After spending so much of 2017 on my own, I made it a plan in 2018 to build up more of a community in my life again.
I did this in two ways:
- Finding a home base so I didn’t have to live out of a backpack anymore.
- Planning my trips based on which friends I wanted to see and catch up with the most, above seeing as many new countries as possible.
Because I made community such a big focus of 2018, I felt constantly loved, supported, and surrounded by good energy this year.
It was a wonderful year in so many ways. Another year of growth, of nurturing my oldest and newest friendships, and leaning even more into my independence.
I spent a lot of this year (and the last part of 2017) trying to figure out where ‘home’ was. After living a nomadic life for over 5 years, your sense of belonging, of where you want to come back to, can get a bit muddled.
Perhaps I’ve always known this deep down, but it took really focusing on where I saw myself living and how I saw my future to make that thought of California as home more solidified. But once I realized it, California was all I could think about.
Even though I focused on seeing as many friends as possible vs countries, I still got to six new countries and 28 new cities in 2018 (for my 28th year, how perfect)!
I loved the mix of countries I went to this year as well, spread out through North America, Europe, and Africa.
In terms of my business and this blog, I doubled my income for the year and worked with more sponsors than I’ve ever worked with before, especially towards the end of the year.
I focused on growing my Instagram, my blog, and my presence in the travel blogging industry – guest writing for a handful of other bloggers and going to the first ever TravelCon in Texas.
This year, I felt more than ever like things were finally coming together in the right ways. I found a home to base myself in, caught up with so many friends whom I’d met throughout the past five years of travels, and started seeing the type of business growth that I could’ve only dreamed of when I first started my blog in 2012, and eventually my LLC and marketing consulting business in 2016.
2017 was all about chaos and extreme ups and downs. 2018 was about stability, something that I was desperately looking for at the end of last year. This year was also about well roundedness. I hope to carry that mindset of balance into 2019 and develop it more.
As I’ve slid into my late 20s, I’ve finally found a good mix of work-life balance, and figuring out what really makes me tick – community, family, building a business that inspires me, having a home, travel.
It’s now about making sure that I continue to have as much of those things as possible in my life.
This was my 2018, my year of finding home, in a nutshell!
January // California, Montreal, Chicago
My 2018 started off in the middle of nowhere. I found myself in a place coined ‘Siberia’, a huge property just east of Stockton in California that is owned by the dad of one of my friends. They throw a huge New Year’s Eve party every year, and it was my first time experiencing the ‘anything goes’ mentality of Siberia. You could say it was a good couple of days.
The rest of my January was just as fun, random, and full of unique experiences. I squeezed in a trip to Tahoe, my first time ever, which is crazy because it’s kind of a rite of passage for anyone who grew up in California.
I also took a 10 day trip to Montreal and Chicago to visit two of my closest friends – Pascale and Kelsey. It was my first time in Montreal, and even though I froze my ass off it was all kinds of winter wonderland magical.
In Montreal I learned a few key things:
- How important it is to layer properly.
- How hard it is to understand Canadian French vs European French.
- How cool of a city Montreal is in terms of architecture, food, history, and European vibes, and how beautiful it is even when completely covered in snow.
- Poutine is my weakness.
This trip to Montreal inspired my trip the following month to India and changed so much of the rest of my year. It was truly a grand start to 2018.
My trip to Chicago was more about catching up with one of my closest friends and less about sightseeing, as it was my second time in the city. But, I still ate a lot of pizza, visited the Art Institute of Chicago (and felt like Ferris Bueller), caught a show at the famous comedy club, Second City, and even drank at an underground tiki bar for a night.
With how many highs I had in January, I had one very profound low – the passing of my grandfather at the start of the month, my last living grandparent. I’m glad that I at least had a chance to say goodbye to him before he passed, something I didn’t have the chance to do with my two grandmothers while I was still living abroad, but it was a hard start to 2018.
“Not that I want to jump into the nomadic lifestyle full-time again – I’m still very much enjoying a fixed life right now – but there’s no doubt that I miss travel whenever it’s not in my life, or I don’t have an upcoming trip planned. I think that will always be the case for me.” // Wrap Up: January 2018
Related posts – Travel Misconceptions: Thailand
February // India, Oregon
My February plans changed completely once Pascale and I got together in January (always a dangerous combination).
On my first night in Montreal, we were drinking a bottle of wine together and we came up with this crazy (slightly tipsy) idea to do an impromptu trip to India in a couple of weeks – because why not?
Both of us had always wanted to go, but felt more comfortable with the idea of going with a friend for our first visit, and our schedules aligned perfectly to make the trip happen if we wanted it to.
The next night we were frantically figuring out how to do the last minute online Indian visa and booking our plane tickets. In two week’s time, we met up in Delhi and had two incredibly fun, challenging, and magical weeks traveling through Rajasthan.
We saw the Taj Mahal, found ourselves at an Indian wedding outside of Udaipur, and met two Indian guys whom we traveled with from Jaipur to Pushkar and who gave us a more local perspective.
We rode camels and slept in the Thar desert, and very nearly escaped getting sick. We even got matching tattoos on our feet in Delhi our last night in the country, while trying not to throw up from my stomach illness that hit right after my tattoo was done.
The trip was off the cuff, spontaneous, and full of so many good times with my partner in crime and perpetual travel buddy. India became forever ingrained as a special place to me, and one of my favorite countries after this trip.
After a whirlwind two weeks in India, I traveled to a completely different type of scenery and visited my dad and stepmom in rural Oregon for 10 days. Although it was a bit of a culture shock to go from the hot chaotic streets of India to quiet and snowy Oregon, I think it was what my body and mind needed.
I was still recovering from a respiratory illness that I caught right before I left India, and I needed a calm week or so to really take in all I had experienced – India was such a blur of experiences, both good and bad (mostly good). And, it was wonderful having so much quality time with my dad and stepmom, it had been over a year since I’d seen them last.
“I didn’t plan on backpacking India this year but the stars aligned perfectly when I went to go visit one of my best friends in Montreal in January, who was wanting to go to India last minute but wanted to go with someone else as well. Within 48 hours, we had our flights booked, our E-visa sorted, and our first night’s accommodation paid for.” // Travel Budgeting: Backpacking India for Two Weeks
March // California
After so much travel in January and February, I was looking forward to having a couple of chill months in California before moving abroad again. I had my sights on moving to Portugal pretty much since I got back to the US at the end of 2017, and that was still my plan.
I originally thought I would move in February or March, but then India happened and I took it as a chance to spend more time in my home state, recuperate my finances, slow down a bit, and push my move back a couple of months.
The truth is, by March I had already started to set down roots in California, at least mentally. I wasn’t expecting to love being back home as much as I did. I didn’t know what to think about it yet, because I still felt this urge to go to Portugal, but at the same time really loved living in California again.
In March, I focused on my business and successfully raised my rates to a point where I finally felt like I was being paid what my skills were worth.
I dealt with so much financial instability in 2017, the worst kind of stress, and I was over it. I vowed that 2018 would be the year that I took my finances and my business seriously, that I would be paid well, and grow my client list to only include companies that I enjoyed working with.
I ended up more than doubling my income in 2018 compared to 2017, so I stayed true to this promise.
I spent the whole month of March in California, splitting my time between Santa Cruz and San Francisco since I still didn’t have a permanent place to stay. March was a month full of celebrating friends’ birthdays, building more of a community in the Bay Area (and thus making it harder to leave), and going on an overwhelming number of dates.
I went hiking in the beautiful Marin Headlands and celebrated St. Paddy’s Day in Oakland with a group of girlfriends, tried out a lot of trendy restaurants and bars around San Francisco, attended my sister’s famous Oscar party, and celebrated my grandpa’s life with family in Santa Cruz at the end of the month.
“I may not be in Europe right this minute, but I also gave myself more time to save money stateside after India, and to continue reconnecting with all of my friends and family who I’ve missed a lot in the past year. In the past few months, I’ve realized how much I needed that last part. I feel grounded and happy, mostly because I have a positive community around me again. It’s something that I want to focus on even when I’m abroad later this year, to create a solid community and continue to slow down my travels wherever I go.” // Wrap Up: March 2018
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April // California
April was spent mostly in Santa Cruz with my mom, soaking up those beautiful California beach vibes while I could. I fit in a few more friends’ birthdays up in the city – including a flannel themed party in Oakland and bar hopping around the Castro in onesies for my friend Urvi’s thirty-one-sie party.
I did more hiking around Lands End and Stinson Beach in San Francisco and Wilder Ranch in Santa Cruz, and went to a Vance Joy concert at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre. It was a good mix of new explorations, family time, and friend hangouts.
April was also the month that I started meditating more on a regular basis, and because I made it a daily habit, my mindset was so much more balanced and proactive as a whole.
In general, I tried to make April as relaxed and California-centric as possible to gear up for my big move to Europe come May.
“April reminded me of how hard it’s going to be to leave California this time around. Except for the little taste I had of living in Greece this past summer, it was the first time in a long while where it felt like I had a small community that could build into something wonderful.” // Wrap Up: April 2018
Related posts – 5 Local Experiences to Have in Budapest
May // Iceland, UK
The start of May was full of goodbyes and my going away party in San Francisco. On one hand, I was excited about the summer ahead of me and all the travels I was going to do. On the other hand, I had been living in California for 6 months by this point since my last stint of living abroad, and it was hard to say goodbye to the small community I had begun to create in the Bay Area.
At this point, I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to move to Portugal for the longterm, or if it was going to be just a place I lived in for the summer, so I didn’t know how long my goodbye would be this time.
It was when my flight took off for Iceland, my first stop in Europe, that I truly understood how much I was going to miss California. As the wheels lifted off the tarmac at SFO, even with my excitement for upcoming travels, I felt my heart sink for all that I was leaving behind.
It was the first time I had ever felt that in my travels – that I was leaving a place behind before I was ready.
I spent a week in Iceland. For the first five days, Urvi joined me for a road trip around the island nation. I had been dreaming of going to Iceland for years, but the cost, mostly, had held me back. When I found a cheap flight from SFO to Reykjavik on the way to Edinburgh, I jumped at the chance to finally see the country.
And I’m so glad I did.
My trip involved long days where the sun didn’t set until 10pm. There were glaciers and icebergs, puffins, black sand beaches, rainbows, and all kinds of otherworldly landscapes.
Similar to India, but for completely different reasons, it was one of the most unique countries I had been to. I swam between two tectonic plates in nearly freezing water, chased waterfalls, and spent an afternoon or two in Reykjavik’s design-friendly hipster cafes.
I spent the rest of the month and part of June in the UK. First in Scotland to catch up with a friends in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and then the western islands to trace my family ancestry on the Isle of Mull.
I celebrated my 28th birthday in London, bar hopping with friends in Covent Garden, and even saw The xx perform live at a new music festival in East London called All Points East.
The UK is another place that I couldn’t believe I still hadn’t been to before this year. I had so many friends from there or who had moved there, and it’s where most of my family ancestry is from. I kept putting it off because I wanted to make it its own special trip.
In 2018, I did just that and ended up spending a month in the UK.
“In my 28 years, I’ve learned how to travel solo like a pro, start over in any new city without knowing anyone, navigate the journey of starting and growing my own business, and have felt more happiness, much more, than sadness or discontent. I’ve created a custom life that, even with the usual ups and downs of any life, is one that I love fully, like a dear friend and confidant. Because the thing is, all I ever wanted was to be free. And I’ve found that freedom through adventure, creativity, and never taking no for an answer.” // My 28th Year: On the Places I Once Called Home
June // UK, Portugal, Spain
I spent half of June in the UK and the rest in Portugal.
After my birthday at the end of May, I subletted a cute AirBnB in West London for a couple of weeks and spent my days in museums, eating cupcakes, attending a literary festival, and tried to see as many London sights as possible (there were an endless supply of options).
In addition to London, I took day trips to Stonehenge and Bath and spent a few days up in York, to enjoy the more town-like vibes of these smaller cities and the English countryside.
And suddenly, I was on my way to a potential new home base – Portugal. It’s a country that I’d hardly heard a bad thing about from other travelers, so I arrived with high hopes and the curiosity of whether or not it would feel like home.
I spent one night in Lisbon before heading up north to spend a week and a half enjoying the northern city of Porto.
On my first night in Portugal, I landed in Lisbon during one of the city’s biggest annual festivals – Dia de Santo António. There were parades and parties throughout the streets that lasted all night long. It set a tone for what my summer in Portugal would be – one grand adventure.
The next week and a half I fell in love with beautiful Porto and its great wine. I rented another AirBnB room in a residential area of the city, and took the time to understand Portuguese culture and history through various walking tours, sightseeing, and meeting locals.
Porto actually ended up being my favorite city in Portugal. It had so much history (and good wine) to discover. The views along the Douro River with a glass of port in hand were hard to beat.
I experienced part of another huge festival in Porto – Dia de São João (you can probably tell that the Portuguese love to party) – before heading back down to Lisbon to meet up with a guy (now boyfriend) who I dated briefly in San Francisco before I left for Iceland.
He traveled thousands of miles to spend a romantic week with me traveling through Portugal. We explored 13th century castles in Evora and stayed in a Pousada, took in the coastal views along the Algarve, and even took a mini impromptu road trip to Spain to see a Flamenco show in Seville.
On one of his last nights in Portugal, we watched the Portuguese lose in the World Cup at a huge city square surrounded by thousands of locals and football fans. We rented a nice AirBnB in one of the oldest parts of the city, and the balcony view from that place is still one of the best views I’ve ever had at an apartment I’ve rented.
At the end of our week, he helped me move into my sublet in Lisbon before heading back to San Francisco.
“You would think after all my years of travel I would have little to no culture shock by now when arriving in new places, but I always forget how challenging the first couple weeks can be in a new country, especially non-English speaking ones, and especially when you plan to live there for awhile (i.e. you’re not just a tourist).” // Wrap Up: June 2018
July // Portugal
The second half of my Portuguese summer only continued to get better once I met my awesome female housemates in my new sublet.
We were all from completely different areas of the world, but fit perfectly together. We would spend every Thursday having ‘Wine Not’ nights out, where we would try a new trendy restaurant in Lisbon and drink a whole lot of wine. Our favorite restaurant quickly became By the Wine, and our favorite brunch place Flora & Fauna.
We celebrated two birthdays together, took weekend trips to Costa da Caparica, Peniche, and Porto, and partied on Pink Street and Bairro Alto.
July is also when I started my 5-week Portuguese language classes at LUSA Language School, and tried to wrap my head about the Portuguese language better.
Besides a few weekend trips with the housemates, I hardly did any sightseeing in July. After so many travels around Portugal in the second half of June, I was simply enjoying living in a new city and getting to know it in more local, subtle ways and making new friends.
By this point I had already decided that Portugal wasn’t a place that I wanted to be longterm. Although there were a lot of things that I loved about the country, there were a lot of frustrating aspects about Portuguese culture as well, that most people wouldn’t see as a tourist.
After giving Europe another try and not having the kind of connection I was looking for as a local, I had my sights on moving back to California again within a couple of months.
“It’s baffling to me how much of an underrated destination Portugal still is. I only heard countless good things from other travelers before I finally saw it myself, but it still has far less visitors per year than nearby countries, such as Spain, France, and Italy. Perhaps that’s where its charm lies, however – it’s not overrun by tourism.” // Travel Tips for Portugal: 20 Things That Surprised Me
August // Portugal, Morocco
Knowing that August was going to be my last month in Portugal, I ramped up the sightseeing and tried to see as much of the country as possible in a few week’s time.
I traveled to Sintra with my housemates for a weekend to explore the historic castles and hilltop views. I spent another weekend exploring the northern cities of Aveiro and Coimbra on my own, and spent my last weekend in Cascais, riding bikes along the coast with my housemates and a couple of other friends.
My housemates and I enjoyed a few more ‘Wine Not’ Thursdays, went to a rooftop showing of Mamma Mia, and had countless hilarious nights out and so many laughs. It was hard to say goodbye to these women who had made up so much of my summer in Portugal.
By this point, I had planned a trip to Morocco for the end of the summer with my friend Chenee, whom I met in Greece the year before. I had also already bought my plane ticket home from Marrakech and bought a ticket for a travel blogging conference in Texas in September, so I knew that Morocco was my last stint abroad before creating a proper home base in California.
After a bittersweet goodbye with my housemates in Portugal, I took off for Morocco to meet up with Chenee. We spent two adventurous and colorful weeks traveling through Morocco and gorging ourselves on veggie tagines and Kefta Mkaouara.
In just two weeks, we made it to Fes, Chefchaouen, Casablanca, Essaouira, Marrakech, and even spent a night under the stars of the Sahara Desert.
From the desert to waterfalls, and the coast, I loved Morocco even more than I thought I would. It was the perfect mixture of culture, adventure, and such a great variety of scenery. Plus I got to see goats hanging out in Argan Trees, so there’s that.
It was an ideal way to wrap up my summer abroad and finally get my first taste of the African continent.
“I left San Diego over 5 years ago with the intention of getting outside of my comfort zone, having international adventures, and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. And I did just that. My travels from the past 5 years have been life changing, real, and led me to the career I’ve made for myself today as a travel writer and business owner. But, by continuing to stay on the road, even after I figured out my place, it made me lose my footing again. It’s time for me to slow down, enjoy the solid connections and friends in my life, and become truly comfortable with who I am and what I’m doing with my time here. And for right now, California is the next step on the journey for me.” // I’m Moving Back to California
Related posts – 6 Local Experiences to Have in Calgary
September // California, Texas
The first few days of September were spent finishing up my time in Marrakech and saying my goodbyes to Chenee, who would be staying and working in the country for awhile longer.
And then, before I knew it, I was on a plane to Oslo, then another plane to to Los Angeles and finally back to San Francisco. I made it back to the city just in time to celebrate my LLC turning two with my sister.
It was a bit surreal to be back stateside after only a few months abroad, but I couldn’t deny how happy it made me to be back in California and in a culture that I knew like the back of my hand.
I had a sublet set up with friends of friends pretty much right when I got back to the city, so I had a place to unpack my bags, a new neighborhood to explore, and a temporary home to come back to.
Only a week into my new California life, I was on a plane to Austin, Texas to attend the first ever TravelCon. Founded by one of the biggest travel bloggers in the industry, Matt Kepnes, I had an inspiring week of meeting other entrepreneurs, travel writers, and listening to more than a few rockstar keynote speeches.
I met some of the big-name bloggers who I had been following for years, and who have inspired me in my own writing and business for so long. It was the most inspirational travel conference I had attended yet, and I came back to San Francisco refreshed and ready to take my blog and business to another level.
“What I found in Morocco blew me away. The varied landscape, the history, the desert, the friendly welcoming attitude of locals, the food, the playful humor, and, yes, the amount of beautiful people. This is why I love travel, because even though I’ve been slow traveling for the past five years I’m still constantly surprised and amazed by the new cultures I visit. It’s that feeling of resetting my mind and expanding it that I love so much.” // Morocco Travel Tips: What to Know Before You Go
October // California
After the initial honeymoon feeling of being back in California started to fade, my sublet ended too.
I spent most of the next month going to house walkthroughs every week, trying to find the perfect more permanent fit while sleeping on my sister’s couch. I’m not going to lie, it was a pretty discouraging month of either going to places that were overly competitive with rent control or really shitty places that were overpriced and had no natural lighting.
Although I had recently landed a big new client that allowed me to live in this expensive city comfortably, San Francisco was turning out to be harder to move to than I originally thought it would be. With having lived in 9 other cities around the world, I never had as much trouble finding a decent place to live as I did in San Francisco.
But, it finally happened. Just as I about had it with San Francisco housing and was about to start looking at other cities to move to in California, I found the perfect place in a neighborhood that I already knew I loved. I finally felt like I found home.
I started going to yoga classes regularly, kept up my meditation, and found my favorite cafes around my new neighborhood. I got into a routine that I had been craving for awhile.
I also celebrated Halloween in style, dressing up as one of the skeletons from the David S. Pumpkins skit from SNL, camped for a night on Angel Island with a group of girlfriends, and went to the free music festival in Golden Gate Park – Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
There weren’t any big travels in October, but it was more a month of getting comfortable in my apartment and figuring out what I wanted my San Francisco life to look like.
“October was a very exciting month for me in particular because I finally found a more permanent place to live in San Francisco. Besides the fact that I get offered coke on my way to yoga class sometimes (the Haight is rampant with drug dealers, homeless people, and hippies), it has been the perfect place for me to set down roots in the city. There is truly never a dull day in my neighborhood, but I kind of like its mix of hectic yet laid back nature.” // Wrap Up: October & November
November // California, Arizona
November was full on in all the right ways. Now that I felt more grounded, I started to thrive in my San Francisco life.
My assistant who had been with me for the past year, but only on a very part time basis, gave her notice. I took it as a sign to hire someone who would be able to invest more time into my business, around 20-30 hours per week instead of 10-12.
I found and hired a designer to redo my whole blog design and logo in January. And, mid-month I took a 6-day press trip to Arizona with Visit Mesa. It was a week of desert landscapes, many cacti, and adventures to new spots around the state – including Mesa, Flagstaff, Windsor, and Monument Valley.
I also worked on collaborations with HI USA and Breckenridge Brewery, and was contacted by Mazda towards the end of the month asking if I’d like to come up to Whistler, Canada for an upcoming campaign.
In terms of my personal life, that guy who came to visit me in Portugal and who I had been on and off dating for months, well, we decided to make it official in early November.
I invited him to come down to Santa Cruz with me for Thanksgiving and he met the whole family. We enjoyed my mom’s cooking, went bowling, and even stayed at this little hippie retreat up in the woods of Aptos. After Thanksgiving, we took off for a night sleeping of underneath the redwoods at Big Sur.
It truly felt like so many things were coming together in all the right ways this month. It was a strong way to start wrapping up 2018 and look forward to what 2019 might bring.
“I felt this with my first visit, and I’ll write it down here: Arizona is one of the most beautiful US states. Its red rocks, desert vibes, and versatile landscape are all a traveler’s (and photographer’s) dream come true. I can see why so many people choose to retire there these days.” // The Best Things to Do in Mesa, AZ
December // California, Canada
And finally, after a whirlwind November, December rolled in.
I went up to Whistler to work with Mazda and test drive some new 2019 CX models. I had a quick afternoon to snowboard, which was mostly just me falling on my ass for an hour or two because it had been a couple of years since my last run. I also met some really inspiring fellow content creators, like Rachel from Rachel Roams.
The rest of the month was spent going to friends’ holiday work parties, enjoying date nights, and settling into my new all-female coworking space, The Wing.
I celebrated Christmas at home in Santa Cruz, our last Christmas in my hometown because my mom is moving further down central California. I had a relaxing week during the holidays, still working but also spending quality time with my mom, sister, and brother.
I’ll be ending the month celebrating my brother’s wedding on New Year’s Eve. He’s the first of us siblings to get married, and I can’t wait to ring in the New Year with him and his new wife tomorrow. It’ll be a great start to 2019, surrounded by family and loved ones.
2018 ended up being the polar opposite of 2017. Instead of enjoying a year to myself again like the previous year, I surrounded myself with people who made me happiest. I worked on strengthening my community, my friendships, and finally found a more permanent home base to come back to.
2018 was the perfect balance of travels, business, and community. It was one of the best years I’ve had in a long time.
I hope you all have a great New Year! Here’s to a wonderful 2019! 🙂
How was your 2018? What are you most looking forward to in 2019?
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