Sometimes I can be a little bit superstitious and I will admit I was worried about what 2013 had in store. By no means an unlucky year it was a bit of a bumpy one; 2013 turned out to be a mix of soaring highs and crushing lows. It was also a year of big personal change – I moved in with a boy, quit my job to go freelance and finally lost some of the excess pounds my travelling lifestyle had led to. (Detox to start again shortly, I swear!)
There was even more travel than I had seen in 2012 (where I racked up 13 countries) and another award thanks to the lovely people at Cosmopolitan Magazine. There were moments of self-doubt and instances of intense clarity, but most of all there was discovery. In 2013 I went to 15 countries, about 25 international cities and to 5 places I had no idea what to expect of.
I started the year in Australia, on a farm to be precise, about 150 kms outside of Melbourne with my boyfriend’s closest friends who I had just met for the first time. On the way home we popped into Kuala Lumpur and then I visited Vietnam for the second time even though my first visit had left me less than impressed. This time I saw past the agro from conniving cyclo drivers and fell for the beauty of mystical Halong Bay and historic Hoi An. I was wary of the food but my boyfriend loved it and we spent our last night in the best hotel I have ever seen in my life – the Nam Hai Hoi An.
Before January was over I was off on another trip, to Barbados, for my very first Blogathon. 4 bloggers over 4 weeks took turns to experience The Club Barbados Resort and Spa and everything the island that gave birth to Rihanna had to offer. I even got to experience flying on Concorde – from a video on a grounded plane, of course!
In February my sister chose the sapphire waters of Varadero, Cuba as the backdrop for her wedding. After the nuptials I headed to Havana for a few days to experience a city in a timewarp. After being shared by the Lonely Planet team this post on the Colours Of Cuba was one of my most read of the year.
Easter was spent eating New York followed by a (re)visit to Cyprus, the first country I ever visited without my parents. I got close to nature in an eco-lodge on the River Gambia (but almost didn’t make it at all after missing my flight for the first time ever) and marvelled at the treasures of Ancient Egypt a few days before everything changed there.
Next there were Hong Kong peaks and chicken feet, perfect pints in Dublin and my first experience of Germany. I fell for the secret doors and hidden gardens of the Marrakech and retraced the footsteps of Mandela in South Africa.
Then we went to Australia again to attend the wedding of two close friends and added a sneaky stop in Sydney onto the end. Finally I went to Taiwan, a place I knew nothing of but quickly found to be one of the friendliest places on earth.
So 2013 took me to 15 countries – 5 were knew, Australia featured twice. There were millions of challenges (professionally, personally and financially), 1 new award and 1 shortlist for a Travel Press Award 2013. I gained a new perspective on old places and (eventually/somewhat/somehow) forged a career out of the things I love.
2013 also saw the launch of #TravelBookChat on twitter, where over 100 of you fellow book and travel loving tweeters came together to share recommendations. #TravelBookChat will continue on into 2014, look out for news of a foodie themed one coming soon.
2014 is set to be a year of even bigger change. As I embark upon the last few countries on the 40before30 challenge I will be thinking about what is next. So far the agenda includes part 2 of the Elite Hotels Blogathon, a few weeks backpacking around a part of Asia I have long been obsessed with, a humungous writing project and a very big move. I also have another sibling wedding to look forward to – this time on a Greek Island! First up, however, is a big party to celebrate the end of 2013 as I attend and blog Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.
I would like to end with my thanks to all you readers and fellow travel lovers. I hope you had an amazing 2013 and that an even better 2014 is on its way. What were your travel highlights from the past year and where do you hope to head in the next?
Happy New Year!