If 2016 was all about baby steps, 2017 was about lowering my sky-high expectations.

With my anxiety under control and my motivation soaring, I set myself an enormous number of ambitious goals last year. On their own, each of these goals were more than achievable. But when I threw all 20 of them into the mix, I struggled to stay sane. I had to mix visiting seven new countries in Africa with visiting my ten remaining countries in Europe plus taking my first trip to South America plus waking at 4 am for 30 days straight plus spending 10 days at a silent meditation retreat plus doubling my website traffic plus launching a new course plus getting to 100 push-ups plus reaching A2 level in Portuguese.

What was I thinking?

2017 was the year when I took a step back, stopped dreaming so big, and became comfortable with not immediately achieving everything I’d set my mind to.

Despite quickly realising I’d been far too driven when it came to my dream achievements, though, I still managed to cross a fair few from my list. In this post, I’m going to be sharing how I did when it came to my 2017 goals, as well as what I’m hoping to achieve in 2018.

As always, my goals are S.M.A.R.T., because making vague aims to lose weight or eat better don’t work for me. I need numbers to aim for to help me track my progress or I just get lazy. S.M.A.R.T. for me is:

  • S – specific
  • M – measurable
  • A – attainable
  • R – rewarding
  • T – time-bound

This will most likely be a long post, so grab a glass of wine and settle in for the ride.

My 2018 Travel Goals

Last year, my travel goals were explore seven new countries in Africa, take my first steps in South America, explore more of Portugal, make it to my two biggest Asian oversights (India and Japan), and visit my remaining ten countries in Europe.

This was ambitious as hell, and it wasn’t going to be enjoyable attempting to achieve while maintaining a fulfilling life in Portugal. Still, I threw on my backpack for eight months of the year and had some of my best travel experiences because of it.

  • I still can’t believe how fortunate I was to visit seven incredible countries in Africa last year. I chose Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the DRC to help me meet my goal, and fell hard for each and every one of them. Africa is a diverse, beautiful continent and I can’t wait to visit even more of its countries in 2018.
  • I skipped visiting South America because I felt as though I didn’t have enough time to dedicate myself fully to any of the countries I most wanted to visit. I didn’t want to fly to Brazil for a week and then leave knowing little about it, so I put South America on the back-burner to ensure I can do it justice in the future.
  • I explored a dozen new destinations in Portugal, from an incredible road trip in the Azores to a romantic jaunt to Coimbra; a cuttlefish festival experience in Setubal to a day trip to beautiful Braga. Portugal is one of my favourite countries in the world and I loved getting to know it even better.
  • When it comes to my Asian oversights, I made it to Japan towards the end of 2017, but had to cancel my booked trip to India at the last minute. Japan was incredible to travel around, and I still dream of the pork rib ramen I had in Osaka that essentially changed my life. As for India, I’ll get there one day! It’s so tough to plan a trip there when I know I need about six spare months just to start scratching the surface.
  • Europe was where I slipped up this year. While I often spend my summers exploring new European countries and cities, this year, I was exhausted from my frequent travels and didn’t have the drive to do so. I managed to head to two of my remaining European countries (Denmark and Vatican City) in 2017, which still leaves me with eight to go.

Here’s what I’m going to be turning my attention to in 2018.

Bikini Beach, Fulidhoo

Bikini Beach, Fulidhoo — my biggest travel priority for 2018 is to return to the Maldives!

Back to the Maldives

The Maldives is changing rapidly and I feel guilty.

My posts from my time in this island nation rank right at the top of Google for many, many search terms — they’re still some of my most popular ones on the site — but they’re woefully out of date. In my articles, I recommend that you head to Maafushi, for example, gushing about how it’s an untouched, beautiful island with one of my favourite beaches in the world. Now, it’s overrun with tourists, has had its beach dug up, and is covered in trash. Based on the comments and emails I receive, my Maldives blog posts likely send a dozen people to Maafushi every month.

I want to go back to the Maldives and see more of the local islands so that I can send my readers to the places that are worth visiting.

I’ll likely go for a full 30 days and try to hit up as many islands as possible while I’m there — easily in the double figures. This will be one of the few trips that’ll feel like a real business trip for me, as it’s rare that I head to a place solely to research a destination for Never Ending Footsteps.


Another Sailing Trip in Greece

One of my travel highlights from 2016 was chartering a yacht in the Ionian with a group of sailing-loving friends and spending a week island-hopping from secluded bay to deserted cove. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

I’m determined, then, to make it to Greece in 2018, with the aim of leaping back on a yacht and stuffing my face with feta. Given how much my crewmates adore this part of Greece, I know it’s not going to be hard to convince them to come along with me! And let’s face it: I need them to because my sailing knowledge stretches about as far as how to put out the fenders and look terrified whenever somebody hands me a rope.

If I do make it to Greece in 2018, you can bet I’ll be making the most of it and checking out the more popular islands in the Aegean, too.

Beach in Brazil

Beach in Brazil. Photo via: Ricardo Santos

Take My First Steps in South America

South America is one huge oversight in my travel map, and after failing to make it there last year, I’m rolling this goal over into 2018.  At the top of my list right now is Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay, and I’ll be thrilled if I manage to make it to just one of these this year.

Luxembourg City from above

Luxembourg City from above: I love visiting the smaller countries in Europe!

To Visit My Remaining Micronations in Europe

This year, I’m going to be keeping my Europe goal small and setting my sights for for Liechtenstein and San Marino. This will be far easier to achieve if I end up basing myself in Europe, as I’ll be able to visit both as short trips during the year.

My First Trip to the Caribbean!

Given that so many of my travel challenges have focused on oversights, it makes sense for 2018 to be the year when I finally make it to the Caribbean!

I want to help the islands that were damaged last year by spending my tourist dollars in the region, and I love the idea of island-hopping independently rather than taking a cruise. Having said that, some friends of mine are having a post-wedding celebration cruise to the Bahamas this year, and that could be a great introduction to this part of the world before I set off on my own to explore on a budget.

My Health/Personal Development Goals for 2018

Last year, my health and personal development goals were to reach A1 and A2 level in Portuguese, take a silent Vipassana meditation retreat, keep a journal for an entire year, wake up early every day for 30 days, and drink 1.5 litres of water a day. I did pretty well with these goals, achieving three of them in 2017!

  • I got up to A1 level in Portuguese thanks to an immersive course I took in Lisbon, but ultimately couldn’t find the time to level up to A2. Learning a language requires continuous practice and I simply travelled too frequently in 2017 to make it a priority.
  • I researched Vipassana retreats multiple times in 2017, but struggled to find one with dates that aligned with the breaks in my travel schedule, so eventually decided it would be best left for when I’m not travelling as frequently.
  • I sort-of kept a journal in 2017 but I struggled with writing in it regularly. Here’s an example of why: I took an amazing trip to the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique back in January. Upon my return to my hostel, I messaged Dave and spent the next 30 minutes telling him all about it, then messaged my mum for half an hour to tell her all about it. I opened up a Word document to draft a blog post about the experience to ensure I wouldn’t forget, then turned to my journal later that evening. By this point, I’d recounted this trip three freaking times and it felt like a tremendous waste of my time to then slowly handwrite the whole experience for a fourth time. I kept up with my diary for half of the year and while I’m so grateful to now have such a personal record of what I got up to over that time, I’m not going to lie: I resented having to write it at the time.
  • I succeeded in waking up at 4 a.m. every morning for 30 days and it did incredible things for my productivity! I learned that dragging myself out of bed and sitting in front of my laptop was a surefire route to working well, and I managed to write 60,000 words over the month because of this. It was, however, pretty miserable. Despite my increased productivity, I felt like death for much of the month, ended up taking four-hour-long naps in the afternoon, and generally wanted to sleep forever.
  • Drinking more water was a huge success. It was easy to do, even when travelling in developing countries, thanks to my GRAYL purifier bottle, and I felt great because of it. Drinking so much water meant consuming less sugary sodas and alcohol, which was another added bonus!

Here are my goals for 2018:

To Find a Sport I Truly Enjoy

You’ll probably be surprised to hear I used to be the definition of a tomboy when I was a kid, to the point where I had short hair, was occasionally thought to be a boy, and played football on the boys’ team at school. I was even on the fast-track to playing badminton for England at one point! I was full of energy, spent every spare evening playing in the streets with my friends, and struggled to sit still whenever there was a ball around for me to kick.

And then the internet happened.

I quickly transformed from a sporty, energetic girl to a lazy, addicted teenager that could easily spend 15 hours a day on the computer and never leave the house.

I miss being that active person that was tirelessly passionate for sport. It’s been a gap in my life for probably 15 years, and I’d like to try to get back to that person I used to be. The easiest way I can see achieving this is to find a new sport that makes me happy. Top of my list right now is rock climbing and paddle-boarding, or maybe even surfing.

Lauren and Kindle in the Maldives

This was the only photo I could find of me reading in my travels. And guess what? I was reading Memoirs of a Geisha while on the beach in the Maldives

To Read 12 Non-Travel Books

All I read is travel-related books. Right now I have Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi, and Walking the Nile on the go, because if I’m not reading travel memoirs, I’m reading fiction set in the countries I love or am about to travel to.

I’ve probably read 200 travel books over my six years of exploring the world, and while it’s totally my genre of choice, I’m feeling the opposite of well-read when it comes to anything else. My aim for 2018, then, is to branch out and start reading a more diverse selection of books. I’ll be aiming to do this once a month to ensure I have enough time to meet this goal.

Lauren eating duck beaks in Bangkok

Eating duck beaks in Bangkok, which I guess is pretty keto

Try Going Keto for 30 Days

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t set myself a personal development goal that included a 30-day challenge.

This year, I want to try something diet-related again. The keto diet is a bit like paleo in that it’s all about low carb-high fat, and I already know this style of diet has incredible effects on my body. Going keto should help me lose weight, get energised, stay focused, and continue to keep my anxiety levels low. I know I’ll struggle to severely limit my carbs, but when it’s for just 30 days, I also know I have the willpower to stick to it. As the creators of the Whole30 often say: beating cancer or losing a relative is hard; not eating bread for a month is. not. hard.

Ramen in Japan

I want to learn how to make ramen!

Learn How to Cook Three of My Favourite Dishes From my Travels

If everything goes according to plan, I should have a new home by June of this year. And with that comes a fully-equipped kitchen and plenty of time to practice. My cooking game is strong these days and I’m looking for a new food-based challenge, so why not pick a complicated dish that makes zero sense to learn and attempt to perfect it?

Potential candidates right now are pork shoyu ramen from Japan, khao soi from Thailand, and xiao long bao from Taiwan!

Lauren hiking in New Zealand

This is not my natural habitat

To Go Outside Every Single Day

This sounds like it would be an easy goal, but you don’t know me. My happiest place in the world is being inside, which I know sounds ridiculous for a traveller, but it’s true. I’m sedentary AF. If I’m not travelling? I’m inside.

Late last year, I spent two weeks in Japan and, with such an action-packed schedule on the cards, I spent each and every day offline and outside. I averaged 15 miles of walking a day while I was there, and felt amazing after the first few days. I was healthy, energised, calm, and happy. Even though I struggled to motivate myself to step outside each day, as soon as I did, I was gripped by a craving to walk for hours on end.

Next stop: scorching hot Australia. I was out in the suburbs, there were flies everywhere, the sun was burning, and snakes were lurking. I stopped walking regularly for the next three weeks and I’ve been feeling crappy ever since.

I’m keeping this simple. I’m going to go outside every day, even if it’s just walking around the block. I think it’ll do amazing things for my physical and mental health, and it’ll be easy to achieve, too.

Writing my book in Belize

Yes, I *do* need new photos of me working around the world

My Work goals for 2018

2017 was an incredible year for me business-wise. Despite hitting next to none of my work goals for 2017, I rocked the hell out of these past 12 months and end the year nervous, as I have much further to fall. Traffic is up, income is up, and my stress levels are down, down, down.

My goals for 2017 were to release my first ever course, up my social media presence by posting to Facebook and Instagram a minimum of five times a week, double my site traffic, publish a series of 12 travel guides, and write 12 guest posts. Here’s how I got on:

  • I released Overcome Travel Anxiety in September and have been thrilled by the feedback I’ve received so far. I never intended to get rich from course sales — and I haven’t — but simply knowing I’ve helped others conquer their brain demons and head out into the world means more than I can even tell you.
  • I failed on both fronts when it came to upping my Facebook and Instagram posting frequency. You guys know I’ve struggled to connect with Instagram from day one and I’ve been forcing myself to use it ever since. I find the platform boring, fake, forced, and irritating, and although posting five times a week would have been easy to do, I simply couldn’t be bothered. I only posted 32 times in 2017! When it came to Facebook, I posted 147 times to my page in 2017, which is just less than three times a week. The main reason for this failure is a newfound desire for personal life privacy. Every day I spent in Portugal had me fiercely guarding my beautiful life there and stepping back from social media.
  • I didn’t double my traffic. I tried several different tactics, but without any viral posts last year, it was hard to top 2016, where I had several articles score hundreds of thousands of visits. Most notably, I hired somebody to help me with my Pinterest and referrals dropped! So that was several thousand dollars I wasted. If you’re a Pinterest expert who believes they can help me rock my Pinterest game, please get in touch!
  • I haven’t started my long-term aim of publishing detailed travel guides to the places I’ve spent a lot of time in, and that was mostly due to a lack of time. I was travelling so often in 2017 I had to prioritise blog posts over everything else.
  • I didn’t meet my goal to write elsewhere 12 times either. Again, this was due to spending eight months offline and travelling, which gave me a limited amount of time in which to work.

Here’s what my goals are for 2018.

red phone box in pai

Pretending to answer the phone in Pai, because that’s the only way you’ll get me to raise one to my ear

Say Yes to 5 Business Opportunities That Give Me Anxiety

Even though my site is doing well these days, I still self-sabotage and use my anxiety as an excuse to do so. Want me to appear on your podcast? I’ll delete your email. Already work with me and want to offer me more money, but it involves jumping on a call? Delete. Want to quote me in a major publication but need to phone me in order to do so? Delete.

Do I have social anxiety or am I just a millennial?

Honestly, I just hate phone calls, and one of the amazing things about working for myself is not having to do things I don’t want to. If phone calls make me anxious, I don’t have to ever take another one again. And while that’s great for my happiness levels, it’s not so great when it comes to challenging myself, living outside of my comfort zone, or generally functioning like an adult.

I’ve missed out on so many opportunities over the years, from being quoted in the New York Times to appearing on the Travel Channel, thanks to my lack of desire to do things that make me nervous, and this year, I want to start saying yes. I’ll be starting small and aiming to just say yes to five things all year.

Even that sounds terrifying.

lauren opening book

I’m considering writing a guide to scoring a book deal through your blog

To Create Another Product

I want to start creating more products to sell on my site in order to diversify my income. I haven’t decided what it’s likely to be yet, but the current front runners are a book about how to make decent money from travel blogging without doing sponsored stuff to how to get a book deal for your travel memoir.

Napping all over the world

It’s time to stop napping all over the world and start writing more blog posts

To Publish 100 Blog Posts in 2018

I published 51 blog posts in 2017;
56 blog posts in 2016;
39 blog posts in 2015;
29 blog posts in 2014;

My best year for publishing was 2012 when I published 89 posts in 12 months.

I’ve never been a prolific travel blogger. In recent years, especially, I’ve been focusing on detailed, resource-heavy blog posts that easily run to 4,000 words, and it’s challenging to do that more than once a week.

I believe quality is better than quantity, but when I have almost three years of travel to still write about and no sign of ever catching up, it’s time to make a change.

I’m going to aim to publish the most amount of blog posts ever in 2018, and I’ll be looking to hit the big one hundred. Let’s face it: it’s publishing less than twice a week, but also, let’s face it: I’ve never managed it before, even when I was writing 500-word posts for an audience that didn’t yet exist.

Spice plantation tour in Zanzibar

I still need to write about the incredible spice tour I took in Zanzibar!

To Write About Every Place I Visit This Year

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m feeling the pressure when it comes to writing about all of my travels. In 2017, I travelled so much that I barely had time to open my laptop to share what I’d been doing with you guys. And that makes me feel shitty, because let’s face it: you’re the only reason I’m able to see the incredible places I do.

In 2018, I’m going to attempt to write about every single thing I do and see over the year.

What this may mean is scaling my travels way back to ensure I have enough time to write all the blog posts I want to, or it may mean prioritising publishing blog posts above all else, like I did in 2016, when I wrote 28 posts in 30 days!

korean cooking class

Hey, remember that time in the early days when I took a cooking class in South Korea, despite not knowing the difference between onion and garlic?

It’s Time to Go Back to Basics

I wrote about this in my newsletter a few months ago. In it, I said:

Recently, I’ve been reading posts on travel blogs from 2011 and 2012, which was back when I had first started travelling and it felt as though every blogger was part of a tight-knit community. I had dozens of blogger friends who were travelling through Asia for the first time, and we were all meeting up and sharing silly updates online as we explored the region with fresh, naive eyes. I miss it, a bit.

Most travel bloggers from that time went one of two ways: they ran out of money and went home to get a job, or they ran out of money and turned their site into a business. In the case of the latter, suddenly people were travelling to the places where tourism boards would give them free stuff, making decisions on where to go based on what their readers were interested in, and switching from sharing personal updates to massive resources that would help them rank in Google and make more money. While I quickly retreated from the sponsorship path, I can’t deny that my site has been more focused on finances than funny stories over the past few years.

Which, obviously, makes sense. You need money to travel live and there’s only so many $2,000-for-4-days-in-the-DRC trips I can take before I’m out of it. But I’ve still been feeling as though I’ve been focusing too much on the making money side of blogging. This was only confirmed through reading the travel blogs I used to love. I realised that I’ve quashed my personality in order to appeal to everyone; that I’ve been focusing so much on how I can make money that I’ve stopped sharing the small, fun updates I can’t make a penny from.

So I want to make a change.

I want to go back to my roots and start writing more about the funny stories and weirdass experiences I used to focus on in my early days of travel. I want to mix my long and detailed resources with short and silly tales that give you a better idea of what it’s really like to travel. Rather than having my posts from Zanzibar focus *just* on what it’s like to travel there, how much it costs to visit, and what you should take with you, I want to share my ridiculous Dar es Salaam airport experience where there was zero security, I almost got on the wrong plane, and my boarding pass was a laminated A4 piece of paper. About how I got scammed, didn’t realise, and tipped my scammer for “helping me out”. Share a photo essay to show you every delicious meal I ate while I was there.

Back to my roots.

As I mention above, the struggle is going to be finding a balance between these two. I’ve got to eat, y’know, so I need to write the kind of articles that can make me money, but I want to have more fun stuff on my site, too. Because I have to put numbers on everything in order to judge whether I’ve successfully completed a challenge, I’m going to aim to share 20 short-but-sweet travel stories on my site this year.

Lauren in Belem

And that’s it for my goals for 2018!

I’m excited to tackle a brand new year and I’m determined to continue conquering the world. While it’s going to be tough to beat such an incredible 2017, I’m entering January full of optimism and gratitude. I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months have in store for me.

What are some of your goals for 2018?

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