Warning: This is a very long post – grab a cuppa and get comfy!
As the year comes to an end, I’ve been re-reading The Travel Journo’s travel wishlist for 2017 – a post I wrote at the beginning of the year. And it made me smile – partly because I was so ambitious in the many places I wanted to visit. And secondly, because I actually haven’t travelled as much as maybe I thought I would this year. My freelance work and a whole load of ‘life stuff’ has changed since January – and that has all affected how I’ve travelled this year.
But that’s the wonderful and unpredictable thing about life, isn’t it?
So, as a nice way to round up 2017, here’s a summary of my year, with a round-up of the places I have visited – along with some of my travel and freelancing highlights. I also have a bit of exciting news to share with you at the end, which you’re very welcome to scroll down to if you can’t be bothered reading the rest of my ramblings!
Just a few weeks after we returned from Africa in January, I headed off to the Champagne region of France with the British Guild of Travel Writers. It was freezing and not as pretty as I imagine it is in the summer, but it was a great trip. I mean who wouldn’t want to spend four days drinking their way through the best champagne houses in the world?
Read about my Champagne trip here:
After three months in Africa, it was nice to ‘just be’, spend some time at home in London and get back into my freelance travel writing. February is mine and Ben’s wedding anniversary. So, while we weren’t able to fly back to Jamaica (that would have been nice!) we did celebrate at our favourite Caribbean restaurant, Negril, named after the beautiful town we got married in.
Later in February, we also enjoyed a ‘staycation’ at the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill, where I reviewed their Regency Executive Suite. Keep your eyes peeled for a review coming up this week of their lovely winter terrace.
In March, I really knuckled down and focused on improving my In the Press section of my blog. This year I decided it was time to streamline the ‘journalist/travel writer me’ with the ‘blogger me’ and this section of the blog is a result of that, allowing me to showcase the various online and print publications I write for.
I have to admit it’s still a work in progress and I always find that as a freelancer, the admin side of my job often gets pushed aside for the immediate work that’s going to pay the bills. One day, I’ll be big and successful enough to hire a virtual assistant. But hopefully the majority of my published work will be in that section very soon!
While I didn’t travel overseas in March, I did fly up to Aberdeen for the weekend to see one of my best friends Hannah and her beautiful daughter Poppy. The weekend went super fast but it was so nice to see them, explore the city and get some sea air!
In April I went on my first group press trip of the year to the Muğla province of Turkey. The aim was to explore the culture, beaches, food and drink of the region, hosted by The Hilton Dalaman Resort & Spa. It was great to get away after a few months of no travel and meet a lovely bunch of journalists.
Closer to home, Ben and I spent a weekend enjoying a ‘staycation’ at the Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch which was cool as I don’t hang out in East London that often.
That month we went to one of the loveliest weddings ever for my friend Gemma, in the seaside town of Whitstable and stayed in the prettiest AirBnb. In fact, April was definitely the start of wedding season. At the end of the month, I headed over to the town of Carlingford in County Lough, Ireland for my friend Caroline’s hen party. We stayed in the most gorgeous house, went clay pigeon shooting and partied in the local town. I had quite an early flight to Belfast so was very thankful to be hosted by the Bloc Hotel the night before. I highly recommend a stay here if you’re ever flying out of Gatwick at the crack of dawn.
Read about my April travels here:
In May, I really started to up my guest blogging content and got some great bloggers to feature in my guest blogger Q&A series including Sophie Cliff, Catherine Lux of Lux Life and Lucy of Wanderluce. I even posted a Q&A with myself, as I felt that it was time to make my blog a bit more personal and reveal a bit more about myself!
It was in May that Ben and I decided to get serious about buying a house and finally making the move out of London (because let’s face it, who can afford to buy in London?) So we spent many weekends hopping on trains to suss out various towns that were commutable into London, with aim of, hopefully, moving in 2018.
It was around this time I decided I needed to up my income and took on a freelance in-house digital editor role at Atlas magazine (by Etihad Airways), helping them launch their new website. I know I won’t ever go back into full-time office work (once a freelancer, always a freelancer!) and this was just temporary, but it was great to mix things up, meet some great people and build on my digital skills.
I don’t think we can talk about the month of May without mentioning the horrific terror attacks that happened in the UK – and sadly, continued into June. I won’t replay the horrific events in London and Manchester but I know it shook many people I know (me included) in all sorts of different ways. I don’t normally write these kinds of posts but felt compelled to write the post Travel, Anxiety and finding the meaningful in the meaningless. I think many people could relate to the issues I talk about in this post in the aftermath of these events.
Read some of my favourite May posts here:
My digital editor role carried on into June so I didn’t travel very far, but we did get a couple of UK trips in that month.
I spent a lovely weekend up in Derbyshire, heading to the Eroica Festival with friends and popping in to see my cousin who lives up there. It’s a really pretty part of the country, if you ever get to visit!
That month, I wrote one of my first product reviews, a piece about the summer sandals by the Twins Collection. I don’t often write about products – and barely ever write about fashion – but I’d like to cover some more blog posts like this going into 2018. What do you think?
I also used the opportunity of being at home in June to write some more inspirational pieces from my Africa travels:
In July, I went into another office freelance role, this time in copy and content writing. So once again, I put any travelling or press trips on hold. One of my July highlights was my mum coming to visit me in London and we went to the very lovely Number Sixteen Hotel in Kensington to try the Grayson Perry afternoon tea.
One of my personal highlights of July was seeing one of my best friends, Caroline, get married in the beautiful Colshaw Hall in Cheshire. The whole day was stunning.
Top July posts
I didn’t really feel the need to travel anywhere in August because it was so hot in London! (which is always dangerous when you are freelance because there is the constant temptation to ditch the work for an afternoon in the sunshine. I didn’t write about this on the blog but Ben and I did take the opportunity to go for a paddle in the ponds on Hampstead Heath (or rather, I dragged Ben there, he wasn’t so enthusiastic about jumping into the freezing water!) It was fun, if a little nerve-wracking, especially when I felt ‘something’ tickling my toes in the water….
The sunshine didn’t follow us, sadly, when we headed up to Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Festivals. It rained, and rained, and rained. But we still had a fantastic weekend. And I was able to reminisce about my university days here.
In August I also wrote some further product reviews which included a trial of the Kobo Aura H20 – a waterproof e-Reader which I ended up loving, despite being cynical at first!
I had various content projects going on throughout August and September, so it was a great opportunity to try out a few co-working places. The first one I tried was Martello Hall in Hackey which offers a cool alternative to working at home.
The 27 September was also World Tourism Day which encouraged me to write this piece about the amazing examples of sustainable tourism I’ve experienced during my travels. Look out for my piece on The Good Hotel which I wrote the following month – an amazing example of sustainable tourism in our own city.
I managed to fit in some food reviews around my freelance work in October, including a visit to Chamberlain’s of London to coincide with National Seafood Week and a visit to the super stylish Boki in Seven Dials – a great spot for brunch, lunch or anything in between!
If you’re interested in mindfulness and travel, you may have read my post about the Mindful Getaway guide. This was a content project I worked on with holiday and travel comparison site TravelSupermarket and involved a huge piece of research about the most mindful destinations across the UK and Europe. You can find out more about the project here.
October was also the first month I managed to get a male blogger on the site! After featuring lots of female writers in my Q&A section, I featured a Q&A with Josh Burrell of LOOKDWN which was great. If you’re a male blogger or travel writer and you fancy featuring on the site, feel free to get in touch! (and of course, please still get in touch if you are female too!)
November is of course, World Travel Market week and it’s always a great event for freelance travel writers to go to, to catch up with industry professionals and get inspiration for the following year’s travels. Despite saying I would go at a more leisurely pace this year, I still managed to cram in loads of appointments into two days! It’s always crazy but it’s always worth it.
Later in the month, Ben and I spent a week in Fuerteventura. We wanted some winter sun before all the Christmas madness started and it was great to switch off without having any work commitments or research to do while I was there. I still couldn’t resist on writing about Fuerteventura here on the blog and have actually had a couple of commissions with publications since I got back. But I did treat it like a holiday while I was there. Promise!
Top November posts
And so we move into December. As expected, this month has gone so quickly. Last year, while I was travelling, I wrote a post about the things I missed about Christmas in London.
I think because we were in Africa last December, I’ve appreciated how well London does Christmas even more this year, from the amazing window displays we have here to the magical Christmas markets. This month I reviewed the beautiful Winter Terrace at The Hyatt Regency – The Churchill hotel and I’ve also seen some great West End shows this month, including Everybody’s Talking about Jamie and Five Guys Named Moe. Both are brilliant!
For many years I resented the fact that my birthday was so close to Christmas but I loved it this year. Ben was brilliant, as always, at planning a lovely day for me. We went to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at the Natural History Museum (one of our faves), which meant we got to marvel at the gorgeous Christmas lights and ice rink here.
Afterwards, as you may have spotted on my instagram stories, we walked over to Winter Wonderland and I highly recommend you visit during the afternoon. It’s far less crazy than in the evening and you don’t have to spend ages queuing to get in. I definitely embraced having a December Christmas this year!
In between all the festivities, I also got to try out a fabulous new co-working space in Fitzrovia called JOVA – check it out!
Another December highlight for us was we found a buyer for our flat in Brixton within days of getting back from Fuerteventura. So it’s now confirmed – we’re leaving London and there are big changes ahead for us!
Top December posts
And onto my big news…
…which leads me onto my other pretty exciting news which you may well have guessed by now. Yes, I’m five months pregnant!
It’s been quite an eventful time. I spent the first three months feeling so nauseous I barely wanted to leave the house (why do they call it morning sickness when it affects you all day?!). And I had to cancel a commissioned trip to Antigua in November due to the (albeit very small) risk of the Zika virus which led to our winter sun jaunt to the Canary Islands.
When you’re freelance, you can’t afford to put your life on hold just because you are hoping to have a baby (because let’s face it, sometimes babies don’t ‘happen’ straight away). But it can mean quite a bit of shuffling around plans and having to ‘rethink’ how you’re going to earn your living when your job is to travel! And when all you can do is eat cheese and toast to get through the day without being sick, travel is definitely off the cards..
So that my friends is why I haven’t travelled (quite) so much this year!
Travel writing mums – how do you make it work?
There are dozens of travel writers and travel bloggers who prove that travelling with babies and children is possible and do a great job of championing family travel. (I’m talking to you Mummy Travels, The Travel Hack, Taylor Hearts Travel and the brilliant Wanderluce, who so kindly shared some pregnancy books with me (Thank you so much Lucy! xx). I’m still thinking about how my freelance travel writing career will pan out when I’ve got a mini-me in tow but I shall keep you posted (any advice welcome). And while I won’t be writing about my pregnancy and baby directly per se, I’ll definitely be including these things within the context of travel, so look out for some changes here on the blog too.
For now, it’s about this growing bump, planning some travels for early 2018 (when I’m in the not-so-nauseous second trimester) and getting excited about our new arrival! Once the sale of our flat goes through, we’ll also be leaving Brixton (sad face). But the good news is we’re looking at areas that are easily commutable to London so we won’t be too far away.
As we move into 2018, I’d love to bring some new additions to the blog, including more insight into life as a freelance travel writer, perhaps some more personal blogs and a little bit more spontaneity. So stay tuned.
I haven’t even touched on the websites and magazines I have written for this year. But I plan to diversify a little bit and reach out to some new publications going into 2018. Head over to my In the Press section to see some examples of my work.
I’ll have a few posts coming up over the next few days but this is probably the perfect opportunity for me to say thank you to all my readers for reading The Travel Journo blog this year and keeping me motivated to keep this website going alongside a challenging freelance career.
I wish you all the love, health and happiness for Christmas and the brand new shiny new year.
(phew, did you make it to the end of this post? Well done you!)
Have an amazing time and see you on the other side!