OMG Another Year has Passed! So many things happened this year I’m happy I wrote this blog post to remember it all. I started doing these round-ups in 2017 and continued the tradition every year since. It’s a great way to reflect on the year for us and feels great to get everything written down.
Sometimes it can take months, or even years, to truly realize the impact of an event and I’m a firm believer in reminiscing.
We Moved to Canmore!
At the end of our 2018 year in review post, I mentioned that we were making the move to Canada. On December 31st, 2018 – almost a year ago exactly – we picked up the keys to our townhome. We didn’t even know what the place looked like as we signed a lease from abroad, but when we stepped foot inside our new home we fell completely in love.
Our townhome is more than we could have imagined and I think the only reason we even scored this place in a popular destination like Canmore because our rental agency put up such bad photos. Seriously, they had photos of the bathroom and laundry room to sell the place.
We moved into a spacious townhome in a really quiet neighborhood in the mountains. Our view is of the Little Sister, of the famous Three Sisters in Alberta. Seriously, it’s perfect.
We spent our New Years Eve and New Years Day at IKEA buying all sorts of furniture for the place. We moved in with two suitcases and a snowboard bag and now the place is so homey and complete.
We spent most of the month of January getting acquainted here and also car shopping. After a month in a rental car and scouring the internet we found a 4×4 Jeep in Calgary for a really good price and bought it. We put the whole car purchase on our travel credit card which basically equated to a free flight in rewards.
Moving to Alberta was one of the best decisions we’ve made in recent years. We love having a home base to travel and in and out of and there is always something to do (as long as you like the outdoors and winter).
Moving to Canada was also a really good business choice for us in more ways than one. To keep it short, Banff and the Canadian Rockies are a desirable travel destination in the world. So the more content we have from here the more we can write about this area, meaning more traffic to our blog, more photos on Instagram, more video on YouTube…etc.
We also have a North American shipping address now. While some companies will only ship to the US and not Canada, most agree to ship over the border. We collaborated with numerous brands this year that we wouldn’t have been able to if we were in say…Bali, mainly because we could get the product here. This blog and our social channels are mostly about travel, hiking, and being outside. So Canada is the perfect place to work with those brands.
Lastly, we’ve found many tourism boards aim to work with North Americans, whether that be Canadians or US citizens. It’s typically a key market for advertising when we’re talking about tourism.
Since we are Americans living in Canada we kinda check off both boxes and have been able to work with more US and Canadian companies that we were able to when we were nomadic.
Norway in the Winter
Our first overseas trip of the year was to Norway. We’d only been to Norway once before when we were backpackers back in 2013. We stayed with friends and ate spaghetti to stay on a budget. It was great, but we didn’t feel we got the most out of such a beautiful country.
So when the Norway Tourism Board invited us to visit we didn’t hesitate. Norway in the winter is truly a special place. We were able to see the Northern Lights, snowboard in Narvik, and go for TWO sled dog rides under the Northern Lights. We know we will still have to return one day to get to the Lofoten Islands and Svalbard.
Paradise in Saint Lucia
We haven’t traveled much of the Caribbean, but when we had a business obligation in Puerto Rico we decided to have a little vacation after it in Saint Lucia.
We were hosted by Jade Mountain, one of the best resorts in the Caribbean and where celebrities spend their holiday. It was an amazing vacation where we had unlimited Scuba Diving included. I say vacation because we didn’t open the laptops once, and I drank way too many Pina Coladas on the all-inclusive package.
We Finally Made it to The Philippines
In May we decided that we actually needed to get traveling to some new destinations. The Philippines have been a hot spot for vloggers and bloggers for years so we wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
We spent almost two weeks in Siargao and Moalboal and loved our time. Filipinos are incredibly friendly, the water is BLUE, the islands are affordable, and we enjoyed our island living life. We made it a goal to vlog every day of the trip and ended up coming back with about 30 days of vlogs (which I still haven’t managed to edit). We had a few videos go semi-viral (over 100k views on YouTube, which was good for us). Subscribe to our channel!
We Climbed a Freaking Big Ass Mountain
The peak is one of many in the Canadian Rockies famous for reaching an altitude of 11,000 feet. To summit the mountain you have to have mountaineering experience, we didn’t have that so we joined onto a three-day course to learn some skills.
After two full days of learning, we woke up at 2 am to start the climb. There were six of us and we separated into two groups of three plus a guide for each group.
The three younger guys were put in a group – this is what I called “the fast group.” Cameron is a faster hiker than I am and I knew that he wanted to be in that group, but being a couple we stuck together in what I call “the slower group.” Because it was the two of us, and a 58-year-old Britt who enjoyed the mountains and was pretty badass, but given his age, he definitely moved a bit slower.
Around 5 am on the mountain I was questioning why the hell I let Cameron talk me into this. It was scary, mega steep, and definitely one of the hardest physical challenges I’ve ever had. I didn’t think we would summit, and our guide didn’t either, but the group pushed on and we summited Athabasca before 11 am and I almost cried.
We were back to the car by 4 pm and eating sushi by 6. I’m not sure when I’ll climb another glaciated mountain, but looking back I’m happy we did it.
We Got a Lot of Hiking In
Athabasca made just about every other hike and scramble in the area look easy. So I guess we got that out of the way early in the season. We spent the months of June, July, and August at home working and also getting outside as much as possible. We summited over 30 peaks this summer with various levels of difficulty. I love being able to go for a new hike just outside my doorstep whenever I feel like it!
We Had a Proper Fall in the Yukon
We’re on a mission to see all the provinces and territories in Canada (along with seeing all the 50 states and hitting 100 countries). So we’re making it a point to make it happen.
We planned a Yukon Road Trip this fall and oh my lordy it blew our socks off. We really didn’t mean to plan the trip at the same time that all the leaves were changing in the North, but we did and it was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.
We were blessed with a full week of fall goodness in The Yukon. I can’t describe the beauty – so just look at the photos. We even went into Alaska for a day, and now we really want to return to do an Alaska road trip.
I Turned the Big 3-0
The middle of September marked my birthday and although I was happy staying in Alberta, Cameron wanted to “guarantee me a sunny day.” So he planned a trip to Paros. We booked an amazing Greek villa and Cameron’s sister and boyfriend surprised us there.
This was our second “vacation” of the year as we didn’t open the laptops for an entire week and didn’t even take a million photos. Greece is one of my favorite countries and I honestly never need a reason to return, so all in all it was a pretty spectacular 30th birthday with plenty of cheap Greek wine.
We Checked Off Oman
It was HOT and HUMID in Oman in October, but that didn’t stop us from loving our time there. It’s such a beautiful country with so much to explore.
We Finally Made it to Egypt!
Back in July, I decided that 2019 was the year we were finally going to make Egypt happen. It’s been on the list forever now, and I didn’t know why we were holding off on traveling there.
The ship was from the early 1900s and is what Agatha Christie sailed on and inspired her to write Death on the Nile. I was surprised that it was still in operation.
There was a contact us page, that I was about 10% sure still worked. I emailed them and let them know we were bloggers who were planning a trip to Egypt. One day later they had written me back invited us to cruise with them. We were so EXCITED – we love unique experiences and things that haven’t been Instagrammed to death so we said YES.
We based our whole Egypt itinerary off this small cruise and it didn’t disappoint.
And Went Back to Southern Africa!
We had three weeks free between Egypt and a speaking gig in Paris. We weren’t sure what to do with them as we didn’t want to fly all the way home and back to Paris again.
We debated between spending time on the islands of the Seychelles, Mauritius, and Reunion or heading back to Southern Africa.
We decided that we would just end up being super lazy living the island life and that safari was our bread and butter. It had been more than two years since we’d seen an elephant so we booked flights to Johannesburg and never looked back.
We Did Some Epic Safari-ing
We spent time at a new South African game reserve for us, Madikwe. As well as a horseback safari in the Waterberg Plateau.
We ended up going back to Botswana for a real safari, since our first time was a bit of a disaster which ended with us being stranded in the bush. We spent a week in the bush without WiFi and reconnected with nature, I loved every second and can’t wait to return again.
Back to Japan
My last trip of the year was in Japan for a project promoting Japanese sentos and the small city of Nikko. For the third time in one year! Every time I think about how long and crappy the flight is, but then once I land in Japan I am instantly reminded of how enjoyable traveling there is.
This Japan trip also marked my first time traveling without Cameron since 2015! I love traveling both with Cameron and solo, they bring about such different experiences and it was nice to live those again! Plus Japan is the perfect place for solo female travelers.
Christmas in Alberta
Since last Christmas when we were flying and pretty much skipped the whole holiday we agreed that we would stay home in Alberta and have a real Canadian white Christmas. We’ve always been abroad on our Christmases together and it never quite felt right.
So that’s what we did. We decorated our place, we bought our first Christmas tree together, played Christmas music, watched at least 20 Christmas movies, and enjoyed the endless snow.
Cam’s family flew up to spend the holidays with us and it was truly the perfect place to spend the holiday.
Our Blog Traffic Increased
Many people that follow us just do so on Instagram. I’ve even had close friends tell me that they thought I was just an Instagrammer and only made money from there. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Our blog is our main bread and butter, and Instagram and all the other side social channels are extensions of this website. We spend about 75% of our time on this website, 10% on Instagram, 10% on YouTube, and the other 5% on the other social channels and side projects.
In 2019 our blog hit new levels. At its peak, this website was getting read by over 15,000 people a day. It was a wonderful reward for all the hard work we have put into building this website up with helpful and useful travel information. It now has over 700 in-depth articles from countries all over the world.
We Reached New Income Levels
Last year we hit a goal of each earning six figures from this website. We wanted to double that in 2019, and although we didn’t quite hit that income we are super happy with our revenue model.
Between all the many ways that bloggers can make money, we hit last year’s income numbers halfway through the year and kept growing.
We’ve been putting away most of our income for something super important in a few years so hopefully next year our hard work will pay off more.
Google Giveth and Google Taketh Away
November 8th, 2019. Bloggers and website owners know this as the “day Google completely went haywire.”
We receive most of our traffic from Google, Pinterest brings in quite a bit of website traffic as well but not nearly as much as Google. This didn’t just happen though. We spent years versing ourselves in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) so that what we wrote would actually get seen and show up in search engines. Otherwise, we would only be receiving traffic from Pinterest and one off social shares.
Traffic was good – really good – and it encouraged us to write as much as we could in the summer. Then November 8th hit, and Google released a huge update that pretty much slashed every blogger’s traffic (not just travel, but food, DIY, mommy blogs, etc) by 30-40%. I don’t know anyone that wasn’t affected and it sucked.
What sucked the most is that bloggers put out very detailed first-hand information out, and the Google update – which still hasn’t changed, now gives preference to purchased ad space and spammy websites. What’s worse is that Google is now putting its own content at the top of search engine results. Talk about a monopoly. We love to provide readers with useful information from our own travels, and that’s why people love to read blogs instead of generic travel websites.
But, we’re still grinding away with hope that Google will like us once again.
We Took YouTube More Seriously
We want to have more travel videos on YouTube instead of just writing about them. Honestly, I think many people have short attention spans and don’t want to read an entire blog post when they could just watch a quick YouTube video. So we set out to vlog our travels this year.
We went to the Philippines, South Korea, and Japan for 30 days and vlogged every day of our trip. It took a while for me to sort through the footage and get each one uploaded, and I’m still working on it, but I’m super happy with how they turned out. We even gained 5000 subscribers this year!
We filmed portions of our Egypt, Greece, Oman, and Southern Africa trip as well, but I haven’t had time to edit them. If I could just focus on YouTube and not the blog and social channels I think I could get through them fast, but as mentioned this website brings in the income. YouTube is for fun only at the moment so it’s tough to balance the time. I love video and even like editing, I just need to give it the time it deserves. Here’s to more YouTube content in 2020!
We Still Haven’t Launched Tours
The only issue is we haven’t given it the time it needs to plan out. In all honestly, we’ve put our own travels in front of this initiative, but eventually we will get something together.
We’ve already been chatting with different tour operators to work with and make this happen, just need to finally do it. We’d love to travel with all of you!
We Got Verified on Instagram
We woke up one morning in the French Countryside to look on Instagram and see a little blue checkmark next to our name. We had been hoping to get verified this year so we were very happy to see this. It doesn’t really “do” anything for us per se, but I do think it makes our account stand out and look more legitimate!
We got asked a few times what we did to get verified and honestly, we don’t know the secret to get verified – it seems like it sorta just happens.
We Didn’t Travel to Many New Countries
We traveled to 13 countries this year (and Japan three times), which was a major downgrade from when we were fully nomadic and hitting like 20+ a year. This is a bit of a bummer, but we did get to really enjoy Canada this year.
Of those 13 countries only FIVE of them were new countries, which was another major bummer. I’m currently sitting at 83 countries, while Cam is just under 80. A major goal for us is to hit 100 countries, but if we are only hitting five new places a year that’s never going to happen. So we’re prioritizing new countries over repeats this year.
The only issue is I love certain countries and that’s why I keep returning. Plus just because we’re visiting a new country doesn’t mean we aren’t visiting new places. For every country we revisited we didn’t repeat any destinations – so we still saw new things – just not new countries.
The upside to this was that our carbon footprint was a lot lower this year than others. We spent the summer in Canada and went on more road trips instead of long haul flights.
We Haven’t Settled in
Although we’ve finally gotten a home that we very much love it doesn’t quite feel like home yet. Since we still spent a large portion of our year on trips we didn’t accomplish things we wanted to accomplish. We haven’t gotten involved in the community much, haven’t met many new people, haven’t signed up for that gym I wanted to join, etc. I want to integrate ourselves more into the community this year, but in all honestly as long as week traveling a lot it’s always going to be tough.
What’s Next for US?
Oh BOY. Travel wise – we have a few trips planned. We just returned from a work trip to Trentino, Italy that had to happen the first week of January. In February we return to Japan again for another project and also some extra time snowboarding in Hokkaido.
After that our goal is to spend some time in the Caribbean, and Central and South America since it’s a region we haven’t given much time to explore. Plus – new places! Summer will 100% be spent in North America and getting as much outdoor time in as possible. I’m hoping to not get on a plane from June to September.
After that, hopefully we’ll be able to get to some serious bucket list destinations come later this year (on the immediate list are Ethiopia, Sudan, India, Nepal and French Polynesian islands). But different opportunities always arise, usually last minute, in the travel blogging world so we will see where the year takes us.
Business-wise we’re working hard to really scale this website and increase our traffic. We’re hoping to hire a full-time assistant soon (so if you know anyone shoot us an email). It’s still just the two of us with a few freelancers helping on various task, and we cannot keep up with this business.
2020 is the year of travel videos. We have tons of footage I would like to get edited. I think I will set a number, hmm perhaps 50 new videos in 2020!
We also bought a new website this past year based around travel in the Canadian Rockies, so we’d like to get that up and running soon! We hear from so many of you how beautiful you think it is here and we want to make it as accessible as possible. We’ve even thought about running tours here in our own backyard!
Lastly, we both want to up our photography game. Neither of us know how to use Photoshop, and over-edited images seem to be the thing on social media these days, so we’d like to learn at least the basics. We’ve been struggling between making our social channels more lifestyle or just landscape/travel focused and we’ve been blending everything. I’m hoping this year we can expand our portfolio and get up earlier for sunrise photoshoots.
On a personal note, I know that we both want to enjoy the Canadian Rockies and a North American/non-travel lifestyle a bit more. More time outside, more mountains to climb, less time on the internet and more time in the wilderness, hiking, living a healthy lifestyle, and actually seeing more of North America. It’s so beautiful here!
We also want to buy a home. The ideal home, which for us is all about location. We just don’t know where we want that to be yet. We love Canmore, but you don’t get much bang for your buck here so we need to explore more of Western Canada and maybe the Pacific Northwest to find that perfect spot before we can commit to buying in. As with every year I would like a dog to be in the future, but I think that comes after the more permanent home.
For the sake of having an actionable list, a few of our goals this year are to:
- 50 Hikes/Summits this Summer
- 80 Days on the Mountain for Snowboarding Season
- Hit 100 countries
- Focus on YouTube (50 new videos)
- Finally Stick to A Morning Routine
- Read 10 Books
- Tighten Our Finances
- Learn Photoshop
- Get Involved in the Community At Home