highlights, lowlights, and everything in between: our 2017 year in review
Two years ago, huddled up on the couch in our tiny Melbourne apartment and talking for the umpteenth time about wanting 'something more', the idea to start our own blog was born. We'd already booked our one-way ticket to Singapore later that year, but wanted to make our travels more meaningful than simply backpacking our way around the world. We both had a love for photography and writing, and with backgrounds in marketing and advertising, we figured taking a chance on what we were passionate about during our 'gap year' was worth a shot. At the very least, sharing our travel stories might make life more interesting!
Fast forward two years, and we simply can't believe where our little internet baby has taken us. When we pressed 'publish' on our first post here (which still makes us cringe to read today!), we could never have imagined we'd end up here; 2 years on, having met countless incredible people, shared some experiences we could only dream of, and now in in the exciting position where The Common Wanderer is shaping up to be a successful business.
To say 2017 has been one of our best would definitely be underselling it - here are some of our highlights, lowlights, and plans for 2018!
OUR 2017 YEAR IN REVIEW - HIGHLIGHTS, LOWLIGHTS, AND OUR PLANS FOR 2018
The time we went home to Australia after 18 months away
One of the hardest things about choosing a life of travel is that no matter where we go, we leave people behind. And for these two travellers, no one is harder to leave behind than our wonderful families and friends at home. Which is why our trip home in March, the first time we’d seen our lovely city of Melbourne in 18 months, is one of our most cherished memories of 2017.
We raced from weddings to dinners and family gatherings for three weeks, and then spent a week exploring our home state again on a road trip through Victoria to the Great Ocean Road, 12 Apostles, and the Grampians. Needless to say, we left with full hearts, and are already itching to go home for a visit again in 2018!
READ THE POSTS:
The time Bucharest totally took us by surprise
In May we were invited to be a part of the first Experience Bucharest campaign, which brought together hundreds of bloggers, Instagrammers, and travel industry professionals for a weekend of seminars and adventures in Romania’s capital.
Bucharest might have been a complete wildcard in our travel plans for 2017, and we had no idea how cool it would be! Turns out we’d really been missing out on this über cool and fascinating city. It’s grungy and hipster, beautiful yet a little rough around the edges, full of trendy cafes and restaurants, friendly people, and a really thriving, entrepreneurial spirit. We’re really keen to head back to Romania to explore beyond the capital now too - perhaps in 2018!
READ THE POSTS:
The time we landed our dream job in Swedish Lapland
We’re obviously all about exploring places that are a little unusual and full of natural beauty, and in many ways, Lapland had become the kind of ‘holy grail’ of both travel and blogging to us. A wintry wonderland, a raw and untamed wilderness, and a way of life so extremely different to our own upbringing. Sprinkle in some reindeer herds and the northern lights, and you basically have our ultimate trip!
But this is one travel dream we didn’t expect would come true this year at all (or possibly ever!) - so when our inbox pinged with the opportunity to spend a week road tripping Swedish Lapland in Autumn, we both nearly died of excitement. Our week in early October was spent hiking, foraging, fatbiking, and getting to know the local culture – under Autumn skies and surrounded by crisp forest air. And you know what? This is one place that totally lived up to the hype. It was utter magic, and we’re absolutely keen to go back in Winter, Spring, and Summer to find out what it’s like then too.
READ THE POSTS:
All the times we (unexpectedly) ended up in Spain
Spain seemed to be the flavour of our travels for 2017 - and totally unexpectedly so! First, we welcomed the new year with 12 grapes in Barcelona, spent our days exploring Las Ramblas, ate all the tapas, and even watched a brilliant sunset from the top of the Bunkers with our good friend Nicola from Polkadot Passport.
That was supposed to be it for our 2017 Spanish travels, but then we found ourselves relaxing on beaches, kayaking through cerulean waters, and eating all the tapas (again!) on the island of Menorca in June, followed by Mark travelling through Seville and Madrid with Intrepid Travel in July. It might not have been a deliberate decision to spend so much time in Spain, but we're sure glad we did. In fact, we enjoyed the way of life there so much, we could even call it home one day!
Check out Mark's adventures in Spain, Portugal and Morocco here:
OUR LIFE HIGHLIGHTS
The last 12 months have been full of some pretty special highlights for us, and it's nice to look back on them now and celebrate how far we've come - something we're absolutely terrible at doing! We also recently started doing our monthly updates again, so rather than bore you with the details of Mim going freelance and Mark starting a cool new job, celebrating a year living in London, or surviving the madness of World Travel Market again here.
Here's a look at some of our other highlights:
Working on our dream jobs, with our dream clients
2017 has delivered some work opportunities we never imagined would come our way (hello, Swedish Lapland!), along with the chance to build great relationships with brands and tourism boards we've admired for a long time. It might be cliched, but seeing all our hard work pay off like that makes us very, very excited for what 2018 has in store for us.
Stats, stats, stats
When we did our big update at the start of 2017, we talked about our blog traffic growing, and our Instagram had just passed the 20k mark. We even talked about approaching the rest of the year "like a marathon, putting in the hard yards and seeing where it takes us". Happily, our website traffic is up by around 25,000, and our Instagram is now just shy of 40,000 now!
It's proof that hard work and focusing on the long-term really does pay off, and we can't wait to see where the next 12 months take us. Thank you to every single one of you who followed us or read our posts... stick around hey?
Our London friendship group
Moving overseas and leaving the safety net of your friends and family behind is scary, daunting, and a little bit anxiety-inducing. Moving overseas and landing amongst an incredibly talented, down to earth, and kind group of creative people we're lucky to now call our friends and family has literally turned our expat experience around.
Thanks mostly to the Traverse Events blogging community, we've met some of our best friends, and made lifelong friendships that extend way beyond being in the same industry. We're feeling very grateful and content with where we've landed!
A FEW LOWLIGHTS
Not being able to enjoy London’s summer
Obviously, we knew that we were about to get acquainted with some pretty crappy weather when we made the decision to move to London. We also know that we have high expectations for summer coming from Australia, but honestly, London’s summer absolutely sucked. After a promising start, we ended up with just two weeks of 30c+ (horribly humid) weather, followed by a very average, very grey and very wet summer that never really moved past 17-20c.
Mark also missed out on those warmer weeks as he was travelling on a work project, which meant our long-held dreams of picnics on the common, balmy nights in English beer gardens, and exploring London in fewer layers than usual were completely washed away. Before we knew it, we were rugging up for winter again, which feels just a little bit depressing.
Burn out, exhaustion, and not finding the balance.
Something that we haven’t really spoken about on the blog is that we've both been dealing with some pretty serious burnout for most of the year. After arriving in London in September 2016, exhausted after a full year of travel, we basically threw ourselves straight into full-time work while managing our business full time too.
Any business owner will probably relate when we say that it's hard to ever really switch off from it, and we'd be lucky to have taken more than 7 full days off work in this entire past year. Couple this level of mania with getting ourselves settled in a brand new country and finding our feet again, and we're the first to admit we've found it's been a pretty tough year mentally for us both.
2018 will be all about finding the balance, making sure we take time off more regularly, and restructuring the way we work to ensure we actually remain refreshed, creative, and most importantly: happy!
Not being able to make the most of living in London (or the UK!)
Speaking of always working and being burnt out - always being cooped up at our desks (or feeling like we have to be cooped up at our desks!) has meant that we really haven't given London much of our time or energy.
In fact, we often discuss that if someone asked us what living in London is like, we're couldn't really answer, as we don't feel as though we've seen or done much at all. Needless to say, there's no point moving to a new country if you're not actually getting to experience it, so this is something we're changing up in 2018.
OUR MOST POPULAR POSTS
Our complete Nepal travel guide – what to see, know and do: we're glad that our guide to our favourite country was so popular! Seriously, if there's one thing you're planning for 2018, make it a trip to Nepal.
Is South Africa dangerous for tourists?: It's one of the questions we're asked most often, and it's a shame, because South Africa really is awesome. If you're thinking of going but aren't sure about safety, this is the post for you.
10 things you absolutely must do in Cape Town: It was hard to limit this to just 10, considering Cape Town is one of, if not the coolest cities we've been to! We went through the must-see spots in this epic place.
Travel Photography: what's in our camera bag: Again, this is one of the most common questions we're asked on our Instagram is about what gear we use, so we took you guys through our complete camera bag!
The freedom to roam: rediscovering nature in Swedish Lapland: We didn't expect to discover a love story in Swedish Lapland, but weirdly, that's exactly what we found. This is our editorial about getting reacquainted with nature in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
OUR MOST POPULAR INSTAGRAMS
If you're not already, follow our adventures on Instagram at @thecommonwanderer now!
OUR PLANS FOR 2018
This time last year, we didn't really know how the year ahead would shape up. We had no real travel plans, no jobs lined up, and a real uncertainty about what the future held for TCW.
But staring down the barrel of 2018, we're excited to say we have a bunch of exciting travel jobs locked in already (think lots of nature, sunshine, and epic landscapes!), and a few in the pipeline that we're still confirming. We're also planning to spend a lot more time exploring London and its surrounds, so watch out for lots of UK content... finally!
From a business point of view, we're actually hoping to make some huge changes to our website early in the new year... Think new platform, new design, and totally new look for The Common Wanderer. For a while now, we've been feeling like we've outgrown the current look and feel of our site, and we're keen to find a way to showcase our skills in photography, video, and editorial better. We're hoping to go live by the end of January, so keep your fingers crossed that all goes smoothly!
Aside from continuing to grow our blog and freelance content creation business, we have some h-u-g-e business plans for this year, which we can't really share too much about now (sorry!), but are very excited to see come to life.
We're also keen to bring more of a sense of community to everything we do. Afterall, the reason we're here is you, and through our #ichosetowander community on Instagram, we want to grow this little space into something bigger, build real and supportive relationships amongst our audience, and reach through the phone to take these connections offline too. We'll be introducing a series on the blog, as well as running some meetups and trips through the year. We hope you'll join us!
As always, thank you for being part of our adventure. We're blown away that you're with us.
Here's to a great 2018 for us all!
Mark + Mim xx
WANT MORE TRAVEL INSPO? CHECK OUT THESE POSTS!