It just occurred to me that if I keep writing this same annual round-up post into the 2020s I’ll start recording more fails than wins each year, and aren’t we supposed to get better at life with age? Or is it that we learn not to worry so much about achieving those wins and instead enjoy life along with all the fails?
The other day my dad was telling me that he didn’t really come into his own until his fifties, and now in his sixties he finds himself uncannily cheerful, every single day. So I guess 2018 being the year that will take me into my thirties need only distress me insofar as I still have a full TWO DECADES until the most blissful years of my life.
But for the last full year of my twenties, 2017 wasn’t that bad. In fact I can’t help but break into the biggest smile when I think about all the things that happened this past year.
So here are the 20 wins and 17 fails that have left me smiling in 2017:
Win: Ice Swimming in Finland
I started off the year with two weeks in one of my favorite countries: Finland! The trip included so many highlights that I’m actually headed back there in a few weeks, but one of my most fun memories is finally going ice swimming after an hour in the sauna.
Did I say fun? I meant painful. Yet invigorating!
Win: Making the switch to full-time blogging
On New Year’s Day I officially became a full-time blogger, and guys, it felt so good. I mean, it also felt scary and stressful, but for the most part the transition was surprisingly easy.
I tend to play down how much I love my job when people ask me about it, I think because I’m still in a bit of disbelief that this is what I get to make a living from. And while I did work incredibly hard to get to this point, and I continue to work a lot harder than I would probably have to at a lot of other jobs, I also realize that a great deal of luck went into getting me here.
I’ve been incredibly lucky with the way my blog has grown over the years and quite organically shifted from being a hobby to a job, and I’m so grateful to everyone who supports me by reading the things I write over here.
Ugh, so many feels, let’s move on to a fail.
Fail: Selling our car
I just reread my roundup post from 2016, and my heart sank just a tiny bit when I read that one of my wins for the year was buying a car. I was so excited about having a car in Norway.
But it turned out that having a car high up in the mountains, where the roads are covered in slippery snow and ice for eight months of the year and the nearest service station is over an hour away is not very practical.
So before winter set in again Dan and I sold our little red car. We’ll likely be moving to a different part of Norway at some point in 2018, at which time we’ll probably get a new car. But for now I’ve traded in my wheels for skis and am becoming best buds with the local bus driver.
Win: Finally making it to the Lofoten Islands
After dreaming of visiting Lofoten for over a decade, I finally made it up there in March. And it was even more beautiful in real life!
It was also so fun traveling with three of my favorite photographers, and I feel like I learned so much from them in that one week.
Fail: Getting really sick on Lofoten
I love looking back at my photos of Lofoten, but they also remind me how sick I was while there. Like, there were times during that week where I was seriously struggling to stay on my feet! If I had been anywhere else in the world I probably would have been bedridden.
But the views were worth the pain!
Win: Reuniting with Danielle
If you remember way back when I was a Roaming Coconut, you’ll know that I used to travel and blog with my friend Danielle. And in March we reunited for two weeks in Morocco. It was wonderful to get to travel again together – so much so in fact that we’ve planned another reunion trip for March 2018!
Win: Finally making more videos
I still have a lot to learn about videos, but it’s been fun experimenting a bit more with them, and they really do make for great memories!
Win: Meeting a lot of blogging friends in real life
One of the things I was most worried about with leaving my supermarket job to blog full-time was no longer having work colleagues. But I soon learned that that’s not the case at all when it comes to blogging!
Okay, I do spend a lot of time sitting alone in my study. But I also spend a whole lot of time talking to my blogging friends online, and this year I ended up meeting up with lots of other bloggers. I even got to finally hang out it real life with Lisa, Rachel, and Megan, all of whom I’ve known online for years.
I loved getting to travel with so many other bloggers this year, but I also learned that, oh my goodness, I really hate networking at blogger conferences.
In April I went to a small conference especially for travel bloggers, and while yes, it was lovely seeing some of my friends again and I did go to one or two interesting talks, I also got a glimpse into the ugly side of travel blogging.
It was cliquey – one girl commented how she hadn’t felt this “uncool” since high school – there was gossip, and drama, and even some tears?! The experience was bizarre, and actually had me second guessing if this really was an industry I wanted to be part of.
But then I remembered that, oh right, you can probably find drama and cliques everywhere, and it’s totally possible to be part of an industry without getting involved in its drama – at least I think with blogging it is.
Fail: I didn’t love Malta
It’s quite rare that I don’t fall in love with a place – I guess I’m just really easy to please – but I have to admit, Malta was not my favorite. Luckily I was visiting with my mom, so it was still a really fun trip, but I also probably won’t be rushing back there anytime soon.
Win: I loved Mallorca
Weirdly, while I had expected to like Malta more than I did, I visited Mallorca a month later with very low expectations and I ended up loving it!
Win: Moving – again, and again!
So, you might not think that this should be in the win category, as Dan and I had to move twice in 2017 and moving is a pain, but I loved both of the places so much that I’m going to call the moves a win!
First we moved to a small cabin with one of the prettiest views in all of Rauland:
And then a couple of months ago we moved to an apartment in the center of Rauland, that might just be the nicest place I’ve ever lived. And I don’t think I’m just saying that because I spent the previous year and a half in cabins. I don’t think?
Win: Finally seeing more of Africa
One of my resolutions for 2017 was to explore more of Africa, and I ended up going to five new countries on the continent! The only problem is, Africa seems to be one of those places you just want to see more an more of, so my bucket list has gotten long.
Fail: Not seeing more of Norway
The only new place I visited in Norway this year was Lofoten! Otherwise all of my (many) trips during the year took me abroad.
So now at the top of my list of New Year’s resolutions is doing more travel in my own country. Let me know if there’s anywhere in particular you think I should go!
Win: Making it up that volcano
There was a good while that I thought the Nyiragongo hike was going to go down as a fail, but I made it in the end! It seriously was one of the coolest things I’ve done and I could not recommend it more.
Win: Stand up paddleboarding down the Nile with Helen
I loved the trip I took through Rwanda, the DRC, and Uganda with Helen, and one of my favorite experiences was spending an afternoon SUP down the Nile with Helen.
We went with a guide, who followed behind us in a kayak with a cooler full of gin and tonics, and then when we had had our fill of paddling we all linked up and floated back down to our starting point with a refreshing drink in hand.
Win: Reuniting with my besties in Ukraine
Best trip ever. And maybe one of the weirdest?
Win: Voting for the first time in Norway
Even though I do have Norwegian citizenship, I usually feel like a bit of a pretend Norwegian. So voting for the first time in a Norwegian election was a really exciting moment.
Fail: My most useful post about Norway got a lot of hate
Okay, this one is more of an lol than a fail. A few big Facebook pages shared my post about 10 Norwegian Meals to Make in Norway for Less than $10, which I think might just be the most useful post I’ve ever written about traveling Norway on a budget. I used all my insider secrets from my year working at a Norwegian supermarket, and I linked to all the foods mentioned so people would know exactly what to buy.
But the post seemed to make a lot of people angry! I guess some people just refuse to believe Norway could be so budget friendly, insisting instead that I was clearly lying about the cost of the food mentioned.
I know I’ve written some controversial posts on this blog before, but I never thought this would be one of them!
Fail: My Norwegian is only getting worse
I didn’t spend a great deal of time in Norway in 2017, and my Norwegian definitely suffered because of that. I swear I’ll do better next year. Really!
Win: The Comoros
The Comoros must be one of the most underrated (or simply unknown?) destinations in the world. Seriously, how are more people not going here??
Win: Conquering my fear of snorkeling (sort of)
I know it’s irrational, but snorkeling really freaks me out! But on the Comoros I braved those scary waters for several snorkeling trips, and it was actually quite fun!
Fail: Getting a mysterious bite on the Comoros
I guess I’ll never know what it was…
Win: Going back home to Worcester
I wasn’t great at exploring my new home this past year, but I did make it back to my old one! I love New England in the fall, and it was so nice seeing my family again.
Fail: Not blogging about Worcester
The only blog post I’ve written about the US isn’t exactly positive, and I swear I had meant to write something nice about my hometown. I even got about halfway through the article, but for some reason I couldn’t finish it. Maybe next year?
Win: Returning to Japan
Speaking of visiting old homes, I also finally made it back to Japan, five years after moving away. I was oddly apprehensive about this trip, I think because I had some rough times while living in Japan, but it was so, so nice to be back. In fact it was so nice, that I already have another trip there planned for 2018!
If you’re looking for some great tips on how to beat jetlag, you’re going to have to look somewhere else. I mean, I’ve read all the tips out there, but it gets me every time.
Win: Finding my blogging groove
Lol I don’t know if groove is quite the right word for it, but I do feel like this year I really figured out how it is I want to make money with this blog, as well as the aspects of it that don’t earn me any money that I still want to hold on to.
It’s been a bit tricky learning how to make my hobby my full-time job without having to give up my favorite hobby, but I think I’m beginning to find the right balance.
Fail: Confusing everyone with my job
The first question basically everyone asks when I tell them what I do for work is if I can earn a living from it.
I think it’s meant as a nice question, because the implication is probably that it sounds like such a lovely job that it couldn’t possibly also pay money, but trying to explain that I do in fact make enough money to live comfortably feels pretty awkward. And Dan has said that a few people even seem to doubt that I do make any money these days, suggesting that he must be supporting me financially.
Fail: My inbox
This made the fail list last year, and it did again in 2017. If you’ve emailed me recently, I’m really sorry that I probably have not responded.
Win: Starting a Facebook group dedicated to travel in Scandinavia and the Nordics
I’ve been terrible at keeping up with my inbox this year, but one thing that’s at least been a help in answering people’s questions about travel in the Nordics has been starting a Facebook group together with three other bloggers focusing on travel in the region.
Fail: Still not making it to Belarus
2017 was the year where I asked everyone I met if they’d fancy a trip to Belarus, and it was the year where everyone rejected
me the idea. I had planned to go alone in December, but then my month filled up with other plans, so that trip will have to wait until 2018!
Fail: Spending way too much time at airport hotels
As Norway isn’t great with public transport, especially in remote areas like Rauland, I often have to spend the nights before or after my flights in Oslo. I do love hotels, but I have to admit I’m getting a little tired of spending so many unnecessary nights away from home.
Fail: Spending three days at the airport trying to see my mom and sister
Speaking of spending too much time at airport hotels, earlier this month my flight to London was cancelled, and then I couldn’t get on another flight for a full two days. Normally it wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but I was meeting my sister and mom for a short five-day trip to York and London, so it was a bit sad when it was cut down to a two and a half day trip.
Win: Having a lovely Christmas in London
I spent Christmas in London with Dan’s family, and it was so fun to experience a different family’s traditions. Plus London at Christmas really is just so magical.
Win: Ending the year with a trip to Krakow
I’m writing this post from a café in Krakow with my friend Catriona, and I couldn’t really think of a better way to end this year of travel than returning to one of my favorite countries with one of my favorite people.
Fail: Catriona and I still haven’t made it to Glasgow together
Krakow is of course really lovely, but Catriona promised to show me Glasgow years ago and it still hasn’t happened. Just thought I’d mention it, in case she reads this…
Fail: I’m not sure I’ll make it home for New Year’s
So you know what I said about the lack of buses in Norway? My flight on Saturday gets in at 1 pm, but even after taking three buses and a train, I’ll only be able to get as far as Rjukan. Is 8 pm too late to hitchhike?
Lol, wish me luck!