2021 has been another challenging year. Find out my highlights, a few low moments, plus my thoughts on how 2022 is shaping up.
If you’ve followed me for a while you’ll know that every year around this time I write my blogging appraisal. It tends to be a bit of a juicy read filled with personal insights into the year.
December is a good time to reflect on what’s taken place over the previous 11 months. However, as I’m self-employed I don’t get one of those awkward boss-to-employee appraisals where you discuss your year in detail! To be honest, I’d love a chance to chat about career development, things I need to improve and to celebrate a few successes too. But hey, maybe you guys can be my sounding board?
While 2020 was a year most of us would like to forget, 2021 was a little more positive. There were a few successes both professionally and personally (OMG I HAVE A HUSBAND!) So, let’s sit down with a cuppa, or a nice warming cup of gluhwein (‘tis the season eh?) and see how this year really shaped up!
A QUICK OVERVIEW OF 2021
I just had a little re-read of my 2020 blogging appraisal and while there were quite a few positives, I think I’d forgotten how gruelling the year had been. In March 2020, I watched my business pretty much dissolve, all the travels in my diary vanished into thin air and within a few months we’d postponed our September 2020 wedding to almost an entire year later. A lot of things that brought me joy disappeared.
We worked hard to stay motivated, setting up the Travel Print Store on Etsy and putting a lot of hours into developing content for the Great British Bucket List (our site dedicated to travel within Britain). We worked damn hard, and I’ll admit that at times it wasn’t that much fun!
I love sitting at my laptop writing about a trip we’ve just done or a place I’ve just discovered. However, spending 8 hours a day, 5 days a week at my laptop isn’t a routine I’m used to any more. I thought my office job days were in the past, but suddenly I was a desk monkey once again! In essence, I love having a travel blog because I absolutely adore travelling. To be housebound, or even err, kitchen-bound isn’t why I got into this!
But, it did pay off. We worked really hard, the sites grew and once travelling was back on the cards, we were out the door once again.
In 2021, we continued to work hard on our new ventures, but we also set up a new one (yep, you probably think we’re mad!)
We also tied the knot, settled into our new flat, oh and Macca got Covid (wait until you hear that tale!) I’m happy to say we’re ending the year celebrating one of our most profitable months in our entire adult lives!
In numbers 2021 looks like this: 6 different countries visited (Portugal, Belgium, Spain, France, Scotland and Antigua), taking 12 flights.
As a quick comparison, in 2019, I visited 14 different countries (including some really exotic places like Thailand, Dominica and Oman) and travelled on 36 flights, while in 2020 I only made it to three countries, taking two flights! These numbers alone show how hard the pandemic hit my travel business, and I guess seeing my stats from this year are a reminder that progress has been made.
All in all, 2021 you’ve not been too bad, but I have big hopes 2022 will be a whole lot better. Right, it’s time to dive a little deeper into this year. Got that gluhwein ready?
2021 – Another Unusual Year
We got married!
On August 1st 2021, we finally tied the knot at beautiful English vineyard Stanlake Park, surrounded by our friends and family! It was the first time we’d seen so many people in a few years because of the pandemic. The date was just after all government restrictions lifted, so we could really enjoy the day without social distancing or masks. We could hug, kiss, sing and dance!
It was a day filled with love, fun and happiness.
I’d honestly say, it was the happiest day of my life so far.
As you’ll know if you read last year’s appraisal, it was a horribly tricky time to plan a wedding. The constant worries over cancellations, rule changes and health definitely took a lot of the joy away from planning, but the day was everything we’d dreamed of.
But, there’s a twist to this tale! We actually tied the knot officially three weekends before at a registry office in London. It was a small legal ceremony, in front of our two families. Everyone had to sit in socially distanced chairs, wearing masks (as per the guidelines). We celebrated with champagne and a BBQ in our back garden. Despite the restrictions, it was such a special day, and a lovely opportunity for our families to get to know each other.
The next morning, I made my… husband (!) a lovely breakfast and we sat in the garden in a post-wedding haze, reflecting on the previous day. Macca started to eat and said, with a puzzled look on his face, ‘I can’t really taste this…’
Out came the lateral flow tests, and with three tests each showing two thick black bars, it was pretty clear that despite being double vaccinated, Macca had Covid. I, however, seemed to have escaped the dreaded virus.
The first week of our married life was spent in different rooms, avoiding touching or spending any time together! He wasn’t too poorly, but it wasn’t much fun, especially with our big wedding just around the corner. Thankfully he recovered within a few weeks and I never contracted it.
It was a bizarre start to our marriage, and one I’m sure we’ll tell our kids about one day!!
Introducing our newest member
Which leads me on to… oh no, wait, this isn’t my way of announcing we have a bubba! In 2021, after noticing the quizzes on our blogs were some of our most popular posts, we decided to take the plunge and set up a brand-new website. We launched Ultimate Quiz Questions in February 2021.
Up until this point, all our experience was in creating travel content, but we felt we could apply all of this knowledge to a new niche. When the pandemic struck we realised we’d put all our eggs in one basket by only focusing on travel, so it was time to diversify. We worked hard on logos, content and became experts in a variety of random subjects in order to write engaging and entertaining quizzes!
The growth has been absolutely mind-blowing! We were accepted onto Mediavine (the advertising network we use across all of our websites) within four months of going live, and in between our travel projects, we’ve continued to put in as many hours as we can to this site.
In the last month, page views have surpassed 200,000 and we’re on track to hit over 1 million views in year one. What an amazing achievement!
We wanted to set up this site to protect our earnings if there was another pandemic, or if travel jobs continued to be sporadic. I guess you could say it’s a step to future-proofing our careers and creating a new form of passive income (through advertising). We’ve got big plans for the site for 2022, so watch this space!
Oh, and if you fancy playing some fun Christmas quizzes over the festive season, we’ve got you covered!
In 2021, after several lockdowns and a never-ending stream of government restrictions, we finally hit the road again. We bought a car, Yoyo the Yaris, which has made getting around so much easier. It’s been lovely to have the freedom to explore more of the UK, gathering content for my blog and Great British Bucket List.
We also started to work with some of our favourite clients again. Many of these jobs had been postponed from 2020. We promoted a unique style of accommodation in the Cotswolds, checked out Durham’s coast, countryside and city, explored Shropshire’s diverse landscapes, enjoyed Hampshire’s gin scene and more!
One of the highlights was our trip to Antigua in October. I’ve lost track of just how many times this trip has been postponed, and I always said ‘if that trip ever happens, it’s going to feel like the end of the pandemic!’ Ok, so it hasn’t ended, but the incredible Caribbean getaway to Hammock Cove was just what we needed after a challenging year and a half.
I also travelled to France for an amazing river cruise along the Rhone with Avalon Waterways. The majority of my travels are with Macca, but this one was just for me. It was a really lovely trip, with a great group of journalists and bloggers, and reminded me how much I love my job (and just how much I’ve missed it too)! I’m looking forward to going on a few more solo trips in 2022.
Another dream job took place in Bristol a few months ago. Canon asked me to be the face of a new camera lens, so off I went to Bristol to film a vlog which is now live here. This was such amazing experience, working with a team on such an exciting and demanding project. I felt honoured to be part of it – it was a bit of a pinch me moment!
We’ve also just returned from Lanzarote. After the hardships of the pandemic, we analysed what we want from our lives. While we love client work, we absolutely adore planning our own trips too.
We decided to fund a week in Lanzarote, gathering lots of interesting content for future blogs and social media posts. It was refreshing to take away the pressures of sponsors, be 100% upfront and transparent about everything (from what things cost to personal opinions), with no sign of an #ad on any of the content. We’re hoping to plan a few of these trips each year. Where do you think we should go next?
We bought our flat in London last year, and finally moved in just before Christmas. 2021 has involved a steep learning curve of home owning. Everything from mortgages and insurance, to DIY, gardening and interior design. Other than a short row over hanging pictures on the wall, most of it has been really enjoyable!
I felt pretty proud seeing the completion of our fireplace project from mouldy, crumbling brickwork to a stylish art-deco inspired scallop design. Isn’t it beautiful? I also got a lot of pleasure seeing my row of sunflowers grow to over 6 feet, while Macca grew enough chillies to set up his own chilli sauce brand!
2020 and 2021 have seen lots of big decisions amongst our friends, of moving to new parts of the country, expanding their families, and following new careers. As London opened up over the summer, Macca and I were reminded of why we chose to stay in the city for a little longer. The buzz returned, we got back to seeing friends for nights out and discovered lots of new amazing restaurants. How long we’ll stay put? Who knows! But right now, London most definitely feels like home.
2022 AND BEYOND
If you’d asked me three months ago how we’d be kicking of 2022, I would have said we’d be jetting off to The Philippines in January to kick off 3-4 weeks of honeymoon travels. That was the plan.
Where do two travel bloggers go on the trip of a lifetime? It was hard to choose, but we were hoping to go island hopping in The Philippines, followed by a week in Indonesia and then on to South Korea for a big dose of culture. I’ll admit it was a struggle finding places we hadn’t been to yet, but we’d pretty much settled on that plan.
Until… well… yeah….! Until it turned out the pandemic was still in full force, and if anything, gaining strength with new variants emerging.
And now? Well after a few spins of the globe, we are 99% set on visiting Sri Lanka (pandemic permitting!) and we might see if we can add in one other destination too. We’re going to push back our departure to the start of February. Hopefully we’ll know more about how the world is coping with the pandemic by then, and can book with more confidence.
While we haven’t had the busiest travel schedule for work this year, we’re definitely ready for a bit of downtime. Getting married was a huge moment of 2021 and we want to make sure we don’t rush past this special time without enjoying all the warm fuzzy feelings that go with it!
As for work in 2022, we’ve lined up a few really exciting campaigns for January, and are in chats about some really exciting international trips later in the year. We also want to plan another self-funded content mission (similar to Lanzarote). I’m looking forward to creating more inspiring content for you guys, to help you plan your holidays. We all deserve them after the troubles of the last few years!
So that’s the end of my blogging appraisal for 2021. I’m hoping 2022 brings with it a big fat dose of positivity and lots more happy times!
Stay safe and well this Christmas and see you in January.