Hello! As I delight in doing each December, let’s see which stories were most successful of the 24 I wrote on this travel blog this year… and then I’ll give you some secret back-story on what’s been going on at Around the World L. I shall illustrate this article with my favorite @WorldLillie Instagram photos from the year. Let’s dive right in!
#9 Most Popular: Alone at a Bonaire Beach (980 reads this year).
After 4 continuous years of being pregnant or nursing, 2017 was the year when I was finally able to do solo travel again! (Shout-out to my family for being so supportive of this jet-setting.) My July trip to Bonaire and Curaçao was the first solo international trip since baby Jojo was born, and WOW did I love it!
#8 Most Popular: 8 Practical Tips for Juggling Work and Family (1,045 reads).
I work two jobs (teacher and blogger), have two kids under 5, and run two websites (this one and Teaching Traveling), so it takes some specific tactics to make it all fit together. At long last, this article lays out, for all to see, the concrete elements that have helped me balance it, and might help you, too!
#7 Most Popular: Boston Public Market: Local Food and Fun (1,257 reads).
Since I was still nursing baby Jojo for the first two months of 2017, I couldn’t travel far, and thus resolved to explore the new tourist attractions of my beloved home city, Boston. I had a delicious full day at Boston Public Market, and neither the food nor my fancy new camera lens disappointed.
#6 Most Popular: The View from the Tallest Building in the World (1,647 reads).
People thought these photos were fake, but I swear to you that I took them with my own shaking hands, dangling my camera off the edge of a platform that stands over 1,800 feet above Dubai.
#5 Most Popular: Northampton, MA: An Ideal New England Getaway (1,840 reads).
In January, I was still nursing, but my wanderlust was such that I strapped baby Jojo into my friend’s car, and we took a weekend to explore Hampshire County, Massachusetts. Northampton, MA proved to be a fabulous destination, as did nearby Amherst. Though I love far-flung travels, it’s sometimes these local exploits that are most useful, as now I have a ready answer for the frequent question, “What’s a good weekend getaway from Boston?”
#4 Most Popular: The Best Camera for Travel and Life (1,888 reads).
I spent a lot of money on camera equipment this year as an investment in my travel blogging business, and also got a bunch of queries on which pic-snapper is best. Hence, I finally sat down to write this big advice compendium, knowing full well that it all could be out of date in a year or two, as new devices come out, so I better keep editing it!
#3 Most Popular: Studios for 250 Artists in a Mill in Alabama?! (2,773 reads).
In May, I voyaged to Huntsville, AL (my first time in Alabama) for the TBEX travel blogger conference, and was awed by Lowe Mill: a massive studio complex for some of the most inventive, charismatic, and creative artists I’ve ever encountered. If you are anywhere near the area, I highly recommend checking it out… and it has food, too!
#2 Most Popular: The Best Place of 2017 Travel Was… (3,210 reads).
ZOWIE, did I ever love Curaçao. In this article, I explain why it was my favorite travel destination of the year, and support it with photos so luscious, you may just bonk your noggin on the screen. Truly, if you’re looking for your next vacation spot, do consider this lovely island.
#1 Most Popular: The Most Beautiful Free Tourist Attraction? (11,235 reads).
Surpassing the other articles’ reach by over 8,000 reads, this photo essay on the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi got shared like crazy, and it’s no wonder why: The architecture of that edifice is beyond imagination. What a beautiful place!
Did you predict the #1 article? I sure didn’t! It’s funny to see what does well and, er, less well in the internet world. So now that you’ve come this far, let me take you back-stage and reveal some secrets about what’s going on in the world of this blog.
The first thing that you should know is that it can be wildly expensive to run a big site like this one (let alone two, as I do). I spent so much money this year on attempting to upgrade the back-end and front-end of Around the World L and Teaching Traveling to grow my business that, frankly, I ended up with a painful amount of debt. Therefore, when I was accepted in April into a premiere display ad network, I seized upon the opportunity.
I have had mixed reactions from readers about the sudden presence of display ads on my sites, but please understand the following: First, it’s been 8 years of giving away writing and photos for free, and it’s time to start earning enough to at least pay the bills. Second, speaking of bills, I have been earning money on this blog steadily since setting up the display ad network this April, and I am still only about 60% of the way towards paying back the debt I incurred with website upgrades this year. This is to say, I appreciate your patience with the changed look of my sites, with the understanding that it helps you continue to get delicious writing and photography.
Given my financial experiences with this, plus nearly a decade of running two blogs, when a person asks me whether they should quit their job and try to make a full-time income online (with little experience blogging to begin with), I might collapse on the floor screaming, and maybe let out a guffaw or two. It may be a jarring reaction, but it’s built on years of watching how this all works.
You see, it takes a certain set of stars aligning (er, TONS of work) to make even a penny with a website. It’s not easy money, my friends, and that message was sure hammered home to me this year! Thank goodness for the primary income that I make as a full-time teacher.
BUT I will say this: If you love it — and I DO, DO, DO — there’s nothing like it, and it is worth every hour spent editing, revising, and publishing. (All 30+ hours a week, to be specific.) If you love it, DO IT, just don’t expect to be swimming in gold nugget swimming pools at the end of a year!
To close, here are some other highlights from the year:
A) “Merrily We Roll Along” (which I got to see at Boston’s Huntington Theatre) was the best play I’ve seen in a decade, and if it makes it to Broadway, which I predict it will, I’m going to drive my whole family and circle of friends down to see it!
B) I can’t stop wearing the dresses from my friend’s red-hot company, Leota. It’s a fashion addiction! All the dresses I’m wearing in these photos are from her.
C) As we speak, a brilliant former student is taking a press trip for me with G Adventures in Costa Rica. This is a thrilling new development, because hiring writers means I can bring you more of the world, through different perspectives than just mine, jolly as my voice may be.
D) I switched back to teaching English after 5 years of Geography, and it’s awesome. Teaching is such a rewarding career, if one can find a school that’s a fit, and I’m on a mission to help guide former students into the profession, for the benefit of all.
Phew! So there you have it: That was 2017 in the realm of Around the World L. Running this blog and Teaching Traveling is an IMMENSE source of happiness for me, and I hope the articles on both sites are useful and enjoyable. Thank YOU for all you have contributed as a reader to make doing this every day so joyful. Onward and upward!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!