In 2018, I didn’t once set foot outside Australia. Although I have lived abroad four times (for periods ranging between 13 months and 25 months), previously the only country I had spent the entire calendar year from start to finish in without ever leaving was the United States. This past year, I focused on exploring Australia through domestic travel, recovering my health, and gaining a deeper understanding of work as a political officer. I also made some changes to the blog that boosted its visibility and attracted some new audiences. Here I take a look back at where we’ve been in 2018.
Year in Review
I started off the year healing from a foot surgery I’d had the week before Christmas. V and I made a couple of visits to Canberra’s Tidbinbilla nature reserve and beaches along the New South Wales’ South Coast, and at the end of January, I had surgery to correct a spinal cord injury I’d been suffering with for 15 months. Although it was tough on me physically, I was so grateful to have beaten the bone infection in my foot that allowed me to move forward with addressing my back problems, physical therapy, and eventually, restart my arthritis injections. It was strange to be off work for almost three weeks – far less than my Australian surgeon had recommended, but it felt like forever all the same.
We took a road trip to the Blue Mountains to celebrate my husband’s birthday in February, once I was up and around again, and back to work. In March I finally revisited Sydney for the first time since 2006! (The fact that it took me almost eight months to do that is kind of ridiculous, but speaks for the condition I was in when I got here.) I got to see some of my old haunts and also my favorite band, Incubus, play at the Hordern Pavillion. We also enjoyed Canberra’s Enlighten Festival and took our first hot air balloon trip over the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). In April, we spent Easter along the Sapphire Coast and I got another chance to visit Sydney for work, catching up with old friends and touring my grad school alma mater, Macquarie Uni.
In May, we finally added a second car to our household after a long and drawn out drama with our first car, and we broke it in on a Memorial Day weekend road trip to New South Wales’ famous wine region, the Hunter Valley.
During the “winter months,” we visited Yarrangobilly Caves in Mt. Kosciuszko National Park, climbed up Telstra Tower on Canberra’s Black Mountain, and went truffle hunting in country New South Wales. I also took business trips to Melbourne, Gold Coast, and Sydney. In September, I launched into third tour bidding for my next assignment with a frenzy, writing a five part series about my experience here, here, here, here, and here, eventually coming with out with a coveted assignment as Deputy American Citizen Services Chief at U.S. Consulate Ciudad Juarez, Mexico starting in May 2020.
In September, V and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary with another Hunter Valley wine weekend getaway (this time also including hot air ballooning!) and in October we welcomed a visit from my dad and stepmom. In November, we attended the Marine Corps Ball, followed by a holiday weekend in Brisbane, followed by another business trip to Melbourne for me.
We rounded out December with holiday celebrations, V’s unexpected cycling accident, and a memorable New Year’s Eve weekend in Sydney that deserves (and will get) its own post.
I wrote some non-travel related posts in 2018, too – I answered questions about being a diplomat, described attending a Foreign Service Day ceremony to honor fallen colleagues, shared what I’ve learned about driving on the left and what I’ve learned after 13 years as a federal employee, and reflected on my prior lives in Uzbekistan and in Macedonia. I also wrote about holidays in the southern hemisphere, and extended dogsitting for Foreign Service colleagues who left their dog with us for four months while they moved to Pakistan. The blog also celebrated four years in April.
Blogging in 2018
- In 2018 I wrote 39 new posts, up from 33 in 2017.
- The blog received 26,964 unique page and post views from 8,289 visitors, representing a 19.6% increase in views and a 14.3% increase in readers over 2017.
- Blog readers in 2018 hailed from 149 different countries (up 10.4% from 135 in 2017).
- The top 10 countries from which visitors reached the blog most frequently were:
|7||Bosnia & Herzegovina|
- The top 10 most-visited blog posts and pages (not counting the home page) were:
|1||Becoming an FSO Part II: The QEP|
|2||My Foreign Service Timeline|
|3||Becoming an FSO Part III: The FSOA|
|4||About the Author|
|5||Foreign Service Cars: Buyer Beware|
|6||Becoming an FSO Part I: The FSOT|
|7||Flag Day Recap|
|8||Second Tour Bidding|
|9||Third Tour Bidding, Part I|
|10||Becoming an FSO Part IV: Clearances and the Register|
- Only two of the top 10 most widely-read blog posts in 2018 were actually written in 2018, again showing how popular my previous posts about the Foreign Service candidacy remain. However, when considering the top 20 most widely-read blog posts in 2018, half were written in 2018.
- This year, I made three major changes to the blog’s presence which I think increased its traffic. First, I added the blog to the American Foreign Service Association’s list of unofficial FSO blogs. Second, I got the blog its own domain, so although it is still hosted by WordPress, it no longer has the word “WordPress” in its address. And third, I started a Facebook page for the blog, hoping to connect with students and other Foreign Service-hopefuls. These changes helped bring greater visibility to my pages – which will never become mainstream, but still caught the eye of students, Fulbrighters, EFMs, and travel and lifestyle bloggers who also became followers.
- 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. You can always check out the Facebook page @collectingpostcardsblog or Tweet @pennypostcard.
Looking ahead to 2019, we have plans to visit Melbourne and Tasmania with my mom, and I’m hoping to also take the Ghan (train trip) from Adelaide across the Outback to Darwin. I also have a business trip to Perth in the works.
At this point, it seems unlikely that we’ll get to Cairns, the Whitsundays or Hamilton Island, or overseas to New Zealand, Fiji, or Bali; our tour is only two years and we spent the first several months of it extremely ill (me) and unemployed (V). However, I’m happy and grateful for what we have done, and looking forward to checking off a few more bucket list items before we get on the big plane! I am going to try and stay in Australia for every possible moment…
Happy holidays and a festive and restful 2019 to you and yours.