Welcome to my 2018 year in review! Time for my annual review where I recap what went well, what didn’t go so well, some highlights from each month, as well as what plans and goals I have looking ahead to 2019.
Like my monthly recaps, these annual reviews are meant to help me clarify to myself what is working or isn’t working so I can make adjustments as needed, as well as to encourage my readers to do something similar to help them gain clarity in some aspects of their lives.
What gets measured gets managed.
My Goals for 2018
With each yearly recap, I try to set some larger goals for travel, business, and personal stuff. Here we shall take a look back at what I said I wanted to do, and what actually ended up happening.
Double my blog income from $1,200 to $2,400 per month: SUCCESS
I hit my new goal income within just a few months of 2018 which was a pleasant surprise for me. Since achieving that goal, I upped it to $3,750 per month — which I fell just short of in both the last two months of the year.
This was the first year that I’ve ever felt like the blog by itself (without the freelance work) was something that could support me full-time.
Double website sessions and page views: SUCCESS
I thought that this would be a stretch goal for me, but I was able to make it to my goal of 800,000 sessions and one million page views in 2018!
It is pretty remarkable to me that this little site garnered 1,000,000 page views in a single year — that is roughly equivalent to the prior two years in total (2016 and 2017). Traffic peaked to the highest point ever in July and then gradually tapered off.
2 new articles per week / 100 over the course of the year: HUGE FAIL
I only managed to publish like 27 articles (not counting those monthly recaps) over the course of 2018, which is pretty abysmal, especially considering the goal. Even in 2017, which was a year filled with travel too, I was able to publish 78 new articles.
Part of that was due to the fact that I was concentrating a lot on freelance writing work which ate into my work time… One of those deals where you take the short term payoff buy neglect the long-term investments you should do.
Launching my second book: FAIL
When setting these goals, I figured the active travel would wrap up around the middle of the year and I would be able to get back on the horse with my book project. In truth, the travel really didn’t “stop” until November when we were back in Medellin.
Attend a business conference: SUCCESS
I did make this one happen with a trip down to Austin, Texas for TravelCon. While going back into the world of networking and face-to-face business was a bit of a culture shock for me, I still ended up learning some good stuff and I’m glad I pushed myself into doing this. It is something I plan to continue doing.
Run a Half Marathon: FAIL
My running was very sporadic and not consistent whatsoever. I should note that this was for an organized half marathon race, I’ve personally run a half marathon before but never in an organized fashion.
Resume Guitar Playing: MOSTLY FAIL
Again, this was something that was sporadic and inconsistent, I did indeed resume playing as hoped, but then the guitar quickly found itself sidelined as well.
Explore Two New Countries. FAIL-ISH
I only visited four countries during 2018: Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and the United States. Technically, I visited Chile and Argentina in 2017 briefly, so they weren’t “truly” new in 2018, even though it wasn’t until 2018 where I was able to truly explore both of these countries more in-depth.
So it was kind of like two new countries, yes, but the goal was actually targeting something like Uruguay and Paraguay, which didn’t end up happening.
What Happened in 2018
Here is a little month by month recap of what happened each month and what was memorable…
January – Chile
The year kicked off with us wrapping up our New Year celebration in Concepcion, Chile and continuing the road trip south. We made our way into Valdivia, which we actually preferred over Concepcion in so many ways. From there we worked our way into the Chilean Lake District which we absolutely loved…
There was the cute little town of Pucon, but the highlight was Puerto Varas and the surrounding countryside, dotted with snow-capped volcanoes.
By the end of the month, we started pushing into Northern Patagonia…
First, we visited the impressive Pumalin National Park, hiking to the top of the smoldering Chaiten Volcano.
The most impressive sight of the month was probably the stunning Ventisquero Colgante in Queulat National Park.
Read More: January 2018 Monthly Recap
February – Patagonia
February continued with our push south along Chile’s Carretera Austral, a rustic road (often unpaved) that skirts along fjords and besides mountains, involving frequent ferry travel to connect the jumbled landscape.
The highlight in Chile this month would have had to be the Rio Baker, an electric blue river, unlike anything I’d ever seen before. We had one amazing night at a free campsite right on the bank of the river where we watched whitewater rafters passing by.
Soon thereafter we crossed into Argentina and I finally got to lay my eyes on the mountains surrounding El Chalten — by far one of my favorite destinations of the entire trip.
By the end of the month, after 19 months of traveling, we reached Ushuaia, Argentina, which is as far south as one can travel by driving. It felt like a tremendous accomplishment to have driven so far from Seattle, and then we turned around and started heading north again — a strange feeling.
Read More: February 2018 Monthly Recap
March – More Patagonia
We soon crossed back into Chile, but this time to explore the famous landscapes around Torres del Paine National Park, perhaps one of the most emblematic parts of Patagonia. Our nights truck camping inside the borders of this stunning park will remain a favorite, for sure.
The other big highlight of the month was crossing back over to Argentina and visiting the monster-sized Perito Moreno Glacier which is just stunning. We had to pass by this part initially after some unexpected problems in February, so it was great to backtrack and finally see it… So worth it!
By the end of the month, we started pushing faster northward, albeit with a brief stop in Puerto Deseado to meet up with some local friends we met on our travels and they showed us unbelievable hospitality.
Read More: March 2018 Monthly Recap
April – Buenos Aires
At the beginning of the month we arrived in Buenos Aires, perhaps one of the most celebrated cities in all of South America. We had high expectations after everything we’d heard about this city, and I’m happy to say that it lived up to the hype.
There was also quite a bit of time eaten up by coordinating the shipment of the truck back to the United States — ultimately leading up to us driving up to the port and dropping off the truck, to hopefully be seen in a little over a month in Jacksonville, Florida.
But we still had plenty of time to enjoy this amazing city thanks to the fact that we rented an apartment in the San Telmo neighborhood. We’d walk the cobblestone streets on a daily basis, stopping in for pizza by the slice, or coffee with medialunas, and then take in the tango dancing in the local plaza at night.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Buenos Aires
Read More: April 2018 Monthly Recap
May – Medellin
After driving for so long, we did something unusual… Take a flight! With the truck sailing on the high seas, we flew from Buenos Aires back to Medellin, Colombia to stay with Andrea’s family, visit, and wait for the truck to arrive in the USA (which takes about one month).
In total, I’ve spent about three years living in Medellin now, so it is a home away from home, and it is always nice to come back and see how things have changed.
Read More: May 2018 Monthly Recap
June – Return to the United States
At the beginning of June, we said goodbye to Latin America for the time being and flew up to Miami, Florida, rented a car and drove up to Jacksonville so we could pick up the truck at the port. It was a surprisingly easy process to get my hands on the truck again… I turned in the rental car and we were on our way…
It would be a whirlwind road trip across the United States from Jacksonville to Seattle.
It was awesome to places like Savannah, Georgia, Asheville, North Carolina, or Great Smokies National Park… But the time of year was terrible… Incredibly hot and humid!
We pushed onward on a daily basis, basically, enjoying strange roadside attractions and listening to lots of podcasts. The biggest highlights of the trip were in South Dakota though as we saw Badlands National Park and Mt. Rushmore.
Then, just about an hour and 15 minutes from my hometown in Washington… The truck broke down!
It was unexpected for sure since we hadn’t even had so much as a flat tire on the entire journey from Seattle to the end of South America! At least I had AAA, but getting towed back home wasn’t quite the triumphant return I anticipated.
Read More: June 2018 Monthly Recap
July – House Sitting in Seattle
Seattle is where I went to college, and is a place that I hold dear, even if it has changed into a town invaded by Amazon and homeless people.
It was great reconnecting with my old city and seeing old friends… Plus, there’s nowhere better to be in the summer than the Pacific Northwest, without a doubt.
Read More: July 2018 Monthly Recap
August – Visiting Home
After the house sitting wrapped up, Andrea and I headed across the water to stay with my family. It was a relaxed time since our outdoor adventures were curbed by the terrible smoke that rolled in from Canada and made the air quality worse than China.
Plus August was super hot and it was mostly time to reconnect with family and more friends. The highlight of the month was probably the Pearl Jam concert in Seattle, which is Andrea’s absolute favorite band and one that she has long wanted to see live, but never had the chance since they don’t really play in Colombia (well, just one time, which happened to be while we were traveling).
Read More: August 2018 Monthly Recap
September – American Road Trip
September saw us hit the road once again, but this time driving from Seattle to Austin, Texas. It was a pretty straight shot down on this long road trip, but we managed to do some cool stuff like revisit Arches National Park, grab Mexican food in Albuquerque, or visit the strange town of Roswell.
The trip to Austin was to attend TravelCon (a travel conference) all about the world of travel blogging with some of the biggest names in the biz. I wanted to head down to learn and network and while the conference was stressful, it was worth it. Plus, the town of Austin is just amazing!
I found myself enjoying Texas far more than I thought I would, but San Antonio and Austin were the highlights, of course. By the end of the month, we started working our way slowly back toward Seattle.
Read More: September 2018 Monthly Recap
October – Wrapping Up in the USA
October saw us taking in the colorful fall leaves in Colorado (highly recommended) and then pushing into Wyoming… Both areas were totally new for me (I’d only previously explored SW Colorado). The best places of the month were easily Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.
Both of which I’d long dreamed of seeing, so it was great to finally find the time (and the road trip route) that allowed me to see them. We were fortunate enough to see a grizzly in the wild in Yellowstone too!
We returned home to visit my family for a few weeks and then hopped on a plane to New York City for five free nights (thanks to all my travel hacking) at a nice hotel in downtown Manhattan. NYC is a place that I love and used to visit while working in DC, plus Andrea has never been, so we decided to make it happen.
Read More: October 2018 Monthly Recap
November – Return to Medellin
From NYC we flew down to Medellin, Colombia, where we call home when we aren’t on the move. Since leaving Medellin in April 2017, we haven’t spent more than one month in any given place, so it was nice to finally “settle down” for a bit.
We were once again staying with Andrea’s family while we got ourselves situated and also allowing plenty of family visit time and exploring some of our old favorite places and discovering a few new ones.
Read More: November 2018 Monthly Recap
December – Medellin
December in Medellin is like a huge party… The holiday season kicks off on December 7th and from then on out, you can expect lots of music, dancing, drinking, eating.
The lights that they put up here are on another level, and they really do go all out for the holidays. It is a fun and totally different vibe from that of the United States.
This month, I struggled to do any work and had a mostly lazy December, punctuated by holiday festivities like a traditional Colombian party bus or a long weekend visit to an area finca (ranch house) in the countryside.
Read More: December 2018 Monthly Recap
2018 – The Year in Numbers
Total 2018 Blog Income: $34,702.74
Total Page Views: 1,046,452
Vehicle Break Downs: 1
Countries Visited: 4
Miles Driven: At least 13,000, but my odometer stopped working at 190,000k
Most Liked Instagram Photos
These are my top nine most liked photos on Instagram for the year… With five from the two US road trips (Wyoming 3x, Georgia 1x, Utah 1x) and four from Patagonia (Argentina 2x, Chile 2x).
Thanks to all of you for following along on Instagram — and if you aren’t already, be sure to give me a follow! 😀
Looking Ahead to 2019
2018 was the year that I can really say that I “made it” as a blogger, and while the past two years have been full of travel, 2019 will not be so adventurous in the travel department. Rather 2019 will be the year that I buckle down, focus on work, and try to double down on the modest success I’ve had to take the site to the next level in a few ways.
In terms of goals for the year ahead, here’s what I’d like to accomplish:
- Double Sessions and Pageviews Again: After the success, I had last year with relatively little in terms of new content (I focused mostly on increasing the SEO reach of old, existing articles),
- 15k Social Media Followers on Facebook and Instagram: While growth for growth’s sake isn’t that important, I still want to push my brand to a bigger place in 2019 and to pass the milestone of having five digits worth of followers on each platform. Not super important, but a vanity business goal nonetheless. I’m currently at 9.5k on Facebook and 6.9k on Instagram.
- Attend Two Business Conferences: Business conferences are an investment in myself and the future growth of my business (and they are about the easiest taxable travel deduction you can have). I’ve got tickets to two conferences already (TravelCon in Boston and Craft+Commerce in Boise), so this goal should happen unless things go haywire.
- Achieve $3,750/month and Increase Goal: My current goal income of $3,750 per month translates into $45,000 per year, which would allow me to live pretty comfortably. I want to increase visitorship and further monetize to reach my goal in 2019 and then set my sights at least a little bit higher.
- Release a New Book: It has been three years since I launched Big Travel, Small Budget out into the world, and I really thought I’d have another book under my belt by now. 2019 I have got to make it happen or I should reconsider my focus strongly.
- Write 52 Articles for Desk to Dirtbag: After coming up so dazzling short on last year’s goal, I’ve decided I should be more modest but still push myself beyond where I currently am. This amounts to just one article per week for the year.
- Run a Full Marathon: Lately I’ve been working on getting back into running shape… It is a slow and laborious process. It also proves to be a good time to disconnect from electronics, listen to a podcast, think about plans/business/life.
- Build My Emergency Fund: While I do already have a chunk of money set aside for investments, I designated another savings account as my emergency fund (one which I can dip into should expenses exceed income in a given month, and leave that “investments” account untouched in those instances). The goal by the end of 2019 is to have six months of living expenses set aside, which I believe should be doable by contributing around $500 per month.
- Read 26 Books: I want to dedicate more time to reading and learning, which I’m going to quantify as reading one book every two weeks. My reading choices tend to skew toward non-fiction and those in the business, marketing, personal development, etc, etc, niches, rather than fiction.
2018 Year in Review
So there you have it, that was my year in a nutshell and what I’ve got planned more or less for the next year.
I would encourage you all to perform your own year in review, based on whatever metrics make sense to you. If you need some guidance in how to do so, please check out Chris Guillebeau’s article on the subject here.
If you enjoyed my 2018 Year in Review, please take a moment to share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, thanks!
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