My 10 Epic Travel Experiences of 2017

Mental arithmetic is not my forte, not by any means. I may have fluked my way to some decent maths grades in high school but that, essentially, was where my expertise ended. And then with the advent of phones, smart phones, smarter phones and smartest phones, my brain no longer felt the need (or desire) to mathematically figure out anything but in place of that, the words started to flow unapologetically, both here on the blog much to the bane of you lovely people, my readers, and in real life, to the annoyance of my loving family and husband.

My 2017 in Travels

While division and subtraction might remain a challenge, one thing I can always tot up accurately is the number of flights and adventures amassed in a year. In 2017, a year in which I feel I could have potentially squeezed in more if I had been more organised, I still made it to….drum roll please…

  • 8 countries (5 new and 3 previously visited countries)
  • 22 flights
  • 15 hotels
  • A 3 Michelin starred UK staycation
  • Around 30 boat trips (if you go island hopping in the Philippines, you really will lose track of the exact number)

I am by no means breaking any records but for a full-time NHS employee, I think this proves just how much globetrotting is achievable if you use your pennies wisely and exhaust your annual leave to the max.

Rather than a boring chronological recap of my year in travels (because frankly, no one other than my Mum will enjoy reading that,) instead, I thought I would sum up the trips of 2017 by telling you what made each one so memorable, annotating my travel tales with the Instagram updates that accompanied them. Is it lazy blogging? Quite probably but it’s Boxing as I start to draft this and the blood flow that usually supplies my writer’s brain has been diverted towards my gut to digest the festive turkey dinner so you get what you get.

The Best Party of The Year– New Delhi, India, February

When you start off 2017 with the best party of the year you’ve ever attended, surely your social life can only go downhill from there? Thankfully not but that was the very real risk we took when we flew abroad for the first time this year for a family wedding in New Delhi, a glittering, gleaming function of epic proportions, which also happened to fall during my own birthday week.

Why celebrate one occasion when you can celebrate two right, so whilst the bride and groom jetted off on their honeymoon, we used the opportunity to dine at Indian Accent, one of World’s 50 Best Restaurants with a menu worthy of the accolade. If the London foodies among you are tempted but can’t justify flying all the way to New Delhi to sample it, I have good news for you – they’ve just opened up a brand new shiny branch of it in London.

The Laziest Holiday of the Year – Oman, February

When you spend 3 consecutive days eating afternoon tea (in my defence, it was complimentary,) you don’t leave your resort for your entire time in the country (in my defence, I was unwell) and you spend most of your waking days quite literally on the lazy river (ok no defence for that one,) you pretty much have all the essential ingredients for the laziest trip of the year.

Our brief stint at the adult-only Shangri La Al Husn resort in Oman was the ideal peaceful and romantic antidote to a week of non-stop parties, celebrations and hopping between relatives’ houses in India; it was just a shame I wasn’t feeling a hundred percent healthwise but hey, what’s room service for right?!

The Most Gourmet Break of the Year – The Waterside Inn, UK, April

When it comes to Pumpkin’s birthday presents, you could say that I had a bit of making up to do, considering his gift from 2016 was nearly 10 months overdue. In the past, he has been the (less than) proud recipient of chocolate-flavoured ketchup and pizza cutters at the hands of his wife so this year, I compensated for this by splurging on a one-night 3 Michelin star dinner & hotel staycation at the legendary Roux establishment, The Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire.

The location for the break remained a surprise right until we pulled up outside, when our car was whisked away from us. A little valet? Don’t mind if I do. Despite the weather having been atrocious just a day before, we were thrown a lifeline for our Sunday night stay with a day bathed in warm sunshine, worthy of sleeveless clothing. It also meant that we could enjoy the eponymous waterside deck, where we spent a couple of hours sipping coffee ahead of our 3 Michelin star tasting menu. After a decadent in-room breakfast the following morning, loaded with handmade French pastries, we burnt off the carbohydrate load with a walk around the world-famous nearby royal town of Windsor.

The Best Value Destination of the Year – Sofia, Bulgaria April

Of all the destinations we explored this year, Sofia was by far the best value for money and considering that we flew out on Good Friday and returned Easter Monday, it proved to be the most economical on the annual leave front as well, deeming it one of the best last-minute bargains of the year.

With a hip, edgy and innovative foodie scene and magnificent monuments within easy reach both within the city and beyond, all travellers looking to explore a city still relatively protected from mass tourism should put this on their must-see lists. And if you do as we did by travelling over Easter, be sure to try out the traditional Bulgarian Easter bread – Kozunak. Trust me on this one – it is worth the carbs 😊

The “I feel like I could live here” Trip of the Year – Berlin, Germany, June

When I was asked to participate in the #CheapflightsChallenge in Berlin earlier this year, I went in with the mindset of exploring a new city and proving to you all that it is entirely possible for two adults to go on a 3 day holiday abroad for less than the cost of a designer wallet and prove this, I did.

What I was not expecting, however, was to find a liberal, easy-going, multi-cultural city filled with free-spirited individuals, colourful street art murals, countless food markets, green open spaces, live musicians on every corner and quaint neighbourhoods easily explored on foot. It was basically everything I love about London without the stifling crowds, with friendlier locals and with less ludicrous prices. Anyone want to join me on a move to Berlin?!

The Unimaginably Scenic Trip of the Year – Azores, June

When one of my best friends shared her photos of the Azores a little while ago, I only needed to scroll through three or four before I had already made my mind up that I had to see these mystical islands for myself. Pumpkin is an avid lover of the great outdoors so just as soon as I threw in the words, “mountains, lakes, hikes and nature,” he needed no further persuasion.

Little did we know that this cluster of islands scattered in the middle of the Atlantic but technically part of Portugal was akin to a gallery, showcasing the best of Earth’s magic. I have only managed to write about Ponta Delgada, the capital of Sao Miguel island so far but there will be plenty more posts coming your way in 2018 to entice you to visit this beautiful destination – only 3-4 hours away from the UK but worlds apart from any other European destination I had ever experienced before.

The Funniest Trip of the Year – Edinburgh, Scotland, August

I have to say, when planning my travel adventures, of all the specs I tend to think about (hotels, activities, excursions, climate etc,) “funny” is not one of them but in 2017, that changed, when Pumpkin’s more timely birthday gift this year was a long weekend in Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

As our maiden visit to the festival, we booked ahead for 3 live stand up comedy shows at intimate venues, during which we laughed so hard that our abdominal muscles ached for hours. When we weren’t at pre-booked shows, we took in the sights of this quaint, charming city, found ourselves eating high tea in a library, soaked up the atmosphere of all the live entertainers and performers on the street and stumbled upon food festivals, cocktail festivals and even snuck in a retro Ferris wheel ride, which allowed us to watch over this bustling city by night.

The Most Opulent Destination of the Year – Russia, September

Russia might have seemed like an unusual choice for our first big family holiday in four years but when we put together everyone’s individual preferences for a September holiday, it was the one country that floated straight to the top of the list.

If you have any ill-conceived notions of Russia being a grey, dreary or uninspiring destination, then one snoop inside museums like the Winter Palace in St Petersburg or The Armoury Museum at the Kremlin in Moscow will soon eradicate those once and for all. Never before have I seen such unparalleled opulence and glamour from sexy skyline bars to ornate, regal Faberge eggs. If you don’t like gold trimmings, picture perfect manicured gardens and fairytale palaces, don’t go to Russia.

The Favourite Destination of the Year – The Philippines, November

I am a travel writer, traveller and I love exploring this planet. I am not supposed to have favourites. Do parents have favourite children? (OK, in reality, I suspect some do but you get my point!) Every country carries its own unique quirk and charm and it is both naïve and short-sighted to rank them in an over-simplified hierarchy; yet here I am shamelessly declaring the Philippines to be my favourite destination of the year – but it utterly and sincerely was.

The impossibly white beaches paralleled if not exceeded those that I had seen in the Maldives, which I had always imagined would be the most spectacular shore lines I would ever set foot on. The balmy, teal sea water, shallow enough to wade through and laden with rainbow shoals and pristine corals did little to alter that view and the friendliness of the loving, patriotic and hard-working locals only consolidated our infatuation with the islands of the Philippines. We wore swimwear almost every day for a fortnight and of the 5 pairs of footwear I packed, pretty much only the flip-flops were necessary, revealing just how relaxing, laid back and idyllic our island escape was.

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The house reef at our hotel @elnidoresorts is one of the best for marine life in Palawan so we aren't allowing a small thing like jellyfish season to stop us snorkelling. Into the blue I went on day 1 here but after just 2 minutes in the water, I'd acquired 4 separate stings, the irony being that it happened 5 minutes after I''d purchased a rash guard (for my top half & arms) – looks like the jellyfish took a liking to my legs & cheek! The stings are nothing like as bothersome as that episode of Friends had led me to believe & we're still snorkelling away happily (if a little more covered up.) What's weirder, though, is that Pumpkin swam in the same water for the same duration yet didn't get stung once – seems I'm as popular with the Filipino jellyfish crew as I am with the global mozzie ones!

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The Fly-By Trip of the Year – Qatar, December

My final trip of the year was a complete fly-by visit to Qatar en route back from the Philippines. We could have flown home directly to London without stopping off but after reading so much about Doha from all the adventures that Polly from Follow Your Sunshine has had out there, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to explore the city ourselves.

With just one full day and night and one morning at our disposal as well as a luxury hotel to experience, there was no room for tardiness so even with our limited time there, we managed to squeeze in a visit to the souks, the iconic art museum in Doha, a stroll along the Corniche and a blogger lunch date with Polly herself, which was a delightful way to end the travel year and a fitting way to end the travel blogging year as well.

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About last night – the Al Jalsa Restaurant & Lounge Bar @icdohathecity. If you've been following my travels in the Philippines over the last couple of weeks, then you'll have seen that island life suited me rather better than I would have imagined – living in flip flops & swimwear, travelling from A-B on boats rather than crowded tubes & living life at a slower, more laid back pace. BUT, with my imminent return to London, a reminder of the allure of city life & city lights was very much in order. It started with the Nobu dinner & hotel experience in Manila & I am very pleased to report that this whirlwind adventure of a trip has ended on a complete high with our final meal being held at this mellow, sexy lounge & outdoor city garden, where we feasted on some of my favourite Middle Eastern mezzes & grills amongst locals, who smoked fragrant shisha, mingled with friends & caught up on their correspondence over miniature cups of aromatic Arab coffee & trays of tempting Baklava.

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The Hometown – London

But just in case you think I’ve been sitting on the sofa lacksadaisically in between travels, I better give you a quick recap of the adventures that have taken place closer to home, which have included breakfasting in an ingloo, eating my weight in tapas at the Taste of London festival and finding ancient ruins and Totem poles in my childhood home county of Surrey at Virginia Water.

This is the year that has seen me return to the London Olympic stadium to watch the World Athletics Championships, a sporting venue that I was last at during the London Olympic Opening Ceremony, this was the year that I took in a final glimpse of Big Ben before the scaffolding took over and most bizarre of all, a year in which I played cricket with a former professional England player!

 

A huge thank you to all of you for being part of my blogging babbles this last year (and to the many of you who have been following along long before that.) I really am grateful for all the supportive comments and love and the travel inspiration you all give me. Hope you have all had a wonderful and restful festive season and wishing you a happy, travelicious 2018. Long may our collective global adventures continue!

45 thoughts on “My 10 Epic Travel Experiences of 2017

  1. I like the way you have put your travels as opulent, funny, scenic, foodie.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 8:40 pm

      Thanks so much! I thought it’d be a bit more fun than just listing the year month by month!☺

  2. Wow I love blog posts like these! Philippines was my favorite destination of 2017 as well 😀 But I didn’t go to Boracay, just Palawan. Loved reading about all of your favorite travel memories from this year! You’ve almost convinced me now to plan a trip to Sofia this Easter, taking advantage of a long weekend. Just like you, I plan my annual leave (26 working days in Poland) very carefully and use them just for traveling 😀

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 8:43 pm

      But isn’t Palawan just one of the most utterly paradise-like places in the world though Pooja?! Sounds like you & I fell equally in love with the gorgeous Philippines! Sofia came as such a pleasant surprise, especially as we booked it so last minute & did almost no research so we were delighted to see what a great, compact city it is with a great foodie scene, some lovely landmarks & lots of free walking tours too! I’d definitely recommend it! I’m trying to plan some more adventures for this year now!☺

  3. great year! happy 2018!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 8:44 pm

      Thanks so much Tanja!! And a pretty great one for you too eh?! ☺

  4. A fascinating re-cap of your year in travel and some inspiration for my 2018 trips! Happy New Year to you 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 8:46 pm

      Aww thanks so much for reading Rachel! I hope it’s perhaps given you some ideas for the year ahead! I always love seeing people’s end of year lists because I inevitable find places on those lists that I hadn’t even yet thought about visiting! Wishing you a wonderful 2018 ☺

  5. I am absolutely in awe over how much travel you’ve squeezed in this year, Shikha! You are the absolute poster child for getting the most out of your annual leave (very apt considering your blog name I guess?!) Your beautiful photos have got me really yearning for a trip to the Philippines, Sofia, Azores…and pretty much everywhere! Can’t wait to see where 2018 takes you. (Hopefully over to mine for tea and cat cuddles!) xx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 8:49 pm

      I can definitely spare some annual leave & weekends for tea & cat cuddles Emily!! Thanks so much for sweet comment ☺It’s funny, I kept thinking I hadn’t been organised enough at planning ahead for trips & that I should’ve used my time better but then when I started drafting this post, I realised how ridiculous that sounded!! So excited for your upcoming Norway trip – can’t wait to see which other exciting lands 2018 takes you to!

  6. I did the Waterside Inn staycation years ago, it’s wonderful isn’t it!!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 8:50 pm

      It was such an idyllic way to spend a Sunday Angie & we couldn’t believe our luck when it was warm enough to sit on the waterside deck wearing a sleeveless dress!

  7. Loved this post Shikha, you truly are an inspiration!! I feel like I’m channelling a little bit of you as I’m writing this en route to Gatwick where we are flying to Belfast for a new year citybreak (again being efficient with bank holidays and not using any annual leave!) You’d already made me put the Philippines and Russia at the top of my wish list but after reading this post Sofia is high up there too- I had never considered Bulgaria! Anyway, happy 2018 and I can’t wait to see more of what you get up to!xx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 8:53 pm

      What a lovely comment Anita! ☺ I guess it’s just great to see how my travel you can squeeze into busy lives even with non-stop, hectic jobs like ours but from the looks of all your social media updates, sounds as if you do an even better job of it than I do, especially as you do so much fun London stuff too! So glad I’ve helped put Sofia on your radar – you’ve certainly out Belfast on mine for a fun weekend escape! Hope you have a wonderful year ahead, filled with adventures ☺

  8. What a year Shikha!! i’m especially please by that last insta! Bring on the fun of 2018!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 8:55 pm

      Haha!😁 Yes, I couldn’t do a round up post without including my worst performance of the year now could I & let’s face it, that batting was dire!! Looking forward to seeing what crazy adventures await you & I this year!

  9. Wow, what a truly colourful and jam packed year you had! Wishing you all the best for 2018 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 8:59 pm

      Thanks so much Marcella! It’s funny because aside from India, alnost every one of the places we visited came as a bit of surprise in that a year ago, we’d had no plans to go to any of these places but I quite like just going with the flow & seeing which destinations start to tickle your fancy as the time goes on ☺ Hope you have a wonderful 2018!

  10. Shikha, what an amazing year of travel you have had! You’ve definitely made the most of your annual leave. 😉 I hope 2018 is filled with lots more exciting travels!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 9:00 pm

      Thanks so much Aftab! I’ve loved following along with your adventures too – although you had so many great ones that it was hard to keep up!😁

  11. heres to many many more adventures Shikka! Just brightness to your photos and your blog!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 9:01 pm

      Thanks Andy! Wishing you a fabulous 2018 & hoping plenty more exciting travels are coming your way!

  12. You’ve had some great adventures this year Shikha! Russia and the Philippines look stunning and I can totally see why the Philippines was your fave destination. I’m a little disappointed I didn’t jump in your case before you went!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 9:03 pm

      Haha, I’d have loved it if you had squeezed in – I haven’t been on a girly beach break in 10 years so I reckon it would’e been rather fun Ayla! You’ve had such a fabulous travel year too & something tells me that’s only going to continue & get better this year too!☺

  13. Wow! You managed to fit in some amazing places last year and so many that are on my bucket list! I’ve only started hearing about Oman the past year or so, but it’s making its way higher up my bucket list! And I really want to visit the Azores too! They look so stunning!
    xo April | April Everyday

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 9:05 pm

      Thanks so much April! Oman was so beautiful – I only wish I hadn’t fallen ill so that I could’ve left the resort & actually explored some of the sights & scenery! Wishing you a wonderful year of fun travels in 2018☺

  14. 1) I loved reading about that wedding in India and I remember thinking everyone looked so gorgeous (esp you in that dress!) Also, I’m so happy Indian Accent has opened in London!

    2) I’m putting Sofia on my list now, simply because it seems very doable in this time of me sorting out passports and citizenship!

    3) Oman is on my list – what was the weather like in February?!

    4) I LOVE THAT YOU LOVED THE PHILIPPINES! I’m so happy it’s getting more credit than usual!

    5) I can’t wait to see you soon! =)

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 9:10 pm

      Haha! Thanks so much Honey! Not too many times in your life you can wear your wedding outfit again so figured I might as well make the most of it, considering it was such a glitzy wedding that I could get away with it! YES YES YES to the Philippines – we always want to explore new places normally but when we left the Philippines, all we wanted to do was think about when we could return & which islands we would want to see next time! So dreamy! Weather in Oman in Feb is just perfect – otherwise in the British shimmer months, sometimes the Middle Eastern heat can be quite stifling but so lovely & pleasantly warm in Feb! Can’t wait to chat about all this in person really soon ☺

  15. I loved reading your recap of your year, Shikha! I know I wasn’t too good about commenting this year, but I’ve been following along, promise! I want to go to Bulgaria now, and Russia too to see all the opulence. I can’t say I agree with you about Berlin though, but I suppose someday, I’ll have to give it a second chance. And, this year (2018), I’m thinking about visiting London again!! I hope I can make it happen and we can finally meet and have that afternoon tea!!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 9:15 pm

      Yes, please come back to London – that tea has been sitting here getting cold waiting for you all these years!😉 I haven’t been good at commenting either this last year so I totallh get it but just like you, I have honestly been reading along the whole time (& missing your blog during the phases where I hadn’t seen a post for a while!) Isn’t it funny about Berlin? So many people have felt the same way you did & it really seems to divide opinion. I actually went thinking I wouldn’t like the city but ended up feeling so at home there – can’t put my finger on exactly why but I loved the vibe there!

  16. What a great year you’ve had! How you gonna beat it in 2018? 😉

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 9:17 pm

      Haha, well that is the question isn’t it Keri?! Aside from India though, this time last year, we had no idea we’d make it to any of these destinations and they very much happened on a whim as we just went with the flow & just let the mood dictate when the time came so at the present moment, I literally have no clue where I might end up in 2018!☺

  17. you look so glamorous in your wedding dress, and even better that you got to rewear it to another wedding! =D *high five* enjoyed this recap, it sounds like you’ve had an eventful 2017.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 10, 2018 — 9:19 pm

      Thanks so much for reading & for your lovely comment! Not many people who get to wear their wedding outfit again but almost everyone at this wedding was dressed in attire that could have easily been bridal so I think I got away with it! Wishing you a wonderful year ahead ☺

  18. Miriam @londonkitchendiaries January 11, 2018 — 10:53 am

    So many great experiences & travel adventures in 2017. I wish you all the best for 2018!

    Miriam

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 25, 2018 — 2:17 pm

      Thank you so much Miriam! Hope you’re having a wonderful start to the year!

  19. These are EPIC! Can’t wait to see where you are off to in 2018!! That wedding though…just unbelievable. So pretty.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 25, 2018 — 2:20 pm

      Isn’t it just such a beauty Heather?! I thought I’d been to some pretty weddings over the (including my own, lol!)but had never seen anything like this before! I’m finally getting some thoughts about where to travel this year with the first mini Europe city break booked! Looks like you had a pretty epic time travelling over the last year too ☺

  20. What a great year! I think it’s amazing that you manage to fit in so many trips while also working full-time. Love all of the descriptions about the various destinations and I must admit, I may have added one or two places from it onto my own travel wishlist 😉

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 25, 2018 — 2:21 pm

      Aaah, thanks so much Emily! I love comments like that, as it’s one of the reasons I love blogging about the travels, to show just how much can be seen & explored alongside regular jobs & lives!

  21. The Drifting Millennial January 25, 2018 — 4:43 pm

    Sooo many adventures! They all looked amazing. You’ve definitely piqued my interest with Russia! 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 5, 2018 — 3:46 pm

      Oh I’m so pleased it’s helped put Russia on your radar – I was surprised at how much I ended up loving it , not really anticipating I would but such a beautiful countryside! Thanks so much for reading ☺

  22. Great pics and writes up Shikha. you seem to enjoy it a lot, I wish I could travel all the places you’ve been through but this year I will be in the UK on tour. Thanks for sharing your experiences! Btw, if you came from Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates you may qualify for an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) applicants must hold a valid passport from an EVW eligible country and be seeking a one-time entry for a designated purpose like what I just did apply for more details you can visit this site https://www.travelvisauk.co.uk/electronic_visa_waiver/. I hope you can find this helpful too.

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