At the end of every calendar year, I think the following 12 months can’t get any better, and yet they always manage to exceed expectations. Well, except for 2016; that will forever be the year that nearly did me in.
Still, 2017 started off with very little on the calendar by way of work and wound up being our most fulfilling and lucrative year ever. For 2018, we already have a solid dozen projects booked, so I can’t wait to see what this year holds!
This was the first full year that SVV and I worked together full time. To clarify, he always served as my manager of sorts—well, at least from the time I started monetizing this blog about three years after its 2007 inception—but he also always had a “day job.” I was getting to the point where I was making enough between magazine writing, content projects, photography and blogging that I could pay someone a healthy salary, so it just made sense that someone was him. We also had a paid intern this summer (who we would love to bring back next!) and a VA. This year, we’re toying with the idea of bring more part-time subcontractors on to fill some holes.
It’s worked out better than we could ever imagine, too; having extra help has allowed me to expand my roster of anchor clients—we also have a micro-agency specializing in consulting, strategy, copywriting and other such tasks for the corporate world—and also really up my blog partnerships.
Speaking of which, we had SO many fun content collaborations last year and I’m truly thankful to get to work with every single one of them. Among them: Google Fiber; Visit Franklin; Tru by Hilton; Oklahoma City; St. George, Utah; American Refractive Surgery Council (for LASIK); Fairmont Hotels; Visit Florida; Zappos; Mars Petcare; Grand Ole Opry; Wrangler; Blount Partnership; Savannah; Twin Creeks, Tennessee; New Orleans. I started a monthly highlights series this past year to share more about my work and track both hits and misses.
On the editorial side, I’m starting to scale back on my magazine writing for myriad reasons (mostly time and a decline in rates), but still managed to write for National Geographic, PEOPLE, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Marriott Traveler, AAA Living and AFAR.
I estimated that I spent more than 200 nights in hotel rooms and Airbnbs this year. Dang, that’s a lot! In 2018, I really hope to spend more time in the home we’ve worked so hard to rehab.
The year started off in Washington state with our beloved NVR Guys, then quickly followed with a trip to Grenada, an island nation I absolutely fell in love with and one that you should consider putting on your radar right away.
It would actually be my first of two Florida jaunts in less than a month, as I headed back in early March when my BFF Lemon and I road-tripped from Georgia to South Carolina for a wedding, then down to Jacksonville, where I got to see my girls Angie and Jade (and team up with Visit Florida on a content project!).
April saw us taking visitors around Middle Tennessee before hopping a plane to Boston for a Fairmont project, then taking the train to NYC. We also drove back Charleston to attend the wedding of my college suitemate, as well as up to Myrtle Beach for her bachelorette weekend.
From there, we headed to Savannah, where we kicked off the month of May with a content project. That month, I also went to Utah to play in Zion National Park, then back to Orlando for the opening of Volcano Bay.
June had me sticking close(r) to home: First, to the Smokies for work, then to Knoxville for a wedding, then back to Middle Tennessee for CMT Awards and Bonnaroo. Then, I went to Knoxville again (this time for work), followed by a yoga retreat at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch.
In July, I was mostly homebound. SVV went to visit his family in California for 10 days, while I tended to the pup (and my cousin’s kids). We did bop on down to the Florida Keys for five days mid-month, but then came home in time to throw my blog an epic 10-year-old birthday party.
August was jam-packed, beginning with five days in New Orleans, then I flew to meet SVV in NYC for a wedding, then we were home for a few days before heading out to Oklahoma City for the first time. One of the biggest surprises of the year was just how much we became obsessed with OKC; it’s such a dynamic, friendly and fun place to explore!
In September, we went to Sweden—one of only two international trips we took this year—and it made me fall in love with Scandinavia all over again. When we got back to Tennessee, it was festival season in Nashville: Music City Food & Wine and then Pilgrimage the following weekend.
October took us all over the state of Tennessee—literally, we hit every major city (Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Clarksville) and several small guys in between—for our big whiskey trail project and also to Georgia (for a Hilton campaign), where we got to see Team Mayhem and Team Vagabond3.
We thought our final work trip would fall in November; we headed to South Walton for actual vacation for four nights en route to Orlando for my final project with Universal for its holiday experience. On the way back, we decided to swing through Crystal River for the night BECAUSE MANATEES. I will definitely be going back to the Florida Springs in the future, as that was just too cool.
I thought that was it for 2017, but then! Travel Mindset called and wanted to send us to another awesome Fairmont Hotel for a project at the beginning of December, this time for a Christmas campaign with their D.C. property, to which I said: count us in!
The year ended with our annual Colorado jaunt, this time a week in Breckenridge courtesy of my mom. What a way to close out a fulfilling year!
I started off the year by running like mad—and completed the harrowing Jack Daniel’s Oak Barrel Half Marathon in April—and then just … stopped. Or rather, my travels picked up and I had no time to train. That’s going to change this year (as soon as it’s not 8 degrees here in Tennessee!) as I’m slated to run the Fargo half-marathon in May with Lemon.
Around the time my travels became crazy, my trainer had knee surgery and then came down with pneumonia so she was out of commission for quite a few months. This means, my weight-lifting this past year really went downhill; I’m hoping to change that starting now and get back on a weekly routine with her. Being a former college athlete, I don’t really need someone to train me, but I have no gym buddies where I live, and having an accountability partner is so clutch (plus, I just really enjoy hanging out with her, too!).
SVV got his own paddleboard (copycat!), so we were able to SUP together many of the warmer weekends we were home in summer and fall. Ella, in particular, was thrilled with this arrangement!
One thing that didn’t suffer, though, was my AcroYoga classes, which I take one day a week, then jam with friends on another. Acro is truly my fitness love—so fun! such a good team-building activity—and a damn good core workout at that.
Dad is doing much better, 23 months post-stroke. Speech is still hard, but we’re seeing him get more and more words back as the months progress. He also finished his first chapter book since the stroke (a John Lescroart novel) while on our trip. He’ll never fully recover to the point he was pre-stroke as the clot was too big by the time they got into his brain to operate, but he’ll have a comfortable (and hopefully, happy!) life.
Of course, the BIG news for the years was that my sister is pregnant! Charlotte Rose Clarey is joining our nutty clan sometime in March, and I couldn’t be more stoked to have another niece—and one just down the road at that (my two other darling nieces live some 2,500 miles away in California).
2017 was a year for friend hangs, and I love that so many projects took me to see so many of my besties! Lemon and I got to see each other a handful of times—in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, South Carolina again, Tennessee and NYC—and Jade and I almost managed to get back on our every-other-month visitation schedule.
I saw the Mayhems and Moxie several times—three times in their neck of the woods in Georgia and also once in mine in Tennessee. There’s never a dull moment with this kid around!
And I stayed with Angie Away at her new house in JAX; Angie, Alex and I took a trip to New Orleans together; and Alex also spent nearly two weeks in Tennessee with me for Bonnaroo, during which her lovely mother and her fiancé also joined us. It was a packed house, as another three friends from Tennessee stayed with us, in addition to an extra canine body. The best way to spend Bonnaroo, in my mind!
Of course, there’s my Nashville squad, too, and I squeeze in as many happy hours and dinners with them when I’m home and their schedules allow. I also run a media networking group that just hit four years, so I know that at least once a month I’ll get face time with that crew.
We continue to plug along at our house (mostly SVV), but to be honest, we’ve had so many other projects that have taken precedence, including a house he’s fixing up for my parents that’s in bad shape and the new commercial property we just bought in our backyard. So many house projects, so little time!
This past year, we did manage to finish our master bathroom (which the TODAY Show then featured!), stock up on some awesome MCM furniture, finish our fence all the way around (the only missing part is the electronic gate), build a kick-ass garden (again, all SVV) and add a few new pieces to the inside (like a custom-built island and table).
- This post on why you can’t pick my brain went viral.
- My guide to Savannah was my best-performing travel post of the year.
- I still can’t believe I’ve been blogging for 10.5 years; I shared some lessons on this crazy journey.
- I finally put together the Nashville murals post I’d been working on for years, which prompted this Google Fiber partnership.
- I teamed up with Kristin Sweeting to plan a Portugal retreat for creatives next summer (there’s still time to book!).
- I started a SEP at the tail-end of 2016 and have contributed to it three times thus far (as a freelancer, no one’s got my back when it comes to retirement!).
- The never-ending fight with Expedia that resulted in my family losing $10,000.
- SVV bonking his noggin and having to get stitches while in Charleston.
- A major destination’s PR firm stole dozens of my images, played dumb when we called them out on it, and we are still contemplating a small-claims suit.
2017 by the Numbers
- Blog posts written: 102
- Countries visited: 3
- States visited: 12
- Flights taken: 33
- Trips to Florida: 6
- Weddings attended: 5
- Books read: 14 (pathetic! I blame the news and social media)