December 2018 Travel and Blogging Recap

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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.

Christmas Corner Bar in Cleveland
Christmas Corner Bar in Cleveland

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.

Fire Wave at Valley of Fire State Park
Fire Wave at Valley of Fire State Park

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.

Amanda at Seven Magic Mountains in Nevada
Seven Magic Mountains

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.

Oak Creek Canyon in winter
Oak Creek Canyon, or a Hallmark movie?

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:

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: 

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!).

Income report

  • Advertising: $5,080.28
  • Affiliate marketing: $2,669.46
  • Freelance writing: $180
  • Other: $1300

(Note that this is my income before deductions and taxes.)

Business highs

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.

Business lows

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!

Amanda at Mouse's Tank Road in Valley of Fire
Valley of Fire

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!

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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24 Comments on “December 2018 Travel and Blogging Recap

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  1. Thanks so much, Amanda. I came to Scottsdale this weekend based on your instagram posts about the Civana Resort and Spa but now I can’t seem to find it on your blog. When I search, it just shows the “7 Reasons to visit SW …” which is great but is the info on that trip linked somewhere else? I really appreciate your all of your dedication and hard work in helping to inspire us travel bugs! Happy New Year!

      Hi there Cherry! I haven’t written about my most recent trip to Scottsdale yet, as I was there just before the holidays! I won’t have anything on the blog about Civana until after the new year – so far I’ve only posted about it on social media! But if you have any Scottsdale questions, feel free to shoot me an email – [email protected]

    I haven’t been to the Valley of Fire in so long! I need to take a trip down there again and see it. Sedona also looks amazing and I hope I can go see it for myself!

    I am excited to go Valley of Fire State Park because this place looks amazing and I heard a lot about it. Hopefully, it will amaze me.

    I am excited to go Valley of Fire State Park because this place looks amazing and I heard a lot about it. Hopefully, it will amaze me.

      Valley of Fire is indeed amazing – I’ll be writing more about it soon!

    I am SO excited that you’re going to Morocco!! I commented on one of your posts a little while ago and mentioned that my best friend and I are planning on going there for our 30th birthdays (we’re 2 days apart!) and I cannot wait to see your post(s) about it. You always provide great helpful information and gorgeous pictures. Happy New Year! Can’t wait to see everything that this year has in store for your travels. Thanks!

      My camera trigger finger is already very excited for Morocco – you can definitely expect some blog content and lots of photos, probably in March!

    Oh I was in the USA in December too… for all of 6 days haha. But it was enough of a taster to make me want to return that is for sure! Arizona sounds like a dream, maybe I should put it on my list?


      You should definitely put Arizona on your list – and Utah too!

    Running a website is so. stressful. and most people don’t know it. One of my best friends asked what I was doing recently and I said, “Just working on a load of behind-the-scenes stuff I need to get done.” She goes, “What do you mean? Don’t you just write blog posts and post them?” Hahahahahaha omg hilarious. Glad everything worked out for you! I know the feeling.

      I know, right? Most people really have no clue! I’m sure the 2 gray hairs I already have on my head have come from technical issues on my website.

    Congrats on making six figures! That is a wonderful accomplishment! Hope you liked Arizona! Oak Creek gets overlooked by Sedona visitors sometimes, but to me it’s the best part.

      Driving through Oak Creek Canyon in the snow was so magical! (And, I mean, a little terrifying because ice, but definitely worth it!)

    I’ve discovered Hallmark Christmas movies this year, and I’m addicted! I’m not allowed to watch any now so that I can save some for next year! 🙂

      Hahaha they’re so addictive! Never mind that every movie has the same unbelievable plot… you just can’t stop binging them!

    I read and enjoyed a library copy of “Journey to Portugal” by Jose Saramago. It’s the author’s travelogue of his native Portugal in 1979; the book was originally published in 1981. (An English translation of the book was released in 2000; the paperback edition is available on Amazon) Saramago writes about himself as the “Traveller” in the book and describes his journey through the rural parts of the country. It’s an interesting read!

    Amanda — I hope this isn’t an intrusive question, feel free to ignore if you feel uncomfortable! But since you are very open with finances, income, etc (which I appreciate — I find it really interesting!) I thought you might be willing to help my curiosity about taxes. How do taxes work when you run a website? Are you taxed as normal state income tax annually (i.e. whatever your tax bracket is for that annual income in the state of Ohio, whether that’s 20% or 30% or whatever)? Or do you have different taxes that have nothing to do with location (Ohio state taxes) because your business is online? I’ve found myself very curious about that!

      I am pretty open with my finances, so don’t worry, I’m not offended! I still pay both federal and state taxes since I do live and work in Ohio. As a self-employed person, I pay a self-employment tax, too. And as of 2018, my site is actually a registered LLC and I have an accountant that handles all the tax details for me!

    When you’re in Lisbon, head up to Sintra! It’s really beautiful and reachable by train.

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