Every year since we started our blog we have put together a year end post reviewing our travels over the last 12 months. This year is no different in that respect but unfortunately, this is the hardest post I have ever had to write given the consequences of what has happened in the last couple of months. 2018 has been the ultimate rollercoaster of a year in so many respects, with many highs mixed with several low points that really tests your personality.
Rather than a typical year end review that looks back at a chronological reflection on our travels, I want to focus on more “reflective” and “personal” post that I hope allows you to get a better insight into what 2018 has been like for us.
A Year Full of Tragedy
Life can be so cruel sometimes. We always hear that human life is so precious and we should never take it for granted but as hard as we all try, the reality is that sometimes we do. It’s only in times of tragic heartbreak that reality truly sets in and we begin to notice just how fragile we are and how very little time we have on this planet.
2018 has been a year full of tragedy on a personal scale. Both Heather and I have suffered the loss of several members of our families in what has turned out to be a horrendous year of people passing away. At the beginning of the year, Heather and I were in Iceland only to find out on our flight home that Heather’s grandma had passed away. Only a couple of months later, I received a call from Heather’s mother on our way back from England to say that her other grandma had passed away…so cruel.
It is not the length of life but depth of life (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Only a few weeks into 2018 and Heather had lost both of her grandmothers and as you can imagine, it was pretty tough for both of us to take. Even if it’s not a direct member of your family, you become close to them and it hits you almost as hard, particularly when you are trying to be there for the person that is immediately impacted.
Just as we thought things were starting to get back to normal, Heather and I headed out to San Jose to the home of Google for our first Mediavine conference. The “Googleplex” is awesome, as was meeting some awesome folks at this conference. For those of you unaware of Mediavine, any of the ads (I know they can be annoying folks!) that you see on our website are driven there through Mediavine. During the last night at the conference, we were sat having dinner and I received a phone call from England saying that my grandad had passed away.
It’s only when you hear the news that someone you have been incredibly close to and who you have looked up to for so long, that it really hits home…those are NOT the types of phone calls any of us enjoys! This is also a time that you realize it’s not ideal living the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s not so much the time difference or even length of time to reach the UK, rather it’s the cost associated with trying to book a last minute flight. Throw into the mix the fact our local airport is Memphis, Tennessee and well, it’s very, VERY expensive!
We FINALLY found a flight that left in the next few days out of Nashville and arrived in London. A four hour drive from Arkansas to Nashville, followed by flights to Newark, Toronto and finally London saw us arrive back in the UK. We then had to rent a car and drive another four hours to reach my parents home in North-West England.
Tragedy of Tragedies
By April, we had lost three grandparents between us and we honestly didn’t think that 2018 could get any worse. Thanks to all our amazing followers around the world (yes, you reading this post means that you fit into this category, so THANK YOU!!), we continued to travel the world and had many amazing experiences that helped us get through these tragic events.
The middle part of 2018 saw us head back to the UK again to celebrate July 4th by camping in Devon with my parents. We had perfect weather and it was an amazing experience checking out the best things to do in South Devon. Ironically, this would turn out to be an even bigger memory that I will always cherish…why? Because this was the last time that I was able to spend time with my mother!
Fast forwarding the clock to late October…11:15AM to be exact on October 30th when I received a call from an unknown phone number. Honestly, I rarely answer my phone if I don’t recognize the number but there was something about the number, perhaps because it had a UK dialing code, that made me pick up the phone. The person at the other end indicated that my dad was trying to get hold of me….the next words I heard was from him hysterically letting me know that my mum had passed away!
For the next few minutes, everything suddenly stopped in my life. I honestly had no idea what to say, what to think, what to feel. A grandparent passing away at 94 years old is one thing…but losing your mother who was only 70 and so suddenly is something you can NEVER prepare for.
The most painful goodbyes are the one that are never said and never explained.
My mum has always been a huge influence in my life. I know I am so much like her in many respects and I cannot thank her enough for everything she has done. She has taught me independence and she has taught me to how to pursue and reach my goals.
She LOVED reading every one of our posts and honestly, for someone that only started using a computer a few years ago, I really believe that A Brit & A Southerner and all accompanying social networks was one of the main inspirations for taking an interest in learning technology.
The loss of a mother can never be replaced, but the love of a mother can never be lost (kelly flannery)
Always a Silver Lining
During my mother’s funeral (and my grandad’s), I spoke a few words to pay my respects and also share a few thoughts on what both individuals meant to me and how they shaped my life. Death is an awful event for those that have to grieve but I prefer to look at this in a positive sense and reflect on the many amazing memories you had with the person.
I made a comment that I went out to America in 2006 to pursue my goal of being a professional golfer and although that dream didn’t materialize, there was the “silver lining” that I met Heather in 2008 and the rest is history. There were a few smiles when I made this comment but ultimately it’s how I like to reflect on things. When something negative or bad happens or something simply doesn’t go your way, you always have to find a positive.
Three days after we flew back to the States, we were supposed to fly back to Europe again on an epic adventure around the continent with our Eurail train passes. We had been planning this trip for quite some time, booked several flights, hotels and trains but with everything that had just happened, you can imagine how close we were to canceling that trip.
We were mentally and physically exhausted and only a few hours prior to boarding our first flight from Memphis to Chicago did we make a final decision. Our decision to travel back to Europe and take this adventure of a lifetime was a decision we didn’t take lightly but it was something that I know my mum would have wanted us to do.
Every experience we had in Portugal, Switzerland, Italy and Greece, I reflected on what my mum would have thought and I know that should would have loved to experience it and see pictures from our travels.
This turned out to be an amazing trip and I am sure many of you followed this on social media. We have A LOT of content that we will be putting together in early 2019 from this trip, so be sure to keep checking out our website for more inspiration next year.
Our First House
If you have been following us in 2018, you will also know that we achieved another milestone in July – we purchased our first home! This was another huge event for us, not only because we had been renting for eight years but because we purchased a brand new property that wasn’t finished until the day we moved in (technically, it wasn’t finished until after but the builder has been awesome at keeping to his word and the 12-month home warranty we have).
Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you love brought together under one roof (nate berkus)
We started a new section on our website about Weekends at Home, and in 2019 we are excited about putting more content on this part of the site. We really want to drive home the fact that anyone can still travel the world. Many people have said to us since we purchased the house in July that everything would change. Well folks, it hasn’t. If anything, it has made traveling easier.
2018 Year of Travel
2018 was another incredible year for traveling. Despite all of the heartache we suffered, we still had the opportunity to visit three new countries, travel to Europe on five separate occasions and take various trips around the US. Some of our highlight trips include the following.
Europe by Train
I referenced this trip above as we almost canceled it at the last minute but this turned out to be a real trip of a lifetime. We started in Portugal (the first of three new countries visited in 2018), flew to Geneva and then took the train with our Eurail first class travel pass through the Swiss Alps including the breathtaking Golden Pass and Bernina Express before heading into Italy and finishing in Greece.
Italy saw us explore a hidden gem in the Emilia-Romagna region by experiencing the best things to do in Bologna, while we found a real awesome apartment courtesy of L’8Boutique in the heart of this historic city. Day trips to Pisa and Rimini followed by a visit to the small municipality of San Marino (second new country in 2018) capped an awesome time in Italy.
Our final stop in Greece saw us spend 48 hours in Athens and as I’m sure you know, this city is rich full of history and gorgeous architecture.
Jersey, Channel Islands
The end of 2018 has been pretty rough but just prior to Christmas, we paid a visit to the beautiful island of Jersey in the Channel Islands. For those of you unaware of this geographic location, this group of islands is located off the south coast of England and actually much closer to the western coast of France.
We spent three days exploring the beautiful island and if you read our recent post on the best things to do in Jersey in winter, you will know that although this is renowned as a summer destination, it’s still well worth visiting during the quieter off-peak season.
Places such as Locke’s Coffee & Grub and Number 10 Restaurant were inspiring finds and Jersey is definitely a place we cannot wait to return to…hopefully, in the not too distant future!
South Devon, England
People are always asking me for recommendations on the best things to do in England, particularly for first time visitors. I am never going to recommend London, possibly because I am a “Northerner”, because in my opinion, it’s a tourist trap and generally doesn’t reflect the “true” England that I think people deserve to experience.
Ok, so the above paragraph is a little on the negative side because I still love exploring London with Heather and of course, it’s a place you have to visit. But there are SO many places outside of the capital that deserve to be experienced. Camping in Devon is one experience that we love, not only because we have found a real gem of a campsite unlike anywhere else in the world.
Exploring the best things to do in South Devon was an experience we will always cherish in 2018, not only because we had such a great time but also because these are the most recent memories we have spending time with my mum! It was an awesome trip and one that I know we all loved! We LOVED Devon prior to this trip but after all that happened, this place really has a special place in our hearts.
A trip a little closer to home saw us head west across I-40 to Oklahoma City. We have been here before but this trip was a little different as we headed there with a couple of friends to experience this city. If you are looking for a cool, vibrant, up and coming city, please consider Oklahoma City for your next trip!
OKC may not be the first place you think about visiting but there is a lot going on and there are plenty of awesome food spots to check out. By now, you have probably figured out we love checking out local coffee bars and visiting OKC was no different.
Be sure to check out our post on the best coffee shops in Oklahoma City…these alone would inspire us to visit again but don’t let this fool you because there is so many other cool things to do during 48 hours in Oklahoma City!
Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019! Despite all of the positive events and experiences we enjoyed over the last 12 months, Heather and I will both agree that we are looking forward to a much better 2019. It’s so difficult to go through such huge tragedies and keep motivating yourselves mentally to keep going.
We are both mentally and physically exhausted and so I think the first quarter in 2019 will be a little more relaxing for us. We have a lot to catch up on from our recent trips along with working on our new home but one thing is for sure, our plans to travel in 2019 are just as high as they have ever been before!
I have been scattering some quotes throughout this post and I think it’s only fitting that I end this with the following…
Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored. (Earl Nightingale)
We want to thank you all for the support you have shown us over the last 12 months and look forward to continuing to inspire everyone in the New Year! Happy New Year folks…here’s to an awesome 2019!