travel musings

2017 In Review: Challenges, Travel, Home & Blogging

2017 has been a funny one for me. I spent 10 months doing less travelling than I’ve done since I began travelling, but exploring lots of my own home and the UK, before suddenly visiting 3 countries in less than a month. But although travel hasn’t been my number one priority this year, I’ve kept myself busy squirreling away money for our next adventure, and I’ve been working in the tourism industry too which has made a nice change from retail!

However, I can’t believe it’s almost over! I always planned to leave Orkney in the summer, then it extended to October, and now we’re still here. I’ve enjoyed being home; nothing beats being surrounded by friends and being able to see my parents more often than I’ve been able to for the past ten years. I’ve been to two weddings, I had three jobs at one point, I’ve hosted tons of couchsurfers and made a lot of friends. I’ve walked along a lot of cliffs, and I ate a burger where the bun was a doughnut.

Glenfinnan viewpoint, Loch Shiel, Scotland

Here’s a quick summary of my year:

Trips taken: 3 (or 6… whichever way you look at it)
Countries visited: 3 (Italy, Portugal, Spain)
Cities visited: …a lot (Edinburgh, Inverness, Glasgow, London, York, Brighton, Maidstone, Venice, Lisbon, Faro, Lagos, Seville)
Flights taken: 4
Ferries taken: 10 (not including the vaporettos down the Grand Canal)
Hostels worked in: 2
Hotels & hostels stayed in: 10

I’m not going to do a month-by-month review as I’ve got separate monthly posts anyway, but here’s a little about the trips I’ve taken:

February/March – I went down to Edinburgh in February to see a concert and visit some friends, but after I looked at Megabus and found an overnight trip to London for just £3, I booked a few extra days south and went to see friends in Sussex, too! It was a packed trip with 3 overnight journeys, but I had loads of fun!

August – having a seasonal job meant that I couldn’t really take time off over the summer, but in August we had a wedding to attend on the Isle Of Man. Because it’s quite a journey going from one island, across half of the UK and over to another island, we decided to turn it into a bigger trip and took a few days to drive back to Orkney through some of the best parts of Scotland. TOTALLY worth it, even if I did have to work over 20 days straight when we got back!

October – I had a bit of a quarter life crisis in October and left Orkney for six weeks. We went to a wedding in Yorkshire, visited family and friends in the south of England, stayed in a spa hotel in the Lake District (I won a competition!!) and then spent a few days with my parents near Inverness.

November – I went to Venice with Mum! It was our first ever holiday together and we didn’t kill each other. A couple of days after coming back, I left again to Portugal, where I fell in love with Lisbon and volunteered in a hostel on the Algarve. I even managed to squeeze in a visit to Seville on my last day! I flew back to Glasgow, spent a day there, and then took the bus to Edinburgh to meet Ash and a few friends.

edinburgh castle old town grassmarket

I’ve spent some of 2017 building up my social media – in case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve become way more active on Instagram, and I even occasionally post on Twitter, a community I’ve never really “got”. As with most bloggers, I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated with Instagram, surrounded by those scary words like “algorithms” and the plainly dirty tactics that go on just so people can build up their followers. Instagram has such a great potential, but sadly for most people it’s all about numbers, and worse; travel has slowly become synonymous with Instagram pictures.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve discovered a few incredible places through the people I follow on Instagram. I’ve even caught myself thinking of travelling somewhere just so I can get “that” photo (eurgh). But the fact that’s literally what some people do these days makes travel – and blogging in particular – feel a little inauthentic. I’ve come to absolutely loathe the word “Instagrammable” and the fact there are entire blog posts on the internet dedicated to it, as if that’s the real reason to see a place. I’m not gonna lie – I had to look up Cinque Terre on Google Maps the other day because I realised wasn’t even 100% sure exactly where it is.

Rialto bridge, Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

I’ve been contemplating the travel blogging industry a lot this year. I joined some blogger groups and spent the next few months lurking in the background to get an idea of what it’s like. I’m still part of them, but I’ve come away feeling a little sour, because to me travel blogging is no longer what it should be. It used to be that blogs provided an insight to real travel experiences from relateable people; something that you wouldn’t necessarily get from a travel magazine. But now one of the primary reasons to set up a travel blog is to blag free trips and get paid to travel. The dream, apparently. That’s why endless new blogs are trying to find success by churning out sponsored content, hotel reviews and city guides with no personality, while the old blogs continue to deliver knock-out writing and real stories because that’s what made them great in the first place.

Honestly, if I wanted to read a hotel review because you were paid to stay there, I’d pick up a travel magazine. The integrity of the industry really forms some doubt in my mind because – as I’ve learned on the groups – travel bloggers are often afraid to be negative even when they’ve had a bad experience. It’s made recommendations feel fake. Bloggers recommend BlueHost because the affiliate link earns them a shedload of money, yet all I ever read in the groups is about how bad BlueHost are. And if I see another gift guide, I think I might scream.

Colourful buildings, Burano, Venice, Italy

I get that you have to make money if you’re doing it for a living, but if I have to be dishonest with my readers or take my personality out, it’s something I’m not willing to do. So, although I do have a few affiliate links on here (all for things I actually recommend), I’m going to continue to enjoy writing this blog, and you can follow along for my fun experiences and sometimes my ramblings and rants like this one. I guarantee you won’t get anything but honesty from me.

Hopefully that’s not a bad thing though, because one of my most popular posts this year has been about why I DON’T want to be a digital nomad.

Anyway, speaking of social media and all that, here are some of my most popular Instagram posts:

If there's one thing that springs to mind when I think of the Algarve… it's BEACHES! And you can't get much better than this. I loved exploring the caves of Praia do Carvalho and getting postcard perfect shots like this! ❤ It's kinda depressing on a day like today though, where we've been having 80mph winds here in Scotland! Take me baaaack to this place STAT! #portugal #algarve #gltLOVE #glt #travel #travelling #traveling #traveller #travelgram #instatravel #explore #adventure #passionpassport #wanderlust #femaletravelbloggers #girlslovetravel #europe #travelblog #travelblogger #wintersun #ig_portugal #visitportugal #beach #praia #praiadocarvalho #postcard #beautiful #paradise #paradisebeach

A post shared by Clazz ✈ An Orcadian Abroad (@anorcadianabroad) on

And some of my favourite blog posts of the year:

Why It’s Important To Travel Now More Than Ever

Why I Don’t Want To Be A Digital Nomad

My Top 10 Australia Experiences

Bad Pieces Of Advice Travellers Give Each Other

Why The Small Moments Of Travel Matter, Too

Scotland Road Trip: A Sunny Loch Lomond To A Rainy Glencoe

My Highlights Of Edinburgh

24 Hours In Lisbon: Falling In Love With Portugal’s Capital

Faro marina, Algarve, Portugal

And here’s my final stats on my challenges:

Make at least £50 extra per month on “side hustles”

Alright, so let’s start off with my best one. I quickly upped this to £100 because I got a “third” job which was interviewing tourists, and it became a hugely busy job over the summer. So I started off, essentially, with a goal of £600 extra, which I would have been pretty happy with, but which increased to £1200 anyway. So um, I doubled it again.

I’ve made some money doing online surveys too, a tiny amount selling things, and an even tinier amount with apps etc, but my main earner was the market research.

TOTAL: £2,470.50!!

Move into a house as cheaply as possible

We also did preeeetty well with this one. In total, we spent under £350 on furniture, household items, kitchen items etc. We probably spent another £30-40 or so on bits and pieces throughout the year (like another frying pan) but overall I think we did REALLY well on this one! Not only that but we got broadband ridiculously cheap (we paid £220 for an ENTIRE YEAR) but I did mess up on this a bit because we were supposed to get £50 cashback and it never arrived. When I chased it up, they said it was too late to claim. I wish I’d gone through TopCashback because then I know I would have got it! Oh well, you live and learn.

TOTAL: under £400 between two people!

Old Man Of Hoy, Orkney, Scotland

Get fitter

I did a lot of walking this year, and I’ve finally got our treadmill out of storage so I’ve been exercising a bit more this month (though Christmas has ruined that!!). Honestly? I don’t feel any fitter, so I’m going to up my game on this in the new year.

Write for other publications

I didn’t manage to actually do this, but I’ve got a couple of articles lined up for the new year for a local magazine and I have a few ideas for publications to pitch to, especially now that I have the time!

Read 50 books

Yeah, yeah. So if you’ve read ANY of my monthly updates, you’ll know I failed on this one. I caught up with tons of TV shows, I got on top of all my emails (more of a mission that you’d believe), I’ve done a lot of catching up overall in fact. But books? They’ve taken a back burner and that needs to change (now that I’m all caught up on everything else!). Will I make the same challenge next year? Probably, very stupidly.

Learn something new

When I started this challenge, I was barely doing any hours and had lots of time. All of a sudden, I didn’t. So while I didn’t enrol in any courses like I thought I might, but I’ve learned a fair amount of German on DuoLingo, so I guess I’ve done something!

Ring Of Brodgar, Orkney, Scotland

I guess I haven’t done too badly in the end.

Also: an hour after posting my last update, I was offered a full-time job!!

Books, TV shows, movies & music

Last year I did a whole list, but I’ve got some clear winners this year, so here we go.

We’ve established that I haven’t read much this year, but I discovered a Bill Bryson book I didn’t know existed and devoured it as quickly as any other Bill Bryson book. So The Road To Little Dribbling gets my vote, even though it was released in 2015.

I’ve watched a few Netflix shows this year and they’re getting better and better. I think I’m going to go with… Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s totally ridiculous and fun, from the theme tune to every character to Kimmy’s clothes. She’s like my spirit animal!

Runners up: Orphan Black & Stranger Things

I don’t feel like I’ve seen many knock-out movies this year, but as usual Marvel was excellent with Thor’s Ragnarok, especially considering I had no expectations for it actually being that good. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 was a little too over the top humour-wise for the first half of the movie, though the second half absolute redeemed itself. So I can’t believe I’m saying this, as someone who adores Marvel and thinks that DC haven’t brought out a decent film in about 10 years… but my pick for this year is Wonder Woman!

Runners up: Beauty & The Beast & Thor: Ragnarok

There have been some absolutely incredible albums this year, but my immediate favourite and one that has been on repeat in the car for the past two months is Neck Deep’s The Peace And The Panic. Absolutely a masterpiece of pop punk, from fun songs to heartbreaking songs to rocking out songs. In Bloom is one of the best songs of the year. But look up 19 Seventy Sumthin’ for a cute love song that hits you right in the feels half way through.

Runner up: Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold

So what will 2018 bring? At the moment, I don’t have anything booked, but a lot of ideas! Canada is still on the cards as Ash has had his invite for the visa, so if that goes ahead, we’ll be heading to Vancouver and seeing what happens from there!

I’d like to do a couple of Europe trips, whether it’s weekenders or a month travelling round. And of course I’m forever yearning for South East Asia, but if Canada happens, then we definitely won’t be doing both!

Whatever we do, I’m excited to do it with my new camera! It’s a Sony Alpha a5000 and I basically love it already. Here’s a shot I took yesterday testing it out. The Lumix has taken some incredible shots, but I’m very happy with this!

DSC00625

Have a wonderful New Year, everyone!

What have been some of your favourite places that you’ve visited this year? And what are your plans for 2018?

The links to books, TV shows, movies & music are all affiliate links which means if you choose to purchase anything through those links, I earn a tiny bit of commission at no extra cost to you! This helps with the running costs of the site, so I hugely appreciate it! :)

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13 thoughts on “2017 In Review: Challenges, Travel, Home & Blogging

  1. You had a busy, but fruitful year! I agree that travel blogs/reasons to travel are starting to become problematic (aka deliberately to make money, take photos just for Instagram…); I admit that sometimes I catch myself becoming that way, although with this upcoming year, I’m hoping to stop that! Too many places that I enjoyed traveling to this year… Poland, Morocco, the Pacific Northwest in the US, Germany…and I plan to do more in 2018! Have a good New Year!

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  2. The building in Italy looks so pretty! I agree that most travel bloggers seem to be too caught up in making money sometimes. It would be great to see more honest reviews because that why we are here in the first place. ;) You seem to have a great year in 2017! I hope you’ll success in your reading challenge in 2018! :) Oh, those wicked tv shows…

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  3. Wow – quite a post. I think I agree with you on the travel blogger front. To be blunt, many travel bloggers a) can’t write b) their observations are vacuous and/or c) they’re obviously being paid to say something nice. I wonder whether some of them have actually visited the places they write about. I recently read a post about Nottingham, a town i I knew quite well, by an apparently successful travel blogger who had missed some of the obvious places of interest, yet made the place out to be far more cuddly than it actually is. The refreshing thing about your site is that you’re honest, include interesting snippets and have a really engaging style – so, look forward to more in 2018 and wish you a Happy New Year! All the best, Mike.

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    1. Ahh thank you very much, Mike! That means a lot. :) Yes I have noticed some very overly positive insights into places that they obviously worked with someone for. It’s partly why I haven’t ventured into doing this professionally – the pressure of writing for clients rather than myself and clouding the judgements I’m putting across, and also I think to a degree you would travel differently to make those observations for your readers (and then, like some, completely miss the mark!). Anyway, thank you for the lovely comment, it has made me smile! Have a great 2018. :)

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