I know I’m very lucky to say this, given the current state of the world, but 2016 was an incredible year for me. Possibly the best of my life. I actually feel like a bit of a douche writing it, but I believe in gratitude, and I have a lot to be thankful for.
I’ve been to 19 countries this year, been out of England for 271 nights and in it for 95. I’ve spent 4 months in the USA, exploring the cities and National Parks. I went on three different ski trips, as press. I chilled out in Thailand, drove along the Emerald Coast of Florida, ate my way round St Kitts, hiked in Lapland and sailed between the islands of Croatia. I also went on my first cruise, holidayed with my friends in the New Forest and completed a travel dream of going to SXSW Festival.
I’ve spent a lot of money, had a lot of fun, and loved a year of doing exactly what I want, when I want. I never want to forget everything I’ve done this year, so as a little memory jog for me, and a round up for you in case you’ve found it hard to keep up, here’s everywhere I’ve been in 2016, in as few a words as possible.
Edinburgh + Isle of Skye, Scotland
Hogmanay was brilliant. I was invited to Scotland along with what turned out to be some of my favourite other travel bloggers to experience some of the greatest New Year celebrations on earth. We wrapped up warm, got to walk with the vikings through Edinburgh and celebrated the early hours of 2016 belting out Beyonce and Adele at karaoke in the city centre.
Then I went on a press trip to the amazing Isle of Skye. You need to see this place, trust me. So moody, so beautiful and so many distilleries.
From there I went onto France, to Tignes to join a Mark Warner Holiday press trip. Tignes is one of the most popular (read: expensive) ski destinations in Europe, so to experience it courtesy of them was pretty sweet.
We stayed in an amazing cabin-like hotel, enjoyed three-course meals every night, joined in with the apres ski, and the awesome Pete from travelunmasked.com and Sabine from girlvsglobe.com made sure I improved my skills by accompanying me down the mountain.
From there I went on to Champoluc, this time with some journalists from huge newspapers across England. I always feel a little sense of pride and satisfaction when I get invited on trips with newspaper journalists, having the validation from the powers that my work is as important as theirs. We really focused on skiing for the few days, rather than partying, and I even got to ski with the fastest skier in the world, Simone Origone. I made sure to ski past him at some point, just so I could say I beat him.
Kitzbuhel + Brixental + Mayhrhofen, Austria / Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
And then I went on another ski press trip (yeah, I was exhausted, but this one…) with Lufthansa and they picked us up from Munich Airport in a HELICOPTER to reach our ski chalet. We skied for a few days and then paraglided down to reach our next destination, one of the most indulgent things I’ve ever done.
We spent the next few days skiing in different locations and I even got to try snowboarding too. This trip was absolutely incredible – no way I could put it together or afford it!
Florida Keys, USA
I visited that little bit that comes off the bottom of Florida for a week, staying in some amazing hotels as I did. I was with a group of bloggers, including Monica from thetravelhack, Jonathan and Kach from twomonkeystravel.com and the winner of the Swedish Big Brother 2012, Annica Englund, who’s now a blogger.
We ate Key Lime Pie, everywhere, visited Hemingway’s house and went jet skiing. We also visited a local chocolate factory, a brewery and flew to the Dry Tortugas National Park in a seaplane. Yep, it was a good week.
Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Bangkok, Thailand
I needed some time out, to catch up with work, and so booked a few weeks in Thailand. Turned out that Emily from emilyluxtontravels.com was going at the same time as me and we hung out for most of it. I kind of feel like I probably shouldn’t have booked this trip. I had to spend a lot of time working, I didn’t like the whole digital nomad culture in Chiang Mai, and as my second time in Thailand I can definitely say I don’t love the country as much as everyone else seems to.
I just don’t get it.
Austin and Houston, Texas
Errrhhhmhagoddd this was so good. I spent three weeks in Austin, for SXSW Festival, and absolutely loved it. People were so friendly, it was such a cool city, I loved the creativity, the parties, the films and the music. I’m so glad I went, but yeah, it was blummin expensive so not sure it’ll ever happen again.
I went onto Houston afterwards and enjoyed getting out of the craziness, and seeing as many sights as possible in 48 hours.
Lake Charles, New Orleans and road trip, Louisiana
I’d decided to spend three months in the USA, and next up was Louisiana. I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans and it made sense to do a bit of a road trip there, and after. I went to Lake Charles, a casino town on the way. I managed to work with the local PR team and me and the PR guy had a great time, eating mounds and mounds of crawfish and all-you-can-drink beer.
Then I went to the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Hogs for the Cause and the French Quarter Festival too. I met up with my friend and fellow travel blogger Cailin O’Neil and we went on a road trip deep down to the Deep South. It was… interesting.
All around, St Kitts
The Caribbean mon!
I went to St Kitts to check out the food and culture scene there. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t too good, which spoilt my photos, but still, I had a lovely time drinking rum and learning all about the history of the island.
I also got to go jet skiing, winning.
And then I went for something totally different and went on a journey through the history of civil rights in Alabama. I went to all the museums, saw Martin Luther King’s church and couldn’t believe how divided the city was, between tourist Montgomery and the real Montgomery where locals actually live. Yep, totally different.
Seeing this side to the USA was fascinating for me, especially given what’s happened there since. There is such a disparity between black and white, rich and poor there.
Nashville, Fat Camp + Memphis, Tennessee
I felt like a right chubster after the indulgence of St Kitts and New Orleans, so I signed up for fat camp, or the Tennessee Fitness Spa to give it its proper name. Best thing I could’ve done.
I loved being in the same place for a week, having some structure to my day and all the fitness facilities I could need. All the staff and other guests there were lovely and I lost weight. Winner winner, 400-calorie dinner.
Then I went to Nashville and Memphis – loved the latter, not so sure about the former. Visiting Elvis’ Graceland was a definite highlight.
Also popped into Chattanooga, which I will write about next year. Never heard of it before, but it was an awesome place.
Errrrrr, how good is Chicago?! I had no idea. So glad I stayed on the Greyhound bus and skipped past St Louis (naughty). I had 5 days here and loved every minute. I totally want to go back for a festival or something next year.
I went on a press trip round Minnesota, exploring the distilleries, waters and Prince’s nightclub. Obviously it’s not one of the most popular states in the USA, but if you’re into your natural beauty and epic coastlines, it’s a good one to check out.
Back in Europe!
I was in Barcelona for the Brexit vote, which I won’t talk about here, but me, Mum and Dad booked an apartment in Barcelona to hang out with my brother, who lives out there, for 10 days. Barcelona is one of my favourite cities in Europe, if not the, I think the prices are better than other cities and there’s so much cool stuff to do and see for free too.
I feel like I’m really getting to know the city, so I should probably have written more than this one post I managed. One day.
Athens, Mykonos, Santorini + Ios, Greece
I did a Travel Talk Tour between Athens, Mykonos, Santorini and Ios. Honestly, absolutely loved it. Greece is an awesome country, with loads of natural beauty and with an economy that needs as much help as it can get right now.
Obviously Mykonos and Santorini are two of the richest islands in Greece, but next year I’m planning on visiting a few lesser known ones. I loved being part of the tour group this time round though and met some cool people on the trip. Also totally fell in love with Greece, and got a great tan too.
Stockholm + Lapland, Sweden
I went to Stockholm for the annual European TBEX conference, which I wasn’t too impressed with. Didn’t really learn much, I found it quite stressful being around some of the other bloggers (so competitive and bitchy) and the after parties were pretty much non-existant. Not that I wanted to party (course I did) but meeting people is one of the most interesting and important parts of these conferences.
The trip afterwards though, up to Lapland, was amazing. I can’t believe I haven’t made my video from this yet, it was so beautiful up there, I couldn’t stop taking pictures. We got a helicopter and saw reindeer in the wild, we hiked the mountains, snorkelled in the rivers and took an overnight train, in a private carriage, back down to Stockholm.
And then I spent a much-needed 5 weeks staying in Stockwell in London. I had an AirBnB and enjoyed working and going to the gym all month. It was nice to have a base. It also proved to me that I definitely don’t want to live in a big city when I grow up. It’s just too much.
The London I couldn’t imagine not living in before just felt different. It was a good experiment, and a great chance to catch up with friends too.
Ooo we had a great time. Wilderness is such a cool festival. Definitely the most middle class one I’ve been to, and the most expensive in the UK, but still really cool. All day long there were talks, like TEDX talks, and yoga, and healthy eating sessions and parades, and a main stage too.
Planning on going back to Wilderness next year, but we’ll see.
Paris x 2
In the same week I went to Paris alone for work – to see how many places I could find to experience for free – and then for Rock en Seine Festival.
I love Paris. I really enjoyed tearing around town trying to fit in all the free experiences I’d found and got to know the city better than in all my previous visits combined. I went to bed exhausted that night, and it felt good.
Festival No 6, Wales
What a festival! One of the best things about Festival No 6 is that it’s set up in Portmeirion Village, which means there are cafes, bars, and most importantly, toilets, for you to use. The infrastructure is already there.
I went with my friend George and we just had a brilliant time chatting, drinking, dancing and wandering round the festival grounds. Even with the weather trying to kill us at every turn, we loved it.
Sailing from Split to Dubrovnik
I’ve always wanted to sail Croatia, and this year I did it. Well, not personally – I lay in my hammock the whole time – but our skipper did a great job. Jen and I squashed up in our bunk room and spent the days relaxing out on deck and the evenings eating and drinking in restaurants and bars.
It was a super chilled holiday that proved to me that I just really like being on water, as demonstrated by the time I joined a sailing trip in the Philippines, but that was in 2015, so long ago.
Driving round Montenegro
After we realised how expensive Dubrovnik was we rented a car and drove to Montenegro. We drove up the coast and to the National Park. It was interesting to see the amazing views over the country and to experience the beach and people there.
It was still more expensive than we expected there though – that falling pound is ruining us.
Next up was a trip to the Hoburne Bashley Holiday Park in the New Forest. I’ve always wanted to see the New Forest, and when the opportunity came up to take three of my friends, I took it. We had a really relaxing weekend just walking and eating, I definitely want to go back and see more. And maybe next time, stay at The Pig – an amazing stately home there.
I spent my last birthday in Rovinj, Croatia, with my best mate. We had a great time, again, just eating, cycling, drinking and chilling out talking about everything and anything in a sunny October in Croatia.
I think Rovinj is the perfect destination for a weekend away. There’s not a huge amount to do, which means you can relax, but there are plenty of restaurants and bars to try. I could definitely see myself returning here.
Exploring Costa Rica
When you get an email asking if you’d like to go to Costa Rica all expenses and business class flights paid, you say YES. Yes, I would. Thank you.
Costa Rica exceeded every expectation I had for a country I’ve wanted to go to for a long time. You know me, I’m not all into my animals like some, but seeing the sloths was emotional. And the turtles. And even the toucans.
I’d definitely recommend visiting Costa Rica at some point in your life. Look, check out all my daily vlogs I did while I was there.
Yay, back to Barcelona for my mum’s birthday for a few days. More tapas, more vehmouth, and another trip to Montjuic Mountain, but this time, via cable car. Here’s my dad waving to my mum on the ground because she hates heights.
California, Nevada + Arizona, USA
I joined a Contiki tour with STA Travel, taking in the best of California, Nevada and Arizona. I’ve been to all the states before but this particular trip kind of filled in the gaps, which was brilliant. I got to experience the Grand Canyon, Vegas and Yosemite, among other spots. Oh, and San Diego, been wanting to go there for a while. After all this solo travel, I enjoyed being able to sit back and relax while the tour took me to my destination.
Miami, Mexico, Honduras + Belize, on a Cruise
My first cruise, and I can totally see what all the fuss is about. Did you know that cruising is the fastest growing sector of travel?
My cruise with Norwegian was pure indulgence from start to finish. We managed to eat at most of the restaurants on board, had an all you can drink package and our group of European bloggers and journalists became obsesssed with Fireballs, a cinnamon-whisky shot drink. I loved being on the ship and as much fun as it was, it was also super relaxing.
I went on one of the best press trips ever in December, driving the Emerald Coast and exploring as much as possible via my rental car. I was exhausted when I arrived and nervous about driving a car, but I ended up staying in the most beautiful hotels, relaxing on the beach and absolutely, totally falling in love with this part of Florida.
Driving from Destin to Panama City Beach I honestly wanted to cry at how beautiful and picturesque it was. Going to write aaalllll about it in January…
New York, USA
And I finished my travels for 2016 in the city that started my love of travel, New York. I’d always wanted to see the city on the run up to Christmas, and so I did. It was so cold but I made it through with hot cider, plenty of red wine with my friends and just the sheer joy of being in New York in December. And then I flew home Premium with Norwegian Airlines. Glorious.
After a few days in London seeing friends I came home to Derbyshire and my family. I’ve just had an awesome Christmas, watching films, eating turkey and laughing with the nearest and dearest.
I’m here till 5th January, when it’s time to start my 2017 Travel Plans. First stop: Vietnam.
I absolutely cannot believe my 2016. All those destinations, people and adventures. I’ve just written this in about an hour and my fingers haven’t stopped moving as I’ve got excited about remembering everything I’ve done this year.
I doubt very much I’ll have another year as crazy busy as this one, so thank you for reading, and for supporting me. It’s thanks to this blog I’ve been able to do all this.
I know that most people don’t get to do all this in a lifetime, and I’m very grateful. Running my business, as well as all this travel has been exhausting and I’m so appreciative of my family and friends for providing me with a haven to to go back to so I don’t burn out.
I hope you’ve achieved some of your life goals in 2016, and that 2017 sees you reach even more.
Happy New Year!
Lots of love
xx Vicky (FlipFlop) xx
A few more personal posts I’ve written in 2016