I’d been thinking that 2015 was not the greatest year for me, travel and otherwise.
I didn’t get to do a long weekend trip to Montreal in 2015, as I was hoping to.
My husband and kids went on vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina without me, because I was crazy busy at work during the April school break.
I also hardly traveled for the second half of the year, since I got a full-time job in August and long weekend trips have been more difficult to schedule. I even had to drop my posting schedule a couple of times, and a couple of weeks, here and there, had not published any new posts.
That said, looking at my photo collection from 2015, I clearly see I’m wrong. There are several things that happened in 2015 that I should be happy about.
Three-week vacation in Europe
I’ve been planning for a while to send my son to a two-week overnight camp in Poland when he’s old enough, and Peter and I decided that we should all go to Poland at that time. And since we always like to see some new places when we’re in Europe (visiting family), I asked for three weeks off and to my surprise, my boss did agree to it.
We got to visit Vienna, Austria, where I’d never been before, and Krakow, Poland, which I’d seen several times, but really wanted to go back.
Spending four days in Vienna was not enough, of course, to see everything worth seeing in this great city.
One of the best things about our trip to Vienna was being there with not just my family but the fact that my sister was able to join us as well. It was fun walking around Vienna with her the first evening, just the two of us.
She joined us for sightseeing most of the time as well, and thanks to her, we also now have a few photos of the whole family, since usually none of the photos include me, since I’m the “photographer.”
Some of the photos are posed, like the one she took of us at the Schönbrunn Palace I used for the featured image.
In others she captured us unaware, like the one below, where we’re looking at the items on display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
I was born and grew up in Warsaw, but Krakow is one my favorite cities – so full of history and charm. I was happy to spend there almost two weeks, especially that my parents were able to join us for one week while we were there.
I have a couple of posts about Krakow already, but there are more to come.
My first (but not the last, I hope) travel conference
Lucky for me, the second Women in Travel Summit was held in Boston, Massachusetts, a mere hour drive from where I live. I’m fairly new to the travel blogging business – I’ve only blogged for about over a year – so I would balk at spending a lot of money for travel and lodging just to attend a conference. But since WITS was right here, all I had to pay was the $151 registration fee and a couple daily parking fees, to meet dozens of fascinating women from all over the world!
If you are a woman and are able to go to the 2016 WITS in Irvine, California, do go. I am sure you won’t regret it.
My first “income” from blogging and tweeting
One of the exhibitors at the WITS conference was Corning Gorilla Glass, whose marketing agency later contacted the participants for sponsored posts. I agreed to write one, but asked if they’d accept a different angle than they were proposing. They did, and so I earned my first (and so far only) check for blogging for “Nerding Out with My Son over Corning Gorilla Glass.”
I was also invited to cohost two OneTravel Twitter chats, for which I was also paid.
What I earned wasn’t much, but still, at least it probably allows me to deduct some travel related expenses from my taxes.
My first “sponsored” trips
I don’t kid myself that I will ever be able to live off just my blog. I know it’s possible, but I simply don’t have enough free time to do that. Not with a full time job.
I do hope my blog does provide my readers with some useful information, but I’ve realized over the last year that the main reason I blog is because I like writing about my trips, and reliving them again as I look at the photos and write about the places we visited. If I push myself too hard and it becomes a chore, I won’t enjoy it as much.
That said, I like traveling even better when I get free tickets to the attractions I want to see. That’s why I was very happy to get positive replies from the Quebec City and Area Tourism Bureau, Vienna Tourist Board, the Cambridge Science Festival, the Big Bus Vienna, and Cross Sound Ferry who gave us free tickets to various attractions.
We’ve seen so many places during our trips, I have enough material for the next couple of months at least.
Our hopes for 2016
We haven’t decided yet where we’re going on vacation this summer and winter. We’ll be going to Europe (Poland) again this summer, that much I know, but we haven’t decided yet where else we’ll go. Perhaps Germany. I’m not sure.
Peter would also like to try a cruise, or go to California or Hawai’I, but that might be pricey, if we want to do it in addition to going to Europe (which we have to do, since we need to visit my family every year.)
I also want to make more use of the new hiking boots I got recently, and my Appalachian Mountain Society membership. I very much enjoyed our first full family hike up Mount Wachussett.
I guess we’ll see what 2016 brings. I can’t foretell the future, not would I want to.
I’ve asked on a forum what some of my travel blogging colleagues think about their 2015 and what they hope to accomplish in 2016, and here’s what they said. (I have to admit, reading their comments about 2015, I’m beginning to feel very unaccomplished again 🙂 )
Two Monkeys Travel Group
We set our goals high for 2015. We had New Year’s resolutions for every part of our lives – our travels, gadgets, income, Two Monkeys Travel, for our own personal achievements and milestones in our relationship.
We decided to be quite ambitious, because we figured that if you’re going to make a wish for something, then there’s no point in wishing for mediocre!
Our biggest travel goal was to start traveling in luxury, to transition from our former backpacking selves into luxury travelers and we did it! From hostels and dorm rooms, we’re now staying in luxury boutique hotels without giving up on amazing travel experiences.
We knew that we wanted to buy a car to road trip around without having to rely on buses, camping on beaches when we felt like it. When we arrived in Costa Rica, without even looking, someone offered to sell us a $100 car called Miguelito, which we drove all over Costa Rica and finally sold to a volunteering backpacker who was living by the Caribbean.
There were other material resolutions that we achieved too, like having new laptops and a DSLR, but our biggest achievement has been in growing our personal blog from a near zero following to a community travel website with over 20 writers and 100k followers on social media in just over a year. We achieved our resolution of living solely on income from our website and at the same time provided a platform for new bloggers and writers to build their own following too!
We didn’t achieve everything though, as our biggest travel goal was to reach Antarctica this year and we have accepted it’s just not going to happen, so it’s probably not quite the right time. It is at the top of the list for 2016 though, along with others like getting back into more outdoor and adventure sports, traveling by motorbike again just like when we first met and spending as much time on ourselves as we have on the website this past year! Oh, yeah, since we’ve decided to live in Bogota for a whole year, we’re gonna learn Salsa too!
Travels with Carole
I wanted to go to Tahiti in 2015, but went instead to China and Bali, Indonesia. I climbed the Great Wall, and I almost rubbed noses with a Kimodo dragon on his home turf. Before the year ends, I will travel to NYC for Christmas to see what the Big Apple offers for that season. For 2016, I will visit Lake Charles, Louisiana to participate in their Mardi Gras (the second biggest in the U.S.), and I will return to China to visit lesser-known areas as well as the pandas. I also hope to soak up some sunshine in Los Angeles and to take high tea in London. Tahiti has dropped off my list for now.
Our Resolutions for 2015 were simple, travel as much as we can, afterall we have a name like Gypsycouple to live upto. We did have a long list of places we did want to visit but have been only able to tick roughly half of them. One destination in particular we did want to go to was the land of volcanoes, beaches and tropical rainforests, Indonesia. Hopefully we can cover it this year.
An important learning from 2015 was that planning too much too soon can be a double edged sword. Too many cancellations and needless money spent rescheduling which we could’ve spent elsewhere. Hopefully 2016 will prove 2015 to be a lesson well learnt.
The Island Drum
Funny you should ask about 2015 resolutions, because I actually did physically write a New Year’s resolutions list for 2015. However, most of them were geared more towards taking better care of myself, mentally and physically, rather than travel related goals and achievements. I’m happy to report that I did manage a few trips to the gym, but the greatest accomplishment in the warm and fuzzy, mental health department was connecting with more fellow bloggers in person. My hat’s off to TBEX Asia for that opportunity and enlightenment, because it was a real eye opener for me. Being able to share the ups and downs of digital nomad-hood with kindred spirits was the encouragement and social interaction I had been needing. So ‘making new friends’ did indeed get accomplished. Travel wise, ‘Surf trip to Indonesia’ didn’t happen, but I had much richer cultural experiences elsewhere. In fact, 2015 turned out, for me, to be all about cultural experiences. And unplanned ones at that.
During the monsoon season, a quick stop in Koh Lipe, Thailand enabled me to get some insight into the history and lifestyle of the Urak Lawoi Sea Gypsies; one of three indigenous sea gypsy tribes of the Adang Archipelago.
Popping into Taman Negara Pahang, Malaysia, I was introduced to the Malaysian Bateq tribe; one of the many indigenous tribes of Peninsular Malaysia.
I also met Mah Meri tribespeople, another recognized indigenous Malaysian tribe whose majority lives in Selangor, Malaysia and along the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. They had taken their tribal talents to the annual Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching, Sarawak. Of course that music festival was also a big dose of fabulous culture as well as amazing world music and I highly recommend!
For 2016, the Philippines is definitely on the travel itinerary and hopefully that Indonesian surf session will also become a reality. I’ll consider that a well deserved bit of me time as well as good old fashion fun, both of which I hope to prioritize in 2016.
The Roaming Renegades
Initially 2015 was going to be all about saving up, planning and organizing our long term travels for 2016. We had expected it to be one of our quietest years for a while, but in turned out to be our most adventurous yet!
We began by heading over to Ireland and Northern Ireland to spend a crazy St. Patrick’s day in Dublin and then exploring the magical Giant’s Causeway, stunning Wicklow mountains and the revelation that was Belfast.
Then we ventured to the Slovakian Capital, Bratislava. A wonderful and contrasting “little big” city that is only an hour away from the unbelievably wonderful Vienna, Austria. Not only did we visit these amazing countries, but then we also took the trip of a lifetime over to the Swiss Alps. We saw the most breath taking mountain scenery, paraglided from a 4000ft peak, hung off a wire 2000ft over the impressive Lauterbrunnen valley before rafting down the glacial melt waters of Jungfrau and leaping over 30ft over waterfalls and down 50ft rappels whilst canyoning! 2015 was one hell of an adventure!
A year of huge changes in my life, 2015 has certainly been a year to look back on!
Around this time of year we all should stop and take a moment to reflect, in a world where everything needs to be now we don’t take enough time to think about what we have accomplished. The reason we need to do this? So we don’t get complacent! Looking back, only briefly, gives me the time to appreciate what incredible times I’ve had and reminds me of what I have to look forward to. Each year, I’m always amazed by what I’ve managed to do, and this year is no different.
This year saw me traveling once again back to Thailand for some peace and relaxation. By May this year life had become rather hectic already with tales of relationships gone bad, broken hearts & lost jobs. It gave me an opportunity to finally get my thoughts back in order and refocus on what’s important again – the answer always came back to exploring, traveling the world and finding adventure.
So, on the 1st of August, I bought the domain name MillieGoes.com to start to document my adventures. I thought this would be a way to share my stories with the world, and to inspire a new generation of travellers the way certain bloggers inspired me years ago, however instead it’s become an adventure in itself! Could I have predicted that I, the most tongue tied human in existence could somewhere put her racing thoughts and memories into words that others may enjoy? Not at all! Yet, somehow I have.
Following the launch of the blog, it was time to hit a few more destinations I had been looking to such as Croatia & Iceland. These were the two I had promised myself I would visit by the end of the year and I’m glad to say that my hard work and saving meant I could get there.
Iceland enabled me to see the dancing northern lights in the chilled Iceland sky, warmed up in the blue lagoon and feel the power of the geothermal waters in geysers & waterfalls.
Croatia gave me the chance to explore the beaches of the Mediterranean in style – meandering down cobbled stoned streets, swimming in the clear waters and meeting new friends that inspired me to do even more with my life. Both countries I absolutely love, and as always, I’ve left a little piece of my heart in each.
The end of the year also has been a little bit of a rollercoaster, being told I may not be able to have children hit me hard despite still being young. I had always pictured a family in my future, so to have had that taken away for a few weeks was terrifying – now things are looking more positive here so we can celebrate in that at least! I also lost a friend in October, all of us know how hard it is to say goodbye but Polly truly was someone who I had admired from the first time I saw her in school. She touched so many; it’s devastating to know that her laugh is gone and that her partners in crime are now have a little less joy in their lives going into the new year. She will be forever in my thoughts and I hope that there is a lot to explore up there for all who have been taken too soon but have a heart of adventure.
I guess the final thing to reflect on is all the good things, the laughs I’ve had and the new friends I’ve made. This new adventure I’m on I hope will never end, and I know that the good times will follow the bad! I have a feeling 2016 is going to be one hell of a year, so raise a glass and help me see in the new year with a smile on your face and laughter in your eyes – cheers!
My Adventures Across the World
My travel obsession in the last 5 years has taken me to Central and South America a countless number of times. A year ago I had resolved that 2015 would finally take me to a different continent, at least so that I could prove my friends that to me traveling did not just mean going to Latin America. I wasn’t sure about the exact country I would go to, but I knew it would have to be Asia. On 1 October 2015, I eventually fulfilled my dream and travelled to Indonesia. It was a great experience, interesting as well as shocking in many ways. I toured Java, Bali and the Komodo Islands for three weeks, seeing some gorgeous archaeological sites, some incredible nature, gorgeous beaches, fantastic sunsets and sunrises, experiencing Indonesia’s unique and multi-faceted culture and trying its amazing food.
Indonesia is completely different from any country I have travelled to before. It is crowded beyond imagination, and I felt I could hardly get away from people there. Yet, those same people that make Indonesia so crowded and so congested also make it so special. They are as friendly as it gets. I would not even have to ask them if I could take a picture, because before I would do that, they would approach me and ask to pose for one with me. It took me a while to get used to that, actually – but I surely felt like a star wherever I went, as people smiled at me, greeted and welcomed me.
My plan for 2016 is to explore more of South East Asia – I already have tickets, so it is just a matter of waiting and reading to plan my travels a bit better. This time I will be going with my sister, and it will be her first time there. I wonder if she will be as shocked as I was my first time there.
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How was YOUR 2015? And what are you hoping for in 2016? Let me know in the comments below!
Invitation to the #WeekendWanderlust Link Up
#WeekendWanderlust, hosted by Chris & Heather from A Brit and a Southerner, Jessi & Tara from Outbound Adventurer, Ashley from A Southern Gypsy, Justin and Lauren from Justin Plus Lauren, and yours truly, is a collaborative effort to share travel blog posts, and to discuss all travel-related things.
The hosts organize each week a link up through which travel bloggers from around the world can promote their posts, in exchange for a promise to give some attention to other travel bloggers. (One of the rules for linking up is to comment on three linked up posts.)
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