Time for my annual travel blogging round-up, looking back at 2021. My chance to give myself an end of year work review, and reflect on the year in general.
2021 was not an easy year for any of us. In the UK, we started the year off with another lockdown, and since then it’s been a second year of covid, cancelled plans, bad news, and seemingly endless negativity and arguing all over the media.
On a personal level, there were financial issues, a crappy temp job, a death in my family, and the pain of watching people I love go through some really tough times.
But life is a balance, and there were also a lot of highs amongst the lows – some of them really small and simple, like just being at home in Dorset with my family, paddleboarding on the local rivers, or cooking with veg I’d grown myself.
I do want to acknowledge that bad things happened, but I don’t want to dwell on them in this post. For me, these annual posts are about focusing mainly on the positives – the things I really want to remember.
And, since I don’t really get to have an end of year career review, I’m also celebrating some of my work successes. Let’s be honest, I really write these posts just for me – and my future self – as a chance to reflect on how far I’ve come this year.
A Quick Overview of My 2021
In numbers, 2021 looked like this: 9 flights, 1 cruise ship, 2 road trips, 1 dream-come-true steam train ride, and 5 countries outside of England – including one I’d never been to before (Iceland).
I also read 21 books, worked 1 temp job, sat through 1 more lockdown, went on 2 Zoom dates (NEVER again), attended 3 travel industry events, and reached level 207 on the last season of Fortnite!
A funny old year, really – but possibly one with the best travel/work/life balance I’ve had since first setting out as a travel blogger.
I started an allotment with my sister (pumpkins were our biggest success), grew some of the hottest chillies I’ve ever eaten on my windowledge, got out and explored as much of Dorset as possible, and finally learnt to love being at home (at the same time as missing travel so much it hurt!).
I started the year in a bit of a rocky place financially. Partly due to business lost during the pandemic, and partly debt from buying my first home at the end of 2020.
To help, I took a temporary job working with the 2021 Census, which mainly involved driving around the Dorset countryside knocking on doors – and at one point accidentally crashing what appeared to be a funeral for a cow!
Although I whinged a LOT about it at the time, it wasn’t really a bad gig, and it definitely got me back on my feet financially.
By summer, I’d paid off all my credit card debt, and, better yet, my work was starting to return to normal. In fact, my blog traffic and ad revenue were the highest they have ever been this year, so there’s a lot to celebrate.
And travel started to come back, too. Alongside a few trips around England, in 2021 I headed to Scotland, Wales, Guernsey, Salzbergerland in Austria, Seville and Mallorca in Spain, and Reykjavik in Iceland.
Work Highlights of 2021
Work-wise, 2021 was the best year I’ve had since starting my travel blog. In 2020 I set up a second blog about my home county, the Dorset Travel Guide, and worked really hard on both sites over the year.
Both blogs had some great successes over the last 12 months which I think I deserve to shout about…
My site traffic here was up 60% vs last year, and up 30% compared to pre-pandemic traffic in 2019. The revenue from the banner ads on my site was up too, with my best ever month for earnings in June 2021!
The biggest factor in this was pivoting to creating UK content (and improving/updating all the existing UK content on the site). I worked bloody hard, made some smart choices that paid off, and I’m so happy with how it all worked out.
And the Dorset Travel Guide broke 100,000 monthly pageviews over the summer, and got over half a million pageviews in total – which is 628% growth compared to 2020!
- Got hired for a dream freelance job (can’t share the details yet but I’m sooo excited about it!)
- Wrote 32 new blog posts here and 29 on the Dorset Travel Guide.
- Went on 8 press trips (still less than pre-pandemic days, but more than last year).
- Collaborated with some amazing brands including Visit Austria, Pursuit Collection, Traverse Events, and Princess Cruises.
- Appeared in a second travel book as a contributor…
I was in a Second Book
In 2019 I worked as a contributing author on two really exciting book projects. One was published last year, and the second – 500 walks With Writers, Artists, and Musicians – came out in March 2021.
I contributed just over 50 entries to this stunning book of 500 walks around the world, all inspired by or connected with an artist. It was a huge project for me, and holding the finished product in my hands this year was an incredible feeling!
The travel industry started to make a come-back in 2021, and at the end of summer, I took my first international flight in 20 months! Giving up travel for such a long time made me realise exactly how much I need it in my life.
It’s not just that I love holidays and beaches. I love all of travel, even the crappy stuff like airport layovers and painfully long bus rides.
I love the adventure of it all, breaking from the everyday and routine. 2021 definitely taught me that travel isn’t something I’m going to be able to give up any time.
Countries Visited: 5
New Countries: 1
Flights Taken: 9
Furthest North: 64.1466° N (Reykjavik, Iceland)
Furthest South: 37.3891° N (Seville, Spain)
Longest Overland Journey: 1,278 miles (roughly) road trip from my home in Dorchester to Fort William in Scotland and back!
Exploring the UK
I drove all the way from Dorchester to the Scottish Highlands for a press trip with Black Sheep Hotels.
A magical week of insanely beautiful drives, hiking, great food, and adventure. AND I got to go on the steam railway from the Harry Potter movies, crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct!
Next was my “Seacation” with Princess Cruises – four days at sea with great food, lots of drinks, fab company, and nothing to do but RELAX.
There was also a press trip to explore the art scene in Sheffield, a treehouse in the woodlands of West Dorset, a day out at Thorpe Park, an afternoon at Snowtrax in Bournemouth, lots of days out with my lovely family, LOTS of walks around Dorset, and a trip up to London for World Travel Market
And right at the end of summer, a week with Classic Cottages in Cornwall. I built the whole itinerary for that trip myself, so it was probably my favourite of the lot.
I filled my days with hiking, biking, and sea swimming, and spent the nights by the fire in a lovely holiday cottage, with a glass of wine and a home-cooked dinner. My idea of a perfect UK holiday.
Returning to Guernsey
One of my most difficult trips of the year took me to Guernsey in the Channel Islands. Objectively, it was a lovely trip to a beautiful island. But on a more personal level, it was a pretty emotionally tricky one.
Last time I left Guernsey, it was to fly home after my boyfriend of six years broke up with me. Going back brought back a lot of unpleasant memories, something I wasn’t expecting as it’s been a long time since that relationship ended.
But, on reflection, it was still a good trip and I’m glad I went. I managed to pack in some lovely micro-adventures; hiking the coast, wild swimming, and coasteering – to name a few! And it felt good to replace some unhappy memories with new ones.
My first international flight in 20 months took me to Austria. Actually, the flight took me to Munich, and a minibus took me to Salzburg in Austria. I can’t tell you how good it felt to find myself stepping off a plane again for the first time in so long.
I love the UK, and exploring more of it over the last couple of years has been great. But there’s something so wonderful about getting out of the country and discovering a new culture. You can’t beat that feeling of being in a new place, hearing a different language, trying new food, immersing yourself in something new.
Giddy with the high of travel, everything I saw and did in Austria felt glorious. I guess in the same way that food always tastes better when you’re really hungry. But Salzburgerland also just happens to be ridiculously beautiful.
We stayed in the palace from Sound of Music, took a train to watch the sunrise at the top of the Schafberg mountain, swam in the cold waters of Wolfgangsee Lake, and ate in the oldest restaurant in Europe. Magical.
In November, I took myself off to Spain for two trips in one. First, for a wintery break in Seville: food, sunshine, views, the best damn churros I’ve ever had, flamenco, ancient baths, and more food.
Then I flew over to Palma Mallorca for Traverse 2021, an annual travel blogging conference and networking event which is always absolutely awesome.
I spent a few days catching up (and getting a bit too tipsy) with old friends, and making some fab new ones. Palma was enjoying one of its rainiest ever weeks, but that didn’t stop us from having a brilliant time n that beautiful city.
If you’re a new or aspiring travel blogger – or an established one looking to enjoy the social side of blogging – Traverse is a MUST. I’ve already bought my tickets for Traverse 22 in Brno – will I see you there?
In December, I managed to squeeze in one last trip. I’ve wanted to visit Iceland for years, so I was insanely excited for my winter city break in Reykjavik. Especially because I was there to review two of the city’s newest attractions: FlyOver Iceland and the stunning Sky Lagoon.
Sky Lagoon is a geothermal spa on the water’s edge just outside the city, with a huge infinity pool overlooking the sea (and surrounded by snow when I visited). There’s also a swim-up bar, and a thermal suite with a steam room, sauna, cold mists, and more.
We spent an entire day there – literally from sunrise till gone sunset. Although that’s not exactly hard during winter in Reykjavik, when the sun is only up for about 4 hours a day!
Reykjavik was beautiful, we ate loads of amazing food and I absolutely loved the city. But I have to say, that spa was the highlight.
In fact, it was probably one of my highlights of the whole year. The perfect way to round off the year in happy, hopeful spirits for the future of travel.
Favourite Country of the Year: Austria
Favourite City: Reykjavik
Most Memorable Meals: Breakfast churros at Bar Comercio in Seville, fermented shark in Reykjavik (not good, but definitely memorable), steak night at Crown Grill on the Regal Princess, venison cooked on a campfire with foraged herbs on my Wild Wellness Retreat, breakfast on the terrace at the “Sound of Music” palace in Salzberg, and fresh Scottish salmon at the Lochside Brasserie at the Whispering Pine Lodge on Loch Lochy.
Best Sunrise: From the top of Schafberg mountain in Austria
Best Sunset: From the infinity pool at Sky Lagoon in Reykjavik
Most Popular Blog Post: Virtual Quiz Round Ideas
Most Popular Instagram Post: This one:
Favourite Hotel: Hawkstone Hall in Shropshire or Cluanie Inn in the Scottish Highlands
Favourite Train Journey: a trip from Fort William to Mallaig on board the steam train from the Harry Potter movies.
Most Adrenaline-Pumping Experience: Coasteering in Guernsey.
Best At-Home Adventure: Paddleboarding along the River Stour from Wimborne to a pub for lunch!
Favourite Book: Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (beautiful and haunting), or The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman.
Biggest Challenge: Driving all the way to Scotland solo!
Best Career Moment: Seeing my name, picture and by-line in a physical travel book!
Most Popular Video: This super short reel of the Schafbergbahn mountain train in Austria!
Most Unique Accommodation: a luxury treehouse at Mallinson’s Woodland Retreat in West Dorset
My Favourite Blog Post: Blown Away at the Edogowa Fireworks Festival in Tokyo