I thought 2018 was a great year, but what a year 2019 was.
I was nervous to move into the new year. I remember thinking ‘I don’t think anything can top this year’.
Then I woke up with a hangover on January 1st and I thought my worst fears had been confirmed.
Little did I know that 2019 would be even better than its predecessor.
I feel so lucky and blessed that the last few years have been so incredible.
Ever since I made the decision to move abroad, it seems as though things have been on the up.
Guys, travel has changed my life so much.
And while the nomadic life may be slowing down for me now (the vanlife days are a thing of the past) I can promise you adventure is and will be a major player in my present and future.
In fact, I think my word of the year is ‘adventure.’
Total countries visited in 2019: 4 [Scotland, Poland, Ireland, USA].
Cities visited in 2019: 8 [Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Stirling, Perth- in Scotland, Gdańsk, Cork, Orlando].
The Best Moments of 2019
At the end of 2018 I made a 2019 bucket list, and I achieved just over half of what I set out to do.
I’m always a bit overambitious with my lists, but aim high and all that, right?
Here are some of my favourite moments from 2019.
Showing my family Scotland
I kicked off 2019 by having family visit me in Scotland, so I took them on a road trip around Scotland.
We followed most of this itinerary and had an amazing time [even though it was winter].
We visited my 4x great grandfather’s grave which is located next to a loch in the highlands, had dinner in an 18th century pub, and visited more abbeys and castles than we could count!
Bird Watching on Handa Island
This year I had the opportunity to visit Handa, an island sanctuary for birds. Every summer nearly 100,000 seabirds breed here!
I lay down and glanced over the cliffs stuffed with thousands of guillemots, razorbills and great skuas, watching them tend to their nests. It was a lovely moment that made me stop in my tracks and revel in the miracle that is nature.
Bird watching on Handa Island
Eating traditional food in Gdańsk
I spent 4 days eating as many pierogi as humanly possible in Gdańsk during February.
In 2018, I asked my Facebook followers to recommend where I should go for a winter break in Europe. I ended up choosing Gdańsk because I’d never heard of the Polish city before [love me some adventure].
I soon discovered it had an incredible history; Gdańsk was actually where World War II started after German forces invaded the city.
Gdańsk has an interactive museum- the Museum of the Second World War- which is an absolute must visit if you want to educate yourself on the history of the war.
I wish I spent more time at the museum, and I’d happily go back just to spend a day wandering around and reading the stories from those who were affected by the war.
Writing blog posts that I think will REALLY help anyone planning a trip to Scotland
This year I poured my heart and soul into blog posts about Scotland that I know will help anyone planning a trip here. I’m really proud of this 10 day Scotland itinerary I wrote, and this post about travelling to Scotland on a budget.
Celebrating St Patrick’s Day in Ireland
I have friends that live in Killarney, so I visited them in March and celebrated St Patrick’s Day with them.
I think it was a good trip 😉
I also hired a car and spent some time exploring the area. Ireland is truly magical- even when the weather is poor!
Driving the North Coast 500
In April I drove one of the world’s most spectacular drives: the North Coast 500.
I adore the north-west of Scotland, it has some of the world’s most wildly beautiful terrain.
Castle ruins, cute coastal villages and abundant hiking opportunities lie in wait on the NC500.
Kylesku in Scotland, one of my favourite off-beat places on the North Coast 500
Turning 30 topped every one of my birthdays.
I spent a couple of nights in my favourite place [Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands] hiking, swimming, drinking whisky and eating cake.
I stayed here and looked out over views of Loch Linnhe from my window as I sipped wine.
Seeing the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo from above
I worked on a campaign this year with Festivals Edinburgh which saw me experience five Edinburgh festivals in one day– this also included media access to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
It was my first time seeing the Tattoo, and my heart swelled with pride when the NZ team performed a haka.
We were allowed up the back to see the Tattoo from above- a view I won’t forget any time soon.
I won an award!
It’s not often you get recognition for all the hard work that goes into blogging, so I was chuffed to win Influencer of the Year – Highly Commended at the Scotland Young Women in Tourism Awards.
Winning the ‘Highly Commended Influencer of the Year’ at the Women in Tourism Scotland Awards. Photo supplied by Women in Tourism Scotland.
Meeting the Haggis
The absolute highlight of 2019 was meeting Craig.
After travelling the world solo for over 2 years, I was ready to share my adventures with someone.
On our first date he took me out for dinner (very rare in Scotland- most guys want to take you to the pub for a first date). For our second date I took him to see the Museum of the Moon exhibition- a giant replica artwork of the moon.
I think that must have impressed him because after that he wouldn’t leave me alone.
We have the same bizarre sense of humour, and he loves travel and going on adventures as much as I do.
We’ve travelled around Scotland a fair bit this year- and we have big plans for 2020!
I think it’s fair to say that I don’t do anything by halves. Within a year of meeting the Haggis we moved in together, got engaged, and we’re getting married one year to the day we met in January.
Of all the crazy things that have happened to me over the course of my life, I never saw this one coming! But it’s true what they say- when you know, you just know.
Going to Orlando, Florida
In September I joined the Haggis on his family vacation to the theme park capital of the world: Orlando, Florida.
We had so much fun and we did SO much in the two weeks we were there. Some highlights include:
- Universal Studios
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Hollywood Studios
- Top Golf (my swing is terrible but it’s very therapeutic hitting a ball as hard as you can)
- Riding the Star Flyer
- Volcano Bay
Quitting my job to blog full time
In November I quit my job to pursue blogging full time. As well as running this blog, I also freelance as a website designer and digital marketing specialist for tourism businesses in Scotland (and beyond!).
My first month of being self-employed has seen me earn more than I did in my full time job, plus I now have a lot more freedom to focus on what I love!
Never a dull moment with this guy…
The Lessons I Learned
Each year brings a time to reflect on my inner growth- what I learned and how I became better.
I became more environmentally conscious
I’ve always cared about the environment and tried my best, however you don’t know what you don’t know, and what you don’t know can damage the environment.
2019 was the year I educated myself and made significant changes in my routine to help reduce my impact on the environment. Here are some of the changes I made:
- Purchased reusable cotton bags
- Purchased a carry cup
- Purchased metal straws
- Started buying fruits and vegetables without any packaging
- Bought experiences as gifts for people, rather than things
- Reduced my red meat intake
- Swapped milk for almond and oat alternatives
- Switched to vegan beauty products
I still have a long way to go, but I’m proud of the small changes I’ve implemented.
Have you got any more tips for how I can reduce my impact on the environment? Drop a comment below.
You actually can create your dream life, and the key is focus
Now, I’ll admit I’m a bit woo-woo, but I’m also a skeptic. In other words, to believe in something I need to have experienced it first hand.
I’m a big believer in the Law of Attraction because it has worked for me time and time again.
I’ve always carried some self-doubt around with me, but 2019 was the year that I finally grew out of that. I’ll partly blame turning 30 for this [it’s true that your thirties rock because you are so much more comfortable in your own skin].
Anyway, this year I wrote down all the things I wanted in my life and put them in a glass jar. Every so often I’d pull them out and re-read them, visualising how I would feel if these things were happening. And you know what? All of these things started happening.
The key is to focus on what you want. If it’s in your mind, it will become your reality.
I know how this all sounds- trust me, I doubted it too. But I’ve got an open mind, and I had nothing to lose. I wrote down 44 things I wanted in a man, and I got descriptive. Two weeks later I met the Haggis, and a few months later I found that list. He was 43 out of 44 things on that list.
Write down what you want, put these wants in a jar, pull out a piece of paper and imagine that the words on that paper is your reality.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 2019, it’s that the universe works fast when you’re paying attention!
In 2020 I want to make sustainable travel even more of a focus
My Plans for 2020
The last three years have been filled with so many adventures that I worried when I settled in one place life may get a little boring.
However, my plans for 2020 so far are going to be anything but.
This is what I have planned.
Ringing in the New Year in Dunkeld
I’ll be spending Hogmanay with friends in Dunkeld, located in Perth and Kinross. Dunkeld is a little more off-beat so I’m excited to write about my experience there.
I’m also hoping to see Starling murmurations as there is a large nest located nearby!
In January, one year to the day we met, the Haggis and I are tying the knot!
We’re getting married in a 16th century house that Mary Queen of Scots once visited, and the house (which is now a hotel) is surrounded by acres and acres of nature.
A winter getaway to Prague
In the spirit of buying experiences, not things, I booked flights to Prague for Haggis’ birthday in January.
I love European winter breaks- one of my favourite things to do is cosy up in a pub or restaurant after exploring the snow laden streets.
Hopefully Prague looks as pretty as this when we visit in January
London and Glasgow for music festivals
I’m going to see Pearl Jam and Taylor Swift at Hyde Park in London in July, and TRNSMT festival in Glasgow.
I love music festivals, and will happily spend all my money on them- I’m so excited to see some of my favourite artists live for the first time!
Visiting Kraków, Poland
I had such a great time in Gdańsk in 2019 that I want to go back- this time to Kraków.
Obviously I’m excited to eat a lot of pierogi again, but there’s another reason why I want to visit Kraków.
Kraków is close to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The more I’ve been reading about World War II, the more intrigued I am to visit Auschwitz. I won’t be taking any distasteful photos of my visit- I simply want to pay homage to the people that once existed there.
I think it’s important to educate yourself about the past [even the awful bits of it] so we can avoid making the same mistakes again.
Travelling to parts of Scotland I haven’t seen yet
I plan to tick off three places I haven’t visited in Scotland yet: Oban, the Isle of May, and Speyside.
I plan on seeing puffins on the Isle of May, and visiting as many whisky distilleries as possible around Speyside on the Malt Whisky Trail.
Oban is becoming a popular tourist destination in Scotland, so I want to explore it to see what all the fuss is about.
I haven’t spent much time in Argyll- but in 2020 that is going to change!
There’s no doubt I’ll be visiting many more parts of Scotland- but these are the three main areas I want to explore.
Spending Xmas in New Zealand
It’s been over three years since I was last in New Zealand, so a trip home is well overdue.
I have zero qualms about escaping the harsh Scottish winter for summer in New Zealand. I’m bringing the Haggis with me- it’s going to be much more fun touring the length of my home country with him!
We’ll be doing all the touristy stuff- plus I’ll be taking him to some of my favourite hidden places in New Zealand too. I can already taste fish and chips on the beach…
What were your 2019 highlights? What are your plans for 2020? Comment below.