2017 Year in Review – My First Year of Blogging
As 2018 starts, I find myself assessing how much my life has changed in the last year, which brought me to write what I thought would be a quick 2017 year in review, but turned out to be a bit of a long one. So I’ll congratulate you if you make it to the end!
I received 2017 in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia. I was in the last week of a 6-month stint backpacking around South East Asia and I knew that 2017 meant a new beginning for me. I just didn’t know what that new beginning looked like when I was hugging people around me on the beach wishing them a Happy New Year after the fireworks stopped.
I knew that when I went back home I didn’t want to go back to the dreaded 9-5 and the office politics. And most importantly, I didn’t want to stop travelling. But it wasn’t until a few months after that I knew how to make this happen. So I decided that in order to be in control of my own destiny, I had to become my own boss. I started off by doing some freelance work as a marketing consultant, while I recovered financially from the previous 6 months of adventures. And as a way to keep reminding myself how much I loved travelling, I decided to start a travel blog. I had no idea the impact this decision would have, which is where I find myself now – a near-full time travel blogger and content creator.
Looking back, it has been a year of major achievements – but for me, the most important one has been making travel the centre around which my life revolves. So without further ado, here’s a recap of what I got up to this year.
Table of Contents
As I mentioned, I started the year in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia, but after a couple of days of partying, I was ready to move on. I decided to go to neighbouring Gili Air for a bit of a more relaxing end to my epic trip. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my trip.
I ‘bumped into’ (yes, you do ‘bump into’ people in the SE Asia backpacker trail) Yasmina and Neil, a lovely couple I’d met a few months before in Myanmar. We all happened to be staying at Begadang Hostel, possibly the best hostel I stayed in during my whole trip. They were there with Saad, Yasmina’s brother, and Adi, a close school friend, plus a couple of friends who joined in too (hi Jeremy and Nicola!). And just like that, what was supposed to be a couple of quiet days on my own, ended up being the best way to spend my last week in Asia.
Travelling long(ish)-term is like life itself, with its highs and lows, and I was just coming out of a bit of a low point over Christmas. Hanging out with Yasmina and crew ended up being one of the highlights of my trip, so I ended on a real high. Thank you guys if you are reading!
Once back in London, there was a lot of life admin that needed to be done, as well as assessing what my next step was going to be. So I took off and went to visit my mum in Valencia, Spain, for a bit of a slow readjustment to normal life.
It was great to catch up with her and tell her all about my adventures, but while I was there I felt a little bit in limbo. I wanted to get started with whatever came next… even though I still didn’t know what that would be. Plus I felt exhausted from all the travelling. I needed to stop somewhere for a little while.
February & March
So I stopped.
I know I said I didn’t want to stop travelling, but I’d just spent 6 months moving non-stop. The longest I’d stayed in one place was one week, but that only happened a couple of times. The norm was between 2 and 4 days in one place.
Yes, I got to see and do a lot, but in the end that pace caught up with me. I am not complaining… but I needed a rest. I also learnt a valuable lesson, something I already knew but I hadn’t put into practice so much when it came to travelling – quality over quantity.
So I took these couple of months to recover physically and financially, to catch up with friends, work out what to do next and set the wheels in motion.
I started doing some freelance marketing work, but I still had time in my hands, so I decided to start a travel blog – this blog. I didn’t want to forget about a lot of the experiences and destinations I’d been to while I was away.
April was a real turning point for me. First of all, I launched this blog! Yay!
I actually started drafting a few things here and there while I was in South East Asia. But I was not happy with the way it looked, the quality of what I was writing and the fact that I wasn’t being consistent with it – I was focusing more on living the moment than recording the moments.
So I was doing a bit of this offline, not feeling brave enough to share it with the world. Coming from a marketing background can be a bit of a curse. You end up focusing on details in an obsessive way feeling that things are not quite perfect yet. But nothing is ever perfect, so I took it to a point where I was comfortable with it and finally hit the ‘Publish’ button.
What actually gave me the push was Traverse, the travel blogging conference that was happening in London at the end of the month. I wanted to have the blog up and running for it. And it was one of the best things I could have done.
Traverse was my launch pad. I made a lot of connections with brands, tourist boards and other bloggers, both new, and others that I’ve followed and admired for a lot time and who have now become friends. I attended a series of excellent talks too that ranged from productivity workshops to Instagram presentations to video editing. But the real game changer for me was being offered my very first press trip to Derry in Northern Ireland. I can’t thank Tourism Ireland enough for having so much faith in me despite having a blog that was only 3 weeks old.
May started with a bang. Well, with a press trip – my first press trip!
BMI Regional launched their new route from London Stansted to Derry, and I was to be on the maiden flight. I was very excited about the whole thing, but also a bit nervous. I wasn’t too sure what to expect, plus when I saw the list of people attending the press trip, I was the only blogger. Everyone else was a journalist from a major newspaper or news organisation! What? Newbie me? And all these major publications? Ok, I can do this… I thought while wondering how I was going to get through it.
It turned out to be a lot of fun. Tourism Ireland and Visit Derry made the whole experience a great one. So much so, that I can’t wait to go back. Derry turned out to be such an exciting city! Full of history and a real foodie’s paradise. I wish I’d had more time there to explore the nearby coast too. Unfortunately, I had to cut my trip short due to a previous commitment, so I only spent two days in Derry.
After the first press trip, along came the second one. Yes, really. I was invited to be part of the first edition of Experience Bucharest, a project born out of passion by a few local people who love their city and want to show it to the whole world. Admittedly, as my following was still small, I was asked to pay a nominal amount. I saw this as an investment in my career as a blogger so I didn’t think about it twice. And it has paid off manyfold!
I met truly inspiring people who have had a huge influence in my development as a blogger (Sally from Passport & Plates, Diana Miaus, Christina from Happy to Wander… I’m looking at you! – among others). And I discovered that Bucharest is a totally understated city that the world needs to know about. With plenty of hidden instragrammable spots, a vibrant café and foodie culture and a wide offer of off-the-beaten-path tours and experiences. When I left this city, I know I would come back… and I did!
#Bucharest does not cease to surprise ☂️😍 #ExperienceBucharest #broganinromania #romania . . . . #thediscoverer #beautifuldestinations #travelstoke #travelmassive #traveltheworld #travelingram #travelphoto #travel #lp #lonelyplanet #travelphotography #traveling #igtravel #worldnomads #iamatraveler #fodorsonthego #gadv #traveldudes #womenwhoexplore #travelingland #gltlove #traveler #traveller #natgeotravel
June was a month when I got to see friends I made in South East Asia. My friend Syra from Cologne in Germany came to visit me. We’d met in Chiang Mai where we had a fabulous time partying, and a few weeks later we met again in Myanmar, where we got to spend a few chilled days together. It was great to see her again and we just picked up where we left off.
I also had a visit from Jacky from Berlin, although we only managed to grab a quick drink and a curry. A broken bus in Thailand brought Jacky and I together. We were both on our way to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market outside Bangkok, when a loud bang right underneath my seat released a thick cloud of dust inside the bus. The driver tried to fix it by hitting the wheel with a metal pipe (I’m still trying to work that one out). Needless to say, he didn’t fix it, so we all had to transfer to the left side of the bus, where I sat with Jacky, and rode with a constant clonking noise underneath us. It was the source of a bit of worry but a lot of laughter too, although next time I think I’ll take a tour!
So back to June, at the end of the month I was given the opportunity to be part of a press trip organised by Spain and @igerslondon, of which I am a member. The trip was to experience the Fogueres Festival in Alicante, a city more known by its beaches and parties than by its culture and history. It was real eye opener. I discovered a truly beautiful city full of traditions that it is totally unexplored, particularly the photogenic Barrio de Santa Cruz, in Alicante Old Town.
Casa del Ringui in the Barrio de Santa Cruz in #Alicante, where the old Muslim Quarter of the city once was, at the foot of the castle. It has the cutest streets and houses and the best views over the city 💙💚⠀ ⠀ A lot of these cute little houses can be rented through Airbnb. Get £30 off your first booking with my referral link http://abnb.me/e/lCFJwtwinE⠀ ⠀ #instatripcostablanca #costablanca #alicanteonfire #igerslondoninalicante #visitspain #broganinspain 🇪🇸
We also visited Benidorm and explored the Sierra Helada by electric bike, from which the views are truly spectacular. And after, as Valencia is not too far, I stayed back and explored the city in depth like I hadn’t done in years. Valencia has evolved into a city with so much to offer, and incredible food, which I discovered on one of the best food tours I’ve ever done.
It is not just about history in #Valencia.⠀ ⠀ The City of Arts and Sciences is a futuristic cultural and architectural complex that has some of the most striking buildings I have ever seen. Designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, this is the Hemisfèric, a 3D cinema with a 900 metre screen and the Science Museum right behind it. ⠀ ⠀ Have you ever seen anything like it? ❤️⠀ ⠀ #broganinspain 🇪🇸⠀ #spain #visitspain #spaincities
July & August
July and August were quiet months when it came to travel. I learnt about house/petsitting as an alternative way of getting accommodation while travelling. So after a bit of research and talking to people who do this regularly, I decided to give it a go myself.
I joined Trusttedhousesitters and decided to try and do some house sits around London and the South East of England. As a test to see if I would enjoy it, to build some experience and references with a view to take this option on future travels, but also to get to know other areas of London that I don’t know. Plus I’m a sucker for furry friends!
And I am happy to report that I absolutely love it! With my lifestyle, I can’t have a dog or cat of my own, so this way I get to have my doggy or kitten fix, and to travel and discover new places.
What I also love is that it is a system based on trust. Owners leave their loved pets and homes in your trust and you get to stay in their lovely homes like it’s your own. Not only is it free accommodation, but you get to live like a local. All you have to do is look after and enjoy their pet/s and home and return them just as they were handed to you.
Membership of TrustedHousesitters is £89 a year, but I am able to get you a 20% discount code here if you are interested in trying this out too. At this price, it pays for itself after a couple of nights!
I started September with a short visit from another fellow traveller and friend, Danielle from Toronto. We met in Koh Tao, Thailand, where we got PADI certified together. We were diving buddies and on our first dive, the very first creatures we both saw under water were sea cucumbers. I will always remember both our reactions – we reached out for each other pointing at the sea cucumbers in fits of laughter. From that moment on, I knew we were going to be Friends with a capital F.
After sticking around in London for a couple of months, I started to get itchy feet and needed a change of scenery, so I took a flight to Valencia again. While I was there, the TRABLIN event Focus on Influencers happened to be on in Alicante, which is only an hour away. It was an event designed for Spanish-speaking influencers, and it was very interesting to get a feel for the travel blogging and influencer world in Spain. I also got to meet some really cool bloggers, who I would cross paths with later in the year. It turns out that the travel blogger and influencer world is very small!
Back to Valencia, I set on a quest to discover the authentic Valencian paella – THE original paella. So I joined the Escuela de Arroces y Paella Valenciana where I learnt what makes a real Valencian Paella and what doesn’t (chorizo… I’m talking about you!). I visited the Mercado Central and learnt about the different types of ingredients, and with the help of chef Jaime I cooked my very own paella. A great culinary experience!
After a few days back in London, I left again for Syros, a beautiful island in the Greek Cyclades. I was invited to take part in Discover Syros, a bloggers project spearheaded by Kat Von B, whose mother was born in the island. Syros turned out to be a true gem, very little known by international travellers and a place where you can find the essence of Greek island life. It was also great to be reunited by a lot of friends I’d met during the Experience Bucharest project earlier in May.
Have you ever heard of Syros in #Greece? I discovered it for the first time last September, and it’s beauty totally blew my mind!⠀ ⠀ During my journey through the Cyclades capital, I discovered the essence of Greek island life. ⠀ ⠀ Read the top things to do in #Syros on my latest blog post. I guarantee you’ll want to add this hidden gem to your bucket list. ⠀ ⠀ Link in bio 😊👆⠀ ⠀ #broganingreece 🇬🇷⠀ #discoversyros⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #visitgreece #ig_greece #wonderlustgreece #greecelover_gr #topgreecephoto #thegreeceguide #reasonstovisitgreece #cyclades_islands #ilovegreece #perfect_greece #welovegreece #unlimitedgreece #visitcyclades #ig_cyclades #letsgosomewhere #traveldeeper #travelphotographer #bestplacestogo ⠀⠀⠀⠀ #thediscoverer #beautifuldestinations #travelmassive #traveltheworld #travelingram #syros #syros_insta
From Syros, I went straight to Ireland to attend the travel blogging conference TBex in Killarney. Again, this was another opportunity to make new connections and learn from the pros, and to also meet with friends I’d made through the year in different trips. As I said, it is a very small world! I also got to meet the very first blogger I ever followed – Marek from Indie Traveller – when I was planning my 6 month trip to South East Asia. Thanks Marek for your inspiration!
After the conference, I was one of the lucky people chosen for a FAM trip – 4 days of true adventure in Dublin. It was an incredibly intense but fun trip, where I met some really cool people. We got to kayak in the Irish Sea and meet the local seals, horse ride through the Dublin Mountains, zipline through the forest, cycle along the coast, explore the city on a Segway and, my favourite activity, we learnt to play hurling. As I said, it was intense, but loved every minute of it!
After a few days of recovery back in London, it was time to pack my bags again. Do you remember Traverse, the game-changing conference that I attended back in May? Well, I should have mentioned that I won a weekend away in Benidorm, Spain at the conference. So off I went again, but this time it was to be a relaxing trip to switch off and enjoy my best friend’s company, who I hadn’t seen in months.
And thank goodness that I managed to relax, because shortly after being back I took off again, this time to Romania, for the Experience Romania project. Lead by the same team as Experience Bucharest, Experience Romania was a trip that showed off the highlights of the regions of Moldavia, Bucovina and Transylvania. 50 bloggers, 2 weeks, one bus and one incredibly beautiful country with huge potential. I still need to write something about this trip, so stay tuned for what’s coming up!
If you have a dream, just follow it! ❤️ A couple sold their home to build the ‘castle’ of their dreams in #Transylvania. Built with natural materials such as clay, sand and wood, they called it ‘Clay Castle of the Valley of Fairies’. It was initially going to be their home, but with so much interest, they’ve decided to create a hotel, so you can stay here! 🏰 Follow me to see my adventures in the fairytale land that is #Romania. . 📷: @viajarparavivir 💖⠀ #broganinromania 🇷🇴⠀ #ExperienceRomania #Romania⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #romaniamagica #magictransylvania #ig_transylvania #brasov #magicromania #topromaniaphoto #romaniapitoreasca #ig_romania #romania_online #thediscoverer #beautifuldestinations #travelmassive #traveltheworld #travelingram #travelphoto #travel #lp #lonelyplanet #travelphotography #igtravel #worldnomads #iamatraveler #fodorsonthego #gadv
Experience Romania ended at the beginning of the month, when I returned to London to attend World Travel Market, the biggest trade show for the travel industry. As it was my first time attending, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I’d heard it was stressful, overwhelming and exhausting, but a goldmine of opportunities. And I can verify that all of it is true. I learnt a lot from attending this show… prepare, prepare, prepare and set meetings ahead of time. With all the trips I’d done preceding the event, I hadn’t given this enough of a priority so I ended up running around a bit like a headless chicken with no real plan. Next year it will be different!
At the end of November, I thought it was time I’d go back to Valencia again, as I hadn’t been there enough this year – joke! My mum lives in Valencia, in case you are wondering why I keep going back. Plus it’s a really cool city!
And so it happened that the day before I was due to fly, I received an invitation from the Region of Valencia for an event up in the Serranía (the highlands) – Gastrobloggers under the stars. Of course, I said yes! It was an overnight event where I got to enjoy the most incredible night sky I’d seen in a long time, where I could see the Milky Way with the naked eye. I got to learn about the Aras de los Olmos Observatory and about the gastronomy of the area. And one of the highlights was the astronomy-inspired dinner, which you can read all about here.
Did you know that less than two hours from #Valencia there is a Starlight Reserve? The Serranía del Alto Turia is an area in the Valencian mountains where the quality of the sky is so good that you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye 💫✨☄️⠀ ⠀ I visited last week and I also got to sample some delicious local products such as truffles, honey, ‘esperiega’ apple jam and the most beautiful craft beer. ⠀ ⠀ Have you ever seen the Milky Way? This was my second time but it was just as impressive as my first ✨⠀ ⠀ #broganinspain 🇪🇸⠀ #ValenciaStarlight⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #spain #topvalenciaphoto #reservastarlight #valenciagram #valenciaenamora #valenciaturisme #igersvalencia #explorespain #ig_spain #igersspain #ok_spain #topspainphoto #loves_valencia #visitvalencia #mediterraneoenvivo #worldnomads #iamatraveler #fodorsonthego #gadv #traveldudes #womenwhoexplore #gltlove #dametraveler #travelphotographer #bestplacestogo ⠀⠀⠀⠀ #thediscoverer
December was more a month to take stock of the last 12 months and what I wanted 2018 to look like. But I did find some time to do some travelling too.
I was invited to attend the Greek Tourism Expo in Athens as a food blogger, and of course, I jumped at the opportunity. Not only was it a great opportunity, I wanted to go back to Athens and explore the city a bit more. I had a couple of extra days after the Expo, so I made the most of it and got lost in Plaka and Anafiotika, visited the Acropolis, soaked up the atmosphere in Psyri and got to enjoy beautiful local food. And to top it all, I got to stay in some amazing hotels!
It wasn’t that long ago that I was in #Greece but today I’m back, this time to take part in the Greek Tourism Expo. I came to #Athens one day early so I could do a little bit of exploring in my own time, as I think the next few days are going to be pretty intense. ⠀ ⠀ And exploring I did… I got lost in the alleyways of Plaka and Anafiotika, the most picturesque areas of Athens. Well, judge for yourself. 😊👆 It doesn’t look like you’re in the middle of a big capital city, does it? 🍊❤️⠀ ⠀ #broganingreece 🇬🇷⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #visitgreece #ig_greece #wonderlustgreece #visitathens #topathensphoto #ig_athens #athensbestpictures #greecelover_gr #topgreecephoto #thegreeceguide #reasonstovisitgreece #ilovegreece #perfect_greece #welovegreece #unlimitedgreece #letsgosomewhere #traveldeeper #travelphotographer #bestplacestogo ⠀⠀⠀ #thediscoverer #beautifuldestinations #travelmassive #traveltheworld #travelingram
And with this trip, it was the end of my travels for 2017. Time to get some work done and think about the year to come!
I’m more of a last minute planner, so it’s a bit of a mystery at the moment what 2018 has in store for me. What I do know is that I’m kicking off this year with a trip to Madrid in January, to FITUR, the tourism fair, to try and make some new connections in the industry and at the same time visit some old friends.
In May I will be attending the Traverse conference again, which will take place in Rotterdam, Netherlands. There will be a lot of social activities in the week preceding the actual conference, so I will spend at least one week there.
I am also hoping to take part in the second edition of Experience Romania in May if the dates work out and perhaps the third edition in October.
One of my close friends is getting married in Wales in June, so I am planning on making a long trip out of it – maybe even do some hiking, which I haven’t done much of in 2017.
An finally, TBex have announced their European conference in Ostrava, Czech Republic for July, so this is another trip that is on the cards for me.
The rest of the year is up for grabs at the moment, watch this space!
Finally, congratulations for making it to the end! I just wanted to say THANK YOU so much to all of you for reading my blog this past year and for following my journey on Instagram and other channels. Your support has made the world of difference to me. Don’t ever be afraid to ask any questions, comment on my photos and posts if you like them or not. It really means a lot to me!
What has been your highlight of 2017?
Let me know in the comments!
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