This year has finally come to an end, another year of unbelievable experiences around the world. I feel lucky and extremely privileged to have the opportunity to travel as much as I do, but it comes with a lot of hard work and sacrifices. To look back on everything I’v seen and done in the last 12 months blows my mind, and I wanted to round it all up here.
My New Years Eve was spent in Sydney with one of my best friends and a group of incredible women from the Girls Love Travel group. We rang in the new year with a bang, watching the fireworks over Sydney harbour.
We then set off on a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne to see all the beaches we could, to camp in the wild, to climb the highest peak in Australia and to drive the Great Ocean Road, my year couldn’t have started any better. My last Australian adventure was three days of driving around Tasmania which is stunning and definitely deserves more time.
To top it all off, I flew home to see my family again after another year away from home, and going back to Cornwall (even in January) is nice, but not for long when all I did for months was stress about my next trip and leave getting my new passport too late to go anywhere in the meantime.
In May I left again, and flew to Ethiopia to stay with my dad and his wife in their house in Addis Ababa for a month. I spent my birthday with them in the ancient city of Harar cuddling hyenas.
I also travelled around the north of the country, seeing some weird and wonderful things. Rock-hewn churches, salt flats and bubbling sulphur pools. I even camped at the top of a recently erupted volcano, seeing my first ever raging river of lava.
From Ethiopia we flew to Joberg, South Africa to pick up a truck with two tents on the roof (which we named Bucky) to take us around southern Africa. We spent two months driving through Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa, before flying to Kenya and Tanzania.
We did a lot of hiking. Five days in the Fish River Canyon, Namibia. A day of climbing sand dunes in Soussusvlei. A day in Malolotja Nature Reserve, Swaziland. A day in Blyde River Canyon in South Africa, five days along the Drakensburg Northern Traverse between South Africa and Lesotho and 5 days on the Otter Trail in South Africa. A week up and down Mount Kenya.
We did a lot of safaris. We saw wildebeest, hartebeest, gemsbok, springbok, warthogs, meerkats, zebras, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, black and white rhinos, water buffalo, birds of prey, colourful birds and prehistoric looking birds in South Africa’s Transfrontier Nature Reserve and Addo Elephant Park, Namibia’s Etosha National Park, Botswana’s Nxai Pan National Park and Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.
I got to fulfil my dreams of visiting the Skeleton Coast, Cape Town and the idyllic island of Zanzibar. I got to jump the world’s highest bungy bridge (thanks Face Adrenaline) and I got to see the unbelievable Victoria Falls. The trip was one of the most magical of my life and it wouldn’t have been possible without my dad.
In August I went off by myself, spending a couple of hot and sweaty days in Dubai before flying to Central Asia. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It’s one of the most remote and untouched parts of the world I’ve travelled through. I hardly met anyone and it got lonely at times, but I would recommend it to any traveller looking for a challenge, before it gets too touristy.
But learning some Russian helped with the locals, and those backpackers I did meet were pretty rad. I got to see the lakes and canyons around Almaty, Kazakhstan. I did a solo multi-day hike to Song Kul in Kyrgyzstan. I got to drive the Pamir Highway through Tajikistan and see Afghanistan and Pakistan.
By October I was in India. This has been on my bucket list forever but I was nervous about going alone because of the stories you hear. I ended up spending the full two months there and absolutely fell in love with this diverse and challenging country.
I travelled through Punjab, Himachel Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. I saw some beautiful temples, ate the best food and even rescued a street puppy on the brink of death who now lives a happy life with the angels at KAW. Sam, I’m so glad we met, it wouldn’t have been the same without you.
I got to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar and the world-famous Taj Mahal. The red forts of Delhi and Agra, and more opulent tombs than I can count. I got to raft along the holy Ganges river, and watch billions of fireworks for Diwali. I watched a Sikh Warrior parade, got free tickets to the MTV India Music Summit and found a huge festival at a temple complex hidden in the mountains.
It wasn’t all good. When we arrived in Pushkar for the camel fair, my bag was stolen. I lost everything valuable and important to me. My camera and lenses, my laptop, my kindle, my hard drive with all of my photos from this entire trip and many personal and irreplaceable things. To say it was heartbreaking is an understatement and I was close to giving up and going home, but I’m glad I stayed, even if it was just to go back to Rishikesh to hang out with Sam, our puppy and a Canadian mountain man.
I decided to stay until the end of my visa, skip Sri Lanka and go home early. Being home for Christmas is always amazing; spending time with the whole family, arguing over board games, drinking all the alcohol and eating enough food to feed a small country. I got a job immediately after arriving home (thanks Stu) and that’s where I’ll be ending 2017, because nothing will beat those fireworks in Sydney.
This year was amazing. Every year of my life for the past 9 has been full of adventure and new experiences, but this was one of the best. I travelled to 14 new countries, had so many once in a lifetime experiences, met some wonderful people and learned some valuable life lessons.
- That meeting strangers online is a good thing (thanks GLT).
- That once I left Australia I actually kind of missed it.
- That Africa is one of the most diverse continents on this earth, and you’d need a lifetime to properly explore it all, but you should go and see what you can.
- That hiking through sand with an over-packed backpack and spinal arthritis is literally the worst thing in the universe.
- That lions, rhinos and other wild animals can’t tell there’s humans inside a truck.
- That I can travel without any of my camera gear, but I don’t want to.
- That backing up your photos means keeping that backup somewhere different to your camera and memory cards.
- That most people are good, but some people are just plain evil and deserve to rot in the innermost circles of hell for all eternity.
- That India is actually a pretty safe and easy place for a solo female, as long as your sensible, but you will probably get groped at least once, most of the men there are disgusting pigs.
- That cows are like giant dogs, they just want pats and belly rubs.
- That you can never get sick of garlic naan, even if you eat in every day for two months.
- That sometimes, it’s all about the people you meet, not the places you go (ok I already knew this but it’s important to remind yourself sometimes!).
I hope everyone had an incredible 2017, and that this year is full of adventures, love and happiness!