2019 was a BIG year for the Wandering Wheatleys! We traveled to 12 different countries, tripled our blog traffic, relocated to Saigon, started learning to speak Vietnamese, and made a baby boy! We feel so lucky to have incredible friends and family members who support our wild ambitions through reading our website, making time for video chats, and taking trips to visit us.
Since we are thousands of miles away and 15 hours ahead, we aren’t always effective in communicating what we’re up to on a daily basis. So here is a rundown of everything we accomplished in 2019 and a few insights into what 2020 hopefully has in store for us.
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- We Traveled, a Lot
- We Traveled with Friends and Family!
- We Generated Blog Content
- We Updated Old Content
- We Promoted our Website
- We Grew our Website
- We Grew Our Team
- We Launched Vibrantly Vietnam
- On a More Personal Note, We Settled Down in Vietnam
- We Started Learning Vietnamese
- We Made a Baby
- What’s Happing in 2020?
We Traveled, a Lot
Since the beginning of 2019, we’ve visited 12 different countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Uzbekistan, Iceland, Latvia, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Taiwan, and Thailand. And for every country that we visited, we generated content for our website.
And when I say that we “generated content”, I mean that we wrote lots of detailed and informative blog posts about each country. That involves getting up at sunrise to get great photographs without hundreds of tourists in them. It involves spending the day exploring the highlights of each city to get all the best information and advice for our readers (that’s you guys!). And it involves late nights in our boring hotel rooms writing, editing, and publishing articles.
Don’t get us wrong, we think we have the best job in the world!
For example, we spent 3 weeks traveling around Uzbekistan and wrote 12 articles about the country. And we visited Thailand for 2-weeks and published 8 articles. We had an amazing time visiting both countries, but, whew, were we exhausted!
We got to partner with some awesome companies and hotels this year. We spent 2 weeks living out of a camper van in Iceland for a partnership with Motorhome Republic. We published 9 articles for our readers plus we delivered a detailed Iceland itinerary for their website.
Our travel style has changed quite a bit since we started blogging in 2017. Now when we land in a new country we ask “what do our readers want to know about this city/country/excursion?” rather than “what do Nick and Val really want to do today?” It’s actually nice because I usually just want to take naps so the desire to create insightful content for all of you forces me out of bed!
We Traveled with Friends and Family!
We were lucky to get to spend a whopping 13 weeks traveling with friends and family members in 2019. Our favorite part about being on the road all the time is getting visits from people we love!
During this time we generally take a break from blogging or at least do as little as possible to keep the website running smoothly.
We Generated Blog Content
We generated a LOT of blog content in 2019 – we published 109 new articles to be exact. That means on average we published 1 new article every 3.3 days. Or 1 new article every 7 cups of coffee.
What were our most popular new posts in 2019?
- The Best of Bend, Oregon: 15 Things You Must Do During Your Visit
- Best Vietnamese Food in Hanoi: Top Eats in Vietnam’s Culinary Capital
- 6 Stunning Short Hikes in the Smoky Mountains
- Food in Uzbekistan: 21 Traditional Uzbek Dishes You Must Try
- The 7 Best Riads in Marrakech, Morocco
We Updated Old Content
Don’t forget about all the articles we wrote in 2018. By now that content is old and out of date which means we also had to update 150 of our older articles on our website.
These were some of our most popular pre-2019 articles:
- 65 Things To Do in New Orleans (Besides Bourbon Street)
- Famous Filipino Food: 15 Must-Eat Dishes in the Philippines!
- A Local’s 12 Favorite Things to do on the North Shore
- Guide to Shopping in Morocco: What to Buy & How to Bargain
- 8 Things to Know Before Visiting El Nido, Palawan
We Promoted our Website
Of course, there is no point in writing articles on our website if no one is going to read them. We are constantly trying to improve our Google search rankings, promoting our posts on social media, creating new pins for Pinterest, and contributing content to other travel blogs to get more exposure.
Most of our readers come from search and where an article ranks can make a huge impact. For instance, if you search for “what to pack for Egypt“, chances are you’ll look at the top 3 or 4 posts and then move on to another task. It’s very rare that anyone even looks at the second or third search page. So whatever blog has the number 1 spot may get 5,000 views per day, while the number 7 spot may get just 3 views. Moving one of our articles one spot higher on Google can make a huge difference!
Check out how our blog traffic breaks down:
We Grew our Website
At the beginning of 2019, we set a goal of getting 550,000 people to read our blog. Did we accomplish it? You bet we did! We had more success on our blog last year than we could even imagine. Thanks again to everyone that read our content!
Here is what our website’s growth looked like for 2019:
2019 Unique Visitors: 667,832
2018 Unique Visitors: 139,442
2019 Page Views: 1,001,270
2018 Page Views: 226,611
1 million page views – woohoo! And our site is growing month-over-month. In December alone we had 91,617 visitors! It feels like such an incredible accomplishment to create content that people feel is valuable, relevant, and that helps them in planning their own epic adventures.
We Grew Our Team
Since we developed the Wandering Wheatleys website in 2017 we’ve essentially been a party of two. Nick built and manages the site, takes photographs, and does a hefty portion of the website promotion. And I do the bulk of the writing. We’ve employed my mom, Cheri, for the last year as our Editor in Chief, and we’re lucky that the only payment she requires is a grandchild (thanks mom!).
In 2019 we realized that as we grow, we need more help. So we began outsourcing various tasks associated with running our blog. We hired someone to manage our Pinterest account, we have been working with a few freelance graphic designers to create Pinterest images, and recently we have been on the hunt for additional writers to help us generate more content.
We are hoping to outsource even more projects in 2020 so that we can continue expanding our website (and spend more quality time with our baby boy). So if you know any good writers and/or graphic designers, send them our way!
We Launched Vibrantly Vietnam
As if running one blog wasn’t enough work, we decided to take on another website in 2019 – VibrantlyVietnam.com. Since WanderingWheatleys.com is a general travel site, we wanted to experiment with a niche site as well. And because we were planning to move to Saigon, we figured a Vietnam-specific website would be the best choice.
Currently, Vibrantly Vietnam only contains short articles and reviews about specific shops, restaurants, and services that we love. We’re not yet monetizing Vibrantly Vietnam so it doesn’t make any money, but it’s a nice side project with some future potential.
Other websites in the Wandering Wheatley domain name empire include nick-wheatley.com, valwheatley.com, saynotocilantro.com, and wheatleysquared.com. While most people get drunk and text their exes, we get drunk and buy domain names!
On a More Personal Note, We Settled Down in Vietnam
An item that has been on our Bucket List for some time now has been to actually live outside of the United States. And while we moved out of our Portland apartment and put all of our possessions in storage in 2016, we haven’t actually settled down anywhere until this past year.
We chose to live in Vietnam for a few reasons – it’s cheap, there is a large expat community here, the locals are friendly, Vietnamese food is delicious, and Donald Trump isn’t the president. Plus we love that Vietnam isn’t as touristy as Thailand, and, as Americans, we can get a one-year visa relatively easily. Since we decided to expand our family in 2019, we were happy to learn that Vietnam has excellent hospitals with English-speaking staff members.
So we started apartment shopping in September of 2019 and found a beautiful, furnished studio apartment on the 32nd floor of a brand new building with an amazing view! We have a pool and a gym in the building and we are just across the bridge from the central “downtown” area of the city. Our rent is $900/month and we are responsible to pay electricity and water.
We also found a great international hospital here in Saigon for the delivery of Baby Wheatley. It’s just 10 minutes away from our apartment and has excellent facilities at a fraction of the cost of a US hospital.
We Started Learning Vietnamese
What’s the point of living in another country if you don’t make an effort to learn the language right? One of our first orders of business once we found an apartment in Vietnam was to find a Vietnamese teacher. We joined a class that meets twice a week for an hour and a half each session. We are far from fluent but feel comfortable ordering food and exchanging general pleasantries with the locals.
Vietnamese is an incredibly difficult language to master. There are 6 different tones so one word can have 6 different meanings depending on the tone that is used. And they have vowels that look similar to English vowels but sound completely different. For instance, the word “có” in Vietnamese is pronounced like “ga?”
So the little bit of the language that we have mastered feels like a HUGE accomplishment.
We Made a Baby
This doesn’t really count as hard work or an accomplishment, but it’s definitely a life-changing event that seems too important not to mention! Many people have asked us about how a baby is going to affect our current lifestyle, and the reality is that we have no idea. The lease on our apartment is through June of 2020 and what comes after that is currently a mystery.
We do feel incredibly grateful that our blog allows us the freedom to dedicate lots of time to Baby Wheatley. And since neither of us has to return to an “8 to 5 office job”, we can share the responsibility of changing diapers, waking up for nightly feedings, and we will both get lots of quality baby bonding time.
Plus I give myself a massive pat on the back for accomplishing everything we’ve listed above while battling epic bouts of heartburn, constipation, and exhaustion.
What’s Happing in 2020?
So what’s happening next year?
2020 is going to bring a new baby boy, a VERY long visit from my mother, likely another big move, a new president (fingers crossed!), and hopefully even more website growth. So, once again, thank you for following along on our adventure and please continue reading, visiting us, and planning your own epic adventures!