WHAT A YEAR IT HAS BEEN: HIGHLIGHTS OF 2015

2015 has come and its gone. This time of year I always get reflective on the year that was and think back about the New Years resolutions I started the year with and if I actually fulfilled any.

Truth be told, on my actual resolution list was eating right and doing a lot more exercise. Travel wise, it was to slow down and immerse myself with everyday living in a different country but still manage to get some new countries under my belt. So did I achieve my initial resolutions? Not the one with completing seven minutes of intense workouts daily that’s for sure!

But when I look back on what I have done in 2015, the goals I have had for many years were achieved. Its something to be proud about sure and it is about time. Tick!

Here I share with you my highlights of 2015.

A Whole New World

The first country I lived aboard was a place I only knew from watching Eurovision (a guilty pleasure of mine). That country being Estonia – my beautiful escape.

People often ask ‘Estonia? How did you end up there?’ Good question. I’m still not sure but that is what makes me love that part of 2015 moreso – that move came out of nowhere.  For me, it was completely left field. For three months, I got to live in the most enchanting city of Europe. Debatable perhaps but when you do get to walk through a medieval city centre everyday, inspired by the fairytale architecture and living life by the sea, I’m sure you will feel like you are in a dream and living in a fairytale existence.

I arrived in the winter time with Tallinn covered in a blanket of snow. I lived in one of the most expensive parts of Tallinn, Kadriorg in an old house that had a big chimney-like fire place bang in the middle of my bedroom. I felt princess-like at first because I looked at the fireplace and thought to myself  ‘A fire? I need to start a fire? Oh I have never!’ If I didn’t start the fire during the day or night everyday, my room would have been comparable to that of an igloo. I was possibly close to having icicles growing off my face during the night. But as time went on and with help from the guys I lived with, I aced starting fires. When a fire starts to burn!

For three months, I worked at a hostel and had the best time. Met so many people, had so many laughs, baked a lot of bread and lapped up the simple life I was living. I got kicks going out on morning jogs and running past a palace in the beautiful Kadriorg Park. Most nights I was out of the house and either at the hostel bar, kicking back with a tea at my favorite hipster cafe joint in the centre or working night shift at the hostel which also proved to be an interesting and fun experience to say the least.

Estonia really opened by eyes and I would be forever grateful for the experiences I had there. Most of all, it allowed me to discover and rediscover a passion – writing and vintage shopping.

Off to Where Santa Lives

I didn’t need sugar. I was on a high literally. Finnish Lapland has got to be one of the most beautiful places in Earth I have ever been too. Dog sledging, crossing the boarder into Norway and swimming in the Arctic Ocean, joining in on a naked Finnish sauna with old men (interesting experience there), seeing the sky dance with the surreal Northern Lights and skiing from the top of the world – the week was mental but in a good way. The best part also was the fact I got to share it with amazing people and made lifelong friends from it. Oh, and Santa, he also made an appearance!

Euro Trip

Road tripping Europe was one hell of an unexpected adventure firmly placed on fast forward mode. From Stockholm right through to Barcelona in just over a week was mental. I joined my friend on her six week road tripping adventure around Europe. My friend had needed to be at Frankfurt by a particular date so we smashed through Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Mannheim (near Frankfurt) within days then off to Southern France before ending up in Barcelona. I continued onto Paris, Anthrewp and Amsterdam before doing a very long, draining and quite possibly the worst journey of my life  due to weather conditions, delays and general lack of sleep – Amsterdam to London by bus. Never overnight bussing that leg again!

Moving to the Motherland

It has been on my list of things to do for many years! Move to the big smoke! London is a city that really does encompass everything and why leave when you have multiple worlds literally at your doorstep. Despite its lack of city centre, London is made up of a hybrid of cultural pockets that really does showcase London being the multicultural,historical and social juggernaugt it is.

London is always pulsating and there is always something going on. Theatre anyone? Hip Hop karaoke? Watching a movie in a hot tub? Sure it seems as though anything goes!

My time in this one-of-a-kind city has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ride. Jobs, ending of relationships and lack of belonging to the city has been some of the things I have faced and fought through. I have been told by many that London has this ability to chew you and spit you out but it is also this amazing place where dreams can be born. I have also been told by many expats that it is a struggle in the first few months of being in London as it is simply overwhelming. I have certainly felt this way but as time goes on, I have come to appreciate the city and its offerings moreso. It really is a place of endless possibilities.

Hello Family – It Has Been a While

It had been well over a year since I saw my sister and what better place to reunite than in Turkey! For over two weeks we lapped up the family reunion together by the beach in Olympos where I was lucky enough to go diving there (my other great love), go high in the skies on a hot air balloon ride in the majestic Cappadocia and got to see the many colours and taste the many flavours of Istanbul.

Turkey (otherwise known as ‘Gobble Gobble Land’ in my books) was one of those countries that really blew me way. Sure I have not seen the country inside and out but from the places that we explored, they were all so different from one an other and I certainly have unfinished business left with this gem of country that carries both the traits of Asian and European ways of life.

The Unexpected Festival

Traveling from Turkey via Berlin back to London, I had heard  from a friend that was working at a festival in Belgium and invited me to tag along. Not just any festival, it was one of Belgium’s finest – Pukkelpop!

So to keep calm and carry on to London or to detour via Belgium back to London and dance the weekend away? These days I take it as it comes so it was no brainer, a music festival hands down! By the end of the weekend, I would have sore legs from all the dancing that there was to be had but it was well worth it!

The festival was held in Hasselt, just an hour outside of Brussels. I had looked into accommodation but it was all booked out. That or cough up 200 Euros a night and on my tight traveling budget, it is not really an option. So I winged it. I had left my suitcase in Brussels with a friend and took an overnight bag to Hasselt. Come what may.

In Hasselt, I sat in a small yet bustling cafe and spoke to the owners about accommodation options in town. They told me they would contact their friends who have rooms on AirBnb. Little did I know they were also asking customers in their native tongue (Flemish) for me until they told me they had found someone to host me. I could not believe it. For both parties presenting such random acts of kindness. Strangers looking for a place for me to stay and a stranger willing to host me in her house with her two boys, I was seriously touched. So for a few days, I was welcomed into a Belgie house and was treated to the kind and generous hospitality of my host.

When the accommodation hook up happened at the cafe, I had also just met these two American guys working for an artist playing at the event. We had been speaking previously before I was told that the owners of the cafe found me a place to crash for a few days. They had met my host the same time as I. They also made conversation with my new found host who wanted to attend the event but couldn’t due to it being expensive to go and to take her two sons. With the whole idea of paying it forward, they offered her free tickets to the event. Not just for her but for her sons also. It was so wonderful. My thoughts on the whole situation is filled with corny happy thoughts as it just seemed to be the stuff of movies, the perfect circumstances and people just being so kind to one an other. I was seriously moved by it all.

The festival itself was one of the best music festivals I have ever been to. The crowd was kind and just wanting to have a great time. It was well organized and the people I met there were ever so lovely. The line up was fantastic. My music highlights included Tame Impala, Mark Ronson, Beatsteaks, James Blake, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park (ah to bring out the teenager in me).

For the most part of the festival, I got to hang out in the VIP area and got to catch up with other friends who I wasn’t aware that were working at the festival also. And who else did I bump into? The cafe owners! I ended up watching a set with them as one of their family members played in a popular Belgium band who had recently reunited just to play a once off reunion gig at the festival.

It was through their gestures and my friends’ invite to the festival that I had the best unplanned weekend of this entire trip. A pumping music festival, catching up with old friends, making new friends and just seeing humanity at its best, what more could top off that? It still makes me smile thinking about it.

That was 2015. Lets bring the new adventures, joys and unexpected happenings on 2016.