2015 Travels on The Well-Travelled Postcard: Travel Goals, Life Decisions and Lessons Learned
I recently read a blog post by my lovely fellow travel blogger, Kirst Over the World in which she reviewed her travels over the past 12 months and reflected on the travel goals and hopes she set last New Year’s Day. I loved the format she used so, with all credit where it’s due (thank you Kirsten!), I’d like to “borrow” it myself and take a look back at my travels over 2015.
As a lover of writing lists, I actually have two lists of travel goals: a 5-year plan and a 1-year plan, the latter of which I had completely forgotten about until literally 10 minutes ago, when I though I’d better check what I wrote! Considering how the 1-year list completely disappeared off my mental radar, I’m stunned to find out that I actually managed 12 of the 17 goals that I set myself for 2015!
The year began calmly with time in London and two weekends at home in Hampshire, one walking with my father in the South Downs and one hosting my uni housemates at my mother’s house, featuring a country walk and visit to nearby Mottisfont Abbey, a National Trust stately home. January was also a tee-total month for me and involved a fair bit of half-marathon training. I also attended the ever-inspiring Adventure Travel Show in London and interviewed the impressive Charlie Walker, who had just completed a 4-year cycle 43,630 miles around the world!
- How to Set New Year’s Travel Resolutions and My Own Travel Wishlist for 2015
- How To Find Time for Travel while Working a Full-Time Job
- How To Find Money for Travel (& the Secret Behind How I Afford to Travel So Much)
- Inspiring Individuals: Roger Biggs, the man who has run 800 marathons
- Inspiring Individuals: Charlie Walker, who cycled 43,630 miles around the world for over 4 years
2015 was the year I ventured into the world of Airbnb, with the first of three very successful Airbnb experiences being a long weekend in Copenhagen [goal 1/12 complete], the highlight of which was the sauna and harbour swimming in 1°C water! Also that month I ran the Hampton Court Half-Marathon with my sister and had some rather unglamorous business travel to Glasgow and Manchester, although I was impressed by my walk around Glasgow – the city’s really not all that bad! I also donated to the Woodland Trust to plant trees that offset my carbon footprint [goal 2/12 complete] and for Lent I gave up alcohol in the UK.
- 9 Things I Adored in Copenhagen and What the City Taught Me About Different Travel Styles
- Postcard of the Week: Nyhavn Harbour in Copenhagen
- Postcard of the Week: Glasgow
- Is Space Tourism the Future of Travel?
The month kicked off with a trip to Iceland with family friends to celebrate my mother’s 60th birthday and our friend Jayne’s 50th birthday. And we saw the Northern Lights [goal 3/12 complete]! And yes I am aware that I still haven’t blogged about the whole trip! Whoops… Excitingly I also became a Digital Ambassador for the children’s charity Plan UK, helping to raise awareness of their campaigns for girls’ human rights in developing countries [goal 4/12 complete] and I attended the Traverse blogging conference in Kingston to catch up with lots of blogger friends, and I hosted my father for a weekend of tourism in London, helping to tick off a few more items on my London hitlist.
- Wanderlust and the Problem with Staying in One Place for Too Long
- 80 Things Every True Londoner Has Done
- Postcard of the Week: The Northern Lights in Iceland
- Help to #EndChildMarriage by wearing the Plan UK ring
- Postcard of the Week: Chiswick House in London
- Postcard of the Week: the Imperial War Museum in London
I headed to Tanzania for 10 days to Zanzibar and Dar Es Salaam (another trip I haven’t yet blogged about – my apologies!) to visit my then-boyfriend and I adored the country. Despite visiting mid-rainy season, I got very lucky and only needed an umbrella for 30 minutes of the entire trip, and I loved exploring Dar’s craft markets, practicing the Swahili I learned through a one-on-one class, and scuba-diving and snorkelling in Zanzibar’s pristine clear waters. On the London front, I started house-hunting in Wandsworth with my sister Olivia (and our entire family in tow!) and I spent a fantastic weekend with uni housemates at my friend Megan’s new flat in Chertsey.
- Inspiring Individuals: Felicity Aston, the first woman to ski across Antarctica alone
- Flying in style with Qatar Airways: Review of Qatar Airways Business Class and the London Heathrow Lounge
- What does it mean to be British? Thoughts on National Identity, Patriotism and Public Diplomacy
- Postcard of the Week: Zanzibar
- Postcard of the Week: Wonder Workshop in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Exotic islands continued to feature in my life in May as my mother, sister and I sailed around Antigua in the Caribbean, gaining our RYA Day Skipper qualification [goal 5/12 complete]! I adored being on the open water and I’m excited that I can now charter and skipper a yacht myself. Another blog post I’m yet to write I’m afraid… Back in the UK I ticked off more of my London hitlist items like Rugby 7s at Twickenham, watching Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre and attending the Royal Caledonian Ball at Grosvenor House, and I spent the May Bank Holiday weekend walking in the Peak District with my father. I also announced that I would be running the Athens Marathon in November to fundraise for Plan UK and I began training for that, pacing up and down the Thames Path. Work trips to Glasgow, Manchester and Bristol also made an appearance.
- Postcard of the Week: the island of Antigua in the Caribbean
- I’m Going to Run the Athens Marathon and Raise Money for the Children’s Charity Plan UK
- Postcard of the Week: Chatsworth House in the Peak District
As the sun arrived I spent two successive weekends sailing to the Isle of Wight in Hampshire, the first on a RYA Tidal Conversion course with my sister, and the second for my friend Teddy’s birthday, where we bombed it over to Cowes in two ribs to gatecrash the Isle of Wight Festival from the river, before drunken celebrations back at a luxurious boathouse in the Hamble. The summer brings out the best of Hampshire, a brilliant escape from stressful London. In June my blog also reached it’s 3-year anniversary!
Another month in the UK. I headed back to Henley Regatta with my friend Roj and a bunch of others, and on the 12th July I turned the grand age of 26. I managed to spread out the celebrations over 6 days: open air theatre in Regent’s Park, stand-up comedy in Soho, spa day in the New Forest, family meal in Surrey, dinner in Fulham and even a night of live jazz at Ronnie Scott’s. I utterly milked it. My housemate Sarah and I also threw a ‘housecooling’ party before we both moved out, and I temporarily gained a lovely (not to mention beautiful) Norwegian housemate called Ingvild.
- 1 Year Older, 1 Year Wiser and 1 Year On from my Travel Wishlist
- Running the Athens Marathon for Plan UK: Update after Months 1 and 2 of Training
- My Thoughts on Why We Feel Compelled To Travel, and the Changing Meaning of Travel
August was jam-packed with excitement! My sister and I completed the purchase of our new flat in Wandsworth and I moved south of the Thames, bidding farewell to my beloved Parson’s Green. I was also shortlisted as one of 30 to fly into space on the Kruger Cowne Rising Star programme [goal 6/12 complete] (my parents are thrilled that I didn’t win!) and I travelled to Stockholm with my schoolfriend Imy and adored the Scandinavian way of life. My friend Sam and I held a hilarious murder mystery set on a desert island after a plane crash (I was the air hostess of course) and I completed the Welsh 3000s challenge with a wonderful bunch of friends over the August Bank Holiday, climbing Snowdon and 14 other peaks over 3,000 feet in 3 days. And finally, I returned to Chichester Harbour where I grew up sailing, on my friend Sam’s rib for a sunny day on the water.
- Setting my Sights on the Stars: I’m Officially in the Top 30 Shortlist to win the Kruger Cowne Rising Star Trip into Space!
- Postcard of the Week: Buckingham Palace, London
- Running the Athens Marathon for Plan UK: Update after Month 3 of Training
- Postcard of the Week: Stockholm
- Postcard of the Week: Sandhamn Island in the Stockholm Archipelago
- Postcard of the Week: Climbing the Welsh 3000s Challenge
Unusually for me, I didn’t leave London once in September, and the month was entirely dedicated to socialising (lots of birthdays and housewarmings), meeting new people and secretly planning my upcoming sabbatical. It was in September that I first broached the topic of a career break with my line manager and I was overwhelmed by the encouragement and enthusiasm she had for my plan – I really am so grateful to her. I had enjoyed the summer but there was a definite case of wanderlust and a hint of quarter-life crisis, and she understood that I was in need of a change. I was injured for the whole month and I stressfully had to pause my marathon training, meaning I felt very restless! My sister and I also threw our own flat’s housewarming, and were simultaneously thrilled that so many friends came but disappointed to find out that our flat is too small to host all our friends at once! But we’re working on that by embarking on a loft conversion next year – wish us luck (we’ll need it!). Excitingly on the writing front, I also became a Huffington Post blogger and wrote about setting altruistic September Resolutions.
- Post-holiday September Resolutions – 8 small steps to become a better person and help change the world
- Running the Athens Marathon for Plan UK: Update after Month 4 of Training
- Moving House and the Treasures You Find While Unpacking
I met my Venezualan friend Diego in Morocco [goal 7/12 complete] for a brilliant trip to the Sahara, Atlas Mountains and Marrakech, remembering how much I love both speaking Spanish and exploring Africa. Morocco was my sixth new country of 2015 [goal 8/12 complete]. I also spent a luxurious long weekend practicing my Italian in Lake Como [goal 9/12 complete] with three italophile friends Sarah, Anneliese and Caroline and I stepped up my post-injury marathon training by focussing on fitness classes rather than intensive running. My marathon fundraising target of £1,000 for Plan UK was easily met thanks to generous friends, family and a hilarious Safari Supper I hosted in London along with two great friends Hannah and Sarah. Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham also featured for work again and I was accepted into the DFID-funded International Citizen Service as a Team Leader in Nepal with Raleigh, meaning that I did succeed in confirming when I’ll next be living abroad [goal 10/12 complete].
- I’m taking a 6-month sabbatical! Here’s Why, What I’ll Be Doing and Where I’ll Be Going
- Running the Athens Marathon for Plan UK in 2 weeks’ time: Update after Month 5 of Training
- What to See, Do and Eat in Bellagio at the Heart of Lake Como
- Living La Dolce Vita in Bellagio: the Clubrooms at Gatwick Airport and a penthouse with Bellagio & Dintorni
Giving a talk at my alma mater, Exeter University, on the importance of a year abroad (a subject I get very passionate about!) was an early highlight of an all-round brilliant month! Following that I ran the Athens Marathon in under 4-hours [goal 11/12 complete], cheered on and supported by my dear family. I began my 6-month sabbatical on the 13th November, the same day that I travelled to Paris and the same day as the shocking terrorist attacks in Paris. I then flew to Iceland for 48 hours on a blogging assignment for KAYAK, visited Hampshire for one night and spent a weekend at Polzeath House in Cornwall in a big group of friends, even going bodyboarding in the freezing cold Cornish sea! In addition to all that my father and I hiked around the Cotswolds for a couple days and I had 3 days of training in London ahead of my volunteering placement in Nepal along with lots of other vaccinations, visa applications and a First Aid course. A busy month!
- Mission Accomplished: How I Survived the Athens Marathon to Fundraise for Plan UK
- Living in the Lap of Luxury in Paris in the 5* Hotel de la Trémoille
- How to Visit Iceland in a Weekend (And Why You Really Should Spend Longer!)
- A Winter Getaway to the Cotswolds
Two weeks were spent in an Airbnb apartment in Berlin while doing a course on Cultural Diplomacy and International Relations that I’ve been trying to do for at least 2 years (!) and I found the German capital far better for my well-being and happiness than London! I barely have a moment to think straight when I’m in London, whereas in Berlin I took each day as it came and had the freedom to make my own plans, unlike London where I’m invariably booked up a month in advance. In Berlin I also learned from and met wonderful people from all over the globe, expanding my own repertoire of the world and my understanding of the current global situation. From there I flew straight to the French Alps where I met my family for a full 8 days of skiing in Tignes over the Christmas week [goal 12/12 complete]! And here I am now in Cornwall with uni friends to see in the New Year!
My 2015 Goals
I’ve mentioned above the 12 goals I did manage to complete, but how about the 5 I didn’t?
- Work as crew on a superyacht – I made some progress by getting my RYA qualification and doing lots of research into how to find a job as crew, but I didn’t actually do any crewing.
- Do Ibiza in style – This one still eludes me and I’m beginning to question whether I’ll ever manage it! Cost seems to be the major off-putting factor for some of my friends but each year more and more of them come round to the idea.
- Visit Russia – 2015 was pretty full of city breaks abroad and I’m not sure I could have fitted in any more! With Russia I also feel like I’m awaiting a reason to visit. It doesn’t call to me as much as some other places, but that’s probably just poor marketing on behalf of the Russian tourist board, and also because I don’t know that many people who have travelled there.
- Master photography and shoot more videos abroad – Two years after I bought a DSLR I still don’t fully know what I’m doing with it! My photography has improved but I still rely heavily on Auto, and I’ve produced very few videos this year.
- Learn more about the world beyond Europe – I well and truly admit my 100% defeat on this one. I promised to blog about a different culture every month this year and I didn’t even manage January! Instead I did read novels set in India and Iceland and watched films from all over the world, but in all honestly this was an overly-ambitious failure. Good intentions but zero time to actually do it. Sorry…
I still think that completing 12 out of 17 goals is not too bad… The excuse I tell myself is that flat-buying took up a lot of my time and energy, and that my slight quarter-life crisis and disillusionment with London around the summer months threw me off my usual to-do-list-conquering stride! My blogging also suffered this year as you can tell from the number of trips I’m still yet to write up, but my desire to travel has only increased.
The interesting thing about setting New Year’s Resolutions and travels goals is this: Are they really still relevant 12 months later? How much should they dictate your personal and travel decisions throughout the course of the year? Does the structure of a to-do list help or hinder? In the grand scheme of a life that may reach 100 years, is a 1-year plan too short-termist? Does it really matter if you don’t achieve a single item of your list?
A buzzword people bandy about a lot nowadays is “self-awareness”, the concept that we should all be aware of our strengths, weaknesses, motivations and purpose in life. And whether or not you follow through and achieve your New Year’s Resolutions or not, I still think it’s a useful exercise to set some and then review them 12 months later. It’s an exercise which helps us remind ourselves of our achievements, recognise how our desires and motives have evolved over the past year and identify what we now want from life in the future. I don’t believe that anyone will stay exactly the same over the course of a year, and in the last 12 months I certainly have changed and been influenced by people, events and the world at large. But I still want to have a list of travel goals for 2016 to provide a general direction and guiding path for the decisions I’ll have to take. Once I’ve set the ‘direction’, I can get on with the fun part: the ‘doing’!
What I learned in 2015
- I want to travel for work, but internationally only. UK business travel is not for me.
- London is a fantastic city but for me personally it’s bearable only in manageable chunks, as the wanderlust sets in after about 6 months and becomes well and truly dire after 12!
- The world is full of seriously interesting people. This year alone I met a guy who’s climbing Everest twice next year, a woman who crossed Antartica solo, a guy who cycled around the world for 4 years, a guy who’s climbed every single Munroe in Scotland, a bunch of army officers with fascinating careers, a man who’s run 800 marathons and a whole host of others who’ve broken with the traditional society norm of uni-work-settle down. I’d love to meet more women doing these amazing things and breaking out of the mould too, and who knows, perhaps even aim to join them one day.
- The world opens up when you’re single. Having spent nearly 7 of the last 10 years in a series of relationships (mostly long-distance at that), this summer I finally realised how much I have missed, in terms of opportunities and invitations I’ve declined, and how many more doors have opened to me since I became single in May. I’ve started travelling with guy friends again, I’ve entered whole new circles of friends in London and I’ve been able to be selfish about my life decisions, without having to think about the impact on a boyfriend.
- Despite my above statement, having a partner in crime can be useful. My sister Olivia has been a saint this year, and I certainly wouldn’t have got onto the property market without her, and I may well not have taken a sabbatical without her moral support. Having someone that close to lean on, talk through options and with whom to share the burden of daunting responsibilities like a mortgage, is vital.
- The world is a huge place and 12 months go quickly! Efficiency and decisiveness are key if my twenties are to be put to good use and not squandered. I’ve only 3 and a 1/2 years left of my twenties!
- Writing a short, daily diary is immensely rewarding. Otherwise known as gratitude journaling and the like, it’s helped me appreciate the present, instead of always focusing on the future, and I’d recommend it to anyone.
I’ll be writing about my travel goals for 2016 tomorrow on New Year’s Day, so look out for those, but for now I’d like to thank you all for your support in 2015! Whether that be encouragement during my marathon training, travel tips, comments, shares or simply reading the blog posts I publish on this little corner of the Internet, I am so so grateful that you’ve taken an interest in my ramblings about travel, and I hope these ramblings may help you too in some shape or form. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.