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I wrote most of this post while sitting in Brisbane Airport a couple of weeks ago; on my way back home to Magnetic Island. 2017 may be my most epic year of travel so far. I ended the year visiting 17 countries—including Canada and Australia—across four continents. I have slept in countless beds and taken 13 flights overall. From Hawaii to Slovenia to Singapore, I wanted to take a look back at 2017 and recap my travel highlights. These are listed in no particular order, just saying ;)
1. Lovely Lake Bled
My day at Lake Bled was hands down one of the best experiences of my life. I just couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. I still can’t believe it. As I began my walk (counterclockwise) around the lake from the bus stop, I was already in awe of the lake. But then I made it to the other side and my mouth literally dropped open. Because this was the view waiting for me.
Like how is this real? Lake Bled’s beauty blew me away. I only had time to walk around the lake, but that itself took a lot longer than anticipated. Probably because I kept stopping every two minutes to take photos.
2. Christmas in London
London has to be one of the best cities in the world to visit during the holidays. With decorations seemingly everywhere, it’s hard not to get into the Christmas spirit in the city. I wrote a post last week featuring my favourite festive London photos. But seriously, put Christmas in London on your bucket list.
3. LA with my Canadian BFFs
Most of my regular readers know this, but solo travel is my jam. I’ve moved solo to Canada (twice), and I’ve travelled solo across North America, Asia and Europe. Although I do enjoy travelling with my friends, it just doesn’t often happen. But when it does, it can be the best, like this trip to LA.
I think what I enjoyed most was that we did and saw so much. We also ate some of the best food EVER. It’s hard to pick highlights as I loved it all, but seeing Beauty and the Beast at El Capitan, eating my first Korean BBQ, seeing the sunset from Griffith Observatory and dancing the night away to Ariana Grande were some of my favourite moments.
4. Falling in love with Edinburgh
I had high hopes for my visit to Edinburgh and of course the city blew me away. Pretty sure I fell in love in less than 24 hours. I loved the size of the city, the incredibly beautiful brick buildings, the amount of things to do, the many pubs and restaurants, and the people. Edinburgh was definitely my favourite city of my Europe trip, which surprises a lot of people. I was instantly captivated. So who knows, maybe there’s another expat experience in my future?
5. Whale watching on Maui
My solo trip to Oahu and Maui was fantastic in February, but if I had to pick one highlight, it would definitely be seeing humpback whales in the wild off Lahaina on Maui. Unbeknownst to me, I was in Maui during the peak week of peak whale watching season. So it was more like how many whales will we see, not will we see them.
And we saw them alright! There was the fellow who “mugged” us, which means he breached right in front of the boat. AMAZING. Then there was the mum and baby we watched for quite a while. I just couldn’t believe how many whales I saw in their natural habitat. It was incredible.
6. A political walking tour in Belfast
This is probably an unusual highlight, but I cannot stop telling people about this incredible political walking tour I did in Belfast. I learned about Belfast’s history from two ex-prisoners, who were from a Republican and Loyalist background. The first man told us about his time in prison and spoke firsthand about the people you see on the city’s murals.
Then the second man walked us down Shankill Road, which is home to many memorials. He told us firsthand how he left a pub 20 minutes before it was bombed, and how there are still streets people don’t venture down in the area. It was completely eye-opening.
7. Finally seeing Vancouver Island
Back in Canada, I am SO glad my friend and I got to venture over to Vancouver Island a few weeks before my departure. Victoria was actually way cuter and picturesque than I imagined. Like, why didn’t anyone tell me it was so beautiful? We also decided to get the ferry out of Nanaimo, so I could see a little bit more of Vancouver Island. Best decision. We stopped for ice cream and lunch in these cute towns along the way, and it was a pretty perfect trip.
8. Surprised in Singapore
I think Zagreb and Singapore are tied for most surprising city this year. There was a lot to like about Singapore: the mixture of old and new, the many attractions and the food! Although I wasn’t used to the heat, I did enjoy walking around and seeing all of the sights: Little India, Bugis Street, Orchard Road, Sentosa Island and Gardens by the Bay. I already can’t wait to return. Well, my stomach can’t wait, let’s be honest.
9. Falling for Paris
I am really, really glad I gave myself quite a few days to explore Paris. It was great to just walk along the Seine, visit too many boulangeries, see the sunrise from Sacre Coeur, explore the different neighbourhoods and go for a cruise along the Seine at sunset. I couldn’t live in Paris, but there is so much to do there that I could happily visit again and again. I could also happily eat French pastries every morning, with a macaron for dessert every evening.
10. Scotland in a day
Oh yes, Scotland makes the list twice. But I did a Rabbies tour that they say is the best way to see Scotland in a Day. They were right! A small group of us went from Glasgow up through the Highlands, where we stopped at places like Loch Lomond, Fort Augustus and Loch Ness. We made it all the way to Inverness, before returning to Glasgow via Pitlochry. It was a long trip but I pretty much fell in love with Scotland instantly. I also did this trip before Edinburgh, so you know I just fell even MORE in love with the country after that visit. But Scotland is beautiful, especially in fall/autumn.
An extra highlight
An extra special highlight for me this year was being able to spend time with one of my Dad’s cousins in England, and one of my mum’s cousins in France. They were both so hospitable and welcoming, and I loved learning more about both sides of my family. Like how my great-great-great grandfather (a Mackenzie) came from Scotland to Victoria in Australia to secure more land for the family. SO cool.
I honestly could have kept writing more and more highlights, but I think I should stop at 10, before this becomes an essay. 2017 certainly was an unforgettable year. Let’s see what I get up to in 2018!