Seven whole years.
It’s been seven years since I promised myself that I would do whatever it takes not to have a boss again.
Seven years since I packed up my laptop and moved to Mexico with a vague idea of how to make money as a blogger and freelance writer.
Seven years of badly paid freelance gigs, copywriting about cars and medical equipment and hotels, learning about SEO, writing over 600 blog posts, and making over 400 YouTube videos.
Through that time we have lived in two different countries and traveled to over a dozen more.
I saw this business come to a screeching halt in the midst of a global pandemic when it felt like we might never travel the same way again. I had to pick myself back up off the floor and figure out how to keep this train rolling.
Today as I sit here at my desk surrounded by boxes, knowing that a new adventure awaits us, I am more confident than ever that the business I continue to build will come with me wherever I go.
You can catch up on all of the yearly recaps from the beginning if you’ve missed out:
There have been so many highs over the past year. I feel so much gratitude for all that has come my way, but I have also been working my butt off, perhaps to the edges of burnout at some points, in order to get where I am.
I have been BUSY
The last 12 months have been amazing. I spent much of 2022 traveling and it didn’t slow down in the second half of the year.
I spent a week traveling around Italy with my mom in September, came home for a few days, then immediately went back to the airport to head to a press trip in Hamburg for a few days.
I spent a few weeks back at home in October and then I got the chance of a lifetime to travel with a Eurail pass around Europe. It included stops in Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, Nuremberg, and Brussels, and finishing with the Eurostar to London.
Then I spent a week in Greece in early December on another fantastic press trip before coming home for a few days. I finished the year in North America with Christmas with my family in Miami and ringing in the New Year in Mexico.
When we got back to Lithuania in January I already had two trips booked for February and March, but I was so exhausted.
I told myself that after those trips, which were all going to be with friends, I would stay home and try to create an at-home routine that focused on health, both physical and mental.
I needed to slow down. I was constantly getting sick as soon as I returned from trips. I was eating out too much, exercising very little, sleeping badly, and then repeating the cycle every time I repacked my bags and set off again.
Learning to Outsource
I think most small business owners struggle to give away any form of control as their business grows.
This becomes even more difficult when YOU are your brand.
No one can replicate that.
But I can’t keep doing it all on my own. It’s impossible to continue to grow this business without help and I learned how to ask for it more this year.
I have two amazing writers who have stuck with me for over a year now and who really understand the type of content that I want to create for this website.
It has allowed me to step away a little bit more from writing content, at least with trying to write quite as much, and allowed me to focus on growing other aspects of the business that need more of a personal touch.
I started a New Website
As the name suggests, this website is all about travel in Spain.
I’ve wanted to start a second more localized website for a long time now, but have been waiting until I found a location that I really felt that 1) I could write extensively about and 2) that wasn’t too saturated.
Spain kept coming up as a place that had a lot of interest and search volume, but not a lot of content written about it, at least not in the way that I like to write about destinations.
It has been an experiment of sorts to see how much I really know about SEO. Was Eternal Expat just luck or can I replicate this volume of traffic on another website?
So far, it’s going so much better than I ever could have imagined. Traffic is doubling each month and I am in the process of getting ads set up so that the website can start earning a small amount of passive income.
I feel like starting again has taught me so much more about SEO, about running a website, and about how to keep myself organized.
I was worried I would be so overwhelmed with the workload, but instead, I am even more focused when I am at my desk and am getting things done more efficiently than when I was only running one website.
I Was Invited to be a Speaker at a Blogging Event
When the email landed in my inbox, I couldn’t quite believe it.
The thing about this industry is that you are always learning. Even the people who appear to be at the top of their game are there because they know that things are constantly changing and to keep up, you need to change, too.
So to be one of the people who gets to stand in front of a room and help some of my fellow content creators learn something based on the experiences that I have had in the last few years was pretty special.
It felt like a turning point in my career as a blogger. I think so many of us struggle with imposter syndrome, but I realized on that day and many days since then, that I might actually know a thing or two about this business. That’s a great feeling and one that has really pushed me forward in the last few months.
The energy and adrenaline that I felt standing in front of those people was a moment that I will not soon forget. I’m already plotting how and when I can do it again.
I made a Reel on Instagram a few months ago joking that the hardest part about being a travel blogger was getting sand in my laptop.
I have so much gratitude for the work that I get to do, but I also don’t want to glorify this life. It’s not always fun and so much of it is spent in front of my computer, not out enjoying the travels that I promote so much on social media.
This life has definitely required sacrifice and while it is hugely outweighed by the good, there are some things in the last 12 months that have felt like roadblocks.
Not Being Able to Create a Community
There are a few reasons for this. The main one is that we live in a very small town where almost no one speaks English and even the people that do speak English don’t really need any more friends.
Making close friendships here has been a huge struggle. The few friends that I have made have moved away. They, like us, were here only temporarily.
The other reason is of course, because I’m traveling so much. When I do make a friend or two, I then go away for weeks at a time. I’m not a reliable friend to have around, so how can deeper connections ever be made?
I have been craving community for so long. It was something that I felt that we were just starting to build in Mexico City before the pandemic and when we moved here, I thought it would be easy to join some groups, and make some friends, but most of those groups are over an hour away in the capital.
Getting there on a weekday without a car is a 4-hour, €20 roundtrip adventure on a road that could knock even the best fillings out.
It has been a difficult adjustment to the culture of Lithuania and one that has made it hard to feel like I’m coming home.
And yet, despite not feeling entirely at home here, I’ve felt homesick to be back in my apartment here in Utena many times in the last 12 months.
Traveling so much without Luke has been so much harder than I thought it would be. Perhaps harder than I’d like to admit.
I have felt so guilty traveling to new places, having amazing adventures, and stopping at home for a few days in between travels. I have missed our morning coffees together, missed laughing over lunch, and sitting down to dinner together.
It has been just the two of us for so much of my adult life and it has been a hard adjustment to be away from our rituals despite the fact that he has never once made me feel guilty about it.
Despite how many times I book another flight, Luke is nothing but supportive of my business and my mental health when it comes to escaping the dark winter months here in Lithuania.
I hope to not only be able to travel a little bit more with him this summer but also to spend some more time creating a life in a home that I don’t need to escape from quite so much.
There are still a few things in the works, so I won’t make any big announcements.
But the things I know for certain are that, as I insinuated at the top of this article, we are leaving Lithuania.
As this article goes live, we will have already moved out of our apartment and shipped the majority of our things to store with family.
Armed with only a single 40L backpack full of our clothes and a 30L backpack with our computer and camera gear, we are going to spend the summer traveling Europe.
It starts with a trip to Tallinn, then we’ll board the ferry and cross over into Helsinki where we will explore Finland for just over a week.
Then we fly to Spain for the rest of the summer where there will be time spent in Catalonia and the Basque Country. We’ll finish the summer in Valencia where we’re subletting an apartment and where I can hopefully catch you up on all of our travels.
Huge, but very exciting changes are coming for Luke and me, and I am so excited about all of the adventures ahead of us.