Bye bye 2018… My year in review

I must be getting old because 2018 has seriously flown by. It feels like just 5 minutes ago that we were toasting in the new year and thanking our lucky stars that 2017, with all its political drama and chaos, was behind us (oh, how naive we were!)

As 2019 edges ever closer, I’ve been reflecting on the last year and all its highs, lows, and everything in between.

2018 was another year of firsts for me – I ventured to another new continent and six new countries; I took my first step on that rickety old thing called “the property ladder”; I became a super proud dog mama; and I bid farewell to my 20s and embraced a new decade, whilst ticking off as many goals on my “30 before 30” list as possible!

I’m always striving to find that sweet spot between the comforts of an ordinary home life and the excitement and spontaneity of a life on the road, so I thought I’d take a moment to share a few of my highlights, top tips, and aspirations for 2019.

Thank you so much for following my adventures.

Happy New Year! x

Exploring a new continent

After months of planning (and many more years of daydreaming), the hubby and I finally set off in May on a month-long back-packing trip around South America.

This was my first glimpse into this beautiful continent and the longest amount of time I’d ever spent on the road. I had my reservations – mainly about any eight-legged “friends” I might encounter along the way – but South America worked its magical charms on me instantly.

Starting in Lima, we made our way through some of the most spectacular highlights of Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil (with a quick 24-hour stop in Chile too).

From hiking other-worldly landscapes in Peru to cruising through the largest salt flats in the world; and from sipping caipirinhas on Copacabana Beach to watching the sunset in the Atacama Desert, this was truly the trip of a lifetime and a massive travel highlight of 2018.

Ticking off a few wonders of the world

South America comes with an added bonus – it’s home to not just one, but two of the seven wonders of the world, plus a natural wonder of the world thrown in for good measure.

The epic Machu Picchu in Peru was first on our hit-list and proved to be every bit as dreamy as I hoped (even after one of the hardest hikes of my life – seriously, Incan stone staircases are a thing of the past for good reason!) You can check out my guide to exploring Machu Picchu here.

Next, we came face-to-face with the iconic Christ the Redeemer monument in Brazil. This world-famous statue is even more impressive up-close and the views of Rio de Janeiro from the top are jaw-droppingly good.

Finally, we encountered one of the world’s natural wonders – the almighty Iguazu Falls, which stretches along the Brazilian and Argentinian border and is made up of a staggering 275 different falls. The sheer power and size of the Falls is something I won’t forget in a hurry.

Reaching new peaks

2018 took me to the summits of four different mountains and got me well and truly hooked on the mountain-trekking experience.

First up, was South Britain’s highest peak – the beautiful Pen Y Fan in the Welsh Brecon Beacons. Located less than 2 hours from my home-town of Bristol, this gave me the perfect excuse to explore more of the UK’s scenic countryside, without needing to take any annual leave.

The Pen Y Fan climb proved to be excellent training for the two peaks that followed in Peru – Machu Picchu Mountain and the ever-so-Instagrammable Rainbow Mountain in the Andes.

Both were incredibly challenging hikes, due to the altitude, but it was worth every huff and puff for the views from the top. You can read more about the good, the bad and the ridiculously beautiful side of Rainbow Mountain here.

In September, I dusted off my hiking boots once again and returned to Wales to take on its highest peak – Mount Snowdon.

Despite the fog rolling in and near enough blinding me near the summit, this was still one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever experienced.

Conquering the remaining two of the UK’s Three Peaks (Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis) is already on my 2019 bucket list!

 

Celebrating my big 3-0 in the ‘Dam

2018 brought an end to my 20s, which could mean only one thing…. a damn good excuse for another vacation.

Leaving it up to the travel gods, I consulted my trusty FlymeAnywhere app and booked up the cheapest flight I could find… which led me straight to the delights of Amsterdam.

Less than an hour’s flight from Bristol, this turned out to be the perfect long weekend break. I instantly fell in love with the food, the museums, the tulips, and the fairy-tale canals. There is just something so chilled about the whole vibe of the city (absolutely nothing to do with the “coffee shops”, I’m sure!) And as it’s so close and easy to get to, we’ll certainly be returning before too long.

Check out my guide to exploring Amsterdam here.

Learning a new language

In anticipation of turning 30, I had a list of 30 goals I wanted to achieve this year, including learning a new language.

So in preparation for our South America travels, I decided to give my brain a bit of a workout by signing up to a “Beginners Spanish” course at The Bristol Folk House.

Learning a new skill, after years away from education, was so refreshing and turned out to be incredibly handy for getting ourselves around South America (okay, I couldn’t quite hold a conversation but I COULD order a glass of wine, which is just as important…)

Eating my way around Italy

Considering I’m half-Sicilian, it’s pretty appalling how little I’ve explored of Italy. 2018 marked my first ever visit to the Italian mainland itself and my destination of choice was the beautiful Genova and Cinque Terre region.

One of the highlights of the trip was taking a local food tour around Genova; a city famous for its pesto and focaccia… need I say more? Eating fresh fish, as the sun set over Manarola, was also up there with my all-time favourite travel/food experiences.

With return flights coming in at under £50 and a cheap AirBnb find, right in the centre of Genoa, this trip proved that travelling to Italy doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ll be sharing some of my top tips for money-saving in Europe in the New Year.

Wine-tasting in Argentina

Another of my “30 before 30” goals was to give wine-tasting a go – and where better in the world than Argentina?

Instead of heading for the famous Mendoza province, we decided to spend our time in Argentina’s alternative wine region – Cafayate – in the North West. This beautiful little town is packed full of vineyards and unique wine-tasting experiences (plus it does the BEST wine ice cream – yes, you heard correctly!)

In the end, we opted for the Piattelli Winery, situated in gorgeous grounds and surrounded by miles of colourful vineyards. As well as touring the cellars, we got to sample some of the local wines produced on-site and left feeling rather merry!

Putting down roots in Bristol

As someone who is absolutely hopeless at adulting, I did the most adult-y thing you can do this year and became a home-owner. Truth be told? It was literally the most stressful, confusing and expensive experience of my life… BUT we do now have our very own little coloured house in South Bristol and I couldn’t be more in love with our new neighbourhood.

The thrill of exploring a new part of the city has not worn off at all and 2019 will be all about getting acquainted with my new home and surrounding areas even more.

Growing our family by four paws

Never mind “getting on the property ladder”… my main motivation for buying a house this year was so that we could finally add a pooch to our home!

Yes, 2018 was the year I became a proud dog mama. Our not-so-little Golden Retriever, Marnie, is now 4 months old and loving her city life in Bristol. She has brought so much joy into our home (along with a fair few muddy paw-prints, but even those are too cute) and I can’t wait to explore more of the UK with her in tow in 2019.

And yes I might have already looked into “doggy passports”… Stay tuned for my top tips about dog-friendly travel in 2019!

 

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