What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, I was just a few months into my blogging journey. I had moved to a new town at the first of 2018 and we were deep into a home remodel. My daughter was away at college. I had the best travel year ever, checking off some longtime bucketlist destinations like Iceland and Cuba.
This year, while the travel has been good everything else has been, to put it nicely, rough. I thought after moving, things would settle down a bit but the remodel seems never ending. The work on our 1890 farmhouse is way more than I expected.
House Remodeling Woes
At one point this year during the summer, we lived almost ten weeks on a generator. And while we were lucky in that we could run some window air conditioner units in the hottest months of the year, the generator wouldn’t run a refrigerator too. That meant a cooler for our food and frequently replenishing the ice.
I had to coordinate washing clothes and cooking since the washer and the small oven we used pulled too much power and would blow the breaker. It was exhausting. I left on a road trip in September wondering if we would ever have electricity again.
Thankfully with all the requirements met, by the time I returned home, we had lights and a working refrigerator. Yay! A small win.
Other Ups and Downs
The home remodel was just a small blip on the map though. In the spring, my grandmother passed away. Since no one told me she was dying, I didn’t get to see her before she died or attend her funeral.
At the time, I was on a road trip moving my daughter’s things to Nevada. I was already a third of the way there and had all her stuff. She literally had nothing but her clothes on her back and a pillow. I had to drive on.
This has been super hard to deal with and I know I have not come to grips with the fact that she’s gone. It’s hard losing a grandparent. Especially one you were close to. She was really young when she had my mom so she was like a second mother to me.
On top of this, while on a different road trip in September, I unexpectedly received a departure letter from my employer. I lost my job. Not only did this job cover many living expenses, it also contributed to the expenses of running a new blog and allowed me the time to travel so I’d have something to blog about.
On a Good Note
My daughter graduated college and moved to Nevada as I mentioned above. She’s fulfilling her goal of working for the National Park Service as a park ranger. I couldn’t be more proud. She graduated on a Saturday and started her job on Monday. Thus my quick drive across the country while she flew so she wouldn’t miss any training.
Together, we were able to get her settled and managed some time to explore Southern Nevada and the Lake Mead area. Even though I’ve been to Vegas a lot and had visited some of the surrounding state parks before, I had never explored Lake Mead much. It’s such a great park unit. Diverse and wildly beautiful. Her park house had a great view of the lake and makes you happy just to see it every day. I left a little piece of my heart when I had to come home.
On that same road trip, I had the chance to stop again in one of my favorite places, Little Rock, Arkansas. For someone who had never been to Little Rock before last year, I sure have loved getting to know it and its people. I’ve made some good friends there and I’m always scheming how to sneak in a visit.
In 2019 my travels took me back to a lot of old favorites and Ialso discovered some new cities and places in some states I had already been before.
Kicking off the year off with a bang and a long overdue European trip in January, I spent a few days in London and Madrid before finally landing in Portugal. It’s here where I fell in love with, drum roll please:
Yes, my favorite destination of 2019 was Lisbon. The food, the wine, the history. Lisbon is pretty perfect. In addition to the obvious things I loved, I was amazed how easy it was to get around and how affordable it is.
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe. The buildings are spectacular. Many of them are covered in murals or have graffiti which adds a bit of grittiness that only makes it that much more lovable. I joked that Lisbon made me want to start smoking, get a tattoo and have a tantric massage. None of which I’ll be admitting to.
Most of all I loved the coffee. Oh my the coffee! I would get on a plane right now for some of that coffee. There were days I was stopping three times for that addictive espresso.
It wasn’t just the coffee itself though. It’s the entire culture build around the coffee that I loved too. All over Lisbon there are little cafes that serve coffee and pastries. Some serve hardier breakfasts and sandwiches and such.
What’s interesting is a lot of these places serve alcohol too. So your neighborhood morning coffee shop is also where you go in the evening after work on your way home. Everyone stands around the counter and chats about their day or whatever. I don’t speak Portuguese but I sure enjoyed standing around that counter pretending to know what was going on.
The second quarter had me road tripping to Nevada and spending time with my daughter. From there I flew to San Diego. I really enjoy SD. It wasn’t my first time there but it was my first time in the Gaslamp Quarter. What a positively dreamy neighborhood.
I was happy to meet up with a good friend and spend some time sipping Gran Torinos and eating tacos.
However, the weather was awful. It had been cool in Nevada but it was really cool and rainy in San Diego for three straight days.
I didn’t last long. Baja called and I quickly crossed the border to Tijuana. I immediately hopped on a bus headed to Ensenada. I’m no stranger to Baja Norte but Ensenada was a new city for me. It’s a beautiful drive down the coast from Tijuana. Even on a bus. Seeing the ocean brought tears to my eyes. It was like seeing a good friend after a long absence.
I was going to Ensenada because I had been trying to visit the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s wine country, for a couple of years now. This trip I was going to make it happen. And I did. Again the food, the wine, and the history blew me away. Did you know this region has the oldest winery on the continent? I could easily spend a month there.
From Ensenada, I returned to Tijuana and flew to La Paz, another favorite. I rented a car to road trip around Baja Sur solo for the first time. First stop: Todos Santos.
If you aren’t familiar with Todos Santos or Todos, for short, it’s a hippieish, artsy community located about an hour north from Cabo. Being directly on the Tropic of Cancer only adds to its magical vibe. Locals told me that people either come to Todos running away from something or running toward something new. Whatever the case, it just felt like the place I was meant to be.
From the time I arrived and had lunch at the amazing Jazamango, to my first sunset sipping a Pacifico right on the beach at The Green Room, I was hooked.
I had planned on just staying one night and ended up staying eight.
The cast of interesting people, dogs (and one burro) that crossed my path in Todos was endless. Remember it was the beginning of this trip that I found out my grandmother had passed. Maybe the universe realized I needed some entertainment, distraction or help and it was ready to accommodate.
There was Carl, the 80 something motorcycle riding Californian I met at the bank. Within five minutes I had a lesson in microdosing, how to grow mushrooms and a date, if I wanted it. I did not.
I met a girl who told me southern girls don’t quit. We later got kicked out of a bar because she drank too much and broke a glass. On purpose. As we exited she thought it would be a good idea to have a make out session with a girl she just met. No problem except that girl had a husband who caught them and contrary to what a lot of males might think, he wasn’t too happy.
Then there was the talented Sinaloan chef and the surfer with one of the best dogs I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. The Spanish owner of the place I stayed who named his hotel after his surfing dog. The workers at the coffee shop that wanted a southerner to critique their biscuits. And most importantly, the complete stranger I serendipitously met that became my friend. She was attending a wellness retreat and her experiences and insights helped me more than she’ll ever know.
Todos Santos was exactly what my soul needed and my second favorite new destination of 2019. What’s the saying?
“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea”
Yeah, that one.
The Rest of the Year
After returning home from that trip the summer passed in a blur with work and remodeling. We had our generator fiasco. I road tripped to Montana solo, driving over six thousand miles and spending ten nights in my car.
In the fall, I flew back to Nevada and drove home with my daughter, with stops at the Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley and once again, Little Rock for cheese dip.
My daughter finished her season at Lake Mead and started an internship in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. I can’t pass up a road trip so I helped her move again. On the way, we drove the Virginia portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive and camped.
I was reintroduced to Virginia and West Virginia after being away for too long. Cute small towns, history, wineries and lots of craft beer.
When I started the blog last year, I pretty much did whatever I wanted to. I made so many mistakes. Since losing my job and having more time to focus on it, I’ve been able to go back a fix a lot of those mistakes.
I feel much more confident now than I did a year ago but still have so much to learn.
People were definitely right when they say blogging is a marathon and not a sprint. Unless you blog I’m not sure how many people realize just how many hats you have to wear to produce content. It changes the way you travel and think about destinations.
I really do love it though. My goal is that people will see how much I love it and how important it is for me to share good info.
And Here We Are
Even though the year has kind of sucked, I’m healthy and I get to do so many cool things. I have a home, even though I wouldn’t invite you over right now.
I also can’t end the year without mentioning one of the most surprising perks of blogging; the new friends I have made. There are countless other people that love to travel and talk about travel as much as me and we get to talk about it together.
That’s not to say all social media interactions are positive. It can really be a downer. There are a lot of mean people online and social bullying is a real thing. Maneuvering all that and finding people you really want to be around can be exhausting. But it is possible.
There’s a whole community of people that truly support one another. Which is a necessity because putting your thoughts out there for people to read can be scary. I’m so very grateful for the connections I’ve made and the support I’ve received.
Meeting some of those very people in real life tops my list of favorite things I did this year and I look forward to meeting more in the future.
Last but not least, I also want to say a big thank you to the people that actually come to my blog and read it. The fact you want to see what I’ve got to say never ceases to amaze me. I’m so thankful.
So as we finish this year and move into 2020, learn to say yes to new adventures. Whether it’s a solo trip, a new country or just a decision you’ve been putting off. Let this year be the year you say yes.
See you in 2020!