A year to remember

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Looking back and wallowing in the past is not something I would usually recommend, however, once a year I am rather partial to glancing over my shoulder for a little while and indulging my sentimentality. The end of another year takes me to a place of peaceful reflection, where I can look back on the events of the past 365 days. Never before though, has one year left me with quite so much to look back on.

A look back on life…

2011 has been a year of pain, sacrifice, hard work and struggle, but as a direct result of all of those things, it has also been the best year of my life so far. It has been the year that everything finally fell into place, and I took those all important first steps down the path to my forever.

January saw me miserable and £15K (US $24K) in debt. My first plan of action for the New Year was simple. My debt had to go. I started taking on extra work to pay off my debt as fast as I possibly could and was soon working 80-100 hours a week in pursuit of a debt free lifestyle. I started to feel valid again and my self confidence came flooding back.

Clearing away the negativity in my life made space for the good stuff to make a comeback and, by taking positive steps to change things, I opened myself up to new possibilities. I became utterly consumed with a new passion; I wanted to travel the world for as long as possible – hopefully forever. Lee was 100% supportive and we began to do everything we could to help realise this dream. We started selling off everything we owned and Lee even applied for a game show.

On the 1st August I finally became debt free, nine months after I first took on the battle of the bill. It was a very, very, very good day. Since then I have continued to work extra jobs, taking on more work than ever, and am now saving a minimum of £1750 (US $2700) a month towards our RTW dream. Our departure date of 30th September 2012 is still nine months away, but every day brings me closer, and that fact in itself leaves me happier than I ever dreamed possible.

The birth of my blog…

On the 7th November I published my first ever blog post and FurtherBound.com went live to the world. As an avid reader of other travel blogs, setting up my own was a daunting and intimidating prospect but, like everything else this year, I decided to take on the challenge with gusto and, let me tell you, I have loved every minute of it. I have connected with so many wonderful and inspiring new people and feel welcomed into the travel blogging community.

Just 8 weeks ago this blog didn’t exist, but now I can’t imagine my life without it. Since my launch date, well over 1000 people from all over the world have been sharing my story and I now have over 60 subscribers. I know I’m still only small fry in an endless ocean of blogs, but to me it means the world that people are out there reading and connecting in such a positive and uplifting way.

The art of blogging is far more involved than I had ever imagined, and the many extras that go with building a successful blog have been somewhat overwhelming! Social media is a new and confusing element that I am slowly trying to master and I am so grateful to my 200+ Twitter followers for their support. I have loved engaging with them all and have felt bolstered by their kind words – every retweet and mention has brought a huge smile to my face and every new follow feels like an act of encouragement. If you would also like to follow me on Twitter, you can find me getting the hang of things @FurtherBound.

I have also started a Facebook page that is slowly but surely accruing ‘likes’ and a Google+ page that is gradually building circles. Oh yeah, and then there’s my Tumblr and StumbleUpon pages… yikes!

Blogging moments I am most proud of…

In the last month alone some other really exciting things have happened for my blog.

Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non Conformity tweeted a link to one of my blog posts. Chris has an enormous following and I was thrilled and flattered that he had chosen to introduce me to some of them. Chris sent hundreds of new readers over to my blog and my stats went through the roof. As a huge fan of Chris and his work, I can’t tell you how happy that made me. Now my post Sometimes you have to be your own hero has been read hundreds of times, is my most commented post and has been retweeted 45 times. That is just amazing to me and I am so grateful to Chris, and to everyone else who has read and shared this post.

Another unbelievably exciting and unexpected boost came in the form of an email from Adam Baker of Man Vs Debt. Adam invited me to share my debt story on the first ever episode of his new podcast, a nerve-wracking but thrilling experience I am eternally grateful for.

And the good stuff just kept coming. Kim from So Many Places included me in her list of travel blogs she’s following in 2012, and my post on The top 12 things I will miss most when travelling RTW was included in the monthly roundup on Traveling Liz.

From the very bottom of my heart, THANK YOU to every one of you who has read my blog. With every hit, comment, like, tweet, mention, follow and email, you have brought a new and overwhelming sense of joy to my life that grows daily.

Here’s to the future…

This year has been full of changes and surprises. I have tried my best to face each hurdle with determination and joy, and I cannot wait to see what the next 365 days have in store for me. 2012 will be the year when my RTW adventure finally begins… I can’t help but grin as I write that. What a beautiful thing to have stretched before me; the knowledge that my greatest dream will come true, and not because I won the lottery (though that would be nice too!), but because I have worked my butt off to make it happen.

I hope you will continue to share in my journey, and wish you all a healthy and happy 2012. Good luck with following your own dreams, whatever they may be.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim December 31, 2011 at 18:21

Happy New Year Hannah! You are an inspiration!

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Hannah January 2, 2012 at 12:33

Aw thanks Kim, and ditto xxx

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Ajay December 31, 2011 at 23:56

Happy New Year, Hannah! All the best to you and Lee in reaching the Sept 2012 milestone!
Ciao from Costa Rica!
Ajay

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Hannah January 2, 2012 at 12:42

Thanks Ajay, Happy New Year to you too 🙂 Pura Vida!!!

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Sarahsomewhere January 2, 2012 at 14:34

You have achieved so much in the last year, I am so excited to follow your upcoming adventures! Bring on 2012! Wishing you and Lee every success in the new year and beyond.

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Hannah January 2, 2012 at 16:55

Thanks Sarah, I can’t tell you how much I value your support, and have loved connecting with you. I wish all the best to you and Tyrhone too – not long now! I will be living vicariously through you guys until September finally rolls around! xxx

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Carmel February 10, 2012 at 22:46

Just started following you on Twitter! My handle is @nopogal. I always make sure to write a journal entry on January 1st (or as close to it as possible). It’s a good running history of the beginning of each year. I’m a sentimental fool, so I look back often…probably too often!

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Steph - DiscoveringIce.com May 14, 2012 at 06:34

Wow, (still catching up on all your blog posts here) what a fantastic 2011 you have had and I can see your blog has grown even more in popularity in the last few months! I am really enjoying it I must say and it is only going to get bigger and bigger. I can see you becoming one of the most prominent travel bloggers of 2012!
And more importantly only 4 months until your adventure and your new life begins! How exciting! Time will fly! 🙂

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Hannah May 15, 2012 at 21:04

Wow, what an amazing compliment! I am so touched that you have gone to the trouble of reading through all of my posts – thank you so much 🙂

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