Top Moments, Highlights and Lessons Learned
2018, was a very good year to me. Don’t get me wrong, just like any other year, 2018 did have some ups and downs, but that is life. Today, I am so excited to go over my year, by month, and share some of my top moments, highlights, downsides and lessons learned.
I don’t know why, but New Year’s Eve has never really been a big night for me. Yes, I’ll go out, dress up in sequins, sparkles or velvet and celebrate with my friends, but I am a firm believer that what happens on New Year’s Eve doesn’t predict the rest of your year. On this day last year, I remember not feeling up to going out to celebrate. For the first time in my life, I was content on staying home and watching the ball drop with my family. My friend at the time dragged me out and we ended up celebrating at a dive bar locally with her then boyfriend and a few of their other friends. It was okay…
During January 2018, I was still working a corporate job and I remember that was the time where I started to lose inspiration at work. I remember my heart just wasn’t in it anymore and I was seeking out courses and resources on how to begin a business in travel blogging. (I knew I always wanted to be a business owner. I just never knew what I wanted to do.) Thankfully, I had my Travels with Taylor blog up and running and was writing articles once a week while still working for my cousin’s travel agency on the side, but I definitely wanted more for myself.
What was awesome about my most recent corporate job was that I was given 25 vacation days and was able to bring some over into the New Year. My good friend had just moved out to San Diego, so I booked my flight to go out there Martin Luther King Weekend and add my floating vacation days to it.
I LOVE San Diego! In fact, I actually was trying to move out to Southern California a few years back; of course before I started avidly traveling the world. Due to my travel career, it was best that I stay in the New York City area so that it would be easier for me to jet set to my dream destinations whenever I wanted or needed to. (Sorry West Coast, you are great and full of adventure, but I need to be able to travel overseas affordably and New York allows me to do so.)
During my five days in San Diego, I got to visit my favorite places such as La Jolla and Coronado. I also got to see new areas of the city that I haven’t been to such as Torrey Pines, Point Loma, North Park and more. The only downside to this trip was that I didn’t get a chance to go to Mexico due to some travel warnings. It was okay though because our adventures in Anza-Borrego State Park definitely made up for it! Located two hours away from San Diego is the Colorado Desert that offers scenic roads, 12 wilderness areas and many miles of hiking trails. My good friend and I, including her boyfriend and a friend did the Palm Canyon Oasis trail that started in the heart of the desert and went deep into a magical oasis with waterfalls and palm trees. It was absolutely stunning and such an amazing day! We ended the adventure relaxing in Anza-Borrego’s geothermal pools and saw a great sunset.
Other highlights of my trip to San Diego included a bonfire on Coronado beach, a wine day in Escondido and a magical sunset at Sunset Cliffs.
February is always such a dreadful month because the weather in the New York City area is at its all time worst and at that point I’m just ready for summer. I remember getting horrible anxiety trying to figure out if I should leave my job or not (deep down I was ready mentally) that I ended up getting super sick with acid reflux. I’ve been dealing with this issue since 2014, but this time was the absolute worse. I knew I had to make a change.
Thankfully, there were a lot of highlights to February that made up for being sick both physically and mentally. I always buy my mom Broadway tickets for Christmas, so we went to see Anastasia. It ended up becoming a favorite for both of us. Plus, seeing any Broadway play is so uplifting!
Another thing my mom and even my friends love to do with me in the winter is go ice skating either at Bear Mountain in New York State or at one of the rinks in New York City. We always plan a morning to get out in nature and then treat ourselves to a delicious brunch or lunch afterwards. Ice skating on the weekends definitely helps us get through the winter easily. Ps. It’s also a great date idea!
Later in the month, I went on my first international trip of the year to Cape Town, South Africa. At the time, my cousin and her boyfriend were living in Cape Town for three months (my cousin’s boyfriend is a model and had a job out there). It was my first time traveling to the Southern Hemisphere and I even got to see a new continent – AFRICA!
Before I go into the highlights of my trip to Cape Town, I want to talk about the few downsides. During the time I visited Cape Town, it was their summer and the country was going through a major drought (it was more serious than you think and probably one of the worst that the country ever experienced). Due to the drought, I only was able to shower three times out of my 10 days there (I want to give a shout out to Woolworth’s baby wipes and powder!) Besides not being able to shower, I didn’t realize that Cape Town isn’t a safari location. I was really disappointed when I found this out and actually cried the morning I was told this. (Hey, it gives me a reason to go back to other African destinations right?)
The other adventures my cousin, her boyfriend and I did during my time in Cape Town definitely made up for the downsides. My all-time favorite excursion was a private wine tour through South Africa’s wine lands. We visited four wineries in one day and probably tasted close to 30 different wines (yes, I felt it in case you’re wondering). The wineries and vineyards in both the towns of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch are nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. Both my cousin and I had the best time and we even enjoyed a five course South African meal as well!
Other highlights of my trip to South Africa was seeing the penguins at Boulders Beach, sand boarding, hiking Table Mountain, getting lost in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens and enjoying the beaches at Clifton and Camps Bay.
March was the month where I made a major life change. I went with my gut and said goodbye to the corporate life. It was the scariest, but most liberating feeling I’ve ever experienced. I had my goals and was more than ready to become an ultimate girl boss!
Right after saying goodbye to Corporate America, I spent St. Patrick’s Weekend at Mount Snow in Vermont. Unfortunately, this annual ski weekend did not go as planned mainly because the friend I was with became so toxic. Apparently this so-called “friend” wouldn’t accept that I was different from her and her interests and tried everything to make me feel horrible about myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t let go of this negative friendship much sooner, so I learned the hard way.
One of the best things about March was an unexpected and spontaneous trip to Seattle the day after I came back from Vermont. My mom was going out for a work trip and I was able to pick up cheap flights to go out there with her. It was amazing visiting a bucket list city here in the United States and to top it off, I also got to see a few friends from my college. Not only did I get to savor the jewels of the city, I also enjoyed getting out to the mountains and seeing the nature side of the Pacific Northwest!
When I returned from my trip to Seattle, I started going full force with my blogging business. I went through a major rebrand and changed my blog from Travels with Taylor to Brown Eyed Flower Child. I did a minor redesign with my website, had someone create my logo and started to take my social media seriously. In addition, I also started to learn more about photography and photo editing. It was the first time in my life where I truly felt inspired and I couldn’t wait to do more!
The month of April was the definition of a hustle. I finally reached 1,000 followers on Instagram and started doing brand collaborations. I also started connecting with other bloggers and influencers and my Instagram became more aesthetically pleasing. I also started freelancing in writing and social media when I could.
I didn’t go on a plane during the month of April, but I did do a couple weekend getaways. One of the main highlights of April was seeing the cherry blossoms and museums in Washington D.C. I also got to meet up with college friends while I was there! In addition, I did a fun day trip to Philadelphia with my childhood friends from home and also did a solo day trip to Mystic, Connecticut.
In addition, I celebrated Easter down the shore with family and it was lovely!
May was another month where I hustled. My Instagram was growing even more and I started to create more blog content. I also celebrated Cinco de Mayo with friends in Jersey City, spent Mother’s Day at a cidery and celebrated my grandparents’ birthdays.
The ultimate highlight of May was our annual family trip to Switzerland and Northern Italy. Starting around Memorial Day Weekend through the first weekend in June, we visited Zürich, Como, Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre and Bologna. Thankfully, there were no downsides to this trip other than traveling by train with eight people and eight massive luggage (just picture your family doing this). The ultimate highlight of this family adventure was a private boat ride along Lake Como. It was absolutely breathtaking and we got to see fairytale Italian villages, celebrity mansions and sky-high mountains.
Other highlights from our family trip to Switzerland and Northern Italy was drinking beer in the Swiss Alps, taking a private cooking class, doing a Venetian rowing lesson, wine tasting in Chianti, spending a day in Cinque Terre and meeting up with my good friends in Bologna. After taking a couple months off from an international trip, this ultimate getaway definitely rekindled my wanderlust.
Ah my birthday month! June was another month full of hustle and grinding. I reached 2,000 followers on Instagram, did more brand collaborations and created more content. I celebrated more birthdays and graduations and also started going down the shore on the weekends with my family. (There is nothing I love more than spending summer weekends at the beach.)
At the end of June, I celebrated my 27th birthday by going on a dream trip to France with my good friend. Before I flew to Paris, I celebrated with my close friends in Jersey City and then with my family down the shore. My actual birthday was the day we flew straight to France.
There were a lot of highlights to my trip to France such as visiting Paris for the first time after dreaming about it for years. I also got to go Champagne tasting in the region of Champagne and wine tasting in the Burgundy wine region. The ultimate highlight was getting lost in the fairytale region of Alsace and wandering through the lavender fields in the South of France (Provence). If I had to choose a downside of this trip, it probably would have been not extending it a few days to go to the French Riviera. My friend and I tried making a day trip to Marseille, but the train tickets ended up being too expensive (it gives me a reason to go back).
The month of July was spent hustling even more. I reached 3,000 followers on Instagram and even started to blog twice a week, which resulted in an increase in blog traffic. I also began getting paid for my Instagram posts! It was awesome.
The highlight of July was spending a week by myself down the shore. I had to work full time while I was down there, but I still managed to get beautiful beach days in. I also got to hangout with my cousin and even had my good friend and her boyfriend come down the shore to spend time with me. We had a blast!
During the month of July, I also got to celebrate more birthdays including my mom’s! We enjoyed a lovely day at our favorite winery down the shore!
August was another great month for me! I reached up to 5,000 followers of Instagram and started getting more work. I also attended BlogHer in New York City where I got to network with women bloggers in not only the travel industry, but also in the fashion, lifestyle, beauty, fitness, parenting, food, education, tech and finance industries. It was seriously amazing! I also got to hear speeches from Gabrielle Union, Amy Schumer, Jessica Alba and more. (Yes, these people were only a few feet away from me!)
The ultimate highlight of August was my bucket list trip to Japan. I traveled to Japan solo where I met up with a group and got to meet new friends! Since I used to work for a couple Japanese companies, I also got to meet up with a former coworker, which was nice.
The only downside to my Japan trip was being delayed 10 hours at Newark Airport and missing out on my first day in Tokyo. Of course, once I got there and started partaking in the best adventures, it made up for it! I enjoyed wandering through the futuristic city of Tokyo where I got to walk through the crowds in Harajuku, see a robot show in Shinjuku, take Kawaii-inspired photos in Akihabara, find peace at Meiji Shrine and Sensō-ji Temple and savor amazing food! I also took a day trip to visit the beautiful city of Kamakura.
Next, I got to fulfill a dream of seeing Mount Fuji and relax in a Japanese onsen in Hakone. I also got my Japanese nature fix at Mount Komagatake and Lake Ashi.
After spending time in Hakone, I took a 200mph bullet train to Hiroshima where I got to learn more about the 1945 atomic bombing. I also got to visit the island of Miyajima where I saw a floating torii gate and indulged in the best Japanese street food!
Kyoto ended up becoming my favorite place in Japan because it is where I got to wander through the famous vermilion torii gates and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. I also got to see a geisha, ate endless amounts of sushi at kaiten-zushi and danced the night away at a Japanese nightclub.
Moving on from Kyoto, I visited the peaceful areas of Nara and Mount Kōya where I got to feed deer, see the largest Buddha in the country and stay at a Buddhist temple. It was everything my soul needed!
I ended my Japan trip having a blast in the country’s other major city, Osaka. Here, I got to hangout at an animal café, do karoke, visit the infamous shopping arcades and indulge in more great food!
Overall, Japan took up almost my entire month of August. After I came back from my trip, I got to enjoy Labor Day Weekend down the shore with my family. I was so excited to see that my favorite ice cream parlor from childhood opened up after getting destroyed from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
To end the month, I got to celebrate the engagement of one of my best friends!
During the month of September, I got up to 7,000 followers on Instagram and started doing even more collaborations. I also got to travel down to Austin, TX to attend the first TravelCon that was hosted by Nomadic Matt. During my time in Austin, I got to visit Barton Springs, meet up with an old friend, indulge in amazing BBQ and more. The highlight of my time in Austin was meeting my favorite travel bloggers and learning from them. I also enjoyed meeting new, like-minded friends who I still keep in touch with and networking with travel companies.
In addition to traveling to Austin, I enjoyed spending quiet weekends down the shore and attending seafood festivals!
October led me on the We Are Travel Girls Blogging Retreat in Bali, Indonesia. I absolutely loved how last minute and spontaneous this trip was for me and I had an amazing time making new friendships and learning from Becky Van Dijk, the co-owner of We Are Travel Girls.
The only downside to my trip to Bali was the 33-hour journey to and from there. It was totally worth it though because I got to stay in a 5-star villa, visit beautiful Hindu temples, swim under a waterfall, eat and drink at the dreamiest locations, enjoy the best beach day in Uluwatu, ride the waves in the Indian Ocean for the first time, wander through the famous rice terraces and say hello to the monkeys in Ubud. It was a dream trip!
In addition to traveling to Bali, I celebrated my other friend’s engagement, attended my cousin’s wedding, did typical fall activities and had a fun Halloween with friends.
When it came to work, I hustled even more, got over 8,000 followers and landed some wonderful freelance projects!
During the month of November, I finally reached 10,000 followers on Instagram! It was my goal to reach this number by the New Year (tomorrow), but I achieved it a month and a half earlier than I thought! It was one of the most exciting and happiest feelings knowing that my hard work was paying off.
In November, I didn’t go on any international trips, but it was awesome to visit another U.S. bucket list city, Charleston, South Carolina! Since my cousin goes to college there, my mom and I took a long weekend where we got to wander through the quaint streets of Charleston, indulge in the best brunches, visit a plantation, do a ghost tour and relax at a nearby beach.
In the middle of month, I went back down to my alma mater (JMU) after four years and relived the good ole days with one of my best friends. We attended the college’s football game, tailgated, ate at the new dining hall and enjoyed quality time on the university’s quad. During that same weekend, I got to see my good friend walk down the aisle.
During the rest of the month, I enjoyed time with friends and had a lovely Thanksgiving. The only downside of the month was going down to Florida to say goodbye to my great uncle who unfortunately passed away to cancer. (Rest in Peace Uncle Augie.)
This past holiday season was nothing short of magical! I began the month by making my way into New York City to go wedding dress shopping for my best friend, visit the Christmas bars and see the tree! I also celebrated 10K with my mom, who bought me the number 10 balloons (pictured above)!
The ultimate highlight of this past month was traveling solo to the European Christmas markets. I had such an amazing time strolling through the magical markets in Munich, Salzburg, Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna. I also got to see Neuschwanstein Castle and also visited the gorgeous Alpine city of Hallstatt. During this trip, I made a new friend and also got to meet up with another good friend. It was awesome!
The only downside of the month was returning home from my trip and getting some anxiety due to the amount of work and shopping I had to do with Christmas only being a week away. I did, however, have a nice Christmas with family and I made it to 12,000 followers on Instagram.
I am excited to close out the year by doing a ski day with my uncle and cousin and ringing in 2019 with friends and family!
Lessons I Learned:
One of the major lessons I learned this past year is that you will never be happy if you’re waiting for the right moment or the right person. The only individual who will change your life is YOU, not a significant other, not a parent, not a friend, not a family member, not a mentor… YOU!
Happiness and success has nothing to do with your job title, financial situation, relationship status or social standing. It is about following your gut and doing what makes you happy even if that means having to sacrifice something or a few things in life. Yes, it may seem like I’m traveling all the time and living a high life, but I honestly work around 80 hours a week, including weekends, holidays and on my trips; I still am living home with my parents; I have given up a lot of girls’ nights and I don’t have time to date. Guess what though? I have never been happier, more confident and free and I could never see myself going back to the previous life I lived.
Yes, I still have a long way to go and there is so much I still want to achieve, but I am taking one day at a time and pouring my heart into my passion. One of the biggest realizations through this journey is learning that everyone moves about life at their own pace. From infancy through childhood, we were ingrained into thinking that we had to be on the same level as all of our peers. Once we turned 18 and went our own ways into adulthood, we all have gotten caught into thinking we need to have a certain job title or be making a specific salary at a set age. We also think we need to be married with a child at a specific age. I see so many individuals settling for a mediocre life just because they are so anxious about achieving a certain life goal by a specific age. I will admit that I got caught up in this mindset, especially when I reached my mid 20s and it led me into a depressive state. Please know that wherever you are in life, you deserve to be happy and live your best life! Always follow your gut and truly do what makes your heart and soul happy. So eat the cake, fall in love, travel the world and never have regrets!
Cheers to 2019!
Happy New Year!
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