Christmas season is, without doubt, my favourite time of year. The warm woolly jumpers come out, the fires go on, the festive lights go up and the Christmas songs start playing. I love it! Every December, I make a habit of writing down all the good things that happened over the last 12 months. It’s always fun looking back over memories. I then look at the year ahead. The plans I have, things I want to do or places I want to go. I don’t like calling them resolutions, because that makes them sound like chores, I prefer goals. Writing them down is as an opportunity to get excited and to set new ambitions.
12 pictures that sum up 2016
1. The Ordinary Adventurer was born
January started out as a miserable one. As Christmas came to an end, so did a difficult year for me, for many reasons. I was tired, fed up and desperately wanted a change. I remember the moment it happened exactly. Stood by the warm radiator looking out my apartment window at the early evening darkness and the empty tube crossing the bridge over the Thames. There and then, I decided absolutely that I would quit my job, start writing and to chase a different lifestyle. I told Gil, my husband, straight away. He said, OK….It really was as easy as that.
Setting up the Ordinary Adventurer was an exciting project for me that has blossomed into a business which has defined my year. It all began brainstorming in my local Weatherspoon’s over a Peroni….
2. A world away visiting Japan
Japan has always been on my wish list and I had been looking forward to this 2 week holiday for a long time. In terms of researching and decision-making, this was hands down, the hardest trip to plan as there is so much to see and do. Our holiday was amazing! Japan now confidently sits in my top 3 destinations and holds a bucket full of memories and wonder for me.
If you haven’t already, you must go.
3. Finding Albert Garwood
In April, I went on a weekend away to Ypres to visit, for the first time, my Great Great Granddad’s WWI grave. It was both humbling and sad. Never before have I felt so moved and connected to the historical sites I am visiting.
If you haven’t already, you should read my summary, Finding Albert Garwood.
4. Getting myself qualified
June marked the last month working as a trainee teacher. Although it had been a difficult and infuriating process, I learnt loads and was happy that I managed to walk away with an ‘outstanding’ grade. Even bigger for me though was passing my Mountain Leader qualification. An award that I had been working hard towards for over a year and that had really stretched me out of my comfort zone. To pass, I had to do a 5 day assessment, with a 2 night expedition, in Snowdonia.
On top of juggling full-time teaching, studying, all while working towards my Mountain Leader, I had been organising my life ready to leave. I had packed up and left my flat, sorted my finances and admin, started fundraising and planning for my first big adventure. I was so, so ready to get going…
5. Bad news and an awesome weekend
Glastonbury was a huge celebration that marked the end of one life and the start of a new one. The Brexit news I received on day 1 was gutting and the sadness I felt towards the result really surprised me – I didn’t realise I cared as much as I did. Regardless though, I went on to have one of the best weekends of my life. I just love Glastonbury.
6. A taste of expedition leading
Passing my Mountain Leader award opened up a whole new world of opportunity and one of those is being able to get work as an Expedition Leader. I got 2 weeks work experience as an Assistant Leader taking a group of young people to Morocco. It was fun exploring a new country while sharing it with young first time travellers and I instantly signed up to lead my own expedition in 2017. This has to be one of the coolest jobs out there!
7. Looping London on a scooter
Saying you are the first ever person to do something is pretty cool. In August, Gil and I did a world first completing 240km of the London loop on adult kick scooters. My first ever proper adventure and the first time I had wild camped without a tent.
8. Playing Pirates of the Caribbean
I had barely unpacked from Scoot the Loop before I found myself sailing 800 miles from Gothenburg, Sweden to Portsmouth, UK, on a 72 foot challenger yacht. The seas were rough, I got sea sick, the shift work was tough and we didn’t see land for a week, but…it was amazing.
9. Head in the clouds
I had a great September visiting family in Amsterdam and friends in Munich for Oktoberfest before heading to Turkey. Although I had a negative experience in Istanbul, Cappadoccia made up for the bad start, especially going on a hot air balloon ride over the beautiful landscape.
10. Completing a 1000km hike across Israel
How do you pick just one picture for this? It’s impossible! As is trying to sum it up in a few sentences.
11. Rediscovering an old love
At the end of our hike, I spent a week diving in Eilat. It’s been 10 years since I last went diving and I had forgotten how much I belong in the water and how much I love seeing and learning about Marine life. The marine world has always been a passion of mine and living far away from the sea has kept me from pursuing it more. I also had the pleasure of visiting Dolphin Reef, which was quick to become one of my favourite places on the planet. I wasn’t sure what to do with my time next but, suddenly, everything became very clear!
12. Realising what it is all about
Ok, so this one is a complete cheat picture. It’s the most important one of them all though. People keep telling me how jealous they are of what I’m doing and, when you look at the pictures above, I know why (although I hate it when people say it!). Sometimes I can’t believe it myself how lucky I am to be doing all this cool stuff. In between all the adventures is a glue that makes everything I do memorable and special – it’s people.
I love to travel and take on adventurous things and I need to do these things to be happy and true to myself. But, the more I do, the more I realise that nothing in life beats friends and family. Even with all those epic adventures under my belt, my true favourite moments this year were simple times with loved ones – welcoming a new nephew, having a coffee with a lifelong girl friend, jumping in the Red Sea with Gil, laughing so hard with friends it hurt, celebrating Rosh Hashana with my in-laws, connecting with new friends, hugging my niece after 3 long months away and Christmas dinner with my family…….that’s what it’s all about.
My plans for 2017
I have a feeling 2017 will be my best one yet. After years of trying different jobs and wondering about my future, I have found myself on a path that is nothing short of perfect. Occasionally, I wonder if I should be nervous that I don’t have a regular job, income or stability, but, I’m just not. Everything feels too right. 2016 was the year that I made the decision to change. I worked hard to put my plans in place and finally kicked off full-time travels in the summer. 6 months on, after some amazing adventures and experiences and with a thriving blog behind me, I go into the next year better than I could have ever hoped for. So what have I got lined up so far?
January & February: 2 months exploring Tanzania
My first travel experience was aged 18 when I went travelling solo for 7 months on my own. I’ve done a lot of travelling since, but, nowhere has my heart quite like Africa does. I’ve been talking about going back for so long and, finally, this is the year I return to my favourite country, Tanzania. While there, I will visit Zanzibar and, a less-known island, Mafia. I will do a safari, hiking and will volunteer at Arise school who I have been fundraising for. I fly today (the 27th December)….bring it on!
April: A 1 month marine conservation internship in Honduras
I’ve always had a fascination for marine life and, after discovering diving again in Eilat, I was determined to do more. After a lot of research looking for the best dive centre in the world, I came across Utila Dive Centre and their Eco Program. A unique month-long internship where I take away a variety of skills from coral reef observation to fish identification, while also practising marine conservation (all the -tions!). As if that wasn’t enough, I will also be doing a Dolphin Awareness and Underwater Photography Course…oh, and did I mention it is on a Caribbean island? I am so, so, SO excited about this one.
May: A few weeks exploring Central America
Following the Internship, I have a month spare in Central America before flying home to explore the area. I’m thinking of visiting somewhere new like Belize or Mexico. Guatemala though is a pretty special place for me as it is where I bumped into the man who became my husband, so a visit there is a must.
July: My first paid work as a mountain leader
In July, I am working for 2 weeks as an expedition leader taking a group of students to Swaziland and South Africa. Yes, this is a real job. Yes, I get paid. And yep, you can do this too!
My goals for 2017
…Go on another long-distance adventure. They’re addictive! I’m not sure what yet for certain, but I’m thinking on a bike
…Stop stressing so much. I’m a worrier. Considerably less so than 6 months ago, but still too stressy for my liking!
…Do a yoga retreat
…Keep up Bullet Journalling. It helps me massively with staying organised and juggling planning and the blog while travelling. If you haven’t heard of it before, check it out.
…Write a book
…Climb a mountain
…Quadruple my blog subscriptions and readers!
What plans do you have lined up? Whatever you are focusing on this year, I hope it brings you adventures, travels, health and good memories.
Thank you for reading, following my journey and commenting. It’s been amazing knowing I’ve had so many people by my side along the way. Happy New Year! x