As 2017 comes to a close, I’ve decided to follow the example of fellow travel bloggers and look back at what was going on this year. Further below, I will also reveal what I have planned for 2018.
2017 in Travel
I am really happy about how my year in travel has turned out. I managed to visit Cyprus, Belarus, Norway and Bulgaria for the first time – that’s another four countries in Europe. Here’s how 2017 turned out in detail:
My trip to Cyprus in February was fabulous: I was lucky to enjoy sunny and mild weather throughout the entire week and took a rental car across the island to explore. A video series consisting of six episodes is available on my YouTube channel.
In April, I took advantage of the newly introduced 5-day visa-free regime in Belarus. Together with a friend, we visited Minsk for four nights and took a train to Brest to see the old fortress. The Belarus trip included 24-hour stopovers in Vilnius, Lithuania and Riga, Latvia, both cities I always love to come back to.
In May, I went to Varaždin and Čakovec in Northern Croatia, two cities I can very much recommend to anyone visiting the area. Later that month, I took my girlfriend to Bergen, Norway for a long weekend, where we enjoyed mild, sunny weather (!) and late sunsets.
The trip I enjoyed the most, however, was the one-week road trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina in July. A good friend of mine brought his 4×4 off-road vehicle and together, we drove down to Bosnia and Herzegovina. We explored cities, waterfalls, mountains and other natural sights all over the country. The car broke down during the trip, which in retrospect turned out to be hilarious, but with the help of a local car mechanic we managed to continue the trip and tackle remote mountains on potholed gravel roads. I made a short video series of our trip which consists of four episodes (two of them are still missing).
In August, I took advantage of my favorite airline WizzAir’s great fares once again and booked a flight to Sofia, Bulgaria for just €20 round trip! I did have a lot of work to finish during that four-day visit, but working from Sofia’s and Plovdiv’s abundant cafés was not too bad. Plovdiv will be the European Capital of Culture in 2019 and certainly deserves the title. I can only recommend going there – prices are very affordable, locals were friendly and helpful and the food was excellent throughout.
In October, I ran the half marathon in Zagreb, Croatia, my first race after a long training break. I was really excited to finish the race and enjoyed the weekend in town.
Throughout the year, I did day trips to various locations around my hometown of Graz, Austria. One of my favorite activities this year was a Sunday lunch trip to the hilltop village of Pöllauberg in East Styria. I also tried to make the most of the lovely spring/summer weather at home, taking my bicycle down the Murradweg trail along Mur river numerous times.
Looking Ahead to 2018 in Travel
My main goal continues to be to visit all countries in Europe by the time I turn 30, which is in early 2019. At this point in time, I have been to 45 of them and all that is left is Andorra, Portugal, Turkey and two countries that are not even entirely in Europe: Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
I will be visiting Portugal for a week in late February, traveling to various places between Lisbon and Porto. In September, I might be doing a hiking trip to the French Pyrenees including Andorra. I still need to sort out the details, though. The other three countries have to wait for now, but one thing is certain: I want Istanbul, Turkey to be the place where I celebrate my 30th birthday in 2019 and my last of 50 countries in Europe.
I will also revisit some countries in 2018. In January, I will return to Cyprus for a long weekend. I can’t wait to enjoy the winter sun and go running along the sea shore again!
In June, I will spend a long weekend with a group of good old friends at Lake Constance. We will be based in Dornbirn, Austria and travel to nearby places in Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Germany from there. If late snow doesn’t ruin my plans, I will also spend a full day hiking in Liechtenstein. My plan is to hike all the way up from Malbun to Naafkopf mountain at some 2,500m above sea level, where one of the two tripoints of Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein is located.
As in previous years, I will drive down to nearby Croatia for work and also to visit my friends. Unfortunately, I have not been able to visit as frequently as in previous years and I am not sure how 2018 will turn out. I will probably have to limit those visits to day trips on weekends.
Balancing my full-time job and frequent travels has been a challenge lately and I feel like I have to cut down on some of my shorter city breaks in order to allow for a major trip overseas. In general, expect me to travel a bit less than in previous years. I have also promised my friends in the United States to come back in 2018, but have not managed to decide when and how to make it happen.
Other than that, I am planning to do some day trips to places nearby. I hope that I will finally manage to see the Dachstein mountain Skywalk and do some hiking trips in the Alps. When it comes to outdoor activities, I am considering a half marathon in spring and a longer bicycle tour.
2017 in Blogging
In October 2016, I finally convinced myself that I should start a travel blog together with a YouTube channel. I had already been traveling on a regular and frequent basis for around 10 years and had thought about starting a blog every now and then. During my student years, I lived abroad in both the United States and Croatia, went on road trips to all of the Balkans and other parts of Europe, but I always felt like there were already enough blogs out there where people shared their experience. At the same time, I realized that my hometown of Graz, Austria and the surrounding region was still terribly underrepresented in English language blogs. In late 2016, a good friend of mine convinced me to start a blog and YouTube channel combining content about life in Austria with my travels around the world, however, focusing on Austria and Central Eastern Europe (or what could be called the cultural sphere of the former Habsburg Empire).
In 2017, my goal was to publish both blog posts and travel videos on a regular basis and grow the blog together with its YouTube, Facebook and Instagram accounts. It was often tricky to create regular new content while working full-time and put my thoughts into words – actually much trickier than traveling itself. Overall, I am quite satisfied that I managed to hang in there and create new content on a regular basis.
I still have a couple of blog posts and videos on my hard disk, waiting to be finished. While my Instagram/Facebook photos are usually published the day they were taken, my blog posts and videos tend to lag a bit behind. Yes, there are still two episodes of my Bosnia 4×4 road trip coming soon, I simply haven’t started editing them as I was buried in work pretty much throughout the second half of 2017.
When it comes to my YouTube channel, I am quite overwhelmed how popular some of my travel videos turned out to become. Starting from zero subscribers in October 2016 and without the help of advertisements, I have now reached some 350 subscribers and a total of about 200,000 views of my 17 videos. My most popular video (about Odessa, Ukraine) has been watched 65,000 times! Those are the things that motivate me to keep going and create a lot more content in the years to come.
Other things did not turn out the way I wanted, such as my #ThrowbackThursday series, where I presented old postcards of Graz from the early 1900s and compared them to photos taken in 2017. While the project was quite successful and helped growing the blog, I simply could not keep my promise to keep going every week and stopped the project altogether after having to deal with a ridiculous, unsubstantiated legal claim. I might continue the series next year, but don’t bet your house on it.
Finally, I would like to thank my dear friend Matthias for designing the new logo for this blog! He managed to turn my lousy sketches into a fantastic logo which incorporates both aspects of this blog – life in Graz, Austria and travels abroad. Apart from being a talented graphic designer, Matthias is a successful fashion and portrait photographer. Make sure to check out his website or Instagram feed.
Looking Ahead to 2018 in Blogging
Next year, there will be a lot more Austria-related content, but I have not decided if I want to focus more on videos or blog posts. It will probably be a mix of both. Since this blog is called “Graz and beyond”, I will also continue to cover places “beyond” my hometown, as mentioned in the previous section on travel.
One of the upcoming blog posts in 2018 will be about running trails in Graz – this should be especially useful to expats or exchange students living here.
This blog has always been and will remain ad-free. I might add selected affiliate links (to Amazon or hotel booking websites) at some point, but even if I do, they will not affect my opinions or writing. The YouTube channel will continue to be monetized, which means that you might see ads before or during the videos. While the YouTube revenue does not even cover my expenses for this blog, it does help me finance some of the operating costs such as web hosting charges.
If you like what I am doing, like and comment on my videos directly on YouTube and share them on your Facebook profile or website – this will allow me to increase viewership and thereby cover the operating costs of this blog to keep it running in the upcoming years. Consider it as if you were buying me a drink without having to spend any money.
To finish off this rather long post, let me wish you all, as we say in German, “Guten Rutsch” (literally: a good head-start into the new year)!