Another year is about to come to an end. I am happy to say, that as I predicted in the summary post of last year, I had the best year of my life so far. The entirety of 2018 was spent travelling which I am tremendously grateful for. I visited 19 countries and over 72 cities, towns and villages. Here are some of the many highlights…
Despite things not going to plan, with my tours being cancelled multiple times due to severely bad weather and getting the flu I still managed to have an unforgettable time. I stumbled awkwardly back into hostel life, staying in one of the coolest hostels I’ve ever stayed at. It had free yoga classes and it had a hot tub on the roof, where I watched many free firework shows from! I made lots of awesome new friends at my hostel and went sightseeing with them. I was reminded that things won’t always go my way but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have an amazing time, even if it isn’t how I imagined it would be.
The Golden Circle
After meeting two new friends, Pat and Lewis, I skipped my only tour that wasn’t cancelled to do a road trip to The Golden Circle with them. The landscapes were out of this world and were a joy to photograph. I can’t wait to return to Iceland one day to see more of its natural beauty.
I happily lived off mushroom and cabbage pierogis while in Poland. Yep, that was a highlight of my year. Give me good, simple food and I am beyond happy. I also loved wandering pretty Polish cities like Gdańsk and Krakow off-season.
I visited France for the second time and got a taste of a France that is quite different to Paris. Both of these destinations left a strong impression on me because of their relaxed vibes, friendly local people and understated charm.
Annecy totally embodies the word ‘enchanting’. From the alluring Lake Annecy to the mountains that tower over it and that delightful medieval old town… I won’t be forgetting this place anytime soon. Sipping delicious rosé, having picnics and making creative budget-friendly multi-course meals with my friend Sara will always be fond memories to me.
Strasbourg isn’t just a pretty face, to me, it has soul. Really! And as a self-proclaimed foodie, Strasbourg really pulled the right strings for me. I ate some of the most amazing desserts of my life in the form of beignets filled with chocolate hazelnut creme from Kretz Salon De The Patisserie and incredible pralines from Jeff De Bruges. I was delighted by the casual conversations I had with many strangers. Lovely place and lovely people!
I had seen the film ‘A Night Train to Lisbon’ as a starry-eyed teenager (and I rewatched it while in Lisbon!) and had some romantic ideas about Lisbon. But there is no way I could’ve anticipated the adventures I was to have and how my destiny would unfold because of them.
I met a bar-owner from Serbia called Kristian who was walking home from work as I stepped out for an early morning photography session. I ended up meeting a lot of his friends, including my friend Slobo, we also ended up doing a lot of photography together. This chance meeting caused a strange chain of events that led me to me meeting my boyfriend, Marko, who happened to be from the same city as Slobo.
I spent a few weeks with my friend Kathi and her fiance Dario in a small village not far from Münster. I met Kathi while she travelled around Australia when I toured Tasmania for my birthday last year. We had some awesome chilled out times and it was really cool to see her again because I felt that we really clicked.
My Schengen visa was running out, so I thought I would get out of the Schengen zone for a while. But to where? There were so many options! I thought why not escape to Serbia and stay with my new friend, so I did.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Serbia. The general kindness and easy-going, joyful spirit of the Serbians I came across never went unappreciated. People really looked out for me and as a solo-female traveller that meant a lot to me especially when I came across my fair share of dodgy (non-Serbian) people. I loved visiting both Belgrade (I spent nearly 4 weeks there) and Tara. I also loved the vegetarian and health food available in Belgrade, I ate well!
Croatia really surprised me and ended up being of my favourite countries that I visited this year. I was also really impressed that Croatian McDonalds has a vegetarian ‘chicken’ wrap (it’s the little things…). I loved shooting everywhere I went when in Croatia, the natural wonders, the beautiful old cities, towns and villages, everything!
I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about visiting this place because I was aware of its popularity and that it would be crowded. But Plitvice Lakes is popular for very good reason. These lakes are truly captivating and unlike anything I have ever seen! I had a truly amazing time exploring the lakes with my new friend, Jillian.
In Korčula, I gave myself some much-needed relief from hostel life. I stayed in a room in an older ladies house, with a view of the sea. She fed me Croatian cookies and pie! From my bed I happily watched a storm pass over the sea.
I did photo shoots nearly every day and I LOVED IT! Some of the photos I took ended up being some of my favourite photos of all time! I met a blogging friend, Sophie and we explored together which was awesome. When we hung out, I hitchhiked for the first time (three times in total), we even hitchhiked with nuns! Korčula is one of my favourite places in Croatia, I didn’t want to leave! I will return to this picturesque island one day for sure.
Well, well, well. A friend I met in Belgrade introduced me to his friend to show me around his city, Herceg Novi. I quickly discovered that I was royally screwed (in love). That friend of a friend, Marko, is now my boyfriend. I ended up seeing a lot more of Montenegro than I expected and I live there currently.
I love this beautiful country, the culture, the food, the people. Importantly, I feel at home more than I did in Australia. I’ve made new friends and become part of a family. I am currently learning Montenegrin and just living the good life here. This year I went to my first slava (two in one day, actually) and I am looking forward to observing the Orthodox Christian Christmas early next year. I even helped to hand-rear an abandoned kitten here.
This is the wisest travel move I’ve ever made in my life! Before flying back to Australia, I spent the day in a villa in the countryside, swimming, sleeping and chilling. I really struggle to sleep on planes and sometimes I get sick hours into a flight. I slept so much and relaxed the day before my flight and because of this, I felt so much better during and after a long-haul flight than I ever have! Some people might think it was lazy of me not to sightsee before my flight but I am guessing those people have never flown for over 20 hours before.
I actually booked a flight back to Australia before I met Marko, so we reluctantly parted ways. I spent 3 months with my family over the winter. My family and I explored more of Victoria together and I did some trips by myself.
Epic European Road Trip
Before I left Marko in Montenegro, he asked me if I wanted to do a road trip with him, driving from Montenegro, around the Croatian coast to Italy, driving mostly along the coast. Of course, I said yes. The following highlights are from that adventure.
Croatia – Round 2
Driving along the Croatian coast was like a dream, the endless spellbinding views didn’t disappoint. We took breaks, pulling out our camping chairs and taking in the views. We watched so many beautiful sunsets!
The diversity in landscapes along with the gorgeous villages ensured that we never got bored, even with hours and hours of driving. My favourite places that we stopped at include Omiš and Primošten.
One of our standout highlights of this trip was staying in a meticulously restored estate from the 1800s in a small Slovenian Village. Our hosts were incredible, treating us to platters of local delicacies and local liqueur and wine. It was simply a beautiful place to be.
Gargano National Park
Spending 3 weeks in Gargano was one of the most memorable aspects of our trip to Italy. We spent 3 weeks eating our way around the National park, exploring forests, beaches, towns and photographing our journey. In Gargano, Marko and I took so many photos that I love!
We particularly loved the cheese we bought straight from the farmer and regional pastries from a tiny patisserie in Vico del Gargano, those pastries blew my mind. Marko chatted casually in Italian to many strangers, people were refreshingly welcoming in Gargano.
We spent a lot of time sitting in the last bits of the summer sun, preparing dinner for each other (I perfected my pasta sauce recipe), binge-watching ‘Into the Badlands’ and watching sunsets. Here, I felt at peace with the world.
A big food highlight was eating Graffe, an Italian pastry filled with a cream of your choice in Naples, from Zio Savino Qualità. We ate a lot of them! They reminded us both of how doughnuts used to taste (in Australia and Montenegro, respectively). They were heavenly! Oh and this place is a hot spot for locals, so if you want to eat what the locals eat do yourself a favour and visit one of Zio Savino’s pastry shops.
Pompeii was definitely one of the coolest places I visited this year. To wander throughout such a well-preserved ancient place, learning more about their society and seeing the casts of bodies was truly fascinating! Marko and I were so amazed by Pompeii!
I loved watching ‘The Lizzie Mcguire Movie’ the day before visiting Rome, it is a lot funnier than I remembered lol. Marko and I got up at ungodly hour o’clock to get to Rome from the countryside one morning. Due to us arriving so early the streets were dead, we drove all around Rome, in parts that are normally impossible to access. It was pure magic! We visited the Trevi fountain when only 10 or so people were there.
Staying in a medieval castle
Oh, and our accommodation that we had before we went to Rome was in a medieval castle with walls made from stone. Our host bought us homemade chocolate cake and we explored the surrounding area which was full of medieval towns, it was really chilled out.
Marko studied in Siena so he acted as my tour guide, it was nice to walk down memory lane with him.
I met one of Marko’s childhood friends, Dušan and we really got along. We basically spent a few days eating awesome street food and being total idiots, it was fun!
We stayed in a small, little-known town and had the most amazing culinary experience that we had in Italy, easily my best dining experience of the year. I will be sharing more about this in a future blog post.
I had been dreaming of The Dolomites since I discovered their existence. I love mountainous regions of the world, they are extraordinarily beautiful to me. The Dolomites are really what dreams are made of, they are begging to be explored and photographed! I also loved that German was the spoken in a lot of this region of Italy as I could actually speak for myself for once (Marko had been speaking Italian on my behalf). Unfortunately, our adventures were cut short due to some car problems and a deadly flood. I will return one day!
Last but not least, we visited San Marino during our road trip. San Marino happened to be the 20th country that I visited, so I was particularly excited to be there. We stayed in a super extravagant accommodation which had painted ceilings, we celebrated by drinking some liqueur we bought in Slovenia and eating at a nice restaurant. It was a really pretty country, with mountainous and hilly landscapes and it had a charming old town. My blog post about San Marino was also shared by the actual country of San Marino, this was a real honour!
A reflection on a whole year of travel
I fantasised about doing this and I’ve done it. To me, it is a cool personal accomplishment, for sure. I feel like from a full year of travelling, I have really narrowed down what type of travel experiences interest me and enrich my life. This year I feel like I have grown as an individual, a traveller, a photographer, a writer and a blogger (in technical aspects).
I hope reading about some of my highlights of the year, gives you some ideas for your future travels! Particularly, I feel the need to highlight how taken I am by the Balkans. That was totally unexpected. I am looking forward to sharing more from this region with you.
I really visited some fantastic destinations, spent quality time with my family, met some wonderful people, I ate some of the best food of my life and I fell in love. 2018 will go down in my personal history book as a year I will fondly remember for the rest of my life.
Thank you for reading!
Thank you for following my adventures this year! I want to thank the people who have encouraged me, given me feedback and helped me with my blog. Special thanks to Marko for helping me re-design my blog, shooting some gorgeous pictures of me and listening to my inane rants relating to blogging.
I’ve got some direction for what I would like to write about in the future, about some travel-related topics that I am passionate about. Next year, I aim to get outside of my comfort zone in every aspect of my life and pursue reaching my full potential. I am hoping this will be evident in my content.
Let me know in the comments section…
Please let me know if you plan to visit any of the destinations I mentioned in this blog post or if you have visited them before.
Have a Happy New Year,