Ahh yes, it’s another ‘OMG it’s the start of a new year, let’s look back at last year!’ post!
The transition from 2018 into 2019 couldn’t have been any better for us. Rather than being overseas partying in a foreign country with people we had just met, we were back in Australia, dancing the night away in a forest with some of our closest friends.
Don’t get us wrong – Our New Years Eve’s abroad have almost always been epic. Snowboarding in Canada, scuba diving in Honduras, partying in Turkey, ukulele singalongs on a beach in Vietnam; they are always good times with amazing people, and we know there’s plenty more of these international adventures in our calendar for years to come.
But being in Australia at a music festival surrounded by mates who knew us well was just what we needed to end what proved to be an extremely successful, fun and slightly different year for us.
At the end of 2017 we talked about the evolution of our site, and how NOMADasaurus has changed from a little travel blog meant to document our travels from Thailand to South Africa without flying into a fully-fledged business.
It was an open letter to all of you who have ever shown interest in our blog, social media, or even just us as people in general, and we loved the responses we got from it.
(If you are new to the site, or are just curious about our backstory and how all of this came to be, that article is well worth a read.)
This year’s article isn’t so much about our business though (although if you’re interested in that you’ll find some information at the bottom of the page) as much as it is a recap and an update on our plans for 2019.
So here we go!
2018 – A Different Kind of Year
At the very end of 2017 we picked up a brand new, very expensive car, one of only 3 in the entire country, and drove across Australia as part of a massive media campaign with Volvo. Talk about a random way to finish the year!
They had hired us for a job to promote the Volvo Ocean Race, a global sailing race they sponsor, and also to take commercial photography of their newest hybrid electric car, the XC60, in Australian landscapes.
To say it was completely surreal to us would be an understatement. We never thought that one day one of the biggest companies in the world would hire us to drive around taking pictures of a car, but the universe is a mysterious beast.
Unfortunately this happened right over Christmas, so we got to celebrate what is normally a beautiful time of year with friends and family by eating microwave dinners in a caravan park in the middle of Australia. Not amazing, however that’s life.
Part of the deal was that we could keep the car for 3 months at the end of the contract. Originally we had planned to fly off to somewhere like Southeast Asia for some more travelling, but we figured that rather than waste this opportunity of having a free car to use we should probably stay in Australia and drive it around a bit.
We decided to move to Sydney’s Northern Beaches, where my family has a house, and use it as a base for those 3 months to go on road trips from there.
As soon as we got to Sydney though we felt burnt out. We unpacked our bags and instantly settled into a routine. We signed up for a gym, made some new friends, caught up with old friends, started eating healthy and spent quality time with the family.
We did do a couple of road trips, and one of them was to head up to the mid-north coast of New South Wales to hang out with our buddy (and NOMADasaurus team member) Calumn’s family and document the plight of koalas that are under threat from logging.
Us being us though we soon got itchy feet, found some cheap airfares to New Zealand, gave Volvo back their car and flew off to spend 5 weeks hiking, travelling and campervanning around this incredible country.
New Zealand was of course awesome, but when we got back rather than heading off for another amazing destination we decided to stay in Sydney a bit longer.
While we were ‘home’ we really put a lot of effort into the business side of the blog and our other company, Peak Evolution Media. We got an accountant, hired some new members for our team, expanded our content strategy, studied more advanced SEO practices and started scaling up.
It was an exciting time for us.
In 2018 we also extended our contract with Kathmandu, Australia and New Zealand’s largest adventure gear company, and are so thrilled to be a part of their small family of ambassadors.
This partnership is something we’re very proud of, not just because it’s a wonderful collaboration for us, but also because we love supporting and aligning ourselves with Kathmandu due to their enormous commitment to sustainability, ethical clothing and responsible travel – all things that we are deeply passionate about.
The break from travel didn’t last forever of course, and in July we flew off to Kyrgyzstan to run our first ever adventure and photography tours.
For a whole month we showed 24 amazing people around the country, and we’re thrilled to say that the two tours were a huge success. Everybody came away with a profound love of Kyrgyzstan and its people, which was our main goal. The positive feedback we got from the participants blew us away.
To be completely honest we were a little nervous about this endeavour. We aren’t tour guides, and we had never organised something of this magnitude before, where we were responsible for so many other people. We were 100% confident in the execution of the tours (otherwise we wouldn’t have launched them), but it was still overwhelming for us.
We are extremely grateful to the 24 people who took a chance on a couple of travel bloggers to show them around a part of Central Asia and signed up for our first ever tours, and if it wasn’t for them it wouldn’t have been possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you – together we pulled off something magical!
As soon as the tours ended we jumped on 60+ hours of planes, airports and transits to touch down in Winnipeg, Canada. The national tourism board had contracted us for a bespoke media campaign, and we were beyond thrilled to be back in the country that gave us the travel bug over a decade ago.
For two weeks we road tripped around Manitoba and the Yukon, creating content and promoting these two beautiful and under-visited parts of Canada.
When the campaign ended we flew down to Vancouver and jumped onboard the legendary Rocky Mountaineer, Canada’s premier luxury train journey. Rocky Mountaineer had hired us to be one of their brand ambassadors, and we absolutely loved our time onboard.
Once we got to Banff we had a very special visitor – My sister, Becky!
She had never travelled internationally on her own before, but when she found out we were going to be back in Canada she decided to come check it out for herself. I picked her up from the airport and the three of us went on an awesome road trip from Banff to Jasper and then across to Revelstoke in BC, where Alesha and I lived for 18 months way back in the day, before she ventured off on her own.
Being back in Revelstoke was a massive highlight for us, as it’s the place that Alesha and I last really felt at home, even though we left in 2011. Many of our friends still live there, and this town is a mecca for everything we love: Hiking, snowboarding, kayaking, climbing, mountain biking and just living a damn adventurous life.
We spent the most amazing 10 days in Revy hanging out with close buddies, and were sad to leave.
Always onto the next adventure, we started to make our way back to South America, but not before a 3-day detour to New York City, a place that neither of us had been but always wanted to visit.
Spoiler alert – we didn’t love New York, but then again we didn’t think we would. Neither of us are city people and New York is one big ass city. Still we had a lot of fun checking out all of the main tourist attractions in town, and look forward to returning one day in the future to try and find some more unique things to do in the city.
Afterwards we flew down to Santiago, Chile and spent two weeks holed up in a lovely AirBnB cranking out a bunch of content and trying to catch up on the admin side of things with the business.
In November we headed down to the bottom of Chile to start our biggest adventure of the year – a two-week photography symposium to South Georgia with One Ocean Expeditions.
We first worked with the team at OOE when we travelled to Antarctica in February 2017, and were stoked to be continuing our relationship with them to explore the subantarctic.
For those that don’t know, South Georgia is known as the Serengeti of the Southern Ocean, and at the start of summer is home to largest concentration of wildlife anywhere on the planet. You’ve probably seen it on David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet’ series.
There’s beaches covered with literally hundreds of thousands of king penguins, elephant seals, fur seals and sea birds. It’s quite a sight to behold, and is a destination that we desperately want to return to one day.
Once our explorations in the subantarctic were over we found ourselves with three weeks to kill, so we decided to fly off to Peru and Bolivia.
During this time we decided to do something we haven’t done in years – NOT document our travels. We had so much work backed up after Kyrgyzstan, Canada and South Georgia that instead we concentrated on getting that content out at night, and during the day just travelling around like we used to before we were professional travel bloggers.
With just cameras in hand and no work commitments with any partners there, we explored Peru and Bolivia exactly how we wanted to. We hiked the Colca Canyon and mountain biked Death Road. Explored the Salt Flats and went dune buggying in Huacachina. All of this without the pressure of uploading our antics to social media every day was a welcome change, and we loved every minute of it.
From La Paz we flew to Lima, Santiago, Los Angeles and then Vancouver, where we caught a ride back to Revelstoke for a week of snowboarding, which is something that used to be our absolute biggest passion, but neither of us had done in 7 years.
We stayed with friends, rode during the day, socialised at night and fell in love with Revelstoke all over again.
On December 20th we flew back to Perth and spent our first Christmas at home with family in 5 years.
For New Years Eve we headed down to Australia’s absolutely stunning southwest to party at a brand new, boutique 3-day camping and music festival.
While we were sitting by the lake on New Years Day, drinking tasty beers, listening to good tunes and surrounded by amazing friends, Alesha and I reflected on just how amazing 2018 had been.
There was far less travel than we were used to, but the experiences were phenomenal. From the tours in Kyrgyzstan to the penguins of South Georgia and everything in between, we couldn’t have asked for a better year.
But most importantly to have spent so much time with friends and family that mean the world to us, after so long being isolated from our community, was something we’ll hold dearly. That was the true highlight of 2018, and has set the course for the year(s) to come…
What’s Next in 2019?
This brings us to today, January 22nd, 2019, and the start of what is destined be another epic year.
I’m now back in Sydney, at the same place we lived in last year. (Narrabeen on the Northern Beaches – Drop us a message if you ever are in town!)
Alesha is in Western Australia with her family (her sister just had a baby, and her brother’s daughter is 16 months old, so she’s busy being a very, very proud aunty), but she’ll be flying over to join me on the east coast next week.
We’ve decided to keep Sydney as a base again for much of this year, as we realise just how much we have learnt to love having friends and family around us again. Also living out of a backpack is exhausting, and when you’ve been doing it for over a decade almost non-stop, you really appreciate not having to pack and unpack every other day.
Our first adventure of the year will happen on February 1st, when we’ll be flying back to Canada for another job with the tourism board. This time though we’re only there for 3 weeks, then we’ll be coming back to Sydney.
In April we’ll be visiting the Cook Islands for another project, and it will be our first time to this stunning archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. We’re really looking forward to getting in some tropical beach time and doing a bit of diving while we’re there.
The other massive event we have happening this year is that we’ll be running another two tours in Central Asia!
There’s the incredible 14-day Kyrgyzstan tour like last year, but we’re also thrilled to introduce another trip – a 16-day adventure around Tajikistan and the Pamir Highway. These are happening in August and September.
Other than those confirmed trips we have a few other surprises in the works, but they can wait for another day.
Our goal this year is to return back to Australia in between our international trips rather than travelling full-time, and this will give us a chance to decompress and pump out more and more content from these destinations.
Sydney won’t be our base forever, and we’re not planning on living here permanently, but for now it’s a perfect place to be for where we are in our lives.
We’re excited for 2019 and to slow down a bit. We’re definitely not settling down completely, but this change of pace is very much welcome for the time being at least.
The Business – What’s Happening With NOMADasaurus?
Now we know not of all you care about the business side of things, but the truth is it’s a very big part of our lives, so we couldn’t write up a 2018 recap and 2019 plans without mentioning it.
2018 was a fantastic year for us business-wise. Our income was insanely good, well into 6 figures, and the website grew from 80’000 unique readers a month at the beginning of the year to 200’000 a month at the end.
Our social media channels also went up, but to be completely honest we don’t put that much effort into them, as we believe our energy is better spent on the website, and we can prove that the return of investment for our clients is much higher in the long run on the blog than from likes on Instagram or Facebook.
That being said we do love social media, and it’s still an integral part of our brand that we’ll be nurturing throughout the year.
For 2019 the plans for NOMADasaurus are huge, and we’ll be scaling it up dramatically. We’re hiring more people for our team, from writers and editors to assistants and business managers, to help with the business expansion. We’ll also be getting a much overdue site redesign, which is going to be a massive job but we can’t wait for it to finally happen.
Our digital marketing agency is growing as well, and we’re excited to be bringing on more clients this year.
We’ve also signed on to work with Kathmandu again for 2019, making this our third year partnering with them, which we’re tremendously happy about.
The two tours happening in August and September are the start of something big, so keep an eye out for some very massive news about where we’ll be taking these for 2020 and beyond.
Another big thing we’ll be focusing on this year is video. We’ve dabbled with vlogging and video making in the past, but haven’t taken it too seriously as we have so many other projects on the go at once. That is to change this year though, so you’ll have to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see what we have coming up!
Alesha and I stumbled into this entrepreneurial journey, and neither of us had any business training or goals when we started the blog. As we sit back and reflect on where it’s come from, and where it’s heading, we have to pinch ourselves that we are now our own bosses and have the financial freedom to be in this position.
We’re in our 30s now, married, and as much as we loved our years of being budget backpackers, it is time to start thinking about the future a bit. That’s why we’re so focused on growing our companies.
Even as the business expands though, we promise to stay true to who we are, which is an adventurous couple with a love of travel, sustainability and culture. Thanks for sticking with us this far, and we hope you join us as we continue to build our brand.
Thanks For Following Our Journey!
To sum all of this up we just need to say thanks to all of you for following along on our journey, supporting us, always sending kind messages and just being bloody awesome people.
Some of you have been with us since the beginning, while others have joined us at various stages along the way. Seriously, thank you! We wouldn’t be where we are today without you.
Here’s to 2019, and beyond!