Well, it has been a year and I don’t know where to start, although I guess the beginning is as good a place as any. I’m warning you now though…this post is going to be long. Very long! I have the entirity of 2017 to get through and I did a lot of stuff, so settle in…
On the 22nd of December, my family and I jetted off from Australia for a family ski holiday in the French alps. We didn’t get much snow in the first week, but our chalet of 24 people saw us enjoying the resort in other ways (namely…drinking).
Week two was a different side of the mountain which unfortunately ended up with me only skiing for a day and a half in a week due to some ungodly plague which struck down my entire family.
From there, we headed to Scotland to see family friends and, whilst still sick, managed a road trip which covered half of Scotland in three days.
The Dad flew home. Tears.
My sister left for London and went on a Contiki Tour.
My mum and I flew to Northern Ireland to see some family, and then she flew home and I flew to Leeds to begin Part One of my worldly adventure.
It’s always a strange experience being in a brand new city. Leeds was cold and wet and windy. Basically the complete opposite of back home. I expected cold, but for some reason was expecting a dry winter besides the occasional snow. I did get snow (occasionally) – right up until April in fact!
I met some of the most amazing people in Leeds. Mainly Aussies and Canadians, but I can’t complain when I know that I’ll be friends with them for life. Mum constantly messaged me asking if I’d met any Brits yet, and I’m so happy to say that I also made some amazing friends in my classes.
My classes…here we go! I was thrown in the deep end, although luckily it was a deep end that also involved a 40% pass rate. My classes on Karl Marx and Frankfurt School theories confused me to no end, but a highlight was doing a 20 minute ensemble performance with an amazing group in another subject.
Leeds also has many amazing traditions, namely – The Otley Run, which has a crazy number of bars in a line that winds its way down a long stretch the main road. You dress in costume and try and complete as many as possible. Failed twice, not even mad since we definitely made it to over 10. Then, of course, the highlight of the night way always the cheesy chips at the end from Crispies.
My time in Leeds also allowed me to meet family members that I had never met, like my Dad’s cousin and her husband, who basically adopted me as their neice and opened their home to me.
I loved exploring Yorkshire and everything the countryside had to offer. The hiking was out of this world and I found out that I can, in fact, climb three mountains in one day…which I successfully did when the Get Out, Get Active organisation from Leeds University completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.
When the semester finished in Leeds, I had so many mixed emotions. My friends from the past five months were leaving to go home, but I had so much of my journey to go…
It’s impossible to describe how much I’ve seen and done in six months so I’m going to separate it into four main sections:
Greece and Hungary
This trip was an amazing, fantastic way to finish a whirlwind semester. I jetted off with four amazing girls (and we found two more along the way) to spend just under 12 days in Mykonos and Santorini. We hiked, we ate, we drank, we swam, we sunned ourselves on beaches of every colour. I turned 21 in Greece and couldn’t have thought of a better place to be. Emma filled our room with balloons during the night and we celebrated in the morning with champagne and chocolate.
From there, I flew to Budapest to meet an old friend. We ended up in an incredibly homely hostel with a room full of fun and wild Americans. We pub crawled, explored and devoured the Hungarian delicacies. I’d fully fallen in love with Europe!
A Contiki tour is basically a right of passage for every Australian young adult. A ‘coming of age’ trip, so to speak. I spent 25 days on a coach with 51 other amazing travellers, our trip manager and driver. It was a blast! We visited eleven countries and saw countless monuments and churches. We drank too much and ate too much and didn’t get enough sleep but the group was amazing. 48 Aussies, 1 America, 1 Indian, 1 Brit…Hilarity ensued. Whilst I can’t recommend the company of Contiki, I had an incredible time thanks to the amazing people that made my trip what it was and the beautiful sites that I saw.
Two months of backpacking
Next, I spent just over two months exploring Croatia, Spain, Italy and Portugal in depth. I am so thankful that I got to spend a long period of time in each country as it allowed me to fully immerse myself in each place. The highlight of Italy was definitely running into the Madonna Bianca Festival in Portovenere (I had no idea it was on!), but I was sorry to say goodbye to Italian food when I headed to Spain. In Spain, I managed to experience the incredibly local wine festival of Noche de La Zurra closely followed by more touristic La Tomatina.
While I did experience getting evacuated in Javea, luckily everything was okay for us but my heart goes out to the people that lost homes due to the foul work of arsonists. As for Portugal, I absolutely fell in love with the food, sights and people. I loved how the buildings were covered in tiles, and how the regional dishes of Porto seemed to be Port and a type of toasted sandwich which would go down brilliantly after a crazy night out. I fell in love.
At the end of two months of solo travelling, I was very excited to wash everything in my backpack, have a shower using proper shampoo/conditioner (I had been using the solid bars of each) and sleep in a room that only had me in it. Obviously, I was also extremely sad that I was at the end of two months which created some of the fondest memories of my life.
The end of the year (and Jordan came to visit!)
Well, after backpacking things slowed down a bit. I visited family and friends in Scotland and Northern Ireland, checked out Berlin for five nights and then Krakow and Warsaw for a weekend.
My incredible boyfriend flew over from Australia to visit and we explored the Cotswolds, Bath, Oxford, Braintree and London in the space of nine and a half days. We saw a show in London, went to the England v Australia Rugby game at Twickenham and visited Stonehenge. It was amazing and surreal to catch up after eleven months away and emotional when our short time was over, even though I would be home in two weeks!
Finally, I headed to Pas de la Casa in Andorra with the Leeds University Snowriders, where we skied and partied for a week. We had incredible weather and I met some awesome people. Definitely a memorable way to end the trip (although I’d rather forget the bus ride to and from, which lasted 25 hours each way!).
This year has been crazy. It has been a complete rollercoaster with so many emotions I didn’t know that I could ever feel. I have had the most amazing times every, but at times the most lonely times. Solo travel is amazing and mindblowing and sad and lonely all at once.
I’m coming back paler than ever, a couple of kilos heavier but overall, not a whole lot different ( maybe more relaxed) The people that I met along the way were some of the coolest people and I’m so lucky that I got to know them. Even the ones that I haven’t kept in contact impacted my trip in some way which made it what it was. There’s no way I can even fit half of the photos or experiences I took this year into a single blog post, but I think this about sums it up.
And now, as Eminem said, it’s time for me to “Snap back to reality, oh, there goes gravity”. I’m getting on the plane back to Australia and reading this post one last time. I can’t believe a year away has gone so quick and I am thankful for every second of it. But at the same time I’m also excited to get back to my family, boyfriend, friends and dog in Australia. Bring on 2017!
There are so many people that I want to thank from this six months and I’ll probably forget half of you even though you were the people that made my life and travels more enjoyable, interesting, safe and crazy.
Emma, Kasey, Ashley, Alex, Jess, Helen, Tash, Laura, Kearan, Lucas, Remily, Georgia, Helen, Lily, Alex, Kim, Guy, Sam, Sam, Julius, Lizzie, James, Tasha, Rex, Steph, Elouise – You guys truly were my Leeds family. Whether I saw you once a week or everyday (Emma), you were always there for brunch or homesickness or late night cheesy fries. I loved Otley-running with you and gymming with you and hanging out with you. Also there are sooo many other people who made my time in Leeds amazing but I can’t possibly name everyone!
Molly, Carlos, Rhys – For accepting me into Tiny Flat and being awesome flatmates.
Tracy, Gen – For Norway!
Emma, Ashley, Lily, Rita, Jordan, Grace – For Greece, girls. We had a crazy fun time in the sun on a memorable holiday. Greece will be forever in my heart as my favourite country in Europe…so far!
Kate, Jeff – For making Athens special and less lonely.
Jules – For meeting up with me in Budapest for the second time since we met in 2010. We had a fantastic catchup.
Anna, Marie, Gabe, Phil, Megan, Kristen – For Budapest and that night we pubcrawled.
Contiki Fam – You know who you are and I’m not typing 53 names because you’re all so amazing. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making a whirlwind tour so amazing! 25 days with you ended way too soon.
Sofie – For coming to see me in Leeds and travelling Croatia and Poland with me. You’re a fantastic cousin!
Kath, Rob, Sally and Dave – For looking after me as if I was a sibling/child/part of your family. You are the most amazing people and I was so lucky to meet you this year and see you plenty of times.
Felix, Kit – For hanging out with us when we were sick and showing me around Cambridge.
Ilaria, Chiara, Gigo, Luca, Sam, Other guys, Arianna – For climbing mountains, drinking coffee and hanging out.
Becky, Joanne, Joe, Aygul, Louise – For crazy adventures in Portovenere, Lerici, San Terenzo and Cinque Terre.
Will, Jessie, Emina, Esma – For Milan. For almost getting mugged together but surviving. For gelato. For fun exploring a new city.
Carrie and Rica – For walking tours and the wine festival. For keeping in contact after we went separate ways and for trying to catch up as we travelled Europe. For keeping me entertained (at your expense) with your sad tales about bedbugs and for amazing hostel suggestions. Love you both!
Martha, Amy, Mia, Aysha – For keeping Valencia crazy and fun and for La Tomatina.
Jean and Phil – For showing me the beautiful area that is Javea and having me to stay in your amazing house. It was lovely to catch up after so many years!
Cameron, Tess, Jess, Georgia, Courtney and Sam – For hanging out at the beach in Alicante, climbing to many sets of stairs and eating lots of paella.
Danielle – For beach times and a buddy to explore Malaga with.
Carlie, Brad – For hanging out in Seville and good chats.
Lucas, Emiel, Bianca – For beers and dinner in Lagos.
Bianca (again!), Adrienne, Duarte, Kym, Nikolas, – For Lisbon and Sintra. Custard Tarts, Bifana, Cocktails. Thank you to everyone else that I met in Lisbon that I didn’t name. Lisbon was the bomb.
Sofia – For inviting me to lunch at your mum’s house and showing me around the towns outside Porto. For being generally amazing and nice and chatty and friendly.
Karina, Sierra, Mike, Trent, Brett, Terrence, Erik, Nina – For letting me join your crew and amazing times exploring Berlin with you.
Sybil and David – For opening your home to me, feeding me, collecting my mail, helping me move into and out of residence, throwing me a birthday party, putting up with me and basically adopting me. You are both amazing people and I’m really going to miss you. I am so lucky to be related to you. Also I love Lucky.
Paul and Dianne – For treating me like your daughter, feeding me, hanging out with me and airport runs.
Maureen and Ivan – For, again, treating me like your child. For entertaining me. For taking me to the Rinkha and buying me Veda. For our afternoons watching game shows where Ivan was smarter than the contestants and both of us.
The rest of my amazing Irish/English Family – For everything you’ve done for me this year. It was amazing to see you all after so long. Way too long!
Ken and Carolyn – For being genuinely incredible people and for letting me stay with you. For always reading my blogs and for always keeping in touch. For treating me like family. Thank you.
Leeds Snowriders – For Pas de la Casa. The nights we don’t remember, the new friendships and for keeping me sane on the 25 hour each-way busride!
My friends back home – Amy, Jess, Eve, Darcy, Maddy, Britt, Tarrant, Jack, Tom H, Alex T, Mick, Ashleigh, Emily, Shane, Fraser, John S, Peter, Felicity, Marina, Tessa, Justine, Richard, James, Scott, Katie….basically everyone who messaged me this year and kept in contact. Thank you all…I missed you soo much!
Finally, wow…I’m crying already:
Morgaine – For always making me laugh. For keeping me up to date with life in Australia. For bitching to me and laughing with me. For “looking after” my car for a year. For stealing my clothes and shamelessly photographing yourself in them. For keeping me entertained via Snapchat. For yelling at me when we lost our Snapchat streak. For being the best sister ever.
Mum and Dad – For always believing in me. For helping me out this year in every way possible. When times got tough, you were always there to help me push through. For when Dad said to me “If you can push through homesickness, you can stay away forever…not that we want you to!” For when Mum wrote me letters to keep me up to date and for when we all Skyped as a family. For telling me you miss me and keeping me sane. For everything. Thank you for keeping me involved even though it sometimes felt like I was a world away. I missed you so much.
Jordan – For being my everything. For always being there to Skype and for putting up with me when I got the time difference wrong and woke you up. Actually, for putting up with me in general when I was moody or homesick or tired (always) or weird. For sending me flowers and then sending me laminated flowers when I was sad I couldn’t take the real flowers on my travels with me. For making me laugh. For always seeing the bigger picture. For coming to visit me. For waiting. Thank you for waiting for me.
England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Norway, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, Monaco, Spain, Italy, Vatican, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Croatia, Portugal, Poland, Andorra.
Too many to count!
Buses and Trains:
Okay, that’s enough now. I’m out of words and you’ve probably stopped reading, but thanks again. It’s been swell!