Well that's another year done and dusted! I swear, every year just seems to pass faster than the last.
The month of December was spent mostly at home in Ohio, getting work done and hanging out with family and friends. I managed to get out and do a few Christmas-y things around Cleveland, and had a great couple of days of Christmas celebrations (complete with gift exchanges and making-fun-of-Hallmark-movies marathons).
As the New Year approached, I hopped on a plane at the last minute and headed out to the Southwest with an old friend to introduce her to red rock landscapes and the Grand Canyon. It was a great way to end the year (and begin a new one!).
December: The month in travel
I mostly stayed in Ohio in December, but did get away at the very end of the year.
- Countries visited: 1 – USA
- Cities visited: 3 – Cleveland, Las Vegas, Sedona
- Flights taken: 2
The most festive thing I did: Earlier in the month, Elliot and I headed up to Cleveland to visit a Christmas pop-up bar and see some of the lights downtown. It was a fun date night and definitely got me into the holiday spirit.
The most epic thing I did: Probably driving through a snowy Oak Creek Canyon on my way to Sedona, Arizona, on New Year's Eve. A snowstorm had just dropped about 3 inches of snow, and it was literally a winter wonderland, with fluffy snow sticking to all the trees. (Speaking of Hallmark movies, my friend and I kept exclaiming that this would have made the perfect setting for one!)
December travel highlights
Visiting Valley of Fire State Park – When my friend said she wanted to go see the Grand Canyon over her holiday break, I immediately began planning a mini Southwest road trip. This is my favorite part of the US, yet there are still parts of it I haven't explored! So before we left Las Vegas, we spent a day at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. This park is known for its red rocks and petroglyphs, and we saw both! My favorite part was hiking out to the Fire Wave, which is truly a work of art by Mother Nature.
Seven Magic Mountains – On our way out of Las Vegas, we stopped at Seven Magic Mountains, a colorful art installation. The stacked rocks made me smile a lot, and I was glad to be able to see them since word is the installation might be coming down soon.
Snowy Sedona – And of course seeing Sedona covered in snow was just magical. I hadn't expected to find more snow in Arizona than in Ohio, but that's exactly what happened. Driving through Oak Creek Canyon in the snow was a little nerve-wracking, but it was also so pretty.
December travel lowlights
There weren't many in December since I spent most of the month at home. The weather out West was surprising (I wasn't expecting to have to drive on snow/ice!), but didn't really negatively affect my trip.
December on the blog
December is always a slow month in the travel blogging world, as most people are focused on family and the holidays and not really researching or planning trips. I think I published fewer posts this month than any other month this year!
December traffic:157,245 unique visitors and 224,482 pageviews
Most popular post: How to See Polar Bears in Churchill: A Polar Bear Tour for Your Bucket List – If you're curious about the polar bear trip I took back in October, this post covers everything you could want to know about it!
Other posts published in December:
- Year in Review: My Top 10 Travel Highlights of 2018
- How to Spend 24 Hours in Asheville, North Carolina
December on social media
Most popular Instagram post: My most popular photo was actually in my “best of 2018” series, but this one of the Cleveland Arcade decked out for Christmas was the most popular photo I actually took in December:
View this post on Instagram
I’m 99.9% sure that I’ll never get tired of visiting the Cleveland Arcade. And this historic covered shopping center is roughly a thousand times more beautiful and atmospheric around the holidays! 🎄✨🙌🏻 It positively sparkles with all its festive finery. Perfect spot to test out my new camera! I just got the Sony A7III, and I kept oohing and ahhing as I snapped these photos last night. Do you have a favorite festive spot you like to visit around the holidays?
Most popular Facebook post: This link to a post about how spending money on experiences instead of stuff might actually make you a better person really resonated with you all!
December business update
Another pretty good month (though I think January will be even better!).
- Advertising: $5,080.28
- Affiliate marketing: $2,669.46
- Freelance writing: $180
- Other: $1300
(Note that this is my income before deductions and taxes.)
I officially made 6 figures! – Now this is one of those “well, technically” things, because it's *before* deductions and taxes. But the total amount of money coming into my bank account in 2018 was above 6 figures for the first time in my life, which is pretty awesome. While money certainly isn't everything, I do feel like this is a milestone worth celebrating; in my early days working as a journalist, I could never have imagined making this much money, let alone from doing something that I absolutely love. Not all bloggers can or will make this much income, and I don't want to make it seem like it's easy (I've been blogging for almost 9 years, guys!), but it's also not impossible.
December was a slightly off month when it came to advertising and affiliate marketing; I didn't make quite as much as I hoped to. But I guess that just means I need to be more strategic about writing/sharing holiday content next year!
I also had a very scary day of spammy traffic coming to my site right before Christmas that sent me into panic mode for about 12 hours. But thankfully it wasn't something that persisted and did no lasting damage. But dang, running a website is stressful sometimes!
Upcoming in January
Here's a look at what's coming up in January (and beyond!):
January: NYC – I'll be headed to New York City at the end of this month for IMM and the New York Times Travel Show. Let me know if you'll be around!
February: Morocco – I've booked a 13-day tour around Morocco for the second half of February! I haven't been to Morocco yet, so I'm excited to get a taste of the country's unique culture. I booked my tour with Intrepid Travel (it's this one in case you want to check it out, too), as I think traveling solo with other people and a guide will help me get the most out of the country. We'll be covering a LOT of ground, from big cities like Fes and Marrakech to smaller places like Chefchaouen and Midelt. We'll be spending time in both the High Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert, too, which should make for some amazing adventures!
March: Portugal – After Morocco, I'll be heading to another new-to-me country: Portugal! I'm planning to spend about 10 days in Portugal, trying to see as much as I can by using trains and other public transport. I'm planning to base myself in Porto for half the time and Lisbon for the other half, and taking some day trips from each. If you have Portugal suggestions, please send them my way!
March: Nashville – Also in March I'm planning to head down to Nashville for a long weekend to catch up with some friends from college. I'm looking forward to a second visit to Music City!
And remember that you can follow along in real-time with all of my adventures through my IG Stories on Instagram!