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This might have been the year of my most important travel decision: simply TO travel!
While I loved my three years living and working in London, I couldn’t afford to do much. If I could pull together the money for a long weekend in Germany to see my sister or to Barcelona to see my best friend, that was as good as it got.
I couldn’t complain but I was keen to see more of the world whilst I was still young. So in February I moved back in with my parents in our small town in Oxfordshire and got my save on. Hard.
In August, my friend Hannah and I boarded a flight to Delhi and I haven’t looked back since.
India will always be one of my favourite travel destinations. I do understand when people tell me they didn’t enjoy it as it can be hectic. Hannah and I found a way to laugh at the madness and threw ourselves into the culture.
Delhi was heaving and hectic with lots to see, Agra housed the Taj Mahal and Jaipur was a cool, colourful city. Once we’d completed the Golden Triangle, we explored sleepy Pushkar, lakeside Udaipur and blue city, Jodphur. We flew down south to Mumbai and met our friend Rosie before spending a few chilled days cruising the backwaters in Kerala. The south of India is such a huge contrast to the north and while the south was definitely more relaxing, the colourful culture in the north was my favourite.
By the end of the month, we were ready for calmer climates and a break from curry BUT I already knew I’d want to return to India. Far north Ladakh is on my list, as is religious Varanasi. India was an interesting place to start my trip as it really threw me in the deep end – nowhere else has managed to stress me out since.
Sri Lanka (September)
Once Hannah was on the plane back to London, Rosie and I headed to Sri Lanka where we spent 10 days.
Sri Lanka was green and luscious compared to India. I wouldn’t say I fell in love with Sri Lanka as much as I did other places, but perhaps this was because of the short amount of time we spent there. We only had time for four stops: capital Colombo, cultural Kandy, misty Nuwara Eliya and countryside hilltown Ella. There are so many other places I’d liked to have seen.
The beauty of travelling is learning how to do it better next time and I’ve learned a lot about myself and my travel style in 2015. I won’t necessarily travel the same way again – I prefer to spend substantial time in each place and many of my travels this year have been more rushed and itinerary-focussed than they will be in future.
What I didn’t fall in love with in Sri Lanka, I went head-over-heels for in Nepal. Even though we had a short amount of time there too, the must-sees were more obvious and I adored colourful Kathmandu, lakeside Pokhara and going on safari in Chitwan National Park.
The warmth and friendliness of the locals was incredible! We spent one rainy afternoon sharing chai tea under a tarpaulin with a group of locals who shared stories about their country with us. Experiences like that always stay with me! I’m so keen to return to Nepal and set up base or volunteer and get fully immersed in the culture.
A milestone for me – my first solo travel experience! Rosie headed back to work and I flew to Burmese capital, Yangon, to begin my adventure.
As well as travelling alone being exciting and rewarding, Myanmar was incredible. It’s less touristy than a lot of destinations due to political struggles and restricted borders in the past, and now is a great time to visit as it opens up for tourism. Bagan is one of the top temple sites in the world and my three days there cycling between temples were some of my favourites.
I trekked with a group for three days from Kalaw to Inle Lake where fisherman rowed boats with their feet and many people live in stilt houses on the water. I finished my adventures in Mandalay where, as an avid reader, I loved visiting the world’s largest book, a series of stone scriptures built into their own temples (not that I could understand what they said in Burmese!).
My travels changed drastically in October as I entered the backpacker zone. In terms of nightlife, the first four stops of my trip were fairly dry. Once I got to Laos there was more scope for letting my hair down and making friends.
Luang Prabang was a cool city to explore, and while capital Vientiane didn’t have a lot to offer, tubing and kayaking with river dolphins in the chilled out 4000 islands was a highlight of my Laos trip. While it wasn’t as magical a travel experience as perhaps India or Myanmar, there was a lot to do in Laos and I’d like to return to zip wire with gibbons in the west of the country.
Vietnam (October – November)
Vietnam would have been a firm favourite for me whether I’d volunteered or not, but the experience I had working in a primary school in Hanoi made it a winner. I lived in an apartment of lovely girls and volunteered in a class of the sweetest five-year-olds ever. After three months on the move and living out of a rucksack, I welcomed having a base for a bit and I was mad about hazy, hectic Hanoi!
My second month backpacking down the coast was just as good but in different ways. There are so many cool stops to make like lantern-lined Hoi An, temple town Hue, hectic Ho Chi Minh and countryside Da Lat. I miss both the people and the food in Vietnam!
Cambodia was whistle stop as I took a tour. Because of the speed we moved, I feel like it’s one of the countries I had the least connection with in terms of personal and local experience. Saying that, I learnt a lot from our informative tour guide and had a ball with the group, some of whom have become friends for life.
We had the best time partying in Sihanoukville and exploring the Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap. Cambodia has the most heartbreaking history and I valued the opportunity to learn about the Khmer Rouge via the cultural and historical artefacts in Phnom Penh.
On to 2016…
I’m now in Thailand and will be for the rest of January. Lined up for 2016 is Malaysia (including Borneo), Singapore, Bali, Melbourne, Fiji and New Zealand. Money dependant, I’m looking at trying to extend my trip to Japan and possibly even the Philippines. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a good one!
Thanks for reading!
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See my other years in review:
See you next time for more adventures,