Happy 2018, dear readers!
I hope your New Years Eve was a fun one and your 2018 is off to a great start. One of my favorite things to do in the first few weeks of January is to look back and see how much I’ve grown this past year – and to share the results with you guys!
P.S. – If you don’t want to read through what I learned in 2017, feel free to skip ahead to the “2018 – NEW YEAR, NEW GOALS!” section.
2017 GOALS – DID I ACHIEVE THEM?
What I learned in 2017: 2017 was the year I learned that it’s okay to go at your own pace. Too often I tried to complete a blog post in 2-3 days but ended up getting frustrated at how slow I was (lol) and leaving that post in a never-ending draft.
Right now I’m taking it step-by-step by breaking down each post into smaller sections and finishing one or two a day (even on this post!) It also gives me time to read through each section, make changes, and move onto the next idea.
I also learned that I really liked to write about my personal life (don’t we all?) and started my Month in Review posts. Some months are exciting, some are boring af, but at least its fun to write about what happened in my life so I can look back in 20 years and remember what I did.
Let’s take a look at my 2017 Blogging Goals and see how I did!
1. Blog More Often!
One of my top blog goals for the new year is to blog more often! I’m hoping to publish at least two posts a month and get my total number of posts to 50.
I was really close on this one! There are 45 published + finished draft posts in my WordPress queue – hopefully, those finished drafts will get to see the light in 2018.
2. Finish Writing About my 2016 Adventures
In my 2016 Year In Review, I visited 8 new countries… and barely wrote about them. Oops. Since I’m not traveling as much this year, I plan to use the extra free time to finish up all the countries that I visited – especially Japan, Brazil, and New Zealand, since I have the best ideas for them.
Spoiler alert: I ended up visiting 8 countries this year too. I have three finished posts for Japan and Brazil, but I still need to schedule them to be posted. As for New Zealand: I’ll get to them in this year… Hopefully!
3. Guest Posts & Collaborations
Another mini blog goal is to team up with other bloggers and write guest posts – I’m aiming for at least 5 posts this year. If I can swing it, I’d also love to start pitching my articles to travel websites and newspapers as well.
Ironically I didn’t do any guest posts this year, but I did write some freelance articles/guides to visiting San Francisco for online publications … So I guess that (sort of) counts? I realized that I should be writing more content for my own blog and that guest posting isn’t a priority right now, so I’ll revisit that as a 2019 goal.
4. Improve the Blog Layout
My layout was tweaked heavily in 2016 and there are just a few things to finish, such as: Add color to the rest of the layout, add and organize pages by tags (ex- Haul posts, Country/City Guides), and update sidebar photo.
I didn’t get to do much with the overall layout of my website, but I did hire a freelancer to tweak the individual posts to be wider, have more space for longer titles (like my super-long What To Do & NOT To Do in Nepal post title), and optimize the images. Next year I hope to finally have a dedicated page and organize my posts by Destinations so you won’t have to scroll through pages and pages of content.
What I learned in 2017: When I started 2017, I had no idea where I was going to travel, except to Morocco for New Years and Ukraine to visit my family and go to the Eurovision final. As usual, the universe had other plans and took me to Morocco, New York City (a spontaneous trip with my BFF!), Ukraine, Cuba, Peru, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore.
1. My Countries for 2017
In 2017, the 5 countries on the top of my bucket list were Cuba, Iceland, South Korea, Iran, and Norway.
Honestly, at the end of 2016 (when I wrote this goal), I didn’t think I would go to any of these countries – but the universe had other plans. I went to Cuba! I’m not sure if this was a coincidence or I got lucky, but I applied for a JetBlue credit card, collected the 30k bonus miles, and had 2 weeks of available vacation in June. Cuba was such a wonderful country and even better than I imagined it: friendly people, really warm beaches, and of course, the retro cars. I also got lucky, because the U.S. government shut down the simple visa program to Cuba two days after I got back! You can see a photo of me in Cienfuegos, Cuba, above. :)
2. Start an Antarctica Fund & Save $7,000
You thought I was kidding about visiting Antarctica in my last post, huh? Nope! It’s the last continent to check off my list, and how cool would it be to see penguins, kayak through the ice, and take a sub-zero swim? I just made a saving account (about 10 minutes ago…) that goes specifically towards my Antarctica Fund.
Just like I mentioned, in 2017 I started a savings account titled My Antarctica Fund, but to be completely open with you guys, I was so lazy that I didn’t get to use it. Instead, I took the money I saved, invested it in cryptocurrency, and the rest is history. #BestInvestmentEver?
Also in case you’re wondering: Yes, I plan to cash out someday and go to Antarctica in 2019 :P
3. Go to Eurovision
Every May, the entire European continent throws a huge, kitschy, and fun party known as Eurovision, where singers get to compete for the best song. I’ve been watching ever since Ruslana won the 2004 competition for Ukraine (), and I’m so happy that Ukraine won again last year! I can’t wait to celebrate the final in my home country.
It happened! I bought tickets when they went on sale in February (VIP seats!) and attended the final ceremony of the Eurovision competition in Kyiv, Ukraine. But there’s a twist! The seats around us were completely empty, which was weird because almost every other row was completely filled. During the intermission break, some dudes in business suits showed up, sat down in the empty chairs, and … it turns out one of them was Vitali Klitschko*
Naturally, I asked for a photo, he obliged, and I got to show off my cool selfie to half of Chernivtsi for the next two weeks.
*Former boxing champion and now mayor of Kiev. Also has a nice collection of memes about him.
4. Take Better Travel Photos
Whenever I pack my luggage before setting off on my next adventure, I take my Canon DSLR hoping to shoot a bunch of pretty pictures that rival National Geographic (ahem), and when I actually get there … I use my iPhone. There’s nothing wrong with taking iPhone photos, but I want to improve my travel photography + editing skills this year.
I went on my first solo trip this year with my iPhone and a selfie stick, and … my photos looked like I took them in an earthquake. Fml.😂
Does anyone else get shaky hands when the use a selfie stick? Anyway, I digress. A few bloggers mentioned using cameras with remotes, but my good ol’ Canon T3i is so old that it doesn’t have that function. Instead, I bought this cool wireless device that you can connect to with an iPhone app and use your phone to take pictures, and plan to use it this year.
5. Get 2nd Citizenship
Still a work in progress so I can’t say too much, but I should (hopefully) get my second citizenship within 1 – 2 months! I ‘ll also get visa-free access to 8 new countries, versus having to spend money and get a visa for the countries that my first passport won’t cover.
I’m happy to admit that I finally have dual citizenship! After 15 years, I received my Ukrainian citizenship this past summer. My new passport gives me visa-free access to 7 new countries, including Brazil, Fiji, and Belarus, plus there was a recently passed measure where Ukrainians don’t need a visa to visit EU countries!
1. Say “Yes” More Often
As a self-diagnosed introvert, sometimes it’s really hard to find the energy to get dressed, do my hair, and go out. There’s nothing wrong with staying inside, of course, but I’ve been feeling a little bit of FOMO when I declined an invitation to something that looked really cool. This year, I’m going out and having fun!
This year, I didn’t limit myself at all: I bought that ticket to Singapore, I went to that concert, I tried restaurants that I normally wouldn’t have, and so on. And you know what? It felt great! I met friends that I wouldn’t have met otherwise, tried some of the best ceviche in Lima, Peru, had a blast at Diskoteka Avariya (Eastern European people will understand), and really enjoyed my 2017. The next time I feel afraid of saying “yes,” I’m going to remember that nothing good comes from staying in your comfort zone and do it.
2. Get into the Habit of Minimalism
For the new year, I want to go through all my things and make sure that I have only what I really need and sell the rest. Once that’s done, I plan to live minimalistically and only buy things that I’ll actually use – like a ticket to Antarctica
2017 was the year of minimalism! After picking up the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I went into minimalistic overdrive: I stopped buying so many unnecessary things (you can only have so many dresses), became friends with people who live the minimal lifestyle, and finally cleaned out everything that didn’t serve a purpose. I know I have a long way to go, but minimalism was one of the best changes I’ve had in my life and I hope to continue this.
3. Stop Being Late
Ugh, this is my worst habit and it’s really embarrassing! I always seem to run late by accident. I get out the door at a normal time, and then some shit always has to go down: I miss the bus, the metro track is on fire (true story), or I sprain an ankle. Thankfully I’ve never missed a flight (yet), but I want to kick this habit and stop making my friends awkwardly wait while I sprint to the coffee shop.
Alright guys, I think I’ve jinxed myself. My flight from Taipei to San Francisco had a 40-minute layover in Vancouver and I missed my flight home. Maybe it’s because my parents’ baggage took forever to transfer or because we had to go through US customs, but it happened and I missed my flight for the first time in my life! Other than that, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of being on time and would rate this a 4/5.
4. Take Better Care of my Skin
I want to take better care of my skin this year because let’s face it, I can’t depend only on genetics – no matter how good they are. Also, ever since I got into Asian skincare I’ve been slapping on face masks nonstop. Here’s hoping that all this effort will pay off in 30 years ;)
This was one of my favorite goals of 2017, mostly because I got to splurge on Korean beauty products and try out so many new things that I normally wouldn’t have. When I was in Taiwan, I picked up these hydrating bird’s nest masks, bubble tea face mask, and face mist. Finally, I used toner for the first time and really loved how my skin felt after the Missha Intensive Moist toner. My next goal is to find products for the 10 Step Korean Skincare and have a routine in place.
5. Go Outdoors & Do Fun Exercises
I didn’t really schedule too much exercise in 2016, except for the 500km challenge. In 2017, I’m going to do more outdoor activities like hiking in the Presidio or walking my dog in the local park. I also want to take dance classes at the local gym (edit: I had my first class yesterday!) and learn indoor rock climbing.
This was a greeeaaat success (Borat voice). I tried rock climbing sometime in March 2017 and liked it – as in a “it was freaking hard and my muscles were so sore the next day but it was fun” type of way. I also started to take a weekly dance class at the gym in January and loved it. Our teacher is super energetic, sassy, has great taste in music, and I’m still going every week. I started running in November and would like to do it more often, but it’s freakin’ cold and I don’t think it would be appropriate to run around the neighborhood in a huge faux fur coat… right?
2018 – NEW YEAR, NEW GOALS!
That face when you have so many post ideas and
so little time so much procrastination
1. Create and Organize a Destinations Page
Yes, the goal from 2017 is back again! As mentioned before, this blog deserves a Destinations page where I’ll organize all the posts by country, activity, and type. I have a really cool idea in mind and can’t wait for you guys to see the finished product!
2. Learn How to Use my Drone
My gift this Christmas was a DJI Mavic Pro drone, which is amazing (check out the videos on YouTube!) Problem is, I still have no idea how to fly this thing. My vlogging goal for this year is learn how to take cool videos and photos so I can share some aerial photos with you :)
3. Design and Order Business Cards
Pretty explanatory, but I feel like business cards are useful in a ton of situations apart from business. If you meet a new friend at a hostel, a potential freelance client on the plane, and so on, a business card is way more snazzy than writing your email on a piece of paper (which I’ve done before as well!)
4. Complete 5 City or Country Guide posts
One of my ultimate goals is for this blog to finally become useful to people. I’ve been playing around with the idea of writing city/country guides for a while but the massive amount of information slows down how fast I write. I already started a country guide for Cuba and hope to add Taipei (Taiwan), Singapore, New Zealand, and a few more to the list.
2017: Machu Picchu … 2018: The world?
1. Try a Full-Course Meal
Or as I like to call it, “fancy food.” After watching way too many cooking and travel shows, I want to try the real deal. A three-course meal is the standard, but you can get a five, six, ten, or even twenty-one course meal! There’s something so fancy about sitting down and having a proper appetizer, entree, and dessert. I’ll probably try this in Kyiv when I’m on a layover, or maybe some capital European city like Budapest or Prague. Don’t forget to follow my InstaStories when it’ll happen :)
2. Do a Volunteering Assignment Through WorkAway
Back when I started to plan my move abroad and travels trough Europe, a friend told me about a site called WorkAway. It’s where people and charities write a description of the help they’re looking for (like building a house or teaching their kids English), and travelers can scroll through, match up with a project they’re interested in, and volunteer. The volunteer is given a place to sleep and food in exchange for their help.
I saw there were a lot of fun opportunities in near my hometown (like teaching English to school kids) and abroad (help run the front desk at a Japanese hostel? Sounds fun!). By the end of this year I would love to try at least one volunteer project – if not more!
3. Travel to 10 New Countries
In 2016 I traveled to 8 countries. In 2017 I traveled to 8 countries. Let’s go crazy and travel to 10 countries together in 2018!
Since I’ll be living in my Ukrainian hometown for a few months, I’d really like to knock off some close European countries that I’ve never been to: Latvia, Hungary (the thermal baths!), Italy, Czech Republic (Prague!), and Spain (Spanish dudes! jk)
4. Write my 50 Adventures Bucket List post
I’ve been having so many thoughts of colorful adventures, lush jungles, turquoise beaches, and delicious food in my head that it’s time I write all of them down! …And hopefully finish some down the road. ;)
Will my future be brighter than these stairs? We’ll find out!
1. Learn Conversational Chinese
I’m still not sure how I decided to undertake the adventure of learning Mandarin, but here we are. I think it went something like: Hey Luda, you know what would be fun? Learning one of the world’s hardest languages! Et voila.
Udemy was having a year-end sale where all the courses were $11, and lo and behold, this top rated Basic Chinese course was on the list. It had a ton of 5 star reviews and the instructor looked fun (and knew what he was doing), so I bought it. I’ve finished over 25% of the course so far and love it! 我学习普通话 ;)
2. Organize my Days to be more Efficient
Alright guys, time to get real: how many hours a day do you spend procrastinating? For me, it felt like half of my day was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram and not doing anything productive. I noticed that whenever I did a to-do list for the day, I actually stuck to it and did most of my work. This year I plan to use my Law of Attraction planner (and not just because I paid $30 for it lol). Each day has its own box, a list for priorities, and questions to track your progress for each month.
3. Disconnect from the Phone and be in the Moment
Last but not least, I want to have a distraction-less 2018. I was surprised at how much time I’m spending on my phone and how dependent I am on this piece of technology. In the new year I plan to have a genuine conversation with my friends and family because I want to spend time with them and not my phone.
Those are my goals for 2018! I’ve tried to keep them short, simple, and attainable. I hope you, my lovely readers, get everything that you’ve wished for and an amazing year up ahead. Hopefully we’ll cross paths one of these days, and if not, all of my adventures will be waiting for you on this blog. :)