In my 2016 yearly review and blog statistics recap, I bid 2016 adieu while commenting that it wasn’t my favorite year. I’m not mad at 2017, but I am excited to say goodbye to it. In 2017 I made some fond memories, experienced perhaps my greatest professional challenges and growth yet, and as usual, took recreating pretty seriously. While 2017 brought me a chance to pull out my passport on four continents, it also brought me tedious, ongoing health problems, some of which unfortunately I must carry forward into 2018. As I welcome the new year with a hopeful heart and mind, I’m thinking about where I’ve been and what I have to look forward to in 2018.
I started off 2017 in Tashkent, nursing a back injury after falling down the slippery marble steps outside my front door shortly before the new year. I could not have imagined how that injury and my choice to delay seeking treatment would plague me the whole year through and lead to multiple hospitalizations, MRIs, injections, new prescriptions, numbness, falls, etc.
In mid-January I packed a bag and went on vacation by myself for 8 days to subzero St. Petersburg, Russia. Despite being injured, it was definitely a travel highlight not only of the year – but of my life! In February I visited Seoul, South Korea, and then went to California to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday. Later in February, I also took my husband to Almaty, Kazakhstan to celebrate his birthday.
Throughout the spring as we wound down our tour in Uzbekistan, we visited the Fergana Valley, Nukus and the Aral Sea (Part I and Part II) and crossed the Kazakh border a few times on weekend road trips (I summed up those trips here and here). The Aral Sea in particular was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip, and something I feel really grateful to have seen after following the environmental disaster there for almost twenty years.
After saying goodbye to Uzbekistan and transiting through Germany, I spent June in Washington, DC and Virginia completing required training for my Australia tour, and took my mandatory home leave in July across California, Nevada and Washington state. At the end of July, we made it to Canberra – where, aside from traveling an hour south (to conduct visits to incarcerated American citizens) and an hour north (to visit vineyards), I have stayed put right here in Canberra.
I feel like (compared to 2016) I hardly went anywhere this year, although I realize that probably sounds absurd to people who *actually* didn’t go anywhere. I guess I’m really just thinking about the second half of the year, once I got to Australia. Considering that during the last five months, I was admitted to hospital three times and have spent cumulatively almost two months hospitalized, it probably isn’t all that surprising. At least 2017 provided some chances for us to go to the embassy’s Marine Ball and visit local events like Floriade and nearby NSW wine country.
We wrapped up 2017 with a fantastic New Year’s Eve house party thrown by embassy colleagues, followed by a hotel soiree in downtown Canberra with delicious food and cocktails, and a perfect penthouse-level view of the fireworks, which, while not as internationally awe-inspiring as Sydney’s fireworks, was still impressive.
Here’s a collage I made of some of our favorite moments in 2017, from Central Asia, to the U.S., to Australia. And yes, it appears that my husband donned his tuxedo at least four times in 2017!
Blogging in 2017
- In 2017 I wrote 33 new posts, up from 22 in 2016.
- The blog received 22,541 views from 7,251 unique visitors, representing 4% more views and 9% more readers than in 2016.
- Blog readers in 2017 hailed from 135 different countries (up from 125 in 2016). Even taking into consideration that VPN routers mask the origin of some of the traffic (likely using U.S.-based servers), the vast majority of readership still comes from the United States.
- The top ten countries from which visitors reached the blog most frequently were as follows:
(1) United States - 18,285 views
(2) South Korea - 597 views
(3) India - 376 views
(4) Germany - 216 views
(5) United Kingdom - 211 views
(6) Australia - 203 views
(7) Sierra Leone - 202 views
(8) France - 166 views
(9) Uzbekistan - 123 views
(10) Canada - 122 views
- The top ten most-visited blog posts and pages (not counting the home page) were as follows:
(1) Becoming an FSO Part II: The QEP - 2,085 views
(2) My Foreign Service Timeline - 1,393 views
(3) Becoming an FSO Part III: The FSOA - 647 views
(4) Becoming an FSO Part I: The FSOT - 433 views
(5) About the Author - 424 views
(6) Flag Day Recap - 330 views
(7) 6,498 Miles Later - 278 views
(8) About the Foreign Service - 254 views
(9) Second Tour Bidding - 244 views
(10) Glass Half Full - 240 views
- Only two of the top ten most widely-read blog posts in 2017 were actually written in 2017 (#7 about leaving Uzbekistan and #10 about trying to stay positive early on during my Canberra tour when everything seemed to be going wrong).
- The posts I wrote in 2014 with observations about my Foreign Service candidacy and the process of becoming an FSO remain tremendously popular and drive a lot of traffic to the site. Although visitors arrive at the Collecting Postcards blog from social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, and others link across from other blogs and WordPress subscriptions, those who arrive from search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo Search comprise more than double the visitors than all other referrers combined. This tells me that the majority of readers don’t know me personally (or just don’t have my blog bookmarked), and are likely searching for information on getting into the Foreign Service, and/or trying to determine whether the Foreign Service is a good career and lifestyle fit.
- Please feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions you’d like me to answer. I always respond to every email, although sometimes with a delay of a week or two, and I love to hear from you.
It is amazing to me that my tour is almost a quarter over and I feel like I’ve barely done anything. During the approximately 20 months we have left here, we are going to focus the bulk of our travel in and around Australia. People sometimes don’t realize how huge this country really is, and what it takes to get from Point A to Point B.
There is an unbelievable amount to do and see in Australia, and while not a cheap place to live, travel opportunities abound. For example, just 25 minutes away from us is a nature reserve featuring koalas, pelicans, roos and wallabies, bilbies, and all manner of other native wildlife. An annual pass is only $35 AUD ($27.40 USD)! I’ll write about our New Year’s Day trip there in an upcoming post.
When I lived in Sydney for a year, I made it to the Blue Mountains and NSW wine country, Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road, and throughout Tasmania, as well as to New Zealand.
But I’ve not been to Perth, Darwin, Adelaide, or Brisbane, nor have I explored the Gold Coast, the Whitsundays, or elsewhere in the outback/Northern Territory. There is also quite a bit of Canberra and the surrounding areas that I need to see, too! I am truly looking forward to making those trips happen, and if I’m lucky, there may be some work-related opportunities to visit Southeast Asia, but for those I will just have to cross my fingers. In the meantime, we have trips to Jervis Bay, Katoomba and the Blue Mountains, and Sydney all locked in over the next few months. In an office where we submit leave requests several months in advance, you have to be proactive and organized!
I am really looking forward, perhaps more than anything else, to getting my health squared away in 2018. My back surgery is only a few weeks away now, and it will be so good to be able to really exercise again after I heal, not to mention being able to bend over and pick something up off the floor, or put on closed-toed shoes. Right now I feel so much hope about 2018 and my ability to take better care of myself.
To all readers of the Collecting Postcards blog, I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season and all the best for 2018! May we all find what was missing in 2017.