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Dariece Swift By
Posted 17 Dec, 2019 | 21 Comments
Posted in: Our Story, Travel Blogs

And just like that, 2019 is a wrap. It seems like every time I sit down to write these reflections posts, I can’t believe just how fast the year went. As I’m writing this article, I have my furry friend (Spare Dog) at my feet, my furry Nick next to me (he needs to shave!), and I’m looking out to the sea and mountains beyond. 

This past year was filled with adventurous travel to new and repeat countries, highs and lows on the business and personal front, love and laughter on the relationship side and lots of fun here in Grenada. So much has happened, that I had to consult my iPhone photostream to remember all of the amazing things we got up to!

Images of mountains, colonial towns, ancient sites, and tropical islands dominate the feed. It’s been a pretty great year. Every 12 months has a feeling, a vibe, or some sort of big event that stands out. For 2019, I’m dubbing it “A Year of Highs and Lows”. And you’ll see why after reading — the year was amazing, and then seemed to plummet at the end. 

Here’s a recap of the year, and what we have planned moving forward into 2020.

Galapagos Islands Travel
Travelling around the Galapagos was a highlight of our year!

I’ve been doing these roundup posts for quite a few years! Here are the ones from previous years if you’re interested:

grenada
Celebrating our 12 year anniversary!

Achieving Goals Set For 2019

At the end of each yearly roundup article, we set some goals that we want to achieve in the coming new year. This is what we wanted to achieve in 2019:

  1. Being more active (going hiking more and joining yoga again).
  2. Exploring more of Grenada
  3. Continue to create and provide useful information on our website
  4. Help out (volunteer work, donations, environmental causes)

I’m happy to report that we accomplished those goals!

Being More Active

This year, we got back into “hashing” here in Grenada, and while we didn’t join the hikes every weekend, we did do quite a few. I’ve also joined yoga and attend classes two times a week, most weeks. And, we now do much more walking then we used to, plus some at-home workouts as well.

Nick and I both did a couple of detoxes this year, one with natural pills, and one simply with smoothies and fasting. We actually just finished up a two-week booze detox and smoothie diet which is what we previously did when we were feeling a little heavy.

We thought it was a good idea to slim down and dry out before the holiday season! Nick lost 10 pounds, and I lost 8. In case you missed last year’s post: “We Got Fat – Dealing With Blogger Bod.

When we’re living somewhere, we find it hard to be active. When we’re travelling, it’s much easier as we’re always out walking around new cities, hiking to new sites, or just wandering aimlessly. Since we’re not getting any younger, we’re putting health and wellness at the forefront of our goals.

hashing grenada
Hiking is our favourite way to stay active

Exploring More of Grenada

Even though we’ve spent 5 years in Grenada (on and off), it always amazes me that there are still new places to discover. This year we explored a couple of new hikes and walking trails, offtrack beaches and some great new restaurants that have popped up.  

On top of just finding new places to walk and eat, we found ourselves attending numerous events — wine festival, Carnival, music festival, and chocolate festival. Plus, we explored the sea by sailboat on numerous occasions, did some deep-sea fishing, and Nick checked out the underwater world on scuba. 

We also celebrated 3 birthdays with staycations here on the island. One on a cacao farm, in a treehouse cabin, surrounded by nature. Our four-legged friend also joined in on that bday weekend! My 35th birthday was celebrated with live music, beach bar drinks, and lazy pool days at one of the hotels here, plus a private sunset sail. Nick’s 35th was recently spent enjoying a dinner party, followed by a night at a boutique seafront hotel in a cute bungalow. 

Finally, family members came to visit. Even though it was just for a few hours while they were off the cruise ship, it was nice to show Nick’s grandparents around our home (and get in some hugs!).

We had so many great times in Grenada throughout the year — I’d say we did the little island justice!

sailing in grenada
Sailing into 35!

Continuing to Provide Useful Content on Our Website

As with every year, we are always creating new articles, videos and posts on our social media channels to hopefully inspire and assist others when it comes to making money on the road, and travelling the world.

In 2019, we published 157 articles on Goats On The Road, filmed and edited 20 YouTube videos and posted on social media 237 times!

This year, we also kicked it up a notch and created a digital course to help bloggers progress from hobby bloggers to a profitable business. And by we, I mean Nick. 

Nick planned, filmed, and created the SEO Made Simple online course — spending hours to ensure it was detailed, professional and most importantly, actionable. Each of the 300 students who have purchased the course are also in Nick’s VIP Facebook group where he shares his wisdom and advanced methods for SEO. It’s been very rewarding for both of us to see the students’ progression!

Because Nick created that course, we were invited to be a part of the Paradise Pack in 2019. For the past 3 years, we have promoted the pack (because it’s filled with awesome products), but this year we were invited to have our course in the bundle of online resources.

We were ecstatic!

paradise pack
Chatting with Travis and Jason from the Paradise Pack was a lot of fun

We did an hour-long live chat online with the creators of the pack (Travis and Jason), with over 3,000 people watching at a time! We then did an hour+ podcast with Jason, where we spoke about our lives as digital nomads and travellers. Chatting with online colleagues is always a lot of fun, and we love this style of interview.

Special!

If you’re interested in learning some of our SEO secrets, but aren’t sure if you want to purchase the SEO Made Simple course, we’re offering a free 1-hour session, here.

Helping Out

Finally, our last goal for 2019 was to help out more. In 2018, we were able to do quite a few things in Grenada, but this year we wanted to do more, both at home and away — there’s always more that can be done.

As with last year, we sponsored an eight-year-old girl from the orphanage so that she could attend a four-week summer camp here on the island. Her weeks were filled with arts and crafts, history and culture, sports and activities, plus a couple of outings to the beach to learn about marine life and the environment. I hope that this summer camp continues for these children as it’s a great initiative.

We also assisted an artist in his “Beautify Grenada” project where he sources out blank walls around the island and looks to brighten up the community by painting unique images on them. “Our” wall that was painted is one that we drive by every day. It’s is in front of a preschool and is now home to colourful turtles, balloons, trees, children, and of course, goats! I hope this talented artist continues his pursuit of beautifying the island. 

Plastic is a problem worldwide. Our eco-blogging, travelling friends from The Dharma Trails put together a “Green Up Grenada” project to bring awareness to the plastic issues and to clean up the beaches (and underwater).

diving in grenada
Nick heading out on a dive to cleanup the underwater world

We participated in the clean up of La Sagesse Beach (323 pounds of garbage was collected), and the scuba diving clean up at Grand Anse Beach where 150 pounds of garbage was pulled from the sea. This was a great campaign and hopefully it raised more awareness about the unnecessary use of plastic here on the island.  

Utilizing Our Home as a “Base”

A month after ringing in the New Year in Grenada, it was time for us to pack away the household items we had accumulated over the past year, load up our backpacks and hit the road. Every February, the owners of the house we rent return to spend 5 or so weeks here. This means we have to vacate — which is OK as we go travelling again!

We had been pretty much stagnant for most of 2018, and not really utilizing our home as a base, which was the whole point of settling here — we planned to stay, and then travel, and repeat. Instead, we felt a pull (is it actually called a “pull” if we don’t go anywhere?!) to stay put.

This year, we were ready to properly make use of our base. Live, travel, repeat. It was time to get back out into the world. And, we actually ended up doing quite a bit of travelling this year — 5 months to be exact. 

grenada
Eating bbq chicken in the sea with Spare Dog, after hiking – a great day!

Travelling for almost half of the year and staying still for the rest seems to be the perfect balance for us. It allows us to have exciting adventures, sample new foods, and learn about new cultures, but also gives us enough downtime to rest, work and catch up with friends. 

I don’t want to jinx it, but after travelling for 10 years, and blogging for 7 of those years, could it be possible that we’ve finally found a work-life balance that suits our lifestyle?! 

Having explored Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Colombia in 2017, we knew we loved the continent of South America. So, when considering where to go in February, we took a look at the map and decided on Ecuador and Peru for our next adventure…and what an adventure it was! In fact, Ecuador has shot up to the top of our list of favourite destinations. 

We were offline for this entire trip and had an incredible time backpacking around these two countries, it felt great to be on the road again! You can read about our thoughts and highlights of this trip in our roundup article here.

travel to otavalo
The hiking around Otavalo was amazing!

Press Trip Partnerships

Going on press trips/FAM trips isn’t our main blogging income model, but when we’re invited somewhere that resonates with our travel style and interests, we happily accept the offer.

This year, we were invited on 6 press trips and had a great time exploring new destinations — all of which were an excellent fit. Sure, we had been to these countries in the past, but the provinces, cities, and islands that we visited were new to us.

Nova Scotia

Even though we’re Canadian, we’ve seen very little of our home country. So when the Nova Scotia tourism board invited us to experience what the little province has to offer, we jumped at the opportunity to see the east!

Jagged coastline, hiking routes, fishing villages, fresh seafood and welcoming locals — this is Nova Scotia. We picked up our rental car and had an incredible time road tripping around the province for 3 weeks, while experiencing all the fun things to do in Halifax, and beyond.

As an added bonus, we were able to spend a few days visiting with family here as well! My dad and his wife were travelling around Canada and stopped in Halifax at the same time we were there. It was great to catch up and get in some more hugs.

With so many places to visit and adventures to have, we would definitely return and explore more of the culture, cuisine and nature in this province. 

Read more about our experience in Nova Scotia on the blog, here.

cape breton island
Beautiful nature in Nova Scotia on Cape Breton Island

Indonesia

This island nation is one of the countries we visited on our first backpacking trip in 2009. We then returned to live in Canggu, Bali for a couple of months, and Nick went on a scuba diving trip with the Indonesia Tourism Board.

This time around, we were invited by Lotus Hotels, to experience their dive resorts and share our findings with you. 

We travelled to 4 different destinations over the course of 15 days — Gangga Island in North Sulawesi, Birie Island in Raja Ampat, Candidasa on Bali Island and the island of Gili Trawangan. Even though we were on a trip that was planned for us, visiting these destinations (some of which are quite offtrack) was an incredible experience. 

sunset gazebo gangga
Sunsets on Gangga Island were amazing

The majority of the trip was centred around the epic scuba diving and snorkelling that Indonesia is known for, which was perfect for Nick! The accommodations were lush, the natural beauty was out of this world (especially in Raja Ampat!), and we enjoyed visiting villages, dining on fabulous food and interacting with the welcoming residents of each island. 

The beauty above and below the sea, the friendly people, the tasty cuisine and the overall vibe are the reasons we find ourselves returning to Indonesia. There’s just something magical about this country, and we’re always happy to come back. 

drone view of raja ampat islands
Drone’s eye view of the FAM islands in Raja Ampat

In between Indonesia and Japan, we hopped over to the Philippines for our friend’s wedding. We enjoyed some downtime with friends, a lovely wedding ceremony, and some exploration of Siquijor Island by scooter! We hadn’t been to the Philippines since 2012, and it was a lot of fun to revisit the country.

Japan

Just a few days after being invited to Indonesia, we received an offer to travel to Japan and check out some of the lesser-visited prefectures (which are similar to provinces/states). In 2017 we visited Tokyo, Takayama and Kyoto and enjoyed the culture shock, cuisine and people of Japan. 

This time around, we were going to experience more of the natural beauty, plus an offtrack city and learn about the culture of soaking in a sento (public bath).

Four different tourism boards and associations invited us to visit their destinations, which were all places we hadn’t been to yet — Akita and Aomori in the Tohoku Region, Okayama City, Nakatsugawa City and the Tokyo Sento Association.

hiking nakasendo trail
Hiking the Nakasendo Trail in Nakatsugawa, Japan

We lined it up so we could visit all destinations during just one trip to Japan. There were a couple of free days during our 16-day trip, including some time in Tokyo to hang out with our friend Jason from the UK who we met while backpacking around Central Asia in 2013!

This time around, we felt as though we learned a lot more about the intricate culture, and were able to dig a little deeper into the history, customs and cuisine. There’s much more of Japan to see and we can’t wait to return. 

The Ups vs. The Downs

We arrived home on a high. We had just enjoyed an incredible couple of months travelling around Asia, we reconnected with some great friends on the road and our website was doing well in terms of partnerships, traffic to the site, and income.

We caught up with our friends (including Spare dog) when we got back to Grenada, reflected on the trip and the year as a whole, and were looking forward to the holiday season. More importantly, once we had finished our deliverables for the Indonesia and Japan campaigns, we had lots of plans for how we were going to improve our business — we were excited!

But, between the time we arrived back in Grenada from Asia (November 9th), to when this article was published (just over a month later) it feels like all of our amazing accomplishments, adventures and “ups” from the year have been snuffed out. 

sunset in grenada
A beautiful sunset from our house

Goats On The Road was one of many websites that took a huge hit during the November Google algorithm update. What does that mean exactly? Well, Google changed the way it shows content to those who are searching.

So let’s say for example you were searching for “things to do in Thailand”, rather than having us show up as #1 or #2 because we’re a well-respected travel blog with long, informative content, we have now dropped down and you are being shown more “authoritative” sites (ie: big companies).

Why did this happen? We don’t know. Which is incredibly frustrating.

Our traffic has dropped and we’re scrambling to try and figure it out. Traffic affects our income and partnerships, and how many people will see our message, which is why it’s such a big deal. One thing is for sure, we will continue to create useful and informative articles for you and hopefully, Google will be happy with us once again!

This update pretty much affected sites across the board in the food/recipe and travel industries and while we still have a lot of traffic, it’s difficult to see it go down overnight and knowing there’s not much we can do to fix it. But, we’ll just have to roll with the punches on this one and just keep at it!

However, business and money are trivial in comparison to what happened 4 days ago.

From the time I was basically finished writing this article, to the time it was published, our friend Spare Dog passed away. This has been incredibly hard on both of us. Even though we were his petsitters, we thought of him as our own and spent so much time together over the past five and a half years.

Spare Dog will be missed

Spare was the reason we came to Grenada in the first place back in 2014 and was the reason we kept on returning. He was the first (and only) dog I ever loved — no others will compare. This year has ended with sadness for us, but we’re trying to focus on the fantastic life he led, and all the adventures he enjoyed — he explored more of Grenada than anyone we know!

This little furry character made an impact on everyone he met and thought of himself as human, rather than animal. From waterfalls and private islands to offtrack trails and brewpubs, Spare went everywhere and everyone knew him. 

Nick and I are grateful for the last 10 days we had together with Spare at our home, and that his parents returned from the UK in time to say goodbye to their sweet boy. We’ll miss Spare (Doodle) Dog dearly and Grenada won’t be the same without him.

haha, this photo is my favourite! Excited for an adventure, Spare?!

Moving Forward into 2020

I’ve been speaking with blogging colleagues and travel friends who all have their 2020 calendars filled with plans. Currently, for us, there are no plans — which I think is great! No work commitments, no flights booked, and nowhere we have to be. 

We’re thinking of 2020 as a blank slate. It’s a fresh, pure year waiting for us to colour in the time slots as, and when, we want. 

For me, 2020 means “vision” and “clarity”. And while everything looks a little bit blurry at the moment due to the stress of the past weeks, once we move into the new year I’m certain some definition will start to appear. 

I have a feeling there are some epic changes on the horizon and we’re excited to see where we go, and what we end up doing!

grenada couple
Wishing you an amazing year ahead! (photo taken during Nick’s birthday surprise)

Since this is a travel and lifestyle blog, we’ve always been honest and upfront with you, with the hopes that you’ll appreciate the real people behind the words. Rather than being just a generic travel website, we think personality and personability are an important part of sharing and connecting with our readers. 

As we head into 2020, Nick and I want to sincerely thank you for following our journey this past year, and we’re looking forward to sharing our upcoming adventures (whatever those may be!) with you in the new year.

We hope to inspire you to travel to some new destinations and maybe even find work doing what you love while on the road. We’d love to hear from you as well, so please comment down below, or send us a private email

Wishing you health, joy, and love in the coming year. 

Dariece & Nick (the Goats)

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Indonesia with text overlay looking back on 2019highlights of 2019 with text overlay a year of highs and lowssailing with text overlay why 2019 was a year of highs and lows

 

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Dariece Swift

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Dariece is a co-founder of Goats On The Road, and an expert in saving money, finance management, building an online business and of course… travel. She loves meeting new people, trying new cuisines, and learning about the unique cultures of our world. She has over 10 years of experience helping others to realize their travel dreams and has worked in numerous jobs all over the world to help pay for travel. Her advice about long-term travel, remote work, and location independence has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider and Forbes.

Learn more about Dariece Swift on the Goats On The Road About Us Page.

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21 thoughts on “Looking Back on 2019: A Year Of Highs and Lows

  1. Nice to read about your year and your personal journey. It seems many travel bloggers were affected by the November algorithm change and it can certainly feel awful not to have any control over this. Keep up the good work!

      1. I always enjoy reading your posts and so sorry to hear about the loss of the doggie Spare. A blank slate for 2020 sounds great – then paint it in how you want. Happy travels. Lisa

  2. I do enjoy all that you share! I love looking through all your pictures from your travels and learning about the new places that you visit. SO sorry to hear about your furry friend, definitely sounds like a “one of kind” pet! Looking forward to see what 2020 brings!

  3. Oh, how awful to lose your dog (even if he wasn’t technically yours, we don’t choose our pets – they choose us). As the mom of 2 dogs and 6 cats, I know how devastating this is… I’m so so sorry.

    And I share your pain about 8 November, a day that will stay engraved in my brain, the day my readership moved into a freefall from which it hasn’t recovered yet. Twelve years online, and I’m back to 2017… Could quite happily have done without this reverse time machine!

    Stay strong and have a wonderful 2020! (from the ‘other’ On The Road)

    1. Thanks very much for the support Leyla, and for taking the time to read our roundup post. November 8th was a rough one for so many, we completely feel your pain! We’re hoping Google sobers up soon Wishing you a happy holiday season and all the best for 2020!

  4. Darren and I were also very sorry to hear about Spare Dog’s passing. He lived a long and adventurous life, in large part due to the time he spent with both of you. Thank you so much for introducing us to Spare and allowing us to have a few precious weeks with him in Grenada. He was a very special dog/friend who loved everyone he met. He will be truly missed…

    1. You’re right, he was a very special boy! I’m glad you and Darren were able to spend some time with Spare here in Grenada and that you were able to see him recently as well. Thanks for reading my post and for the kind comment. All the best to you both in 2020!

  5. Thank you guys ,you are always inspiring me a lot. Very sad about Spare’s loss… I will keep my fingers crossed for all your future plans.
    Ciao

  6. Thank You Dariece and Nick for another Great Year of sharing your Life and Adventures; and your Fabulous 2019 Roundup❣️
    Very sorry to hear about Spare, you were such a gift to each other; with all your sharing, it felt like I knew him!
    Yes, definitely Goats upfront honesty and personality shows in every interview, article, picture and video; and are what keeps myself and many, following, reading and enjoying
    Wishing You a Most Wonderful New Year❤️❤️

    1. Thanks for following our journey! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading about our adventures, but especially the fact that you felt like you knew Spare He will be missed. Wishing you a magical 2020!

  7. You’re doing great!
    The numbers will come back. You have lots of great content and a fantastic talent that inspires us all. So sorry about Spare Dog but feel blessed that you were important members of his pack and loved.
    Take stock, rest awhile, breathe then fight back with a passion.
    Have a lovely Christmas and New Year and take good care of each other.

  8. So sorry to hear about the doggo! Loosing a pet is incredibly difficult but it seems like he had an amazing life in Grenada.

    I joined Nick’s SEO Course this year and it’s definitely helped me increase my traffic. I’m still learning and look forward to working on it more in 2020! Happy holidays 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Lora! I’m also happy to hear that you’ve found the SEO Course useful It’s always great to hear from our students, congrats on the increase in traffic and keep at it in 2020! Wishing you a happy holiday season.

  9. Guys, just caught up with this, Spare Dog We loved that little guy from way back in one of your videos, so sad. Hope 2020 brings you all the happiness you deserve! Cheers, Charlie & Kristina x

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