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OH MY GOD has 2016 been a hell of a year. Yes, I realise around 97% of all bloggers’ ‘2016 round-up’ posts will begin like this, but – dear God – this year just hasn’t let up for one single day.

It all started with the death of my music hero (Bowie) back in January, and from then on in everything just seemed to go downhill. Brexit. Trump. Horrific terrorist attacks in all corners of the globe. It seemed that barely a day went by without us waking up to some awful news, and soon just about everyone was praying for 2016 to come to a swift end.

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As some of you will know, this year has also been a hugely tough one for my personally too, with my mum being diagnosed with cancer in May. It meant that life has been turned on its head for both me and my mum, with endless hospital visits and sleepless nights. Since mum’s diagnosis I’ve put all my travels on hold, which is one of the reasons why my blog isn’t as regularly updated as it used to be. I hope that you all understand though and will bear with me. I haven’t forgotten you all, I promise!

While 2016 will undoubtedly remain on record as one of the worst years in existence, I’m always one to try find a slight glimmer of happiness. While it’s easy to focus on all the bad that’s happened, it got me thinking of things that had happened this year that I was grateful for. Granted I was thinking for quite a while, but I eventually managed to squeeze out 14 not-that-bad things that happened to me…

1. I visited 4 new countries

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-10-18-43This year started out perfectly in terms of travel plans. In February, me and my boyfriend took an overnight trip (yes, we are official mental) to Copenhagen to get a feel for the city. It was our first time in Denmark, so the priciness of it took a bit of getting used to, but we loved its walkability, its colourful buildings and, most importantly, its food and drink. Definitely need to go back one Christmas to see it in all its festive glory.

For my 25th in March, we took a mini-rail trip to Budapest and Prague, where we discovered the joys of Airbnb, 1st class rail travel (for next-to-nothing) and fancy Czech bars. I still have SO MUCH to write up about these two cities, it’s not even funny.

And my last travel trip of the year was to Monaco, a country/city-state/microstate/thing I fell for instantly. Even in April its weather was lush, its landscapes beautiful, and its street corners ridiculously Instagrammable. I so need to see more of the South of France! Anywhere along here that you would recommend?

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READ MORE:

How to Spend a Weekend in Copenhagen

My Ultimate List of All The Things Worth Doing in Budapest

10 Reasons Why Monaco Should Be Your Next Destination

The Perfect Hotel For a Romantic Weekend in Prague

2. I got an awesome new job

When my previous job decided to move offices to the other side of London, I made the decision to go freelance – which has worked out well as I’ve been able to spend a lot more time at home. The new company I work for is ridiculously awesome, and I also get to write about my two loves: food and travel!

3. I’ve spent so much time catching up with my mum

20161230_130405(An illustration of me, mum and the gingers that I got commissioned for a Christmas present)

Obviously, this point is very bittersweet. My mum and I have always been super close and spent loads of time together, but since her diagnosis that’s all just been doubled – to the point where we now sleep in the same room together, get all snuggled up in our twin beds with our blankets, ginger cats and movies, and then wake up at 2am for our little chats.

4. We took a trip to Norwich

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During a break from chemo, my mum and I took off to Norwich for 3 nights, a city we know really well cos I did a year of uni there before I transferred to London. We stayed in a 4* hotel in the middle of the city, had room service every night, shopped until we dropped, and slept as much as we could. It was glorious, and a well-needed break for us both.

5. I’ve seen some awesome music acts live

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Over the last 12 months I saw Muse (for free. At the O2. With my bae.), Courtney Barnett at Somerset House, and M. Ward…two/three times? It’s been a good year for music. The last gig I went to was actually in Southend with mum to see Human League – I went knowing about 2 songs of theirs, and now I’m completely obsessed with their entire back-catalogue.

6. I actually physically met M. Ward.

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I can’t even remember what I said. Oh dear god what did I say to him. But he was amazing, and I got my vinyl signed, and I was happy.

7. I terrorised met some amazing animals.

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So aside from the wondrous beauties that are my ginger cats Jim and Ralph, 2016 has brought me into contact with some real animal hunks. Like next door’s pug, my mum’s friend’s puppy, a ginger cat in Prague, a ginger lion in Budapest, and my mate’s cat Vera.

I even saw a koala for the FIRST TIME EVER in Budapest. Happy tears were definitely shed.

8. I lost 4 stone!

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Well, more like 3 stone after overindulging a little TOO much over the Christmas holidays, but what’s the point of life if you’re not going to stuff yourself silly with cheese, chocolate and fruit cake for 3 weeks days straight?

But yes, one thing that has actually gone right for me is the weight loss. (Read more about that here if you’re interested in making a similar change in 2017!). It’s not only been about losing weight though – the running helps me clear my mind, I have a lot more confidence to wear things that make me happy, and I officially have a ‘healthy’ BMI for the first time in years.

9. I started learning how to drive

OK, so I’ve had numerous accidents in lessons and being a passenger in my car isn’t exactly a relaxing experience, but it’s the thought that counts right? I’ve passed my theory test, so now just want to get confident enough to be able to take my mum out for little trips. And the freedom of being able to drive will hopefully open up more doors for my travels too. Australian road trip, anyone?

10. I got featured in Blogosphere Magazine!

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Shout out to Vicky Flip Flop for including me on her list, which was just the confidence boost I needed after a rotten few months.

11. Finally got to visit a lavender field

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I’ve wanted to visit a lavender field for years, so Soph (from Luggage Tags and Ticket Stubs) and I made it our mission to visit the Hitchin lavender field in Hertfordshire before it closed for the summer. We got there just in time for one of its last weekends, and frolicked around like the lame-os we truly are. And we had the most amazing brie sandwich up there. Heaven.

12. Raised almost £1000 for MacMillan

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Through various events, me, my family and my friends have managed to raise almost £1000 for MacMillan Cancer Support who’ve provided immeasurable support to us all in the last few months. We held a Coffee Morning at mine back in September (granted half of my bakes were raw, but the thought was definitely there), and just last week my amazing friends organised a carol singing session around Essex.

13. I had some awesome friend catch-ups

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From London weddings in December to my German besties coming over to Southend just for the afternoon, I’ve had some wonderful friend meet-ups. And I’ve also met scores of fabulous humans who’ve shown me what true friendship is all about.

14. I GOT TO SIT IN A PLANE’S COCKPIT

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And ending this list on a suitably nerdy note: I got to sit in an *actual* pilot’s seat in an *actual* plane’s cockpit! It happened on the way out to Prague when our Easyjet flight was delayed due to fog. To keep us passengers entertained for an hour or so, the pilots invited everyone up front to have a tour of the cockpit. I was one of the first to jump up, and got to quiz the pilots, push buttons that looked way too scary to be pushed, and get my photo taken in the pilot’s seat (BY THE ACTUAL PILOT). Too much excitement for one day.

For those who had a rough 12 months and are looking forward to putting everything behind them: I hear ya. But I hope you’re able to look back and see that there were moments of happiness, no matter how small, that showed you just how wonderful life CAN be. I truly wish you all an amazing 2017, full of exciting travels, beautiful moments, and lots of love.

emily