As I sat down to write this post, I was feeling a bit grumpy about 2017. In comparison to other years, for whatever reason, I kept telling myself that 2017 just hasn’t felt as special or as fulfilling. However, a powerful and somewhat surprising thing happened as I went through my photos from 2017. I realized that I was focusing on a handful of tough/hard things that I went through in 2017 and not the bigger picture of the many amazing moments and accomplishments that also happened. Going through this exercise gave me so many reasons to feel grateful for the life I have and what I accomplished in 2017. It also gave me the motivation I needed to keep going and striving for my goals in 2018. Here’s why.
1. Incredible Family Memories
I feel very fortunate to have been back to the United States on four different occasions this year, during which I spent a lot of quality time with family. It’s always one of those tricky things as an expat. It’s never really as frequent or as long as it should be, but you do the best you can.
The biggest news is that we welcomed a new family member this year with my beautiful goddaughter! She has been such a joy and lights up the room with her beautiful smile and infectious laughter.
My nephew also continues to light up our life with his adorable personality and big heart. At nearly three, it’s amazing to see how much he grows and changes in between visits. I also love how he is my only family member who genuinely seems to enjoy goofing off posing for all the fun Snapchat lenses.
Here’s a photo from us at Christmas, but I look forward to many more memories to come in 2018.
2. Getting An Exceptional Talent Visa in the UK
A big part of my stress in early 2017 was wondering if I could stay in the UK after a change in my employment situation meant that I might have to move back to the United States. Being an expat can often look really glamorous from the sidelines with all of the travel and exciting new experiences – and trust me, it is at times. However, what you don’t see with most expats is that behind-the-scenes, anyone that is on a visa sponsored by their company is often at the mercy of how long the company wants them to stay in that country. I cannot tell you how many of my expat friends either stay longer than they originally thought or are forced to leave early.
In late 2015, the UK opened up a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa category for Digital Technology. Called the “Tech Nation Visa,” there are only 200 spots up for grabs annually (although, they have promised to increase this recently) across the five different tech disciplines. As you can imagine, it’s a highly competitive and sought-after visa.
I still pinch myself that I got one. Having this visa allows me to provide my own sponsorship to work in the UK and mostly unrestricted ability to select my employment, as long as it is in my field (read the T&Cs at the link below for more info). Whether I want to freelance, contract, start a business or work for a company or startup in my field, I have freedom and options. I cannot even begin to tell you how having this visa has opened up an incredible new world of possibilities to me. It’s also made me even more passionate about making a meaningful contribution to the UK business and tech ecosystem, something I continue to do through our Startup Stir events, which I run as a volunteer and through other volunteer work in the tech/startup community.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Tech Nation Visa (Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa for Digital Technology), visit their website here.
I don’t have photos of getting my visa, but I did take the above image en route to the visa processing center in Croydon where I spent five hours on a Saturday going through the last steps to complete it. Not glamorous, but never been MORE #worthit.
3. Growing My Career As A Speaker
2017 was another great year for me as a speaker. Since 2011, I have spoken at over 75 conferences around the world. I speak about social media, digital marketing, emerging tech, content marketing, public relations and visual storytelling. In 2017, I spoke at a number of amazing conferences in the UK and Europe. Here are a few of my favorites.
I continued my role as the Chapter President of Startup Stir London, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering entrepreneurs. Founded in Boston, I host Startup Stir events in London to give innovators access to the tools, contacts and actionable advice they need to succeed. I feel very blessed to have hosted highly regarded events featuring founders and entrepreneurs in the Health/Fitness, Beauty, Media, and Travel Tech space. At each event, I handpick the speakers and act as the panel moderator. After hosting almost monthly events for 1.5 years, I have come to love the role of moderator and facilitating a lively, inspiring and educational panel that attendees get immense value from.
In February, I received an incredible opportunity to speak at a London Fashion Week event. I joined the inspiring Alessandra Steinherr, Associate Creative & Beauty Director at GLAMOUR and British Beauty blogger CC Clarke, for a panel on influencer marketing and the beauty industry. It was such an amazing experience!
In March, I spoke on another influencer panel, with my role as the corporate expert on influencer marketing and personal branding online for career success. This time, I got to meet so many London-based influencers that I admire, from the Collyer Twins, Rebecca Botin, Kavita Cola, Isa Robinson (Goodness Guru), Sarah Mikaela and Gemma Cartwright of Popsugar UK. I left this panel feeling so inspired by the businesses these women have built off of their platform as an influencer. It made me want to continue to strive for more with my personal and professional brand.
In April, I also enjoyed another “first” of an opportunity, when LinkedIn asked if I would be part of their first-ever “B2B Dinner For Five” web series. Inspired by actor/filmmaker Jon Favreau’s Dinner for Five, LinkedIn’s version pairs five dynamic B2B marketers for a spirited conversation over dinner. The series was incredibly well-received and has been nominated for numerous awards both in the US and UK. Fingers crossed! Watch the full episode here.
Later in April, I also had the pleasure of speaking about emerging tech and digital marketing at Leade.rs Paris. It was hands-down one of my favorite events of the year as a result of the experience the Leade.rs team puts on for speakers and attendees. Watch the video of my talk below.
In May, I delivered not one, but two keynotes at Media Hungary. I felt very blessed to be joined by two friends who were also speaking at the event, Pam Didner and Rebecca Lieb, making the event that much more fun. Also, did I mention that I met the South Park characters!?
While I did TONS of other talks throughout the year, I wanted to end on this one. I won’t share the time of year, the location OR the client for confidentiality reasons. However, what I WILL share is that I snapped this selfie after earning a standing ovation for a one-hour private talk I did at a company offsite. I do bespoke talks and workshops onsite at companies regularly and I absolutely love helping teams and departments work through issues unique to their company or pain points. But getting a standing ovation, wow…just wow. Makes me blush, but also makes me proud.
4. Fun Memories With Friends
You know what they say about all work and no play, right!? 😉 Luckily for me, I continued to grow my London-based and global friend crew in 2017. Another thing that is unique about expat life is that it takes awhile to truly find your place – and your people – when you move to a new country. Even if you have some friends already there (which, I did), I am now at a place in London where I feel so blessed to have so many kind, wonderful, thoughtful, hilarious and just awesome people in my life.
There are way too many fun memories and moments to share, but here are a few that are fit for the blog at least…hehe….
I went to my first ever doggie birthday party…even though I don’t have a dog. With mimosas, an adorable venue and the cutest pups ever, it was my kind of birthday party! Read more about it here.
A night of live jazz and an even livelier conversation with some of my London and Singapore favorites.
When a trip to Paris to speak at conference results in a rendezvous with two of my favorite Bostonians! So much awesomeness in one trip!
In April, I also went on a day trip to Brighton was a bunch of friends. From exploring the pier, to a wine tasting and finding an amazing vegan bakery, we had a very, very fun day! I also bought some quirky new sunglasses after forgetting mine and my friends were nice enough to say they weren’t embarrassed to be around me. Hehe.
In May, I got to enjoy another London first – going to the Chelsea Flower Show! Those that know me well know that my love for flowers runs deep. Getting to go with dear friends made it that much more special.
This photo is dedicated to my lovely friend Jen who has a knack for knowing where all the best cocktails are hiding. More of this in 2018 fho sho! Pictured here: The Gibson. Comes highly recommended by us both!
A shout out to my friend Danny for our marathon walks around Boston, many of which end in cocktails. This one in particular was especially funny because a very drunk random person sitting near us tried to steal Danny’s seat and somehow we ended up getting free drinks out of it! And a funny story about that one time a very drunk dude threatened to fight the two least threatening people you’ll ever find in a Boston bar.
Getting to see my wonderful friend Biana quite a few times this year. We have been friends for so long – ever since I first started my career in Boston and I feel very blessed that we still are in each other’s lives. Be sure to check out her amazing blog, B Loved Boston!
A spirited day with Suki filled with creativity and laughs at The London Design Museum when I needed it the most. Definitely, a museum to check out in London if you’ve done all the larger ones.
To my wonderful friend who spoiled me with too many special dinners out in London this year, including a divine one at Nobu. You must let me return the favor in 2018. Hugs.
To my gorgeous friend Manita for so many nights out filled with fantastic food, laughs and just the right amount of trouble. You made 2017 so much more fun.
That one time we were Dancing Queens in Stockholm. Not that I’ve ever even seen Jake dance. Maybe one day, my friend. Until then, we’ll always have a super fun weekend in Stockholm!
To my amazing friend Marmo for being one of the loveliest people I know and a constant motivator in all areas of my life. So many hugs!!
I am sure I missed some moments and people. For that I apologize. So many wonderful memories and people in my life – I am grateful for you all and you bring so much joy to my life.
5. So. Many. Amazing. Travels.
Last, but certainly not least, 2017 was another incredible year for travel! I started the year with a whirlwind trip to Iceland with friends, and continued to travel to 21 places across six countries over the course of the year. There was only one month, June, when I didn’t travel. In fact, most months I averaged going to two different places. Granted, a good chunk of these trips were for work, but I still found a little time to enjoy each place. From Iceland, to Bath, Brighton, Paris, Budapest, Portland, Oregon, Provence, Lisbon and Stockholm, I’m thrilled to have explored a mix of old favorites and new destinations.
Read about my 48-hour stopover in Iceland here.
While 48-hours was a wonderful taste, it was not enough. I must go back and see more of this beautiful country! Preferably not in January or another winter month ha ha ha…
I also went on a fantastic day trip to Bath in January, where I wrote about all the lovely things I saw and ate in this blog post here.
In April, I was off to Paris for a few very special days speaking at Leade.rs Paris. From a once-in-a-lifetime dinner at Guy Savoy, to private events at Facebook and Station F, plus sneaking in a little ‘moi’ time to explore the Luxembourg Gardens (pictured above), it was a blissful few days. I cannot believe that I did not blog about it, but I promise to write it up one of these days. It was too lovely not to.
In May, I jetted off to Hungary to speak at Media Hungary. While the event is 1.5 hours from Budapest, I got to spend one day in the city. This was my second time to Budapest, so I decided to spend it strategically with a tour of Parliament (pictured above) and a visit to an incredible ruin bar, Mazel Tov. I also didn’t blog this trip – or my previous trip to Hungary for that matter – but I promise to write them up in 2018.
In July, I checked off a very very VERY important bucket list trip – traveling to Portland, OR, to see my dear friend and co-author on The Power of Visual Storytelling book, Ekaterina. Not only did we have the best time ever, it’s where I created my first travel vlog. Thank you to Ekaterina for being such a good sport. You can read the blog post and watch our vlog here!
In August, I realized that all of my travels this year were either to see family or for work. I couldn’t believe that I had not planned a single leisure holiday for myself. How could that be!? After mulling over many destinations, I decided to embark on a road trip by myself in Provence. Yes, I could have gone with friends, but I listened to my gut feeling that said I needed some alone time to drive, blast French music that I don’t understand and see beautiful, historic villages.
I rented a mini cooper (adorbs, I know) and jetted up into so many stunning villages, from Aix-en-Provence to Gordes, Roussillon, Les Baux de Provence, and many, many, more. I am still working on writing these trips up (I know, I know…enough with my excuses, I’ll make them happen in 2018), but you can read about hiking the Ochre Trail here. You can also read about the town of Roussillon here – with tons of photos. It completely captivated me!
In November, I went to Lisbon for WebSummit. While I went for work, and trust me I did work, it was also so much fun. I went by myself, but I knew friends who would also be there. However, what I didn’t expect was how many amazing people I would meet through my friends. As a result, every night was a new adventure to look forward to, with my favorite being the one night when we ended up at a bar that felt like your really cool friend’s house with the best Brazilian dance music was playing. Just magical…
Did anyone else notice how this blog post got super long suuuuper quickly!? Yeah, me too. Clearly, 2017 was not a good year for me at all. What was I thinking!? Despite its ups and downs, 2017 was a pretty good year. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for all of the wonderful people in my life, plus the opportunities I have professionally.
Here’s to an incredible 2018.