I’ve not written one of these before – I almost did in 2022 but then forgot and by the time I remembered it was a bit too late. I didn’t work on my blog much last year either so it would have felt weird just posting a wrap-up with almost no other new posts. However, this year I’ve started writing a lot more again and had so many incredible experiences and such a great time travelling that I thought it would be fun to start doing a wrap-up post just to reflect on everything.
I started off the year with a trip to Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland. That was for a week in with some friends but it was mostly spent relaxing and playing board games. Went out for a visit to Wigtown (Scotland’s Book Town) but that was about it. Not a lot to blog about but I had a lovely time.
Having not travelled abroad yet in 2023, I decided to have a very quick weekend visit to Lisbon in Portugal. I flew out on the Friday night then back home on the Saturday night. Although it was just one day, I managed to pack quite a bit into my short trip and loved it there – definitely need to go back again for longer! I got to visit the oldest bookshop in the world and eat so much delicious food. I went on a fantastic free walking tour and loved getting to see more beautiful azulejos.
I went to Nimes and spent several days in France. I loved this trip so much – had a lovely time exploring the Roman sites in Nimes and had a day trip to Pont du Gard and another day trip to the Camargue.
July and August
In July, I set off on my epic 35-day Southern Africa adventure that ended in August. I started off with a 2-day layover in Istanbul, Turkey before making my way to Zambia. I crossed the border at Victoria Falls to join my group tour that started in Zimbabwe. From there we made our way to Botswana and Namibia, ending in South Africa. I then flew back via Qatar with another 2-day layover. It’s impossible to describe what an amazing time I had on this trip – I’m slowly getting through posts for it but suffice to say every single experience was fantastic and I would do the entire thing again in the future!
I plan on eventually doing a wrap-up post about the trip, but for now some of the highlights were camping in the Okavango Delta, climbing Dune 45, seeing Victoria Falls and getting to see so many incredible animals such as on my sunset Zambezi cruise or the two nights at Etosha. We stayed at so many great campsites, such as Spitzkoppe and I got to eat so much delicious food including trying a lot of new things like Mopane (caterpillars).
I had a week off so spent it exploring the Balkans. I flew in to Sofia, Bulgaria but then also went and spent a night in Skopje, North Macedonia along with doing a day trip to Nis, Serbia. Then, I also did a day trip to Plovdiv from Sofia to see the Roman ruins there. This was a really fun trip, and I did my first ever free food tour in Sofia. The food was fantastic, I would come back to Sofia just to eat more Bulgarian food! My favourite was definitely the Shopska salad which was delicious and so cheap.
My birthday is in November and so decided to celebrate with a trip to Geneva, Switzerland with my mum and sisters. We just went for one day (flew out Saturday morning, back Sunday morning) but that was enough to explore the city a bit and then absolutely stuff ourselves with cheese at the Christmas market by having some cheese fondue.
Instead of winding things down, in December I decided to do three weekend trips to Christmas markets. Starting off with Manchester, where I had a fantastic time. Ended up going to an incredible toastie restaurant for lunch and I would go back again just to have another one!
Next up was Milan with my sister. I visited Milan back in 2019 but she was too ill to come so it was really nice to go together. We were there the weekend of the Oj Bej, Oj Bej market although we ended up preferring the stalls at the Duomo.
Finally, I went to Paris (again with my sister). We spent a lovely two days visiting as many Christmas markets as we could to stuff ourselves with cheese, cream and potatoes. As we’d both been before, we weren’t bothered about visiting touristy destinations (although we still saw a lot because of the markets) but we did visit the Sewer Museum which was very interesting.
Overall I had an incredible year of travel and feel very lucky to have visited so many places. I’ve got a lot of places still to write about so hopefully I can get a few more posts finished over the holidays.
Some travel stats:
Total different countries visited: 15
New countries visited: 10
Cities revisited: Manchester, Milan and Paris
Longest trip – Southern Africa adventure which was 35 days (the max my travel insurance will cover me on a single trip)
I’m very bad at neglecting my blog. When I get busy with life and work, it’s the first thing that I stop doing as I just don’t have the time. I blog for fun, rather than for an income, so it’s easy to ignore it for a while. However, this year I’ve managed to write a lot more.
I wrote 9 posts in 2022 and so far (at the time of writing this) I’ve written 18 posts. 15 of which were from September onwards when I started really focusing on my blog again.
Of those posts, 12 of them were about posts this year while 5 of them were from older trips. The final one was a book recommendations one so didn’t count it in either category. I have been wanting to write more posts about China and keep putting it off but managed to finish two this year – one about the Forbidden City and one about my day trip to Nanjing.
Of my trips this year, I mostly wrote about my trip to Nimes then about Zambia and Namibia. I have a couple posts left about Nimes I need to finish and I have a lot left for my Southern Africa trip. My logic was that I would focus on just two of the countries on it to try and finish all the posts about one of them instead of having lots of countries with just one or two posts in them. I’ve got a few left about Zambia, but I’m hopeful I can finish those soon. I still have quite a few about Namibia, but Zimbabwe won’t take too long so then I’ll move on to Botswana.
Social Media and Views
I am really bad at promoting my blog on social media – I always forget unless it’s sharing a new post or somebody asks for specific recommendations. Still, I focused a lot on SEO and this year I managed to double my views from 2022. It’s still very small numbers compared to a lot of other bloggers, but I’m just so happy I managed this.
One fact I’m quite pleased with is that 74% of my visitors come from organic searches (mostly Google, but a few from Baidu). Only 4% is from social media (mostly Twitter) so I definitely need to promote my blog more!
I’ve had readers from a grant total of 87 different countries. I’m always happy when I notice views on posts about a country from that country itself (I get a lot from Vietnam and Tunisia for my posts about them). I definitely think I want to use this data a bit more to influence what posts I decide to work on next (for example since I get a lot of views from Vietnam, I want to write more of my Vietnam posts).
At the end of 2022, I finally got onto the supply list for my city. In January I had my first teaching position in the city after moving back home. I was able to get several supply jobs until in February I went to a school for one week. I’ve now been there ever since! I had a 6-week position until the Easter holidays, then they wanted me back for the final term. I did more supply for them after the summer holidays then was lucky enough to get a temporary contract in October. Now I’ll be there until June 2024 and fingers crossed I get a position for the next year too! Thanks to this, I’ve had a steady income which I have promptly spent on travel. Despite the limitations of holidays (aka not during term time) I’ve managed to travel so much this year!
Sadly, my gran passed away a couple days after Christmas so that’s made the last few days quite difficult. She loved hearing about my travels and I would buy a postcard for her on all my trips. I’m planning on talking to my aunt to find out more of the places she wished to visit (along with the ones she did) and I’m going to try and visit some in 2024. She loved German Christmas markets so looks like I’ll definitely be visiting one next year!
Every year I challenge myself to read 100 books and at the time of writing this post, I have read 113. I plan on making several more posts with book recommendations as one thing I love to do is read books set in places I’m visiting. My books to read before visiting Egypt post has been doing really well so I plan on doing more. I’m thinking of doing Italy next as I’ve got quite a few Italian books on my to-read list so that’ll be the motivation I need to read them! Plus, those are posts I can do without having to go anywhere (well, except maybe the library!).
I don’t really do resolutions but I do have a few goals for 2024. Writing them down means I’m more likely to try and do them. I’ve split them into different levels because who knows what will happen next year!. If I can’t manage the main one then there are easier versions to aim for.
Level One: Visit at least 3 new countries.
Level Two: Visit 5 new countries.
Level Three: Visit 12 countries.
Level Four: Visit a different country every month.
Level One: Write a new post every month.
Level Two: Two new posts every month.
Level Three: Have posts about every country visited in 2023.
Level Four: Have posts about every country visited in the past 3 years.
Level One: Increase monthly views from 2023.
Level Two: Increase views every month.
Level Three: Double views from 2023.
Level Four: Triple views from 2023 (this one is super unlikely but may as well aim high!)
Level One: Work on my layout.
Level Two: Write more connected posts.
Level Three: Have pages for each continent.
Level Four: Have pages for each country.
Level One: Read 100 books.
Level Two: Read 10 books translated into English.
Level Three: Read at least two books in a language that isn’t English.
Level Four: Read every book I buy in 2024.
How was your 2023? Any great trips or moments you want to share? Any interesting goals for 2024?