How is it already the ninth day of 2018? It feels like only yesterday that I was sat at Gatwick airport about to jet off on my final adventure of last year. With a celebratory pint in hand, as I waited to board my flight to Reykjavik, I was excited for what I might discover on my travels, and happy that I’d finally exchanged contracts on my new house in Reading.
Instead I’m sat at my desk back at work, with an extreme case of the January blues, daydreaming of trips to far-flung destinations. It’s been well over a month since I went on my Icelandic adventure in search of the Northern Lights, and nearly four weeks since I got the keys to the new house. Oh, and to rub further salt into the wound, it’s already been 16 days since Christmas. Bah humbug.
Scrolling through my Instagram feed, reliving memories of all the places I travelled to during 2017 (in particular the places with warmer climes, as I’m really craving sunshine at the moment), has not helped. Like everyone else, I was curious to see what my #2017bestnine photos were on the social media platform, so here they are:
These nine little snapshots of my life amassed 5,512 “likes” between them, averaging at an impressive 612 likes per photo. I say impressive, but obviously this is nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of likes some of my favourite travel bloggers gain per post. But for me, compared to my best nine of 2016, it’s a vast improvement year-on-year (where I averaged around 203 likes per photo on my nine most popular posts).
It’s not all about the numbers, however. Though these nine were my most liked photos on Instagram during 2017, some of my favourite photos from the year haven’t made it onto social media. These are photos that tell stories about the journeys I’ve taken, the adventures I embarked on, the friends I made. I’m not a photographer by any means (all my photos are taken on a mobile phone), but for me, these candid snaps remind me of some of the best moments of what was, personally, a really difficult year.
So, without further ado (because it is already 9 January, and this post is already late), here are my 17 favourite photos from my travels in 2017:
1. A sleepy cat in Kouklia, Cyprus.
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love cats. I have three of my own, but whenever I go away, I always seem to make a feline friend or two. It’s like I gravitate towards them – or maybe it’s them gravitating towards me? Maybe I have cat nip in my blood or something?
Anyway, when I accidentally came across the peaceful little village of Kouklia in Cyprus, I spent a couple of hours there, sipping a beer, tucking into some pitta bread and tzatziki, and photographing all the cats. This big, fluffy boy was my favourite, lazing in the shade under a table in the taverna.
2. A green bolt of Aurora Borealis in Reykjavik, Iceland.
As mentioned already, in December I headed over to Iceland. It was a pretty magical trip, for many reasons. But most importantly, I managed to tick “See the Northern Lights in Iceland” off my bucket list. Actually, I was lucky enough to see them not just once but on three of the five nights I was in the country, but the photos I took on my fourth night, while on a boat trip with Special Tours, were definitely my favourites.
A full post will be coming soon…
3. A poignant tribute on the banks of the Danube in Budapest, Hungary.
Admittedly Budapest was never really a “must go” destination for me – but that was before I went as part of my “30 countries before 30” travel challenge. I ended up booking flights to the Hungarian capital because they were the cheapest flights I could find to a country that I hadn’t yet been to. Turns out that Budapest is actually a really cool city, full of history and culture, beauty and charm.
This photo, taken on the banks of the Danube outside the Hungarian Parliament building, is one of my favourite. Placed as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the war, the shoes are eerie yet beautiful, commemorative yet also celebratory.
4. Pink hair in a purple haze at Mayfield Lavender farm, Surrey.
During the summer I decided I needed to make some changes in my life and put the past behind me. I started a new job in London, and put an offer in for a new house – but still not content, I wanted to try a new look. So inspired/encouraged by my colleague and fellow blogger, Erica, I took the plunge and dyed my hair bright pink.
Although only temporary, I loved my cotton candy pink hair – and in particular, this picture. My friend and I spontaneously decided to take a drive over to Mayfield Lavender farm one sunny Saturday morning, and snapped a few photos while walking through the fragrant flowers. It was such a lovely day out for us both – we even enjoyed a lavender tea and cakes.
I’m back to blonde now, and probably going to stay this way (at least for a while), so maybe this summer I’ll head to a sunflower farm to swish my yellow hair there instead?
5. The calm before the storm at Spurn Point, East Yorkshire.
At the beginning of 2017 I was living up in Yorkshire with my (now ex) boyfriend. By January our relationship had already turned sour, and at the end of the month I ended up moving in with the next door neighbours while he and I tried to patch things up.
Needing a bit of headspace, one chilly-but-sunny Sunday morning in February, I randomly decided to head over to Spurn Point. I’d been asking him to take me there since moving up to Yorkshire the summer before, as I’d heard that it was a beautiful place. But for one reason or another we’d never managed to make it.
Perhaps deep down, subconsciously, I knew that my time in Yorkshire was coming to an end – maybe that’s why that Sunday I decided to go. I’m glad I did go though; it gave me a chance to reflect on everything that was happening in my life at that point, plus the opportunity to take some gorgeous photos of a place I’ll probably not visit again.
6. A magical cenote in Yucatan, Mexico.
Sometimes pictures just don’t capture how amazing, beautiful or impressive something or somewhere is. Ik Kil cenote in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico is the type of place that pictures just don’t do justice. Unfortunately pretty much every picture I took of this magical, freshwater-filled, underground cavern made it look like a crappy, scum-filled pond.
Except this one, I love this photo.
With sunlight bouncing off the surface of the green-blue water, the hazy, almost ethereal trails of the vines hanging from the ceiling, and the tiny bodies floating in the vast pool below, you really get a feel for the shear size of this cenote. Which is 85ft below ground, and 130ft deep, in case you were wondering.
7. Abandoned and alone in Berlin, Germany.
I have this habit of wandering off, getting lost and finding things to take pictures of that I wasn’t ever really looking for. Whether it’s beautiful pieces of street art, an amazing view or a whole clowder of cats, I find sometimes the best photos are taken when you’re not expecting to see something photoworthy.
This happened in Berlin last year. While exploring some of the outer city suburbs, I came across what I think was an abandonded hospital. I mean, it might have been something else (a school perhaps?), and I guess I’ll never really know – but if the walls could talk, I’m sure they’d have plenty of stories to tell. Just look at those stairs – how many feet could have trodden those stairs?
8. Being Indiana Jones in Petra, Jordan.
Visiting Petra – one of the “new” Seven Wonders of the World – has been on my bucket list since first watching Indiana Jones ride through the Lost City in the Last Crusade. When I finally had the chance to walk in Indy’s footsteps last summer, I was bursting with excitement.
But it wasn’t until I was stood in front of the famous Treasury that I realised just how huge, monumental this wonder is. This picture shows the vast façade, precisely carved by hand into the soft sandstone, towering over me. It’s a reminder that no dream is unachievable if you set your mind to it.
9. Taking time out in Tulum, Mexico.
Spending some time on my own in Tulum wasn’t planned – a friend was supposed to come with me, but decided she didn’t want to make the 1.5 hour bus journey there from Playa del Carmen. Rather than go back to the hotel and spend the day by the pool with her, I decided to make the journey on my own – and I’m so glad I did, because Tulum is, without doubt, the best beach I’ve ever been to.
Ironically, once I got back to our hotel that evening and showed her the pictures, she regretted not going. So I went back again the very next day, so she could experience the paradise for herself. Unluckily, it actually rained that day, so the sky was grey, the water didn’t sparkle like it did the day before, and the sand was more like mud than white icing sugar. Also, rather unfortunately, her and I are no longer friends – but hey, not everyone is the perfect travel companion.
This photo reminds me that if I want to do something, I shouldn’t let anything or anyone hold me back.
10. Capturing the true colours of Amman, Jordan.
A concrete and stone jungle in the middle of a country that is mostly desert, Amman was a city that, on the surface, seemed dry and dusty, dirty and dull. But a little “off the beaten track” exploring and a bit of inspiration from Pinterest, and I found some really colourful streets in Amman, proving that there is colour everywhere. If you look hard enough, you’ll find what you’re looking for. And that’s why I love this picture so much.
11. The bright lights of Bundoran, Ireland.
Ireland was the first country I visited in 2017, with my then boyfriend, as a Valentine’s weekend away. We headed over to Dublin on the east coast, where I ticked “drinking a pint of Guinness” off my bucket list.
At the end of November I headed to the emerald isle again, this time visiting my best friend Elaine over on the west coast, in the sleepy little seaside town of Bundoran. On my last evening we went for dinner at The Peak restaurant, where I snapped this picture of the waterfront. I very nearly didn’t make it to Bundoran to visit Elaine, no thanks to Ryanair (AKA the airline that doesn’t care), but I am so grateful for having such an amazing friend, who welcomes me into her home wherever she lives (Reading, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Bundoran…).
12. A pint full of sunshine in Paphos, Cyprus.
I know this photo is blurry and doesn’t look like much, but it makes me smile.
After exploring Paphos Archaeological Park and chowing down on some amazing meze, I sat at the beach bar at Lighthouse Beach to enjoy a few cans of Keo, reflect on the day (and life in general) and watch the sun set. The bar was playing songs that had me feeling nostalgic and sentimental; it was the first time since January that I felt completely relaxed and at ease.
As Natasha Bedingfield’s Pocketful of Sunshine began to play, I snapped a photo of my “pint full of sunshine”, humming along to the tune. I may have been a little pissed by this point, but who cares.
13. A 2pm frozen sunset in Reykjavík, Iceland.
With just four hours of daylight per day in Iceland during December, the time for taking pictures while exploring this strange country was pretty limited.
On my first day, I set out at 11am to explore Reykjavík, accompanied by two guys I’d made friends with from my hostel (in fact, they were the only other people staying at my hostel, but more on that in another post). By 2pm it was already beginning to get dark, so when we’d reached this achingly beautiful frozen lake by the city hall, the sun was setting and the birds were beginning to fly away to roost for the night. I took a whole load of pictures of the sunset and the birds, but one of my absolute favourite photos was actually taken of me by my new Russian friend, Vlad.
This one also featured in my nine best photos on Instagram, so I’m not the only one to like it.
14. Among the birds and the bees at Aphrodite’s Sanctuary, Cyprus.
Though I’m not a photographer by any account, I’m quite proud of this pic I managed to snap of a honey bee on a flower outside the Sanctuary of Aphrodite. It was difficult to get one that wasn’t blurry, as the bee kept twitching and the flower was swaying slightly in the breeze. But I was impressed by the quality of this photo, taken on a Samsung Galaxy S6.
My photography skills are definitely something I want to work on in 2018, so maybe I’ll take the plunge and invest in a better camera (or phone)…
15. Friends are everything in the Lake District, UK.
One weekend in July, some friends and I headed to the Lake District for a spot of glamping. Having been a glamping virgin, but being a massive fan of camping, I was really excited for this little “staycation” in a part of the UK I’d never visited before. And as expected, with its breathtaking scenery and beautiful surroundings, the Lake District didn’t disappoint.
We hiked through the countryside, had a picnic on a bench, drank pints in the local pub, ate a boozy (and slightly burnt) BBQ at the campsite, roasted marshmallows in our tent and played silly board games in our PJs until the early hours. And all in the pouring rain.
Well, it wouldn’t be July in Britain without the need for wellies.
16. Chasing waterfalls in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
My trip to the Dominican Republic was just what the doctor ordered last October. I spent seven nights at the LHVC resort in Puerto Plata, where I met Ellery, a sales rep for the resort’s spa. With a mutual love of books, travel and chess, the two of us hit it off right away, and began hanging out in the evenings, once he’d finished work. On one of his days off he took me out of the resort to Sousa beach, where we spent the afternoon drinking rum, swimming in the crystal clear water and being pulled around on an inflatable ring tied to the back of a speed boat. It was great to see a bit more of Puerto Plata outside of the resort, so I was super grateful to Ellery for this.
Then, on another day off, he took me to the 27 Charcos waterfalls of Rio Damajagua. With tour guide Jacobo leading us through the jungle and showing us how to jump (or slide!) from the rocks into the waterfalls and pools below, we managed to conquer 18 of the 27 waterfalls. Though blurry, this picture is one of my favourites; we had so much fun and it’s a day I won’t forget in a hurry.
If you’d like to see my least favourite photos from the trip, then check out these pics of Ellery pushing me into a 35ft caven (because I was too scared to jump)!
17. Spreading my wings in Budapest, Hungary.
Yes, I know, it’s a bit cheesy and a lot posed. So why is this one of my favourite photos of 2017? Because my trip to Budapest in June made Hungary the 30th country in my mission to visit 30 countries before my 30th birthday. After the bad start to the year, I didn’t think I’d ever complete my challenge. So this photo reminds me that anything is possible if you “always carry on”.
Plus, I really like the way the graffiti wings match the print of my dress.
I was actually supposed to be travelling to Budapest this weekend, but with the mounting costs of renovating my new house, I’ve decided to cancel the trip. I know, I know, a travel blogger that cancels a trip – who’d have thought it?
But the way I see it is this: the sooner the house is done, the sooner I can start listing my spare room on Airbnb and earning some cash back to fund future travels (and potentially tick off a few things from my new bucket list). So every cloud and that.