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I cannot believe 2017 is over already. I know, it’s what everyone says every single year. Last year for my business was the busiest and the most stressful yet, and in terms of my personal life, I had some of the lowest and highest moments of my life.
This year started with a trip to Lisbon for a few days where I had the most amazing time in the most unique accommodation in the city. I had heard so much about Lisbon as it was one of the hottest destinations in the travel sphere earlier this year.
After Lisbon I travelled to Morocco, starting in Tangier (wish I had more time there!) and then making my way to the ancient city of Fes (and a day trip to Chefchaoeun – the blue city!), then ending in Rabat catching up with some friends. Morocco was by far the hardest destination I had travelled to as a solo female, but nevertheless, I enjoyed my time there and would happily go back to explore Marrakesh!
I then teamed up with Traveltalk tours and had the time of my life in Egypt. Egypt had been one of those destinations that were on my list since I was a little girl. Travelling around Egypt and seeing all the ancient sites was mind-blowing. It was a highlight of 2017 for me and I urge you to travel there too.
Next was Jordan. I was apprehensive to travel to Jordan alone because I had no idea what to expect, but it ended up being another place I fell in love with. Petra was out of this world. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Not to mention the hospitality of the Jordanians was remarkable.
After that, I flew from Jordan to Israel! I started my time in Tel Aviv. I was only supposed to spend a few days there and then head to Jerusalem, but I ended up staying a whole week because I loved it so much. Tel Aviv was a hip, trendy city with great food, a beautiful beach and chilled vibe. I highly encourage you to visit Tel Aviv if you haven’t already. It was one of the top cities I visited this year. The other was Jerusalem.
This historic city is a lot to take in as there is so much happening and so many religions all in one place, it was amazing! I also teamed up with Abraham Tours and went to the most violate city on earth, Hebron in Palestine. It was disheartening hearing the stories from the Palestinians and the Jewish settlers there. It was incredibly educational, and I will never forget that day.
I also got the opportunity to visit Masada and the Dead Sea with Abraham Tours, another amazing tour that they offer. I enjoyed my time staying at their hostel in Jerusalem, I even did their hummus workshop! Now I’m the queen of making hummus!
After going back to the United Kingdom for a month I then set off on my first taste of the Balkans. I started in Bosnia and Herzegovina where I checked out Tezla, Sarajevo, the Bosnian pyramids (more on that coming soon!), and finally Mostar. It’s such a beautiful country which 20 years ago was war-torn. I wish I spent more time exploring the little towns and villages there. I can also say 1 night in Mostar is not enough! Its such a sweet small town and although there is not a lot to do there it’s a beautiful place to chill out.
I then caught a bus to Dubrovnik. Its famous for the Game of Thrones as this is where a lot of it is filmed, but despite never seeing the show I enjoyed my time there. I was in Dubrovnik in April and it was the perfect time to go. After talking with one of the waiters he said it gets so busy that in the summer it takes him an hour to get to work (walking from the gate into the centre of the old town). Whereas in April it takes him 5 minutes. So, if your thinking of travelling to Dubrovnik, do it in the off-season when the cruise ships aren’t there!
After a few nights in Dubrovnik, I then travelled to Kotor, Montenegro. Kotor is extremely picturesque and quaint. It was one of the most beautiful places I visited in 2017 for sure. I can highly recommend staying at the Old Town Hostel. It was so much fun and a very unique hostel to stay in. I also worked with 360 monte Tours and did one of their day tours to the north of Montenegro where we went to the Duritmor National Park, Tara bridge, Ostrog Monastery and a couple of incredible viewpoints along the way. If you want to travel somewhere that has amazing nature then go to Montenegro, it was stunning. Every view was breath-taking.
Back at the hostel, I met a great bunch of people who I ended up hiring a car with and driving to Shkodër, Albania for one night. It was a fun trip, stopping over in Budva and a couple of viewpoints too. When arriving in Albania I couldn’t believe how cheap it was compared to everywhere else I had been in Europe.
I spent a couple of days back in Kotor before travelling to Shkoder, then making my way down to the south of Albania. I had heard so many wonderful things about the south and the beauty of it, so I was incredibly excited.
I stayed at the Hairy Lemon Hostel and instantly fell in love with Albania. After exploring Ksamil, the Blue Eye and Saranda I knew I had to go back there. The people were amazing, and it was the first time that I felt like I could live somewhere else other than the United Kingdom or New Zealand. Albania fascinated me intensely. I was incredibly sad when I had to leave and even when I was at Tirana airport I was looking at flights going back to Albania for the summer. I remember deciding in my mind that I was going to go back to Saranda, even though I had no real plan to do so.
My plane arrived in Istanbul where I was working with Traveltalk tours again but this time in Turkey for the Anzac Day tour. Being in Gallipoli for Anzac Day was another bucket list tick for me. I had family that had fought in this terrible disaster of war and I really wanted to pay my respects along with thousands of other New Zealanders and Australians.
After an epic 10 days exploring Turkey and commemorating Anzac Day, I then flew to Sri Lanka to spend a week exploring the south – Galle. Sri Lanka was incredible. The food, the people, the nature – a truly amazing place that should be visited at least once in your life!
I then travelled to Australia to spend some time with my family and after that, I went back to New Zealand to spend a few weeks relaxing and seeing more family. Before I knew it, 3 weeks had flown by and I was back on a plane again, this time heading for Southeast Asia!
I met one of my best friends in Kuala Lumpur airport where we then caught a flight to the Philippines, another country I was eagerly awaiting to visit! We started in Puerto Princesa then travelled to El Nido and finally Coron. I even had a couple of days without social media and it was amazing. There comes a point where you get sick of answering to people all the time so that break from the internet was well needed at that time of my life. It’s healthy and everyone should have some time off social media. I almost think it should be compulsory!
After a much-needed beach break, we then travelled to Cambodia. Firstly, Phnom Penh where we learnt all about the Cambodian genocide and the horrific events during that time. It was heart-breaking to hear all the stories of what the Cambodians went through. We then caught an overnight bus to Siem Reap where we spent some time (a lot of time) in the pool and visiting the famous Angkor Wat of course. You can read my ultimate guide to Angkor Wat here.
After exploring the ancient ruins, we caught a flight to northern Thailand (Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai). Chiang Mai was a cool place with great Thai food and we even found fabulous Israeli and Afghani restaurants too!
Myanmar was next on our agenda. I knew NOTHING about Myanmar before going there. It was the first time I did little to no research on a country. I really fell in love with the culture and the people. They were all very kind. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, the government is performing a mass-ethnic cleansing on the Rohingya’s. There are currently over 600,000 people fleeing for their lives to Bangladesh with nowhere to go. I really hope that the Myanmar government can stop this horrific act soon with all the international pressure. If you would like to read more about what is happening, then read this.
After Myanmar, we then caught a flight to Bangkok where we spent a few days before I flew to Athens, Greece!
I arrived into Greece when it was 40 degrees! I had just under 12 hours there so I did a tour with a local using Local Guddy – highly recommend it! Later in the evening, I caught my bus back to…. Saranda, Albania. It turns out that I found a way and I kept my promise to go back there!
I spent from July until December living in Saranda. It was the best summer of my life and I’m not exaggerating. I met a fantastic bunch of people, explored more of Albania’s mind-blowing landscape and settled down a little in a rented apartment right on the beach. I really enjoyed getting into a routine again and working on some big projects that I had been meaning to start for a long time. Plus, I explored 26 new countries within the first half of the year, so I had to have a lot of downtime to write about those beautiful locations!
I left Saranda and my beautiful apartment on the 4th of December and travelled to Berat, Tirana and then caught an overnight bus to Sofia, Bulgaria! Unfortunately, with leaving Albania came troubles, which I will tell you all about later in the year.
I hung out in Sofia for a very quick couple of nights. Sofia seemed to be a happening city and I would love to spend more time there. I woke up to the second day and the whole city was in a blanket of snow, winter had truly arrived. The Alexander Nevsky was a highlight for me. Make sure you go inside and wander around the cathedral, it’s magical.
From Sofia I flew to London and just like every time I come into the United Kingdom, I get intensely questioned, especially since no one really knows what my job is. I dream of the day I don’t get scrutinised by British immigration.
As I currently write this I’m visiting my old stomping ground St Albans for a few nights as I have been in central London the last week. I basically ate my way around London (naturally) and now I’m putting my head down for a few days of intensive work before my sister and her family come join me from New Zealand for Christmas! What a magical way to finish this year. When this post goes live I would have finished a much-needed week off social media.
So, what are my plans for 2018? I have rough plans, but I always find when I plan too much they never happen, so I’m going to keep them close to my heart and all will be revealed when they happen.
I hope you have had an amazing Christmas and had a great start to the new year. I wish you all the best for 2018! Let me know what your plans are for this year. Which destinations are hot on your list?