A Year in Review: 2019

These posts have become something of a tradition that I really enjoy writing.

I think it’s important to reflect back on the year to remember all of the positives, all of the accomplishments, all of the struggles that I pushed through. It reminds me that hey, actually I have done quite a lot this year.

I, like many people I know, tend to be quite critical of myself and am always striving for more more more. But taking a moment and actually writing down the accomplishments is a pretty powerful activity.

Check out Year in Review: 2018 and Year in Review: 2017

2019 Travels

Now that I reflect on this year, I can’t actually believe how many trips I packed in. I don’t think I’ve traveled this much since moving to Mexico and while there were some ups and downs along the way, I can honestly say I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had in the last 12 months.

what to do in ensenada

Starting 2019 in Mexico

I started the year in Baja California, which really feels like a lifetime ago.

I rang in the new year at a little cantina called Hussong’s in Ensenada

We spent a few days eating all the seafood in Ensenada and enjoying the Valle de Guadalupe wine region.

I finished that trip with a craft beer crawl through Tijuana, a city that gets bad press, but is actually pretty cool.

Then I flew back to Mexico City where I stayed put for over a month. It’s perhaps the longest I stayed put in the city all year, in fact.

Visiting the Pacific Northwest

My second trip of the year was to a totally new-to-me part of the US, the Pacific Northwest. 

A friend of mine was living in Oregon, so we decided to take a long weekend road trip through the small town of Corvallis, Oregon, into Portland and finishing with Seattle.

While I didn’t quite love Portland as much as everyone else seems to, I did love Seattle. The city is beautiful and clean. The food and bar scene was awesome. The thrift stores were up there as some of the best I’ve ever been to (except a few in the college town of Corvallis). 

It’s a city that felt very liveable and one that I would definitely consider revisiting.

I hopped back to Mexico City for a few weeks and then it was off again.

things to wear in puerto rico
Hanging out on Sherman Tanks in Culebra – a stunning island off of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

In April, I went on a 10-day adventure around Puerto Rico. It’s a country that means a lot to me. My grandparents and great-grandparents are from there and when I was very, very young (literally less than a year old), I visited with my parents.

I grew up very close to my great-grandparents. Often spending the night at theirs. I would sit with my poppy and do puzzles. My mom and I often visited my great grandmother who would make the strongest coffee. It was always served alongside a slice of Entenmann’s coffee cake. 

When they passed, I kind of stopped thinking about Puerto Rico. 

Until that is, a friend of mine suggested a girl’s trip around the island. I was really excited to finally see the place that my mom talked so much about when I was a kid. 

It was a perfect mixture of good food, amazing beaches, and plenty of swimming in the Caribbean Sea. I would recommend anyone to take a trip to this little slice of paradise.

I made a bunch of videos about it over on YouTube.

what to pack for puerto rico
Exploring the pink salt flats on the west coast of Puerto Rico!

Summer in the Yucatan

After that trip, I was back in Mexico City for May, plotting my extended travel plans for the summer months.

As always, Luke and I try to travel as much as we can during July and August when he doesn’t have to work. Our first summer in Mexico, we headed to Costa Rica. Last summer, we explored Central Italy and Berlin.

This year, we both agreed that we would stay in the Spanish-speaking world and take some intensive classes.

I searched and searched for the best, most affordable option that would mean we could eat good food, explore new places, and study Spanish every day.

I was really attached to the idea of going somewhere and having an in-person teacher, but the more research I did, the more I realized that that would lock us into one place for the whole summer.

I ended up finding a company called Baselang which I’ve written about extensively here and also made a review on YouTube here.

Luke and I studied with them five days a week for two months while still being able to travel extensively. 

We decided in the end, to stay in Mexico (mostly). 

conejos beach in huatulco
The beautiful Bahia Conejos in Huatulco. The color of the sand was totally different to all of the other bays I went to in Huatulco.

We spent two weeks in Huatulco, one of my new favorite beach towns in Mexico. It’s peaceful and easy to get to from Mexico City. There are over 20 beaches to explore and the food was awesome.

After Huatulco, we flew to the opposite end of the country to explore the Yucatan. 

While we have been to this part of the country before, there is still so much over there that we haven’t seen. 

We spent about a month traveling around Merida, exploring the Uxmal ruins, hanging out in Chetumal, and then exploring the most remote ruins I’ve ever been to in Calakmul.

From there, we hopped over to Belize. It’s a country we’ve been talking about since we moved to Mexico and heard about its tropical islands.

We took a short ferry from Chetumal to San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye. We spent a few days on San Pedro before heading over to Caye Caulker. Both were paradise in their own ways.

We spent our days snorkeling or bike riding or swimming and our evenings watching sunsets at waterfront bars. It was a week of pure relaxation and the perfect way to end our summer travels. 

sitting in the famous white chairs of merida
Hanging out in the white chairs that you’ll find in every park in Merida.

A Minute in New York

I was back in Mexico City for two weeks before I packed up a bag and headed to New York for a very quick trip.

I visited friends and family and stocked up on all of my favorite makeup and skincare products that I can never seem to find in Mexico and headed home again.

A Long Weekend in Queretaro

In October, there was a long weekend to Queretaro where I finally got to meet up with lots of great online friends in real life. I came back to Mexico City more exhausted than I was before the long weekend.

We partied pretty much every night and then put the pedal to the metal during the day to see as much as we could.

It was around this time that I started to feel serious burnout.

I had been traveling so much, barely staying in one place for more than four or five days since June and all I wanted was to get back into a work routine.

the chapel on the hill where maximilian I was executed
Queretaro really surprised me – there was SO much to see and do and the food scene was awesome.

Exploring Estado de Mexico with ATMEX

That wasn’t to be. An opportunity to go to a travel conference here in Mexico came up and I couldn’t pass it up.

It started with a FAM trip around the Teotihuacan area, which included one of the best days I’ve ever had in Mexico: a hot air balloon ride over the Teotihuacan pyramids.

From there, I headed south of the city to a cute little town called Valle de Bravo. I went horseback riding, paragliding, and hiking for three days in between networking and conference speakers. 

I got home exhausted yet again.

hot air ballooning over teotihuacan in mexico city
Floating over Teotihuacan in a hot air balloon is without a doubt one of the most magical experiences of my life

Finding My Breaking Point

After this conference, I was feeling low. I was so tired. I was getting sick more than I have in the past few years. I wasn’t eating well. I’d put on a little bit of weight. I didn’t feel like myself.

I spent the rest of October and much of November trying to get back into a routine. I started exercising every day again. I got back into eating healthy and cooking more rather than eating out all the time.

Taking a Breath in Monterrey

Then I took what was to be my last short trip of the year: a long weekend in Monterrey.

Luke and I both agreed we needed a relaxing weekend

We planned nothing. We decided against all of the beautiful hikes. We avoided eating a ton of greasy, fatty food.

We actually just walked, enjoyed the sunshine, slept about 10 hours a night, and saw the local sites. It was exactly the reset that we both needed to finish the working year strong.

the views from mirador del obispado
Taking long walks for nice views of the mountain was about the most strenuous thing we did in Monterrey.

Christmas and New Years in My Second Home

I’m finishing the year in the UK. We get on an airplane tomorrow night and I won’t be back in Mexico until 2020.

It’s been a while since I’ve been back in this country that feels like my second home. 

I’m looking forward to disconnecting over the holiday period. To catch up with friends I haven’t seen in almost two years. To eating meat pies and mince pies and sticky toffee pudding and drinking a few (too many) pints of ale.

I’ve got my Out of Office reply ready and waiting and it’s going to be on for the longest it’s been on all year: two entire weeks.

2019 has been a year that I thought I’d always wanted. One packed with travel and adventure and work opportunities. It was a year that taught me that I needed to slow down and learn to say no sometimes.

how I make money as a blogger

2019 Blogging and Freelancing

My goal for 2019 was to finally make a full-time income from my own business. I’ve been working really hard on Eternal Expat, not just the website, but the entire digital company for the last three years and I felt like it was high time I dedicated all my time to turning it into something bigger.

I have been working to build my YouTube channel, my social media, my website, and my reputation as an expert in Mexico, moving abroad, and slow travel.

In June, I wrote my last freelance articles. 

Since the end of June, I have made all of my money through the above channels and I kind of have to pinch myself about it every day.

Since June, I haven’t pitched for a single article, haven’t agreed to do a single copywriting job, haven’t said yes to anyone who has emailed about writing an article (although I probably still would for the right price or publication).

I created a course about travel blogging, I updated my Mexico City guidebook and published it in print on Amazon. I also published a guidebook about Merida this year, which is now available on Amazon, too.

I have earned more money this year than I have in any other year in my life. 

But it’s not all about the money. It’s never really been about the money. It’s been about figuring out how to earn a steady income without spending every waking hour in front of the computer.

This year, I’ve grown my income and my business while working fewer hours than ever. I was probably working roughly 30 hours a week between January and June.

Over the summer, I took a significant amount of time away from work and probably only spent about 10 hours a week in front of the computer.

During the last half of this year, I probably worked less than 20 hours a week. 

I have more time to take Spanish classes, to learn how to take better photos, to read more books, to cook more and learn fun new recipes, to spend more time writing, and most importantly, to spend more time with the people I care about.

Plans for 2020

I am so excited for a new decade. I love a new year because it always feels like a fresh start, so you can imagine how I feel about going into a totally new decade.

It’s a time for change. It’s a time for reinvention and growth. 

I don’t have a ton of plans for 2020, but that is precisely how I like to start every new year.

So far, I have two flights booked: one to visit New York in March and one to Baja California Sur in April. 

I have a few ideas for new countries and cities that I’d like to explore, but nothing else is set in stone just yet.

I’m really looking forward to some projects that I have in the works for Eternal Expat.

My loose plan is to make some big changes on the blog based around my SEO (so that Google will like me again) and I’m going to be doubling my efforts on my YouTube channel, so if you’re not already following along over there, you should really get on that!

I hope that you’ve had a wonderful 2019. Thank you all so much for following along on these wayward journeys of mine. If not for you, none of this would be possible.

Happy holidays and cheers to an exciting new year!

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