Inspired by the Wanderful Wednesday blog link-up, this week I’ll be recapping the past year of travel. It seemed to me that since moving to Aberdeen we didn’t do all that much traveling. Compared to Paris flights from Aberdeen are more expensive, and there isn’t as many options compared to a hub like Paris. Long gone are the days we can hop on a flight to Spain or Portugal for a long weekend for under 100 euros. Also, David has less vacation time here and with my full-time Masters taking up a lot of time, we felt like we didn’t really go anywhere. But all it takes is this retrospective look to realize, we did make the most of the year and got to see some great places. Our type of travel also changed. There were more week-long trips versus short weekend getaways. We discovered more of Scotland and immediate surroundings. So while we didn’t get to too many new countries, we did go back to some old favourites and whenever we could, we chased the sunshine.
January: South African Safari
I’ve already blogged extensively about our African safari in Madikwe Reserve. A once-in-a-lifetime experience that I hope will actually be more than once in a lifetime. We loved every minute of it. In the short 5 days, we got to see the Big 5, plenty of other wild animals, and an incredible kill by the African painted dogs (wild dogs). I would recommend it to anyone! And if you can’t quite make it on safari (yet!), we recently found the perfect alternative, Safari Live on YouTube. And of course, experience it through our video below.
January: Cape Town
Right after our safari, we spent a few days in Cape Town. It wasn’t our first time there as we had spent a week exploring Cape Town and surrounding areas in 2014. With the limited time we had, we just soaked up the sun on the beaches, did a day trip to the Cape of Good Hope, visited the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens and wandered through the Neighbourgood Market in the Old Biscuit Mill. It was a relaxing way to end an exhiliarting holiday before returning to the Scottish winter.
One of the advantages of living in Aberdeen are the direct flights to Paris. A year and a half later, we will miss living in Paris, so we’ve gotten our Paris-fix a few times since moving away. And in our minds, it’s always a great time to visit Paris. Even in February. The short stay included visiting some of our favourite places, plus some new ones, visiting old friends and saying goodbye to those who were moving away. Paris is such a transient city and every time we go back, there are less familiar faces there.
May: Isle of Skye and NC500
So there was quite a “dry spell” in the early months of the year, mainly due to my Masters program and my not wanting to miss class. So our next big trip came in May once I finished 2nd semester and had a break before starting my dissertation. We took to the road and stayed on land to discover the west coast of Scotland and the infamous North Coast 500 route. With our gear in the truck and a flexible itinerary, we spent 7 nights camping. Some spots had incredible views! And most shocking of all, it didn’t rain! If someone had told us they spent a week in Scotland and didn’t see rain, we would have never believed them. To our amazement, the weather gods were kind to us and Scotland revealed it’s true beauty. Now that’s not a complete truth, because there was a spot of rain overnight one time that didn’t even wake us up so really that doesn’t count. And, at the end of our trip, when we reached John O’Groats (effectively back on the east coast), it was pretty darn miserable. Instead of camping our last night, we opted for a guesthouse and then cut our trip short by a day and just went straight home. That was a small price to pay for the glorious sunshine for the 7 days prior.
More on this trip in upcoming blog posts. Of course, it’s too much to share here. But our main takeaway was this: after living in Aberdeen and wondering what the hype about Scotland was all about, we saw it for ourselves. We now truly appreciate how beautiful Scotland is.
May: Porto Girls’ Trip
One of our friends was about to repatriate back to Canada so before she left, she fulfilled one of her bucket list items: visit Porto, Portugal. And there’s no better way to do it than with five other friends. I had been to Porto a few times before, so I took this opportunity to see it through the eyes of those who had never been before. I served as translator and guide as well. We ate good food, walked around the city, visited the magical Douro Valley, and shared a number of laughs. It made me realize girls trips are good for the soul and I should do more of them. If you’re curious about what exactly we got up to, my friend Lauren blogged about it on her blog, Hotdogs to Haggis.
I wasn’t sure if this was even worth adding. David was down in London for work and it just so happened that I (finally!) got tickets to be in the Graham Norton Show audience. I’ve been watching his show since we lived in Edmonton and been trying to get tickets since we moved to Europe. During the day while David was at work I explored London. I walked around aimlessly because you can easily do that in such a beautiful, interesting city. I went to the studios in mid-afternoon and waited for hours in line. Luckily, I met a nice couple and we chatted away waiting for the time to pass. David didn’t get off work in time, so he missed the show completely. Even if you have tickets, if you’re not in line, then you’re out of luck. I, of course, went inside to watch anyway! The guests that evening were Tom Cruise and Zac Efron (oh la la!) and as usual, it was a hilarious show. It’s always interesting to see a bit of the behind-the-scenes and in between takes of a show you love. And I’d go again! Really check him out – he’s unlike any other late night talk show. I love his format which has all the guests on at once allowing them to interact with each other and not just the host. And usually, there is a British comedian as well to really amp up the hilarity. You can watch clips on the Graham Norton Facebook Page.
June: Paris (again!)
It seemed we were on a 6-month rotation with trips to Paris (meaning by now we are well overdue!). This time, we couldn’t pass up the chance to go back to the famous Diner en Blanc which we were lucky to attend in 2015 and 2016. We arrived early Thursday morning, got ourselves sorted with food and supplies and picnicked the night away in front of Hotel de Ville. As usual, it was magical. And it was wonderful to be reunited with friends for such a fun evening.
It was a scorcher the rest of the weekend. I miss those sunny, hot days, even when the weather was stifling. The highlight, however, was not Diner en Blanc but ziplining from the Eiffel Tower! The Roland Garros tournament was on and there was a fan experience zone set up at the Eiffel Tower. On the last day of the contest and just hours before our flight back to Aberdeen, I feverishly tweeted for a spot on the zip line. I screamed out loud when I saw my name appear on the screen.
Now, this was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Traveling up to the 2nd floor of the Eiffel tower, suiting up in a harness and hanging on as I glided above the picnickers on Champ de Mars down below. A unique view over Paris. It was over too fast! And what a ride! And a big thank you to David who waited patiently for me… I only wish he got the chance to do it as well.
July: Back Home to Canada
Since moving to Scotland, our travels usually take us to sunny, warm weather. Since it was 1.5 years since our last visit to Canada, we figured another visit was due. And this time might as well go in the summer (since summer in Aberdeen isn’t much to write home about). For just over two weeks, we split our trip between Victoria, Lake Okanagan and, Mississauga ensuring that each side of the family got equal time. Again, time just seemed too short and we didn’t get to see and visit with all the friends and family we would have like to. It’s a hard balance when you go back home and I know expats always struggle with this one. On one hand, it’s our holiday and we don’t want to run ragged visiting every single person, barely having an actual restful holiday. However, since we don’t go back often, it can be years before spending time with some people. We did what we could and made some wonderful shared memories with family and friends alike. As much as I love Canada and love the people there, I’m not particularly homesick and don’t see us returning anytime soon. For now, our trips back home and family visits to Scotland are just fine for us right now.
Another dry spell over the summer with respect to travel because I was pretty much homebound working on my dissertation project. Once it was over and handed in, we boarded a plane to Rhodes for our last bit of sunshine of the summer. David was keen to hone his kiteboarding skills so we stayed near the beach with a kite centre. During the day before the wind picked up, we explored the island which was easy to get around. I did a lot of reading and suntanning. Exactly what I needed to celebrate the end of my Masters. We ate a lot of good food and tried (albeit aimlessly) to run it all off. Overall, it was a great one-week trip to cap off the summer More on this in a future blog post.
November: Glamping in Loch Lomond
I’ve always wanted to go on a glamping weekend and Scotland has a number of spots where you can do that. The problem is they are usually all booked up far in advance during the summer months. So why not November?! Afterall, it doesn’t get that cold here. But it does rain. So while the weekend was a little wet, it was still nice to get away from the city, to a beautiful national park and spend some time in the woods.
Well, we started the year with an unforgettable trip and ended it with an equally fabulous holiday. This will also be the subject of future blogposts because I can’t wait to share the beauty and wonder of the country of Oman. We spent eight nights wild camping in some of the most picturesque landscapes. We spent time at the coast, Christmas Eve in the desert, some days up in the mountains, a day of canyoning, a lot of wadi bashing and then two nights in Muscat. I can’t stop gushing about it! Again, we chased the sun and warmth for our winter holidays and we were nicely rewarded with more than just sunshine, but good food, culture, architecture and memories. Oman is a destination I highly recommend for so many reasons. But more on that later… for now, here’s a final video that recaps the end of 2017.
Hope you enjoyed my travel recap. I can’t help but look through the list and think about how grateful we are for the all that we saw and did this year. Some of those months where we didn’t go anywhere truly felt pretty miserable. We’ve gotten so used to traveling that we noticed it when a long period of time went by without hopping on a plane or in a car to get away from the city. To remedy that, we are trying to take more days trips and getting out into the country a little more. Since we’re here in Scotland, we might as well get to truly know all it’s hidden gems.
In writing this post, I also couldn’t help but think that I’ve only highlighted the good. In general, people tend to curate their life online and I know I do it as well. Honestly, some of these trips were taken because we really needed to get away from daily life. Our 2017 wasn’t exactly the best year on record… there were some hardships and tough times and often a holiday was needed to just escape. Not a solution, but a nice distraction. What these pictures and videos don’t show were some of the tears, frustrations, and annoyances with people and life in general. But that’s how it goes, isn’t it? As wonderful as all our travel has been this past year, I can sit here and appreciate both the good and the bad without having to dwell on the bad. We can only hope 2018 will be better, in all aspects of life and we’ll work hard to make it that way.
In the past, we’d usually have a number of trips lined up for the upcoming year and so far, there isn’t much on the horizon. I’ll be in the Hague for the Families in Global Transition conference in March and then we’re hoping to make a group sailing trip happen in Greece. Perhaps a girls trip to London. David will want to go somewhere to kitesurf again. Planning is still in progress but I’m sure whatever we do, we’ll make the most of it and I’ll be sure to share it in real time on my Instagram stories and soon after through blog posts.
So I wish you a 2018 full of travel and adventure! I can’t believe we’re already one month in! Have you already taken your first trip of 2018??