As we start into the new year of 2019, it is a chance to do a review of 2018, and wow, what a year 2018 was! Not all the plans I made at the beginning of the year came to fruition. Trips were cancelled, changed at the last minute, it turned out quite different to how to I thought it was going to go.
Despite all the changes and setbacks, I still managed to cram in the following:
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Continents: 5 – Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America
Countries: 10 – France, India, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Cayman Islands, Honduras, Brazil
Transport: Car, Plane, Train, Bus, Boat
Bucket List Items Checked: Taj Mahal, Safari, Victoria Falls, Blogging Event,
So where did I travel to – let’s take a review of 2018
After spending Christmas 2017 and New Year in Callas in the South of France, I came back to a cold and wet England, but within a week Alan and I flew off to Rajasthan in India.
Our 16-day trip took us from Delhi to Agra by bus, then on to Jaipur, Pushkar, Jodhpur and back to Delhi by train. We saw temples, palaces, forts, and the majestic Taj Mahal. We joined in the Kite Festival in Jaipur, rode camels, bartered, laughed and were blown away with the kindness and friendliness of the Indian people we met. India is definitely on my list of places to return to.
Yorkshire & Scotland
We landed back from India to disappear off north to do one of 3 housesits this year. We spent two lovely weeks catching up with ourselves while we looked after a beautiful Golden Retriever called Shayna and exploring the surrounding
Maun & the Okavango Delta, Botswana
Kelso was quickly followed by our second housesit. This time we flew via Johannesburg to Maun, on the edge of the Okavango Delta in Botswana to look after three lovely dogs and Losiento the cat. It was quite a chilled 4 weeks and we made friends with many of the locals, practised yoga, milked goats and even got involved with one of the charities: Feed a Child. Later in the year I raised money for them by giving up chocolate for 75 days!
After our 4 weeks in Maun, we headed off into the Okavango Delta for 6 days of safari. We visited 3 different camps and saw an abundance of animals. It was one of the most amazing few days of the whole year, totally switched off from the outside world and immersed in nature. We didn’t quite see all of the Big Five, as there were no rhinos about, but it just means that we will have to go back!
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Although we flew into Botswana, our flight home was from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. We only had a day to explore the town and visit the majestic Victoria Falls. We decided not to have protective waterproofs and got completely and utterly soaked by the spray coming off the Falls, much to the amusement of passers-by and ourselves!
I have followed the Bloggers Course by Monica Stott of The Travel Hack and when she announced a Bloggers’ Retreat, I signed up immediately. Three days of talking all things blog-related in a stunning Unique Homestay in Somerset, learning from both Monica and Claire and Laura from Twins that Travel. Despite the intensive nature of the retreat, it was actually very casual and actually, I think I learnt a lot more in that atmosphere than in a classroom environment.
During the retreat, we talked about our niche and blog names. At the time I had started blogging under the name The Barefoot Travellers but wasn’t totally comfortable with it. After chatting to the group about it, I came up with The Silver Nomad, and totally rebranded myself!
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
I had a commitment to myself at the beginning of the year to go to Traverse in May 2018. Traverse is a blogging conference that starts with 3 days of experiences and culminates in 2 full-on days of workshops and lectures in subjects like podcasting, working with brands, photography and writing. It really brought home to me how vibrant and accepting the travel blogging community really is.
Every year in June, my client the F1 Grand Prix Driver’s Club, invites me along to their AGM. This year we were Pianfei in Piedmont in Northern Italy. It was quite a foodie few days with trips to a salami producer, the Ferrero factory where we were tempted by all the chocolate, an artisan cheesemaker and amazing Barolo wine. We also got to drool over a beautiful vintage Maserati, have dinner in an old convent and take part in a karting championship.
Also in June, I was lucky enough to be invited on a surprise WOWTrip along with 7 other bloggers. I have travelled through Brussels several times, but never actually stayed there. I loved wandering through the streets admiring the architecture, the street art, people watching and enjoying the waffles!
My second visit to Kelso was for my Mum’s 80th birthday celebrations and yes I managed to fit in another Kelso Farmers’ Market.
By July, Alan had been in Guanaja for 3 months and needed to renew his visa. He flew up to the Cayman Islands as I flew in from the UK to join him. We spent 5 days exploring the north of the island, including the famous Stingray City, Starfish Point, the Cayman Turtle Sanctuary and the wonderfully named ‘Hell’ which turns out to be jagged limestone formations. Our 5 days up it was time to fly on to Guanaja, my home until mid-October.
Returning to Guanaja after our 3 months in 2017 housesit was a pleasure. I caught up with friends and made new ones. Alan was housesitting the amazing Mariposa Estate for a total of 9 months, but due to work commitments, I could only stay for 3 months. Three months on an island in the Caribbean with boats for transport, waking up at 6 am to the sound of the breeze in the palms and birds twittering, being able to dip into the pool at any time, was utter bliss.
I set up a book group for some of my friends, had a night at The Treehouse at Roland Rumm’s Garden Guesthouse, opened my heart in an emotional blog post about my disability, but also chilled and enjoyed island life. All too soon it was over and I was saying my goodbyes again for another year.
After my 3-month stint on Guanaja, it was back to the Caymans for a few days before returning to the UK. This time we explored George Town and lazed by glorious turquoise waters and white sand of Seven Mile Beach before going our separate ways again as Alan headed back to Guanaja for his final 3 months.
The second of my commitments to my blogging self was to visit WTM, the World Travel Market in November held at the ExCel in London. WTM was an important place for me to make contacts with Tourist Boards, Travel Agencies and companies as well as meeting up with fellow bloggers.
In December I had 2 more trips up to Kelso to help out due to family illnesses. It did, by accident, tie in with the Kelso Christmas Farmers’ Market, but otherwise, it was a quiet and reflective time.
A last-minute press trip at the beginning of December took me to Ceará in the northeast of Brazil for 6 days. I was with an amazing group of bloggers and travel agents from Europe and South America. We discovered the beaches, went on dune buggy rides, ziplined, tasted cachaça, visited the Ceará Beach Park and followed the Green Coffee Trail and learnt more about this beautiful part of Brazil.
And the ones that got away!
Sometimes the best-laid plans and intentions just don’t work out.
- 2 month trip around India – our decision to take the 9
month housesitin Guanaja meant putting our India trip on hold. In hindsight, it means we can plan it better for 2019.
- Barcelona – as a treat for my Mum’s birthday we were going to have a long weekend in Barcelona, a first time trip for both of us. Sadly illness meant we had to postpone it until March 2019.
- Marrakech – I was all set to attend Trabilin in Marrakech in November, but at the last minute my housesitters let me down, leaving me with no-one to look after the house, dog and chickens, so I cancelled.
- Bali – I was all set to spend 2 weeks in Lovina in Bali in December, catching up with friends and grabbing some much-needed winter sun. A family crisis had me delay my trip until January, but I have extended it to 3 weeks to include a week in Ubud doing yoga!