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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

The Ghosts Of Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas, 2018!

I’m running a tad behind in my annual retrospective. To be more accurate, I suppose, that’s my renewed retrospective, since I just started blogging again this year.

Why did I stop?

Yes. Before I get to a look back at this year, I should probably first go into more detail as to why I quit. I mentioned briefly already that it was because I was focused on other writing. That’s true. But it’s not the complete truth. And before I post anything else, I’d like to be more upfront about what happened.

In short, for a variety of reasons, I didn’t like what the blog had become.

The first problem is sponsored content. Yes, I completely believe that writers, just like anyone, should be able to make a living off their work. But, like so many other travel blogs and sites out there, I was selling space on my page to companies who wanted to get their content in front of more eyes. That’s not why I started my blog. No. It began, instead, as a way for me to document my adventures, share them with other potential travelers, and I let it morph into something else entirely by selling posting space, and I just simply got sick of it and other headaches that developed from writing to earn income from my blog.

The second problem was a bridge to the first, and that’s junket trips. When my blog’s readership took off years ago, I began accepting offers from various visitor bureaus to fly to a destination, on their dime, and then write about my experiences. Of course all of the activities were set up by them, with people bending over backwards to make all of the writers on said trip happy. And in turn – unspoken but understood by everyone on the trip – we would write glowing reviews to push readers to pay to do this on their own. And that, quite frankly, just felt dirty to me. It never seemed like I was getting an honest perspective on a place and, as such, wasn’t able to write about it honestly either. I did my best, but, I’d be lying if I didn’t say – like so many bloggers I saw then and still see now – that I skewed things a bit so as not to rock the boat.

Travel is, of course, expensive, especially if you want to visit exotic locations that so few have yet to write about. And so I don’t fault most writers for participating in these excursions. It’s almost a necessity, if you want your blog to be seen. But it just didn’t feel right for me any longer, and so it ended up being a contributing factor as to why I stopped blogging.

A lot of people are very successful at blogging like this, and are able to live solely off their work thanks to these trips and the money they make from their sites – whether by sponsored content or by other means. To be clear, a lot of them are great writers who deserve an honest read. On the other hand, though, a lot of them are leaches with tainted content, and so I’d recommend giving a skeptical eye to any travel story you read. That’s the case with most anything on the internet these days, though; so much crap is out there, and it’s up to the discerning reader to give it credence.

So, looking further back, why did I start blogging?

Well, as I indicated above, I wanted to document my adventures. Years ago when I started writing about my trips, I wanted to be able to look back on them years into the future and see what I did, what I experienced and felt, and what I thought of it beyond just a cloud of memory that can get smudged by so many other memories that get piled on top of it through the years. And so, way back when in high school, at my father’s urging, I started writing about my travels, and had done so ever since, at least until it no longer felt right.

Well, now at my wife’s urging, and to my enjoyment, I’m back writing about them for me, which brings me back around to a look back at 2018.

A vineyard near Temecula

The year started out in southern California. My wife had a business trip in Temecula. Spouses were invited along. And not only because of the chance to see my sister again in San Diego, I was happy to go. After all, other than passing through once years ago, I’d never been to Temecula, so it was something new to explore.

It’s a shame I don’t care for wine, because, one day, we did a tour throughout the valley. And it was spectacular. The views were stunning, the weather perfect, and, from what I was told, the wine spectacular.

Minnesota Duluth topped Notre Dame in the 2018 Frozen Four final

Fast forward to April and June, and I had two separate trips back home to Minnesota. The first was to see the Frozen Four, which is college hockey’s version of the Final Four basketball tournament, with friends. We’ve done it years past, like in Pittsburgh, and I’m looking forward to attending again this year when it’s in my home city of Buffalo, New York.

June’s trip to Minnesota was for both my niece’s high school graduation and an early surprise 75th birthday party for my father. He was going to be out of the country on his actual birthday, so we decided to surprise him early. While it certainly was unexpected for him, we tried not to make it such a big surprise as his 70th, as we didn’t want to give him a heart attack. So, instead of planning a trip to northern Minnesota like we did then, we stayed in the Minneapolis area and did a cruise along the Mississippi River before taking him out to eat – where we did surprise him with a bunch of his friends.

Allegany State Park’s Thunder Rocks are easily accessible from the parking lot

The rest of the summer was spent exploring New York State. We had a weekend away at a cabin for our first wedding anniversary, hit the Finger Lakes region for a friend’s wedding, and watched an awesome War of 1812 reenactment at Old Fort Niagara.

A War of 1812 reenactment at Old Fort Niagara

After my a weekend back in California for my annual writing conference, in August my wife and I took a fantastic road trip from Buffalo down through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina, before turning back north through Virginia and Pennsylvania. We stopped at a bunch of national parks, including Mammoth Caves, the Smokies, and Shenandoah, as well as a bunch of historic sites – like Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace and Gettysburg.

A hungry bear in a tree on the Cades Cove drive in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

I’m still backed up in writing about all of those, I know, but I’ll get there.

RELATED: Christmas In New York City

This fall, then, we’ve stayed put at home before heading to New York City. My wife surprised me with an early Christmas gift to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’ll write about it, as well as that whole trip, more later, but the short review is that it was spectacular. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend going to NYC to see it. I know that’s not possible for everyone (as I said, travel is expensive), but it’s worth it if you can swing it. Thankfully we were able to do so with the use of miles / points, and traveling by rail instead of air.

Us outside after seeing the conclusion to the amazing performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

All right, friends. That’s my quick look back on what was an amazing 2018. I’m not sure of everything that 2019 has in store in the way of travel, but we’ve got a few things in the works, and I’ll write more about them soon.

I hope you all have a very happy and healthy new year!

Our 2018 Christmas Note

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