The end of twenty seventeen has me feeling all the feels. This year taught me to expect the unexpected, it forced me to be stronger than I ever have before, and it showed me that nothing is more important than family. I was knocked down more times than I can count, but I picked myself up time and time again, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little proud of that. The last twelve months have led me to a place I never thought I would be, building a career that I only could have dreamed of. Julia Elizabeth Blog is less than a year old (can you believe it?) so for the purpose of this post, I’m going to start at the half-year mark. That said, July and August are mostly about my personal life, so feel free to start reading at September if you’re only here for the business side of things.
July was easily the hardest month of my life. My father passed away unexpectedly, I lost my visa to stay in the United States, and I involuntarily moved home to Norway. I had first started blogging back in April, mostly about running since I was training for my first full marathon at the time. I graduated from the University of Michigan and moved to Los Angeles, where I wrote a couple of blog posts about my new adventures in California. Since I’m a Norwegian/Canadian dual citizen and was in the US on an F1 student visa, I had to wait for my OPT application to be approved before I could start working. While I waited, I began building my life in Los Angeles and flew to San Francisco to run the San Francisco Marathon. When I crossed the finish line, I received a congratulatory text from my mom followed by a message asking that I call her… I knew something was wrong. Three months prior, my dad had been diagnosed with cancer, but we were hopeful that the treatment would work and he would beat this. While I had been running, the doctors had informed my family back home that my dad wasn’t going to make it. I got on the first flight out of San Francisco that same day and arrived in Oslo the next morning, in time to spend three days with my dad before he passed away on July 27.
August is a complete blur. As my mom, my brothers, and I planned my dad’s funeral, our doorbell continuously rang with flower deliveries and visitors from out of town. I tried to make sense of what had happened and desperately searched for a way forward, but I just felt numb through it all. As it turns out, this is the first stage of grief: denial. As the numbness faded and my emotions kicked in, I felt hopeless and broken. I removed my blog and its content since I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it anymore, let alone what I wanted to do with my life. After the funeral, I took my dog Cody to our cabin in the mountains to clear my head. The last week of August, I flew back to Los Angeles to retrieve my things and move out of the house I had sublet. Because I had left the US while the status of my OPT application was still pending, I lost my F1 visa status and thereby gave up my eligibility to stay in the country.
September is when I started up my blog again. I flew home to Norway from Los Angeles, stopping in New York on the way to visit friends, then drove back to our cabin in Eggedal, Norway with my favorite four-legged adventurer. I used writing as a distraction from other things and I discovered the wonderful blogging community. I wrote about Cody and I’s Norwegian wilderness adventures and shared photos from the mountains, trying to figure out what to do next. My family kept telling me it was okay to take some time off, but I didn’t want to be ‘that girl’ who moved home after college and didn’t do anything with her life. That’s when I decided to throw myself into blogging and this time, I was determined to turn it into something more than simply a hobby. Over the next three months, I would grow my blog from just 100 visitors in September to 15,000 views by the end of the year.
October brought another round of mountain adventures. I lived more permanently at our cabin with Cody, where I continued blogging about our wilderness adventures and got more serious about photography. I utilized Instagram and Twitter as marketing tools and saw a 100% increase in blog traffic. Comments poured in and I received many compliments on my photos, which encouraged me to keep going. I was approved for Google AdSense midway through the month and started monetizing my blog. While I very much enjoyed the mountain life, I began toying with other ideas. As the days got shorter and the snow began to fall, I wasn’t so sure that spending the long winter months alone at the cabin was the best idea. That’s when the thought of travel blogging first occurred to me.
November rolled around and I was set on traveling. I began researching different ways that I could fund my travels through my blog. I applied to various affiliate marketing programs and started working with Amazon, Bluehost, and Fiverr. I became a seller on Etsy and a freelancer on Fiverr, offering travel-related products and services on both marketplaces. I briefly considered participating in Blogmas, when bloggers share a Christmas-related post every day of December leading up to Christmas Day, thinking it could help new readers find my blog. While I ended up not going through with Blogmas, my one post on the topic quickly circled around Pinterest and remains my most commented blog post. With the increased page views from Pinterest, I felt confident enough with my numbers to reach out to tourism boards. I approached Visit Oslo and pitched the post titled 48 Hours as a Tourist in My Own City, for which they kindly provided me with an Oslo Pass. I updated my About page to reflect my new European city adventures and booked tickets to Helsinki and Gothenburg, where I was hosted by My Helsinki and Göteborg & Co. in their respective cities. I published 72 Hours in Finland’s Capital which was shared by Discovering Finland and Visit Helsinki, reaching over 1,000 views in a single day. By the end of November I had grown my blog views to 4,500, generated four sales on Etsy, and received my first order on Fiverr.
Published in November: 12 Original Blogmas Post Ideas, Holiday Preparations and Travels, A Sunny Saturday in Snowshoes, The Real Reason I’m Traveling, Oslo: 48 Hours as a Tourist in My Own City, Helsinki: 72 Hours in Finland’s Capital
December was a month of back-to-back travels. I returned from Gothenburg and wrote about Visiting Sweden’s West Coast, then took a day trip to Røros to experience Christmas in Norway’s Historical Mining Town. I visited my older brother Alexander in Vienna, where I wrote about Visiting Austria’s Capital in December in collaboration with the Vienna Tourist Board. I enjoyed a combination of city sightseeing and Christmas market exploring in Austria, and Alexander and I even took A Day Trip to Mozart’s Birthplace which was made possible by Visit Salzburg. In the middle of the month, Visit Oslo shared my 48 Hours as a Tourist in My Own City post and it was honestly like Christmas came early because this alone brought thousands of new readers to my blog. The last trip of December took me to Trondheim where I spent A Weekend in My Mom’s Hometown and visited my grandmother before Christmas. Apart from traveling, I joined the Awin affiliate marketing program and started working with Audible, Expedia, Hotels.com, and Travellink. I also launched my Facebook page, continued to grow my email list, published my Work With Me page, and Julia Elizabeth Blog hit 15,000 views!
Published in December: Gothenburg: Visiting Sweden’s West Coast, Røros: Christmas in Norway’s Historical Mining Town, Salzburg: A Day Trip to Mozart’s Birthplace, Vienna: Visiting Austria’s Capital in December, Trondheim: A Weekend in My Mom’s Hometown
In other news, I will be sending out a January newsletter on the 1st of the month detailing my upcoming travel plans and my goals for twenty eighteen. If you’re not already subscribed, be sure to sign up here so you don’t miss out. And if you’re still reading, thank you! I wish you all a Happy New Year filled with new experiences and endless adventures. I have a good feeling about 2018, anyone else?
This post contains some affiliate links which means I may receive a small commission from your purchases at no additional cost to you. This goes directly towards funding my next adventure and helps to keep my blog running. Thank you for making my travels possible!