Today is my 38th birthday. I’m celebrating in Prague for the second year in a row.
Each birthday, I write a post going over the past year. I write so much in my monthly recaps that you guys know what I’ve been up to the past year — visiting my final three Italian regions; spending another winter in Mexico; falling madly in love with Naples, Italy; welcoming a new might-as-well-be-a-nephew; canceling a road trip in Iceland because I can’t drive a manual car.
I also managed to avoid COVID, despite two very close calls this past year. Still haven’t had it. (I reach down and knock my hardwood floor every time I say that.)
But there were two big things that I didn’t mention here yet.
Charlie and I are engaged!
Charlie asked me to marry him when we were in Lake Como in July! And I said yes!
I share bits and pieces of life with Charlie here, but I keep most of the personal relationship stuff private. We’ve been together more than three years now, and I don’t think I’ve talked much about how we got together.
Charlie and I met online in 2017. Charlie reached out to me saying that he saw I was planning a trip to Ukraine, and whether his company, JayWay Travel, could sponsor my trip there. I agreed and I ended up with a wonderful trip to Odessa, Kyiv, and a memorable day in Chernobyl. I loved Ukraine so much, I named it my favorite destination of 2017.
Charlie and I became Facebook friends and occasionally commented on each other’s posts, and we also had a ton of mutual friends. We finally met in person at the Traverse conference in Trento, Italy, in 2019. And we hit it off right away! So much that Charlie flew BACK to Italy a few days after getting home so we could travel more together.
That summer I ended up subletting my New York apartment for a few months; Charlie bought me a ticket to Azerbaijan for my birthday and planned a Georgia blog trip for us and our friends. That was the beginning of traveling to 14 countries together so far, two winters living in Mexico, and visiting 17 of Italy’s regions together.
Things got rough when 2020 hit. Suddenly we had to deal with a pandemic, getting banned from each other’s countries, and wading through red tape and ever-changing border closures to get back together. Not to mention the obliteration of the travel industry and our two businesses, all the financial stress that caused, and painstakingly building them back.
I got to Prague in September 2020, and we adopted our kittens Lewis and Murray in November. A month later, we found out Lewis was dying from FIP. Charlie found the lifesaving FIP treatment on Facebook, and we saved Lewis, giving him 12 weeks of painful daily shots until he was fully cured. That was a really difficult time, not to mention expensive, but Lewis being happy and healthy is so incredibly worth it.
I know that going through these challenges will give us strength when we inevitably hit tough times in the future.
Life has stabilized a bit more in the past year as the travel industry and our businesses continued to recover. I feel like our life in Prague is cozy, fun, and filled with the things we love.
And I feel so happy and lucky to have found Charlie. I am so excited to GET married to him and so excited to BE married to him!
We will be having a big wedding in Prague in the spring and a very small wedding in New England.
And as for the honeymoon — we are aiming for December 2023, and want to go to a country that neither of us has visited before (so nowhere in Europe, Southeast Asia, or Central America). Somewhere more far-flung, maybe a little beachy but not all beachy, with really nice accommodation. Any ideas?
I started a new business!
Over the last few years, several travel bloggers have started destination niche sites as side hustles. You take all your skills from years upon years of blogging and throw them into growing a brand new site focused on just one destination.
I’ve wanted to do this for awhile, but I had trouble finding a good destination. You need to hit the sweet spot of somewhere you know well that has a lot of demand but isn’t covered to death. Prague, for example, wouldn’t work because it’s a fairly narrow niche and there are already tons of Prague blogs.
Then after months of pondering, it hit me on August 11, 2021.
New Hampshire Way. A site all about New Hampshire travel.
My sister and I would make up a song we called, “That’s the New Hampshire Way,” whenever we drove into New Hampshire as kids. The moment that phrase entered my mind, I had 100% clarity. This was what I was waiting for.
I bought the domain immediately.
I spent all of my childhood summers in New Hampshire, and I still travel there often to this day. I know the state backwards and forwards, especially the White Mountains, Lakes Region, and Seacoast. And my knowledge goes deep, too. At election time, I’m the one explaining the nuances of why Granite Staters vote differently than most New Englanders.
Is there demand for New Hampshire travel? YES. Did you know that New Hampshire gets more travelers than either Vermont or Maine? Seriously!
Beyond that, almost all of New Hampshire’s visitors are from the US, especially New England. Some Canadians come down via Québec, and some international travelers come during foliage time (usually as a short part of a longer New England trip), but this is largely a US travel destination for US travelers.
That’s good for business for two reasons: Americans earn the highest rates on display ads, and local destinations are more secure than international destinations in times of pandemic, inflation, and recession. I’m doing this to give myself more security long-term. (Same reason why I’ve been writing so much about Massachusetts here lately.)
So how did I get started? Well, you might recall that last year I did the mother of all New Hampshire research trips, criss-crossing the state, packing in activities from sunup to sundown, photographing everything, taking copious notes.
I revisited old favorites like the Flume Gorge and White Lake and did new things like the Mount Washington Cog Railway and the M/V Sophie C mailboat on Lake Winnipesaukee. I visited 26 breweries (!!). I fell in love with the Monadnock region, the southwest part of the state I hadn’t explored much before.
After the trip, I got to work: organizing, writing, and link-building. I found three terrific New Hampshire writers who are experts on topics I’m weaker on — Bekah wrote about hiking the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire, Jeff wrote about the best restaurants in Portsmouth, and Katie wrote about the best New Hampshire ski resorts.
Guys — I am LOVING building this site SO much. It feels like coming full circle to my childhood.
My favorite posts I’ve written so far: my guide to the Kancamagus Highway, the most gorgeous drive in New Hampshire. New Hampshire Winter Getaways is a sweet little post on so many different kinds of winter trips you can have. I am proud of my guide to the best New Hampshire breweries, forever a work in progress.
And if you have no clue what New Hampshire has to offer, check out my post on the best things to do in New Hampshire. I worked hard on this list to make it genuinely interesting and diverse, and it will probably surprise you!
So far the site has earned me about $50 so far. Woohoo! But traffic is growing very rapidly, and I hope to be on the same display ad network as Adventurous Kate by the end of the year.
What’s next for age 38?
Getting married! That’s the big thing, and nothing else comes close! Charlie and I have so much to do, and we’re looking forward to all of it! Our big goal is to throw an amazing multi-day experience in Prague for our friends and loved ones.
We’ve actually already booked the band but have yet to secure a date or venue. Ha. That will be this week, probably. Luckily, weddings are much more chill in Prague than in the US, where you need to lock down vendors a year in advance.
But first — I’m taking Charlie to New Hampshire! Haha, yes, I finally get to combine the two biggest things in my life in the last year! Charlie is already a big fan of New Hampshire’s tax-free shopping but he needs to go somewhere that isn’t an Apple store!
We’re going to the White Mountains during peak foliage and doing some of the best fall activities: the Conway Scenic Railroad, driving up Mount Washington, the Kancamagus Highway. I’m excited to stay at the Sugar Hill Inn, one of the best inns in the state in one of my favorite towns in the state.
We will be around for NH Brewfest in Portsmouth, and I’d like to finish visiting the breweries in Portsmouth and Manchester so I can do a post on each city’s breweries. I also want to take Charlie to some of my favorite breweries, like Schilling in Littleton and Rek-Lis in Bethlehem. (Schilling literally has a Czech Pilsner named after a neighborhood down the street from us, Palmovka!)
Right now New Hampshire Way has 39 posts live. How many do you need? I’ve heard 50 is a good number to aim for in the early days, and 200 is a great long-term goal. We shall see!
Other stuff coming up for age 38? It has been a long time since I’ve visited a new country — the last one was Cuba in December 2019! It would be nice to visit a new country this year. No idea where or when, though.
Charlie and I have decided to spend a quiet winter in Prague this year instead of going to Mexico. Last year we missed the cats too much, and we realized that January is our big work-work-work month and it’s not an ideal time to go away.
We might take a trip somewhere warm for a week in February or March.
Beyond that, I’d love to get back to Paris this year. I miss it. Charlie and I have talked a bit about a weekend in Rome (I haven’t been since 2006, pre-blog). I have my 20-year high school reunion around Thanksgiving but am going back and forth on whether to go — it’s a long way for a trip.
I’ll be speaking at Traverse in Brno, Czech Republic, in September, talking about how to blog in the age of TikTok! If you want to attend, you can get 20% off with the code AK20.
I’d like to get a Czech tutor this year. I took Zoom lessons with a group before, but hated the breakout sessions aspect because everyone was shy and I felt like I had to be the teacher. I think a tutor would be much better. I need to say my wedding vows in Czech, after all!
And just more time with good people. More time in good places. More time living life to the fullest.
Thank you for being here for me, each and every year. I feel so lucky to have you as readers. Cheers to you all!