An Epic Year of Travel: 2017 Highlights

As 2017 is quickly drawing to an end, it's the perfect time to reflect on highlights and favourite memories created from this year's travels.

I had an amazing year full of different experiences, learning about new cultures, trying new food, making new friends, being more independent, working hard and having fun at the same time.

2017 brought me to eight different countries including Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and New Zealand.

Let's take it back to the beginning.

In January, Gareth and I's time in the Gold Coast had sadly come to an end and we travelled over a few days down Australia's East Coast on a road trip to our next home for the year in Canberra.

A stop at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour along the way
The National War Museum, Canberra

In January, February, March and April I visited Sydney, the first two times for concerts (Puscifer and Guns N' Roses), one for a weekend getaway to see Aladdin at the theatre and another time with my mum who came to visit over the Easter break.

Luna Park, Sydney
The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background

Overseas, I ventured off in May on an epic four-month adventure in Southeast Asia, most of it solo. I had some great opportunities working with various hotels and tour companies throughout my time away.

I began in Bali with my friends where we had a super fun week and I then went on to visit the largest city in Southeast Asia which was a whole new experience for me.

My best friends and I in Ubud
The view from my Airbnb in Jakarta

I was so excited to next fly to Thailand where I spent a wonderful month there. It had been 4.5 years since I had last been and I enjoyed so much revisiting Bangkok's beautiful temples and making new friends there.

Wat Pho, Bangkok

My biggest highlights of my time in Thailand include the islands Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi and right up north in Chiang Rai.

The picture of paradise: Phi Phi Island
Snorkeling on a Maya Bay tour
The White Temple, Chiang Rai
Singha Beer Park, Chiang Rai

In July Gareth flew over to meet me in Vietnam and we stayed in our very first overwater bungalow! #TravelGoals. I especially loved wandering through the quaint ancient town of Hoi An.

Da Nang Cathedral pre-meeting up with Gareth
Vedana Lagoon, Phu Loc

Exploring the imperial city Hue
Beautiful lanterns of Hoi An

After exploring central Vietnam I was off solo again to Cambodia for the first time. Seeing Angkor Wat and the surrounding ancient temples was such a dream come true!

I visited a floating village and local school and learned about the devasting history centred in Phnom Penh.

Floating village
Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

I bounced over to beautiful Laos where I worked with my final hotel and started staying at hostels where I met some amazing people who I continued to travel with.

Patuxai, Vientiane
River tubing in Vang Vieng
The beautiful Kuang Si Waterfall

I finally flew to the country I was the most excited to visit: Myanmar. I only had two weeks there and I did an epic whirlwind tour starting in Yangon.
I instantly loved it for how different it was from the other countries and how extremely friendly the locals were. I had my first spotlight moment where locals were lining up to take photos with me (because of my blonde hair I'm assuming!).

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon

Like Laos, I bused from place to place, visiting Inle Lake, Bagan and Mandalay. Sunrises, sunsets, e-bikes and boat tours. I met some more wonderful new travel buddies and really enjoyed soaking up Burmese culture.

Traditional fisherman on Inle Lake
Rice fields
Sunrise over the temples in Bagan
Sunrise at U-Bein Bridge, Mandalay

When my time in Myanmar had come to an end in August I flew back to Bangkok to meet my mum. She was there for personal reasons and I was her support person, so I got to spend another three weeks in Thailand (yay).
It was her first time to Asia so I enjoyed showing her the beautiful palace and temples, the crazy shopping malls, fun food places and beautiful skyline views.

Wat Arun, Bangkok
Unicorn Cafe, Bangkok 
Sunset cocktails with a view

We also visited the beach town Hua Hin for a few nights before heading home in September. 

In October I went to Melbourne to work with a company on a Great Ocean Road tour. Seeing The Twelve Apostles was another big bucket list tick for me!

The Twelve Apostles, Victoria
Awesome street art graffiti in Melbourne

In the last months of living in the capital city of Australia, I worked with a couple of local tour companies and Gareth and I made the most of our time there.
We went to multiple live sports matches, many events on, visited nature parks, museums, even Canberra's Space Station which is part of Nasa's Deep Space Network. (I'll be writing up a best things to do in Canberra post in the new year).

On a wine tour in the Canberra region
Koala spotting at Tidbinbilla Nature Park
Feeding friendly locals on a weekend getaway in Merimbula, NSW

On December 13th our three years in Australia had come to an end and we moved back to New Zealand. Our first stop was in Wellington where I loved visiting my old favourite spots around the city and catching up with my friends.

The Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street, Wellington

We just spent a lovely Christmas in Greytown which I wrote about in more detail on my secondary blog and we are now currently residing in the Manawatu region.

There we have my 2017 travel highlights in a nutshell! It was my first year as a 'proper' travel blogger and I loved every moment! I'm so grateful to be able to travel and for the opportunities helping towards building my dream career.

I still have a long way to go and I'm excited to see what 2018 has in store for me, beginning with my first ever trip to the United States and Canada!

I also made a highlights video on YouTube if you would like to watch my year of travels:

Thanks so much to everyone who is following along on my journey, through social media and here on my blog. You all mean the world to me and thank you all for your support.

I hope you have a fantastic and safe New Years. I will be sharing my 2018 travel goals in my next post, hope to see you there!

Happy Travels,

My big 2017 Travel goals

I briefly touched on my 2017 goals for my travel blog in my final post of last year, which as a quick overview- were to grow my blog, expand my writing in my new categories and chase opportunities to become a professional travel blogger.

I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about what my actual travel goals are for this year.
For those that may not know- my now husband is in the military and for the last two years he has been deployed to the Gold Coast in Australia as an instructor. I spent most of that first year in Europe on a study scholarship and then travelling.
Last year I joined him in living in Australia and started and worked on my blog all year.
I was lucky enough to travel back to New Zealand to visit my family, around Australia, to Indonesia, the Cook Islands and to Vietnam.

The last two years have been incredible for me and it just got me thinking- what's install for this year?
In a couple of days we are moving to Canberra, which is the capital city of Australia, as Gareth has been offered to do a Masters there. He is going to have one very busy and stressful year.
I, however, am in the fortunate position again to be able to spend the year how I please.

9.01.17  Saying goodbye to the Gold Coast

My ultimate goal is to be a travel blogger as my career. It is a lot of hard work, a lot- I know this. It is a very saturated market- but that's all a part of the challenge- and nothing excites me more. I will be spending my year pursuing my dreams and working hard towards that.

And I also want to travel.

Nothing gets my blood pumping more than travelling! It honestly is what gets me out of bed in the mornings. Travelling is all I have ever wanted to do. 
Why am I in my later twenties with no established career? Because I hadn't yet found my path, I always had no clue what I wanted to do- all I knew is that I wanted to travel.
I was floating through life with one idea after the other, thinking I could do this, I could do that. I have two qualifications and am half way through another that I now no longer wish to pursue... Nothing stuck, I wasn't passionate about anything else.
I thought once I had travelled and seen the world- maybe then I would actually figure out what I will do for the rest of my life...

That didn't happen- all that made me do was want to travel more!
Eventually I came upon the realisation that travel blogging is my calling. I love writing and I am really enjoying blogging- and I would get to do my favourite thing in the whole world- dun dun dun- travel!
Right, that's enough about me and my career aspirations for now- here are my travel goals for the year:

My big 2017 Travel Goals

⬜  See more of Australia in my final year living here: Sydney, Adelaide, Tasmania.

⬜  Join
my best friends in Bali for one of their milestone birthdays!

⬜  Visit at least three new countries I have never been to before.

⬜  Visit a new continent I have never been to before.

⬜  Work and volunteer overseas for one month.

I only have five travel goals- but they are big ones! In fact- they are huge! But I do truly believe I can achieve them all.
They each have sub-goals branching off them which I will keep to myself. But they are along the lines of: doing things out of my comfort zone, growing as a person, have meaningful experiences, give back and help others, make new friends, learn about more cultures and lifestyles, achieve something to be proud of, see more, do more, live.

New year; new opportunities

What an amazing year to look forward to! I am positively quivering with excitement just thinking about it.
I will of course keep updating my blog, so I hope you will join me this year as I try my best to conquer each challenge and goal!
Do you have travel goals of your own for 2017? Let me know in the comments- I'd love to read about them. 

Thanks for reading and here's to a great year!

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Year round-up & 2017 Travel blog goals!

This year- as usual, has flown by in the blink of an eye and boy has it been a good one!
(Aside from all of the celebrity deaths- let's not even go there).
I thought it would be a nice way to finish up by having a look through and doing a quick summary of my year and some of the things I got up to.

As well as reading this blog post I made a YouTube video of my 2016 extras and highlights which you can watch here if you're interested:

I lived in the beautiful Gold Coast, Australia for a year. I got a FitBit and started working out for the first time in my life and loved it!
I saw Jimmy Carr the British comedian live in Brisbane in January and the Indiana Jones live performance by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in February.

Koala kisses in Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast

I started this blog, I started my YouTube channel. I flew to New Zealand to spend Easter with my family in Coromandel and also visited my friends in Wellington and went to my favourite Kiwi music festival Homegrown.

Coromandel, New Zealand

Kumara chips at the beach!

I got a new S7 phone which was a million times better than my old phone!
I became more interested in beauty, makeup and skincare.
I travelled to Melbourne for the first time in May for a wonderful long weekend there.

Melbourne, Australia

Checking out the street art on Hosier Lane

I went to a huge State of Origin game in Brisbane. I read more books this year.

Gareth and I flew to Bali for the second time for a 10 night getaway in July where I also got my sixth tattoo.

Beautiful water temple in Bali

In August I saw Professor Brian Cox live in Brisbane and went on an incredible Humpback whale watching cruise on the Gold Coast.

A humpback and her baby calf!

I met Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth at the Thor Ragnarok film set in Brisbane with my sister.

In September I met the Kiwi legend Karl Urban at Comic Con and got a photograph with him which he later signed.

I went to Brisbane Oktoberfest and had VIP tickets to the Warner Brothers Movie World Fright Nights Halloween event which was so fun.

Just an excuse to dress up in my dirndl again!

I also spent the year planning and organising my wedding which in November we flew to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands for and I got to marry my best friend in tropical paradise!

Beautiful view from our room in Rarotonga!

My best friends and I on my hens cruise

Now married!

In December we spent an incredible two weeks in Vietnam, travelling to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Halong Bay which was a bucket list dream come true!

Street vendors in Hanoi

Having a wonderful honeymoon in Halong Bay!

On our way back we stayed in Brisbane for Cirque du Soleil- the most incredible show I've ever seen and then arrived back home just in time for Christmas!
My Christmas was wonderful- I always have a great time because Gareth and I always spoil each other and so do my family- we had a big group Skype call, and I just love the food, Christmas movies and having fun with loved ones.

Our tree!

Some of my amazing presents - Merry Geekmas!

This year even though I lived overseas I still got to spend time with my family and friends whether that was in New Zealand in March, them visiting me here, or meeting up with them for my wedding in Rarotonga- so I feel incredibly lucky for that indeed.

Cocktails with my sisters in Raro!

Although I only started this year 2016 has already brought some awesome blogging and social networking opportunities as well. I joined with Fat Joe, a publishing network for my first proper paid blogging work.
I entered and won my first blogging competition for Dream World Travel.
I became a Social Soup ambassador and have the opportunity to be sent and promote products of my choosing through my Instagram account- the most notable of which is my first free hotel stay!
I also signed with BBTV which is the #1 YouTube partnership network in the world.
I am in no way successful yet in what I do but I feel like I have my foot in the door and that I'm hopefully heading in the right direction.
In all, it has been a very busy but amazing year, but as always the prospect of a fresh new year is always so exciting to me.

Jumping for joy at Surfer's Beach

I have brand new goals and bigger and better dreams than ever before; and the majority of them are for this travel blog.
I have so much to write about and I want to expand my categories and fill all of them with the best information. I want to write more about my experiences, how travelling has changed my life, about food and best places to eat, more hotel and tour reviews.
I wish to grow and get my name out there as a fantastic source of travel information.
This year I have reached over 33,000 page views and next year I want to more than triple that!
I would love to start working with more companies and write reviews for them and become known as a professional travel blogger.
Nothing excites me more than travelling and to make a career out of that is my ultimate dream. So bring on 2017 to continue making that come true!

This is my final post for the year so I'm signing off here! It's also my 50th blog post which I thought was a good round number to finish up the year with.
In the New Year I will be continuing parts two and three of my Vietnam travel diaries and plenty more as well including hotel reviews, travel tips and best places to eat.
I also have my three Vietnam videos which I'm currently working on the first one now for YouTube.
I will be a very busy lady in January as I'm also moving and setting up in a whole new house and state. We are moving and driving down to Canberra- the capital of Australia which is about 1200 km's away but we are stopping twice overnight along the way as we will have our cat with us who does not like car rides!
We are stopping in Ballina and Port Macquarie which are both on the coast in New South Wales so it will be nice to have some breaks on the big road trip and visit some new places in Australia as well.

Finally, a big thank you to all of my readers- I have enjoyed so much blogging this year and it has become such a passion of mine. Your support means the world to me so thanks to my loyal readers and those just stopping by and I hope to see you again in 2017.

Happy New Year and best wishes for a safe, happy and fun holiday!

30 Countries before I’m 30

I only recently heard this was a thing- and I am more than excited to put my hand up for this challenge!
It might not seem like such a big goal to some- but I only started travelling when I was well into my twenties and lets just say, time's-a-ticking!
I currently have been to 22 countries already, and by the end of the year it will be 24.
From 2017 I will have less than two years to complete this new challenge that I am now partaking in-- 30 countries before I'm 30!

It will be quite a task (albeit a fun one), because finances are rather limited at the moment and there's not a whole lot of time to save for six new countries in such a short amount of time.
Do you think I can do it?
This time a year ago I wouldn't have thought so, but starting my travel blog this year has been so amazing and I am really hoping it will lead to some (travel-related) opportunities!
A girl can dream right?

Below are the places I can already cross off my list. They're in order with the year above from the first time I visited (I have been back to several of these countries since).

1. New Zealand (Born in!) I have pretty much travelled the whole country except for the very bottom including Invercargill and Stewart island.

2. Australia- NZ's neighbour, this was my first overseas experience. (Currently living in).

3. Singapore- A brief stopover on the way to Thailand.
4. Thailand- 3 wonderful weeks were spent travelling around the country.

5. England- I fell in love with London in an instant.
6. France- And then I fell in love with Paris!
7. Germany- Berlin was on a whole new level of cool. I've since lived in Germany.
8. Scotland- Cold and rainy but Edinburgh was a magical city to visit.

9. UAE- A short stopover on my way back to Europe!
10. Switzerland- A beautiful country next door to where I lived for 6 months.
11. Italy- I got engaged in Rome! I loved every single place I went to.
12. Vatican City- Really enjoyed my day here. The Sistine Chapel was magnificent!
13. Austria- My time in Vienna was awesome! The start of my solo travels.
14. Hungary- My first taste of Eastern Europe, Budapest was unexpected.
15. Slovakia- I drove from the bottom of the country right to the top!
16. Poland- Krakow is one of my new favourite cities in the whole world.
17. Czech Republic- Prague was so beautiful and I loved learning the history.
18. Ireland- Dublin! I had the best time here with my friends drinking Guinness!
19. Spain- I visited a few lovely Spanish towns but Barcelona was my favourite.
20. Greece- I had an epic couple of weeks here including cruising the Greek Islands.
21. Turkey- My time here wasn't the best but I enjoyed the food and drink.
22. Indonesia- I loved visiting Bali and even went back again this year!

Coming soon/booked for later this year:

23. Cook Islands- I'm getting married here in tropical paradise!
24. Vietnam- This is our honeymoon destination, it will be a great adventure.

My goal of six new countries I wish to tick off and travel to before I'm 30!

25. Samoa- An island close to New Zealand, Samoa would be a great tropical getaway.
26. USA- New York, Las Vegas, Harry Potter World... the list of places is long!
27. Canada- Snow mountains, moose and maple syrup!
28. Mexico- Tacos, tequila and white sandy beaches? Yes please.
29. Peru- One of my biggest dreams is to trek the Andes and see Machu Picchu.
30. Japan- I have always wanted to go here- it would be such a different experience!

I am so grateful for every single one of my travel experiences and I am so excited for the future to see as much of the world as I possibly can.
There are 195 countries in the world and I know I am only just beginning to scratch the surface! But rather than this daunting me I find it incredibly exhilarating.

Do you have a list like this? What places are you wanting to cross off? Let me know in the comments and thanks so much for reading!

Pin it! :)

My Ultimate Bucket List

I have always had an informal 'Bucket List' of ideas floating around in my head- but I hadn't got around to writing it down before now.
Putting everything to words on my blog I thought would be the perfect way to keep me accountable, and to see as well those big things that I have already achieved so far.
I enjoyed writing this list, and the majority as no surprise turned out to mostly be travel related- as that is absolutely my biggest passion in life.
This shows just how much more of the world I have yet to see and look forward to (which is so exciting!). I counted just for fun when I had finished and I have 101 things on my list!
Here goes, in no particular order:

Visit and explore New York
Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower
Visit the Taj Mahal
See the pyramids in Egypt
Ride a gondola in Venice 
See The Pretty Reckless live in concert
Meet Taylor Momsen
Live in a foreign country 
Do volunteer work
Teach in a foreign country
Go inside the Colosseum in Rome 
Go on a safari in Africa
Go bungee jumping in Queenstown
See the wildlife on Galapagos Islands
Buy a one-way ticket somewhere and don't plan
Visit every continent
See Stonehenge

Go skydiving
Swim with dolphins
See pandas in China
Ride a TukTuk in Bangkok
Snowboard overseas
Gamble in Las Vegas
Visit the Acropolis in Athens
Go white water rafting
Learn how to surf
See Rammstein live in concert
Meet Rammstein
Visit Halong Bay in Vietnam
Do the Inca Trail
Hold a snake 
Go to Disney Land
Ride a jet ski
Go to a floating lantern festival
Do the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London 
Go to Harry Potter World in Florida
See Harry Potter: The Cursed Child play in London
See Tool live in concert 
Helicopter over the Grand Canyon
See Manchester United play at Old Trafford
Have a tattoo done abroad 
See the ruins of Pompeii 
Climb up to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro
See a bear, moose and beaver in Canada
Go zip-lining
Go to Oktoberfest in Munich 

See the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Enjoy the delights of Amsterdam
Go parasailing 
Tour the Vatican 
Ride a camel
Visit Croatia
Have a campfire on the beach
See Buckingham Palace & Big Ben 
Get lei'd in Hawaii
Drink tequila and eat tacos in Mexico
Ride in a limousine 
Spend a night in a castle
Fly First Class
Try snails in France 
Walk the Great Wall of China
Stomp grapes at a vineyard
Climb Mt Vesuvius in Naples 
See Mount Fuji in Japan
Visit Morocco
Visit Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany 
See the Northern Lights
Go to a real diner in Southern USA
Speak to foreign locals in their own language 
Sleep in an igloo
See a whale in the wild 
Do the Guinness factory tour in Dublin 

Go to a live All Blacks (rugby) match
'Lean' against the Leaning Tower of Pisa 
Swim in a waterfall
Eat Belgian waffles in Belgium
Meet the cast of Lord of the Rings 
Visit Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow
Visit Niagra Falls
Watch the sunset in Santorini 
Ride a scooter around Rarotonga
See a tornado (from a distance!)
Drink sangria and eat paella in Spain 
Visit The Holy Land in Jerusalem
Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Visit Auschwitz 
Visit the Amazon jungle
Go scuba diving
Tour the Louvre 
Horseback ride on the beach
Go to Stewart Island, NZ
Visit Hobbiton in Matamata 
See a polar bear in the wild
Travel solo 
Snorkle the Great Barrier Reef
Visit an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai 

Try haggis in Scotland 
Hold a tarantula
See the Blue Mountains in Australia 
Holiday in the Maldives
Run a half marathon
Visit the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona 
Have a snowy Christmas
Be an extra in a movie
Visit Prague Castle 
Eat pizza in Chicago
Visit 'The Beach' in Thailand from the movie
See the remains of the Berlin Wall 
Go on a cruise 
Ride a donkey 
Get married
Have a successful travel blog!
Finish my science degree! (one day...)
Write a book
Visit 30 countries before I'm 30

This list is ongoing and I will keep adding to it and ticking things off when completed!

Thanks for reading, leave me a comment on your thoughts and if you have a big bucket list you're working through yourself- if so- what's on yours? :)

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