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A 2015 Look Back, and Some 2016 Travel Plans

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Hogmanay Torchlight Procession

Happy New Year everyone! I’ve been reluctant to publish a “look back” post, because 2015 didn’t really end the way I’d expected it to, and because being completely open about my year would mean going into more detail about my personal life than I normally feel comfortable with. But, I’ve decided to go ahead with this post, if anything to prove to myself that 2015 was a truly wonderful year – and also because I’m trying to be more personal on this blog and let you get to know me a little better.

But, just to get it out of the way quickly, I’ll start with the end of the year. At the start of December, my long term relationship suddenly and unexpectedly (to me at least) ended. I’m not going into to go into details, because frankly it’s no one’s business but mine and his, but in the end I figured I had to share that – particularly because Sam’s name used to feature in a lot of my past blog posts and obviously won’t anymore. The break up wasn’t my choice, and I’m still reeling almost seven weeks on, but I’m starting to move on slowly. Thankfully, my lifestyle and job as a full time travel blogger has meant that I’ve had a lot of distractions, and throwing myself into some recent trips has been really beneficial.

Skiing in Tignes this week with a lovely bunch of bloggers!
Skiing in Tignes this week with a lovely bunch of bloggers!

Looking back at the rest of 2015, it was on the whole pretty amazing. If 2014 was my “Year of Travel”, then 2015 was definitely my “Year of Travel Blogging”. The year started in The Netherlands, where Sam and I were ending our gap year with a month of housesitting (I use – read my review here). It was there that I made the decision to continue blogging full time, rather than go back to another boring office job. Since the start of last year, my blog has grown massively, and I’m finally in a position where I can support myself on my income – which comes mostly from advertising on the blog and freelance writing. I’m earning a lot less than my salary from the job I had before I quit to travel the world (pay attention anyone who thinks blogging is a great get rich quick scheme), but I make enough, and more importantly I love what I do.

I love being a travel blogger. Writing is my passion, so it’s amazing to say that I’ve turned it into my full time job. And, personal disasters aside, my job has given me an amazing year…

A  2015 Look Back, and Some 2016 Travel Plans
Me in Istria, Croatia
2015 Travel Highlights

We spent most of January housesitting in Dordrecht, a small town near Rotterdam in The Netherlands. We also visited Haarlem (near Amsterdam) to catch up with some friends we met on our Machu Picchu trek the year before, and explored the lovely city of Utrecht. The Netherlands was already one of my favourite countries, and that month living there cemented my love. On my way back to England, I also spent three nights in Brussels, where I ate copious amounts of chocolate and waffles, and spent a really fun – but freezing – afternoon following the comic book street art trail around the city.

February saw me on my first ever press trip; a weekend in Athens hosted by Discover Greece. The warm sunshine would have been enough on it’s own to make this an amazing trip, but I also fell hard for beautiful, eclectic Athens, particularly for the amazing street art around Psirri district. One memorable highlight was sitting in a jacuzzi on my hotel’s roof at night, facing the dazzlingly lit Acropolis against the night sky.

Street art barcelona

At the end of April and beginning of May, I spent three weeks in Catalunya, Spain for TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange). A few days in beautiful Barcelona – exploring the best chocolate and street art I could find (starting to see a pattern here) – cemented my love for Catalan culture, and on this visit I was lucky enough to explore more of the region, particularly the wild and rugged Costa Brava. The conference itself was also increidble, and probably one of the reasons that my blog began doing so well in the second half of the year. I made dozens of amazing new friends – many of whom I’d known for years online already and finally met in real life at TBEX – learned heaps of useful information at the seminars and simply by talking to other bloggers, and networked my pretty little bottom off with various travel brands. It was a steep learning curve but really gave me some great insights into the blogging world, and made me wish that I’d attended a TBEX event years ago!

Thessaloniki With Locals

In June I was lucky enough to work with Discover Greece again, this time on their second annual Blogtrotters Greece (#blogtrottersgr) event in the city of Thessaloniki. Despite surprisingly bad weather, we spent two really fun days exploring and eating our way through this quirky, historic city – before finishing with one scorchingly hot day at the beach in Halkidiki. I met even more amazing bloggers and formed some really good friendships.

July took me to the region of Istria in Croatia with my best friend Samantha for a week of amazing weather and incredible food. That month, I also headed to Scotland with Festivals Edinburgh to discover the jazz and blues festival and a few more of the city’s lesser known festivals. It was my first time visiting Scotland, and I fell totally in love – in fact Edinburgh is somewhere that I can really see myself living.

Catalonia countryside

Unable to stay away, in September I was back in Catalunya with the tourist board, discovering the best of this amazing region by bicycle. Four days of incredible food and stunning scenery – the highlight of which was probably beautiful Montblanc – with a group of lovely cycling and travel bloggers, this was probably one of my favourite trips of the year.

best hot chocolate in lausanne

In October I spent a brief overnight trip in Boulogne Sur Mer, on the northern coast of France, to learn more about sustainable fishing with Nausicaä and their Mr Goodfish programme, while the start of November saw me in London for the World Travel Market. WTM was an absolutely insane experience: four intense days of networking, attending seminars, and marching around the enormous Excel Centre in heels, plus attending parties every night with some of my favourite travel blogger pals. At the end of November, I headed to Switzerland for a press trip in Lausanne – discovering the festive highlights of this picturesque city in winter – and stayed on alone for a few days in Geneva. Besides all the chocolate – which was of course amazing – and all the amazing restaurants in Lausanne, the highlight there was spending an evening in the Bains des Paquis on Lake Geneva, a public bathhouse with hammams and saunas overlooking the ice cold lake.

Finally, in December I went through the breakup and headed home to England to stay with family for a few weeks. My oldest sister had a beautiful baby girl, adding to my wonderfully enormous family (I have three sisters, two brothers, three nieces and six nephews!). Most of us crowded into my dad’s house for Christmas, which was a lovely but super stressful affair, with me cooking lunch for eleven people. At the end of the month, I headed back up to Scotland with #blogmanay to spend New Year’s Eve (or Hogmanay) in Edinburgh and start my 2016 with a serious bang.

2015 Travel Hightlights
Loved spending my NYE with this bunch of legends!

Breaking up with somebody, especially after nearly six years, is a horrible experience and one which can rock your whole universe. But as I start to move on and throw myself into travel, I’m managing to feel a little better. For the first time, I’m starting to see a little hope on the horizon – and I’m forming some wonderfully selfish/self-indulgent travel plans to turn 2016 into my “Year of Me”. I want to reconnect with myself and try to find the version of me that I like the best – the brave, adventurous, happy me that comes out all too rarely. I want to spend the next few months making myself happy and remembering how to depend on only myself. With that in mind, I’m planning to head off on a solo trip in a couple of weeks. I’ll be booking my flights after the weekend, so all that’s left is for me to decide exactly where I want to go and figure out the last few details. Announcement coming soon.

It’s a scary but exciting time for me, so stay tuned this year to see what I get up to as 2016 unfolds. Don’t forget to follow me on social media – the main channels are in the sidebar on the left of this post – and sign up for my newsletter to receive monthly updates with my best posts straight to your inbox.

Finally – a massive thank you to everyone that’s been following me so far. Hopefully I’ll have a lot more great travel stories to bring you over the coming year (and beyond).

16 thoughts on “A 2015 Look Back, and Some 2016 Travel Plans”

  1. Although it 2015 ended not in the way you hoped it to, the year sounds like it was a memorable one for travel and your blog :) I too have just gone through a breakup which happened just before Christmas and although mine was a fairly mutual decision, it’s still pretty difficult. Travel is a saviour though and I find it’s such a lifeline in tough times. I can’t wait to see and read about the adventures you go on this year Emily!

    1. Thanks so much Emma! You’re exactly right – travel is a serious lifeline. I can’t wait to book my flights – just got to work on an actual decision first haha.

      So sorry to hear you went through a breakup too. Regardless of how the decision got made, it’s the most horrible thing to go through I think. Even if it had been my choice I know I would have struggled horrendously after such a long time of being with someone.

      Hopefully we’ll bump into each other on the road soon :)

  2. Good luck on your adventures in 2016 Emily! The end of one chapter is almost always the beginning of another amazing one full of surprises, sending warm wishes and positivity your way from Dubai :)

    1. Thanks so much Natasha! I didn’t feel that way at the end of 2015 but I’m starting to see it like that now – this is the start of a fresh chapter for me and I’m excited to see where the year takes me :)

  3. Hang in there, Emily…I went through a break-up a couple of years ago, ending a 8-year relationship. Right after that, I was bitten by the travel bug and never looked back since. I’m dating someone now but will see if he is going to be a good travel companion. Regardless, travels will always be our lifeline, no matter the setbacks and challenges we face. Happy Travels, Emily and as always, will look forward to your posts :)

    1. Thanks so much Kat :)

      I really am so grateful that I’m free to travel, because it’s been working wonders for my soul. I’ve always known that I’m happier whilst travelling than whilst I’m not, but even I’ve been surprised at how much my recent trips have been able to distract and cheer me! Hence why I’m about to book some flights and run away for my first ever long term solo trip. Bring it on :)

  4. I broke up with a boyfriend of 5 years who I’d bought a house with and although mutual it was really hard. However my year of me turned out to be one of the best in my and I really discovered myself as a soul for the first time as an adult. You’re going to be so so fine – bring on 2016 xax |

  5. So sorry you’ve been through such a tough end to your year, Emily, and though I may not now get to meet you, I will continue to enjoy reading your inspiring posts. You are a brilliant wordsmith Take care…and all the very best for 2016. Anne

  6. So happy to have been part of your exciting adventures in 2015 and here’s to plenty more in 2016. I think we both know that sometimes life is cruel, but also spontaneity is one of the best ways of refocusing. Time for some fun. Hope the next trip goes well and yay for a big Year of You!! I’ll be following…! Cx

    1. Thanks so much Chloe! And thanks for all the awesome adventures last year :) We need to sort out a blogtrotters reunion for when we’re both back. And get ourselves back to Greece :)

  7. Hi Emily, loved and loved your experience, and glad to see you finally live the dreams! I have not been any of the places you have mentioned except Edinburgh. I wish I could return to Scotland and just keep listening to the bagpipes music all day every day!

    It is interesting to read your December experience as I cook for nearly 10 people at least twice a week as requested from my job and I only have two hours to finish the task, but I learned the skills and I believe you did too, which is important to save our budget for long-term travel.

    And so much as you, the large part of 2016 (from May to December ) and early part of 2017 will be my year of travel. I already booked my solo trip in May to Atlantic Canada and I cannot wait for this day to come. You are right about travel bloggers: travel is our lifeline, and it is also a great way to chilling and recuperating! Happy travels and keep pursuing your dream career. And I also wish one day we could meet on the road.

    1. Hi Julie, thanks so much for commenting! I’ve still never been to Canada so I’m definitely interested to hear more abut your trips there. Travel is definitely our lifeline, it’s so good for the soul. I’m so glad that I can escape when I need to and discover a new part of the world :)

      Hopefully our paths will cross soon!

  8. I’m sorry your 2015 didn’t end the way you planned it to. Breaking up with someone you care about sucks–but I’m glad to hear that you’re allowing it to suck AND also making plans to really take care of yourself and be selfish in 2016. There’s nothing wrong with that. Take some awesome solo trips and let yourself go wherever you want to go! I’m married, but I’ve never experienced a solo trip and probably never will. There are so upsides to not being so tied down!

    Thanks for the honest post and great overlook over your year! I hope 2016 finds you well and happy…and will a lot of travel in your future!

    1. Thank you Anna! It does suck and it’s not getting any easier, but thankfully I can completely escape – which is why I’m off to Thailand this week! It feels good to be planning something so positive, and I know that it’s going to be good for me to be totally in control of my own live/decisions/destiny etc for a couple of months.

      Best wishes for 2016 :)

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