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.
I started my year at home, in good ole Norfolk, UK. I usually spend the first month of the year catching up with friends and family, and heading to London for my annual pilgrimage to the Worldwide Awards, where I get to hang out and dance with one of my besties.
However, I extended my UK stay in 2017. I’d recently signed up to Trusted Housesitters and wanted to get my first official housesit under my belt before heading off; having an official reference makes it easier to get plum sits.
So in February I headed to the other side of Norfolk to spend a month at Caister-on-Sea with a pair of Shih tzu/Maltese dogs. It was a chilly month, but I had a lovely warm house, two adorable little dogs that demanded my love and attention, and a beautiful beach just down the road.
I went into hibernation mode a little, as I’m not fond of UK winters. Luckily my charges wanted twice-daily walkies, so I got a healthy dose of fresh air and exercise. Other than that, I got my head down, rebranded The Wandering Wordsmith to focus on travel writing and copywriting, and snagged some new travel clients.
I also had a bit of a health kick, christening my new travel yoga mat and completing an alcohol-free month.
Ooh, my first overseas destination for 2017 was one of my favourite trips of the year. I’d always wanted to visit Israel yet felt slightly wary, especially as a solo traveller. But when TBEX decided to hold a travel blogging conference there, it was an invitation that was too good to miss. Especially as two friends from the Worldwide Festival in Sète invited me to visit them in Tel Aviv. The stars had clearly aligned, so I booked my ticket.
I had an amazing time.
My friends indulged my love of wildlife, taking me hiking in the desert, floating in the Dead Sea, scrambling around ruins at Masada, and wandering amongst kingfishers, waders, and Egyptian mongoose at Ma’agan Michael. They also showed me around Old Jaffa, took me along the waterfront at Tel Aviv, and introduced me to some of the best hummus I’ve ever eaten.
As for Jerusalem, what an incredible city! This was my second TBEX, after Stockholm, and I learned a ton more about the business of blogging and made some valuable connections and good friends. I also arrived early and took full advantage of the interesting tours put together by the sponsors.
When I had some free time, I wandered around the Old Town, soaking up the sights and smells, and immersing myself in the religious history of this fascinating city.
I had an overnight stop in Cyprus en route to Malta, where one of my newfound blogging buddies, Chris from Trip and Trail, lives. So I got to hang out with him and his lovely partner, Veronika, for an evening. One of the loveliest things about this lifestyle is the people you meet along the way.
It was with huge anticipation I then headed to Gozo, Malta’s little sister, where I’d booked a three-month stay. I adore islands. I love being surrounded by the sea and the deliciously laid-back pace of island life. Gozo was perfect. It’s a tiny island, yet full of charm and friendly Gozitans. You can walk around its perimeter in a few days and there are a handful of interesting attractions.
I lived in Xlendi, where dramatic cliffs line the side of a small harbour and a handful of restaurants jostle for position on the front. I explored the island on foot, and with friends and family who came to stay. I had a visit from Steph of History Fangirl, who accompanied me to Malta for a day of history and to the Blue Lagoon on Comino for a day of pure relaxation.
I fell in love with this peaceful island, spending hours roaming over the cliffs, birdwatching, and slipping into the warm, silky waters of Xlendi for my daily swim.
It wasn’t all sunsets, swimming and hanging out with friends though. I intended Gozo to be a distraction-free place where I could get my head down and work on my blog and business for a few months. But I had several problems with my accommodation that frustrated my work. So I left in love with the island, but behind in my business goals.
I stopped overnight in Barcelona en route to Sète – it was my only night in Spain all year and I really missed it (and I’ve STILL never visited Barcelona properly!). But I made the most of my night by gorging on tapas.
I had another incredible two weeks in Sète for the Worldwide Festival, my third year in a row. It feels a little like heading home. Warm, sunny days, the rhythmic clinking of fishing boats in the harbour, amazing fresh fish and seafood, rosé wine, gorgeous long, sandy beaches, the cry of gulls circling overhead…
As for the festival, it was a beautiful week of meeting up with old friends and fellow music lovers, seafood feasts at La Ola, long days dancing on the beach and in the sea, magical nights in the Théâtre de la Mer, and incredible live acts and DJs.
I also found a deliciously quirky Airbnb to rent with magnificent views over the harbour, which I’ve already booked for 2018…
I spent a few days in Montpellier after Sète. I didn’t have the best first impression – the tram machines swallowed money but didn’t seem to give out tickets, my Airbnb was void of character and comfort, and the main cathedral was closed for renovation. To be honest, I wanted to still be in Sète.
But I can always find beauty in a place and Montpellier was no different.
I strolled around the stately town, exploring side streets decorated with bunting and grand old squares. I stumbled upon a stunning botanic garden, marvelled at the monumental entrance to the Saint Pierre Cathedral, and wandered round the city art gallery. And I found some nice memories to take away.
Late summer, I headed to Brussels for a five-week housesit in the north of the city, close to the Pavilions and Atomium. While Brussels isn’t my favourite city, I really enjoyed my time here. The flat was comfortable, well equipped with excellent wifi, and its owners some of the kindest, loveliest people I’ve met. And their cat, Frimousse (her name means ‘sweet face’ and is the French name for the smiley face emoji), was adorable, if a little feisty and unsure of strangers.
I overdosed on the city’s wonderful art collection, met up with a couple of friends, did a city tour courtesy of SANDEMANs NEW Europe, and enjoyed daytrips to nearby Bruges and Ghent.
I also quaffed a fair bit of raspberry beer, munched on waffles, seafood and hearty stews, enjoyed walks around the nearby park, and had a productive five weeks’ work.
Heading to Sofia was a last-minute decision. I had a couple of weeks between Brussels and Rhodes, where I was renting a house until the end of the year. I wanted to squeeze in my third new country of 2017 and flights between Brussels and Sofia were dirt-cheap. So I hopped on a plane.
I only had 10 days in Sofia, barely enough to scratch the surface of this fascinating city. But in that time I had three travel blogger meetups (seriously, Sofia is buzzing with travel bloggers), and hopped on the brilliant Free Sofia Tour, which gave me a useful oversight of the city and helped me target the things I wanted to go back and visit in detail.
I roamed around South Park close to my Airbnb, listening to woodpeckers and admiring the magnificent vista of nearby Vitosha Mountain, and sampled a few Bulgarian delicacies. I also had an amazing haircut and colour, thanks to Geri from When Woman Travels, who found me a Wella salon and an incredible hairdresser who speaks perfect English.
Ah Athens! It had been a long time since I’d visited Greece and I was desperate to reacquaint myself with one of my favourite countries. I couldn’t resist the temptation to spend a few nights in Athens so I could revisit the Acropolis and see the new Acropolis Museum (well, I did read my MA in Greek archaeology).
I had a long, hot day wandering over the Acropolis in late August, amongst hordes of hot, sweaty tourists. But nothing could dampen my love for this site. It was every bit as magnificent as I remembered.
I also dived back into one of my favourite cuisines, met my Greek teacher from 2004/5, and spent a magical evening roaming the streets of Athens in the shadow of the Acropolis chatting to a dear friend I hadn’t seen for about 12 years.
Back in 2006, I took my first tentative steps towards a life in travel by working as an island manager for Laskarina on the tiny, unspoilt island of Tilos, just off Rhodes. That beautiful, sun-soaked summer was the first time I realised it was possible to build a life away from the traditional nine to five.
At the end of 2017, I returned to Rhodes thanks to my friends at Nissia Holidays (who took over from Laskarina in the Rhodes area) who I’d been writing for throughout the year. They found me a wonderful place to rent, five minutes walk from the medieval Old Town of Rhodes. And I settled in for 3.5 months.
I loved having a place to call home (so much so, I’m returning for a few months at the start of Feb). I had a spare room so friends and family could visit, and I explored Rhodes and took daytrips to nearby Symi and back to Tilos, which still holds a place in my heart.
I also had a long weekend in Halki, courtesy of Nissia Holidays, where I spent my mornings swimming in the harbour (once with a curious kingfisher flying around my head) and sunbathing, before doing a little work then slipping out to explore.
I also ate a lot of wonderful Greek food, and had a few productive months of work before heading back to the UK for Christmas.
And that’s what I got up to in 2017.
Last January, I set myself a long, ambitious list of goals for the year. So how did I get on?
Yes, in 2017 I had my first trip to Israel, spent three months in Gozo, Malta, and visited Bulgaria.
The thought of a solo trip to Israel was definitely challenging for me, but the reality was much easier than I expected. I’m lucky to have wonderful friends who live in Tel Aviv and I was in Jerusalem as part of a conference, but I spent some time exploring on my own and found it a perfectly safe and utterly wonderful country.
I signed up to Trusted Housesitters in November 2016, and did my first couple of housesits last year, a month in Caister-on-Sea and five weeks in Brussels, Belgium. And I loved it. So much so, I was delighted when Natalie Sisson asked me to write a couple of housesitting articles for her Suitcase Entrepreneur website, which you can read here and here.
Mmmm, the words ‘business plan’ still seem to strike fear in my heart. But this year my fabulous business and lifestyle coach, Caroline Leon, set up her Female Business Academy. One of the first exercises we did as a group was to determine our business values, mission and five-year vision, which has given me so much clarity on the direction I’m taking with my business.
Thanks to the Female Business Academy, I got my head stuck into business a lot more during 2017. I read a couple of business books, Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield and May I Have Your Attention Please by Mish Slade, and am halfway through another, She Means Business by Carrie Green.
I also committed to working through a couple of courses. This is difficult to measure, as the Female Business Academy is an ongoing thing where we study different aspects of running a business each month. But I did also start working through Blogging from the Heart by Susannah Conway and Travel Blog Success. More about this in my goals for 2018.
Yes, I’ve now rebranded my writing and editing business to focus on travel copywriting and travel writing, and I got some new travel clients on board during the year.
Nooooooo. I really struggled with this one, as you’ve probably noticed from the few blog posts that I uploaded in 2017. I found it difficult to keep up a daily writing routine, especially as my focus was building up my travel writing business. I didn’t get the balance right, but am determined to do better this year.
I didn’t really push this one during the year, but I did discover at the end of the 2017 that I had made my first few pounds from an affiliate sale from my blog. I’ve a long way to go with, but small steps n’ all that…
Oh god, I still get a bit overwhelmed by social media and I certainly haven’t become a social media wizard or developed a weekly routine for keeping on top of things (though I did get round to making pins for all my blog posts). More work to be done here!
I set up a travel bloggers mastermind after TBEX Jerusalem, but it didn’t work out. However, I’ve since set up a mastermind with three wonderful women from my Female Business Academy. Although we’re all working in different fields, there’s some overlap between each of us and we’re all at a similar stage of our businesses. And I adore our fortnightly calls, love the feeling of accountability I get from the group, and feel deeply connected and supported. Thank you my lovelies!
I love my Headspace meditations and they’ve become an enjoyable part of my morning routine. I didn’t manage it every day – it was overlooked on long travel days, early starts and festival days – but I did manage to meditate for about 5/6 of the year, and I look forward to that period of calm every morning.
2017 was the year I finally found yoga (yes, I know). I bought a travel yoga mat, joined Gaia and it became a valuable part of my morning routine. I found I wanted more physical exercise too, so I bought a skipping rope at the end of the year and had so much fun I might even keep it up…
I had an alcohol-free month in February 2017 and found it so beneficial that I’m planning to do it again in 2018. (No, I didn’t choose the shortest month of the year for any reason other than convenience… Ahem!)
I didn’t hit the target on this. I read a lot, but I tend to fall into a novel at the end of the day. In the second half of the year, I slotted some personal development reading into my morning routine and found I stuck to it much better. But I alternated between personal development and business. I only completed 3 personal development books, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero, and Ultimate Confidence by Marisa Peer, and I’m halfway through a fourth, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown.
Yes, I bought the Osprey Sojourn 60 and I love the extra bit of space for my yoga mat and a few more clothes, although I have to fight the temptation to fill it…
Yes. I’ve now completed Spanish and Portuguese Duolingo, and am on track to finish Greek in the next few months.
In a few days time, I’m heading off again. For the first time ever, I’m going back to a place I’ve just left – Rhodes, Greece. I’m spending the rest of the winter and early spring here, working on my business and exploring more of this intriguing island and its delightful smaller neighbours. As for the rest of my year, who knows…
What was your travel highlight of 2017? And what’s in store for 2018?