It’s that time again! It’s hard not to feel reflective as the year – in this case, the decade – draws to a close, and I always love looking back at the year I’ve had with a round-up post.
This year, I almost didn’t bother. Between a recent traffic nose-dive (thanks Google) and some personal-life issues, for the past few months, it’s not really felt like 2019 was my best year. But then I started thinking about it all properly and remembered that there have been a lot of incredible highlights – so I figured I’d better write this, if only just to remind myself.
Over the past decade, I’ve graduated uni, had my heart broken, travelled the world, pushed my limits with all kinds of crazy challenges, made some incredible friends, learnt to drive, and built up a career as a full-time travel blogger. Life hasn’t always been easy, or perfect, or even always very good – but the highs definitely outshine the lows, and isn’t that all you can ask for in life?
Here’s this year’s travel round-up: the statistics, the highs, and the lows. Whether you’re me feeling nostalgic in ten years time (hi future Emily) or just a reader with a spare five minutes, I hope you enjoy…
2019 Travel Stats
Countries Visited: 7
New Countries: 3
Number of Nights Spent Outside England: 66
Flights Taken: 19
Beds Slept in: 50
Long-distance Buses: 13
Miles Flown: 48,778*
Longest Time Spent out of England (in one go): 22 nights
Furthest Latitude North Reached: 51.4619° (Drumheller in Alberta, Canada)
Furthest Latitude South: 19.4326°(Mexico City, Mexico)
Longest Overland Journey: 1,375 miles (roughly) road trip around West Coast USA with TrekAmerica
Blog Posts Published: 110
QuickFire 2019 Favourites
Favourite Country of the Year: Mexico
Favourite City: Morelia, Mexico
Most Memorable Meals: Philly cheesesteak in Philadelphia, the best turkey mole ever from a rustic little restaurant in a village in Mexico’s Michoacan state, all the tacos, plov in Uzbekistan, prehistoric dinner with a caveman in Trentino, and Christmas dinner cooked by my brother in law this year!
Best Sunrise: From my tent on the shore of Lake Ontario on my TrekAmerica trip
Best Sunset: Isla Holbox, Mexico – watch the video!
Most Popular Blog Post: 50 Unique Things to do in Dorset
Most Popular Instagram Post: This one:
View this post on Instagram
Favourite Achievement: PASSING MY DRIVING TEST!
Favourite Lake: Idro Lake in the Valle del Chiese, Italy
Best Animal Encounter: Snorkelling with turtles and eagle rays in Antigua
Favourite Moment: Walking into the theatre to watch the Cursed Child!
Biggest Pinch-Me Moment: Getting to explore the new Galaxy’s Edge Star Wars land at California Disneyland on opening weekend. For a party. While it was closed to the public.
Most Adrenaline-Pumping Experience: Paragliding in Trentino, Italy
Biggest Challenge: Solo road-tripping around Alberta, Canada
Best Blogging-Related Experience: IPW
Most Popular Video: Singapore to Vietnam by Rail – the video of my epic overland journey in SE Asia at the end of 2018.
Most Unique Accommodation: Staying in an actual castle in Durham
My Favourite Blog Post: 7 Life Lessons from 7 Years as a Travel Blogger
The Lows of 2019
Normally, in these posts, I focus on all the positive things. Only positive things. I think social media makes us feel a bit like we can only share the good stuff, and I usually prefer to remember the good over the bad anyway.
But this hasn’t been my best year. There have been downs as well as ups, and while I cannot deny that there have been plenty of amazing ups, I’d be lying if I said that the bad moments didn’t have a pretty big impact on the year as a whole.
This year, I found out I was sick. Hyperthyroidism, which isn’t the worst thing I could have, but which has still made my life pretty sh*t. I found out in July and have been taking medication since, which has the fun side effect of making me uncontrollably emotional, mood-swingy, and anxious. It’s also meant travelling less – which is not something I’ve been coping well with!
I’ll be having radiation treatment sometime in 2020, which means staying put for a while, and hanging around waiting on NHS appointments. But hopefully, that will cure it, and within a few months I’ll be back to normal.
Also this year, my dad sold our family home – which was just a big, emotional, sad time. And, as I mentioned before, my blog traffic has been down the last few months following a Google update. I know a lot of bloggers are in the same boat, but it’s felt really disheartening – and left me wondering if there’s really any future in blogging. Or if I even want one!
The Highs of 2019
Before I started this post, I’d kind of been feeling like the bad stuff this year outweighed the bad. I’ve been pretty negative since finding out I was ill, and kind of allowed myself to just wallow and moan a whole lot.
But on balance, this has been a pretty amazing year. Sometimes you really just need to take stock and spend a moment feeling grateful for all that you have, to make the stuff you want to improve seem a lot less bad…
Passing my Driving Test
YES! This was the year that I – aged 31 – FINALLY passed my driving test. I passed on the 3rd attempt in January, after about 10 months of lessons. Learning to drive is apparently much harder as you get older, and it’s definitely not a skill that comes naturally to me, so it was a looooong process. Finally passing felt amazing. I bought a car the very next week – and I love Sirius the Vauxhall Corsa more than anything in the world!
Harry Potter Play
Genuinely the best day of my entire year/perhaps my life so far! I can’t explain just how much of a Harry Potter nerd I am – but I can tell you that as I walked into the theatre with my sister to finally watch the Cursed Child, I cried! In fact, I cried multiple times throughout the day – at the sad bits, at the happy bits, at the moments when Ron was just being so perfectly Ron, and every time I remembered just how lucky I was to be there.
Those books have meant the world to me since I was about 13 years old, and the play was everything I hoped it would be. Still cannot believe that my dad actually bought us those tickets – most expensive present I’ve ever had. THANK YOU DADSTER!
Star Wars Land
Tied for the best day of 2019 was getting to experience the brand new Star Wars land at Disneyland California. It was opening weekend and I got to go in with the press for an evening while the whole park was closed to the public. I RACED across the park to be first in line for the Millenium Falcon ride, and it did not disappoint. WE FLEW THE FALCON! It’s one of those memories that feels so incredible (in the literal sense of the word) that I can’t really believe it happened. But it did. I am so flipping lucky sometimes.
Watching the Killers Live at Glastonbury
The Killers are one of my favourite bands in the world. If I’m totally honest, Glastonbury itself was a bit up and down for me. I loved some aspects and hated others – but there were a few really amazing bits. And seeing the Killers perform live was one of them.
This year, I worked as a contributing author on two travel-related books. They’re due to be published next year so I can’t say much about it, but it really felt like a career highlight and I can’t wait to see my name in print when the books come out.
My close friends might be surprised that this makes the “highs” list, as I moaned A LOT while I was working on these projects! It was hard work and a serious challenge, but it also felt more like “real” writing than blogging does, and finishing felt like a massive achievement.
All my 2019 Travels
I loved Uzbekistan. It was totally different to anywhere I’ve ever been before, and seriously interesting. Amazing architecture, great food, and lovely people. I also got to fly Business Class with Air Astana, which was a pretty fabulous experience!
Read all about it: Travelling Uzbekistan – An Enticing Glimpse of Central Asia
In May, I headed to the Caribbean with Traverse for a special blogging conference, hosted by Elite Island Resorts. A week of small-group sessions, learning new skills, chatting blogging, exploring the island, and relaxing in the sun with my friends. Amazing.
Read all about it: Best Things to do in Antigua
At the end of May, I headed off on my second TrekAmerica tour. This time, we were touring the West Coast of the USA on the Freedom Trail tour, road-tripping from New York to Boston. Camping every night, enjoying America’s epic landscapes, exploring Amish Country, and taking a boat tour of Niagara Falls. What a week!
In 2019 I wound up at a lot of conferences – but IPW in California was definitely the best. It’s a huge travel trade show in the USA, and it was unlike anything I’ve ever attended before. The cast of Frozen the musical performed at one of the lunches! Natasha Bedingfield played the opening breakfast. The opening night party was at Disneyland! It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.
In one of the worst-planned travel moves of my life, I headed straight from LA to Italy for my next conference. Traverse is probably the best travel blogging event of the year, and their Trentino conference did not disappoint. After catching up with my friends, drinking Trentodoc, and learning new blogging tips for a weekend, I headed to the Valle del Chiese and Valle di Ledro for an amazing week of adventure. And a lot of food!
Canada Road Trip
In summer, I flew to Alberta for one of my biggest challenges yet: an overseas road trip. Yep, less than six months after passing my driving test, I took on a solo road trip in Canada. I was so nervous, but I did it – surviving unpaved roads, endless highways, crazy weather changes, and even a close encounter with a bear while I was hiking. Definitely one of the best trips of the year in terms of pushing my limits and reminding myself of the best thing about travel!
My last trip of 2019 was to one of my favourite countries in the world. I don’t know what it is about Mexico, but I just can’t stop going back. I hooked up with one of my favourite blogger buddies and a few local amigos to spend three weeks touring the country.
Dia de Muertos around Patzcuaro Lake was a huge highlight, and I loved discovering the rest of Michoacan state and the stunning city of Morelia. In the south, I also finally revisited my favourite spot of Isla Holbox – a place I have really fond memories of!
Much as I love seeing new places, one of my favourite aspects of travel these days is going back to destinations I’ve already fallen in love with. I think there might be a lot more of that in 2020 and the next decade or so – especially because the list of places I want to return to is now longer than my list of new places I want to visit!
2020 and Beyond
A few years back, my ex and I did a thing where every time something good happened (even something small, like we saw a good film at the cinema) we’d write it on a slip of paper and pop it in a jar. Sort of like a gratefulness diary.
These posts are my version of a gratefulness diary – something for future me to look back on one day and remember what a ride it’s been. And, although 2019 hasn’t been quite so travel-filled as I’d like, my health isn’t what I’d like it to be, and I still haven’t achieved my life-long goal of becoming the first human to lose weight just by wishing hard enough – this year HAS been one hell of a ride.
But what’s next? Well, not a whole lot to be honest. My top priority is ditching the irritatingly hardworking cells in my thyroid – so I’ll mostly be hanging around for NHS appointments and trying to squeeze in a few short trips before the two months where I’ll be too radioactive to fly!
This year, I’m not really setting any New Years Resolutions. I have a lot of goals, but their more vague, long-term things. I’d like to buy a house this decade. Maybe fall in love, settle down, have a baby, buy a van, live in the van with a baby and a cat, write a book, win a Nobel prize for said book, and finally figure out the whole wish-yourself-slimmer thing. Not aiming too high or anything!
For now, I just want to get better at remembering to be grateful – and increase my savings. I’ll figure everything else out as I go!
Happy new year guys!
How’s your 2019 been – and what’s in store for next year? Scroll down to let me know in the comments!
Thanks for sticking around this long – and here’s to an epic 2020 for all of us!