It’s the end of a decade, and what a decade it’s been!
Ten years ago I was 20 years old, in my third year of university, and I’d never even been on a plane. And yet, somehow, here I am at 30 having visited 60 countries and running my own business that allows me to combine my love for writing and travel. To be honest, sometimes I still think “um. How did that happen?” But I’m pretty sure that 20 year old me would be pretty happy and impressed with how things turned out. I know, as of right now, I sure am.
But, as fun as it is to look back over the decade… I don’t have time to write that novel. So I’m just going to stick with my usual year-end reviews to see how far I’ve come and to look back on my annual adventures. Here’s what I got up to in 2019.
2019 In a Nutshell
In 2019 I spent 17 weeks travelling outside of Canada and finished the year with a country count of 60. I visited 17 countries in 2019, 10 of which were new to me and added a new continent to my list (South America, which I definitely need to see more of). This is the official breakdown:
February/March: Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia,
May/June: Morocco, Greece, England
August: Czech Republic
November/December: Cyprus, Malta, Italy, San Marino, France, Germany, England
I travelled more than last year, but still not as much as years past. That’s ok though because I also had an incredibly relaxing summer at home (well, my family cottage) and I got to help my best friend plan and celebrate her wedding, which was incredible. Travel is amazing, but my best friends and family will always come first.
2019 was also my first full year operating as an official business. While it was my 3rd year working for myself, I hadn’t officially registered as a business until the end of 2018. As incredible as it is to be able to say I have my own business (or I am my own business?) it’s been a definite learning curve as well having to keep track, collect taxes, and pay more attention to expenses. Let’s just say tax season should be interesting.
However, as annoying as taxes are, I also blew my original annual income goal out of the water. In fact, I had to adjust my goals twice and even then, I’ve still come out ahead. That’s in big thanks to you, my readers who support me by reading and sharing my content, and using my links to making bookings or purchases based on my recommendations. This is the first year that my blog income actually ended up surpassing my freelance income, so thank you for the support which allows me to keep doing what I love! (PS: If you’re curious about my job and how I make money, read this post)
Of course, these are just the quick basics but there were some specific places and moments that really stood out for me this year. Here are my travel highs and lows of 2019.
The Worst of 2019 Travels
Struggling in Morocco
Oh, Morocco. I wanted to love this country so much and while there is no denying that it is beautiful, I was miserable.
I visited Morocco with a fellow blogger for 2.5 weeks. We backpacked through the country visiting Casablanca, Fez, Chefchaouen, Sahara Desert, Marrakech, and Essaouira. At first, we worried it wouldn’t be enough time but by the end, we couldn’t wait to leave.
Having been to Middle Eastern countries like Egypt and Jordan I thought I would be prepared for Morocco, but I wasn’t and it definitely got to me. I have never been harassed so much in my life. I had men grab me, cat-call me, and follow me everywhere we went. It was constant and while I’m normally patient and polite my friendly ‘no thank-you’s’ quickly turned into angry tones and, at a low point, I even called one man an asshole. It wasn’t pretty. I left in this weird funk that made me feel completely unlike myself and while I’m glad for the experience, it’s not one that I’d like to repeat.
If you missed the whole story, you can read about my experience as a woman in Morocco here. The basic takeaway: I HIGHLY recommend that if you do go to Morocco, you take a group tour.
Lonely as Hell in Cyprus
I visited Cyprus in November because I wanted a sunny beach escape before our infamous Canadian winters. I got the sun, I got the beach, but not much else.
I ended up going to Paphos because everything I read said it was the warmest place at that time of year. However, it’s also where all the older retired British couples go. Or, younger just-married type couples thanks to the connection to Aphrodite. Which meant my solo status REALLY stood out. And not in a cute ‘oh she’s alone, let’s give her more wine’ kind of way but more in a ‘why is she here’ way. It was awkward. Made even more awkward by the fact that by being alone I also really stood out and got harassed by the men, even at 7:30 in the morning.
While I loved being by the ocean, I was beyond excited to finally leave after 5 days of spending my time alone and feeling awkward because of it.
Food Poisoning in a Malta Hostel
I had hoped that Malta would be another sunny beach destination but it wasn’t meant to be. It was windy, rainy, and stormy the entire week I was there. I was worried that, given the weather, I wouldn’t have enough to do during my week. But, then I went and got food poisoning which knocked out a couple of days. So…I guess I jinxed myself?
Not only did I get food poisoning though, I got it when I was staying in a hostel. In a dorm. With 4 guys who, in fairness, were the sweetest and kept checking in on me. But still, nobody wants to be sick with strangers.
Perhaps the best (read: worst) part? We didn’t even have an ensuite bathroom. It was in the hall which meant anyone in the hostel could, and did, use it. It was pretty high-stress there for a bit but I made it without any accidents or embarrassing moments. Thank god.
While none of these was exactly ideal, in the scheme of things it wasn’t too bad either. No major missed planes or trains (though if you follow me on Instagram you’ll remember that I did struggle quite a bit with buses, haha). And, as much as Morocco (well, the men) sucked, my incident in Tonga last year goes to show it could have been worse.
The Best of 2019 Travels
Greece. All of it.
After Morocco, I went to Greece and fell in love with the islands. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what it was but Greece ‘fixed’ me and brought be back to myself after being in a weird place after Morocco, but something happened. Maybe it was the clear blue sea, the delicious food, the friendly people, the fact that men didn’t chase me… who knows. But Greece was incredible and after spending a month there I was heartbroken to leave.
Paros was, by far, my favourite island. But my favourite part of my trip was the sailing adventure I did with Intrepid Travel. I loved it so much that I’m going back in 2020, and bringing 10 of my readers/followers with me. This will be my first experience running a group trip and I’m BEYOND excited to share this experience with like-minded people! Hopefully, it goes well and I can do these types of things more often.
Returning to Ireland…for the 8th Time
If you are a regular reader, you know about my love for Ireland. It was my first country abroad, served as my home for a while, and is somewhere I will always return back to. In October of 2018, I went back for the 8th time in as many years. It was a pretty laid back visit that took me to Dublin where I met up with old friends and some new ones, Galway (my old home) where I revisited my favourite spots and played tour guide for some new friends. I then spent a week with my old roommate and his family which now includes 3 kids all 5 and under. It was chaotic and messy and loud but it was SO fun. Ireland still, and always will, feel like home and I’m definitely going back in 2019. In fact; I’m looking at running a small group tour to Ireland in October of 2020 so if you are interested, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, if you are looking for Ireland content, I have a few posts but I also started and Ireland-specific blog. It’s called Ireland Stole My Heart if you are looking for Ireland travel inspiration!
That Time My Purse Broke in Italy
So, it sounds strange that one of my best memories of 2019 came about from a broken purse strap, but that’s the truth. After Malta, I headed to Trieste, Italy for a couple of days with the plan of then going to Venice (which failed because that’s when Venice was flooding so I went to Bologna instead). Upon arriving in the airport the strap of my 3-week old leather purse from Roots just sort of came off. Leaving me with a broken purse. Needless to say, not impressed.
I spent my first morning in Trieste trying to find a leather maker to fix it which is how I came across a small shop called MAX. It was here that I met and befriended Miriam; an Australian woman who moved to Italy decades ago with her Italian husband. What started as a conversation over fixing a bag turned into an actual friendship. I spent over an hour chatting with her and even came back the next day to meet her daughter, Barbara, and her daughter’s dog, Silver. Miriam took me for my first Italian coffee (I don’t drink coffee) and introduced me to the neighbourhood and, because I was with her, everyone quickly just accepted me in. It was one of the best interactions I’ve ever had with a local and it meant so much to me, especially after Cyprus and Malta being a bit rough. I’m now facebook friends with both women (who keep tabs on me and check in on me regularly) and the proud owner of a stunning leather bag from MAX that just adds to this memory.
If you are ever in Trieste, Italy please go to MAX and tell them I sent you!
Christmas Market Magic
In case you don’t know, I LOVE Christmas markets and planned 3 weeks of exploring them at the end of my most recent Europe Trip. I started in France where I visited the Christmas markets in Paris, then took the train to the Alsace Region where I spent 4 days falling in love with Christmas markets in Strasbourg and Christmas markets in Colmar. I’ve been to my fair share of European Christmas markets, but these two towns win hands down for the most Christmassy-looking. From the trees to the lights to the decorations that seemed to top every single building in the old town areas, Strasbourg and Colmar were absolutely magical.
From France I went to Germany; home of some of the best Christmas markets. I started in Stuttgart which, to be honest, I didn’t love. But was quickly won over by the picturesque and romantic Heidelberg with a gorgeous old town and awesome castle ruins.
Cologne, however, was the real winner of this trip with its magical Christmas markets including one with a gnome theme. You can read all about Christmas markets in Cologne here but basically, it’s a must!
Then finally I ended in Hamburg which wasn’t exactly the most festive experience but I went to catch up with my friend Sarah from Journey to Design. I hadn’t seen her for about 2.5 years so it was a much-needed reunion that involved discovering Hamburg (such a cool city) and me getting naked in a sauna which was a first.
Final Thoughts on 2019 and 2020 Plans
Overall, 2019 was a pretty good year. It had some good and bad bits but at the end of the day, everything turned out to be a story that I can now look back and laugh at which is all that really matters in the end.
As for what’s next? Well, work-wise I’m going to keep plugging away at freelance writing and blogging. My Ireland blog suffered a bit this year but I have a list of things I want to write so I’ll get back to it. Of course, I have tons to share from my most recent Europe adventures here, expect those posts to start popping up soon.
In terms of travel; I’ve already got some plans in the works! In March I’m going back to Israel to explore Tel Aviv and Eilat. I, sadly, didn’t do any diving this year but that’s going to change. In Eilat I’m looking at getting my free diving certification so I’m excited about that.
I’m also looking at going to Turkey this year, in April. It’s been on the list for a while but I’ve been a bit skeptical on going alone. My Morocco experience, however, has convinced me that I should go with a tour so I’m going to go with Intrepid Travel.
Then, after that I’m headed back to Greece. I’ll probably spend about a month and a half here because I love it so much. Not sure if I’ll find myself a base for a bit or hop around but I’m so excited to be going back to the islands.
And after that… who knows! But I have a good feeling about 2020 and think there will be plenty of great adventures and stories to come. Thank you for following along!