As we get to the end of 2019, I, along with many others, am reflecting on the past 12 months. I’m breaking this down, and want to start off by reflecting on 2019 as a year of travel. It’s been my first full year of living overseas, and a huge year for travel for me. I’ve explored new places both in Vietnam and further afield. I feel so privileged for the year I’ve had and the opportunities and experiences I’ve enjoyed. I wanted to blog about my 2019 travel highlights, allowing myself to look back but also hopefully giving you guys some inspiration for 2020 and beyond too!
So here we are: my 2019 travel highlights, in no particular order.
Road tripping round New Zealand in a camper van
I can tell I’ll be doing a lot of posts about the NZ trip but these last couple of weeks have been insane. I’ve never had a camper before, but the freedom it’s allowed and the incredible sights we’ve seen have got me pinning like mad! It’s been a dream.
Flying a kite in Saigon, Vietnam
A bit of a random one here, but such a lovely experience! After a couple of days of Ho Chi Minh City’s usual sights, we headed to a expanse of space by Thu Thiem Bridge in District 2 just before sunset. There, you can buy a kite for around £3-5 and join dozens of locals flying theirs. The pink and orange sky glowed as I tried (and failed, miserably) to keep my kite up in the air. No language barrier stood in the way and honestly, I delighted in the simplicity of it all! Children, teenagers, adults and the elderly all laughing together as kites soared and dipped around.
For my Mum’s birthday, I booked for us to join a Hoi An Photo Walk when she came to visit Vietnam. Started at a ridiculously early hour to catch the best light, we joined Pieter Janssen who taught us not only how to use a camera properly (apparently Auto mode isn’t as great as I’d always imagined), but also where to wander in Hoi An to avoid the tourist crowds and see some local life.
I’d never ridden on or driven a jet ski before, so was pretty nervous before embarking on Mega Water Sports’ Three Island Tour. Lasting 4 hours, it was such an adrenalin rush and my nerves soon disappeared (unfortunately along with my camera and cap which blew away in the wind)! We sped over the waves, stopping off at beautiful islands dotted around the Langkawi archipelago. An exciting way to explore the area, get epic views and get your heart racing too!
Swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura, New Zealand
This very nearly didn’t happen. Despite going on the Dolphin Encounter website to book over a month in advance, there were no spaces left for a swim over a week either side of our planned dates in Kaikoura. Reluctantly we booked a spectator spot, which I’m sure would have been brilliant, but also emailed to add ourselves to the swimming waiting list. I’m so glad we did, because less than 24 hours before the date, I got an email saying we could swim!
The 4:30am wake up was worth it. We snorkelled with a huge pod of dolphins, circling and playing around us. Over 200 wild dolphins were out there, and it was incredible to join them, though my splashes aren’t quite as graceful as theirs.
The light show at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
I’d seen so many insta photos of the Super Trees at Gardens by the Bay that I thought I’d be a bit underwhelmed, but the light show was clever and entertaining. Lying back watching them light up the night sky to a cracking soundtrack was definitely a highlight of my trip there!
Wild swimming in Mai Chau, Vietnam
In September, I visited Mai Chau with a large group of others and ended up swimming in a lake with a wild buffalo. Yep. It wasn’t quite what I’d expected! I’ve no idea where the lake is and certainly couldn’t find my way back there, but once I’d got over my usual overthinking all the possible issues (Is it clean? What else is in there? Will I swallow a load of water and end up lying in hospital? etc.), I jumped in and had a great time splashing around while desperately trying to keep my head out of the water! I definitely need to learn to live in the moment and not weigh up every decision for several minutes first.
Cliff jumping in Rovinj, Croatia
Another one about the sea, and another one I nearly chickened out of. Despite watching several people jump, including many probably half my age and size, I nearly let doubts stop me from the fun again. But once you’ve taken the first leap, it’s so much fun. Jumping on repeat until the sun goes down, or until you want ice cream.
Exploring speakeasies in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Georgetown is one of my favourite places I’ve ever visited and I’ve written more about why here. I was there with my boyfriend and an old school friend and we loved wandering from speakeasy to speakeasy, figuring out where they were and how to get in!
Climbing Rocky Mountain on Christmas Day in Wanaka, New Zealand
I’m not the fittest gal, so this was a bit of a struggle at times, despite not being that steep or technically challenging. However, the top always makes the struggle worthwhile and the incredible views of Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea and the surrounding area was stunning.
So there we have it! My travel highlights of 2019, and what a year it’s been. Ending with New Zealand, which I’m pretty sure is the best trip of my life so far, has been amazing! I’m not really sure how I’ll top this year, travel wise!
What’s your travel highlight from 2019, and where are you most looking forward to visiting in 2020?
Have a great 2020!