Happy 2016 to you all!
New Year, it always feels like such an exciting time; an opportunity for a fresh start and a new adventure.
Thank you to each and everyone of you who has taken the time to read my blog and follow my adventures on social media, I sincerely appreciate it.
To celebrate the end of 2015 I’ve decided to put together a post that highlights the content my readers and community have appreciated the most and reflect on the last year.
My top 5 blog posts in 2015
I’ve reviewed my blog and checked the stats and here’s a list of the top five posts on my blog in 2015. If you missed them, now’s a great opportunity to catch up!
This was also my most popular post of 2014. Perhaps you love the idea of a magical fairytale Christmas too! The post is about a road trip I took through the Scottish Highlands over Christmas 2014 with Haggis Adventures. It was sponsored and I worked my butt off, but I loved every minute of it!
I had anticipated that I would have time to visit Scotland again in 2015 but that didn’t happen. Scotland is still very much on my agenda though, so I hope to visit again in 2016.
In July I took a trip to Lisbon, Portugal to hangout with my fabulous friend, Minhsien from Taiwan. It was my first visit to Portugal and my second experience this year of renting an Airbnb apartment.
We both completely fell in love with the apartment we stayed in and absolutely loved living in Lisbon for a short while.
In March I attended Traverse 15, a blogging conference in Kingston Upon Thames. This led to the opportunity to attend a hosted Thai cooking experience with Busaba Eathai. I absolutely LOVE Thai food and enjoy cooking it too, so this culinary adventure was right up my street!
In June I spent a week travelling through Belgium. I was attending a conference and catching up with my MSc Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change (TELIC) community in Hasselt. I took the opportunity to spend some time on my own in Brussels and tried Airbnb. I really enjoyed my stay and would definitely stay there again. I also really like Brussels too; it’s definitely a kooky kinda city! 🙂
Reminiscing about my epic adventure in Alaska and Canada in the summer of 2014 with Grand American Adventures, I published this post about a day I spent in Denali National Park. If you don’t know, I love to see bears in the wild and this road trip through the park did not disappoint! I’m completely in love with the wilderness and the scenery in Denali blew me away.
Other blogging highlights
I’ve written a few guest posts this year, including;
- Trips 100: UK Travel Round-Up: Six of the best blogs on adventure travel
- Travel Blog Success: How to keep your web presence legal, accurate and secure
- Trips 100: Top ten things to do in Lisbon
- Leeds University Business School Research and Innovation Blog: 7 ways to raise your profile on Twitter
I was also invited to contribute to Get Paid for Your Pad’s massive Airbnb report; The Future of Airbnb: 56 Industry Experts Reveal Their Outlook
Speaking and blogger events
In August I got invited to a fantastic event for bloggers in Leeds with Icelolly.com; Blog at the Beach.
I had my first two speaking gigs in the blogging world (I’ve spoken a lot at education and technology conferences); I spoke at Blogstock in September, followed by Wonder London a week later. September was an incredibly busy month!
In December I was invited to a special event with Trek America. I used to be a brand ambassador for Trek, so it was a lot of fun to catch up with the team and meet some new bloggers as well as catch up with blogger friends! Some of us even got turned into a digital caricature (thanks Chrissy)! What do you think? 😀
I’ve spent a lot of time in 2015, working on my Instagram, although I did take a break before the end of the year. Earlier in the year I had around 600 followers and I’m now approaching 2000! I’m not down with dubious growth-hacking strategies, so I don’t play the follow, un-follow game that A LOT of bloggers do. I focus on following any account that I like; I don’t follow everyone back and in turn, I don’t expect every account to follow me. I rarely request to follow a private account unless I know the person either. I concentrate on posting photos and captions that I hope people will enjoy and when I make time to post more frequently, my following increases quicker.
I’ve seen a massive increase in engagement with my Instagram posts which I’m super-happy about; in fact my top most-liked photos were all posted in the last half of 2015.
I was thrilled to get my Instagram account featured around the web too:
- INK361 blog: 11 Instagram Hidden Gems: Travel Themed Accounts
- Hannah from That Adventurer: The top Adventure travel Instagrammers you need to follow now
- Featured on Instagram
- I’ve had a number of American National Park photos featured on Find Your Park too.
Contributing to the #JustOneRhino campaign
I love the wild and therefore I love wildlife. When the opportunity arose, I was really happy to support the #JustOneRhino campaign earlier in the year by raising awareness and fundraising.
A reflection on 2015 – finding balance
Compared to 2014, I haven’t travelled as much over the last year; I’ve had some other things to prioritise, we all do at times, right? The day job has been incredibly busy and I changed my role in August (a good change) and I’ve been busy in the blogging world, outside of my blog.
I haven’t solely focused upon work in 2015 though, because balance is important, especially health, well-being and spending time with people who matter. My parents have travelled way more that I have over the last year; in fact they managed a total of 14 weeks road tripping through Europe! I did start to wonder whether they were ever coming back! I’m really pleased they have decided to travel more and enjoy their retirement. I almost didn’t expect they would travel so much because on their first road trip back in May, their camper van was broken into whilst they were sleeping and they had everything but the van, stolen. A very scary incident and an incredibly stressful weekend. That didn’t stop them though and amazingly, a lot of their possessions were found and returned a couple of days later.
A need for more balance in my life is also a reason why I don’t always blog as often as I would like to. It’s not for a lack of ideas to write about. For me blogging is something I enjoy, a creative outlet that has also led me to connect with some amazing people and I am truly grateful for that.
I appreciate the strategies that work for growing a blog and social presence more quickly can be achieved through more regular and consistent blogging (I teach people about this stuff), but just because I know that, does not mean I have to do that. I consider my blogging a professional hobby, I happily collaborate with brands when it is a good fit for my blog and it works for me on a personal level. When I undertake sponsored activities, like many other part-time travel bloggers, I have to use my annual leave and sometimes, when you choose to take a break from the day job, all you want is a holiday, because it’s what you need. Sponsored activities and trips can be incredibly hard work, especially if you like to create a positive impression and create lasting relationships. For that reason, the majority of my travel as an adult is and always has been, funded by myself and I anticipate that will continue.
The need for more balance has also led me to temporarily park my other travel blog, Roadtrippinusa.com. I don’t plan to shut it down completely, I just need some space to breathe and reconsider how I want to use it.
I’ve also been a little quiet on the blog because I joined the Freedom Plan program this year with Natalie Sisson and I’m working on a related project which I plan to launch in 2016. The purpose of that project is to enable me to eventually have more freedom and flexibility in my life. I have a long way to go with that, but we’ve all got to start somewhere, right? 🙂
What’s in store for 2016?
I currently have no travel plans and I’m ok with that right now.
How about you, where do you want to go in 2016? Whatever you decide to do, whether you choose to go solo or with someone, make it count!
Happy 2016 – have an amazing year! xoxo