Sitting here on the next to last day of 2022 listening to the rain pelting the roof of my apartment. These are the type of days you beg for when you just want no compulsion to be anywhere, just staying at home on the couch guilt-free catching up on reading or classic movies. But for two weeks, the weather has been like this. I find myself at the end of my Christmas holidays in a state of grey, lacking writing inspiration. So I thought why not just wrap up 2022 with something a bit more random. Not entirely so, as there are bits and pieces floating around in the ether world of my brain which I know I will cash in, so I can’t say this post will be completely pulled out of thin air, but let’s say I haven’t given it the usual forethought and planning.
- State of the Blog 2022
- Where is Switzerland in my top posts?
- My Biggest Travel Lesson of 2022
- Travel Goals for 2023
- Beer of the Year 2022
- And finally… Thank You
State of the Blog 2022
2022 was a bit of a rebound year for the blog. After a big dip in readership in 2021, 2022 achieved the 2nd largest views since my blog’s inception in 2016. It will exceed 8500 when all is said and done. Quite modest, but considering I write for myself and do very little self-promoting, I am pleased with it. 2020 was a boon for me, over 12,600 views. Probably a combination of people scrambling for last minute travel inspiration in between lockdowns or simply desperate to armchair travel. 2021 saw a drop to 7000. I think 2021 will go down as the Year of Depression. I remember around this time in 2020, we all thought 2021 would be better. How did that turn out? When I look back, I lived more vibrantly in 2020 than 2021. For the first time in our lives, we had to wear masks, and the one way to exist outside of home without a mask was to be out in the forest and mountains. And I took full advantage of that. Plus 2020 was a year that cooperated with some of the best weather of my recent memory. So if you could only be outdoors out of the public spaces, that was the year. And frankly, I thrived. But by 2021, everything grew weary, including the weather. Perhaps I was not alone. Maybe in 2021, people were less interested to see where other people were traveling with so many travel restrictions. The rebound in 2022 has reinvigorated me to make the most out of my blog in 2023. Let’s go for 10,000 views again.
Where is Switzerland in my top posts?
2022 marked the first time in my blog history that a post about a hike in Switzerland was not in my Top 5 views. Perhaps this is because I haven’t hiked there since 2020. But when I look at the Top 5 from 2022, I see a trend of regional hikes (within 4 hours of where I live in Belgium). Perhaps this is more of a sign of a resurgence in outdoor activity in my part of the world rather than a lack of interest in my Switzerland posts.
Here are the rankings:
By far and away, my most popular post was Hiking to Burg Eltz. I love Germany’s Mosel region so much and glad to have inspired anybody to see Burg Eltz the proper way, which is by foot.
This post was my champion of 2020, and after dropping out of my Top 10 in 2021 has jumped back up to the 2nd spot in 2022. Hands down, this hike is an absolute must do in this part of the world.
One of the couple of “In Brief” posts I did where I didn’t include any narrative. I abandoned the idea because these posts felt too cold and sterile and went against why I do this blogging to begin with. However, Belgians were back out hiking in 2022 in droves and hopefully found this post inspiring. Perhaps I need to revisit this concept once in a while.
One of the must-do hiking highlights in Belgium Continue reading In Brief: Chateau de Walzin Hike from Dinant
Was mildly surprised to see this post reaching the Top 5, but Bouillon is a great place to visit and hike. Seeing the brown scenery in the feature picture makes me think a Spring/Summer update is necessary.
A giant, a crusader, and a Wild Boar. Just another medieval day in Bouillon. Continue reading Beer & Hike: Brasserie de Bouillon
Ironically, the least Dickens of all the Beer & Dickens days during my London trip turns out to have achieved the most views in 2022 from that series. This series was unbelievably fun to research and write and still inspires me for 2023. I am happy that any of them landed in the Top 5.
Oh by the way, my top Swiss Post was…
Coming in at #7 in 2022 was this epic hike. Hard to argue here. This was one intense, rewarding hike.
My Biggest Travel Lesson of 2022
One of the biggest surprises on my blog in 2022 was the number of views of a post that was a mere afterthought when I published it in 2016 as a kind of Constitution for my blog. There are no pictures and only four lines of text. As I type, there are 99 views in 2022 (so someone please click on the link and get it over 100). This is not a lot of views in the grand scheme of things, but I don’t highlight this post anywhere so if people are getting to it, it is either luck in some search engine or they are deep-diving in my site (a blogger’s dream). In this post, I recite my self-composed four levels or dimensions of travel.
1st Dimension – The love for or desire to travel2nd Dimension – Knowledge of the history and culture of the place you are visiting3rd Dimension – Travel experience or knowing the ins and outs of getting around4th Dimension – Finding those special experiences that give your travels the most fulfilment beyond just what is recommended… Continue reading The 4 Dimensions of Travel
Let me explain it this way. Everybody has a different relationship with the travel experience. For some it is just the experience of seeing a place or object, like visiting the Louvre to take a picture of the Mona Lisa. Click and move on (Dimension 1). Others are genuinely interested in the history of the Louvre, who Leonardo da Vinci was, and why the Mona Lisa is so beloved (Dimension 2). Even others love the idea of figuring out how to get to the Louvre from their hotel without spending gobs of money on a taxi or having a travel agent or tour company plan it for them. I also consider this akin to making oneself at home (Dimension 3). And then there are those who specifically visit the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa because it is their dream to see all of the works of Leonardo da Vinci which are on public display (Dimension 4).
It is the spirit of this latter dimension of travel which gave birth to my blog. After living in Europe since 2011, I was blessed with the opportunity to inundate myself with castles and cathedrals at every opportunity. At a certain moment, I found myself sleep-walking thru them, either just walking around looking without absorbing or being bored by names and dates. Ironically, it was an early experience visiting Burg Eltz while standing inside the castle looking out at the surrounding forest where the 4th Dimension was born. I found myself wishing I was over there in the forest instead. Something was missing in my experience.
Since 2016, my travels have more and more become steered towards the 4th Dimension, mostly using beer culture as the main thread, but weaving in history, legends, and art with hiking and biking. In 2022, this took on an even richer level as I found a connection with Charles Dickens, not as an author per se, but in the influence he had on late 19th century and early 20th century travel writing, and also on the way A Christmas Carol has influenced my life. While I have enjoyed indulging myself in his books, it has become the places which still exist in England that are linked to or inspired by Dickens that have elevated my 4th Dimension, taking over a chunk of my travel dreams. It has been a long time since I have spent so many hours of enjoyment planning out a trip as I have during this Christmas holiday; planning my next trip to explore a part of England that was affectionately known in the years following Dickens’ death as Dickens-Land. So what is my biggest travel lesson for 2022? It is to nurture your 4th Dimension. A guidebook is a guide, not the rule. Don’t be afraid to admit that you’d rather be in the forest hiking by the castle than visiting the castle.
Introducing a new 4th Dimension in 2022
What do Dickens and beer have in common? Continue reading Beer & Dickens London – Introduction
Travel Goals for 2023
Which brings me to what I hope to experience in 2023. Not all of these ideas are fully developed. But they encompass essentially what is possible and at the top of my list.
Located mainly in the district of Kent. Portsmouth (not in Kent), Rochester, Maidstone, Canterbury, Broadstairs. These places highlight Dickens’ birth, childhood, and latter years. Some hikes in what Dickens considered the most beautiful part of England, visits to some of England’s quaintest and perhaps unheralded cities and hamlets, and lots and lots of cool pubs and breweries. Intersecting with the well-tred footpaths of classic travel writers but giving Dickens-Land the itsabrewtifulworld treatment. Stay tuned.
My Next Alpine Adventure
I don’t know yet whether it will be Switzerland or Austria (or Germany) but I missed hiking the Alps in 2022. My last official Alpine “peak” hike was this one in the Bavarian Alps in August 2021. Pity. A feat not to be duplicated in 2023.
A Schmetterling paradise and a heavenly hefeweizen in the Bavarian Alps Continue reading Beer & Hike: Bürgerbräu and Karkopf
More Battle of the Bulge
Another one of my 4th Dimensions. Eastern Belgium still holds several places which I haven’t yet visited for my Beer & The Bulge series. So far, I have only made it as far east in Belgium as Stavelot and Malmedy. Eventually, I am taking this thing all the way to the German border and the eastern-most point in Belgium.
Eastern Belgium is a beautiful place to hike and reflect on the Battle of the Bulge. Continue reading Beer & The Bulge: Rochelinval-Wanne
More Netherlands Please
Hard to believe that Belgium’s biggest relative and the nearest foreign country to where I live is still grossly under-represented on my blog. Delft, Leiden, Arnhem, and Amsterdam are particularly high on the list. I did manage two posts in 2022 which took place predominantly in the Netherlands.
Need more like these…
Having beers with Van Gogh Pt. 1 Continue reading Beer & Bike: Van Gogh – Zundert to Breda
Whisky & Hike
This is probably the goal which I am least likely to achieve in 2023. A visit to Scotland with each hike focused around a nearby distillery. At worst, I would like to have the hikes planned out and a schedule prepared by next year at this time. The last time I was in Scotland was 2016, and I had just started my blog immediately prior to that trip. Literally, I was sitting in my B&B bed each night figuring out what the heck to write about. The following post is a prime example of how my writing and content style have changed since the very beginning. Scotland needs a serious update from itsabrewtifulworld.com.
Scotland is a place that seems to want to make you earn it’s charms. I’ve driven around Scotland for a week now, from Edinburgh up thru the Cairngorms National Park, around Loch Ness, across to the Isle of Skye, down thru Glencoe, and currently enjoying the charming harbor town of Oban before leaving to the… Continue reading Brewtiful Scotland
Beer of the Year 2022
I know there are a lot of lists and Year-end awards handed out at this time of year. I am sure there will be many Beers of the Year lists on Twitter and blogs by beer aficionados, what I like to call the Untappd crowd. But these kind of lists can only be made if one is targeting craft beers. I have abandoned the whole Untappd mentality over the last couple of years. I was a devout follower at one time. I still use it when I travel, but locally, I rarely go looking specifically for new beers anymore. Why is that? Well one, craft beers are ridiculously expensive. And two, tell me one of them which is better than Westmalle Tripel? I am waiting… I have become a bit of an old fart when it comes to this topic (I turned 50 this year). I no longer get excited about the latest exotic stouts or beers with ingredients which sound more suited to scented candles. That is so me Age 45. Yes I love some of them (Brouwerij De Moersleutel comes immediately to mind) and once in a while I will splurge. But splurging comes with varying degrees of success. Sometimes, more than I consider acceptable, it is an 8-euro toilet flush just to punch something up on Untappd. But there is one thing about Westmalle Tripel that I always know for sure. Every time I open it, I get a complex tasting experience and I love it. Find me one beer outside of Belgium that tastes like Westmalle Tripel. The closest I can think of anywhere is Ename Tripel and that is also Belgian. So with all due respect to the craft beer industry, my Beer of 2022 is Westmalle Tripel and it is already the beer to beat in 2023 as well. As a sidenote, one version of Westmalle Tripel which is not included in this award is a vintage Westmalle Tripel. Take this 2003 vintage from the great Kulminator Cafe in Antwerp, Belgium for instance. Wretched. Still, it is a better spent 8-euro experience than most craft beers.
Honorable mentions Gulden Draag (classic) and Piraat, both from Brouwerij Van Steenberge. I kept coming back to these amber beers all year long.
And finally… Thank You
I want to thank everyone who has visited my blog and found anything of value in it. Every visit means the world to me. My blog continues to be an ever-growing auto-biography of sorts, a loyal companion to my travels, a motivator and inspiration to me, and a way of expressing myself to the people who mean the most to me in the world but are the furthest away. Good health and happiness to all. See you in 2023.