I know it’s a cliche, but it really does feel like yesterday that I was sitting in an Airbnb in Sofia writing my 2018 review.
Bulgaria was our first stop on a huge journey that saw us travel overland across all the Balkan states. That’s how we spent the first 8 months of 2019 – on buses, trains, and a few planes.
That journey ended in August… But the adventure didn’t stop there. I never could have imagined 2019 would turn out the way it did. It’s been a year of pleasant surprises, leaps of faith, and surpassing goals.
As is tradition, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the past 12 months and give you a little preview of how my 2020 is shaping up.
Travelling around the world
I’ve already recapped the highlights of our round-the-world trip in this post, so I won’t repeat myself. But fair to say that 2019 will always be my biggest year of travel – realistically, I can’t see myself EVER attempting to visit 19 countries in 8 months again.
Don’t get me wrong – it was an epic trip, and I don’t regret it at all. But I did suffer from major burnout. By the time we reached our final destination, Istanbul, all I wanted to do was stay inside our Airbnb and work. I knew then that our trip had reached its natural end and it was time to head home.
I almost left this out! A personal milestone for me this year was turning 30.
We arrived back in Brisbane a few days before my birthday so we could celebrate with family. We ended up having a nice lunch in the city.
Turning 30 wasn’t as big of a deal as I had maybe anticipated. In the end, it just felt like another birthday, which honestly just feels like any other ordinary day.
Returning to Cambodia
Towards the end of our trip, Ross got an unexpected job offer and started making plans to spend 8 weeks in Fiji over September/October. Not wanting to waste an opportunity to travel, I decided I would go to Cambodia for 4 weeks.
I didn’t get off to the best start! My flight to Bangkok was a bit traumatic, and when I went to get a massage on my first day, the therapist almost turned me away because my heart rate was so fast. I’m prone to anxiety and I always find travelling alone a huge challenge.
But I turned the corner and ended up having an incredible time in Cambodia. It was so nice to reunite with old friends and colleagues who I hadn’t seen since we moved away from Phnom Penh in 2017. I also got a lot of work done, including a big freelance project that should be released in January, and updated blog content, which you’ve probably seen rolling out over the past few weeks.
Almost moving to Darwin…
After finishing up in Cambodia and Fiji, Ross and I started the search for a new home base in Australia. We both had our hearts set on Darwin, so we flew up for a week to have a look around and view some rentals.
I didn’t take long (less than 12 hours in fact) for us to realise that Darwin probably wasn’t the right fit for us. I wouldn’t say never – but not right now.
So, the search for ‘home’ is still on. It’s stressful not knowing exactly where we’ll be in a couple of months’ time, but it’s also exciting in a way. We’re both so grateful to have family in Brisbane we can stay with while we figure out our plans.
My first blogger trip
We were halfway through dinner on our last night in Darwin when I got an email to say I had been selected to attend an event in Mauritius. When something goes right for me, I’m usually overcome with intense guilt – so that was my first reaction.
Lucky for me, I have an incredibly supportive partner in Ross. He encouraged me to go for it.
The #MyMauritius Explorer Lab was my first ever ‘blogger trip’. Part conference, part press trip, it involved me and 29 other creatives from around the world hanging out for a week in paradise. It was an intense schedule – I think I slept an average 5 hours each night – but I loved every minute of it.
Mauritius opened up a whole new world. Ever since I started this blog in 2015, I have worked in complete isolation (apart from Ross of course, who is a huge help). But there have been no other bloggers to bounce ideas off or to look to for guidance. It’s entirely my own fault for not being more confident. For the longest time, I’ve been too embarrassed to even tell people I had a blog!
That all ended in Mauritius. I can’t tell you how pivotal it was for me to spend time with my peers. I was worried I would feel like I didn’t belong (imposter syndrome, I have it), but I came to realise that I deserved to be there same as everyone else.
I learned so much, and I formed some genuine friendships. Going forward, this is a side of blogging I want to engage more with.
My favourite blog posts from 2019
In between all these last-minute travel plans, I managed to create a lot of articles this year that I’m really proud of. I published more in 2019 than I did in the previous 2 years combined. Here are just a couple of my favourite pieces from 2019:
- Pankisi Gorge – Community tourism projects like this are the reason I travel.
- Prizren – Kosovo was one of our favourite places in the Balkans, and I’m particularly proud of the video we created in Prizren.
- Sarajevo – I really enjoyed photographing the Old Bazaar in Sarajevo. Another highlight of the Balkans.
- Aeolian Islands – Our highlight of the year was spending time with my aunt and uncle at their home in Sicily.
- The Balé Phnom Penh – After publishing this review, I received a lovely email from the hotel’s architect who wanted to thank me for writing it. Chuffed.
- Kampot – A mega guide to one of my favourite places on Earth.
- Mauritius – Another stand-out for 2019 and a trip I’ll never, ever forget.
For the past 3 years, I’ve had a document sitting in my Dropbox titled ‘2020 Vision’. It’s part goals, part emotional ramble about what I want my life to look like in the future. I only open it in moments of deepest procrastination.
When I revisited that document recently, I thought, ‘Scrap all that’. Turns out you can’t really predict what your ambitions will be in 24, 12 or even 6 months time. I have a few overarching goals for the next year and decade, but nothing I’m willing to commit to paper.
The main reason for this is the uncertainty I’m currently feeling.
We’re in a strange position where we literally do not know where we’ll be living in a few weeks’ time. All energy is focused on work, health, and planning our wedding for February 1st. We’ll figure the rest out in due course.
Travel wise, I have a couple of trips planned for the first half of the year (including Berlin for the ITB conference and a return trip to Georgia). But I don’t yet know how those plans will shake out.
One thing I do know for sure is that Mauritius gave me the motivation I need to take my business to the next level in 2020. I’ve been working harder than ever these past few months to get my website up to scratch. It’s an ongoing process that won’t ever be ‘finished’, but I can honestly say I’m enjoying blogging now more than I ever have.
I surpassed every goal I set for myself in 2019. I tripled my traffic, got to a place where I have a steady income, and embarked on some amazing partnerships. I received more emails and messages of thanks from readers than I ever could have hoped for. And I expanded my freelance work and was published on CNN, in Conde Nast Traveler, the Emirates in-flight magazine, and a few other publications.
I’m genuinely excited about what the new year will bring – and so grateful to be ending 2019 on a high with my biggest month of traffic ever.
Thank you – all 700,000 of you who visited my website this year. Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, thank you for your feedback, and thank you for returning to contribute your own tips, ideas and updates.
Happy New Year!