belgium, denmark, germany, hungary, italy, latvia, luxembourg, norway, portugal, the netherlands, travel, uk, vatican city

2016 Wrap-Up

January 6, 2017

Looking back at last year’s wrap up is telling what kind of person I am. 1. I am incredibly indecisive. 2. I relied heavily on where friends wanted to go and 3. I honestly have no idea what I want.

After predicting nine countries, I visited eleven. Only three were on my ‘estimations’ list, two of which were already booked when I made it. So that means I truly guessed I’d visit one out of seven? Wow, I’m no good at this, I could never get a job as a fortune teller.

The places I predicted were: Latvia and Denmark (pre-booked!), Sweden, Russia, the Ukraine, Thailand, Norway and Poland. I totally get what vibe I was going for here, the more off-the-beaten-track, Eastern-Scandinavian Europe type deal. I guess Thailand was the wild card thrown in for good measure.

Here’s how the year actually played out.

Riga, LatviaI found flights from Liverpool to Riga for £14 return in February. FOURTEEN POUNDS! Um, yes please, I needed to be on that plane and at the time, I needed someone to go with me. Having just returned from Iceland with my mum in November, she was the first person I asked. Even though £14 could sway even my Dad (who hates travelling and questioned why anyone would want to go to Latvia), getting time off work was an issue for almost everyone I asked. Call me naive but as a recent graduate, I didn’t realise how much of an issue getting holidays would be. So I asked my university bestie, Emily, and we took off to Riga.

Although Emily found the whole experience anti-climatic, I loved it. This was the first time I planned a holiday, from start to finish, entirely by myself. I had planned out everywhere we were going to eat for which meal (and as a meat-eater, this bothered Emily a bit) and knew exactly what activities we were going to do everyday. Maybe this was why Emily found me such a nightmare to travel with and decided against going to Thailand with me later in the year. Besides, with all the mini-breaks I had, I could have never afforded Thailand anyway.

Oh, and my prediction of crossing the border into Lithuania to see the Hill of Crosses never happened, but watch this space!London, UKI’m not sure if this classes as a holiday, but considering the fact I had to take an overnight bag I’m classing it as one. I enjoyed a weekend break in London in Feburary and met a vegan in Notting Hill and I ate all the cakes in Whole Foods.Copenhagen, DenmarkIn March, I was joined again by my favourite travel partner (mum) for a weekend Copenhagen. We did EVEYTHING. In Latvia I noticed this weird thing where I was waking up at 3am, 4am everyday, excited for life and it didn’t go away in Denmark. Every day we were up and about by 6am running around the city, doing everything we could until we passed out at around 11pm. I might have exhausted myself doing this because when it came time of my next holiday, I slowed down a lot and started to actually enjoy myself.

Although running around the city might have been a bad choice, it did allow time for us to see so many things in such a short amount of time. Highlights included the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (where I found a profile picture) and Superkilen.Porto and Lisbon, PortugalIn March I decided I was done with city-breaks at the weekends. Copenhagen had too much stuff and not enough time to see it all in, so this meant I needed to create time. I quit my job and in April I spent two weeks in Portugal with my sister. She was on a break from University so the holiday time away from work wasn’t an issue for either of us.

The first few days were spent in Porto. It rained a lot. Our favourite place was definitely Serralves, as this was the only time the rain stayed away.

Lisbon was great too. I found my sister an easy travel partner. We’re the same size so outfit swapping was something we relied on in order to travel light and as she’s a vegetarian, she didn’t complain too much when I took her to exclusively veggie restaurants. We spent a full week in Lisbon and as a result, I discovered my love for daytripping. Sintra and Évora were our small cities of choice.Rome, Italy & The VaticanBy June I realised quitting my job might not have been the smartest decision I ever made. Portugal had eaten a sizable amount of my earnings from the previous six months and I was about to spend a lot more. June rolled around and for my mum’s birthday, we took a family trip to Rome. My sister and I aren’t big fans of family trips and we discovered food plays a big role in why we dislike them so much. Instead of eating out with our meat-eating parents, I dragged Rebecca to the lesser-known areas of Rome to eat some Italian vegan food. My favourite thing about the trip was visiting Tivoli. My least favourite thing was almost getting mugged. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve learned much from the almost-mugging. I can’t help that I look like a victim.

Oslo, NorwayAlmost immediately after Italy, I started my two months of non-stop travelling. This is what I had saved for. My American friend (whom I visited in 2015 and 2013 if you remember) came to visit me and we decided to go interrailling with Emily. Although because Emily was still working and maybe she didn’t want to reenact the Laura-centred holiday that was Lativa, she couldn’t make it and we replaced her with my sister, Rebecca. But before all that, I took Jess to Norway just the two of us.

Yay, Norway! The one country I predicted correctly! And oh my goodness, it was heaven. Obviously Svalbard wasn’t in the budget so we went to Oslo. Again, perhaps it shouldn’t have been in the budget either, but the flights were so cheap I just couldn’t help myself. Thank you, skyscanner.

While we were there, we met up with Jess’s friend, Felicia, who happened to be in Oslo too, and did all the usual tourist stuff. It was very cute. Can I also say that Oslo in the summer is gorgeous! It never went fully dark in the night and it stayed a perpetual twilight. Even the birds were chirping at 3am.Amsterdam & The Hague, The NetherlandsAnd so began our inter railing trip in mid-July. First stop: Amsterdam. And I have to be honest, the city didn’t live up to it’s hype in my opinion. There were way too many expensive museums and not enough fun things to do. Yeah, we did the usual, climb the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign, visited the red light district, and Vondelpark but on the forth day of the stay, I think all three of us were grateful for the change of scenery in the Hague.Antwerp, Bruges & Ghent, BelgiumSpending two days in three Belgian cities might have been a tad too ambitious on my part. Though we stayed in Antwerp, we daytripped to Bruges and Ghent in one day to get the most of our rail passes. Though I enjoyed Antwerp and Bruges was gorgeous, I felt I had betrayed Ghent by spending so little time there. Next time, Belgium, next time.

Luxembourg, LuxembourgOnwards we went to Luxembourg, to spend a brief 24 hours in this tiny country. Although I loved this minuscule city, I’m glad I didn’t spend any longer there. We ran out of typical tourist things to do quickly and spent the majority of our time wandering around the Old Town and visiting Churches and libraries to escape the heat.Cologne, GermanyMy initial plan was the end the month in Berlin, but as chance would have it, we cut our trip short by a few days and decided to go to Cologne instead. I was visiting Berlin in August so don’t worry, I didn’t miss out.

Cologne was a beautiful city, and the first glimpse I had of a country I would eventually fall in love with. The Cathedral was the highlight, although it has nothing on some of my favourite climbable churches, it’s breathtaking from the ground. The dark, storm-cloud bricks contrasted heavily with the clear sky and made it look as if it had been CGIed into the world.Berlin & Dresden, GermanyI was lucky enough to spend an entire month in my favourite city in the world in August. Move along, Reykjavik, you have nothing on Berlin.

I made the decision in March (around the time I quit my job) to do the CTR programme in Berlin, which is where I met some amazing people including my vegan bestie. Berlin is by far the greatest city in the world for vegans, which meant that the majority of the time was spent eating. But when we actually did things, we did the coolest things. Breaking into a decaying themepark, bouldering in former bunker, hiking to a graffiti-ridden NSA listening station, visiting an abandoned Nazi airport and so much more guys. SO MUCH MORE!

We also took a weekend break to Dresden. I got to stay in my first hostel, and we even had a daytrip to the goregous, fairytale town of Meissen.By the end of August, I had well and truly spent all my savings and it was time to go back to work, however, one last stop before all went back to normal…

Budapest, HungaryIn Berlin, my friend Amanda and I decided to have a weekend trip to Budapest, as she would still be living in Europe before moving back to Australia in October. So, as a birthday treat in September, my mum paid for me to fly to Hungary.

Although it was my last trip of the year, Budapest really was the country that changed everything for me. This is where I met loads of cool people, visited ruin bars, spas and ate delicious vegan food for cheap, cheap prices and I changed my mind about moving to Russia, at least for now.In 2016, teaching English abroad was something I really wanted to do, especially in Russia but towards the end, I decided maybe to give it a few more years and dedicate my time to earning money and travelling – the same as I did this year.

So, I’ve been working ever since. This time, at two jobs so I’ll hopefully earn more money to travel to further away places for 2017. Australia and Canada, I’m coming for you! Or at least, I’ll try. You never know, my estimations are usually totally off. I’m probably heading for Uzbekistan and Yemen.

 

 

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