2016 eh? It's been one year of endless shocks, surprises and unceasing celebrity deaths. However, here at Along Dusty Roads, that's not the sort of stuff we want to focus on in our year in review. No sir, instead we're going to recap some of our most fantastic travel experiences, let you know the inside track of our blogging journey and highlight the work we're most proud of in a year that began in Bolivia and has ended with Christmas in London.
Where we've been in 2016
When we wrote our 2015 in review post, we were nearing the end of our epic two year Latin American adventure. We were worried that those short two and half months would go by in the blink of an eye - and by God, were we right!
Plans for Venezuela were shelved once we realised how much we loved Bolivia, and even after two months in the country, leaving it was a challenge in more ways than one (it was actually our worst travel experience in Latin America). Thankfully, it was the Brazilian coast that was calling our name, and we passed the remainder of our trip lounging on beautiful beaches, sipping from coconuts and topping up our tans - it was a fantastic end to an amazing adventure!
March saw us return to the UK, and gave us the opportunity to expand our housesitting resumé, as well as make a whole heap of new fluffy friends (read this post on why we love housesitting if you'd like to know more). It also allowed us some precious time with family and the opportunity to binge on all the awesome things we'd missed about being back home, as well as the chance to plan our adventures for the rest of the year.
Returning to the cold shores of the British Isles was never going to be easy, but we were determined to spend some more time exploring our own countries - starting with good 'ole London, beautiful Brighton (a city we completely fell in love with) and an epic road-trip in the Scottish Highlands.
And then, well, we were off to Europe! June was spent housesitting in Paris before a family holiday in the south of France, and then off to Sweden for TBEX 2016 - and some time sampling the stunning Skåne. A kind of perfect summer that ended in Spain, and never wanting to leave Valencia.
The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that we slowed down somewhat towards the end of the year. In fact, besides a trip to Indonesia and a few weekend breaks we've been enjoying life closer to home, and finding our feet back in London - and drinking a lot of tea!
We bet you didn't think that La Paz would make it into this list did you? To be honest, neither did we.
And yet, after returning to Bolivia's biggest city three times during our time in the country, we developed quite a soft spot for it!
Heading there? Check out our Ultimate Guide to La Paz.
This small town on Brazil's Bahian coast sort of sucked us in. Arriving back into Brazil with around a month left before we had to return to the UK, we had, if not grand plans to see the ginormous country, then at least an intention to see a little more than we did.
However, we sort of couldn't leave this little piece of paradise. Beautiful beaches, cheap seafood, a surfer vibe and spectacular weather - it was just what we needed to end the trip in style.
Check out our comprehensive guide to Itacaré!
The North Coast 500
We heard about the NC500 last year. This epic road trip in the Scottish Highlands had existed for some time, and yet, it took a name to bring it all together.
We spent a week driving a loop in Jock the Jeep, through tiny villages and winding country roads sampling the best of Scottish seafood, tasting fine whiskeys and photographing spectacular views (who knew Scotland had such incredible beaches!?)
It was amazing, and all we needed to realise how much awesomeness exists on our doorstep!
Discover all you need to know about the North Coast 500 in our definitive guide.
Despite having lived in London for many years before the creation of the blog, neither of us had found the time to explore this popular seaside spot - in May this year that changed.
And we fell hard for it.
Alternative culture, the prettiest buildings you ever did see, amazing nightlife and the best fish and chips we've ever tasted, it's fair to say that this year won't be our only visit to this gem on the British seaside.
Want to discover more about why Brighton should be your next weekend break? Check out this post.
Valencia is often forgotten about when international tourists are planning their trip to Spain. Whilst everybody has heard of Madrid or Barcelona, and the Brits flood to the country's southern coast in the summer months, Valencia remains a peaceful alternative that feels infinitely more Spanish!
Throw in a beautiful beaches, quirky and cool neighbourhoods and fantastic food options and it was by far one of our favourite destinations of 2016!
We haven't quite gotten around to publishing our Valencia post, so take a look at our paella cooking class experience to whet your appetite instead.
In September, we spent nearly two weeks exploring Indonesia with Skyscanner - our first Asian country in quite some time. Beautiful Balinese beaches and a cool surfer vibe, and yet it was the cultural city of Yogyakarta that captured our imagination the most.
Street art, amazing ice-cream and culture in the city, and the spectacular Borobudur a short drive away! Bucket-list item ticked.
Heading there this year? Don't forget to read our guide to awesome things to do in Yogyakarta City!
THE YEAR AS TRAVEL BLOGGERS
At then end of December, our little corner of the internet turns 31 months old - and looking back at where we were last January, it's amazing what a difference a year can make.
In the last 6 months, Along Dusty Roads has grown faster than we ever thought possible - thanks to you! We never in a million years thought that at this stage we'd be seeing more than 100,000 page views per month, and yet that's exactly what's happened for the last 4 months.
We were named as one of Fathom's favourite travel blogs in 2016 and in the last year have been featured by Glamour, The Guardian and CNN - media outlets we never imagined we'd be able to add to our media kit - and had some amazing experiences as a result of all the hard work that we've put in since we left for Mexico.
Personally, we feel we have really grown as bloggers, writers and photographers. We cringe at some of our earlier work and, after learning a lot of lessons and making a bunch of mistakes, we now know exactly how we want to craft and curate each post or guide and the little things that make it meaningful or enjoyable for our readers. The main struggle for us is social media - we have a lovely community of followers but the numbers stubbornly refuse to grow as much as we'd hope (so go and bloody follow us on Instagram!)
Putting your thoughts, words and images out there in the public domain requires a lot of work, and we now receive messages every week from readers letting us know that our blog has helped them on their adventure or inspired them to visit somewhere - one man even sent us money for beers to show his appreciation! Feedback like that truly means the world to us and makes all the hours spent on research, photo editing and selection and arguments over layout, fonts and titles worthwhile. So, we want to say thank you to all of you for your support, your feedback and your positivity as we continue to try and make Along Dusty Roads one of the best travel blogs out there.
Our five most popular posts
Although we've sometimes fallen a little behind, completely forgotten to publish on particularly busy weeks or just been having too much fun to sit in front of a computer, we've still put out more than 100 blog posts this year. Here are the ones that you've loved the most:
Everything you could possibly want to know to plan an epic road trip around the NC500, Scotland's ultimate highlands adventure.
After several years of non-stop living out of a backpack, we felt it was time to share a few of the things we learnt along the way. Some a little tongue-in-cheek, some incredibly useful to anyone planning a similar adventure - all learned the hard way!
Santa Cruz is often forgotten by those planning a trip in Bolivia. This article proves there's much more to this city than you might be aware of.
Travelling comes with a responsibility, a responsibility to see the world without disturbing it, and perhaps even leave it better than it was before. Given how popular this post was, we can assume a lot of you feel the same!
For a myriad of reasons, Uruguay just isn't hugely popular on the South American backpacker route - this post provides an introduction to backpacking this beautiful country.
our five favourite posts
The posts loved by google and popular on social media aren't alway the ones that we've enjoyed writing the most, or that we're most proud of. In fact, they might not have been read much at all - here's a chance for some of our favourites to get another chance in the limelight!
Earlier this year we were lucky enough to spend a few days at one of Bolivia's only wildlife refuges. Struggling for funding, this bare bones centre provides a second chance for the country's mistreated animals and provided us with an opportunity to learn about the reality behind humanity's relationship with wild animals.
Anyone who knows Emily, knows that she loves Mexico - and not just for their hot sauce! This beautifully written article goes some way to explaining why...
So many times when we travel we see people trying to cram in way too much into a short itinerary. This post explains why it's so important for us to slow down and experience less, better.
Before we visited Uruguay, we dreamed of spending some time on horseback. Well, that dream came true, beautifully.
We loved photographing Bolivia and this post, on a personal level, is the biggest milestone for us as photographers. Without blowing our own trumpets too much, we're immensely proud of the photography and the curation - it's exactly the sort of post we would have drooled over if someone else had done it.
what does 2017 hold?
Well, as some of you may have already realised, our digital nomadism has taken a hiatus and London is now our base. That doesn't mean that the travelling or the blogging is ending, but it does mean that we're doing it a little differently for the next couple of years.
So what does that entail exactly? Well, we've spent so much time exploring far-flung corners of the world that it's time to enjoy a little more of what's in our backyard - with the odd long distance adventure thrown in for good measure. Lots of weekend breaks here in the UK and city-breaks in Europe (Emily has a cheap flight finding superpower we'll be making use of), with glamping, surf camps and at least one road-trip on the horizon.
As for the long distance trips? Well we have lots of ideas but, perhaps, they will be selected in the way that this adventure started nearly three years ago; with a kitchen table in east London, a bottle of gin and a tempting 'book flight now' button on the computer screen....
We wish you all a fantastic 2017 and safe travels wherever those dusty roads take you in the world this year.
Andrew & Emily