People often say that how you start a year is an indication of how that year will go.
Well, I began 2019 eating cactus fries in Sedona, Arizona, and then watching the sun set over a snowy Grand Canyon. So, I mean, a pretty epic start to a new year. I'm not sure if there will be any more cactus fries in my future this year, but I DO expect lots of similarly awesome adventures.
Since that quick trip to the Southwest, I've been super busy working on not just one but TWO websites (more on this later), networking my butt off in New York City, and planning lots of travel for the rest of this year.
Here's what my January looked like:
January: The month in travel
I began the month in the Southwest, and took another quick trip to New York City. Otherwise, I spent most of the month at home, plotting all sorts of good things for 2019.
- Countries visited: 1 – USA
- States visited: 3 – Arizona, Nevada, New York
- Cities visited: 4 – Sedona, Tusayan, Cleveland, New York City
- Flights taken: 3
The most epic thing I did: Watching the sun set at the Grand Canyon. In the snow. This was my third visit to the Grand Canyon, but probably the most memorable – it's even more grand under a dusting of snow!
The most interesting thing I ate: After having an offroad jeep tour canceled because of icy trails in Sedona, my friend Shawna and I decided to have lunch at the Cowboy Club Grille. We ordered a tasting plate that had cactus fries, bison skewers, and rattlesnake sausage. It was all delicious!
January travel highlights
Visiting the Grand Canyon in the snow – Yes, I know I'm mentioning this twice, but it was that amazing. The Grand Canyon isn't always snowy in the winter, so I felt like my friend and I were experiencing something really special. Expect some tips on visiting the Grand Canyon in winter soon!
Going to the first cat cafe in Cleveland – Watch out, world: Cleveland now has an adorable cat cafe! It's called AffoGATO, and it's one of the better cat cafes I've visited (and I've been to a few all around the world!) I love that the kitties here are all adoptable, and am already planning to go back later this month to try out cat yoga!
Chasing frozen waterfalls in Ohio – We finally got our first big snow of the season in January (8 inches all in one day!), so I made it my mission to go out and explore before it all melted. I went to a nearby park I hadn't visited before, and ended up having a mostly-frozen waterfall all to myself.
January travel lowlights
Government shutdown effects – The government shutdown didn't affect my New Year's trip as much as it could have since the state of Arizona paid to keep the Grand Canyon mostly running, but it was still apparent in the shuttered visitor centers and lack of park rangers. Later in the month, I also ran into some flight delays because of air traffic control issues. It all made me mad – not because my travels were being affected, but because the shutdown negatively affected our national parks and forced federal employees to work without pay, and people at the highest level of government didn't care at all.
January on the blog
January is almost always a great month for travel bloggers. The holidays are over, and people are starting to get tired of cold weather – meaning they're finally thinking about travel again. This January was no exception, as it was a great month for traffic!
January traffic: 193,734 unique visitors, 281,203 pageviews
Most popular post: Visiting National Parks During a Government Shutdown: Can You? Should You? – After visiting the Grand Canyon during the government shutdown and then reading about how people were trashing other national parks, I decided to write this post. It was shared far and wide, so I'm really glad I took the time to put it together.
Other posts published in December:
- 4 Reasons to Visit the American Southwest in Winter
- Valley of Fire: The Best Day Trip from Las Vegas
- 7 Ways You Can Help Combat Climate Change as a Traveler
January on social media
Most popular Instagram post: The Southwest is always popular on Instagram, but this post of the Fire Wave from Valley of Fire State Park was the most popular of the bunch.
View this post on Instagram
Going on road trips in the US is always a great reminder that this country is HUGE, and that there's always something new to explore. Even though I've been to the Southwest a few times now, I'm still discovering new and amazing spots on this trip. A couple days ago, my friend and I went to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. This park is about an hour north of Las Vegas, and could easily rival some of the nearby national parks. It's filled with red rock formations, petroglyphs, and several really easy hikes. We hiked out to a formation called the Fire Wave, which is a lot like the famous “Wave” in Arizona – except you don't have to enter a lottery to get a permit (or hike for miles) to get to the Fire Wave! The hike out to the Fire Wave is only about half a mile one-way, and takes you past some beautiful rock formations on a trail that doesn't require a lot of climbing. This was one of my favorite parts of Valley of Fire! Have you ever been to this park?
January business update
As predicted, January was even better than December! My goal is to continue increasing my revenue in 2019 – we'll see how it goes!
- Advertising: $5,904.48
- Affiliate marketing: $3,748.35
- Consulting: $682.50
- Course sales: $388.04 (yes, I have courses!)
- Other: $900
(Note that this is my income before deductions and taxes.)
Launching a second site – I've been talking about it with friends and my husband for years, and I finally took the leap last month and started a niche blog! The blog is called Cleveland Traveler, and it's all about my adopted hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. I'm looking forward to exploring the city more in-depth so that I can share the very best of it. You can find my Cleveland content on Facebook and Instagram, too.
Speaking at the New York Times Travel Show – Last weekend I was in New York City for a day of networking at International Media Marketplace, and then spoke on a panel at the New York Times Travel Show. The panel was about working with travel bloggers, and I was honored to be part of it along with some other kickass women.
Starting up a consulting service – Since I've been getting emails about it more and more frequently, I've decided to start offering an affiliate marketing consulting service to other travel bloggers. I'm just working via referrals so far (no website yet, though it's in the works), but I already have a couple clients signed up! If you're interested in learning more, shoot me an email: [email protected]
Winning NATJA awards – Lastly, I won a couple awards from the North American Travel Journalists Association! Two Silver awards and one Honorable Mention for content published on my blog in the last year. I was especially happy to have my post on tips for how to travel more with limited vacation time recognized with a Silver award.
Instagram hates me – Instagram and I have had our ups and downs, and apparently we're in a “down” period at the moment. My last few posts on that platform have gotten absolutely abysmal engagement – mostly because Instagram just won't show them to the people who are following me. This is SO frustrating. Not because I particularly care about Instagram any more, but because I know that a lot of destinations and travel brands that I'd like to work with this year DO care about those stupid numbers. If you want to help me out, head over to @dangerousbiz and like or comment on a photo.
Facebook hates the environment – I wrote a post this month in partnership with the Nature Conservancy about how we as travelers can lessen our environmental impact. When I tried to boost the post on Facebook (because, even though I have 34,000 fans over there, less than 1,500 of them usually see my posts unless I boost them), Facebook told me I couldn't because I'm not authorized to run ads to issues considered too “political.” I understand that climate change can be a touchy subject, but I HATE that we have politicized taking care of the planet – I still don't understand why that needs to be a partisan issue. Anyway, if you want to read the post, find it here because I still can't run an ad to it.
(And now /endrant on how I hate social media.)
Upcoming in February
Here's a look at what's coming up in February (and beyond!):
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!
Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!