At the end of last year I reflected about how lucky I had been, having traveled to 18 different countries in 2015.Although I prioritise and self-finance all my travels and practically live paycheck to paycheck in order to make them a reality, I’m still extremely fortunate to have the luxury of being able to spend my time and money doing what I’m passionate about – exploring the world.
I now appreciate how that makes me lucky, a lot more than I have in the past.
In 2016, my travels continued – visiting 8 different countries, 5 of which I’d never been to before. While 2017 promises to feature some of my most exciting adventures yet, I wont say much more about that until we start the new year (so… next week then).
For now, here’s a quick rundown of my 5 travel highlights of the past year. In no particular order…
1. Returning to Wales
I love Wales. It’s one of the most beautiful, rugged and diverse parts of the UK. It was also a staple holiday destination for my family when I was growing up. Therefore, I absolutely loved getting back to the country – re-visiting places I hadn’t been for over a decade and showing MP how I spent my holidays as a kid. Climbing mountains, chasing down waterfalls, hiking along rivers and creeks – it was a fantastic way to spend a few days.
2. Exploring Český Krumlov
While I loved my second visit to the Czech Republic, it was the couple of days spent in Český Krumlov which were truly memorable. It’s a beautiful little town in the south of the country, a few hours from Prague. While I’ve read that in the summer it’s chockablock with tourists, that was far from the case in chilly November. The pictures really speak for themselves.
3. Spending my birthday at Trakai Island Castle
I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend my birthday than Lake Galvė in Lithuania. A truly beautiful location that wouldn’t have been out of place in a fairy tale. Sure, walking around the castle is a great way to waste a couple of hours, but it’s getting a boat (or pedalo) onto the lake which is the true highlight. Afterwards, we grabbed a few drinks and some food on the shore as the sun went down (don’t expect the usual cheap Lithuanian prices – this is a pretty touristy place). Still… it was fantastic.
4. Escaping the winter in Malta
While Malta is famous for its summer sun, I had absolutely no complaints about the weather in the middle of winter either. Crisp air and clear blue skies. Out of the seven days we were there, we only had one day of rain (and that just provided more of an excuse to hunker down with fine food and drink). Highlights definitely included wandering the streets of Valletta and exploring the (even better) island of Gozo. Being off-season, our 4* hotel was only £10 a night too.
I will be back to Malta soon – stay tuned for more information.
5. The Baltics
I made my way to all three Baltic countries this year (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) and I honestly loved every single one of them. All three capital cities come complete with picturesque old towns and a fascinating dark (and tragic) history. Outside of the cities you’ve got the beautiful Trakai Island Castle and creepy Hill of Crosses in Lithuania, as well as the blue flag beach resort of Jūrmala in Latvia.There’s loads more too. I’ll write a lot more on these countries over the next few weeks, but for now, here’s the Hill of Crosses…
And so that brings us to the end of 2016. A year in which I’ve graduated from my Masters, had a couple of promotions at work, moved into a new flat and explored more of Europe – venturing to countries a bit further off the beaten-track. As I mentioned above, 2017 promises to be one of the most exciting years yet – stay tuned for more information about what I’ve got planned coming in the next few days (I bet you’re on the edge of your seat).
I’ve had a fantastic year and I hope you have too. I hope this blog encourages you to spend as much time as possible following your passions and doing the things you enjoy. As Kerouac says, and I am cliche enough to repeat, “In the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”