Choosing My Word of 2017

I’ve almost missed the window to write my ‘new year’ piece. It’s ok, I suspected I would. January usually starts slowly for me – while everyone else seems to be making lists of goals, planning new projects and generally carpe diem-ing their way into the new year, I emerge from my Christmas stupor dazed and lethargic, with only enough energy to drag myself through the days.

My birthday is 2 weeks into January, and this is when I tend to look round and take stock of my life’s progress; not as the calendar rolls into a new year but as I myself clock up another year on the planet (this year, that number is 26). As I look back on the year just gone and the one ahead, I’m taking the ‘word of the year’ approach, and searching for the words that I would like to define the first year of what some would call my late twenties. Continue reading

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8 Good Things That Happened in 2016

So. 2016 has been quite a ride, huh? While 2015 was a harder year for me on a personal level, I feel like 2016 has really taken a toll on all of us. Brexit, Donald Trump, Aleppo, terrorist attacks and an abnormally large number of celebrity deaths have all affected us in ways big and small, and while we’re all jokingly praying for 2016 to be over, in reality many of the events of this year are going to follow us into the next, their full impact still to be felt.

It’s hard to know what to do in the face of such tragedy, such hate, such uncertainty. I think all we can do is to be true to our best selves, to defend what is right wherever we can and take the high road even when others try to pull us down to their level. I went to a spoken word event recently where someone read an open letter by Sarah Kendzior, and a quote really resonated with me – “If you are brave, stand up for others. If you cannot be brave – and it is often hard to be brave – be kind.”

We also need to appreciate what we have, and find our own ways to make life good when it feels pretty rubbish. Even when the world seems overwhelmingly horrible, we should appreciate how much more fortunate we are than others and count our blessings – that is what will get us through. With that in mind, I’m going to bring this mini-essay-rant to a close, and talk about the best things that have happened to me in 2016. Continue reading

A Last Look Back: 2015 Highlights

New Year’s Eve is looming, and all over the internet I’m being met with news articles, blog posts and think pieces about 2016 goals, resolutions and new beginnings. As much as I love the idea of rebirths and the chance to start over, I’m struggling to buy into it this year – the calendar may flip over but it’s not going to wipe my slate clean.

At last year’s New Year’s Eve party, shortly after midnight, I drunkenly declared to one of my close friends that 2015 was going to be an amazing year. “I can feel it in my bones”, I said. A month later to the day, something happened that blew that statement clean out of the water. It turned 2015 into the hardest year of my life, and I can’t say I’m sorry to say goodbye to it.

But it would be misleading to claim that this year has been all bad. A lot of good things have happened to me too; I’ve started this blog, been on some great holidays, got involved in the exciting world of blogging events, went to my first festival, found a new relationship, and learned a lot along the way. So before I consign 2015 to the history books, it seems only right to take a look back at some of the year’s highlights.

March: Budapest

In March I went to Budapest for 4 nights with one of my friends who turned out to be a fantastic travel buddy – after this we also went to Croatia together in August and are already planning another adventure for 2016! I fell completely in love with Budapest; the sights, the food and the achingly cool ruin pubs are all things I was itching to go back to as soon as I’d left.

View of Budapest, Hungary

April: TBEX Europe

This was my first of two work trips this year; I and a colleague were sent to the Costa Brava to attend one of the world’s largest travel blogger conferences, TBEX. We spent a mad day running around Barcelona collecting photo and video content for the company website, then had 4 days of meeting bloggers, attending lectures…and going to the odd boat and/or beach party. Hard life I know.

TBEX boat trip, Lloret de Mar

June: Dublin

This was my annual jaunt to visit some lovely friends I met while travelling in Australia, who I still keep in touch with. Two of them are a couple who bought their own house this year, where I stayed with our other friend, and instead of going into Dublin we went walking in the countryside and kayaked on a lake. In 2016 I’ll be attending the wedding of aforementioned couple, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Kayaking, Dublin

August: Blog at the Beach

Inspired by TBEX, my workmate and I were tasked with organising a blogger event for our company. With a small budget and limited resources the early days were a bit stressful, but we put together a fantastic day with speakers, cocktails, and a pop-up beach! We got a 100% attendance rate and some amazing feedback from the bloggers who came – this was one of my professional highlights of the year, not to mention a lot of fun.

icelolly.com Blog At The Beach

Photo by icelolly.com

August: Croatia

Somehow I reached the age of 24 without ever going on a girls’ holiday with my high school besties; this year four of us finally managed it! We rented an apartment in the beautiful old town of Zadar and had a heavenly week of sunbathing, drinking and exploring. We went on a speedboat tour of the Kornati Islands, and my personal highlight was ticking Plitvice Lakes National Park off my bucket list. Photos do not do that place justice – the colours are beyond description.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

September: End of the Road Festival

Another first for me this year was going to a festival – in September I went to the magical End of the Road Festival on a free press ticket from one of my best friends. The bands were amazing and the festival has an incredible setting in a forest in Dorset, but one of the best parts of the weekend was just getting to hang out with one of my favourite people, who I’d barely seen that year.

End of the Road Festival, Dorset

October: Ibiza & Majorca

On my second work trip of the year, I got to spend 3 days in Ibiza and 3 days in Majorca, travelling around the island armed with a camera and GoPro seeking out the best beaches and things to do. It was a pretty exhausting week and I missed Leeds Rhinos winning the Super League Grand Final, but how many other people’s jobs allow them to swap desk chairs for beach loungers every now and again? It’s a pretty sweet perk.

San Antonio, Ibiza

November: Edinburgh

In November my boyfriend and I decided to take the plunge and test our travel compatibility with a long weekend in Edinburgh. Admittedly that may be better described as ‘dipping a toe in the water’ than ‘taking the plunge’, but I’m still counting it. We went to lovely restaurants, climbed Arthur’s Seat, and he let me do most of the organising, which though I won’t always admit it is the way I like to travel.

Top of Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh

What were the highlights of your year? Good luck to you all for 2016!

My 2016 Travel Wishlist

After a fairly dull and UK-based 2014, this year has been a good year for me and travel. I’ve been on 6 trips outside England, 2 for work and 4 for pleasure, covered 5 countries, 3 of them new ones for me, attended the TBEX travel blogger conference, found a new spiritual home in Budapest and ticked off my bucket list location of Plitvice National Park. Not too shabby. But of course I always have new countries and new adventures in mind! Of course time, available annual leave and money are always a challenge, but here’s what’s on my travel wishlist for 2016.

The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights have always been a bucket list dream of mine, and this year could be the last one in a while where I have a decent shot at seeing them. I found out from my friend Emma that due to the cycles of the sun, the Lights go through periods of intensity, and are therefore easier to see at some times than others. The Lights hit this cycle’s peak in 2013, and after 2016 they will be be significantly weaker for at least 8 years before they approach their next peak. Reykjavik is a possible base city for catching a glimpse, but my dream experience would be to stay in one of the glass igloos at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland. Might need to save up a bit for that though…

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort igloos, FInland

Image credit: Greenland Travel on Flickr.

Slovenia

Slovenia is still pretty up-and-coming in terms of mass tourism, and I’m keen to get there before the crowds really swoop in. The capital, Ljubljana, looks adorable, and I’d really like to hit the lakes in May/June time. One thing I’ve never done before and really want to try is solo travel, and Slovenia feels like a good place to try it out. It’s in Europe, fairly cheap, small enough to cover several major locations in a short space of time, and is rated as a very safe country for solo travel. Flights from the UK aren’t currently that regular, so I’m considering adding a couple of nights in Prague or Zagreb onto my trip to open up some more flight dates.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

New York

Did you know you can get flights from London to New York for under £300 now? This year Norwegian Airlines started doing Gatwick-JFK flights from just £149 each way – what a time to be alive! I’ve been to New York a couple of times in my life but only ever with family and way under 21, so I feel like it’s time to go back and rediscover the city as an adult of legal drinking age. I’m really not a fan of long haul flights for short stays, so I’d definitely commit to at least a week and spend some time in Boston as well.

Manhattan skyline, New York

An Irish Wedding

Travel is all about experiences, and I have a feeling this will be one of the most memorable experiences of my year! Two of my good friends who I met in Noosa while travelling up the east coast of Australia are getting married after almost 10 years together, and I’m lucky enough to have been invited to the wedding. The date is yet to be set but it’s looking like summer 2016, and I can’t wait to see what goes down at an Irish wedding. Knowing the couple, it will be one of the best piss-ups I’ve ever been to…

Ireland with friends

Me with the happy couple (far left and right).

What’s on your travel wishlift for 2016? Have you already got some trips planned? Let me know in the comments!