Not bad for an office bod. Despite spending a large portion of my year sitting at a desk in a freezing cold west London office block, travel over the past 12 months has been good. Very good in fact! At the risk of sounding a little like a Dbag, here’s a few travel numbers I racked up over the past 12 months …
- 9 countries
- 20 flights
- 1 overnight train
- 1 overnight bus
- 3 other long haul bus journeys
- 1 jeep ride
- 1 cruise ship voyage
- 1 hot air balloon ride
- 2 overseas weddings
- 2 northern lights sightings
- 2 new years celebrations
Ah, that actually felt really good to write that all down. Sometimes its easy to forget how many awesome things you have accomplished and experienced in just 12 months.
So, as you can see, a fair few miles travelled in the past 12 months, and the majority of those were super. Whilst I didn’t venture out on my own at all this past year as a solo traveler, I did travel with a whole heap of different people which was brilliant. I also had in there a nice mix of pre planned travel and a few last minute numbers. All in all I think 2013 went pretty well, my 47 days worth of annual leave (yep, 47 – hint, I buy extra days) was put to very good use wouldn’t you say?
Right so this probably all sounds a bit self indulgent so far, but there is a point to this post, I am not here simply attempting to gloat. Its aim is to not only give a quick (ish) summary of my travels in 2013, but to also try and provide a little, if only a smidgin, of inspiration, so that in 2014 you’ll feel the urge to go out and explore somewhere new. So, save up some cash, and go see the world in 2014 … it’s waiting for you!
Jan – Bansko, Bulgaria
What a way to kick off 2013, with an epic 4 day snowboarding adventure in western Bulgaria. Bulgaria and in particular Bansko may not be the obvious choice for a European winter resort, and for those of you that are super talented on skis/boards it may prove just too small scale to impress and satisfy you. But, for the beginners and intermediates amongst us, there should be enough to keep you going for a weeks break. Add to that its cost when vs some of the big players in European winter resorts, and you might just find yourself a tidy bargain in Bankso. I certainly did and check out that the view in that first photo. Breathtakingly beautiful!
March – The Isle of Skye and the Highlands, Scotland
Following a roadtrip around Ireland in 2012 with our Friends Rich and Claire, 2013 bought calls for v2.0. At the time of conjuring up a plan for roadtrip 2.0, I was in the midst of an obsession with the northern lights, and so having seen and read a few reports and articles detailing how it was possible to see the lights from the Isle of Skye, I swiftly convinced the roadtrip gang that Skye and the Scottish Highlands should be our intended destination for 2013.
From the moment we set out in our hire car from Inverness airport we knew the next week spent driving the Highlands would be magical. The scenery as you would expect, was nothing short of stunning, and history lessons lurked around every bend in the road, it was castles a’ plenty amongst the cliffs and peaks of the highlands. Whilst we sadly did not manage to catch sight of the aurora (damn cloud), we did catch of a glimpse of the Hogwarts express (sort of). Win!
- Eilean Donan Castle
- The Glenfinnan Viaduct and the other train that goes to Hogwarts
- Snowboarding in Scotland at the Glencoe ski resort
- The magical Faerie Glen
- Claigan Coral Beach – The Isle of Skye
March – Reykjavik, Iceland
I told you I was obsessed with the Aurora. No sooner had I returned home from Scotland I was off again and heading north again in search of those oh so pretty lights.
Iceland was an extremely popular destination in 2013. Countless bloggers visited and proceeded to post article after article about all the incredible sights and experiences that could be had in and around Reykjavik. I was no different. A bold statement this, but I might go so far as to say that Iceland was my favourite destination in 2013. My time spent there was near enough perfect, and yes I did manage to see the lights, and yes, that is probably why Iceland ranks so highly on my favourites list for 2013. That said, even if I had I not seen the northern lights, whilst I would have been slightly gutted, I would not have been so gutted as to neglect or fail to acknowledge how incredible some of Iceland’s other attractions are. Walking through the Þingvellir National Park was a particular highlight of mine.
- The Northern Lights – Witnessing green skies on St Patrick’s Day
- A tour of the Icelandic Golden Circle
- From Reykjavik to Keflavik Airport via The Blue Lagoon
- The Hallgrimskirkja Church and its views over Reykjavik
- Reykjavik street art and a skate park
March – Genoa, Italy
Travelling on behalf of my friends at TravMonkey, I made my way to Genoa in March to witness the christening of the brand spanking new MSC Preziosa. Now you may wonder what a backpacker was doing aboard a cruise ship, fair call. I wasn’t 100% sure myself to begin with, but then it was explained to me that MSC wanted to see if a backpacker could ever get on board (pun totally intended) with cruising. An interesting concept, and whilst I like backpacking a lot, I am not completely closed off to other forms of travel.
So did I get on with cruising? Yes and no. I think that if I were to ever go on a cruise again, a week aboard any ship would be my limit. I really like certain aspects such as the food, the amusement and staying in a cabin, the on board water slide, but on the other hand, the crowds and the confinement of the ship would probably drive me crazy after a while. I think that having an opportunity to get off any cruise ship and explore any area within which you dock is a must. In my case I was lucky enough to get out and see a little bit of Genoa.
April – Laos and Cambodia
The big one of 2013, a trip that was booked 7 tantilising months in advance. Whilst I wasn’t wishing away the beginning of 2013, April 4th was a date firmly lodged in my mind, fore it was the date that I (and the mrs) would depart London for 3 weeks of awesome south east Asian travels.
Laos and Cambodia aren’t exactly original choices for travel destinations in SE Asia, but I don’t think you can begrudge anyone that wants to see them for themselves. With so many people raving about Angkor Wat, puring over Luang Prabang, and having somewhat heated discussions over whether Laos was better or worse for the closure of Vang Vieng’s tubing scene, these two south east Asian countries are intriguing to say the least. So intrigued was I that I laid out plans a 3 week mini tour of the two, and experienced more in that time than I ever imagined/hoped I would. Songkran specifically will stay with me for life, easily my best new years experience ever.
- Tubing in Vang Vieng – what’s the story in 2013
- Flying high over Vang Vieng in a hot air balloon ride at sunrise
- Songkran 2013 – Waterpistols at dawn in Luang Prabang
- The Kuang Si Waterfalls and Bear Rescue Centre
- My top 10 photos of Angkor Wat
- Border Crossing – From Siem Reap to Bangkok via Poipet
- From Bangkok to Vientiane by train
June – Bologna, Italy
In June I was lucky enough to be chosen by the lovely people at Bologna Welcome to take part in one of their social media weekends. It was all a bit last minute, but a more than welcome surprise as truth be told, Bologna wasn’t on my list of places I had planned/expected to travel to in 2013.
Accompanied by the girl, we set out on a 4 night adventure to the red city where, in order to gain access to certain attractions we would have to first check in on 4square, and then tweet or share our experience via twitter and facebook. It was a kind of live blogging if you will.
We spent 3 full sun drenched days in Bologna, learning how to make gelato, dining out, drinking wine, climbing ancient towers, watching open air cinema screenings in the Piazza Maggiore and making our way up what felt like an eternity of stairs to the Basilica Di San Luca on the edge of the city, to look out over the sea of red that is Bologna. An incredible long weekend!
- Experiencing Bologna in a day (or two)
- The two towers of Bologna
- Making my own gelato at the Carpigiani Gelato Lab
- 666 arches to the Madonna di San Luca, Bologna
July – Shannon, Ireland
Who doesn’t love an Irish wedding? My liver, that’s who! I do not wish to enforce a stereotype, but boy that party went on and on.
For the last 3 years I have been a fairly regular visitor to Ireland. My girlfriend lived out near the south west coast for several years and still has many friends and family who live in that area, so we visit quite a lot and I love it.
The wedding ceremony itself was beautiful, set in an old stone church just down the road from where they live, but it was the day after the wedding that sticks in my memory the most. That day we ventured gingerly down the local pub, brilliantly named ‘The Pub’. Say what you see huh? I say gingerly because we were still all a little delicate from the night before, but that mood soon changed once the music started. Fast forward 6 hours and having crammed 17 people into a 9 seater mini bus, we’re back at bride and grooms house singing rebel songs in their front room. A night to remember … well most of it anyway.
September – Dalyan, Turkey
Wedding number 2, this time my big sisters. For all intents and purposes, this was a package holiday, 7 nights bed and breakfast in a river side hotel … just with a wedding on the side. I expected lots of sun worshiping, lots quiet reading whilst laying in a hammock, a few drinks at the poolside bar, a couple nice evening meals by the rive and then obviously a wedding ceremony. What I got was an adventurous 18-70’s holiday which included jeep safari’s, swimming in sub zero mountain rivers, ancient tombs and fortresses, canal boat rides down turtle inhabited rivers, and an unashamedly incredible night of karaoke. Yes I sang. No you cannot see the video ;)
Before our week in Dalyan, I would never have thought that going abroad with family could be so much fun. Now however I wouldn’t hesitate to book up again with them. I have not laugh so hard and for so long in quite some time.
October – New York, USA
Ah New York. Rarely have I attempted to cram so much into one weekend. An A to Z of New York City in 2.5 days is no mean feat, but I managed it … just.
Much like my trip to Bologna, New York came a little bit out of the blue. One minute I was staring at my laptop screen whilst at work, willing for an interesting email to drop into my personal inbox. The next minute such an email had appeared and then 6 weeks after that I was walking through central park on behalf of TravelSuperMarket. Not a bad job if you can get it!
Utilising the super cheap and wonderfully efficient subway system I spent the first two days exploring Manhattan, Queens and Harlem in search of 25 sites that could fill letters A-V and X-Z. Why did I leave W? Well, W was never for a minute in doubt. From the moment the trip to New York was confirmed, W was always going to be the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island. A long time travel ambition of mine was achieved with that W. If you want to know why, just click on the relevant link below.
- The wonder (wheel) of Coney Island
- My A to Z of NYC part 1
- My A to Z of NYC part 2
- 5 Things that surprised me about New York
- The View From The Top Of The Rock – New York
- Witnessing New York’s Graffiti Mecca 5Pointz for the first, and only(?) time
Back home in London
So that lot was my year abroad, but what about back in Blighty? I didn’t only experience awesomeness whilst aboard last year, London was also pretty good to me in 2013 too. There was a sneak preview at the view from The Shard in January. A trip to the weird and wonderful world of Comic Com in the spring. A delicious food tour of east London was gobbled up during a scorcher of a summers day. Before that though came a trip to the Olympic Park to see our paralympic heros ate the Anniversary Games, and not forgetting a helicopter flight over London. Top that lot off with a colourful day at the Holi Festival at Battersea Power Station, and all in all London wasn’t half bad in 2013 either!
So there you have it, 2013 in (a very long – sorry, I lied) summary.
Hopefully somewhere in there was a little bit of something to inspire you to get out there and see the world next year. By that I do not mean that you have to travel thousands of miles, that last section on my London wanderings in 2013 should show you that new adventures can also be found right on your doorstep. You just have to look! Should you however have read through that lot and found nothing in terms of inspiration, I can only apologise and pledge to try harder in 2104 :) … and I will!
So that’s me out the way for 2013, but what were your highlights of 2013? Hopefully you can inspire me to try some place new.