2023 Recap: The Year Everything Changed

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For the past three years, we’ve written end-of-the-year recaps here at Uprooted Traveler, documenting the highest highs and the lowest lows of our adventures around the world and running this business. I actually really look forward to writing these annual recaps as a means to reflect on the year past and our hopes and dreams for the upcoming year—and, man oh man, 2023 was an absolute DOOZY of a year. 

Let’s get into it! 

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Couple sitting in a tent in Wedgemount Lake in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
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2023 Travel Summary

Countries visited: 3 

We planned a 10 day-long trip to the United Kingdom to see Scotland, which wound up being one of our favorite countries we’ve ever visited, PLUS, a flight delay caused us to miss our connecting flight back to the United States, so we got an all-expenses paid two day trip to London tacked on to the end as we waited for our rescheduled flight (thanks, British Airways!). 

Couple smiling in front of the Tower Bridge in London, England

After that, we were unexpectedly invited to visit Islas Marias along the Pacific coastline of Mexico by the Nayarit Board of Tourism, which was one of the highlights of our year (but more on that later). 

And finally, we made a couple trips up to Canada—one to Quebec City to celebrate our friend, Safari Condo’s 25th anniversary and a quick getaway to Whistler, which has been on our bucket list for years and years.

Mamquam Falls in Squamish, British Columbia in Canasa

U.S. States Visited: 18 (Washington, Louisiana, Hawaii, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida)

U.S. National Parks Visited: 11 (Mount Rainier, North Cascades, Crater Lake, Gateway Arch, Rocky Mountain, Congaree, Smoky Mountains, Everglades, Biscayne, Redwoods, Yosemite)

Couple holding hands in front of Chasm Lake in Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado

Beds slept in: 23

Campsites stayed in: 49 (plus one night backpacking along the Wedgemount Lake Trail of Whistler)

Our Three Highlights of 2023

Quitting Our Corporate Jobs to Run Uprooted Traveler Full-time

Soooo… remember above how I said that 2023 was a doozy? 

Well, from April through June of 2023, we fixed, packed up, and sold our beautiful home in Seattle; moved into a temporary (horrible, godforsaken basement) apartment; and quit our cushy and stable corporate jobs to run Uprooted Traveler and travel full-time. By the end of September, we had officially moved into our RV and hit the road full-time!

Couple smiling in front of a Safari Condo Alto Expedition trailer in Faver-Dykes State Park in St. Augustine, Florida

While executing this plan only took a handful of months, it was quite literally years and years in the making. We’ve been working on this website for six years (which is kind of WILD to think about!) and have been planning and saving to leave our corporate jobs to travel, in some form or another, since 2021.

In fact, we literally created a “Life Migration Checklist” a couple of years ago, which laid out a list of over 50 action items, on a carefully planned timeline, that we needed to accomplish before leaving our corporate jobs and Seattle behind. And, after dumping tens of thousands of hours into this website, we FINALLY did it! 

Being self-employed certainly comes with its challenges (more on that below), but I can’t even put into words how cool it is that we get to wake up and design each and every single day exactly how we want to. We’re making a good living out of having adventures and exploring the world with our best friend—what could possibly be a bigger highlight than that?! 

Couple smiling in front of Maroon Bells with golden aspens in Aspen, Colorado

Islas Marias Press Trip

In July, we got invited by the Nayarit Board of Tourism to explore some of the state’s hidden gems, like the pueblo magico of Jala and Isla Marias. 

Located 60 miles off the Pacific coastline of Mexico, this archipelago was actually used as a Mexican federal prison for over a century until 2019 and has now opened as an ecological tourism destination. Because of its remote location, it’s actually home to several species that are found nowhere else on the planet and, accordingly, has been named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. 

Woman smiling in front of a cathedral in Jala, Mexico

Our trip exploring this part of Mexico was absolutely lovely—we had avocado margaritas on a rooftop bar as we overlooked the cobblestone streets of a colonial city, took a boat ride through an estuary that was absolutely teeming with beautiful birds, and soaked up the sun in an infinity pool overlooking Banderas Bay at the bougie Vidanta Resort

But the best part of the trip, by far, was meeting other content creators, like us. 

Before this trip, we didn’t really know anyone in real life that was doing anything remotely similar to what we’re doing. So it was absolutely incredible to meet like-minded people, who love exploring and experiencing the world so much that they literally made it their livelihood. 

Group of friends laying on pavement and stargazing in Isla Marias in Nayarit, Mexico
Stargazing on the runway at Islas Marias with our new friends

We get asked, from everyone from close friends to complete strangers, about once a week, some variation of the question “So do you actually make money running your website?” And the tone of this question can range anywhere from genuine innocent curiosity to, occasionally, condescension. It can be REALLY hard to take yourself seriously, when it feels like, at times, no one else does. 

But, for a few blissful days, we got to hang out with other people who not only “got” what we do, but were also succeeding at their very own businesses in unique ways. We swapped travel stories, shared business strategies, and acted as each other’s videographers, photographers, and cheerleaders. It was such a breath of fresh air for us, especially relatively shortly after quitting our corporate jobs, and we definitely hope to make more connections with fellow content creators this year. 

Going to Scotland

We explored a ton of cool places in 2023, but Scotland was definitely a huge highlight. We weren’t totally sure what to expect but, from the very start to the end of our trip, we were totally blown away by pretty much everything—the staggeringly tall and impossibly green hills of the Highlands, the delicious comfort food, the friendliness of the people. 

Couple smiling at each other in Glencoe of Scotland

In just ten days, we had so many wonderful experiences there, from strolling around the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh and riding the real-life Hogwarts Express through the Scottish Highlands to hiking the Old Man of Storr trail and soaking in our own private hot tub along a rushing river at the Riversides Luxury Wee Lodges. It’s now in our bucket list to ship a campervan to Scotland and do RV life there! 

Honorable mentions of 2023 Highlights

  • My group of friends from St. Louis goes on a girls trip every year and in 2023, we went to New Orleans! We drank lots of fancy cocktails, witnessed a man cuddling with an alligator on an airboat tour, and danced into the wee hours of the morning. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Women smiling on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Lousiana
  • As we crossed the country in October and November, we saw almost all of our extended family spread across five different states, including my first baby nephew(!!!), both of our brothers, Justin’s sweet cousins, and both of our parents. One of the hard and sad things about traveling as much as we do is that it can be challenging to connect with family as much as we’d like to—so it was such a blessing to get to spend time with each and every one of them. 
  • To be honest, the first couple of months of living in our trailer had some pretty stressful moments. However, we spent almost all of December in Florida, which is actually our new home state (it’s one of the only states that allows you to be a resident without having a physical address) and it felt like a flip switched.

    We found a better groove in balancing exploring with working; had so many incredible experiences, from kayaking with manatees and biking with alligators to watching spectacular sunsets on the beach and ringing in the New Year at Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar; and just felt so much lighter and happier.

    We know that a lot of people hate on Florida, but it’s inarguably one of our favorite states—and we’re so excited to call it our new home! 
Couple smiling with bicycles in Shark Valley of Everglades National Park

Our Three Lows of 2023

I try to keep these recaps focused on our travels and our business, but I’m going to include a few more personal lows this year, as well. In part, because I think there should be more transparency in a world of Instagram and other “highlight reels”, but also because, as self-employed people, it’s kind of impossible to not let our lows impact our business in one way or another. 

Struggling to Get Into a Groove

As mentioned above, the first couple months of living on the road had some tough moments.

While we definitely had lots of really incredible experiences, like seeing the golden aspens in Colorado and wandering around the cobblestone streets of historic Charleston, we were also working on becoming residents of Florida, dissolving our Washington business, forming a Florida business, seeing as many friends and family as possible, trying to squeeze in as many adventures as we could, and trying to grow our business, all while driving thousands of miles, living in a space that’s smaller than most prison cells with our partner, and dealing with some family issues that are outside of our control. At times, it was just a lot to navigate, all at once. 

Couple walking on the wing of the Airplane Home in Oregon

I’m not sure if it’s the Florida sunshine talking (I’m currently typing this from Islamorada in the Florida Keys); the fact that many of the puzzle pieces of our lives and business have fallen into place recently; or we’re just figuring out better ways to manage it all (or a combination of all of the above), but everything got a LOT easier in December of 2023.

In fact, as of late, we find ourselves saying to one another on an almost daily basis, “Can you believe we get to do THIS for a living?!”

Google Updates

We have been able to make a good living off this blog for one primary reason—we’re really good at search engine optimization, which basically means making sure that our articles rank at the top of Google search results. The higher your articles are on Google, the more traffic your website will get and, accordingly, the more money you’ll make. 

However, Google has been changing things up recently, from introducing widgets that push other types of articles (like ours!) further down and pushing user-generated content, like Reddit and Quora, to the top of search results. All of these changes make it less likely that people will click on our articles, decreasing our website’s traffic and with it, our income.

Couple walking on the top of rocks along the Rubicon Trail in Lake Tahoe, California

There’s been a number of Google updates that have rolled out over the last couple of years that have decimated other bloggers’ traffic, but have blessedly not impacted us (knock on wood!). 

However, in September of this year, our traffic unexpectedly dropped by about 20%. To be honest, we’re extremely lucky that our traffic wasn’t impacted even worse—and we’ve actually seen quite a lot of growth in our traffic since that initial dip.  All of the travel bloggers we know were negatively impacted- some whose entire livelihoods were pretty much destroyed by one of these Google updates overnight. 

But it does make us a bit worried that we’re currently extremely reliant on Google’s algorithm, which is expected to continue to change, especially with the upcoming introduction of AI in search results. So we’re seriously trying to hustle to be a bit more diversified (more on that later!). 

Man smiling with a plate of food at the Buc-ee's Gas Station in Sevierville, Tennessee
Making a YouTube video of having a romantic candlelit dinner at the world’s largest gas station, Buc-ee’s

Not Having a Community

In September, we left Seattle for good. It felt pretty sad—in part, because we are absolutely head-over-heels in love with Washington’s mountains, rainforests, and beaches, but also because we didn’t really feel like we were leaving behind much of a community. 

We had made a handful of sweet friends while we were in Seattle, who, for the most part, we got to see before hitting the road. But it was a far cry from the enormous going away party, with dozens and dozens of friends, that we had when we moved from St. Louis to Seattle. 

Friends smiling at a Seattle Sounders game

Our lack of community in Seattle was due to an amalgamation of factors. We moved to Seattle in late 2019 and, by March of 2020, we basically quarantined inside our house for a year and a half due to the COVID pandemic. By mid-2021, COVID was a lot less scary, but, by that point, we had decided to throw every spare moment that we had outside of our corporate jobs to grow this blog into a business, which left little time or energy left over for making new friends. Plus, we’re in our mid-30s now—it’s a lot harder to make friends when everyone is prioritizing their career, marriage, and children, as compared to doing so in our 20s. 

We definitely want to prioritize making a bigger community for ourselves this year, both from a standpoint of maintaining our existing relationships, as well as making new friends, whether in person or online (and on that note, hi! Do you wanna be friends?!).

Honorable mentions of 2023 Lowlights

  • In April, we said goodbye to our 18 year old chihuahua, Lexie. She had been diagnosed with a terminal illness for over two years, so, while her crossing of the rainbow bridge wasn’t exactly a surprise, it was nevertheless straight up devastating.

    She had been our best friend for the last 12 years and spent probably about 23 hours of her day either on my lap or sleeping right beside me. She was the absolute sweetest dog and the best road trip copilot we could’ve ever asked for, and there will forever be a chihuahua-shaped hole in our hearts. 
Sitting woman holding a beer and a chihuahua
  • As I mentioned in our 2022 recap, my dad was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in August of last year. My parents’ story is not mine to tell, but suffice to say, they had an exceedingly challenging year and it’s been very hard to see people who we love so much have a tough time. 
  • We were really looking forward to our trip to Kauai in May, which has some of the most epic hiking trails on the planet. It unfortunately wound up raining pretty hard, all over the island, for the majority of our visit, which was definitely a bummer. In comparison to the other lows of 2023, this is REALLY not a big deal, but it’s our only strictly travel-related lowlight, so I thought I’d throw it in there!
Couple smiling along the Kalalau Trail in Kauai

Our word for 2023

If you’ve read our annual recaps in the past, you know that we pick a “word of the year”—a kind of north star of how we want our year to go.

Our word for 2023 was diversify

We originally meant this kind of narrowly—at the beginning of 2023, we were really only making money with advertising on our website and kind of completely ignoring one of the other major revenue streams that most bloggers use to make money, called affiliate marketing. If you don’t know what affiliate marketing is, it essentially means that we recommend a product or service on our website or social media and if someone elects to purchase it, we get a small commission (at no cost to the buyer). 

Couples' feet in a doors off helicopter in the Napali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii
Our second largest stream of revenue is now going on different cool tours when we travel and recommending the ones that we like to our readers.

And in that very narrow context, we definitely succeeded in diversifying.  We now make about 60% of our revenue from advertising and about 40% from affiliate marketing—plus have grown our revenue by 500%! 

But I think this was an overly myopic perspective. While diversifying how our website makes money is great, our entire business model right now is still intrinsically tied to driving people to our website via Google—which, given all of its recent and upcoming changes, is not exactly the smartest place to be. 

So we’ve spent the last few months of 2023 trying to divide our attention between our blog and other channels—primarily Instagram and YouTube—so we’re not entirely beholden to our Google overlords. 

We have largely ignored all social media platforms for years and years and, to be honest, it can feel, at times, like our growth on those platforms is slooooooow—so slow that it can feel REALLY hard to justify spending our time and energy on them, when we could, instead, be writing blog posts that are basically guaranteed to make us money. 

Couple smiling in a trailer with doughnuts on a table
We hit 1,000 YouTube subscribers in May 2023 and ended the year with over 4,750. Growing can feel SO slow, at times, but I suppose over 300% growth over seven months isn’t too bad!

That being said, we’re trying to keep in mind that growing our blog was a long, slow and, at times, painful process, which, after years and years of work (and virtually no money), eventually wound up paying off in dividends. So, hopefully, the same will be true for social media (and if you wanna follow us on Instagram and YouTube, you’d forever be our favorite!). 

Our word for 2023

So, in that vein, our word for 2023 is expansion—and this time, we’re going to mean it as broadly as possible. 

With the coming uncertainty of blogging, we need to expand the Uprooted Traveler brand—to continue to grow our blog (which, like 2022, has grown 300% year over year!), but also other streams of revenue. For example, we want to continue to grow our social media platforms so that we can work more with brands that we already love and use on Instagram and YouTube. Alternatively, we’re considering creating courses on how we grew our blog into a six-figure business or how to become a digital nomad. 

Woman sitting in front of a Safari Condo Alto trailer in La Pine, Oregon

We also want to expand our community—making meaningful relationships with others in real life and online, whether that’s other content creators, RVers, or just nice people, who have a good outlook on the world. It can feel like we’re always moving at a thousand miles a minute—and I think having a solid community would really help feel a bit more grounded. 

How’d we do on our 2023 bucketlist?

In each of our annual recaps, we always put together a list of travel or business-related goals that we hope to accomplish in the upcoming year. And, spoiler alert—we did not so great on the goals we had set out in our 2022 recap.

Thru-hike the Enchantments


The Enchantments in the Cascade Mountains are one of the most sought after backpacking permits in Washington—so sought after, in fact, that we failed to get them after four years of trying! 

You can also do all 20+ miles as a day hike, but, to be honest, that sounded not so fun to us. Hopefully, we’ll be lucky enough to snag permits some other year! 

Drive along Highway 1 with our RV


Highway 1 winds 656 miles along some of the most stunning parts of the California coastline, from the teeny town of Leggett all the way south of Los Angeles. We did drive along portions of the northern California coastline on Highway 101, approximately 100 miles north of where Highway 1 starts… does that count? 

Couple walking in Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in California

Go kayaking with orcas in the San Juan Islands


We haven’t even made it to the San Juan Islands yet! Another item not checked off our bucket list. 

Spend three weekends in Canada

Kinda sorta? 

We did go to Canada three times- once for a long weekend in Whistler, once to Quebec City for Safari Condo’s anniversary party, and a day trip to pick up our new Safari Condo Alto Expedition trailer.

Either way, we’re going to be spending LOTS of time in Canada this year, so meh. 

Man pouring coffee in front of Wedgemount Lake in Whistler, British Columbia in Canada

Scuba dive at least twice


We went scuba diving in Kauai one time and saw lots of cute turtle babies, but sadly, that’s it!

Woman scuba diving in Kauai

Hit one million sessions on our blog


We actually hit well over TWO million sessions on our blog, so at least we CRUSHED this goal! 

Post 16 videos on our YouTube channel

Ehhhh, this one is debatable, but given our poor showings for the rest of the bucket list, I’m giving it to us! 

I’m preeetty sure when I wrote this goal, I meant that we needed to post 16 long-form videos. We posted about ten long-form videos, but also about 40ish YouTube Shorts—so we definitely posted 16 videos of some kind on our channel! 

Couple smiling in front of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri

Our 2024 Travel Bucketlist

If you haven’t heard, in 2024, we’re actually already en route on an epic road trip, driving from Key West, the southernmost point of the United States, all the way up to Tuktoyaktuk, the northernmost point that you can drive in the Arctic Circle of Canada (you can check out our video about it here). 

We have an absolutely action-packed year coming up and many of our big bucket list travel items are already been booked and meticulously planned (cuz that’s just what you get with Jessica Schmit). However, here are a few items that aren’t totally set in stone yet.

Backpacking Havasu Falls

If you’ve ever been on Instagram, you’ve surely seen Havasu Falls, a stunningly beautiful turquoise waterfall cascading over the red cliffs of Arizona. 

Turquoise waterfall with red cliffs in Havasu Falls in Arizona

The only way to reach the falls is by securing a highly coveted (and very expensive) permit and, to be frank, we previously didn’t really want to spend the PTO that would be necessary to fly into Phoenix, drive five hours to the trailhead, go on a 20-mile four day backpacking trip, and retrace those steps all the way back to Seattle. But, as luck would have it, we’re going to be driving right past Phoenix this spring, and now, we get to make our own schedule! 

So here’s hoping that our luck is a little bit better with Havasu Falls backpacking permits as compared to the Enchantments permits. I just applied to the lottery today, so wish us luck!

Hit a new continent

We’d prefer to keep most of our travel plans under wraps for *intrigue*, but if you’ve made it this far, you’re a true Uprooted Traveler fan and deserve a bit of an inside scoop. So we’re going to let you in on a little secret—we plan on spending most of 2024 in the United States and Canada, but heading to South America, a continent we’ve never been to, around November and exploring it over the following six months. 

Glacier lake in front of mountains in Patagonia

Before we make any concrete plans, we first need to figure out where and how to store our Toyota Highlander Hybrid for half a year without killing its battery (anyone have ideas on how to do this?). But hopefully we’ll be crossing off our fourth continent in 2024! 

See the Northern Lights

Supposedly, solar activity is supposed to be very high in 2024. Given that we’re going to be spending parts of September waaaaay up north in Canada, we’re REALLY hoping to spot the aurora while we’re there. 

Northern lights and stars over pine trees

That about does it for our 2023 recap. If you’re interested in seeing our past recaps, you can find them here:

If you’re still here, thank you, thank you, thank you—despite some of our lows this year, we’re truly living our dream life because of people, like you, who choose to read and support us.

We hope 2023 was a fruitful year for you and that 2024 is even better! What’s on your 2024 bucketlist?

Thank you for reading our post! Check out our latest stories here and follow us on Instagram (@UprootedTraveler), YouTube, or on Facebook to see what we’re up to next!

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