2018 was one hell of a year. For the first time, I found my purpose and what I wanted Voyaging Vagabond to stand for. I wanted to create a space where people of all sizes, shapes, and colors could realize that they too were capable to chart the globe despite any limitations they were raised on. For so long I denied that I was a plus size travel blogger. I held on to the dream of one day shedding the lbs I’ve carried for my entire life and be one of those glamorous bloggers all over the travel industry in their barely-there bikini running down the beach somewhere in Bali. This was the first year that I realized that was never going to be me and it was liberating. I learned how to embrace myself and found others who celebrated and thanked me for it. I learned to love places I initially wrote off. I learned to love those around me even more and show them gratitude for all of the good they’ve helped me find. Discovering this purpose wasn’t easy but the travel experiences that I had definitely helped shape it. Which is why I wanted to put together My Top Travel Moments from 2018.
#6 Shakira in Madison Square Garden, New York
I can remember being 11 and “Whenever, Wherever” by Shakira was on every radio station. I would dance in my room and jump on my bed and convince myself that my hips moved just like hers. It was an obsession that I haven’t shaken even 17 years later.
So when I found out that I was going to see Shakira in Madison Square Garden I nearly had to pick myself up off the floor. Yes, there was screaming and yes I may have even shed a tear. She certainly didn’t disappoint. I can confirm that her hips do not lie and 11 year old me sang every single word like she was on top of her bed, pseudo microphone in hand.
It also gave me a reason to finally love New York City. I’ve said time and time again that I’m not a city girl by any means. Prior to going, if I’m speaking truthfully, the part I was dreading the most was the fact that it was in New York City.
That hate went out the window and my trip in August made me realize what a diverse city NYC is. It’s a city where your possibilities are only limited by your imagination. You can really do anything there. I spent the days I was there eating all over the world (figuratively.) A memorable meal was always just a walk away. I would start my day at an ice cream tasting and in the evening, I’d find myself in a former beauty parlor with a drink catching up with friends. One afternoon I found myself jumping all of my cares away in a bouncy house full of giant, bouncy, plastic boobs. Yes, you read that correctly. The city offers you experiences that you can’t find anywhere else and I lowkey cannot wait to return to get those noodles and handmade dumplings in Chinatown.
Can we also just quickly talk about The Met? I mean it’s hard not to love a city when they have such a beautiful collection of art in one grandiose place.
#5 Reunions in London and Spain
After years of traveling, there’s a tricky situation that happens. Whilst you’re having the time of your life in these new places, it’s more than likely that you’re going to make a bunch of new friends. There will be people that you share life-changing experiences with that nestle their way into a warm and special place in your heart. But eventually, your paths separate and you’re left with friends sprinkled all over the world, never really sure when your paths will cross again. This ish straight up breaks my heart. I have friends that live on the opposite side of the world that I would teleport to me in an instant if given the chance. It’s difficult and the FOMO is real, but you have to accept that the universe will help you out with a solid and make sure your paths cross again.
I was making my way back to the US from Spain and had a 7-hour layover in London. Someone was on my side because one out of three of my British lads were around and three of my FAVORITE Aussie babes were spending their last few days there. Earlier on this trip, I met up with one of my favorite couples on their home turf in Spain after meeting in Australian and had a mini-reunion before they left for India. I genuinely yearn for these reunions, no matter how short or brief they may be. To see a familiar face that brings floods of happy memories your way. You spend what feels like forever smiling as you recall the adventures you’ve had since last seeing each other.
Managing to see their faces as we took in a warm, sunny, spring afternoon in London, and a night spent drinking sangria and laughing at a cafe table in Spain were some of my favorite moments this year.
#4 My Big Break in Ireland
When I started Voyaging Vagabond, I just assumed that I would write my blog posts and people would read them. How WRONGGGG I was. Blogging is so much work. You have to be active on social media, no matter how many times your posts gets 1, 2 even zero engagements. You have to find your purpose and find the audience that could benefit from it. You have to create content CONSTANTLY, which means your vacations turn more into work trips, you’re writing all of the time and your brain is always on.
It’s a lot of hard work but I worked and worked, loving the growth I was creating and the journey I adopted. It always felt right no matter how big my to-do list grew. Three years after I started my blog, and a kick-off to January 2018, I had my first big break. I saw an opportunity posted online that put me in touch with the woman who handles the social media for Matador Network. I pitched her some of my upcoming trips and was floored when she asked me if I would be interested in an Instagram Story Takeover.
Matador Network has been a social community for travelers since its creation. They’ve spent years celebrating travelers and offering resources to not only become a better traveler but how to make it your career. I was used to my favorite travelers doing takeovers of new and exciting places and I was floored that they wanted me to join that crew.
For the first time, I felt like the hard work I spent on Voyaging Vagabond was starting to pay off. It gave me a whole new level of confidence in terms of who I am and the brand I’ve created. It was that reassurance I needed to set forth the motions to turn this blogging baby I’ve raised into a successful grown-up blog I could be proud of.
Ireland showed me that I have what it takes to make Voyaging Vagabond as successful as I’ve always envisioned it being. It was an invigorating solo trip with important reminders that I so desperately needed. I’m seriously forever thankful for the opportunity, the willingness of Matador Network, Lally Tours and Wild Rover Tours for taking a chance on me.
The rest of the year and the success it held for me couldn’t have happened if I didn’t have my first big break there.
#3 My First Travel Conference in Austin
I didn’t really know what to expect when I bought my ticket for my first travel conference, TravelCon. But I did know that this conference was going to be attended by some of my blogging idols. Names that are KNOWN in the travel community. Names like Matt from Nomadic Matt, Earl from Wandering Earl, Oneika from Oneika the Traveller, Glo from The Blog Abroad and Kiersten from The Blonde Abroad (just to name a few.)
There was no way I could not go and honestly, I’m so glad I did. If you are considering a career in the travel industry then let me say that you should absolutely attend some conferences. You’ll quickly realize that your idols are kind and welcoming people who you share laughs and exciting travel experiences with while they drop you some knowledge you weren’t even expecting.
There were opportunities to forge new friendships and to learn how to create something that lasts from experts I admired. The people I connected with while I was there inspired me to be so much more than I thought I was capable of and now I can watch and support their journey and endeavors.
It helped me make my name known not in a way that was gimmicky or artificial. It was because I was having deep and meaningful conversations with them and realizing that we had way more in common than the overwhelming number of stamps in our passports.
It helped me be a better blogger, reassured me on my path and taught me how to plan for the future. I’m seriously so thankful and can’t wait for the 2019 date.
#2 Steph’s First Trip to Disney
Now for those of you that don’t know, my girl LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSS Disney. Now I know you guys are like yeah okay, everyone loves Disney. Lemme just quickly break down the extent of how much. I often times have to stop Steph from covering our apartment in Disney toys ANDDDD she has a Buzz Lightyear tattoo.
Yeah, I told you. Obsessed is more like it.
Now the girl who loves Disney told me she had never been to Disneyworld.
So we gathered a crew and made a plan to get Steph to Disney. We had a big ole group of fun-loving “adults” who were ready to take all of the parks by storm.
Disneyworld is already a magical place but seeing her giddy and bouncing around like Tigger was more than I could ever ask for my Space Ranger when we walked through the gate. She even got herself a 1st visit pin and wore it with pride each day we were there.
We rode practically every ride those parks have to offer and we felt like kids again. We would eat ice cream for dinner, have dance-offs with Mickey and was even treated to a VIP experience completely by chance at the Haunted Mansion (that’s a different story though.)
It was everything I knew she had hoped and wondered for years and it felt so damn good to see it come to fruition.
#1 My Mom Country Hoppin’ With Me
For a long time, my mother didn’t understand my aspirations to travel. She didn’t understand why I would spend months living out of a backpack, or why I choose to work short-term jobs to save enough money to travel indefinitely and she certainly didn’t understand that I would rather make a career behind my laptop than sitting in a cushy office that offers me health and dental benefits.
She’s the type of woman that’s more comfortable spending nights at home with her husband cooking dinner for her. A trip to the mall in the center of downtown is more like a nightmare for her and she doesn’t use her passport (in my opinion) nearly enough. She and I have a lot in common, but not this. I’m the polar opposite.
But her 60th birthday was coming up and after years of working her ass off, not putting me up for adoption during my teenage years and being the quintessential example of what a mother is, I REALLLLLYYYY wanted to do something special for her.
So I suggested our first Mother-Daughter trip along with my aunt and cousin. We settled on Spain and it felt really good taking my mom to a country I already loved. It was the highlight of my year watching my mom’s eyes sparkle with wonder. She impressed me and surprised me and I felt like I learned so much more about a woman I spent nearly all of my life with. We ended up breaking every bit of her comfort zone as we hopped from Spain, Morrocco and London. It made me so incredibly proud to watch her put these countries and all of the moments that came with them under her belt.
I also watched that woman consume more cerveza and octopus than I thought humanly possible.
2018 was a year of some serious growth. I really spent the majority of the year learning so much about myself. The skills that I have to share, the opportunities that I created and the people who remind me to keep going. This was the first year that I felt like I really could make Voyaging Vagabond my career and I’m looking forward to 2019 and the pursuit to make that aspiration a reality.
Thank you to each and every one of you for supporting me in this crazy journey of globe-hopping the world. You all mean so much to me and I am so unbelievably thankful to have you here for the ride.