For me, 2018 has been a year of cataclysmic highs and uncomfortable lows. It’s undeniable that travel has brought me so much joy, growth and happiness, which is partly why I continue to make it a part of my life. At this time of year, it’s common to practice gratitude, appreciating all the big and small ways in which life has been good to us. It’s also a time for reflection. What has made this year different from others? What struggles have you endured? What blessings have you received?
I thought I’d take the time to reflect on the many adventures that I have been lucky to partake in this year. I started this year with a few travel goals in mind. Initially, they were written on a white board back in 2017, and by 2018 they had materialised. I hope that this reinforces the power of writing down your goals and dreams, whether they involve travel, hobbies, your career or daily practices. What we surround ourselves with is what we absorb, and if we find some way to bring our dreams into a tangible reality, either by writing them down or picturing them, we bring ourselves one step closer to making them come true.
South African Safari
I started my year with a week in South Africa via G Adventures. I am a huge animal lover and going on safari has been one of my ultimate goals. An opportunity to see exotic, beautiful and rare animals in their own habitat has always been tremendously appealing. It was a cold December night when bored, I decided on a whim to book my trip. What a way to start the year!
My group was so warm and welcoming, I met a wonderful friend from Australia who became my ‘wifey’ for the duration of the trip, and we were led by Piet, a man who simply radiates kindness and passion for animals and Africa.
Seeing the Big 5 whilst in the company of such beautiful and fun people was one of the best experiences of my life. Being able to cast my eyes on an elusive leopard, to scramble and squirm beneath majestic and ginormous elephants and to happen upon a clan of hyenas cackling menacingly at a watering hole are memories I will always treasure.
My first trip to Nice back in 2017 was a whistle-stop tour around the best that the South of France has to offer. Using Nice as our base, my friend and I whizzed around Cannes, Eze and other French gems, before braving the chaos of a broken-down bus to eventually end up in Bordeax, where we watched French television without subtitles and sampled wines for free at a local wine bar with drunk locals.
We decided to venture back to Nice to recapture some of the magic of our first adventure, and also to spend more time IN Nice, rather than constantly voyaging beyond it.
This time, we could move at a slower pace. The highlight of our trip this time was probably the food. We found so many gorgeous Vegan restaurants and enjoyed multiple glasses of red wine. It would be rude not to…
My desire to venture to New Orleans had been brewing for some time and felt very much like a craving. Everything about NOLA appealed to me, it’s heat, it’s food, it’s jazz, the sultry, sensual way it fuses European lineage with a larger than life American boldness. My experience was better than I could ever have imagined. The friendships I made here continue to this day, and the memories of hand grenades, alligators, wandering around universities and hotels at night and breathing in air filled with soul resonate powerfully with me. NOLA has left a mark on my heart.
LA, San Francisco and Portland
My goal is to eventually make it to all 50 states and doing so driving an old automatic car would be great. I still can’t drive. Perhaps that’s a goal I should work on for 2019…
Consuming America in pieces is still a possibility though, and if this analogy is expanded, then LA was my starter, SF was my main course and Portland was my dessert.
LA, with its gritty glamour, is a mile away from its televised silicone pretty, but there’s no denying it’s appeal. There’s a bold brutality, a punishing pulse that pushes on regardless of what you are doing. Personal highlights were the Hollywood sign, Chinese theatre and exploring the Viper Room, remnants of Hollywood’s heyday.
San Francisco is a picturesque city where I did a lot of eating. Finding the Mrs Doubtfire House and walking the Golden Gate Bridge were both amazing experiences. If I return in future, a trip to Alcatraz will be necessary! Here, I also got to catch up with a dear friend and his husband, reminding me that friendships are like seeds that disperse on the wind. They land and grow in many places.
Portland, a wildcard on my list, was beautiful, delving into a more natural and tranquil side of America, exploring its wilderness and seeking out locations from The Goonies (one of my favourite things to do is to scout out places I love from films I adore.)
Certain places have been on my Adventure List for a while but because of their close proximity, I’ve felt I could visit them later. With Madrid, I decided to take the plunge and go. Madrid is a delicious city – if you came here just to eat you would not be disappointed. The tastes, colours and charisma of the city are quite intoxicating. Beyond food and drink, there is history, culture and a flair for living life that is uniquely Spanish. Pride seeps out of every pore of the city.
I am grateful that during a year of personal hardship, I’ve also been fortunate enough to have some truly wonderful experiences. I’ve made new memories and friends, gained new magnets for my fridge and had endless new experiences. It’s also enjoyable to look back on a year to see what’s changed, to realise that you did do a lot that you wanted to do, to understand that life is punctuated with both good and bad but that the key is to keep dreaming, to keep moving, to keep believing.
I hope that you’ve made your own travel dreams come true this year or are closer to meeting them in 2019.
All my love