway through my flight – while camped out in a lounge in Lisbon, Portugal stuffing my face with egg tarts, in fact – I deliriously wrote up a post on how to survive long haul flights.
I finally stumbled into Calabria, Italy half-asleep, to meet up with my mom and her best friend for 2 weeks of exploring the sunny, crowd-free coastal region of Southern Italy. We road tripped around southern Italy exploring beautiful medieval towns like Pizzo, Tropea, and Taormina, Sicily. I ate SO much pasta, drank SO much wine, and we only got our car stuck in front of a cannoli shop on a pedestrian-only street in the middle of a medieval city once (read more about the trip here).
This trip proved to me definitively that I am my mother’s daughter: despite all of our planning and preparation and armed with mountains of lists and spreadsheets, we’re still some of the most disaster-prone people on the planet. I can’t wait to get horribly lost with my mom again on another amazing adventure!
From Italy, I flew back to California … but not home. I flew to Los Angeles again, this time to attend Jeremy’s brother’s wedding! It was one of those weddings that’s the perfect representation of the couple getting married: my sister in law wore a beautiful black gown, there were skulls and sprigs of eucalyptus lining the aisle and adorning the stage, the officiant had everyone in stitches (and in tears), the entire wedding party looked like they stepped straight out of a magazine (how is everyone in Los Angeles SO ATTRACTIVE?!), and the reception was lit AF. At one point, Jeremy’s grandmother got up on stage and started DJing. My in-laws are awesome.
After the wedding was over, I finally stumbled back home after a solid 3 weeks of non-stop travel, totally exhausted and utterly satisfied.
…Except by now it was October, and I was craving fall. So after a full 2 days of rest and relaxation, I hopped into a car with a group of Bay Area bloggers and Instagrammers to tag along on a road trip to the Sierra Nevada mountains to explore June Lake! I’m horribly behind on posting my guide to this stunning destination (although I did publish a great guest post about the most beautiful hikes in the Sierra Nevadas for seeing fall foliage), but I did get a bunch of beautiful photos up on my Instagram, so that’s something. The trip was awesome – not only did I get my fill of crunchy leaves, but being able to spend time around other bloggers and learn from them was such a treat. Every time I hang out with other content creators, I pick up SO much!
I spent the rest of October at home, relaxing and working. I really needed a little break.
In November, a friend of mine invited me to join her on a trip to Boston. So I flew to the East Coast. Er, actually, what happened was I left my license at home buried in a pocket somewhere and had to call Jeremy at work so he could rush home, find my passport, and bring it to me at the airport, so I could frantically sprint to my gate and arrive minutes before the doors closed. Whoops.
But I DID make it to Boston and met up with my friend. Together, we took in the last of the fall leaves (and roll around in them, and throw them in the air, and frolick in them, etc. We’re from California, OK!?) We ate way too many incredibly overpriced lobster rolls. We went on a bus tour to learn about the history of Boston and the Revolutionary War (and because I’m a direct descendant of a noteworthy Mayflower passenger, my family tree even got a lil’ shoutout). We got fancy tea in a beautiful, historic library, nibbling scones in massive high-backed chairs that felt like thrones. We attempted to get drinks on a rooftop to watch the sunset, but literally THREE BARS IN A ROW were closed.
It was fantastic spending time with my friend, and the trip also opened my eyes in other ways: currently, my friend isn’t able to be on her feet for very long, so we had to get creative about getting around and exploring Boston – a city that’s known for being easy to navigate via transit and on foot. Also, because I’m the idiot who left her license at home, we couldn’t rent a car – which added an extra challenge.
The experience opened my eyes, as did several of the DM’s from followers responding to my Instagram stories, scolding me for attempting to navigate Boston by car without knowing about the needs of my travel companion. I bit my tongue as well-intended messages rolled in saying “why are you trying to rent a car in Boston? Everything is walkable!”
It made me realize that I’m not always the most inclusive when it comes to my readers who are differently abled – and I’d wager a guess that probably a lot of us take for granted the idea that a place should be explored on foot. But travel isn’t something that should only be accessible to people who have the privilege of walking. From now on, I’m challenging myself to find suggestions to include in my travel guides that are more accessible for folks with mobility challenges.
After returning to California from Boston, exactly 1 week later I turned right back around and headed back to the east coast to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. We cooked a massive amount of food, watched Lilo & Stitch with my little niece, and Jeremy taught himself how to play piano.
After Thanksgiving, my sister’s friends came over for their annual Christmas Caroling party. Every year, they make a giant batch of traditional Wassail (the appropriate and traditional drink for a night of drunken caroling) and then sing together from marked-up song books, practicing and learning new songs each year. They record the songs and my sister makes it into a ridiculous CD, complete with a punny title, photoshopped cover art, drunken interludes, and silly versions of traditional carols.
This was the first year that I attended – my sister started the tradition back when I was still an angsty teen who didn’t understand how singing around other people could be fun and not just horribly embarrassing. But Jeremy and I are adults now – adults who do things like practice the songs on our karaoke playlists before “performing” them at karaoke. So we joined in on the fun – even though we only knew the melody of some of the songs, and my sister’s friends are all expert-level musical sight-readers who do things like sing medieval Spanish Christmas carols – IN SPANISH. For what it’s worth, this song is actually really fun to sing!
Jeremy was so inspired by my family of musical nerds that when he returned from Thanksgiving break, he started taking voice lessons (my Christmas gift to him) and even got himself a keyboard to continue learning how to play piano. My heart melts, you guys.
In December, we celebrated Christmas early in Los Angeles with Jeremy’s family (complete with his DJ’ing grandmother, who sadly did not DJ this trip) and visited some of my family as well. Then, we flew to the East Coast again to spend Christmas with my family.
From there, we hopped on an Amtrak train and headed up north into the snowy tundra of Canada! We stuffed ourselves in Montreal with sweet, crispy bagels and massive smoked meat sandwiches. We shuffled through drifts of white snow in beautiful Quebec City. We watched ice flow down the St. Lawrence river from a Nordic spa and rang in the New Year attempting to count backwards in French in a crowd of revelers.
Our last day of 2018 and first day of 2019 was spent exactly as you’d expect: we stayed up all night to catch an early flight and spent hours trying to get the only restaurant in town still open at 3am on New Year’s to deliver us the wrong order which eventually made us both feel ill. As we were trying not to throw up, a blizzard rolled in without us noticing. We hailed a taxi at 5am, frantically drove through several feet of blowing snow to the airport only to be told that our flight was cancelled (something I would have known if I’d bothered to check my email, oops). We booked a desperate train to Montreal to escape the impending winter doom, then took ANOTHER terrifying taxi ride through several feet of new snow to a train station. Our taxi driver turned out to be the only shady dude in Canada, who took us to the wrong train station to squeeze a few extra dollars out of us. We frantically changed our train ticket to the new train station, spent a few blissful moments sleeping on a bench, stumbled blearily onto the train, slept through hours of what was probably beautiful snowy scenery on the train to Montreal, arrived minutes before our flight, booked it through the airport in terror, made our flight with moments to spare, drooled our way through the flight to Banff, and then drove through the icy, snowy Canadian Rockies in the dark on 24 hours of no sleep, wired on anxiety and coffee, before finally collapsing in our hotel.
They say that the way you spend New Years tells you something about how you’re going to spend the rest of your year, so I think 2019 will probably be filled with travel disasters. What a surprise 😉
My First Year Full-Time Travel Blogging
2018 was definitely a year filled with travel, particularly travel with friends and family. But it was also a year filled with hustle. I worked my butt off and I’m incredibly proud of what I was able to accomplish for my business this year. Here’s my year by the numbers:
- Over 1.1 million people read Practical Wanderlust in 2018. WOW. Wowwwww.
- Those amazing people looked at 1.9 million pages. Y’all are some dedicated readers!
- 45,000 of those awesome readers chose to follow us on our social media pages or subscribe to our email list. We love you guys!
When I decided to quit my job way back in 2017, I gave myself 1 year to figure out if I could make this travel blogging thing work. 1 year, and then if it wasn’t working out, I had to get a real job again.
I was barely earning $3k per month when I went full time at the beginning of January – not enough for us to live on in the Bay Area, even with Jeremy’s teaching salary (spoilers: teachers don’t get paid a whole lot). So I set myself some financial goals.
First, I wanted to out-earn Jeremy and resume my former status as the household breadwinner. I hit that goal in March.
Next, I wanted to out-earn my old corporate self and beat my old salary. I hit that goal in May.
My third and final goal was pie-in-the-sky. There was no way it could possibly happen. It was my “wouldn’t it be amazing if?” goal. I wanted to earn $100,000.
I didn’t even dream it would happen by the end of 2018, or that the income would come from my blog. I just had this crazy dream to hit $100,000 by the time I turned 30. Can you even earn 6 figures as a travel blogger?! I had no idea.
So… how did I do?
In 2018, I turned 28… and I earned over $100,000. And I earned it entirely from my travel blog. Holy. F**king. Sh*t.
For anyone curious, I’ve been publishing monthly income reports that detail exactly how I make money from my travel blog (and no, most of my income is NOT from selling courses, or freelancing, or even sponsorships). You can read all of my income reports on my travel blogging resource site, Slaying Social.
Earning 6 figures is a dream come true, literally. Our lifestyle has definitely changed this year: we’ve gone from penny-pinching and barely scraping by to being able to afford things we want without having to give it much thought. But we do live in the most expensive part of the USA, where 6 figures is considered the poverty line (yes, really). We still can’t afford a house. Or an apartment that has a washer and dryer, or a dishwasher, or even a garbage disposal (even though our rent hovers around the $3k per month mark). We love living here, but our income would go a LOT further elsewhere. We don’t plan to stay here forever, but for now, I feel incredibly grateful that we’re able to afford it.
This year showed me what I’m capable of in terms of running and growing a thriving business in an unstable and little-understood industry. Going full-time this year allowed me to increase my income by 5x and lay out the groundwork for a business that, I’m hoping, can support Jeremy and I and our future family for years to come. To put the cherry on top of an incredible year, at the end of 2019, I hired my first team: I now have the help of 4 talented people spread out all over the world to help me grow Practical Wanderlust!
I am humbled, elated, and amazed at what I was able to do this year, and so excited for what the next year will mean for my rapidly growing little business.
Our 2019 Goals
We’re dreaming big for 2019. With the assistance of the helpful New Year’s planning guide created by our friends at Happily Ever Adventures, we’ve been setting ourselves goals for various aspects of our life. Here are some of our favorites:
- Jeremy wants to train for and finish a Spartan Race
- I’m challenging myself to try 2 new physically challenging activities this year – and I want one of them to be skiing!
- We’re committing to taking a class together every month to explore our interests. This month we’re learning Kombucha making, because it’s time to lean into the fact that we are really boujie basics at heart. We’re going to take some cooking classes, too!
- This year, I’m finally making time for us to record the Practical Wanderlust Podcast – and write a book about our honeymoon adventures!
But Enough About Us …
And now … I want leave you on a sobering note. I didn’t have a good place to put this, so I’m sticking it at the end and hoping it doesn’t ruin your day.
Although 2019 is looking like it’s going to be a great year for us personally, we’re also constantly aware of the fact that for much of the country – and the world – this is a terrifying time. Borders are beginning to close. Species are going extinct at an alarming rate. Gun violence is so commonplace in the USA that we barely bat an eye when the news reports that more innocent people – even children – have been murdered in cold blood in yet another mass shooting event. Racism is so pervasive that blatant racists have stopped bothering to pretend they’re not racists. Global warming is hovering over all of us like a death nell and big corporations are thwarting our efforts to stem the tide, even as we all frantically stop eating meat and work on making our own tiny households as zero waste as possible. The country where we live seems to be hurtling backwards in time along with all of the progress we’ve made. And many of us have chosen to stick our heads in the sand for the sake of our mental health, just so we can wake up and go about our business as if everything is normal. But everything does not feel normal.
It’s very strange for me to be experiencing such success and happiness in such a scary and depressing time. Most of my generation is burnt out, exhausted by paying back student loans whose balances never seem to shrink, unable to afford the lifestyle they expected to be enjoying by now, denied the job prospects that were dangled like a carrot – the reward they would surely earn if they just worked hard, constantly, tirelessly from elementary school through college.
If this hits home a little bit … if you’ve just read me going on and on for 6k+ words about how great my year was and maybe you’re feeling a little like sh*t about it … hey, take heart. It’s OK to not be OK. You’re not alone. And even though I’ve chosen to focus on and share the best and most wonderful parts of my life, and am filled with gratitude to be insulated from some of the more insidious things currently happening in the world, I share your anxiety. Dread creeps into my mind late at night, too.
My life right now may feel pretty great (even typing that feels like I’m inviting something horrible to happen), but it isn’t perfect. To somebody else, your life probably looks pretty great, too – comparison is a hell of a drug. We all have different experiences and share different values, and the things that bring us happiness may be different, and may be more or less accessible for each of us.
I don’t intend for my personal story to be a goal for anyone else, and if my story does provide inspiration to you, I hope that inspiration gives you a feeling of excitement rather than an awareness of your personal shortcomings. You are on your own path, writing your own story, and that story is unique and beautiful and wonderful in its own way.
I’m not gonna end with some sort of all-encompassing advice or a pithy quote here. The perfect life doesn’t exist, and it’s just not something I’m here to sell you. Instead, I offer you honesty – honesty about the ups, the downs, the good, the bad. And this year was a good year for me. It’s a weird feeling to be honest about having a good year, knowing that for many people, 2018 was total sh*t.
So if your 2018 sucked, hey – it’s OK. I hope your 2019 is a little bit better. And if you wanna vent about it, I’m here.
If you stuck with me through all that, you’re either my friend or family member, or an incredibly amazing person who really likes reading me talk about myself 🤣 Either way, know that you are wonderful, you are an incredible person who is worthy of love, and I am grateful for you. Yes, YOU!
We hope you have an amazing year.
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