After a whirlwind 12 months of business, leisure and unanticipated travel, I thought now would be a good time to look back and see how I did on my challenge this year. Through discovering new countries, revisiting old favourites (and some not so favourite), finding a new job and winning an unexpected award, I learnt heaps and had fun on the way.
My first jaunt of the year was to San Diego to attend a business conference. This was not my first visit to the States but it was the first time during this challenge. I loved the food and vibe of San Diego but it was the few nights I spent in Palm Springs that really stuck in my mind – especially the part where I flagged down a cop car thinking it was a taxi!
February saw me start a new job looking after the social media for Flight Centre UK and with that came a trip down to the Flight Centre headquarters in Brisbane! In an ironic twist of fate, on my first day on the job I experienced my first ever flight turn around – 4 hours after takeoff. BA handled the situation spectacularly and it resulted in me getting to visit this cool hotel. I learnt that travel is not always plane sailing though.
In March I thought it was time I took a holiday so I bravely teamed up with a group of Aussies to check out Budapest. We partied hard in this scenic city, but I had no love for the food.
My first ever press trip in the capacity of a travel blogger was offered to me in June and I was delighted it led me to discovering Skane in Southern Sweden. Another new country was ticked off my challenge and I developed a new obsession – Fika!
Another first in relation to travel blogging was my attendance at TBU in Innsbruck, Austria – a superb conference for the travel blogging community. I met some great people, learnt heaps, and found that Innsbruck is not as boring as I thought as a kid.
In June I was jammy enough to win return flights for 2 to Madrid at the Flight Centre summer ball. I used these up in September and basically ate all the tapas in Madrid.
September also saw my first partnership with airline bmi who sent me to get the low down on their city of the month – Basel, Switzerland. I did a bit of budget juggling and worked out if I stuck to some bargain sightseeing options I would have more money to splurge on Swiss chocolate and wine! I was lucky enough for them to send me business class on this trip but this unfortunately made it very hard to go back to economy on my next one!
Shamefully, although being based in the UK, I had never been to Scotland before I received an invite to an event in Glasgow this November. I can’t tell you how unexpectedly cool this city is – as a fan of vintage shops and retro style bars I was in heaven.
The end of November saw me discover somewhere I never thought I would go – Lebanon. Beirut was bmi’s city of the month but my trip to this fascinating place, with its ancient ruins and the luxury of the Four Seasons Hotel, made my year.
Just last weekend I was in Rome and bumped into the Pope and the week before that I was working in San Francisco and learning loads from the employees of Google at their impressive Mountain View Headquarters. Content on these experiences will follow very soon.
So this year I got to see 11 countries, 9 of which were new to the challenge and all of which were amazing in their own way. Something else amazing happened this year, I was honoured (and completely shocked) to win Travel Blogger of the Year at the British Travel Press Awards. This site is my favourite hobby so to be recognised in such a way by the industry is really the icing on the cake.
I hope you have all enjoyed the challenge thus far and will continue to as I attempt to discover 13 new countries and revisit some gems that lure me back. There promises to be more misadventures, shopping, culinary treats and who knows what else! First destination on the list is Miami in just a few short weeks!
Wishing you all a happy New Year and very happy travels for 2012 x