Today is my 38th birthday. I am celebrating in Prague for the second year in a row.
Every birthday I write a post about the past year. I write so much in my monthly summaries that you know what I have been up to last year – visiting my last three Italian regions; spend another winter in Mexico; in love with Naples, Italy; welcoming a new might-be-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 tap my hardwood floor every time I say that.)
But there were two big things that I haven’t mentioned 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 of life with Charlie here, but I keep most of the personal relationship private. We’ve been together for over 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 and said he saw I was planning a trip to Ukraine and if his company, JayWay Travel, could sponsor my trip there. I agreed, and I ended up with another wonderful trip Odesa, Kievand a memorable day in Chernobyl. I loved Ukraine so much that 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 so that Charlie flew BACK to Italy a few days after coming home so we could travel more together.
That summer I ended up subletting my apartment in New York for a few months; Charlie bought me a ticket to Azerbaijan for my birthday and planned a blog trip to Georgia for us and our friends. It was the beginning of traveling to 14 countries together so far, living in Mexico for two winters and visiting 17 of Italy’s regions together.
Things got tough when 2020 hit. Suddenly we had to deal with a pandemic, get banned from each other’s countries, and wade through red tape and ever-changing border closures to get back together. Not to mention wiping out the travel industry and our two businesses, all the financial stress that caused and painstakingly rebuilding them.
I came to Prague in September 2020 and we adopted our kittens Lewis and Murray in November. A month later we found out Lewis was dying of FIP. Charlie found the life saving FIP treatment on Facebook and we rescued Lewis and gave him 12 weeks of painful daily shots until he was completely cured. It 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 hard 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 that our life in Prague is cozy, fun and full of the things we love.
And I feel so happy and lucky to have found Charlie. I am so excited to marry him and so excited to marry him!
We are having a big wedding in Prague this 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 have visited before (so nowhere in Europe, Southeast Asia or Central America). Somewhere more remote, maybe a bit beachy, but not all beachy, with really nice accommodation. Some ideas?
I started a new business!
Over the past few years, several travel bloggers have started destination niche sites as side hustles. You take all of your skills from years of blogging and throw them into developing a brand new website focused on just one destination.
I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but I had trouble finding a good destination. You have to hit that sweet spot somewhere you know well that has high demand but isn’t covered to death. Prague, for example, wouldn’t work because it’s a pretty narrow niche and there are already tons of Prague blogs.
So after months of consideration it hit me on August 11, 2021.
New Hampshire Way. A website about travel to New Hampshire.
My sister and I made up a song we called “That’s the New Hampshire Way” every time we drove into New Hampshire as kids. The moment that sentence entered my mind, I had 100% clarity. This is what I was waiting for.
I bought the domain right away.
I spent all my childhood summers in New Hampshire, and I still travel there often to this day. I know the state inside out, especially the White Mountains, Lakes Region and Seacoast. And my knowledge also runs deep. At election time, I’m the one explaining the nuances of why Granite Staters vote differently than most New Englanders.
Is there demand for travel to New Hampshire? 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 United States, especially New England. Some Canadians come down via Québec, and some international travelers come in the offseason (usually as a short part of a longer New England trip), but this is largely an American travel destination for American travelers.
This is good for business for two reasons: Americans earn the highest rates for display advertising, and local destinations are safer than international destinations in times of pandemic, inflation and recession. I do this to give myself more security in the long run. (Same reason I’ve been writing so much about Massachusetts here lately.)
So how did I get started? Well, you may remember that last year I did the mother of all New Hampshire research trips, criss-crossing the state, packing in activities from sunrise to sunset, photographing everything, taking copious notes.
I visited old favorites like Flume Gorge and White Lake and did new things like that Mount Washington Cog Railway and the M/V Sophie C mail boat 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 started the work: organization, writing and link-building. I found three great New Hampshire writers who are experts on topics I’m weaker at — Bekah wrote about hiking the Appalachian Trail in New HampshireJeff wrote about best restaurants in Portsmouthand Katie wrote about the best New Hampshire Ski Resorts.
Guys – I LOVE 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 Kancamagus highwaythe most beautiful drive in New Hampshire. New Hampshire Winter Getaways is a sweet little post about the many different kinds of winter trips you can have. I am proud of my guide to the best New Hampshire breweriesforever a work in progress.
And if you have no idea 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 really interesting and diverse, and it will surely surprise you!
So far the site has made me about $50 so far. Woohoo! But traffic is growing very quickly and I hope to be on the same display ad network as adventurous Kate by the end of the year.
What’s next for the age of 38?
Get married! It’s the big one and nothing else comes close! Charlie and I have so much to do and we’re looking forward to it all! Our big goal is to give our friends and loved ones a fantastic multi-day experience in Prague.
We’ve actually already booked the band, but haven’t secured a date or venue yet. Huh. It will probably be this week. Luckily, weddings are a lot cooler in Prague than in the US, where you have 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 for the past year! Charlie is already a big fan of New Hampshire’s tax-free shopping, but he’s going somewhere that isn’t an Apple store!
We go to the White Mountains under the foliage and do some of the best fall activities: Conway Scenic Railroad, drive up Mount Washington, Kancamagus Highway. I am 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 are coming to NH Brewfest in Portsmouth and I want to finish by 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 lager named after a block down the street from us, Palmovka!)
Right now New Hampshire Way has 39 posts live. How many do you need? I’ve heard that 50 is a good number to aim for in the early days and 200 is a good long term goal. We’ll see!
Other things on the way to age 38? It’s been a long time since I 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.
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.
Besides that, I would love to come 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 I’m going back and forth to go – it’s a long way to go.
I’m speaking at Traverse in Brno, Czech Republic in September, talking about how to blog in the age of TikTok! If you want to participate, you can get 20% discount with the code AK20.
I would like a Czech teacher this year. I took Zoom lessons with a group before but hated the breakout session aspect because everyone was shy and I felt like I had to be the teacher. I think a tutor would be much better. After all, I have to say my wedding vows in Czech!
And just more time with good people. More time in good places. More time to live life to the fullest.
Thank you for being here for me, every single year. I feel so lucky to have you as readers. Cheers to you all!