Every year I love to look back on where I have travelled to and reminisce on all the amazing things I have seen and experienced, whether that’s abroad or a little closer to home! I think doing this makes you more appreciative of what you have achieved, especially if you travelled at the beginning of the year so it seems like it was ages ago!
2018 for me was amazing in terms of travel, having experienced my first solo trip, but not so amazing in terms of getting my graduate job… But my ‘gap year’ was always going to be about doing something for me rather than for my ‘career’, and I think that I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to push myself out of my comfort zone and see more of the world. So, to anybody that is thinking about taking some time to do what they really want, i’d say just do it. Life is about more than just making money and getting your next promotion, go out and explore because travel is educational, makes you grow as a person and opens your mind to different cultures. So, rant over, here is my travel year in review!
February – India
My year started off when I embarked on my month long volunteering trip to India. I spent 4 weeks in Delhi, teaching children from the slums English and Maths, which was an amazing experience if not a bit challenging. At the weekends I had the opportunity to travel and see more of what India has to offer and explored Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Rishikesh, all of which are quite distinct in nature. India is a place that ignites all of your senses all at the same time. It’s very loud, but you walk into a temple and its so peaceful. The colours are vibrant, the smells intense, whether that be the delicious aroma of spices or the not so pleasant… Some of what you see is so grand and ornate and quite frankly beautiful, but then I saw some of the most abject poverty I’ve ever encountered. My month in India was a whirlwind adventure, and my first ever solo trip which made it very overwhelming to begin with. When I arrived I was nervous, but ended my trip having made some great friends and experiencing things I never though I would. It made me appreciate what I have and gave me a new confidence in myself. I would love to go back and explore more of what India has to offer as I truly believe it is an amazing country. Plus, I even got to experience Holi which was the most amazing thing! I celebrated where I was staying with the local residents and it was honestly, so much fun and I feel very privileged to have been able to take part. I think if I had just travelled without volunteering Holi wouldn’t have been such a good experience as I know some people who went into the city to celebrate and didn’t feel safe, but that’s a story for another time. All in all, I would urge anybody whose thinking of it to travel to India and don’t let any stories you’ve heard put you off. As with anywhere you travel, be smart and aware of your surroundings and I’m certain you’ll fall in love with the country just as I did.
March – Vietnam and Cambodia
Following my month long stint in India, I decided to continue my Asian adventure and backpack around Vietnam and Cambodia with my boyfriend, who joined my in Hanoi where we started off. We travelled to Halong Bay, Phong Nha, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Kampot, Kep and Siem Reap. My favourite place was probably Phong Nha as I love nature and it was so rural there. We hired a motorbike to help get us around and also went on a jungle trek which was intense but such a cool experience. It was really nice to experience a bit more of a laid back atmosphere and chill on a few beaches after the hustle and bustle of India. I feel like both countries have things to offer everybody, whether you want to experience the temples or take part in adventure activities or just relax on a beach, it has everything. And if you like a mix of everything, then you’re in for a treat! We travelled through both countries by using buses which were incredibly easy to use and flexible, although just because you’re on a sleeper bus don’t expect to get a decent night’s sleep!
April/May – Krakow, Poland
In April, I went on a little weekend break with one of my best friends to Krakow. And then I went back again in may with my parents for my Dad’s 70th birthday present! To explain, my friend and I had planned to go to Krakow for a while. But then when thinking of ideas for my dads birthday present we settled on Poland as his Mum’s side of the family was Polish and he’d never been! Luckily, I liked Krakow enough that I was quite happy to go back! It’s a lovely little city, very easy to walk around and steeped in History. As a History graduate, I love a good museum and so went to a fair few, like Schindlers Factory Museum. I also took a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau which, although is a very sobering day, is incredibly important in order to honour the memory of those who suffered. Overall, Krakow is a great city break destination; it’s very, very cheap and has lots to offer so when you’re thinking of where to head to next, it should definitely be on your list!
August – Scotland
Due to our backpacking trip around South East Asia, my boyfriend and I were a little strapped for cash when it came to our summer holiday. So we decided to do a little road trip around Scotland! We began in Edinburgh, where the Fringe Festival was on, so mainly just watched a lot of comedy and drank a lot of beer… We then decided to climb Ben Nevis, which was a lot harder than I had anticipated but a great feeling when you finally accomplish it! We continued to drive North and spend a day in Inverness, keeping a keen eye out for Nessie. We ended our week on the Isle of Lewis which was a lovely way to end our trip, surfing in the freezing see and seeing some of the best beaches Scotland has to offer! Although Scotland is really not very far at all, before this trip I had only ever been to Edinburgh once which is a little bit ridiculous! It made me appreciate the fact that you don’t always have to go far in order to ‘travel’ as it often lies on your doorstep.
October – Barcelona, Spain
Although Scotland was lovely, it didn’t quite fill my craving for some sunshine! So in October, my friend and I took a short break to Barcelona! When looking for places to stay, we had come across a sailing boat home on AirBnb and joked about the good pics we could get ‘for the gram’. Well, these jokes then turned into a reality when we thought it would be funny to stay in a boat! It was actually a nice stay, although we lost several shoes to the sea and one night had a bit of storm. But it was a unique experience! Barcelona itself is a really cool city and we experience quite a lot of its culture, with frequent Sangria stops dotted along the way! A lot of the time my ‘holidays’ are spent packing in as much stuff as I can, so that when I come home I feel like I need a holiday to recover! But because we had a little bit more time than I usually do, we took it a bit slower, whilst still seeing everything we wanted, but being a bit more laid back about it!
December – Amsterdam
To end my year I spent a few days in Amsterdam. Although I did enjoy the trip, I didn’t really get the big hype around it and everything just seemed incredibly expensive for what it was. Maybe I was just expecting too much or went at the wrong time of year, as it wasn’t as amazing as everybody seems to make out. We experienced some of the culture, by going to Anne Frank’s house, and also took an amazing walking tour of the Red Light District which was very frank but educational about the area, regardless of your own opinions. I did enjoy my trip and it was nice to have a bit more of relaxed holiday but I’m not too fussed about going back if I’m being honest.
It’s easy to forget everywhere you’ve been and the amazing things you’ve experienced when you’re stuck in the daily grind, so looking back at everything that you’ve achieved in a year is a great way of reminding yourself how far you’ve come. I was incredibly lucky in 2018 to see all that I did and although it may have been hard to come back to reality and be ‘behind’ in terms of finding my feet in the ‘adult world’, I know that when I do get my career I’m going to look back and be so grateful that I took the plunge and took a year out to see some of the world. So on that note, 2019, what you got for me?