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In my monthly round-ups, I am looking back at my travels over the past four weeks, what went well and what didn’t, and what’s next for me.
Where I’ve Been
31 days in New York City! I never thought I’d spend an entire winter month in New York, but when I smell a business opportunity, I jump on it, and that’s exactly what I did – more on that later. Even though I spent all month in New York, I never sat still, and I’m paying the price for it now – I am absolutely exhausted and finally ready to leave New York (which I wasn’t at the end of last month).
What I’ve Been up to
Most of the month, I worked my butt off. I ran tours on 25 out of 31 days, meaning that even if I had only been running tours, I still wouldn’t have got four full weekends this month. And, because apparently it’s not enough to walk 10k around Brooklyn every day (almost), I also worked in the ‘real’ job I got myself last May (although I think I’m going to have to quit it soon if my tours keep going so well) and I had some freelance writing projects to finish.
In addition, I pet sat for about half of the month, which was nice, because that means I’ll be able to enjoy my upcoming trips without worrying about money. Trying to juggle four jobs this month meant, however, that there was not really any time for blogging. I appreciate the break from the pressure I felt when I was blogging full-time. I don’t have to hustle all the time to make sure I’ll be able to pay my bills, and after so many years of scraping by on a lousy blogger’s income it’s a nice change to get some time away from my laptop – especially because I was dealing with some major tech issues this month again, but more on that later.
I have to admit though that I do miss writing – but I just don’t have any energy left after five hours of walking to produce any written words I’m proud of, and the hours before the tour are barely enough to keep up with all my admin and book keeping.
While the cold temperatures and short daylight hours in January make it pretty hard to do much outside (my tour occupies a large part of the daylight hours), I spent a lot of time doing two of my favorite things: exploring new cocktail bars (there sure is no shortage of them in New York!), working my way through my seemingly endless ‘restaurants I want to eat at’ list, and watching movies. I gifted myself with the Movie Pass for my birthday, which lets you watch unlimited movies in almost every movie theater for only $9.95 a month, so I’ve been trying to go to the movies once a week, and so far, I’ve been doing a pretty good job. My favorite movies last month were Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and The Disaster Artist. Looking through all the photos I took in January, I also realized that I spent a lot of time in coffee shops:
The only outdoorsy thing I did this month? I went on a street art tour of the Lower East Side. I love street art and wanted to learn more about the LISA Project, an initiative that is bringing more mural art to Little Italy and NoLiTa, and Audrey’s tour was just perfect.
I also experienced the biggest snowstorm of my life, which happened to take place on a day I (luckily!) wasn’t running a tour, but working inside, in Times Square of all places, and I was able to watch the snow rapidly cover the streets of Manhattan. None of my colleagues could quite understand my excitement about the amount of snow, but in Germany we just don’t get snow like this (only in the mountains – maybe!) and let’s not forget that I’ve successfully avoided winter for seven or eight years – until now!
What Went Right
I was invited to speak at a travel conference on LGBT travel. After a couple of invitations to speak at travel conferences which I couldn’t accept because I found myself in other parts of the world and traveling to the conference would’ve been too complicated, I was invited to speak at Travel Con, a conference that features workshops and networking events for travel writers, bloggers and travel industry professionals in Austin, Texas in September. I am super stoked to be part of this conference, which has plenty of speakers that I personally look up to and look forward to hearing speak, and I love Austin. Plus: I get to speak about an important topic.
Following this invite, another opportunity landed in my inbox: the opportunity to speak to a group of students from Singapore about entrepreneurship and my entrepreneurial journey when they are visiting New York later this year.
My Brooklyn Tour is More Successful Than Expected!
When I launched my tour in December, I honestly didn’t think I’d be running as many tours as I am currently running – because I figured January was low season and nobody in their right mind would even consider running around Brooklyn for four hours, in temperatures as low as -13 Fahrenheit (-21 Celsius). Oh, how wrong I was! Most of my tours this month were sold out, and even when I opened my calendar at the very last minute because I got an inquiry to run a tour for someone’s birthday (how could I say no to that!), I was able to fill nearly all spots within only a couple of days. I was completely stunned when my Airbnb coordinator told me that my tour was the 5th most booked tour in the entire NYC market, out of around 260 tours!
What is even more important to me, however, is the feedback I’ve been getting from guests – being able to introduce so many people to Brooklyn makes me so happy, and I cherish every 5* review I get. Being able to host this Brooklyn tour is honestly a dream come true, and I don’t take it for granted that I get to earn money with something I am passionate about (especially after being miserable in an office job for years).
Second Tour Launch
I launched my second tour! When I first started working with Airbnb, I had three different ideas for tours, but I wanted to begin with one first to see how it goes, and then add more.
When I told a friend of mine about the tour I wanted to launch in the spring, he advised me not to wait too long with it. “If you have this idea, I’m sure somebody else has the same idea. Be quick, and grab it before somebody else does.” I decided to listen to him, even though I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another launch, since I was still tweaking and improving my first tour. But I decided to run with it, and when I wasn’t busy running my Brooklyn Tour, I worked out the details for my second tour: A Brooklyn Pizza Walk. If you know me/have been reading this site for a while, then you know that this tour is pretty much the epitome of my perfect afternoon: I get to introduce people to New York pizza AND to Brooklyn. I don’t think it can get much better.
I was ecstatic when Airbnb accepted my proposal for this tour and then it went live within days of being accepted – so much faster than my first tour, which took months to go live.
What Went Wrong
Second Tour Launch
I am going to be honest: while I was excited about getting another passion project off the ground, I was also a little overwhelmed with suddenly juggling two tours, and felt like the Pizza Walk still needed some tweaking, since I hadn’t done it as often as the walking tour which I’d soft launched on a smaller scale last summer. And so, when the inaugural tour ended in a near-disaster, the perfectionist in me was very upset (there were tears.)
I also quickly learned that having one successful tour doesn’t automatically mean a second tour is going to be just as successful – the Pizza Walk is slowly gaining some traction, but can in no way be compared to the success of my Brooklyn Walk. I haven’t even broken even yet, but I’ll wait and see how the tour does once peak tourist season begins.
Knowing that I’d be leaving New York for a couple of months in February, I opted for a sublet rather than a long-term lease, which meant I wouldn’t need to deal with subletting my place while I’m gone. I found what I thought was a great sublet, but the ‘amazing place’ turned into a nightmare when first the kitchen sink stopped working and only a couple of days later the bed collapsed. What followed were terrible discussions with the girl I sublet the room from – waiting for a replacement bed (which never arrived), the return of my deposit, and about a discount for the hassle this caused me – because the last thing you want to deal with while working four jobs is having to find a new place to live.
I’ve sublet countless times in New York, but in five years, this was the first sublet nightmare. And hopefully the last one.
The few hours I spent working on Globetrottergirls this month didn’t go by without any tech issues. I don’t know how often I’ve had ‘Tech Issues’ or ‘Website Issues’ listed in the ‘What Went Wrong’ section of my round-ups… and I am so tired of it. This month, I lost my business email accounts for a while, which, considering a lot of business opportunities I get can be pretty short notice, was anything but great. After four hours on chat with tech support on one of the six days this month I wasn’t running a tour I was able to get my email accounts back, but this caused me extreme anxiety, and made me feel so much relief about not having to rely on blog-related work as much as I used to.
The Credit Card Incident
When I took a friend out for Happy Hour this month, and paid with my credit card, I ended up not getting my card back, but someone else’s. Which I didn’t realize until the next day, when I tried to purchase $50 worth of coffee drinks for my guests on the tour, which includes a coffee stop. Not only did the card not work (and wasn’t mine!), but I also realized that I had forgotten to put my back-up card back in my wallet after using it. Luckily the coffee shop was kind enough to trust me to come back the next day to settle my bill, and I got my card back from the bar with only one charge on it that wasn’t mine, but I could have done without the mental stress and hassle this incident caused me.In Germany, we never hand our credit cards over to anyone, you basically never let it out of sight, and when paying by card, the waiter brings over a portable card swiping device (which requires a PIN). Whenever German friends pass through New York, they are shocked that I just hand over my card in a restaurant, and I always assure them that it’s completely safe.
Funnily enough, the ‘credit card incident’ happened just a couple of days after my friends from Germany passed through town, the ones who I had this very conversation with. Guess it’s not as safe as I told them it was!
A Dog Ate My Camera Lens
And not just any dog, but my favorite puppy who I look after regularly. He loves chewing up stuff, and so far he has eaten everything I’ve accidentally left out: a bra, my iPhone charger cord, headphones… to name just a few things… and now, my brand new, barely used $300 camera zoom lens. I am still not sure what I’ll do about it since the lens is still working – but as you can see in the pictures, the lens looks completely beaten up.
Since I’ve started running the tours, I haven’t really been able to run anymore, which bothers me. I went on exactly one run this month! But then again, I ran 25 tours, and walking between four and five hours every day seems to compensate for at least some of the pizza I’ve been stuffing myself with (see above), but I’ve already gained back some of the weight I lost during my vegan month.
Moving forward, I hope I’ll get back into a running routine, but since it’s already dark by the time I finish my tour, I would only be able to run in the mornings, which is when I usually work on my freelance work and blog. Since not having a single day off in a month isn’t really much of a work life balance, I think I’ll get back into a running routine as soon as I’ve worked out how to have a better balance.
Book Keeping & Admin
Being better at my book keeping and admin, and tracking my expenses again was one of my main resolutions for 2018. I used to track my expenses meticulously to the penny, every single day, in whatever currency I was using, and exchanging it to that day’s exchange rate with the help of the excellent Trail Wallet app. However, sometime last year I fell off the wagon completely, and stopped monitoring what I was spending. Even worse: I stopped keeping track of my income as well, which due to the nature of my numerous jobs and freelancing projects, varies from month to month. So I really should make sure to always add all incoming payments to a spreadsheet and add them up at the end of each month – also to check that all my invoices were paid.
Let’s just say that my book keeping systems have not been very well thought out and I have been wanting to introduce better and easier ways to track how much I spend and how much I earn, as well as how much I need to save for my upcoming tax payment.
January started off well with me tracking all of my expenses and business expenses and all of my income, but when I started to feel burned out towards the final third of the month, I let it slip again. Since I really need to prepare for my tax declaration, I can’t be as relaxed about it as I used to, and I need to come up with a steady book keeping routine.
What’s Next for me
I am off to Austin today, 1 February! A friend of mine wanted to come visit me in New York last month, but somehow these plans never came to fruition – and I don’t know how much time I would’ve had for another visitor, since friends from Germany also came to visit.
Since I was more than ready for a break from New York, and with my sublet ending at the end of January, I thought it might be neat to meet somewhere else. ‘Is there anywhere in the US you’d like to go? A place you haven’t been to yet that’s on your travel wish list? Maybe somewhere a bit warmer than New York?’ When the answer was Austin, I didn’t have to think about it for long.
You may remember that I spent a month in Austin in 2016 and absolutely loved it. When I booked my flight, I hadn’t yet received the invite to speak at Travel Con – now I’ll be going to Austin twice this year! No complaints about that, I’m excited to return to one of my favorite cities in the U.S.