Our Year in Review: An Epic 50-State Quest + Matching Our Old Income [2015]

North to South: Our Year in Review -- The Epic 50-State Quest + Matching Our Previous Income (2015)

Wow, 2015, you really outdid yourself. It’s amazing how much Ian and I accomplished in just one year’s time, continuing to build on and cross-promote our online business endeavors. We knew we had it in us, but this year we proved to ourselves that if we really stick with focusing on projects we believe in, great success will eventually come!

Have a look with us, as we review our major milestones and accomplishments in 2015! 

Diana Southern and Ian Norman in Simi Valley, California

January – February 2015

Travel Blog Success (My blog post goes viral!)

Last year started out with a big BANG! On January 2, 2015 I wrote How to Fly from the U.S. to Europe for <$200 pretty much on a whim. I’d just spent a couple of hours reflecting on what I’d learned about travel the previous year, and that was my biggest travel secret that I felt I needed to share with the world.

Two weeks later my blog hit an all-time high with over 10,000 visitors (surpassing our other blog Lonely Speck‘s most successful blog day, too), and a year later it’s still the most popular article on my blog. I’ve experimented with placing a few non-intrusive text ads on that article (it still gets somewhere around 2K views per day), which regularly brings in a decent amount of extra dough. So, to the mystery dude or lady who originally “Stumbled” that article: I can’t tell you how overwhelmingly grateful I am!

Diana Southern and Ian Norman in Lake Tahoe, Nevada

A(nother) Blog is Born

We’re kinda addicted to blogging. And with Milky Way photography out of season in the U.S. (where we spent the first two months of 2015), Ian was itching for something to do. So The Photon Collective was born. With that new blog, this blog, Lonely Speck, and Stylish Travel Girl, we now run a total of 4 blogs together. And I think we’ll stop there. With these, in addition to other project ideas that pop into our heads, our hands are pretty much full.

Diana Southern and Ian Norman at Jawbone Canyon, California

P.S. If you’re a photographer or interested in getting into photography this year, join our new weekly photo challenge on The Photon Collective!

Diana Southern and Ian Norman in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

March – April 2015

Let’s Learn Spanish

In spring of 2015 we headed south for a month each in Costa Rica and México. I really wanted to perfect my Spanish (yeah… that didn’t happen), and we wanted to go somewhere warm. It was nothing less than awesome.

Baby Sloths at the Toucan Rescue Ranch in San Isidro, Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, we stayed with an awesome American expat family, went ziplining at Arenal Volcano, I saw my first sloth (including babies!!!), learned all about coffee farming at Cafe Britt and on a private tour organized by our Airbnb hosts, and just had an all-around good time experiencing the Pura Vida life that Costa Rica is famous for.

Diana Southern and Ian Norman in San José, Costa Rica

In Mexico, we learned about the country’s culture and history through various excursions (including to the pyramids of Teotihuacan), and we did a fair amount of exploration like locals, visiting Acapulco and renting a trajinera at Xochimilco with our newfound friends in Mexico.

Ian Norman's Milky Way photography on display at Dolcenero art gallery in Mexico City

Through the same friends, we also arranged to have Ian’s Milky Way photography displayed in a trendy, local art gallery — his first ever real-world photography exhibition!

Diana Southern and Ian Norman at Pyramids of Teotihuacan, Mexico

May – September 2015

Big and Small Business Victories

After Mexico, we returned to the U.S. to start preparing for our upcoming road trip. And we reflected on our recent good fortune in Our List of Awesome: 5 Crazy Cool Moments From Our Lives this Past Month — including our levitation photography class trending on Skillshare!

Diana Southern levitating at Trona Pinnacles, California

It wasn’t a popular blog post or anything, but it’s one of those that I personally appreciate being able to go back and review. For example, I was celebrating 100 email subscribers to this blog back in May, and now I have (pause, while I check)…600! Conclusion: Wow, I should probably send out another newsletter soon.

Celebrating both the big and small victories is a big key to staying motivated as an entrepreneur!

Ian Norman and Diana Southern in New Orleans, Louisiana

Visit ALL the U.S. States

Just like last year, another of my high school friends was having a summer wedding, so we planned another road trip to see some cool places on the way there. And somewhere around eating our way through New Orleans, I got the crazy idea that maybe we should visit ALL 50 states on the trip.

Ian didn’t believe we’d actually do it until we were somewhere around #30 in the fall. And, as I’m writing this, we’ve officially been to 49 states on this trip so far, and we’re booked for Hawaii (state #50) in two weeks!

Diana Southern and Ian Norman visiting one of the wonders of Kansas

On our list of favorite states: Alaska, Wyoming, California, Utah, Colorado, Maine… when you spend enough time there, there’s really something to love about every state!

I’m a little behind in documenting our whole epic trip, but check out our weekly recaps so far!

Diana Southern and Ian Norman in Knoxville, Tennessee

And for those planning on taking a road trip this year, I created The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List from our trip. Download it for free here.

Diana Southern and Ian Norman in Chicago, Illinois

Helping Others Achieve Their Entrepreneurial Dreams

In July, I launched a business that I’d been considering starting for awhile. I wanted to help aspiring bloggers and entrepreneurs launch and brand their business ideas online. I had TONS of experience with web development and graphic design, but I didn’t really have the tools and experience I needed to start it until I’d done the entrepreneurship thing successfully myself.

Over a year into blogging, I was finally ready, and I announced and launched Boost Marketing by Diana.

Diana Southern and Ian Norman at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps, New York

Sharing Other Nomadic Couples’ Stories

In 2015, we featured 6 other couples with their own unique paths and reasons for quitting their jobs to travel the world. Interviewing each couple provided valuable insight into how this experience varies from one couple to another.

If you missed them, read their interviews here!

Diana Southern and Ian Norman in New York City

October – December 2015

Launching Our First Product!

As we continued our road trip into the fall, we began working on something new: one of Ian’s bucket list goals was to create and sell a physical product. Not that we wanted to get into the regular business of manufacturing — we just wanted to give it a try. So he produced the SharpStar by Lonely Speck, a focusing tool for astrophotographers that works with a standard camera filter system.

And the endeavor was fruitful! In December 2015 we officially matched (and surpassed) our previous monthly income from our pre-entrepreneurship days.

Diana Southern and Ian Norman hiking Matanuska Glacier, Alaska

Diana Southern and Ian Norman on the Coastal Starlight Amtrak Train

It’s been another amazing year! Thanks for keeping us company through it all!


Now Let’s Talk Goals…

Here’s a quick overview of what we’re hoping to accomplish in the new year:

  • pay off the remainder of my student loans before my birthday (November 10)
  • publish an e-book… or two
  • create a kick-ass promo video for North to South
  • inspire all levels of photographers to practice their skills with our weekly photo challenge on The Photon Collective
  • reach 1 million all-time views of North to South (currently at 600K)

What’s next for us? We’ve got a few things in mind… Follow our blog on Facebook to stay up to date on our 2016 travel plans! Want to see what we did the year before this one? Check out our Our Year in Review 2014.

About the Author

Diana Southern
In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.

7 Responses

  1. Jeff January 3, 2016 / 11:27 pm

    Congratulations on your big year. It is always a bit of a risk to jump into something new, but it looks like you were very successful. 2k Views per day on a post is quite good. I am sure that brings in a lot of traffic to your site.

    • Diana Southern January 4, 2016 / 12:12 am

      Thanks, Jeff! Now I just need to work on getting more views for all of my other posts. 🙂

      Best wishes in the new year!

  2. Jimmy Dau January 3, 2016 / 11:29 pm

    Congratulations on a huge effort! I only managed to cover 25 states 🙂

    All the best for 2016. Looking forward to following your adventures.

    • Diana Southern January 4, 2016 / 12:11 am

      Thanks, Jimmy! And hey — 25 is still awesome! Probably higher than the average American, for sure.

      Happy travels in the new year!

  3. Paul and Carole January 3, 2016 / 11:48 pm

    WoW what an incredible year! We are still only 6 months into the blogging world and blogs like yours are a great inspiration, Thanks for sharing!

    • Diana Southern January 4, 2016 / 12:15 am

      Thanks, Paul and Carole! We’re so happy to hear we can be an inspiration for others. Blogging isn’t easy, but if you stick with it, in time you’ll perfect your niche and find your path to success! Best wishes in the new year!

  4. Seth January 4, 2016 / 6:27 am

    Congrats on an incredible year! Your journey is inspiring.

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