Blogging year in review: new experiences and awareness of the world
I don’t like to go full-blog when I’m writing but today I’m all about an annual recap. I’ve been thinking about what would make for a “year in review” article that I’d want to read and I decided that I would want to know what happens in a year of blogging. So here’s the scoop of what a blogging journey over 12 months looks like.
Keep in mind, a year of blogging and creating content actually starts the year before. Running a blog is a lot of planning, phone calls, emails and everything else you do with a business, including business taxes. Excluding all of the daily and weekly tasks, this is a year in review of the lessons learned and experiences that have had the most impact.
What you'll find...
- Personal and Family Growth
- Going single use plastic waste-free: it’s a must for everyone
- Homeschooling: the challenges and future for us
- Brand loyalty: finally understanding and reaping travel rewards
- My first yoga retreat: the day I finally understood female energy
- Discovering free diving: understanding my place in the world
- Blogging Projects and Experiences
- Incredible Travel Partnerships
Personal and Family Growth
To say that having 2TravelDads be successful hasn’t changed our lives would be lying. Each year as we try new things and are exposed to more of the world, we learn what’s good for our family and how we fit into the global society. And that’s why we’re starting with personal growth for our year in review.
Going single use plastic waste-free: it’s a must for everyone
It’s no secret that single use plastics are choking out wildlife and ecosystems around the world. For me the first time I truly noticed it up close was this winter when I took a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. I was heading to Isla Holbox for a yoga retreat (which was genuinely life changing) and spent a few days doing a road trip to explore the Yucatan.
I visited a bunch of Mayan ruins sites, the Coba ruins being my favorite, I went swimming in a bunch of cenotes in the jungle and I swam with sea turtles. That was where I first saw the plastic problem up close: a yellow plastic bag floated directly above a sea turtle resting just off shore. Then I noticed a bunch of tiny shredded pieces of plastic suspended in the water, then on shore countless bottles, straws, bags and more.
I also visited the Tulum National Archaeological Park… where the beach in the national park was strewn with trash. It was woven into the washed up seaweed and scattered deep into the shrubbery below the ruins. This all was eye opening for me, as we live in a very clean place in Washington State. Eye opening indeed, as when I got home our family started doing walks at our local beach to pick up trash because the problem was actually very present in our own neighborhood. How did I never see it?
This inspired us to take a hard look at everything we buy or have on hand and to make changes immediately. Now, we can go a full month with only having our small garbage can collected once. We recycle nearly everything and have cut the amount of recyclable plastics we purchase down to around 15% of what we had done before. And the kids are fully on board with it, becoming quite the anti-plastic activists themselves.
What you can do to get inspired to be waste-conscious
Take a look around your kitchen or bathroom. How much of the product you use is going to be thrown away and sent to a landfill? How many plastic containers and bottles are in your house? Yes, the plastic containers probably are recyclable, but the chances of more than half of that plastic actually being recycled are very small. So much plastic is just bundled up waiting for a recycler to purchase it to turn it into fresh products… and so it sits, or worse, gets put into a landfill after all.
To be more conscious of your own waste production at home, you can simply be thoughtful as you purchase your groceries. You can bring your own bags to the grocery store, make your own bread (so easy!), bring your own refillable containers for bulk products. You can purchase groceries packaged in glass, metal or paper. With an extra second of thought before you put a product in your basket, you can stop yourself from adding to the plastic problem.
Tip: check out the really awesome Facebook group A Waste Free World for a great forum of sharing best practices, progress, and ideas to minimize our impact on the planet.
Homeschooling: the challenges and future for us
We’re now two years into homeschooling Oliver, our oldest. Being able to worldschool and travel has been awesome. We’ve been able to teach the basics that every kid learns in school with the added bonus of spending countless hours in nature, in museums, in communities that are different from ours. It’s been incredible and we’re so thankful that we have the time and skill set to be able to homeschool him.
Having said that, 2019 is bring a new challenge to us: public school. We’ve made the decision to start Oliver into public school as of the end of January. Several things impacted the decision to end homeschooling:
- Not having a good, non-faith-based support network in our area
- Not making consistent friends in our local activities
- Our family can’t withstand kid germs
- His learning is way ahead while his little brother needs a lot more attention
The decision to try out public school was difficult to come to and there were lots of tears, including from Oliver, but we feel good about it. We’re really excited to see him make some friends that he sees every day and to see how he learns differently in a school environment vs at home. We think he’s going to thrive.
The two biggest challenges we’re expecting are adjusting to such a structured school life and adjusting our travel schedule so that we’re not pulling him out of school constantly. We’ll see how this goes. Also, we’re pretty sure Elliott is going to miss his big bro.
Brand loyalty: finally understanding and reaping travel rewards
2018 was the year that we were determined to make our traveling count towards more travel. We’ve read so many articles about traveling with points and finally dedicated our efforts to making that happen for us.
We’ve done several campaigns with IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group) in the last two years and having worked with them, learned the ins and outs of their loyalty program, the IHG Rewards Club. We decided to commit more fully to staying with IHG brands for work and personal travel and it has paid off in a big way. We’ve been able to leverage points for all kinds of trips, both for us and to share with family. Using rewards we’ve stayed:
- locally in Washington for short getaways
- in New York for TBEX
- two different trip to Orlando we added extra nights
- In San Diego for bonus beach days
- Frankfurt, Germany to do a quick city explore
- Amsterdam, Netherlands to explore and get a super cheap flight back from Europe
…and we still have more points that we continue to earn and use.
We’ve also been very intentional about booking flights with Alaska Airlines and its mileage partners and huzzah, that MVP status is awesome! With both Chris and I at MVP or MVP Gold, we are nearly always upgraded to premium and first class, often for all four of us. We’ve enjoyed having lounge access (purchased) and earning extra miles due to our status. The quick and easy check in at the MVP/First Class counter at the airport has been great too. Our brand loyalty with Alaska Airlines has made our favorite airline even better.
Tip: take a few minutes to look at your own travels over the last year and see if you could’ve been more thoughtful about staying within certain brands. How many miles or points could you be using now if you’d booked with just one or two brands vs booking whatever was cheapest by a few dollars?
My first yoga retreat: the day I finally understood female energy
I know, that sounds ridiculous maybe, but here’s the story. I was invited to experience the Birds of Paradise Yoga Retreat with two really special yoga instructors, Joanne Matson and Victor Varana, down on Isla Holbox, Mexico. I was like “Yeah, this’ll be great. I like yoga, it’s a new place. I can provide them with some good content…” Yes to all of that, and I learned about energy and how the body and mind are so crazy connected. Check out my full Holbox yoga retreat article here.
Being the only guy participating in this particular retreat (except for one of the instructors) I was surrounded by women at all times except when I went running. I loved the people I was with, they were all such different, wonderful women. At about day three though, I was in the middle of a yoga session and was overcome with this vibe I couldn’t shake and I felt very isolated and anxious all of the sudden.
I realized that it was this overwhelming female energy. Being a man married to a man with two little boys and two male cats, everything in my life has a distinct male aspect to it. I don’t mean this in a patriarchal or macho or “better” way at all, but in that the vibe in my whole world is Energy X and I was submersed in Energy Y. I know, that wasn’t eloquent, but that’s the best I can describe the experience.
What I took from this was an understanding of my mindset and “self” relating to the world around me and how my life is very heavy in one particular area. Apparently I need more balance in my everyday world, and this vibe that shook me to the core was me realizing it. Anyways, it was incredibly moving and has changed many things in how I manage myself and my world. I’m grateful for the entire yoga retreat experience.
Discovering free diving: understanding my place in the world
2018 was a year of waking up for us. We had some huge “ah-ha” moments in terms of our own impact on the environment, from how we partake in tourism to the amount of trash we produce (see above). During our annual trip to Cabo San Lucas, I got to join my good friend Sarah, founder of Girls That Scuba, on a day of free diving with mobula rays. The crew of divers and staff were talking about impacts on the undersea environment from tourism, fishing and pollution and it was eye-opening.
I got to go out free diving a second time, this time to an area known for sharks. It was incredible. While I didn’t get the chance to swim with a shark, I learned about buoyancy and adjusting pressure, which allowed me to dive down very deep. Free diving without equipment and looking up at the surface was phenomenal. Add to that sea lions, colorful fish, mobula rays and more, and I’ve found my favorite activity on earth. Never have I ever felt this comfortable or so much in another world.
I cannot wait for all of the free diving 2019 will bring. Hopefully there will be some sharks, more sea lions, manta rays and who knows what else. If you’re interested in joining us for a free diving trip, let us know!
Tip: for free diving or any other guided nature experience, ALWAYS consider an ecotour operator that has a clear understanding and respect for the environment. Check out our full article on ecotourism in Cabo here.
Blogging Projects and Experiences
Besides running our own blog, Chris and I work to help others blog better and travel more confidently. Part of this is creating content that’s helpful for bloggers and other aspect is taking part in conferences of different sorts.
Blogging workshops: sharing our knowledge for the better
After oodles of one-on-ones and small group sessions, we were able to convert our basic blogging and content planning curriculum into several workshops. I forgot how much work it is to actually create a workshop from scratch and ensure that you’re being relevant and flexible. Success though!
We took our business marketing and influencer partnership material and created Engaging Influencers and Building Beneficial Partnerships. These two workshops focus on how to effectively work with bloggers and influencers to create destination, brand, and product campaigns across a variety of platforms. We’ve got two workshops already booked for 2019, so hooray!
The other workshop we developed this year took our blog coaching content and turned it into a two day seminar for both new and experienced bloggers. We’re very passionate about sharing knowledge and experience to help others. It comes down to the philosophy that when one of us wins, we all win.
The goal with the new workshop is to set fellow bloggers up for success when it comes to pitching their ideas and campaigns to sponsors, and also to give our blogging network a suite of tools to effectively plan and manage content development. We’re really excited for our first full workshop of Build a Better Blog in April. It’ll be a great learning experience for everybody!
“I’m not a blogger, so why do I care about this?”
As somebody who getting their information and recommendations from the internet, and in many cases from blogs, I know that I want to be finding valuable, authentic content. I know that when I read a review of a hotel or suggestions of things to do with kids, I don’t want to waste my time or be sold a product that’s actually not great.
We see blogging as the ultimate platform to communicate about the things and places we love. We also see it as a great way for brands, destinations and products to get in front of new audiences via fresh, meaningful content. That’s what blogging is all about: sharing good info and authentic recommendations. So yeah, our goal with leading more workshops in the coming year is to get everybody else in the blogosphere into that same mindset.
IMM London: being thankful for being a US based blogger
You never know how much a trip is going to impact you until you go. This year, I went to London for my first time. I got to tour the city with different friends, go out for meals and drinks with a bunch a really awesome people, and wander alone exploring one of the most fascinating cities on earth.
Why did I go to London without the kids? I attended a conference call IMM, International Media Marketplace. For bloggers and journalists, this is an opportunity to meet with marketing professionals from all kinds of destinations around the world and discuss story opportunities. While IMM UK wasn’t fruitful for us in the slightest, the experience was good and it made me realllllly thankful for how the blogging world in the United States operates.
The USA is totally different when it comes to being an influencer and owning your own media outlet. My impression of the USA vs UK when it comes to blogging is that bloggers are viewed with more credibility and seen as an integral source for the public to get info and recommendations. In the European blogosphere, I walked away feeling like a hobbiest who doesn’t reach thousands of actionable readers each day or have highly specialized skill sets. Reflecting on the conversations I had, I realized that at the same time we’re being offered work at home in the US, on the other side of the world somebody else is being asked to do the same job without pay. Granted, that is still very much a problem here, but it seems less so than what I encountered.
Note: this may be completely inaccurate as to the actual state of things, but it is the impression I had after 18 scheduled and prepped conversations. I walked in with pitches, plans and pep; I walked out with a bunch of strange looks and even hard “no” responses.
TBEX Finger Lakes: finding my tribe
I love the travel blogging community. It’s kind of the best. I mean, think about it: we all have created these jobs and hobbies that we love, and we love to share and learn from each other. And we love wine. Put a bunch of fun, creative, and exceptionally diverse people together in a fun destination and you have TBEX. It’s two days of sessions and keynotes with the goal of inspiring great work and sharing knowledge.
While I didn’t leave TBEX ready to change 50 things about how I blog or run my business, I did walk away with several actionable ideas that I hadn’t thought of before, mainly around how I manage my time and where to focus my efforts. The best part though was getting to connect with other blogging friends and make new ones. I can’t wait for TBEX 2019 in Billings, Montana. We’re doing Yellowstone and Glacier National Park before hand, so it’ll be a great vacation AND fun conference.
Following TBEX I got to spend a few days up in Rochester, NY exploring with the tourism team up there. Without giving away the farm, know that I’m really excited to share about my experience in one of the coolest small cities in the USA… (coming in February!) Biggest take-away from my time in Rochester: we, as a family, do not visit enough museums. More to come…
TMS Family Travel
Everybody told me about this lady, Joanne, who is just incredible and that you just fall in love with because she’s got a huge heart. I attended another conference, this time in Gallup, New Mexico, and I got to meet her and spend some time. Yes, she is incredible and she really showed me (cheesy warning) the power of telling a story when love is at the center of it. The TMS Family Travel team worked with the local tourism board and the state of New Mexico to show those of us in attendance the true NM. It was really incredible.
Why share this nugget of an experience? I’ve been a lot of places and seen lots of attempts to make a random town seem cool or different, but the way we experienced Gallup and the passion of all the people involved really stood out to me. As somebody who both writes travel content and creates events, TMS Family Travel in Gallup opened my eyes to what effective storytelling and meaningful tourism can be.
Tip: if you haven’t checked it out, pop over to my article about hot air ballooning in New Mexico. Really remarkable experience!
Incredible Travel Partnerships
Working with travel brands is kind of the ultimate goal for a lot of bloggers. I mean, you get to travel for the work you do, and the more widespread or prestigious the brand, the better. With this, we’ve done some really cool projects in 2018 and got to work with some awesome people, and it’s had an impact on us personally too.
Universal Blog Squad: rediscovering how to enjoy travel
When we got the call to be a part of the Universal Blog Squad for 2018, we knew it was going to be a great opportunity. Being a part of a deeply vetted and inspirational group of bloggers, from all areas and niches, we felt pretty special. We had the opportunity to experience all three Universal Orlando Resort parks as VIPs, as a family, as media, and as vacationers ready for fun. Such a cool, unique place.
You might be thinking, “So what, you got to do some cool trips. And…?” It was more than that for us. We haven’t done many trips that have focused solely on relaxing and having fun. We’re typically working during all waking hours and there’s a heavy educational element involved (woot woot for homeschooling). The time that we got to spend at Universal was indeed still work, but it was so much more. Our time doing #UORBlogSquad work was some of the best time connecting as a family that we’ve had.
The biggest take-away besides the fun and falling in love with Universal was how a group of content creators working in different niches and with different audiences can do so much. It’s like we as a crew created an awesome spiderweb of content, showing people how to have fun, relax and have a new vacation experience. The Blog Squad was an ideal model of how a community can be formed to tell a bigger story that means something different to everyone. I know, cheesy, but totally true.
Partnering with IHG: blog projects and family trips
If 2018 was one thing it was busy. We started our year by returning from NYC on a project with IHG Rewards Club and then we did some spring travel using a bunch of our IHG Rewards Club points. We kicked off our summer with another fun IHG campaign taking us to San Diego with grampa for a long weekend of beaches, tacos, tide pools and more. The best was yet to come though.
We ended our summer on one last IHG campaign for the year by traveling to Banff, Alberta with the kids. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Canmore and were given license to explore, have an awesome time and share the experience. We did everything from hiking and rafting to rock climbing and more. We had the chance to share a local company, Adventure Hub, and encourage thousands of other travelers to consider ecotourism and become conscious travelers.
Getting to partner with a family oriented, diverse brand like IHG has been a great experience. It’s shown me how important authentically liking and standing behind a good business partner is. And it’s shown me how many hotel nights we have each year.
Disney: the privilege of returning and being involved
Every time we get an email from Disney we get excited. Yes, we’ve been to Disneyland a gazillion times but every time it’s something new and different. In 2017 it was all about Cars and learning how to cope with a threenager and a six year old going on 15. In 2018 it was all about family time and trying new things. It was our fourth family trip to Disneyland and the best yet.
We got to experience the premiere of the Pixar Pier and film some fun video segments with the Disney media team. Seeing how that team worked, both for a huge public launch and for creating fun content, was really cool. We were so privileged to be a part of it.
Hopefully in 2019 we’ll be back to see the exciting new Star Wars Land when it opens. I’m already planning the content I want to create from it…
Sailing Croatia: our first big trip without the kids
Every couple has struggles in life of one sort or another. Something that I feel like we try to be good about but don’t realize until we step back is how well we maintain our own selves as individuals. We were given the opportunity to sail through the Dalmatian Isles of Croatia and being in Europe for 12 days… without kids. It wasn’t until we were exploring new cities and relaxing out at sea that we realized how much of ourselves we had forgotten about because we focus on the kids so much.
Spending time together and having completely new experiences was exactly what our FAMILY needed. By the time we were all back together, we were refreshed, we all grew a bit, and we were genuinely happy to be reunited.
And the sailing experience itself was really incredible. You have to check out our articles about the many Croatian islands we visited, our guides to Dubrovnik (and itineraries), how to plan for a sailing trip, and our first ever vlog of the experience. Sailing was incredible.
Wow! 2018 was insane and so incredible. We had an unforgettable year and learned so much. We cannot wait to see what 2019 has in store!
Rob Taylor is the founder of 2TravelDads, the original LGBT Family Travel blog. Focusing on ecotourism and education, 2TravelDads inspires LGBT families (and traditional families also) to go beyond their usual getaways and use travel to learn about and be part of a bigger world. “Traveling the globe and giving the kids a broad worldview.”