2012 Yearly Wrap Up

Happy belated new year everyone! My yearly wrap is just a bit late, but hopefully it’s still mildly entertaining and informative. It’s been fun to write… it’s a nice way for me to recap my year and reflect a bit on what I managed to get up to.

Though I spent a lot of time in 2012 away from Rwanda, it still feels like I’ve travelled less, once again, than in the previous year. Here’s a recap of where I wandered to in 2012:

2012 Travels

  • Kigali, Rwanda (lived here for the year minus the summer)
  • St. Catharines, Canada (left January 3rd after spending Xmas and New Years 2011 at home)
  • Bangkok, Thailand (a day on each end of my Philippines trip)
  • The Philippines (five weeks in February/March doing volunteer work)
  • Northern California (June/July for two weeks)
  • Oregon (July for two weeks-ish)
  • Montana (5 days in July)
  • Alberta (a week in July)
  • New York City (three weeks in August)
  • St. Catharines, Canada (home for thee weeks in August/September)

Highlights

  • Returning to Kigali in January to a place that feels really comfortable to me.
  • Volunteering with All Hands in Cagayan d’Oro, Philippines. I love the work, The Philippines is one of my favourite countries and I got to see a lot of good friends and make some new ones.
  • Working on a farm in Northern California with some good friends from my time volunteering in Haiti.
  • Finally taking a natural building course in Oregon and meeting some interesting characters.
  • Seeing my friend Kevin in Portland and going to the Pickathon Festival.
  • Visiting a friend from Rwanda at her house on the lake in Montana, meeting her mom and friends and living the good life.
  • Travelling around the US for the first time and really enjoying it.
  • Heading to the Banff, Alberta to see an Australian friend I know from living in London. Finally seeing the beautiful parts of Canada.
  • Spending a week with my family in New York.
  • Getting back to Kigali in September and really feeling like I want to be here. Managing to get a two year work visa to stick around for the time being and feel a bit less like a drifter.
  • Finally making some strides with learning French after taking on a private tutor and kind of starting to take it seriously.
  • Work-wise, earning over $11,000 for the first time was nice!
  • Buying another couple of websites and seeing good results so far.

Things I Learned in 2012

Volunteering in The PhilippinesFor me, 2012 was a confirmation of my desire to settle down in one place… at least for the moment. I left Kigali at the beginning of the summer with a very open mind about what I might want to do next, but only a week after leaving, I found that I really missed it and was counting the weeks until I could go back. I had an amazing time in the summer travelling around the US and Canada and enjoyed every moment of it, but I was also looking very forward to returning to Africa. It’s a nice feeling to be having an amazing time and then knowing that once your trip is over, you’re going to go back to a place you really love.

Work wise I bought a couple more websites and continued to test my theory that buying established websites is a great way to go. I picked up British Travel Blog and Backpacker Herald which were both smooth transitions with people I trust. I created another site called London Town Traveller and made my first guest post sale yesterday… so I guess we’ll see if that was a good investment or not.

I’ve seen that paid guest posting is going strong and it seems like it’s still a viable way to make an income – for now. I’ve had a few people contact me asking for links to be removed on some sites. I guess Google gives them a list of non-compliant links or something. Who knows… I don’t pay any attention to anything Google does. But that could be an indication that this type of income could be on its way out eventually.

Visiting Jody in Banff, AlbertaThe biggest thing for me this year was teaming up with a friend for a moving to Kampala website that aims to be similar to my very successful (popularity-wise… I still haven’t tried to monetize it) Kigali site. This has been a great partnership and we’re always on the same page, have the same goals in mind and work very well together. It’s nice to see that I can do this type of work in a partnership. We’re having some challenges with our content for this site (the part that my partner is in charge of) which is frustrating but I think we’ve got a good idea and if we can get content coming in more regularly, we’ll be fine.

This also marks a shift in my mind towards working more on community type sites. My Kampala and Kigali sites are very community-oriented and the aim is to eventually bring local businesses on board to advertise. This, to me, is a lot more like a ‘real’ business than selling guest posts. I’m hoping to build a little East African city guide empire and this is something that I feel really good about working towards.

I’ve also learned that if you want to get ‘likes’ on your Facebook page quickly, throw some money at it through their advertising platform. I’ve seen great results and I really believe that having a lot of ‘likes’ will mean good things down the road. I’m pretty new to using Facebook as a marketing tool but having all of these ‘likes’ certainly won’t hurt!

2012 Travel Plans

I’ve become one of those people who are perfectly happy hanging around my city, having dinner parties, watching movies, and going out occasionally. I’ve got a few Kigali projects on the go (buying land, building something, working more on the website and map idea) but, as far as travel plans, I’m pretty quiet on that front. Here are a couple of ideas floating around:

  • Hang out in Kigali as much as possible soaking up sun, working on some projects and just enjoying life.
  • Short break to Zanzibar because it’s awesome and also to try to learn a bit or Swahili.
  • Visiting my family in Glasgow for a week.
  • Cycling around the Bordeaux region in France. I’ve always wanted to do a cycle trip and this seems like as good a time as any! Might cycle to Biarritz to try surfing and I’ll definitely be trying to speak as much French, drink as much wine and eat as much cheese as possible.
  • Bring my bike back to Rwanda and do some cycle trips in the country.
  • Go to Reunion, an island off the east coast of Africa. I’d like to spend another few weeks in a French-speaking place and this island is on my radar for some unknown reason. Might try to take a trip there at some point during the year.
  • Visit interesting building or gardening projects in East Africa.

Goals for 2013

I did ok with my goals last year. I, once again, didn’t touch my Africa travel site… but I did continue to work on Living in Kigali, I’m doing well with my attempts at learning French, I took a natural building course in the States and I dragged my guitar around with me for three months in the summer so made some progress there, too. Here are some of my goals for 2013:

  • Living in Kigali – I’ve slacked off a bit lately with content writing, but the site is gaining in popularity. My goal is to transition everyone from using a horrible Yahoo Group to communicate to using my forum. I’ve recently run a contest to get people to register and I’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve. I’d also like to bring on a Rwandan to write about culture and customs and stuff. I plan on registering the site as a business and either bringing someone on board to sell and manage advertising… or to do this horrible job myself.
  • Kigali Map and App - I’ve been working on a Kigali tourist type map for over a year and I really want to get it done this year! I’m held up because I don’t really have any print design experience and I’m not sure really where to start. I’ve done a few things in Illustrator but not I’m stuck. Fortunately I have a few friends who can help me out. Also, I’ve just bought a smart phone for the first time and I want to see what apps are all about. My goal is to create a city guide app for Kigali… but first I need to download other apps to learn about what an app can do and to steal their good ideas.
  • Living in Kampala - This site has only been live since August and it’s done very well. We’ve got over 5,000 Facebook ‘fans’ and the site is getting around 100 visits per day. It took my Kigali site well over a year to get to that point. We’ve got a good team in place but need to find a way to get more consistent writers. Our goals for 2013 will be to get some advertisers on board and make an income. This might not be until the second half of the year but I think we’re both keen on making some money so we can prove to ourselves that this model will work.
  • Other Africa City Sites - I’ve registered sites for Addis Ababa and Nairobi so I’m hoping to expand my little city guide empire to those places. Ideally I’d like to partner up with one person in each city who is willing to look after all of the content and eventually ad sales stuff and go 50/50 on eventual profits. Or I might also just pay people per article and keep the sites all to myself. I’m not sure… and finding good people to write is tricky. This is more in the back of my mind and won’t be something I think about until much later in the year.
  • Learn French – I’m taking a couple of hours of private French lessons a week and really enjoying it. I love reading and writing in French but have a very hard time listening and speaking is a struggle too. It’s tricky and hard work but I’m getting there slowly. I need to be speaking more than I am if I want to make progress so I’ll work on that. Luckily in Rwanda there are always French speakers around. My trip to France will hopefully help with this too.
  • Buy Land - I want to be a land owner! Rwanda is a realistic place for this to happen with affordable land and an openness to foreigners being able to own it. I’ve got a few people here who I trust to guide me through the process but I’m not totally sure exactly where to start. I guess looking at some land is a good start but it’s all a bit daunting. I’ve going to start the process soon and see where it takes me.

Halloween in RwandaSo all up, 2012 was another great year for me! I did a few things last year that I’ve been meaning to do for awhile, visiting a lot of friends all over the US and Canada, got to see my family twice, went to a good friend’s wedding, did some volunteering, finally took a natural building course and just generally had a great time! I’ve grown more and more fond of Kigali and am happy to be here with a great network of friends and I’m excited to see what the next few years here have in store for me.

Earnings wise, I had another great year in 2012 although I’m seeing signs that things might even off a bit. Sure I had that crazy $11,000+ month but the rest seem to have averaged out at around $6,000 per month which is still pretty amazing. I’d be very happy if that continues through 2013 and, of course, a freakishly huge month is always welcome!

I’m excited about the work and life projects I have in store for 2013 but also happy that the rainy season is coming to an end and I can start my year with a bit of relaxing by the pool to gear myself up for all of the exciting times ahead! Did I mention how much I love the weather here?

All the best to everyone in 2013!