Best of 2018 Review and Link Up
I've always been a nostalgic person. I reminisce on almost every year of my life. But this one feels especially monumental. Although nothing major changed, I know change is coming. It means I'm savoring the moments and trying to live life to the fullest.
One of my favorite things to do is reflect on the past year and see what I've done and what I can look forward to. In the hustle and bustle of the ending of the year sometimes we forget to look back.
Can you believe it's 2019? I know this is said every year but time is really flying. It seems like just yesterday I was moving abroad. Now I'm gearing up to spend my last 7 months here.
Every year I review and recap my year and hope you'll join me in doing so. You can link your posts at the bottom of this article.
Best of 2018
Travel By the Numbers
This was my most traveled year by far. Last year I thought we were insane when we went to 17 countries. But this year was 26! And we went to three continents! From about May to November the travel was almost non-stop. I spent about 9 full days at home during that 7 month period. When we moved abroad we thought we would take more time for “slow” travel. That clearly didn't last. It seems the more I travel the more I have to see.
Continents visited: 3
Countries Visited: 26
Cities Visited: 112
Burg Eltz in Germany with the dogs:
Best Of Travel
Best Trip (s)
This is hard. Really hard. I simply refuse to pick one. I went to so many bucket-list places this year: Norway, Iceland, Morocco, Croatia, Finland, the list goes on. I'm going to share a few of my favorite travel stories along with an image.
Morocco was magical. I spent two weeks traveling throughout the country, ogling copper lamp shades and richly colored rugs, and drinking overly sweet Moroccan tea. We went to some of the coolest places: Fes, Casablanca, Marrakech, and Rabat. But my trip to the Sahara desert was the crowning glory of the trip.
We drove 8 hours in a rental car to spend less than 2 days in the desert. When we arrived we were greeted with hot towels, tea, and a sunset camel ride. We had no internet access and after our chef prepared meals were ready we would lounge around, read, explore, sandboard and watch millions of stars illuminate the sky at night.
On our final night we walked out on top of the dunes to get a better view and we could see all the way to Algeria. Michael and I held hands and watched the sun blaze over the apricot-colored sand in amazement.
Iceland had been on my bucket list for a long time. But I wasn't sure what a trip to this island would really entail, especially driving around it. To be honest I was nervous. Most people seemed to do the Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon, and go home. But we were spending 10 days here and had plans to see it all. Which is typical for us.
Jaw dropping is the best way to describe Iceland's unearthly landscape. Glaciers, endless waterfalls, fluffy horses and sheep, volcanoes, and black sand beaches are just the tipping point of Iceland.
My favorite memory was finding the secluded hot pots, aka thermal baths, along our route. It's so interesting to me that the things I think I won't like are the things I love. One of my favorites was the free (a drastic price difference from the $80 Blue Lagoon) hot pot in the North West part of Iceland called Drangsnes. There are hot natural pools right along the sea where you can gaze out at the ocean and spot seals and birds. I don't think I've ever felt so at peace.
I went on a 15 day luxury cruise through Norway, Scotland and ending in England with Viking Cruises. Is there really much more I need to say?? It was phenomenal. There were crab legs served daily. The shocking thing about this trip was not just Norway's incredible beauty, but how worth it this cruise was. Yes, it's expensive. But so is Norway. Eating out is crazy expensive. So having a boat with delicious, fresh food and Norwegian specialties makes all the difference.
The name of our cruise itinerary was aptly named “Into the Midnight Sun,” and we saw it one night as we were cruising in the Arctic. Everyone stood out on the deck, drink in hand, to watch the bright orange sun at a time when it should be dark. At exactly 12:00 the sun dipped down beneath the horizon. It was a moment of peace and calmness despite the hustle to see it happen.
I had so many trips with friends this year but one that really made my year was the first trip I ever hosted in Portugal. People that had never met me or each other traveled from around the world to meet in Portugal. I laughed so hard I cried.
We went to wineries, took a tuk-tuk tour, lounged on the beach, and ate delicious pastel de nata.
I think one of my favorite nights was when we were walking the streets of Porto together and we were laughing and singing and dancing in the street. It felt like I was completely myself. And I think it's because I was with a group of people that just completely accepted me. It was one of my favorite experiences this year.
P.S. I am hosting another trip in 2019 to Italy and there are a few spots left. Right now (and only until January 31st) can you save $100! The trip is almost full so make sure to sign us ASAP! Check out the details here.
Croatia was probably my biggest surprise. I knew it was a “hot” destination. So I kind of brushed it off. It couldn't be that great, right? Wrong. It could. The people are incredible, the food is delicious, and it's breathtakingly beautiful. This country blessed with miles and miles of coastline has so much to offer.
We took two trips to Croatia. One focusing on the southern part, islands, and Dubrovnik. The other was to the Istria region and Plitvice lakes. I simply cannot pick a favorite place. We had an incredibly fun and educational olive oil tasting in Istria. We hiked with the dogs in the woods. We saw crystal clear water in Hvar. We walked the walls in Dubrovnik. If you haven't been to Croatia, it's the number one place I think you should visit. Go before it gets too crowded.
One of my favorite trips was Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia. We stayed at a place in Kotor, Montenegro that overlooked the water and had a great view of the city of Kotor and the walled in castle. The place we stayed was pretty standard, save for the somewhat smelly bathroom. But our host seemed to really enjoy speaking with us, despite his very little English and of course we didn't speak the language.
Every day we'd ask him questions and he'd say, “Me? No. No.” or “Nothing. Nothing.” To almost everything we said. Now, Michael and I say these phrases to each other almost every day and it cracks me up.
Michael and I took a trip to Austria in late March and I swear something was in the water. For starters, I forgot my camera. What kind of rookie move is that? We had to rent a camera from a shop 30 minutes out of the way.
We then went hiking and Millie got a small cut. We immediately went to the vet who cleaned her up. Later that night Michael was petting her and noticed yet another, much worse cut. We had to go back to the vet but it was too dirty to stitch up. The poor thing had to have a special cream for her wound.
Oh, and then there was that fateful skiing day. You see, Michael and I are from Texas and we don't know much about snow. Or skiing. We went out to ski and the conditions seemed fine to us. We did the practice run and a few easier runs and then decided to take the blue run all the way down the mountain.
Didn't have goggles, so sure, sunglasses are fine, right?
Michael had just finished and I had one or two turns left when I started going too fast. I freaked out and fell. It didn't hurt! At all. But I knew something was wrong when the guy helping me get up told me to turn my knee back around since it was facing the wrong way. I had torn my ACL clean.
Having surgery abroad was one of the toughest experiences of my life. And this from someone who's fallen 20 feet rock climbing and shattered my ankle and leg.
One of my favorite trips was our road trip through the Swiss Alps. We went to a few places, but Zermatt took the cake. They had record snowfall and it felt like we were wandering around an actual snow globe. We stayed in an incredible ski-in-ski-out resort called Cervo (I wrote all about it here). Beautiful rooms with wood paneling and floors along with a view of the mighty Matterhorn mountain.
The place was so beautiful I kept taking pictures so I could recreate the decor in my house. They also have delicious food (the truffle fries are swoon worthy) and movies you can borrow from their massive collection. But the breakfast was insane. Literally everything you could dream of, all in an intimate and warm setting. I'm already planning my escape back!
My favorite photo of 2018: Santorini, Greece. I just love Greek islands. There's something about them. I took three very crazy flights to get to this island so I could spend the day by myself photographing Santorini at sunrise. It was worth it.
Michael's favorite photo of 2018: Sahara Desert, Morocco. A 50+ year old man led our camels through the desert and repeatedly ran up and down the dunes to give us the joy of sliding down them on a “magic” carpet.
I know I'm annoying to share that many travel memories. I'm SORRY! It was just an insane year.
This year was the best ever for my blog. I hit over 2.7 million pageviews and actually posted less (here's how I grew to 250,000 hits a month on my blog). I gained a million more hits than last year, which is mind boggling! After 6 years of blogging I've hit 6.8 million pageviews total.
Top Blog Posts
Here were the posts that I liked the most or were the most popular:
Best personal post: Why We're Moving Back to America – our time in Germany is coming to an end and I answered why we're moving back and what our future looks like. Also, You Can Sleep When You're Dead – I told this to a young girl in London and then decided to write about how important it is to go out and live life, her Dad found the article!
Best Blogging post: The Ultimate Guide to Blog Traffic – because the key to blog success is traffic.
Best Instagram post: How to Beat the Instagram Algorithm – because Instagram is tricky.
Here were my top 9 posts (Morocco made the cut twice!) and the back of my head did really well. Noted y'all, noted.
Body by Loud Luxury
I listened to this song non-stop. In fact, Spotify let me know this was my most played song of all in 2018. I have no shame because this song is a banger. I'd like to think I listened to this song long before it became popular but it seems like lots of people love this jam.
Best Friend Remix- Sofi Tukker, Oliver Heldens, Nervo, The Knocks
This was such a fun, party song that is a great way to amp anyone up. Oliver Heldens has a weekly podcast that always gives me material for my playlists.
SICKO MODE – Travis Scott and Drake
I'll admit it: at first, I didn't get this song. I said to myself, “Wait, why are three 3 songs in one. I want the first part.” Then I got over myself and listened to this song daily.
Lovely Day – Bill Withers
Nothing can quite top this song this year, Lovely Day by Bill Withers. This song will forever make me think of 2018 and traveling with my partner in crime, Michael. We started humming it on our trip to Switzerland and couldn't remember the words. I called my Mom because I knew she'd get it right. I started humming it and she immediately yells, “Bill Withers Lovely Day.” Music is so important in my life and my Mom was absolutely the catalyst for that.
I also got to take a trip to Italy with my Mom and we had the best time. She makes me laugh, cry, and think. Basically I want to be like her when I grow up.
Cardi B – “I Like It” I already feel the wrath of people who love this song. But I just didn't well, “like it.” It felt repetitive and boring. Sorry y'all!
Highlights of 2018
We were featured in People Magazine! Last year we were on House Hunter's International and People Magazine reached out about our episode to feature it in their March 2018 issue.
This year I spoke at 3 different conferences, at a University, and for my high school. I think I was most nervous about the high school one.
Goals for 2019
First up, how did I do on my 2018 goals?!
My pageviews goal was to grow to 2,500,000 pageviews. I actually knocked out my goal and hit 2.7 million pageviews. I consistently reached 250,000 hits a month towards the end of this year and really worked on gaining steady traffic.
A couple of my other blogging goals were to work on my app which failed miserably and I basically left that in the dust. But I focused more on growing Instagram which seems to be my sweet spot for pageviews.
I also hit all of my travel goals for 2018. We visited dozens of places we'd never been to before. Croatia, Montenegro, Morocco, Bosnia, Portugal, and Iceland to name a few, were all tackled this year.
For 2019 my goals are…
To hit 3 million pageviews for the year. I want to keep growing my traffic and keep readers coming back for more. I think my strategy for posting less frequently but writing more detailed guides has been working.
To get healthy. I say it every year. But it's hard when you travel and live abroad. I want to eat all the great things all the new places we travel have to offer. But I can definitely work on my portion control.
To travel as much as I can in Europe. Since we only have 7 months left there are a few trips we'd like to conquer. We'd like to road trip Southern England, visit Northern Ireland and Scotland, venture over to Malta and maybe the Faroe Islands. I'd also love to see the tulips and lavender in bloom.
When we move back, I'd also like to achieve my goal of writing a fiction book. Fingers crossed!
Lastly, and this is a very different one for me, I need to focus on my life abroad. Experiencing and traveling in Europe is why we moved abroad. So I want to concentrate my efforts on living in the moment and embracing travel opportunities that arise. That means checking the Aurora Borealis forecast and buying a last minute ticket to see the Northern Lights. For me, 2019 is all about living fully and being present.
Thank you all for being part of my story!
I would love it if you would link back to this post in your recap so others can find the link up!