2015 – A (Part-time) Traveler’s Review

This post is admittedly super late… but I love annual recaps too much not to share.

Honestly 2015 wasn’t quite as epic and travel-centric as other years. (See 2012, 2013 and 2014 for epic.)

But 2015 was the most rewarding year of my life so far. Because for the first time I didn’t run off to a foreign country when things got tough. I stuck it out and was rewarded with the start of a career I really enjoy and a life in Colorado that I love.

2015 wasn’t always easy, but it was gratifying.

Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan

And okay, okay – I did travel quite a bit. I visited Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Chicago, Michigan, Seattle, Florida and tons of beautiful spots in Colorado. I also went abroad twice to both Jordan and Nicaragua, and in both cases had an absolute blast.

January


2015- the year in which my map obsession reached new and dangerous heights.

January was all about nesting as I finally moved into my own apartment. After 2.5 years of nomadic life I was thrilled to finally decorate – hence why I spent a small fortune on Etsy and Amazon.

January also marked the start of ski season. As a lifelong skier, I was stoked to be able to ski the Rockies every weekend – a far cry from the 100-foot hills of my childhood.

February

February wasn’t particularly exciting. But I did go on my first business trip, a blogger conference in Salt Lake, where my coworkers and I were basically the only non-Mormons. I also skied a ton in February and enjoyed a perfect powder weekend at Winter Park.

March

Detroit_Free_Press_Ashley_Abroad

In March I continued to ski a ton and spent an amazing weekend in Breckenridge skiing with my family. (Is it just me or is spring skiing clearly the best?)

I was also featured in a two-page color spread in the Detroit Free Press! You can see the article here.

April

In April I headed to Jordan! I was stressed at how last-minute the trip was booked (four days in advance, no joke) but the stress was well worth it.

Looking back it’s hard to believe we packed so much into one week. From riding a camel in Wadi Rum to exploring Roman ruins at Jerash, to stuffing myself silly with labneh and hummus and nearly drowning in the Dead Sea, we hardly sat still for the entire trip. Or stopped laughing.

I also took my favorite photo of the year in Jordan- see the sassy camel below.

Wadi rum camel

Naturally I had the post-travel blues after coming home from such an incredible trip. But fortunately I soon took off for a weekend in Buena Vista, one of Colorado’s cutest mountain towns.

Buena Vista

May

May was a deluge – I’m not joking when I say it rained in Colorado for every day in May. It. Was. Awful. Also I got super sick and didn’t hit quota, so overall fun times.

One silver lining? Lots of family dinners with my Denver crew. During the spring we spent our Sundays eating a wide variety of delicious foods: ramen at a Japanese farmhouse, dim sum at a hole-in-the-wall in the suburbs and gourmet Korean barbecue. I’m lucky to have friends who are just as food-obsessed as me.

June

Life_Out_West_7

Life turned around in June. I kicked off summer with lots of concerts (Flume!) and visits to Red Rocks, an open-air amphitheatre made of natural rock and my favorite concert venue in the world.

I went to Red Rocks both for concerts and Film on the Rocks, in which my friends and I watched both Jurassic Park and The Princess Bride on the big screen. We had an inconceivably good time.

July

In July I rang in 25 in Vegas, and had a lot of fun on the home front with both a camping and whitewater rafting trip and a bachelorette party in Vail.

IMG_3880

Lowlights? Pulling the plug on my second website, Become an Au Pair. I had been really excited about having a new project, but soon realized maintaining both my blog and a second website was too much for me. Plus, I had no clear monetization plan for Become an Au Pair so I couldn’t justify the time I was spending on it.

While my second site was a failure, I did learn a few important lessons. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and don’t start a project without clearcut goals.

August

August was all about Michigan. Michigan summer is the absolute best and frankly there’s no place I’d rather be in summer. I headed to Michigan twice, once for a wedding and once to my cottage. I also spent a day on magical Mackinac Island, a tiny island with no cars and only horse-drawn carriages.

In years to come I will definitely make coming home to Michigan in the summer more of a priority.

I capped off the summer in Telluride to see Pretty Lights. My weekend in Telluride was one of the best of the year, full of local brews, good people, non-stop partying and (hungover) hiking.

Beautiful Telluride, Colorado in the Summer

Beautiful Telluride, Colorado in the Summer

September

My hectic travel schedule didn’t let up in September. I headed to Chicago for a long weekend to see family and friends, then flew to my beloved San Francisco for work and went home to Michigan for another beautiful wedding.

On the one weekend in September I was in Colorado I attended a wedding in Keystone. It was amazing: we rode a gondola to the top of the mountain for the ceremony and danced for hours under the influence of Woodbridge. Note to self- consider having a mountain wedding, they’re stunningly beautiful.

On the blog front I was featured in Buzzfeed! I was honored to be included on a list with so many women I respect and admire.

OctoberSeattle_Kerry_Park

In October I got promoted! After a year of basically begging to be on the marketing team, I finally got the job. Thankfully my intuition that I’d be a much better fit for marketing than sales was correct, and I’m loving my new job.

I also took a solo trip to Seattle. Seattle was equal parts a shitshow and a blast. While the trip made me realize I’m not as much of a solo traveler these days, especially domestically, I still loved my short stay in the Pacific Northwest and need to revisit.

November

In November I swung down to beautiful Nicaragua to meet up with Jessica. Needless to say I had a ridiculously fun time. We partied it up at Sunday Funday in San Juan del Sur, galloped horses down a beach at sunset, rode a moped around volcanic Ometepe and took a million photos in colorful, colonial Granada.

Granada_street_scene

When I had to catch my flight back home I felt sad I wouldn’t be able to continue traveling with Jessica but was also grateful to come home to stability and hot showers.

December

December was pretty lowkey. I skied a few times and spent ten days in Florida with my family which was glorious. I was also featured in Buzzfeed again, what? (I find it so ironic that the year I blog the least I’m featured in the biggest publications. Go figure.)

Over the course of the year I’ve learned that while I no longer want to travel full-time, I’m a lot more excited about life when I have trips planned. Which is why most of my 2016 trips are already booked. In 2016 I’ll be heading to Mexico City, Iceland and most likely Africa (!!!) as my aunt and uncle are moving there.

 . . . . . . . . . . .

Random thoughts about blogging in 2016. Obviously in 2015 I didn’t blog as much as in years past. Frankly I’m still struggling to find a balance. But this post from Beverley, You Don’t Have To Be One-dimensional to Be Successful really resonated with me. My blogging goal for 2016 is to branch out and blog more about things besides travel. My life no longer revolves around travel (although of course it’s still a huge priority), and my blog should reflect that.

And as I said last year, I’m looking forward to seeing what the new year brings us so here’s to a 2016 filled with health, friends, family and adventure.

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

32 thoughts on “2015 – A (Part-time) Traveler’s Review”

  1. I am breathless taking all those trips with you! What absolute joy to read,
    Explore, eat and be such a part of your adventures. It is so wonderful to
    Not only know about but to share them do vividly as you are capable of
    doing. Thank you, my beautiful , talented, loving and lovable Granddaughter.

    Much love and admiration,

    Gamma

  2. This is so encouraging to hear that keeping travel in your life is possible even after moving back home and getting a “grown-up job.” Thanks for setting a good example–I’d like to continue traveling frequently once I “settle down.” Can’t wait to see what you think of Iceland!

    • I’m so grateful I’ve still been able to travel abroad a few times a year- to be honest domestic travel doesn’t excite me nearly as much, haha. Hope things are going well in Texas, come to Colorado if you ever need a change of scenery! :)

  3. Hi Ashley – I randomly found your blog from another blogger’s page, and I LOVE it. Please continue to write about whatever adventures life brings you… travel, work, apartment stuff. Anything. Especially life in Colorado – what a beautiful state. My husband and I hope to move there in 2 years once he finishes grad school. Since you enjoy hiking & camping, you should look into visiting US National Parks. Once you get there, it’s cheap to camp and the sites are beyond stunning. Zion in Utah, Glacier in Montana, and Big Bend in Texas are some of my favorites.

    Looking forward to closely following your journey in 2016. Happy Blogging!

  4. Re your thoughts about blogging in 2016: I’m so happy to see you want to continue to branch out to topics other than travel! ‘Travel and lifestyle’ blogs are definitely a thing, and it’s relevant to your readers as even those of them who are traveling are probably thinking about settling down at some point. I for one love reading posts that aren’t solely about travel (though I like the travel-oriented ones too, of course!), like your “Life Out West” series, because it helps me think about what I want my life to be like in a year or two once I’m done with my time as an au pair. :) Thanks for sharing your life with us!

    • Thanks for your comment, Katie! I’m glad to hear that people are open to me writing about new things. I have a Korean skincare post coming up soon as well as a bunch of life lessons- it’s always good to shake things up! :)

  5. Running two blogs is difficult as something is guaranteed to suffer. 2016 plans sound great. I may go to Iceland as well as settle of NYC….who knows.

  6. Your apartment is unbelievably cute – I love all your map inspired art!
    2015 sounds like it was an amazing year. Looking forward to following your adventures (domestic and international) in 2016!

  7. It’s really cool to see how life has evolved for you– from near-constant traveling to now, settling into a new more stable (if that’s the right word?) season of your life. It makes me excited to see how my own life will change into something new (currently, I’m in the traveling and living abroad season). ANYWAYS haha, you definitely had an incredible year! I look forward to keeping up with you and seeing what 2016 brings.

    Melody // http://www.marevoli.com

    • That’s certainly a wonderful “season” and I sometimes wish I had appreciated it more at the time. But I’m also loving being more stable while still traveling abroad a few times a year. Thanks for the good wishes this year and I wish you the same! :)

  8. WOW!!! What and inspiring and informative post, thank you for sharing Ashley! I really loved your pics in the Dead Sea and with the camels in Jordan!
    This part of the world, the Middle East has a lot to offer for travelers, specially the history lovers!
    Hope to read more from you about other destinations such as Egypt, Dubai, and Morroco!
    Thanks you and keep up the great work!

  9. Your 2015 is proof that you can work and travel and in a sea of permanent nomadic bloggers I love reading blogs written from the perspective of travelers who also have “normal” homes. In college I worked a ton to save money and then traveled on my savings, but this year I decided to try to balance the two and it has been seriously hard. I can’t wait to see what’s next for you!

    • Aw thanks so much! I’m so glad you enjoy reading about someone with a more “normal” life. I’m really glad I can have a community/group of friends as well as travel. I wouldn’t want to give up either one!

  10. Wow, it sounds like you’ve had a really amazing year and I’m so glad that you’ve been enjoying yourself :) The life that you’ve seemed to create for yourself in 2015 is the life that I’d like to create for myself, one with a balance between home, stability and routine and travel, variety and adventure. You’ve definitely inspired me, thanks for this great post and I hope you’re having a great 2016! :)

  11. Amazing photos! You did a lot of traveling this year. Much more then me for two years! :) Great spots and great adventures! Thank you for sharing! I wish you many trips in 2016!

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