My End of Year Review: 17 Highlights From 2017


Having no regrets is all that she really wants 🌟

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OHMYGOD I literally cannot believe I am writing this. Like how did this year go by so quick? What the hell have I done over the past 12 months? Why does it only seem like 5 minutes since I wrote my 2016 end of year review? I cannot cope with how quick time is flying and how much life is passing me by. I didn’t think I could top 2016, I had the best year of my life to date when I quit my career to travel and become a full time freelancer. Surprisingly though, I think 2017 has been even bigger, ever better and even more amazing than I could ever have imagined. I’ve taken 17 flights, travelled to 11 countries and 14 cities and made memories that will last a lifetime. My blog has grown to the biggest it’s ever been and I’m enjoying countless new opportunities that I could only ever have dreamed of.

Although I’ve had an amazing year, sadly I’m ending it on a low as my beautiful dog Cassie went to sleep and left us just a few weeks ago. She had been poorly for a few months and just couldn’t go on anymore so we had to do what was best and let her go. We are all devastated and are struggling to come to terms with her loss; she has left a huge hole in our home, and in our hearts, and we miss her more than we ever thought possible. My heart physically hurts and I cry every single day, but I know with time it will get easier and I have amazing friends and family to support me. Love you princess, sleep tight my little snow angel. Despite ending on a low note, January – October gave me an incredible 10 months and I’ve found it so hard to narrow down just 17 highlights from my 2017 but I’m going to try and pick my stand out memories… Here goes…


I started the new year down in Cornwall – JANUARY


Bit late to the party after being on holiday but so pleased to have ended 2016 and brought in the new year down in Cornwall with my beautiful, crazy family. 2016 was my best year to date; I took my biggest leap of faith by quitting my job, travelling solo to LA and launching my freelance business. I road tripped across America, ticking off 30 cities & 23 states (making 52 new friends along the way) and inter-railed around Italy with my sister, visiting three of the most famous cities in the world. My blog turned 2, it underwent a major rebrand and it was nominated for an award. I've been bridesmaid for my best friend, celebrated my cousins wedding and my sisters 21st and have been to V Fest, the theatre and the races. I've made hundreds of new memories with my amazing friends and family and am entering 2017 feeling the happiest I've ever been! Here's to an even better year with many new adventures ahead as I take on Europe during my next 12 months of travel! Happy belated new year everyone, wishing you every happiness for 2017 πŸŒŽβœˆοΈπŸ’–

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After a quiet Christmas at home we couldn’t wait to get away for a break in Cornwall, our favourite UK county, for five days of beach walking, sea fishing and new year festivities. We stayed in a little apartment at the heart of St Ives and enjoyed ice cream on the beach, walks high in the hills and fancy dress and fireworks over the harbour on New Years Eve. We had an amazing few days away and it really started off our new year with a bang.


I became a freelancer and worked part time too – JANUARY


This is how I feel right now. Today I calculated that I've earnt *almost* as much each month as I was earning in my old 9-5 job! I knew I could do it!!! I've started with nothing and built up my little business all by myself. At times I felt like giving up, like I wasn't good enough, and like I had no right to make a career for myself, but today I've felt so inspired and so pleased that my hard work seems to be paying off. Any doubts that may have been in my mind have now been dismissed and I am SO excited to continue my journey in my new career and see where this takes me! Here's to future success and many more adventures πŸ“πŸ’»βœˆοΈπŸŒ #MondayMotivation #freelancer #bloglife #virtualassistant

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At the end of 2016 I decided to go freelance with my blog and I also set myself up as a social media manager too. I had a handful of clients with steady work each month and I was really enjoying working from home and being my own boss. After a few months though I realised that I missed working alongside people and started to feel incredibly lonely. On my birthday I landed myself a part time job at New Look and this actually turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to me. I started to get into a routine, earned extra money and made so many friends after thriving off that social interaction again. My part time contract meant that I could work as little or as much as I wanted to, which came in super handy for the months ahead when IΒ  wanted to travel as much as I could.


I celebrated my sisters 18th birthday – JANUARY



My little baby sis turned 18 at the end of Jan and we had a wonderful weekend celebrating with our closest family members up in Liverpool. We booked a large table at the gorgeous Titanic Restaurant in the city and then spent the night partying until the early hours. Soph had an amazing birthday and it was so lovely to spent some quality time with our nearest and dearest.


I took a winter city break to Copenhagen – FEBRUARY



My first overseas adventure of 2017 came in February when my sister and I hopped over to Copenhagen for a long weekend. We had wanted to do a winter city break for a while, as it had been two years since our February break to Prague, and the Danish capital seemed to be the perfect place to go. We had an amazing few days wandering around the beautiful Nyhavn Harbour, climbing the Round Tower and finding The Little Mermaid and even popped over to Malmo in Sweden for a day trip too!


I wandered around Bratislava and Vienna for 5 days – MARCH



March saw me take two more trips, and tick off two more countries, as I flew over to explore Bratislava and Vienna with my friend and fellow blogger Lucy. We had an epic 48 hours discovering Bratislava’s Old Town and it’s stunning castle complex before catching the train to Vienna to indulge in its musical history. We then spent two nights in the best hotel I have ever stayed in and were able to visit some of Vienna’s many palaces and impressive buildings along the way – what an adventure we had!


I went to my second Traverse conference – APRIL



After attending my first Traverse conference in Cardiff in 2016, I knew I just had to go back to the 2017 one when details were announced. This time the blogging extravaganza was held in London, right next to The 02 arena, and was even better than the year before. I caught up with Lucy, Seanna, Steve and some of my other bloggy friends and also met the lovely Rachel for the first time, who I have now become firm friends with! Highlights of the conference included the Jet2 opening party at Millbank Tower, a CityCruises boat party along the Thames and the closing party in Canary Wharf with Visit Spain. Oh and the workshops were pretty good too, obvs I didn’t go there just to party πŸ˜‰ I really interacted with all the brands and speakers this time round after being a little nervous during my first Traverse in 2016 and was lucky enough to be selected for two press trips after meeting sponsors in London. I’ve already bought my ticket for Traverse 2018 in Rotterdam and cant wait to go next May!


I went on a spontaneous city break to Sofia – MAY



After spotting Β£30 return flights with Ryanair, my lovely friend Toni and I decided to jet over to Bulgaria for a long weekend in Sofia. For both of us, this was the furthest we had gone in Eastern Europe and we absolutely loved exploring a new city, and a new country. We only had two nights there but spent it eating traditional Bulgarian food, taking a free walking tour, hiking up the Vitosha Mountain and admiring the stunning Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Sofia is a really quirky place and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an alternative city break in Europe.


I went on my first group press trip to Menorca – MAY



After my successful weekend at Traverse, I was lucky enough to be selected for my first ever group press trip, Must See Menorca. Traverse teamed up with both the Spain and Menorca tourism boards to put together a fantastic week of conferencing, workshops and excursions. Highlights included kayaking in the crystal clear waters, strolling around the capital of Ciutedella and going to a party in a cave at the fabulous Cova d’en Xoroi. I made so many friends and had the most amazing week getting to know everyone, learning tonnes of new blogging tips and getting to explore new parts of Menorca that I didn’t know existed.


I had a girly week with my sisters in Tenerife – JUNE



After a hectic couple of months of back to back trips I couldn’t wait for a chilled week in the Spanish sun in Tenerife with my sisters by the time June came around. We booked a package holiday with Jet2 and couldn’t have had better service the whole time we were there. We’ve been to Spain fifteen times but had never visited Tenerife and it’s safe to say we will definitely be returning soon. We had an amazing week relaxing on the beach, swimming in the sea and even hiking up an active volcano! Seeing dolphins and whales swimming in the sea was a real highlight, as was being right in the heart of the action on the Las Americas strip and I already can’t wait to go back next summer.


I took another group press trip to Switzerland – JULY



After a relaxing break in Tenerife it was time to get back to my hectic schedule as I headed over to Switzerland for the first time on another press trip, this time with the Nendaz tourism board and with villa rental company Travelopo. Along with four other bloggers I had the chance to stay in a luxurious chalet in the heart of Swiss ski resort Nendaz. I’m pretty sure that a ski resort isn’t an obvious choice when looking for a summer holiday, but we were delighted to showcase this amazing place to a whole new audience. Both Travelopo and the Nendaz tourism board were amazing and put together a fantastic itinerary for us during our week there. We did plenty of mountain hiking (and biking), had a spa day at a 5* hotel, went cheese making in the Alps and climbed 3300m up to one of the highest mountains in the country at Verbier’s Mont Fort. I also spent a couple of days in Geneva at the beginning and end of the week and really pushed myself out of my comfort zone on this trip so it turned out to be one of the best weeks I’ve ever had!


I became an ambassador for The Pituitary Foundation – AUGUST



On a personal level, this is something I am hugely proud of and definitely one of my biggest achievements from 2017. If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning you’ll know that I suffer with a rare condition called a prolactinoma, which is a small, benign tumor in my brain. I’m on medication for life and have regular blood tests, eye tests and check ups with my hospital consultant to monitor my condition, but generally my health is good and I never let anything hold me back! The Pituitary Foundation are a fantastic charity who have helped me enormously since my diagnosis back in 2011 and so I was absolutely delighted when they asked me to be an ambassador for them in August. I said yes right away and couldn’t wait to get involved with fundraising and spreading awareness. My first job was sharing my story online, and I couldn’t believe it when The Daily Mail, The Mirror and The Sun all featured my story and reached millions of readers. Since then I have shared my story with other outlets and even organised a ‘turn your town orange’ day for Pituitary Awareness Month in October. I’m so proud to be ambassador for such an amazing charity and I can’t wait to work on new projects throughout 2018.


I hopped over to Hamburg for the weekend – AUGUSTΒ 



I got invited to another press trip after making great contacts at this year’s Traverse conference and was super excited to be heading to Hamburg with the Visit Hamburg team back in August. I spent two nights exploring the quirky and alternative sights of the city, including taking a street art tour, paddle boarding down the Alster river and attending the annual Vogelball music festival. We also went to an all you can eat ice cream festival which was INCREDIBLE and I spent some time wandering around the shipping port and exploring the old town with its famous Rathaus building too. Although it wasn’t my favourite city, I did really enjoy my first visit to Germany and had a lovely weekend making new friends and creating new memories.


I became a real life fairy godmother – SEPTEMBER



Ahh one of the best things to ever happen to me, I became fairy godmother to one of my best friend’s baby and we had such a lovely day! I’ve known my friend Kath for years, we even moved in together for a few months a couple of years ago, and I was sooo excited when she asked me to be godmother to her beautiful little girl Halle. We had a lovely day at the Church and Halle looked so cute in her little dress. I promise to love you and to look after you forever baby girl <3


I took on so many new blog opportunities – ALL YEAR ROUND



This year was my best year yet for new blogging opportunities and I’m delighted to say that I’ve had them in abundance over the past 12 months. From complimentary flights and week/weekend long trips in Spain, Switzerland and Germany to overnight hotel stays in The Cotswolds and boat tours along the Thames, it’s been an epic year of press trips. I really wanted to challenge myself this year and work on new collaborations with lots of new brands. As well as taking trips I’ve also worked with companies on sponsored blog posts, Instagram takeovers and competition giveaways. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I’ve wanted to be though, and I haven’t just waited for things to land in my lap. I’ve emailed brands, taken part in Twitter chats, created a media kit, networked, attended conferences and really got myself out there in order to be selected for some incredible opportunities that have really helped to grow my blog and make it the best it can be.


I inter-railed around Europe – SEPTEMBER



By mid September I hadn’t been on a trip away since Hamburg at the start of August and was desperate to travel again! When my friend Toni said she wanted to do the same, we knew we had to go on a real stand out trip and inter-railing around Europe seemed to fit the bill nicely! I’ve always wanted to go inter-railing, especially after my rail trip to Italy last year, so couldn’t wait to get planning our trip. After weeks of deliberation, flight/train searching and trying to find decent hotels at a decent price, we decided to do four countries and four cities within nine days. We started in the Polish capital of Warsaw then headed to Prague and Salzburg before ending up in lovely Ljubljana. We had an amazing two nights visiting each city and saw as much as we physically could during our time there. I’d visited Prague before but still loved it and I had a great time in Warsaw and Salzburg, but Ljubljana really stole my heart and I’m so glad we saved the best til last!


I got a new car &Β a new job – OCTOBER



When my beloved Vauxhall Corsa went to the big car heaven in the sky I found myself needing a new mode of transport and a new salary to support myself. After a year of freelancing and 9 months of part time work I landed on my feet when I got offered a brand new job that I’d had no intention of getting! I was starting to get fed up of unstable freelance income and I knew I definitely didn’t want to be in retail coming up to Christmas, so in September when I emailed my CV along with a generic cover letter to a local travel firm in Cheltenham I had no idea that I’d even get an interview, let alone get offered a job! I picked up my new car at the end of September and a few days later I started my new job as an operations co-ordinator at luxury travel firm Abercrombie and Kent. I work in the villas sector of the business and spend my days writing descriptions and editing photos for our luxurious villas, as well as contacting owners for availability requests and assisting the sales team with their holiday enquiries. My experience of property management from my estate agent days, coupled with my passion for travel through my blog, have helped to land my dream job and I’ve not looked back since I started! I believe that everything happens for a reason, and although having a full time job means I haven’t been able to blog as much, I’ve learnt to appreciate my weekends, use my annual leave wisely and have started saving a lot of money which will be used for future trips and treats for my nearest and dearest… Here’s to being a full-timer again!


I saw the most snow we’ve had in years – DECEMBER


Six weeks ago we were told the devastating news that our darling Cassie had a tumor in her tummy and she didn't have long left to live. We hoped and prayed that she would get better, that she would get back to her normal self, or that she would at least make it til Christmas. Sadly we don't think our prayers have been answered, as our little girl has been getting worse day by day. We didn't think she would ever see snow again, but this morning when she got up from her bed and walked out into the garden it looked like her last wishes had come true. Cass has always loved the snow and we feel so blessed that she was able to enjoy it for one last time. Soon we will have to make a decision that no pet owner wants to make and our hearts are breaking, but for now we are treasuring every second with our little snow angel and are loving her as much as we have done every day for the past 12 years. We just don't ever want to let you go baby πŸ’”

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Although I am devastated to be writing this because we lost our precious Cassie, I am so grateful that in December it snowed for the first time since 2009 and our darling girl got to play in the snow one last time. Pulling back the curtains and waking up to so much snow was truly magical and, if I closed my eyes for a few seconds, it really felt like I was a child again. My sisters and I were supposed to be going to Capital FM’s Jingle Bell Ball that day, but the snow had meant all trains/coaches from Oxford were cancelled so we had no way of getting there. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we spent the day with our little Cassie giving her so many cuddles, watching Christmas films and telling her we loved her. Although it was her last day with us, and we spent the next few weeks crying uncontrollably every single day, I will always be grateful that it snowed and that she spent her last day being surrounded by love. We miss you so much baby and our hearts are hurting without you. We wish that you could still be here with us, that we could stroke your head or play with your ears or snuggle you tight, but we know that you were in pain and we couldn’t bear for you to carry on. We know now that you are at peace and are looking down on us each and every day, and whenever it snows we will know that it’s you showing us that you love us. Forever in our hearts, princess <3


When I take a step back and look at everything I’ve done this year I can’t help but feel immensely proud of myself. I’ve overcome a lot and I’ve made so many life changes in just one year, all of which have made me happier and a better person. Oh and remember those New Years Resolutions I made back in January? I’ve nailed them all. Travel to 10 new countries – tick, I even did 11! Stop looking for love – tick, goodbye tinder! Spend more time with family and friends – tick, I’ve removed toxic people from my life and put my loved ones first! Stop buying scratchcards – semi tick, I buy one every few months but I’m nowhere near as bad as I used to be! I’m quite impressed that I’ve managed to successfully complete the challenges I set myself this year and it just reinforces my belief that, if you want something badly enough, you’ve gotta go out there and get it!

As for 2018, I have no idea what the coming year will hold, but that’s what makes it so exciting. I really love January, I know it’s my birthday month so I’m biased but I love the challenge of starting a new year, totally afresh, and I set myself goals and plans that I aim to accomplish. It really gives me a sense of perspective and helps to get what I really want out of life. Thanks to all of you lovely lot for supporting Journeys with Jessica for yet another year – this little blog will be celebrating its fourth birthday in 2018 and I can’t believe how far we have come! I’ve love every second of being a travel blogger and can’t wait to take you on more adventures with me next year.

Happy new year everyone!

Love Jess X




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