Nine countries – three of which I had never visited before, several trips within the UK, starting to take my blog seriously and truly joining the travel blogger community – it has been a big year for me in 2019!
Not to mention the fact that I work closely to UK politics which has perhaps had its most unpredictable year in decades this year, but that is another story!
Although side note: fittingly to that end, I began 2019 on the terrace of the Houses of Parliament opposite the main London fireworks, which go off from the other side of the river by the London Eye, which was very cool.
But on to the point…
The evolution of my writing and blogging
At the start of this year I was posting maybe once a month on my blog, and still without really knowing what I was focusing on, what I wanted to write about. I posted sporadically with thoughts on fitness and motivation, and things I had done in London. I did one post per travel trip I took.
Then in April, I went to Cuba. I started to keep notes of everything we did each day to prompt me for when I wrote my big piece on Cuba. The list was pretty long, and I was running it over with my boyfriend Craig when he pointed out that this was going to be a very long post, and wouldn’t it be better to maybe split it somehow?
I thought about this long and hard, and although this went contrary to all my previous posts, I decided yes, that would be a good approach – it would give me an extra post and wouldn’t be such a long commitment in terms of readers time, and would perhaps feel more manageable from my perspective writing it. This was a complete revelation to me, and I cannot believe I was spending hours writing posts that were longer than my undergraduate dissertation! Seriously, my Vietnam South to North post is around 8000 words and took about 5 hours – click here if you fancy a read/ don’t believe me!
Now I was working on shorter, multiple pieces for each trip. Although still based on a day-by-day approach to the narrative, I already felt I had made a great improvement in my posting style, yet everything was about to change again.
Borderless Live 2019
Having started following a lot more travel influencers, mainly on Instagram, to try and build my following and get inspiration for my own trips, I saw lots of them talking about something called Traverse Events. These guys hold travel content creation conferences and trips for influencers and content creators, mainly based in travel. It looked like a really cool thing to be involved in, and I saw that they were putting on a two day festival style content creation event in London in September.
I really wanted to go and see what it was all about, but I felt myself making excuses. Maybe I didn’t have enough followers on instagram or my blog to go to this type of event? It was quite expensive and would it be worth spending the money on? I would have to take a precious day of annual leave to attend as it was over Friday/Saturday and was I able to do that with all my trips this year?
I thought about it and asked myself: If you don’t get involved and put yourself out there now, when this amazing opportunity is right there in your own city, when will you?
So that was that. I bought my ticket, I bought a proper domain name for my WordPress site and I had business cards printed.
I went with the intention of learning lots about blogging, since it had been more of a hobby for myself previously, to make friends and network, and see what kind of opportunities are out there for bloggers and content creators.
I honestly cannot explain how glad I am that I pushed myself into going and doing this. I was very nervous going not knowing anyone else there and really didn’t know how the weekend was going to go. Fortunately everyone is very friendly, but it can be intimidating when lots of people all already know each other and you are there alone trying to join in. Also, inevitably as the drinks start flowing (many of the exhibitor stalls provided cocktails and other drinks from their countries, which was fantastic!) and you get towards the after parties, your confidence grows and you find yourself surrounded by people who want to hear all about your travels and experiences and to tell you all about theirs.
It was genuinely incredible and I have been to two other Traverse events in London since and felt like a part of the family seeing people I had met before and hanging out. If you are in a similar boat, I cannot recommend enough throwing yourself in. Whether you have just started, or have been doing it for years by yourself before, there is no harm in getting involved, and you may just make some awesome friends along the way.
Being more involved and following people’s blogs whom I met has also hugely improved my writing and post style. And I love being able to support others in their work and hope they will with mine too! I now like to do a mixture of whole trip and single place or focus posts, like on the food eaten in a country or on a particular UNESCO site we visited. It is really nice to be able to go into more detail and I am annoyed at myself for not realising this and providing this service to my readers sooner!
The next Borderless live is September 11th and 12th, it is already in my diary, and I will be getting my ticket as soon as it is released! If you still aren’t convinced, you can read my full post on my experience here!
My 2019 travels
To end this little self-reflection post about the massive journey I feel like I have taken this year, I thought I would include a little rundown of the places I visited, my favourite thing I did whilst there and my top tip for each country/ place. I will link my post on each trip for your convenience if you want to read more about each destination.
What an incredible city this is! It has mind-blowing architecture, great tapas and wine, and a beach – what more could you want from a city break! Definitely go for a long weekend if you haven’t before! I’d recommend wandering around the gothic quarter and checking out some of the unique bars and restaurants there. Also it isn’t necessarily as warm as you would expect, so don’t be silly like me and only pack skirts in March because you will find yourself going to H&M or Zara for cheap jeans so you don’t freeze…
Trying to summarise this one is hard, but what a unique country. Probably the most interesting place I have ever visited. If you can, try and go soon whilst it remains old fashioned and authentic. Modernisation is creeping in, and although you can only access internet in public squares and you still see lots of ancient classic cars, things are changing there. Definitely try and learn some Spanish if you go, particularly if you want to go beyond Havana and Varadero – many people don’t speak English, especially if you stay in guesthouses, and the locals will appreciate your efforts! It is hard to pick one favourite part, but the classic car tour is a must, and both Vinales and Trinidad are amazing and definitely worth leaving the capital to explore.
My boyfriend and I go to Brussels every year to visit his cousin who lives there. We take the Eurostar which is dead easy and go drink Belgian beer and do a little exploring. This year we went to Ghent for a day trip and visited the castle which was lots of fun. It is a quick trip from Brussels on the train – as long as you get the fast one, which we failed to do on the way there!
I didn’t write a post on this as I was literally there for less than 48 hours for a hen party and didn’t really see much of the city – the most I saw was on my walk to the restaurant from the station as I was late arriving! But it looks lovely and I would like to go back and see the castle for sure.
We had the best time in Malta, doing almost two separate trips whilst we were there – a chilled couples trip staying in a cool hotel for a few days eating nice food and seeing cultural sites, then a few days staying in a hostel in the party part of the island jumping off boats and drinking with fellow backpackers at our roof bar, as well as getting my first tattoo whilst travelling. (There will undoubtedly be more). Mdina was really interesting to walk around, and the blue lagoon yes is pretty busy with tourists but I still think it is worth visiting as it is beautiful and the water is perfect for chilling out in. I would recommend using local buses to get around the island – they are pretty cheap and you can use your ticket hopper style like in London if you do two journeys within two hours which saves some money!
Paris lived up to the hype in my personal opinion. Craig took me for a weekend in August as I had never visited the city before, and I was pretty taken with how beautiful it was. Predictable though it is I really loved seeing the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero with all the fountains, it is pretty spectacular. Take comfy shoes and you can walk pretty much everywhere if you are willing, you can see so much and it is free yay!
We revisited Istria this year with a group of friends, having stayed in Pula last summer. We stayed in Medulin this time, which was very scenic. You have to visit the colosseum in Pula, and eating at Jupiter Pizzeria is a must! We did a great wine tasting at the Trapan Wine station too. Staying in an AirBnb this time was good, having done a hotel last time, and there were loads to choose from that catered to big groups in Medulin. Was a great place for a big group trip.
I have so many thoughts about Dubai! I was surprised how much I enjoyed it, not having known what to expect when we went, but there was more than enough to do and I think we managed a lot in the few days we had. I would struggle to pick a favourite activity as everything was great, but the desert safari was an epic experience. The pool parties and bottomless brunches were loads of fun too and I would definitely recommend doing one if you are there, as they are actually quite good value – happy hours too are a must, as we discovered to our horror outside of these offers it is an average of at least £10 for a pint, which made London look cheap!
For our last international trip of the year we went to stay with Craig’s friends in Cologne. We did lots of eating and drinking while we were there, and managed to squeeze in three of the six main Christmas markets. Definitely make time to go and see the Cathedral (Dom as they say) if you are here because it is spectacular. If you can arrange to go outside of a weekend if you want to visit the Christmas markets then I would strongly suggest you do, as some of them were so packed you could barely move!
I have also written plenty of London activity based posts this year – from Polo in the Park to an East London pop up lego bar! you can view all of those right here: London posts.
And there you have it – a whole year in a short post. I hope you have enjoyed following my journeys both around the world and as a writer, and wish you all the best heading into this next decade! Please do follow and continue on my journeys with me xxx
Thanks for reading everyone!