I can't believe it! Where has 2017 gone? It felt like only yesterday that I was waving goodbye to 2016. In fact, sometimes I accidentally write '2016' when writing the date. I totally say this every year as well. Sometimes I wish time would slow down. When I was a kid, a year used to feel like forever.
The end of 2017 marks the end of my first year having this blog. I know - I backdate some of my posts all the way back to 2012 but I actually only started my blog in November 2016 to document my trip to Seychelles. I got so excited writing about my travels that I decided to write about my most recent years of travelling. I decided to stop with 2012 even though I really could keep going, haha. So, I've had my blog for a year and I feel like that's a milestone in itself.
2017 has been a turbulent year but I feel like I say that every year. The one thing I can say is that I achieved a lot of my goals for this year and feel like I'm generally moving in the direction I want to be with my life.
So, let's take a look at the key moments of this year for me.
The beautiful Anse Royale beach in Mahé, Seychelles
A Promising Start
2017 Started shortly after my trip to Seychelles. So, I welcomed 2017 whilst still feeling completely alive after indulging in my first proper trip for years. You'll notice that I don't have any blog posts on travels in 2015 or early 2016 and that's because I didn't travel. It was a difficult time but other commitments came first although I was agitated to get away. After taking a 2-week trip to Seychelles, I felt like a burning passion had been ignited again and I felt like I had direction to my life. I started posting on Instagram for the first time in over a year - I know, crazy, right? It felt great to be 'back'.
The Low Months
As the year got into full swing, my mood dramatically changed. Something which I've never delved into on this blog (and boy I'm still worried about doing it but uhhh here we go) is the fact that I suffer with depression and anxiety. I knew I'd been anxious for years now (about 3 years) but it was taking over my life. I couldn't work. I couldn't see my friends. I could barely see my family. In March I finally decided to get therapy, something which I'd been considering for at least a year but could never bring myself to do. I was worried that the therapist would tell me I was fine and I'd feel embarrassed - it's actually happened before, kind of.
Anyway, my therapist told me that I did need her help and not just for anxiety, but I also had depression. I'd been treated for depression before in 2012 and was on meds for a year. This time I was going to do it without the meds, or at least try to. At first it felt like nothing was helping me as 3 months later I felt almost exactly the same. Something which was helping me the most was to split my day up more to include more 'me time' and that means time I can spend doing things I enjoy like writing. I often feel like I'm not working hard enough on my work so force myself to work and work even though most of that time is spent staring out a window in distress that I'm struggling to work so am not doing good enough.
Moody days in the Lake District, England
Summer Was The Turning Point
The main turning point for me and my year happened during one of my therapy sessions in June. It was a Saturday I was incredibly low and agitated. I felt uninspired to do anything despite my agitation. My partner had suggested that morning that we should go away for 1 night but something incredibly irritating about anxiety is that you feel crippled with worry at the though of doing anything. I mentioned this to my therapist and she told me I should just go. The thought made me feel a glimmer of excitement but ultimately my worry held me back. It was way too easy to give in to sitting on the sofa all evening with my cat.
Throughout my session, my partner had been looking for a place for us to stay and in doing so had come up with a crazy but exciting plan. We were going to go camping. The tent had been chosen and a campsite had almost been chosen. That was it. We went and it was an amazing decision. You can read all the details behind that awesome camping trip here.
Travelling again made me feel alive
I came back from that camping trip a changed person. I was buzzing with excitement and I spent the entirety of the following week editing pictures and writing blog posts. This kept the holiday alive for me and extended the pleasure from it. I guess it also keeps me distracted from any negative thoughts that threaten to take-over.
Less than a month later, we went camping again. This time we went to the Peak District. This trip wasn't quite as excited, but I still had a blast despite the irritating people in the campsite and creepy moths in the bathroom.
Simultaneously, we started doing more at the weekend, like our visit to Little Moreton Hall. I feel like the simple activity of keeping myself busy and exploring new things was what was having a dramatic effect on me.
A month later, we were off again! We decided to go to Snowdonia in Wales and this was the best camping trip yet. We stayed for 2 nights instead of 1 so had a full day to explore some pretty crazy landscapes.
A beautiful waterfall Snowdonia. There's perks to going on a very rainy day!
This trip seemed to temporarily re-wire my normally anxious brain. We came back from Snowdonia and I felt alive! I started ripping off the hideous red wallpaper in our halls, fuelled by either madness or excitement. By the following weekend, my partner and I had re-decorated our hallway and landing, turning it from a dingy 'bad cave' to a beautiful cream hallway that felt like home. I felt like I was fixing my life and turning this cold 'house' into a 'home'.
That week I had my last session with my therapist. It took us both by surprise but as I gave my account of the last few weeks, we both decided I didn't need it anymore. We'd discovered what the problem was and it seems I don't have to live with anxiety. If I get out more and travel more, I'm a much happier person. Travelling gives me the strength to do more things and makes me feel inspired.
Then came the next major event. I actually booked to go on holiday with my friends, something I honestly never thought I would do because of my anxiety. It was a massive step for me and I felt incredibly nervous in the days leading up to it. Sadly, my grandpa's funeral got booked in on the same day I was due to fly on holiday so I nearly cancelled my holiday. It was a terrible coincidence that nearly sent me into a relapse. It was so easy to cancel but some tiny flame inside me pushed me that extra bit to just book a later flight. That's exactly what I did. So, I flew to Mallorca for a 'girls holiday'.
I made it to Mallorca!
Going to Mallorca with my friends opened up a flurry of emotions. It was nice to see them but I had a few inner battles to face and felt both crazily free yet scarily trapped at the same time. I learnt that inside I just want to run riot and do what I want but ultimately I'm tied down by compromise and when organising events between 6 people, it's difficult to agree on something. I also learnt that I shouldn't drink so much as being hungover seems to get worse with age... or maybe I just can't handle my drink as well as I used to.
An Incredible Ending to 2017
When I returned from Mallorca, the best event to occur all year happened. I booked a 2-week road-trip round Namibia with my partner and it was everything I'd hoped it would be and more. It felt like the trip of a lifetime and if I'd felt alive in Snowdonia, it was nothing compared to how alive I felt in Namibia. I felt a sense of freedom I hadn't known for so long. I felt like I could do anything. We did so much. I returned to N/a'an ku sê - a sanctuary that to me is so much more than a home for rescued animals. When I volunteered there in 2013, the experience changed my life and I owe so much to that time in my life. I went on a self-drive safari in Etosha National Park and saw a wild lion! I visited the Skeleton Coast and Sossusvlei - places which have been on my bucket-list for ages. Youget the picture - I had a blast!
I returned home from my Namibia trip in mid-November and since then have been editing photos, writing blog posts, editing videos and creating vlogs. These activities have really kept the adventure alive. A month has past since I returned home and I'm still reeling with excitement. Having a blog has enabled me to keep my adventures alive for longer and thus increase my mood and lowered my anxiety.
Rescued cheetah at N/a'an ku sê
Highlights of 2017
Road-tripping Namibia: How did you guess this would be a highlight? This was the best thing to happen to me all year. An absolute trip of a lifetime filled with so much adventure and excitement. I'm already itching to go back to Namibia! Not only was it incredible for me, my partner really enjoyed it and can't stop complaining about how he wishes we were going on holiday again. Yes! He's never felt compelled to travel as much as I have which has always been a slight issue for me. When your so passionate about something, it's important your partner shares in on this passion, right? Well, now it looks like I've finally converted him! I'm so excited for our future adventures together.
Acknowledging something needed to change: I'd gone through so many years ignoring my emotions which ultimately is detrimental. How can you get better if you don't accept you need help? This year I actively sought out a solution to my mental health and honestly, although it has improved slightly, I still feel there's a long way to go. Travelling helps me so much but the time I spend travelling is like 5% of the year at most. This means I'm exposed to all sorts of stresses and triggers constantly whilst I'm at home. After being back a month from Namibia, I'm starting to feel old haunts creeping in again. Damn it, why is my mind so demanding and complicated? However, in spite of this, I do feel like I'm somewhere along the road to 'recovery'.
Making a start on the re-decoration of our house: We bought our house in spring 2016 and have done virtually nothing to it. Decorating is expensive and time-consuming and ultimately, I'd rather spend money travelling. However, having the house like it was seemed to be having a bad affect on me and my partner. It just didn't feel like our house and the bright red walls made our hallway seem dark, small and suffocating. Just deciding to paint this made so much difference to how I felt about having a home. I started to feel like it was a safe place for me, my partner and my cat. Crazy how something so small can have such a big impact.
Starting my blog: This has changed my life so much already. My blog may only be small and have only a tiny number of readers but just using it as an outlet for my creativity and 'being myself' has worked wonders for me. I also feel like I'm a step closer to being who I want to be. I've always been incredibly passionate about writing, photography and video editing and now I'm actually able to pursue these passions. My blog gives me something to look forward to in often otherwise dull days and helps to keep my travels alive.
Going away more: The total amount of trips I took this year was considerably higher than the previous few years. This year I went to The Lake District, The Peak District, Snowdonia, Mallorca and Namibia. That may not seem like a lot to so many digital nomads but to me it's a step in the right direction. Travelling whilst running a business can be difficult, especially when the business comes with stock that needs to be shipped. I can't easily work from a deck-chair as my work is more than firing off emails.
Road-tripping around Namibia was the highest point of 2017 for me
Lowlights of 2017
My mental health: This one gets me every year. I always seem to somehow spiral into depression and anxiety. It's so difficult to deal with when running a business. I can't just take time off work to heal myself and have to solider on, despite of the thoughts weighing me down. I think this can make things worse as I'm sitting unable to get on with anything and then beating myself up for not doing anything. A vicious cycle, eh?
Relationships: I think this is probably linked to my mental health but I seem like a pro at letting relationships slip - this year was no exception. I don't talk to my friends, I ignore messages, I don't make enough effort with my family, I say 'no' to social events. I'm not naturally a social person and tend to enjoy my own company but then at the same time I do want to have some relationships. I want to be close to my family and I want some solid friendships. I just seem useless at making an effort. Fortunately, I did make some changes this year. I went on a girl's holiday with my friends, for example. However, it was difficult and some turbulence with it make me worried to try it again. I feel like towards the end of the year, I tried harder with my family although I'm still not quite at a stage I can be content with. It's a lot better than it was!
I can't believe I saw a wild lioness in Etosha! This has been on my bucket-list since I was a kid!
My Goals for 2018
If I've learnt anything in 2017 it's that travelling seems to curb my mental health. As a result of feeling happier, I'm able to focus more on my work and make better work decisions. I'm also able to feel happier in myself. My goals for 2018 are based off all my new learnings.
1. To set myself more short-term goals! We all need to reward ourselves for doing well! Since returning from Namibia I've put in a lot of exciting plans for the new year in regards to my business. If these new ideas succeed (I've set an exact goal for what 'succeeding' is), I will reward myself with a long-weekend holiday somewhere in Europe in February. After this, I will set myself another work-based goal with a similar reward.
2. To have another major adventure next November. Currently I'm thinking Caribbean but we shall see. Having at least 1 major holiday for the year keeps me powering on. It's like a light at the end of the tunnel for me. I'm really a short-term person and a goal 10 years or even 5 years from now has zero impact on me. Waiting a year feels like a lifetime but it's better than nothing.
3. To get my sleep pattern sorted once and for all. Oh, my, this had been a goal of mine for years. I want to wake up at 5am every morning and go to bed at 7pm. Think I'm crazy? Maybe I am. But I know for a fact that I am so much more productive in the morning than the evening. Plus, I'll get to see some pretty cool sunrises.
4. To try again with curing my mental health. Although I'm doing better than I was at the start of 2017, I still think I'm not quite there yet with where I want to be with my mental health. My concentration is appalling and I relapse often. Sometimes, for no reason whatsoever, my heart-rate goes through the roof, I get jittery hands and either a headache or chest-pains accompany it. I think my main issue is being completely unable to control my mind and its thoughts. My mind races at like a million miles an hour and I have absolutely no control over it. Well, the exception is when I'm on holiday. All ailments completely disappear but if only a small proportion of my year is spent on holiday, I have to do something to subside the issues.
5. Start a YouTube. I'm so excited about this! I have about 10 vlogs ready to upload to YouTube but I'm going to save it till the new year. This is probably the side to blogging which I am most excited about. I absolutely love making videos and watching them back gives me an such an adrenaline rush. I'm not quite a natural yet at vlogging but you know what they say - practice makes perfect, right?
6. Work on my blog's SEO. Oh, SEO. That little thing has so far been completely pushed aside. I really need to write some more 'travel guide' articles and turn my blog into more of a useful travel source rather than just a personal diary for myself. I love writing travel memoirs way too much to ignore them but the odd article on 'how to XYZ' wouldn't hurt. I know that I personally love reading travel stories and they inspire me to travel but I don't account for everyone in the world.
7. Consider monetising my blog. You may be surprised to hear that I did not create this blog to make money from it. Making money from my blog is the last thing on my mind and the last thing on my agenda. Notice how this goal isn't committing myself to doing it but just considering it. I started my blog because I am genuinely passionate about writing and travelling, nothing else. If I can make the odd dollar whilst doing what I love then I'm open to it but I will only do this when I have a genuine and engaged following. Blogging is not about 'getting rich' for me but about increasing my blog's presence online and I will only ever take on jobs if where I feel I can add value.
Pondering how 2018 will pan out
That's a wrap!
So, that was my yearly round-up for 2017. I hope you enjoyed and more importantly I hope you had a great 2017. Each year is always filled with a few ups and downs but ultimately I hope you have made at least a step in the right direction and have made some fantastic memories.
Goodbye 2017! It's been a pleasure.