No one is going to win any prizes for originality by writing an end of year wrap-up post at err…the end of the year. But there is something rather appealing about taking a moment to pause and absorb what we’ve managed to see and do in the last twelve months.
During and after travelling, it is easy to become so preoccupied in tweets, publishing schedules and updated Instagram feeds, I sometimes wonder whether I invest enough time just reflecting.
Ironically, even though it involves writing a new blog post, the end of year post gives me a space in which to do just that. When I summarised my travels from 2013, I remembered snorkelling in the Maldives, eating gingerbread at the Viennese Christmas markets and watching baby orangutans in Borneo so I honestly wasn’t expecting this year to even come close in the excitement stakes.
And then somehow, it did.
With a few well-researched trips and a couple of uncharacteristically impulsive ones, I feel grateful to have explored seven new countries this year and re-familiarised myself with three others. I have plenty of posts waiting to be published so you’ll have to forgive me for not yet writing about them but all in good time I promise!
10 countries for 2014
Visiting South America for the first time was a dream come true and I’d love to return one day, as we only touched the tip of the iceberg (mind the terrible pun but this Patagonian glacier was possibly the most breathtaking sight I’ve ever seen.)
Ok, so we didn’t make it to the World Cup but we did still manage to sample live football at Maracana and the electric atmosphere in Rio de Janeiro shortly before the tournament was fully palpable through the humidity. As we munched on crispy churros along the Copacabana with the mountainous views in the distance, it was difficult to resist the urge to samba our way to the top of the Selaron steps in this vibrant and buzzing city.
This was a fly-by visit if ever there was one but being so close to Chilean Patagonia from Argentina, we felt compelled to cast our eyes on the splendid scenery of the Torres del Paine National Park.
I have always stood firm that Italy is my favourite European destination. Certainly, my love for it has not waned but after visiting this diamond of a country, I think there may be a joint-winner. With some of the friendliest people I’ve come across, fairytale views of Lake Bled and a complete hidden gem of a foodie destination, this little country was full of surprises.
There’s something so special about visiting a place through the eyes of a local and when I went on a Mum-daughter trip to see our dear friend, I got a glimpse into the charming Limousin region of central France. A sleepy weekend in these idyllic rural villages was just what I needed to recharge the batteries before the next trip.
Having picked up some basic Spanish in Argentina, we travelled back in time to the land of political intrigue, vintage cars, glorious architecture, colourful street entertainment and swathes of sandy beaches with a visit to Cuba – an intense melting pot of culture and beauty.
In November, I headed to Brussels for a lovely city break weekend as part of the #ParkInnExpress challenge. I was really pleased with how much of the city we managed to cover with just a one night stay (as well as eating our body weights in chocolate and waffles!).
Known as the Island of the Gods, the warmth of the Balinese people and the fusion of culture, spirituality and nature just caputred our hearts on our most recent trip this year and this is a place we already dream of returning to. I felt an intangible connection to Bali.
With the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence coming up in 2015, this is a hot destination on the list of must-see destinations next year. If ever there was a place that I have visited that made England seem backward, SURELY, Singapore is it? In this heaving metropolis of malls, mobile phones and Miu Miu handbags, I found pleasure in the breathtaking skyline views, wholesome chicken rice and festive Christmas lights.
Thailand (Koh Lanta & Ko Haa)
We kept aside a few days in South East Asia to visit a close friend on the sleepy island of Koh Lanta (and her mini sprog, who has nailed the part of island baby) but we were lucky enough to spend a day at sea, snorkelling around the Ko Haa islands, those few days on a Thai island gave me such a different insight into Thailand than the one I had gleaned in Bangkok so many years ago.
So far 2015 is something of a blank canvas with the exception of an upcoming weekend in Lille. Do you recommend any destinations for 2015? What have been your travel highlights of the year?