Year in Review: A Year of Full Time Travel Blogging and Travels in 2019

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Travels and Full Time Travel Blogging in 2019

It’s always so much fun to look back and reflect on the year, isn’t it? 2019 was an exceptional year for me, both in terms of travel and career moves. Most importantly, on January 1st, 2019, I embarked on a brand new career of full time travel blogging. I also had a pretty wild ride this year in terms of travel, both with Justin and on my own.

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I do a “Year in Review” blog post every year to wrap things up. If you’re curious, feel free to read past editions: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014.

Becoming a Full Time Travel Blogger

Becoming a full time travel blogger in 2019

A little bit of background about me: I have a degree in English literature and a diploma in Television Broadcasting & Communications Media. I worked for 12 years at a national TV station as a sports video editor and ingest operator. However, I never truly enjoyed my job there. It was okay and I liked many of my co-workers, but I didn’t find the job to be challenging or fulfilling. The job paid very well, but the hours weren’t the greatest. Shift work isn’t that great to begin with, and it’s made worse when it’s not a job that you love. Leaving a high paying career where you have a pension, benefits etc…it’s not an easy decision. But, overall happiness is most important, and I would rather work longer hours and make less money at a job that I love.

What’s it like to take the plunge into full time travel blogging? There are definitely highs and lows. It’s scary to start your own business. It’s not the type of career that has a steady paycheck every week. Sometimes you’ll make a lot of money all at once and other times…crickets. I am happy to report that I’ve been able to grow the blog so much since devoting all of my time to it, and things are getting better and better.

I also have the freedom to travel more often and to say yes more often to projects and opportunities. With that said, I spend most of my time at home creating content. That means working in my PJs or yoga pants, and having two cats as my co-workers. It’s not for everyone, but I love it!

Justin still works at the TV station where I used to work (and where we met). He really enjoys working there and will continue to grow his career there. That means that he isn’t always able to travel with me. So, there are many trips that I’ve taken with other people (my sister, my friends) or I’ll travel solo. Even though this is a couples travel blog, I’m really embracing the solo female traveler life. I don’t think I’ll start writing about solo female travel (as there are so many amazing women who do that so well already), but I don’t mind exploring parts of the world on my own, just as long as I’m out there traveling.

January

Full time travel blogging: Tempe Arizona

Alright, let’s take a look at where I visited in 2019, both with Justin and on my own. After laying low for the first part of January, I went on a short trip to Tempe, Arizona at the end of the month. It was my first time in Arizona, and I was there with a small group of fellow travel bloggers. I fell in love with the desert, the warm climate (being able to escape Toronto in January was amazing!), and I had such a wonderful time with a fantastic group of ladies on this trip. For the first time ever, I tried ax throwing (which was so much fun), visited a desert botanical garden, and hiked in new terrain. I’d love to visit Arizona again, and I really enjoyed my time in Tempe.

February

Volunteering in Guatemala, one of my most rewarding travel experiences of 2019

In February, I embarked on my most rewarding trip of the year to Guatemala where I volunteered at ARCAS, a wildlife rescue center. I traveled there with my sister, Robyn, and she loved helping the animals, too. We both plan to attend another group volunteer expedition with Animal Experience International to Nepal, helping two dog welfare programs in November 2020.

Between our hours spent caring for rescued birds, monkeys, and reptiles, we also had the opportunity to visit the nearby island of Flores and the Mayan ruins of Tikal. Volunteering in the Guatemalan jungle was hard work and very hot (with shared accommodations and cold showers), but there were moments where we could rest in hammocks and swim in the lake.

I still think about the animals we helped and wonder when they’ll be rehabilitated enough to be released back into the wild. I cared for some injured parrots that will sadly, never be able to live wild and free, but I know they’ll have amazing long term care at ARCAS to live their best lives.

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April

Full time travel blogging - a 2 week trip to Scotland

After taking March off from travel to catch up on full time travel blogging responsibilities, Justin and I took a 2 week trip to Scotland. I was beyond excited to finally visit Scotland. My mom’s side of the family is Scottish, and I grew up hearing Scottish accents from my grandparents. Sadly, my grandpa passed away in the fall of 2018, so I felt in my heart that the time was right to see Scotland with my own eyes.

We traveled to Glasgow, Stirling (where my family is from), Loch Lomond & the Trossachs, Oban, Glencoe, Fort William, the Isle of Skye, Inverness, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh. I haven’t written an overview of our trip yet, but you can read many of our Scotland blog posts here. Expect a lot more Scotland blog posts in 2020. I have a LOT to still write about from this trip, and I’m also hoping to head back to Scotland at least once or twice in the new year! I think Scotland was my favorite destination of 2019 because it’s beautiful and it felt like home immediately.

May

Exploring Dutchess County in 2019

May was an incredibly busy travel month. At the end of April, I embarked on a solo road trip from Toronto through New York State, New Hampshire, and Maine. I went to Albany, New York for a couple of days, and visited Dutchess County for the first time. I enjoyed Dutchess County so much that I ended up returning there again late in 2019! On the way home, I spent a day in the town of Hudson, New York, which is a super cute town.

Next, I stopped in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for a day before continuing my journey up to Portland, Maine for the Women in Travel Summit. This women’s travel conference is super empowering and I really enjoyed all of the networking opportunities and learning from the speakers. Sometimes when you work for yourself at home, it can be a bit isolating. Attending conferences like WITS reminds me that there are so many other amazing people out there following their dreams, and it’s so positive that we can boost each other up in our personal and career journeys. After WITS, I took a post-WITS FAM trip to the Maine Beaches area where I got to spend a couple of days exploring the area with fellow travel blogger, Retha of The Roaming Nanny.

Canal barge cruise of the Canal du Midi in France

If that wasn’t enough, I flew to Paris towards the end of the month for another solo adventure in France! It wasn’t solo for most of the trip, however. I took a train down to Beziers and went on my first barge cruise in the South of France. I met some lovely couples on the barge, and visited some charming medieval towns. The barge experience was incredible with delicious food, drink, and views (despite the fact that I was sick for part of the time), and I hope to take another barge cruise in 2020.

After the sailing, I headed back up to Paris for a couple of days. Exploring Paris solo for the first time was an interesting experience, as it’s known for being such a romantic place. I actually didn’t end up going to many major tourist attractions as it was a last minute trip and I didn’t feel like waiting in long lines to visit the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre (I saw millions of bones instead in the Paris Catacombs!). I know that Justin and I will go to Paris together at some point, so I’m saving lots of the touristy stuff for that. Wandering around the gardens of Paris and stopping at several cute cafes was not a bad way to spend a couple of days.

June

Golfing at Hockley Valley Resort

For the first time in years, I spent my birthday at home! I wanted to see my friends for birthday celebrations, as I used to do in past years (but hadn’t done in a while as I was always traveling over my birthday). I gathered up the crew and we spent the night playing video games at Dave and Buster’s. I had a blast! On the night before my birthday, Justin and I went to Hockley Valley Resort for dinner and drinks, an overnight stay, and a round of golf the next morning. I hadn’t played golf in years (and only had played once before), so it was a lot of fun learning how to play again.

A week later, I flew to Chicago for five days to attend the Mediavine conference, my first non-travel blogging conference. I learned a lot from the sessions, and it finally gave me the kick in the butt I needed to start my weekly newsletter back up. There were a couple of other travel bloggers in attendance, and I met some lovely food bloggers & DIY/craft bloggers, too. I took a few extra days to explore the city, as I hadn’t been to Chicago since my grade 10 school band trip (wow!). I still haven’t written about my trip to Chicago yet, but I will soon. Promise.

At the end of June, I took a trip to the nearby cities of London and Windsor, Ontario. I had never properly explored either city, so it was exciting to see these two great Ontario cities with a fresh perspective. Check out my guides to London and Windsor if you’re looking for weekend getaway ideas that aren’t too far from home (if you live in Toronto or southern Ontario, that is!).

July & August

Justin Plus Lauren in Flam, Norway

In July, I took another local trip in Ontario to Perth County, a region that I haven’t ever explored (but I’m glad I did!). It’s a rural community with so much to offer, especially if you’re into delicious food and drink. This was another solo road trip adventure.

At the end of July and into August, Justin and I took a week long cruise to Norway with Holland America Line. We both love cruises and had never sailed with HAL before, and we had an incredible time. The country of Norway is so stunning, and the Nieuw Statendam cruise ship offered amazing food and entertainment.

In August, I took my first Bruce Trail hike of the year (and sadly, my only Bruce Trail hike of the year), continuing my journey on this 900km trail in southern Ontario. I really hope that I’ll be able to spend more time hiking in 2020.

September

Full time travel blogging - FAM trip to North Dakota

In September, I attended my third blogging conference of the year, and an old favorite: TBEX! I’ve gone to TBEX conferences in Fort Lauderdale, Huntsville, Finger Lakes, Killarney Ireland, and now, Billings Montana. Before the conference, I had a FAM trip for a few days in the state of North Dakota where I’ve never traveled before. Guys, North Dakota has SO much to offer, especially when it comes to the amazing landscapes of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. There’s a lot of history, cute towns, and great food in ND, too. Go there before everyone else does!

In Billings, I spent most of my days at the conference, but had a little bit of time to spend in town, too. With an extra day at the end of the conference, I took a solo road trip on the Beartooth Highway in Montana and Wyoming for some of the most impressive scenery that I’ve ever witnessed.

At the end of the month, I stayed in a cabin and viewed the pretty fall colors about four hours north of Toronto at Bonnechere Provincial Park (in the Ottawa Valley). I traveled there with my sister for a couple of days where we went hiking and canoeing, grilled veggie burgers, and binge watched British crime dramas on Netflix by nightfall in our cabin.

October

Our dream trip to Tanzania for a safari

October was another huge travel month. Justin and I went on a luxury safari in Tanzania for his first time in Africa (and my second time, though first time in Tanzania). What an incredible experience that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. There’s nothing quite like seeing African animals up close, every single day. We saw lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, monkeys, tons of colorful birds, and so much more. It all seems like a dream now, but I hope that we’ll be able to go back to more African countries in the future.

At the end of October, I brought my best friend, Sarah, with me on a media trip to Sandals in Saint Lucia. We stayed at the dreamy Sandals Grande St Lucian. Sandals is typically a couples resort, but I was happy to share the experience with one of my besties. We went around the island visiting iconic sites like the Pitons, took a mud bath near a volcano, went snorkeling, and so much more. The resort experience is so wonderful with super delicious food and warm hospitality. I was happy to bring one of my best friends on a tropical getaway with me, too!

November

Florida Keys road trip - travel experiences of 2019

In November, I finally got to visit the Florida Keys, a trip that I’ve wanted to take for a very long time. I was with a small group of media, including my buddies Dave and Deb of The Planet D and my new friends, Cat and Kevin of the travel blog, For Two Please. We spent five days in the Keys where I went parasailing for the first time and explored the tourist attractions in Key West. It was great that we happened to fly out just before a massive snowstorm hit the Toronto area. And, by the time I got home, all the snow had melted! Whew, dodged that one pretty nicely!

December

Mont Tremblant in December - Full time travel blogging in 2019

I definitely ended the year with a bang! In December, I had the chance to go back to one of my new favorite discoveries in 2019, Dutchess County, New York. There were Christmas decorated mansions, including national and state historic sites. It was not only interesting to visit these places for the first time (and add more stamps to my newest obsession, my Passport to Your National Parks book), but they were all dolled up for the holiday season.

Next up, Justin and I went to Mont Tremblant for our second trip there, this time in the winter. My goal was to try skiing again, after a brief hiatus…of almost 20 years! Yes, I hadn’t gone skiing in 20 years, so I went to ski school with an incredibly patient and encouraging instructor. Before long, I was skiing on the mountain with Justin as he went snowboarding. Tremblant isn’t only about skiing and snowboarding in the winter – check out everything that you can do in Mont Tremblant in winter, including a trip to the Nordic spa!

To end the year, I decided on a bit of a whim that it was time to get LASIK eye surgery. I kept hearing over and over again from my sister and friends that it was one of the best decisions they ever made. Well, I decided to have the procedure and yes, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. No more glasses, no more contact lenses. I can see perfectly from the moment I wake up in the morning. It is life changing. I’m going to write about the procedure and how it changes your life, especially if you love to travel, in the new year.

Looking Ahead to 2020

So, what’s in store for 2020? I’m looking forward to growing my business as a full time travel blogger by continuing this blog and launching a second blog focused on Canada travel. I have several trips in store, but I am hoping to travel a little bit less so I can focus more on writing. Believe it or not, but I have SO many stories and trips to write about that I’ve taken in the past few years…and I haven’t been able to share them yet!

While I do have some international trips in store, I’d like to see more of my own country. This will involve researching topics for my Canada travel blog, and exploring more of the Great White North (something I’ve always wanted to do).

I’ll also be co-leading a trip to India this March, and there are still a few spaces available on it! If you want to take the trip of a lifetime, why don’t you join me on a sustainable adventure to India?

Want to stay in touch? The best thing to do is subscribe to my newsletter where you’ll get an update once a week about recent blog posts, travel tips, exclusive content, and so much more. Also, if you’d like to engage in fun and uplifting travel conversations, be sure to join my Facebook community!

Now, I want to hear from you! Where did you go in 2019? What were your best moments in 2019? And what are your plans for 2020?

6 Responses

  1. Tiffany Pence
    | Reply

    You were very busy this year! We traveled more in Mexico visiting big cities like Puebla and Mexico City and smaller places like Acambay and Almealco. We also scored sweet petsitting gig in Malta for 2 weeks with an extra week in Sicily free! We planned that trip with stops in Madrid, Segovia and Avila, Spain. 2020 we will be focusing on our food and winery tours of Central Mexico, but I do have a solo trip planned for Arizona in March. We will see what else comes up!

  2. Nina | Lemons and Luggage
    | Reply

    I love that you went back to some places instead of only going to new countries. While it’s amazing to explore new places, I think it can be equally rewarding to go back, sometimes after years, to see discover even more about a city or country.

  3. Lori Sweet
    | Reply

    2019 was a stellar year for travel for me. I made several trips to Vancouver, visited several wineries there and made a day trip to Whistler in the summer. I managed to fit in a cruise to the Bahamas with my daughter and an amazing trip to Thailand with my husband. A highlight of the year was meeting you, a fellow Canadian writer/blogger, in the van at the airport in Billings, Montana after the TBEX conference. 2020 is shaping up to be another great travel year starting with our trip to Costa Rica this month. Like you, 2020 is the year I get more of my/our travel adventures and advice down on paper to share with others. I am looking forward to reading more about your adventures.

  4. Chocoviv
    | Reply

    What an amazing year!

  5. Sherry
    | Reply

    Wow! That sounds like an incredible year! I too began blogging full time January 2019! I am hoping to find a blogging conference to go to this year, I think it’s time to do some networking with fellow bloggers!

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      Oh wonderful! Congratulations! I will be definitely attending WITS (Women in Travel Summit) which is May in Kansas City. Where are you located in the world? TBEX is always a good bet, too – there is one in Europe and North America this year. If you go to WITS, I’ll see you there!

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