Yup, 2016 was in many ways a shitty year. But to me it was a beautiful year full of travels. I’ve been abroad so many times! I even lived abroad for seven months, which were without a doubt one of the best months of my life. 2016 was a very successful year for me business-wise. I had more revenue and I now have multiple freelancers working for my company. Let’s dive in to some details!
About the site & my company
I’ll write a post soon about what I actually do to make money, but 2016 was a very busy year. Sitting still is not one of my hobbies! I launched this website, Explorista.net, in January. A few weeks later I launched the biggest project I’ve ever worked on with my company. And in November I launched FemaleDigitalNomads.com, a little side project where I’m hoping to connect, inform and inspire female traveling entrepreneurs. Which means I now have THREE websites.
In the meantime my company kept on growing. I got more responsibilities, bigger projects I had to manage, and bigger companies as my client. At the end of the year I suddenly got a big last minute job, which made that I had fifteen freelancers worldwide working for me. Geez! Luckily it all went well. Usually I don’t have that many people working for me, but nowadays about five of them work on a weekly basis for my company and my websites. My company, in case you didn’t know, is a digital marketing agency for travel brands, called Explorista Media. We help travel companies with (SEO) content for their website, managing their social media, videos and collaborations with online influencers. It’s super fun!
The website did really well last year as well. At the start of the year it was a bit too much as I was managing my Dutch website, this second website and a big new business project, which caused that I only wanted to sleep during a trip to Budapest. I literally saw stars flash in front of my eyes, that’s how overworked I was. That’s why I took it a bit easy with the websites the last few months. I now write about one article a week, and even though I’d like to write more, I just didn’t have the time to do so. I’m going to buy a new laptop soon, with which I can hopefully edit all my photos and videos (at the moment my laptop is extremely slow and full!), so I’m really looking forward to that. I have so much material that I can use! And it’s only piling up.
A while ago Explorista.nl got a face lift. Although everyone was sad to see the flamingo go (me too!) it was time for a new design that matched more with my personal style and my change of interests. If you don’t have any money, you’re only thinking of surviving. Paying the bills. Making sure you get through the month. As soon as you earn a little more, there’s suddenly room for other things: not just the absolute necessities, but also the fun and pretty things. Now that I earn a bit more money, and work really hard, I like to treat myself with a better hotel, a nicer flight or a stylish and sustainable suitcase. Which turns out to last a lot longer than the €10 one ;-). (More expensive is definitely not always better, I know that now, but sometimes it can be nice to invest in something of higher quality that will last for years)
The website has turned into a more general travel blog for women who like to travel. This gives me some creative freedom to write about things that are not just about travel, but still a lot of fun, like nice suitcases or good travel books. I really like to inspire people, and now I can write about anything that interests me regarding travel. What’s even more fun is that with all my busy plans I’m looking for an intern this year! (Dutch only, sorry :-)) This way I can deliver even more cool content, and structurally work on improving the website behind the scenes. Win win. If you know someone who’d like this internship, let me know!
First half of 2016: London
You probably noticed, but from December 2015 to July 2016 I lived in London. I lived on the edge of zone 1 in a really nice area called Bermondsey. If you’re looking for a place to stay in London: I can highly recommend it. Have a cup of coffee at Hej, my favorite coffee shop, grab a movie at Shortwave Cinema, stay in Bermondsey Square hotel, eat a pizza at Franco Manca in Bermondsey Street (or have one for takeaway at Basilico) and visit the Maltby street market during the weekend. I still have to write about my favorite places in London, but now you know about a few that were (literally) located around the corner from where I lived.
My time in London was absolutely fantastic, and I can’t summarize it in just one paragraph. The highlights were visiting Greenwich, Hampstead Heath and Highgate Cemetery with my parents, having bagles at Beigel Bake, passing by the Big Ben while on the bus to work, eating at Duck & Waffle, having drinks at Southwark Centre… actually every second I spent in London, both alone and with my friends.
Thanks to my job I had the chance to stay in Manchester in January. I didn’t have a lot of expectations, and although it’s not really a pretty city, it’s definitely a lot of fun. Everything is within walking distance, since the city centre is quite compact, and the city is known for its good night life. It’s still hard to choose what to do during a day in Manchester, because you’ll find good bars and delicious restaurants everywhere.
January: Southern Engeland
And then it was time for a road trip through Southern England. We hired a car and visited Oxford, Bath and Stonehenge. We also did a little detour through the Cotswolds, a spot that we would visit later that year for a bit longer. The road trip wasn’t that much of a success since I was extremely stressed and Mr. found out the night before we left that his car in The Netherlands had been broken into. Luckily the destinations totally made up for it!
And then there was the trip that was too much. Budapest came at completely the wrong time. When we had to rush to get onto the plane I literally saw stars. When I was in Budapest I stayed in bed for most of the time. I just wanted to sleep, that’s how tired and overworked I was. Next to that it was also extremely cold. So I didn’t really enjoy Budapest, although I could definitely see how much potential it had. There’s a reason so many people are in love with it! I’d really like to go back in spring or autumn, then we know what part of the city we should stay in!
I really should keep a list of what places I’m visiting and when, because to be honest spring is a bit of a blur! I’ve been to Brighton twice during the spring, which is only an hour south of London, and easily accessible by train. I went there once for fun, and once for work. Brighton is a really nice city, I can highly recommend it for a day trip from London.
If you’ve seen Oxford, you obviously have to visit Cambridge as well. The two have been competing for ages, and the only way to form an opinion is by doing some proper research (aka: a one day visit). And so I visited the university city on a sunny spring day. I even sailed on one of the boats past the university and had some cocktails on discount. Yep: it was a great day!
Another work-related visit: and what a great one! I was in Cardiff for a conference and didn’t see a lot of Wales in the end. Luckily I could see a bit of the city in between work. On our way back we made a stop along the coast, which makes that I’d love to go back and see more of Wales!
April: Northern Ireland
One of my favorite trips last year was to Northern Ireland. What a surprise that was! I had no idea it was so beautiful. And I was lucky, because the weather was great the whole weekend, which apparently rarely happens. One of my favorite moments of the trip was driving back to Belfast during sunset (which is a really nice and compact city).
Mr. didn’t really like driving in an English car for the first time (I didn’t really like him almost hitting a few cyclists either), so for our second road trip Mr. took his own car to England. We had a few free days and wanted to see something, so after seeing a lot of photos of the super cute Cotswolds area, we decided to go there for three days. What a great trip that was! And it’s so ridiculously cute. You should really go if you have some time to spare while you’re in England.
Another one of my favorite trips was the trip to Rome with my mother. It was lovely to wander the streets in sunny Rome, drink wine and eat Italian food. And finally having some good talks with my mom, for three whole days. I have some wonderful memories from this trip, but I haven’t written anything about it because I have so many photos to edit!
My last trip before I moved back to The Netherlands was a press trip to the Lorraine. Mr. and I drove there together, but we weren’t in luck with the weather as it was raining a lot. Nevertheless we really enjoyed Nancy and Metz, and of course the delicious Riesling wines the area is famous for.
Once I was back in The Netherlands I was dealing with some after-London blues, and I decided to do something crazy. I decided to surprise my parents who were visiting California. And so I secretly got onto a plane, a bus and a train and slept one night at my sweet family’s place, before surprising my parents the next day by tapping their shoulder. I still have to smily uncontrollably when thinking back. And again: I still have to write about it, but I would actually like to finish the video I made while I was there. And my laptop can’t handle that at the moment :-(. If I get a new laptop I hope to finish it soon!
After I visited the United States for the fourth time (I can’t get enough!) I got the idea to install an app that would keep track of how many countries I’ve visited in the world (it’s called ‘Been’). And in return that gave me the idea to make an effort of visiting some new countries in stead of going back to the same ones. One of the big (small) gaps on the map? Luxembourg! Even though it’s right around the corner and I often drove through it, I’d never visited it, so it didn’t really count. A spontaneous weekend getaway to Luxembourg (“you wanna drive to Luxembourg this weekend?”) turned out to be a great idea, and I’m sure I’ll come back some other time.
After a lot of years I finally trained Mr. in knowing that I like to spend my birthdays abroad ;-). This time he really surprised me with a trip to Oslo! This was only my second Scandinavian destination ever, so I was really curious. Fully prepared as he is, Mr. expected to see beautiful fjords. Haha. Not a chance, but Oslo is full of nice restaurants and bars!
September was slowly turning cold and drizzly in The Netherlands, and so I decided: I don’t have to be in The Netherlands to work, so why won’t I go and work somewhere sunny? It turned out to be Crete. I spent my days working on the balcony, having breakfast at the pool and eating delicious Greek food at night at one of the many cute city squares. Lovely!
And then I got invited on a press trip to Poland! Super fun, but unfortunately the flight times were really bad, which caused that we only had a few hours to explore Krakow. Luckily the trip gave me the opportunity to finally visit Auschwitz, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. It was a really special trip. Though my socks and shoes are still soaked from the non-stop rain we had to endure the whole weekend.
Another work-related trip: in November I spent a week in London for a big travel fair. I went for my company, with the goal to score a few new assignments and clients. I didn’t see a lot of the city, but I did manage to go to all the event-related parties and visit my friends. This week of the year is always one of my favorite ones. It’s so good to realise you 100% found the right job.
And then I suddenly got an invitation I had to check three times, before replying “YES”. If I wanted to go on a 10 day press trip to Indonesia? Ummm, yes! It was my first chance to visit Asia and I still can’t believe I’ve actually been to Indonesia and manage to fulfil such a big travel dream of mine.
I decided to fly back and forth to London for a day. Just wandering around, seeing some friends, finally visiting Winter Wonderland… it was lovely. But to be honest my homesickness only got worse.
My boyfriends birthday is on the second to last day of the year, so I managed to whisk him away to Paris for a quick trip. It was freezing cold, so I decided to eat myself into another layer of fat to keep warm. Mission accomplished!
I really can’t believe I had such an amazing year full of travels. I really had the best months ever in London, and I’ll also remember my trips to California, Northern Ireland, Rome and Indonesia forever.