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2018: The Year of Success

2018 year in review expat blogger amanda walkins

Success is an interesting term for a year in which I blogged here precisely three times (this one included). By those numbers, this was not at all a successful year! But by many other standards, 2018 was a year of success for me both personally and professionally.

We did so much this year that I could write an entire novel about it. Instead, I’ll try to just break it down into the basics.

2018 in Review

2018 year in review expat blogger Amanda Walkins

When reflecting on an entire year, there are several important categories to consider. I am a writer, a blogger, an editor, a house and petsitter, a member of two giant families, and I’m very lucky to have a wide network of friends around the world. So the numbers – in terms of “success” – have to take all of that into consideration when evaluating a year of life.

I do not look at success as a strictly professional factor. Instead, I understand that we work to live and that some of us are also very fortunate to love our work enough to make it part of our identities.

So, first, a glimpse into the professional numbers for this year…

2018 in Writing

TrustedHousesitters Edinburgh housesitting Amanda Walkins

217: The percentage my total annual income increased this year over last year. As a freelancer, these numbers can dance quite a bit! While my income is by no means extravagant, it allows us to live a very comfortable life. To give you a realistic perspective, however, I have never earned as much in a year since I quit my job in DC, where I was just an associate-level worker in a nonprofit. So, no, you do not need to be rich in order to travel and explore!

138: The percentage my website visitors increased this year, despite my virtual silence. This goes to show how effective proper content marketing can be!

11: The number of writing clients I worked with this year. I love working with long-term clients so I can help them to achieve greater success and so that I can truly master a different topic or industry.

4: The number of editing projects I took on this year. This is the first time I’ve delved into editing and I’ve relished the opportunity! I love working with a writer to improve the output, so I hope to take on even more editing projects next year.

Amanda Walkins freelance writer...with or without cat help

3: The number of blogs I posted here this year (this one included). This is a great success because, for the first time since I started writing in 2012, I did not feel guilty about a lack of blogging. I did not “fail” to blog; I chose not to prioritize this part of my life so that I could focus on other parts instead. This was a wise move that I do not regret at all, and I consider this ability to let go of the stress a great success!

3: The number of times I took full weeks off of work in order to prioritize time with family, time with friends, or time alone. This was the first year since I went full-time freelance that I took time off. That’s right, my first vacation in over three years! Combining life with work can be a privilege but the constant hustle is the only steadfast rule to this professional lifestyle. I work harder in this job than I have in any other job, ever. It can be a struggle and there are regular moments of unbelievable stress, but there are far more moments of pride and awe that I can take this work with me on all of my adventures!

Jonathan Clarkin Amanda Walkins wedding in Scotland

2018 in Housesitting

Housesitting and petsitting with TrustedHousesitters has changed our lives for the better. Since 2016, after we lost Lina, we both have desperately missed her companionship. Since we are (obviously) not stable enough to bring another dog into our lives at the moment, we have instead offered to look after others’ furry family members temporarily. And it has been such a joy!

Because of housesitting, we have stayed in such an interesting variety of homes, we have learned about neighborhoods that we otherwise never would have explored, and we have met some fascinating and unfathomably kind people.

Here’s our year in housesitting numbers…

Amanda Walkins pet sitter London TrustedHousesitters

13: The number of housesits we did this year, including 6 in and around Edinburgh, 6 in and around London, and 1 extended stay in Northern Spain.

9: The number of cats we looked after during those housesits. (Missy & Merlin, Missy & Hilda, Anna & Alex, Pippin, Mally, and Ollie)

10: The number of dogs we looked after. (Belanus, Islay & Jura, Winnie & Mia & Indy, Rosa, Angus, Zoffany, and Mama Cass)

2: The number of goats we looked after. (Coco & Pan)

46: The total number of chickens we looked after, though we lost 6 by the end of our stay (illness and a hungry predator both claimed a few).

Unknown: The number of cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, horses, and other animals we stopped to chat with or feed or cuddle along this year’s journey.

housesitting in Spain

Countless: The number of kisses, snuggles, walks through parks, belly rubs, and treats that we doled out with smiles plastered to our faces!

2018 in Travel

Amanda Walkins travel expat writer

It’s fair to say we don’t live a normal lifestyle. This year saw lots of bouncing around and some fun adventures that neither of us foresaw, but we are eternally grateful to have had these amazing opportunities.

Here’s a look at where we were and what we did this year…

4: The number of countries we lived in.

26: The number of beds (I think?) we slept in this year.

6: The number of flights I took.

Amanda Walkins expat Asturias Spain

3: The number of times the Irish-Colombian switched sides behind the steering wheel within 48 hours. This was a fun one: While in Spain, we had two cars at the housesit. One was a British car, so the steering wheel was on the right even though we drove on the right-hand side of the road. So he drove this car, on the right-hand side twice over, to the airport and handed it off to our friends upon their return home. Then we collected our Spanish rental car, which had a steering wheel on the left-hand side of the car to drive on the right-hand side of the road. Eventually, we dropped that car at the airport in Bilbao, flew to Edinburgh, and collected our Scottish rental car with a steering wheel on the right-hand side to drive on the left-hand side of the road…so we came full circle! (Did you follow that?!)

1: The number of epic roadtrips I took. My parents, my sister, and I all piled into the car in Massachusetts and drove the nearly 500 miles to Virginia to spend invaluable time with the newest little member of our clan. It was a roadtrip I’ll never forget and I am so very lucky to have been able to do it!

Amanda Walkins family roadtrip

2018 by Location

USA: We spent the first 6 weeks of the year in Massachusetts, ringing in the New Year at my parents’ house and celebrating our second wedding anniversary with a fun weekend in Providence, RI (it included bumper cars on ice!). I returned for a solo visit to MA and VA to meet both my first nephew and my best friend’s baby boy in April. I also had the pleasure of watching my sister work her magic as a family and newborn photographer!

Boston family photographer AmyE Photography newborn photography near Boston

Scotland: We arrived in February to celebrate family birthdays and housewarmings in Scotland. We did the aforementioned housesits around Edinburgh and, when I returned from my US visit, we celebrated toddler birthdays and the marvelous wedding of dear friends at a beautiful castle. We were even lucky enough to sleep in the castle that night as a surprise treat!

Scotland wedding Amanda Walkins

England: We journeyed to London for a summer of housesitting in areas we’d never before explored. North London, South London, Kingston-Upon-Thames…we loved growing more familiar with areas of the city we hadn’t thought to visit previously as tourists. We even considered staying in London long-term! While there, we also did a housesit outside Bath, we explored the Cotswolds, we drove past Stonehenge, and we also ventured to the Cliffs of Dover for outstanding vistas.

White Cliffs of Dover Amanda Walkins expat writer housesitter

Spain: We spent three amazing months in Asturias, a region of northern Spain next to my previous home in Basque Country. My first foray in living overseas was in 2007 when I spent four months in Bilbao. It – quite obviously – changed my life track. It was the instigator to my spending six months in Ecuador and it incessantly reminded me to push myself further when I relaxed too easily into daily life in Washington, DC. Being back in the area was an absolute delight, but the true highlight was our housesit with a small menagerie of animals and the most stunning view from the front porch. I miss those mountains desperately, and we are seriously considering returning for a longer stay in the near future!

Visit Asturias Amanda Walkins expat freelance writer
Bilbao Spain expat writer Amanda Walkins

2018 in Random Facts

464: The number of GBP my Irish-Colombian raised on behalf of the Shark Trust in the UK. He received a small tax refund and put it straight toward the registration cost for the Edinburgh Kilomathon, a 13.1km road race, just three weeks before the race. He raised £464 and ran the whole distance in a shark suit!

Shark Trust UK fundraiser Edinburgh Kilomathon Jonathan Clarkin shark suit

1: The number of breathtakingly gorgeous bouquets of Ecuadorian roses I was surprised to receive! A fabulous friend sent me flowers and the thought was simply too wonderful. I am constantly reminded of how very lucky I am to have such good people in my life!

9: The number of times the Irish-Colombian was an extra in a film shoot this year…watch out for him in episode 12 of Outlander, coming up soon!

4: The number of random festivals we ended up at this year! We were housesitting near Bristol during the International Balloon Festival so we popped over to watch them light up the night sky in time to music. We also visited Bath and randomly were there during their Pride Festival! And we spent a weekend in Gijon coincidentally while the International Cider Festival happened…so of course we wandered inside and stumbled back out quite a while later. Plus, we were living in Arriondas during the 28th Annual Chestnut Festival (yep, that’s a real thing!).

2: The number of river trips we took. The first was a cruise on the River Thames and the second was kayaking down the Rio Sella in Spain.

2: The number of Travel Massive events I led in Boston before transitioning the leadership to local folks to keep the momentum going. I’ve been an active member of the Edinburgh Chapter, helped the Malta Chapter launch while we lived there, and then helped revive the Boston Chapter during our stay in the area. It’s such a fabulous organization and has helped me to make wonderful connections!

Amanda Walkins Travel Massive Boston Chapter Leader Lola Travel
Screenshot from Stephen Oddo, founder of Walks Tours.

To end the year, we are shaking things up yet again!

2019 will be a bit more stable. We’ve just signed a lease for a flat in Scotland and the Irish-Colombian has started working as a personal trainer at a nearby gym. We even bought a car! In numbers, that comes down to…

6: The number of months we had to pay up front for our new Scottish flat! FYI for anyone moving to the UK: If you cannot pass reference checks or credit checks because you have not had a local lease in the past year, then you might need to fork out six months of rent up front in order to secure a lease. Yikes! But, again, we couldn’t have done that without the savings we were able to finally accrue because of housesitting (and crashing with our ever-forgiving families!).

11: The number of years our new-to-us car has already been on the road! We’re hoping to explore more of this gorgeous country in the coming year, so fingers crossed these wheels can take us on a grand tour.

Scotland road trip car

We will stay in one spot for a while next year, giving ourselves a counterbalance to this year. We have our own space for the first time since September 2017…which was actually quite a while ago, come to think of it!

We will see what the next year brings us, but we’re confident we can build on the successes of this year, both personally and professionally. We hope to continue striking the balance between travel and daily life, between work and play, between adventure and reflection.

I know it’s been quiet around here and I won’t go promising that it will change. In my head and heart, I have endless stories to tell. But in my reality, I have been prioritizing other ways to spend my time.

Perhaps in lieu of constant new homes, new animals, new neighborhoods, next travel arrangements, and trying to decide our longer-term next steps, I’ll have a mental gap large enough to offer to this space once again. Who knows! I’m not pushing into the future, I’m instead just enjoying the present every step of the way.

Cheers to you and yours. May your reflections on 2018 be forgiving and grateful, while your hopes for 2019 are flexible and open to all that life has to offer.

Slainte mhath!

Merry Christmas from Amanda Walkins and Jonathan Clarkin

If you’re new here, feel free to check out my many former homes in  HondurasEcuador, SpainScotlandIreland, and the Mediterranean island of Malta.

We also housesit and petsit our way around the world. You can learn all about TrustedHousesitters (our preferred housesitting website) here.

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