12 destinations, 16 flights, 7 countries, 2 new countries, 12 train journeys
At a time when everyone is looking to the New Year, I love taking the time to reflect on the last 12 months. I always feel slightly panicky that I’m not doing much with my life, but by looking back I’m (usually) able to reassure myself that I’ve achieved a lot more than I thought!
This year has been full of highs and lows. Not only has it thrown some curve balls my way, but it’s also been the first full year where I’ve had to cope with everything without my mum by my side. It’s been bloody tough, but it’s made me appreciate just how resilient I really can be. Let’s hope 2019 will be a little kinder.
Despite living in London (and having all the bills that come with it…), I’ve still managed a fair few adventures this year – both at home and abroad. I also loved the idea Vicky Flip Flop had to keep things realistic by including some highlights and low points for each month…so I nicked it.
Here’s a full run-through of what I’ve been up to…
The year kicked off in the best way possible, with a trip to the Arctic Circle to try to spot the Northern lights. It was a 30th birthday gift from me to my boyfriend and, even though I’d already been to Norway a few years ago, it was Ian’s first time in the country.
Over the few days we were there, we wrapped up warm in our thermals, saw the Northern lights twice, and met dozens of huskies – including puppies!
This was quite possibly our most favourite trip of the year, if not ever. It definitely made me fall back in love with travel again after a disastrous trip to Canada and Cuba two months before. Of course, it would be so nice to return again with a bit more money in our pockets, but it was like nowhere else we had ever visited before. It’s made me realise the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and embracing new experiences in 2019.
A few weeks after we got back, it was time for my first of three press trips in 2018. I took the Eurostar over to Ghent for the launch of their light festival which runs every three years. Not only did I attend the opening evening and meet content creators, I also got to explore Ghent with the lovely Roma from Roaming Required!
Highlights: Seeing the Northern Lights twice. Don’t think anything beat that this year! Oh, except the chocolates in Ghent. They were a very close second 😉
Low points: Being so cold out in the middle of Tromso that I felt like I was going to have to be rushed to A&E to get the feeling back into my limbs! Luckily the above highlight more than made up for it…
February saw me and Ian jet off to Lanzarote for a whirlwind press trip with Jet2 Holidays. We decided on Lanzarote because I’m a nerd who loves a good volcanic landscape. It was also completely different to somewhere we’d usually go (we’re usually fans of city breaks, so this forced us to open our eyes to a different type of holiday).
Short but sweet, our 48 hours in Lanzarote saw us drinking sangria at a street festival in Arrecife, getting to grips with César Manrique’s art, and watching meat cook over a volcano. In many ways it was completely unlike anything I was expecting.
A guide to 72 hours in Lanzarote
Highlights: A little thing to others, but a huge thing for me: on the way out to Lanzarote I managed the flight without any anxiety medication!
Low points: Two days: what would have been my mum’s 58th birthday, and the first anniversary of her passing. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around it.
As the beginning of March was my birthday, I spent the entire month catching up with friends around London. I went for an epic 80 Days Around The World-themed meal with Ian, had afternoon tea at Sketch with Sophie from Luggage Tags and Ticket Stubs, and hopped on over to Flip Out trampoline park for a bounce around.
Highlights: Receiving flights to Italy from Ian as my birthday present!
Low points: I’m not sure I had one? Maybe all that snow threatening to call-off my birthday celebrations…
In April I had lots of tea-filled activities, firstly at Fes-Tea-Val with my best mate Amy, and then at The Ritz for afternoon tea with Sophie! Proving that there’s just no getting rid of her (and nor do I want her to go anywhere <3), I also went up to Birmingham with Soph for a weekend stay with easyHotel. We didn’t really know what to expect in Birmingham, but we were pleasantly surprised to find craft markets, lots of cool hipster spots, and an epic library of dreams.
What to expect from a stay with easyHotel Birmingham
7 ways that Birmingham surprised me
Celebrating National Tea Day at London’s Fes-Tea-Val
Having my afternoon tea dreams come true at The Ritz
Highlights: Finding some great colourful walls in Birmingham. Oh and just the sheer amount of tea I drank throughout the entire month. BLISS.
Low points: None I don’t think?!
May was a busy old month, especially with Traverse over in Rotterdam. I wasn’t expecting to like Rotterdam as much as I did, but the cube houses, food market and quirky street art totally did it for me. And, of course, it was beyond nice to be there with Soph. I also got to say hi to lots of new and old faces, learn some more about blogging, and get to meet Sassy and Ida!
Highlights: Finally visiting Brussels after passing through its train station so many times. Also, celebrating Ian’s 31st birthday with a party at our flat.
Low points: Breaking my memory card and losing ALL my photos from Rotterdam and Brussels. Gutted didn’t cover it.
In June I also headed up to the top of the o2 again with Roma. We were the only two booked on for our time so we basically had our own little private tour.
10 things you can only do in London
Highlights: Catching up with so many blog friends.
Low points: My nan ending up in hospital down in Poole after falling over on her holiday.
In July I went on a mini road trip with Jodie from The Little Backpacker before she moved out to Dubai. I met up with her down in Poole, and we went on a mega journey around iconic Jurassic Coast sights. It was my first time seeing Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove and we had the most glorious weather for it. Honestly, almost 6 months on and you can still see my sunburn marks on my arms.
July was also the month for festivals! Ian and I went to Citadel and Kaleidoscope day festivals – we didn’t really care much for anyone playing, but it was fun to dress up in glitter and have a day out somewhere different. I also got to go to London Film and Comic Con for the first time EVER and it’s sparked a new obsession within me. Seriously, I’m going to ALL of them in 2019.
Highlights: My nan coming home from hospital. Meeting Paul McGann at London Film and Comic Con!
Low points: Forgetting to put suncream on. Ouch.
I couldn’t believe it when I got a notification on my phone from the folks at Holiday Pirates saying that I had won their Instagram competition. The prize? A £500 city break! There were many many many places that made the shortlist, but in the end I decided on a few days in Lisbon – a city (and country) completely new to me, and so cheap I could afford to bring Ian along for the ride too.
After finding out my freelance contract at work was coming to an end just weeks before, this holiday was a real budget one, but we still managed to have fun. There was lots of walking, lots of cheese, and a heck of a lot of cooing over the city’s colourful tiles. Of course, it wasn’t completely incident-free – on our last day we went out for a final walk and I stacked it in my sandals. A painful toe, lots of blood and a hobble back to our apartment later, and we realised that I actually can’t be taken anywhere.
In August I also stayed at the new Roomzzz Aparthotel in Stratford with Soph – we had an epic weekend full of doughnuts, shopping and sleep!
Highlights: Quite a few! Sipping drinks and watching the sunset from the Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen viewpoint in Lisbon with Ian definitely makes the cut. Also, having my photo appear in a Mayfair gallery thanks to a collaboration with the folks at Three and Samsung!
Low points: I had one of the biggest panic attacks in recent years the morning of our flight to Lisbon. It was so bad, I almost cancelled our entire holiday. Thankfully, with a bit of a push (and some Diazepam), I managed to get out there.
My mental health took a fun unexpected dip in September, resulting in me cancelling a trip at the last minute to Germany. I was meant to be going out to Berlin to celebrate my friend’s hen do at the Lollapalooza festival, followed by a few days with friends in Hanover.
I’m not usually one to let my anxiety stand in my way, and will generally always push myself to feel the fear and do it anyway. However, this was just one step too far for me. As much as I felt like I was letting myself – and others – down by not going on the trip, I know it was 100% the right thing for me to do.
Highlights: Realising I have so many wonderful people around me. Also, my cats.
Low points: Quite literally the entire month.
With a new job under my belt and my medication reviewed, by October things were slowly starting to come together. A week away in Italy (organised by my boyfriend Ian) was just what the doctor ordered, even though our original flight out to Venice was cancelled and we couldn’t get on another flight until the next evening!
However, when we finally got out to Italy, we had the most incredible time. After a shorter time in Venice than we were expecting, we hopped on onward trains to Milan, Como, Genoa and Cinque Terre. Revisiting some of my favourite places in Italy as well as ones I’d been lusting over for years was a dream come true.
My highlights included spotting two snuggling ginger cats in a Venice bookshop, hiking around Cinque Terre with a camera in hand, and bumping into the Ukranian football team in our Genoa hotel (and no, I didn’t recognise them. It took us a long time to figure out why there were so many people wandering around the hotel in matching tracksuits…).
Highlights: Watching Ian complete his first ever Half Marathon, raising hundreds of pounds for Havens Hospice in the process. Also this was the month I started my new job and met some fabulous people.
Low points: Wiping out all my savings so that I could pay my rent…
November was one of those months where I just put my head down at work. So far I’m really enjoying my new job and I feel like I’ve learnt crazy amounts already!
I *did* get to go on a workshop with The Indytute though, all about upcycling vintage china. It made me realise just how much I miss doing arts and crafts.
Highlights: Getting back into a routine with work.
Low points: Being generally just very skint.
I’m a firm believer that November and December is the best time to go away. Not only is it an exciting few months anyway with the build-up to Christmas, but it’s an amazing way to round off your year.
In December I took Ian to Basel, Switzerland, for a long weekend away. We ate our weight in fondue, toured the Christmas markets multiple times, and visited some of the most niche museums we’d ever come across (the Basel Paper Mill museum is a lot more exciting than it sounds, believe me).
I also got taken out on a surprise evening out with Emma and Shikha from Why Waste Annual Leave. To my surprise, they’d found an incredible gingerbread house in London that you could rent out – complete with festive treats and speakers for your Christmas music! I still can’t get over how magical it all was.
Highlights: SO. MANY. CHRISTMAS. MARKETS.
Low points: Being ill over Christmas…again.
What’s to come in 2019
For the first time in a long while, I don’t have a single trip planned! I’m taking some time to build up my savings again after a dire year for money, but as always I’ve got a gigantic list of places I’d love to visit in 2019.
If you’ve made it this far down, I’d love to give you a big hug for all your support, and wish you a very happy new year. I hope 2019 brings lots of happiness, success and adventures your way – and also lots of tea and cats.