As I sit writing this blog post, a cold wind wrapping around my ankles every time the door to my local café opens, an increasing sense of worry creeps in.
November crept up fast – too fast – with festive twinkling lights now decorating the steamy café window that I’m sure was only recently covered with a thick summer foliage. They say time passes faster the older you get, but this has, unequivocally, been the quickest year of my life.
Alongside the sudden arrival of winter, I’ve been gripped with an increasing need to reflect on the past 365 days– days filled with more life lessons, curve balls, peaks, troughs and ‘firsts’ than my entire thirty-one years combined. Yet, what is it exactly that I’ve achieved this year? Aside from successfully paying my bills each month? My memory is foggy; this year feeling like a vague dream rather than reality.
Writing this post is my first opportunity to assess my inaugural year of self-employment: as a travel blogger and as a business owner; running my own small social media consultancy. This moment of pondering is also inspired by a brand that we’ve grown close to over the last year: Fossil.
Alongside my venture into self-employment in January 2017, TTT signed to an exciting ambassadorship with Fossil. This is a brand that we’ve long felt encapsulates our own sense of adventure and curiosity, and having worked sporadically together during 2016, we cemented our love for this ‘Calling All Curious’ brand with a long-term ambassadorship. We were thrilled. Throughout the year, this partnership would see us take Fossil products – bags, jewellery and watches – to cities and countries across the world; our bags returning home just slightly more worn than before they had left.
In keeping with their own Fossil Firsts campaign, it seemed fitting to dedicate a blog post to our first year as ambassadors for this brilliant brand (and all the photos we’ve collected along the way), alongside other ‘firsts’ of 2017: a year that fell wide open to new possibilities and adventures.
Most prominently, and perhaps most importantly, this year has delivered what I hoped it would: travel firsts to new destinations, cities and experiences.
From fulfilling a childhood dream of visiting Universal Studios, Florida; taking my first trip to the Caribbean; exploring the European city of Hamburg; wine tasting in the South of France; discovering our twin town in Lille; reigniting our love for Amsterdam; and running our first ever 7km race through the heart of Paris, 2017 has been a year of bucket list triumphs. It’s a year, that on reflection, has been crammed full of stories, treasured memories and unique experiences – all of which wouldn’t have been possible without my leap into the unknown back in January.
In 2017, we won (having previously been awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards) our first ever blog award at the Blogosphere Blog Awards – scooping, ‘Travel Bloggers of the Year 2017’. Receiving acknowledgement that our 3,000 word rambles and whimsical stories are in fact read by real people was hugely exciting and unexpected. Just a month later, and equally unexpected, we were fortunate enough to also be awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the Visit USA UK Media Awards for our coverage of Universal Studios.
To suddenly have two awards under our belt in the space of six weeks was a huge boost, and the first time we viewed this once ‘hobby’ as something more substantial.
Time well spent
Despite my grumbles over the speed in which 2017 passed, the fact time seemingly accelerated this year is a positive. A chronic clock watcher, my former self would while away long afternoon’s in an office wishing time would pass faster. Carefully counting down each day until 5pm on a Friday would roll around, time was often slow; afternoon’s were something to be endured rather than enjoyed.
Working for myself however, has meant that mornings, afternoons, days and entire weeks can often dissolve in an instant as I’m absorbed in work I enjoy. ‘How is it only 12pm?’ is now replaced with ‘How is it already 12pm?’. This year has allowed me to take charge of my time – something no longer to be wasted.
Bag: Maya Small Hobo
Prior to this year, exercise was a chore I’d squeeze into my weekends or the odd evening if I still had any energy left after my working day. Far from something to embrace or enjoy, a trip to my local gym was enforced misery – one usually done after consuming too much cake in celebration of a team member’s birthday earlier in the day. With more flexibility within my days, however, the way I approached fitness this year has changed. Now wanting to start my morning with some form of exercise, I’ve found a small sanctuary away from emails, social media and deadlines. Thank you Gym.
With more time, I’ve explored every canal path, sleepy park or rolling field within a 10km radius of my home. Early mornings along the river – the mist still lingering as fellow joggers pass by – is now my favourite way to start the day.
Stepping outside the TTT comfort zone
A wise friend gave us a piece of advice earlier in the year, just after we’d launched into yet another moan about Instagram, algorithms and plateauing followers. “You’ve got to own the racecourse, not the horse, girls,” were her words, and ones that stopped us in our pessimistic tracks. Since launching TTT, Instagram has always been our focus – the platform that launched us into travel blogging and where we focus the majority of our time. With many changes to the platform, however, we no longer felt in control of our own content and with this we were feeling increasingly depressed.
After taking onboard our friend’s words, however, we decided to take tentative steps into new areas of ‘blogging’ that allowed us more control over the content we were creating. This year saw our first attempts at podcasting and vlogging – two things we were terrified of.
Despite enjoying both, it is our podcast series Twin Perspectives that we’ve discovered an unexpected love for – finding a new sense of freedom in just sitting down for a chat.
Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary
Prior to 2017, life was a manic rush. Breakfast was scoffed down whilst simultaneously emptying the dishwasher; exercise was completed as quickly as possible before dinner. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve struggled to let go of my ‘busyness’ badge, despite the inevitable ebb and flow that freelance life brings.
Initially, slower working weeks would induce a mild panic; a sense of failure at not having a diary bursting at the seams. As the year progressed, however, I’ve learned to cherish these quieter moments, whether they be while we travel, or simply at home with my cat.
For the first time this year, I’ve found a new sense of appreciation for these quieter moments and with this, I’ve maintained a better state of mental health (hurray!)
Making friends as you get older is tricky. Existing within smaller and smaller circles – routine dictating the places you visit – stumbling across new friends becomes less likely. This year, with new press trips and new networks, I’ve had the privilege of meeting people that I wouldn’t usually have crossed paths with.
From a fascinating evening with a group of Chinese influencers in Hamburg – learning about the delights of the mysterious Weeaboo – to finding a firm friend who happens to live just around the corner from me, this year has brought many lovely friendships, and a general sense of a far smaller and friendlier world than before.
On reflection, 2017 has been a year of many positive ‘Fossil Firsts’. Of course, I’d be lying if it hasn’t also been incredibly difficult at times; the metaphor of a salmon swimming up stream best representing a lot of 2017.
As I sit here in this crowded coffee shop, however, I can see that this year has in actual fact provided me with more important lessons, tales to tells and sense of confidence than I had before. Oh, and fabulous Fossil accessories! What more could I ask for in 365 days?
Thank you Fossil for accompanying me on so many travels this year – here’s to 2018 and another year of firsts.