Experiences

A Travel Blogger’s Year in Review

January 1, 2018 • By

It’s a wrap – and time for Rover’s year in review.

2017 is no longer with us, but some great memories are! So let’s start at the beginning…

…my travel game started off strong…

Rover's Year in Review 2017 - Kyoto

Mr. H and I headed to Japan in February, just after the official launch of SmithHönig, the travel-inspired home décor company I started with interior designer Kellie Smith. (More on that later).

We spent two weeks driving – (yes, driving!) – in Tokyo, Nagoya and Kyoto with lots of stops in between.

year in review tokyo rover at home

Mr. H is a true road warrior and prides himself on being able to negotiate any road, any where!

We had some close calls outside of Tokyo! The signage AND GPS were all in Japanese, which made my job as navigator challenging — to say the least!

But we survived. And we had an amazing time.

year in review tokyo food market

In Kanagawa, we experienced our first ryokan – a Japanese inn that provides a traditional dinner and breakfast.

The ryokan was built over a natural hot spring. Part of the evening was the bathing experience. (One day, I’ll write about the complicated rituals of Japanese hot spring etiquette! But not today.)

The artfully-arranged meal service in our room was a definite highlight…

…as was our lovely attendant Mayumi, who casually went from standing to kneeling in a single, graceful move that I’ll never be able to duplicate!

Mayumi’s smiling face definitely had to make it into the year in review!

If you’re thinking of booking a trip to Japan, I recommend at least one night in a ryokan. You can book at TheRyokan.Com. This specialized website offers experiences from inexpensive to all-out luxury. (Ours was mid-range.)

(BTW, I don’t receive any compensation from TheRyokan.com. I used them for our trip and I had a great experience. I know booking something new overseas can be daunting, so I’m sharing.)

year in review bamboo forest kyoto

Our favorite part of the trip was Kyoto, with its bamboo forest, zen gardens and great restaurants.

We stayed at an inn that deserves its own Hotel Love feature. (I’ll get to that story one day, too!)

If you’re planning a trip to Kyoto I highly recommend the Higashiyama or historic district. Walking the narrow lanes between ancient wooden buildings and crossing small canals, you’ll feel truly transported. We loved every minute of it.

Traveling to Kyoto, Japan? Settle into this beautiful and historic Japanese city for at least five days. Take a look at highlights from our Asian trip.

If you’re lucky, you might see a real geisha walking along the streets of Kyoto.

We had an authentic experience at one of the few remaining Geisha Houses (or Geiko, as they say in Kyoto). But our year in review doesn’t stop there.

After Japan, we headed to Morocco, where we rented a riad in the heart of Marrakech for a house party with friends.

You can have a truly amazing vacation in Morocco without spending a lot of money, especially if you can put together a small group of like-minded friends. You can read more about that trip, here.

…from there, it was all work…

I mentioned SmithHönig at the beginning of the post…Kellie Smith and I officially launched SmithHönig in January.

You may wonder what brought a travel blogger and an interior designer together in the first place.

…basically window treatments, wine…and chocolate…

But that’s yet another story.

And this is the year in review, so I’ll move on.

Kellie is a color-whisperer who has won awards for her interiors. Like me, she loves to travel. I studied art history, painting and photography. I’m never without a camera in hand. From our first meeting, we thought we might create something together one day.

And then we did.

Our first show was an overwhelming, exhausting and amazing experience!

…getting there was half the battle…

We designed and manufactured our first products, created a collection, produced a photo shoot, designed a booth, a catalog, a price list and a website. (In writing, it doesn’t sound so complicated!)

This was a true labor of love that we’ve thought about for years – and it felt good to see it becoming real!

The images on our art, pillows, fabric and wallcover are all inspired by travel and created from imagery in my photographs. Kellie’s specialties are recoloring, defining scale and creating cohesive collections.

We discover some special, one of a kind items on our travels, too and we offer them on our new website.

Everything from jewelry to vintage textiles…

At our first show, we met amazing new friends and were thrilled to make our first few sales! Thank you, all you forward-thinking risk takers who believed in us!

…we seriously love you…

We even got picked up by Gump’s, the venerable San Francisco department store!

(Wow. I mean, just wow!)

gumps department store

That’s a club chair in SmithHönig’s Navajo Road fabric, above, placed just inside the Gump’s front entrance!

Some of our pillows were featured in Gump’s windows as well — part of San Francisco’s “Summer of Love” promotion.

(Special thanks to my friend, glass artist Penny Moraga, for sending us these awesome shots of the Gump’s displays.)

…and then it started all over again…

It was time for new designs – again, pulled from our travel images.

We made revisions to our marketing and sales plans, researched new and additional vendors and designed a brand new, larger booth at AmericasMart in July.

We launched peel and stick wallcover and fabric by the yard!

Can you feel the wanderlust in our patterns and products?

In preparation for the show, there were leads to follow up on, calls to make, shipping to be arranged and press kits to be organized.

We made some sales. We won the visual display award.

…and we learned more lessons…

We also started working with a vinyl manufacturer who specializes in murals for the hospitality industry. Our art was displayed at the Boutique Design show in New York and we met with sales reps working on specific hotel projects!

Where will this lead?

We don’t know yet – but we’re soooooo excited!

At the moment we’re prepping HARD for our next show in Atlanta in January. Yet again, we’ve added a few new patterns and collected a few more accessories.

(Check out these beaded tassels from India.)

As of today, it’s ten days ’til show time! Shipping starts this week!

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Of course, I AM still a travel blogger.

And I can’t keep any of it going if I don’t keep traveling. So somewhere along the way I need to start planning my next trip.

Any suggestions? Where would you go if you were looking for creative inspiration? I’d love to know.

Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year!

May yours be filled with inspiration, creativity and adventure…

—– Melanie