My ‘Year In Review’ has now become a ThatGoanGirl tradition since I started it in 2015. As December draws to a close, I find myself yearning for an hour or two away from the festive family madness to sneak away and reflect on how far my journey as a blogger has come.
I rung in 2018 with a promise – a promise to make this year even better than the last (which was pretty darn epic). I didn’t want to lose that high, that momentum.
In 2017, I quit a successful career in advertising to start up my own digital marketing agency – and like all new entrepreneurial ventures, that year was full of stumbling blocks on the professional front, while the blog thrived, on the other hand. This year, however, I wanted both – my own agency and my adventures (aka the blog) to run at an equal pace.
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Mission accomplished? Hell yeah – with a whole lot of hard work, sleepless nights, passion, optimism and never-give-up attitude – all of which were a struggle on most days, FYI.
So, let’s get started, shall we?
I spent my first ever New Year and subsequently, my birthday, away from home in sunny Goa! I traded it in to experience winter in Toronto, Canada, living a dream in a winter wonderland with family and friends in that part of the world. I got back to India and spent the rest of January in Mumbai, writing all about my adventures in Canada, and polishing up my food writing skills with a bunch of restaurant reviews.
In February, I skipped off to Goa for a few days to be bridesmaid at a college friends wedding! Then, I decided that I needed another shot of wanderlust and booked tickets to Pondicherry for 10 days…. I’d mentioned about this plan in my 2016 year recap, and finally ticked it off my bucket list!
“Too much!” everyone said “3 days in Pondicherry is enough!” But it was during these 10 days that I experienced so much more than the must-see things to do in this charming French Colony! After visiting the Matri Mandir, the churches and some great restaurants in Pondicherry, I got my first taste of slow travel in India, and I was hooked! I also explored the area around Pondicherry and found something not many visitors to this place experience – Kayaking through the Pichavaram Mangrove Forest! It is still one of the best memories of the year!
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I enjoyed the little things of being in Mumbai during late February and March – drinking tea while enjoying the view from my window, buying vegetables, cooking lunch, and taking afternoon naps. I also worked on on-boarding new clients and finished a few big marketing gigs during that time. In the later part of March, I took my first trip of the year to Jim Corbett in Uttarakhand, to a hotel of which I handled digital marketing for. After spending a few days at the property, I visited Nainital, a few hours away and did my first property review of the year – Nantin Camp – a no-frills guesthouse that came at the end of a trek! I also realized how much I hated trekking on this trip!
In April, I took a short two-week trip from Mumbai to Goa and tried out a couple of restaurants– finding my favourite one – Amavi by Sumera– in the process! I also reviewed two hotels, Azaya and The White, both in South Goa. While I was there, I decided to check what all the fuss about Spice Farms in Goa was about and paid a visit to one of those, too!
May rolled in. I made a trip back to sweltering Mumbai. It was then that I bought my first apartment in Mumbai! Woohoo! The heat however, was unbearable and I badly wanted to escape! The universe conspired to make that happen and I soon set off, in July to Himachal Pradesh for the first time, on an adventure lasting 2 and a half months! A 30 hour train journey took me to Chandigarh from where I made my way to Himachal Pradesh via Shimla on the road trip of a lifetime! That entire trip was definitely the highlight of my year!
From NorthMoon Guesthouse, a charming wooden cabin overlooking the apple orchards in Fagu, to Offbeat Footprints at the bottom of the Tirthan Valley in Jibhi, to the luxurious Shivadya Resort in Karjan, I lived in parts of Himachal Pradesh for a few days at a time, inching closer and closer to Manali. Once I explored the hippie paradise of Manali, I made my way to my new home for the next couple of months – a plain, homely house rented by a local family who lived next door. Over time, they became like my family – and I wrote all about that beautiful experience of living like a local. It was my second time slow travelling in India, and definitely won’t be my last!
From my new home on the banks of the Beas River in Naggar, I set off to a new place every week, exploring bit by bit – from Kasol to Tosh and Pulga, to Spiti, Bir, Palampur and Dalhousie – and finding some of the best hotels and homestays in Himachal Pradesh while I travelled.
After exploring a new place, I’d retreat into my little hamlet in Naggar. Like I said, this home was my new base– a place for me to catch up on work, eat food cooked by myself and notice how ordinary life in Himachal unfolded. I treated these little breaks as an opportunity to write about the place I had just visited. I didn’t want to come back to Mumbai with 2.5 months worth of half-faded memories and jumbled thoughts – so I cherished these 4-5 day breaks between new experiences to write them down, unadulterated!
I left Himachal with a heavy heart in mid-August, promising to return, but with no immediate plans to do so. Work continued in Mumbai as usual, and I made a quick stop to Goa in September, reviewing a newly launched resort, Andores Resort and Spa – my first staycation, 5 minutes away from home. I also had my second kayaking experience of the year – this time in Goa with Konkan Explorers! I’d definitely suggest it as a must-do in Goa on your trip!
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A similar quick trip to Pune to review Club 29 in Wakad happened soon after. I was beginning to love this new spurt in the amount of travel and reviews I was suddenly doing!
And then – something I never thought possible happened! I was going to the mountains again! Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand were calling twice in one year? No Way!
But yes, another stint of reviews of The Pahadi Organic, one of the best culturally immersive experiences I’ve had happened in November! This was followed by a bit of luxury and I stayed in Machus Cottage, which had a view of the Himalayas from my bedroom! OMG that was surreal! Next, I headed to Sylvan Villa in Himachal Pradesh before finally winding up my travel in North India for the year in Amritsar – where I had my first stay in a hostel, with City On Pedals!
Back to Mumbai, but not for long! The final leg of my travels in 2018 took me down to South India, to a palm-tree paradise called Pollachi, where I stayed at and reviewed Coco Lagoon! From there, I drove to Ooty, 6 hours away and explored a bit of that lovely hill station while staying at Delightz Inn! A cyclone and chilly weather made that a memorable trip for sure!
And now, I’m back in Goa – celebrating yet another Christmas and New Year in my home state!
I’m not going to lie – working while travelling is extremely hard, and I burn myself out time and again. I, like most people, categorize travel as ‘leisure,’ even when I know that it is ‘work’ for me. And so I work doubly hard to make myself ‘feel’ like I’m working, although I’ve worked the entire day in a pretty new destination.
Waking up to catch the sunrise, working all through the day on client projects while squeezing in time for those social media photos, blog content, new proposals, invoices, payments, managing freelancers – all in one day, every day – is work. No matter how hard I’ve toiled all day, I need to stay up and blog, edit pictures and keep the passion alive, voluntarily, consciously.
So while I enjoyed my active lifestyle this year, I gave up a very important thing – time. Its ironic that in the process of creating the life I want, I don’t have the time to slow down and enjoy it the way I’d like to. This year taught me the need for balance. I hope 2019 teaches me to step out of the ‘busy trap.’
On a final note, it’s been amazing interacting with you (and meeting SO MANY of you) this year! I’ve enjoyed the emails, the random run-ins on the street, the social media chats – all of it! I look forward to meeting a lot more of you next year. Thanks for being there!
And have a smashing 2019!