Me in Madeira

2018: What the Hell Happened to The Road to Wanderland?

A.k.a. My Year in Review

I started last year with really good intentions when it came to my blog, but things didn’t quite pan out as planned.

2018 was my fourth year on the road, travelling slowly around Europe while running my business. And it was an excellent year, both in terms of travel and my freelance travel writing business. I had a handful of new clients and several fantastic travel copywriting jobs. Add in a fair bit of housesitting, and financially my year was incredible – I completely sorted out my finances and treated myself to a new camera and phone. Finally.

Aside from the odd affiliate I’m not making much money from this blog yet, though it serves as a portfolio for my writing, so I had to concentrate my focus where the money was. My big jobs involved writing lots of content, and when I finished writing I wanted to be out exploring the new places I was travelling and living in. And housesitting isn’t a free ride; there was a lot of dog walking, dog and cat grooming and playing, and gardening and housework to maintain.

All of which meant my blog took a back seat for the year. I was stressed about it for a while, but I had to let go. Sometimes it simply isn’t possible to do everything – a lesson I have difficultly accepting at times – and sometimes that’s OK.

I think there’s also an element of struggling a bit with the blogging side of things. Working out what I want this blog to be, who I’m writing for, what my special sauce is. Plus I’m a massively private person, so finding that balance between writing about what I’m doing while maintaining my privacy can be tricky. So I’m still trying to figure a few things out and find my blogging mojo.

Anyway.

Last year was bloody brilliant in many ways. Here’s my travel review of 2018.

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Review of 2017: Halki harbour

2017: My Year in Review

For me, January is a month of reflection and planning (and hibernating from the cold!). It’s also my anniversary of packing up my house in Norwich and heading off with my backpack and Mac. So it’s the perfect time to look back at what I’ve achieved over the previous year and look ahead at what I want to do next year.

My first two years as a nomad were about finding my feet and settling into life on the road. More specifically, I was learning how to balance work with exploring (something I’m still trying to master!). During my third year, 2017, I was focused on building my business and working on my personal development.

In some ways it feels as though I travelled less in 2017, as I embraced slow travel. My business had to take priority so that I can afford to maintain this lifestyle (though I set up my office in lots of wonderful places – the header image is taken from my desk in Halki, Greece). I also love spending a few months in a country so I can really get to know the landscape, culture, food, people and wildlife, rather than zipping through, ticking another box and adding it to my country count.

But I still did a fair bit of travelling.

I spent time in nine different countries including the UK, three of which were new to me. Along the way, I took 10 flights, 6 long train rides, and 14 ferry rides – I spent over half the year indulging in island life – and I slept in 17 different beds.

My highlights included falling in love with gorgeous Xlendi Bay in Gozo, another incredible week of music, sunshine, great vibes and awesome people at the Worldwide Festival in Sète, getting to know the intriguing city of Sofia in Bulgaria, reacquainting myself with some of my favourite places in Greece, and pretty much my entire visit to Israel.

Here’s my travel review of 2017.

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Lotus flower & seed pods, Jardin des Plantes, Montpellier

Photo Essay: Le Jardin des Plantes, Montpellier

Montpellier’s Jardin des Plantes is the oldest botanical garden in France and one of the oldest in Europe. It’s not the largest botanical garden I’ve ever visited, neither is it the best kept. But it’s utterly charming.

I wandered around in mid July, when I had a few days in Montpellier following my favourite festival, Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Festival in Sète. I didn’t immediately take to Montpellier. My Airbnb was a bit meh, the tram machines twice swallowed a load of coins without spitting out a ticket, and I was missing Sète, the beach, the market, the smell of the sea, the screams of the swifts that danced around my apartment, and all that glorious seafood. But the minute I wandered into the garden and strolled beneath a tree blooming with brilliant pink blossom, pausing to listen to the cicadas screeching their deafening midday song, I returned to the present, refocused my attention on my current adventure, and a slow smile of contentment crept across my face.

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Jo at St Hilarion Castle, North Cyprus, 2016

2016: My Year in Review

Phew! Sometimes it felt as though 2016 would never end. With a stream of celebrity deaths and some seismic shocks in both political and geographic landscapes, there’s a danger of remembering last year for all the wrong reasons.

Personally I struggled a little last year too, mostly in the latter half of the year as I fought to understand my government’s determination to rob me of my rights as a European citizen thanks to a busload of lies and misinformation. This had a knock-on effect on my finances, where the drop in value of the GBP meant my rent and everyday living expenses increased dramatically. And it coincided with me trying to reshape my business, which meant a drop in income as I tried to build up my reputation in a different area. Messy!

In her annual workbook, Unravel Your Year, Susannah Conway asks the question ‘what you would call your year if it were a book or album?’ The difficult second album syndrome immediately popped into my head!

However while I found some areas of my life a challenge, I had another fantastic year of travel. 2016 was my fourth year in business and my second year as a digital nomad. I slept in twenty beds in fifteen cities, visited nine different countries (including the UK), three of which were new for me. I took ten flights, four train journeys (I’ve only counted long train journeys, not short trips to and from airports), and two ferry trips.

My highlights included finding a place to call home in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for five and a half months, returning to the Worldwide Festival in Sète for another memorable week of dancing in the sunshine to my favourite bands and DJs, getting my travel blogging head on in Stockholm, discovering the wine and wildlife of Slovenia, now one of my favourite countries, and connecting with my inner Lara Croft exploring the archaeological sites of Cyprus.

Here’s my review of 2016.

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Moules frites at La Ola, Sète

Sète & the Worldwide Festival 2016

Before last year, whenever I thought about music festivals my mind conjured up images of muddy fields and welly boots, tiny tents and burly security guards, partying post-A-level teens and glow-sticks, huge crowds of drunken dancers and expensive stodgy food. And rain, lots of rain…

But that was before I went to the Worldwide Festival in Sète.

Now, when you mention the word festival to me, I’m transported to a world of rosé wine and seafood, long days dancing in the sea and along the water’s edge, magical nights in the Théâtre de la Mer, and the friendliest crowd of people you’ll ever meet. People united by a single thing – a love of Gilles Peterson and his unique brand of eclectic music.

Worldwide 2015 was the 10th anniversary of this special little festival. It was also my first visit, after years of listening wistfully from a distance. And it was one of my undisputed highlights of last year. Could Worldwide 2016 live up to that? You know, if possible I think it was even better…

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