Best Travel Moments of 2019

Efia swinging in the jungle

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Blink and you’ll miss them.

That’s the only way I can describe my best travel moments of 2019. Even writing this blog post as the memories came flooding back, I realised just how many had been tucked away in lesser accessed corners of my brain. 

This isn’t to say I’m not grateful, or that these experiences didn’t matter to me. On the contrary, I can’t quite believe I’m saying this, but there were SO many blissful moments that it’s been hard to keep track.

So if you take one thing away from this post please decide to track your own best moments. Don’t let them disappear into the crevices. Keep them up top where they belong.

Seeing turtles in Hawaii

At the beginning of 2019, I travelled to Hawaii to celebrate the new year. On one particular day, we’d spent the afternoon sunning it up at the beach before deciding to head back to our hostel. But not before making a stop to hunt for turtles on the way. As we got out of the car, the rain began to pelt down and we immediately began to regret our decision. Until we saw the turtles. 

Although I have to admit – I was initially positive they were large rocks, sure enough, as we got closer we could see that they were a stone’s throw away from tens of sea turtles that had made their homes right there on the edge of the shore.

It was magical.

Sea turtles in Hawaii

 

Pitch music festival

I attended my first music festival (Glastonbury) at age 14 and was absolutely enamoured by everything I saw. But more than just seeing things I’d never seen before – I fell in love with the feeling. The openness, the oneness – it felt like returning home. 12 years on I’ve made it my point to attend at least one festival a year. 

As I’d already been to Rainbow Serpent in Australia a couple of months before I wasn’t really anticipating hitting up another festival. But the day before a friend came through with comped tickets for my friend and I, so a group of us bundled in the car and off to Pitch Music and Arts we went.

On Saturday, as the sun began to set, we sat in the desert, laughing as we stared at the myriad of pinks and violets dancing across the sky. I couldn’t help but think what a beautiful chance occurrence that the four of us had found our way together at that moment.

Pitch Music Festival, dressed as unicorn

 

Kiwi Experience

I’ve been writing on this here piece of internet land on and off since 2012. Although it wasn’t until 2018 that I really decided this was something I wanted to take forward into the next chapter of my life, I always knew I was born to write. What I didn’t realise was just how much sharing my stories and tips with you filled my soul. 

After that discovery, I knew if there was even a sliver of a chance I could make this my career I had to take it. It may seem like your favourite travel influencers spend their days sipping coconuts and finding themselves in some foreign land but real talk behind the scenes of a travel blog is hard fucking work. 

Additionally, as a micro-influencer, you can’t just sit around waiting for opportunities to come your way. You have to go out and get them, all the while acknowledging that a large percentage of that time you’ll spend having revolving doors repeatedly slammed in your face.

Not one part of it is easy or comes for free.

When I pitched myself to work with Kiwi Experience (a New Zealand based hop-on, hop-off bus tour)  honestly I wasn’t sure how it would work out. I could see that all the past bloggers they’d worked with had a significantly larger following than I did (which at the time was less than 1500 on Instagram). Still, I clung to the hope that they’d see I had something unique to offer. As luck would have it – they did.

I spent two weeks travelling around New Zealand with Kiwi Experience and the confidence that I’d built from being accepted by them led to many more successful pitches with tourist boards in New Zealand and Berlin, as well as tens of other companies I’m proud to put my name and my brand behind.

Lake tekapo new zealand south island highlights

 

Fat Tires Food Tour

Talking of companies I’m proud to put my name and brand behind… Last year I also worked with an incredible bike tour company in Berlin – Fat Tire Tours. Although I had a friend to accompany me on one tour, she didn’t see the appeal of doing two.

I’m not sure what really possessed me to do it – but for some reason, I felt drawn to message one of my Twitter followers who I’d seen was based in Berlin. We’d had little interaction up until this point but I just had a feeling she was my type of person.

Luckily she trusted that I wouldn’t kill her and agreed to come with me on a progressive food tour of Berlin. In addition to learning more about the city, I learned more about Kyomi and her writing and what had even led her to Berlin in the first place. 

On the tour itself, we got to go some spots I would have never ventured to on my own. We even got to take a private tour of an iconic church, then upon completing the arduous rooftop climb, were rewarded with sickly sweet Luft shots.

berlin food guide bike tour

 

Sisyphos

Initially planning to visit Berlin on my own, at the last minute I made plans to meet one of my best friends, who was living in another German city.  Upon the recommendation of several locals, we spent our Saturday night in a club called Sisyphos.

I have never been anywhere like it. Once a dog biscuit factory, now essentially a club village – there were numerous bars, dance floors, photo booths and even a cafe and a pizza shop! 

We stumbled in after almost an hour of queuing not really knowing what to expect and had our minds thoroughly blown. One of us might have even met a cute guy too…

 

Going to Coachella

Now if you’re not at least open to all things spiritual and “woo” you might wanna skip this section. In early 2019 I proclaimed to my friends that this would be the year I’d finally make it to Coachella. At this point, I was completely unaware that I’d be spending a month in LA around the EXACT time of the festival. Anyway – I just said it. I put it out there and that was that.

Flash forward to a few months later. I’m camped out at a less than desirable hostel in West Hollywood and it’s all the people in the hostel can talk about. I even heard one girl say that she’d recently bought tickets from Gumtree and she’d be leaving for Coachella the next day. 

Intrigued I asked her how much she’d paid and on hearing something crazy like $500 I toyed with the idea but ultimately decided it was too big an investment for me. I resolved I’d rather spend that money on food and travel.

To mask my disappointment I took myself out to dinner and whilst there got chatting to an LA local. We exchanged Instagram details, although truthfully I didn’t expect to hear from her again. WELL… the next day I did hear from her. A simple comment on an Instagram photo of mine saying… Wanna come to Coachella? 

I privately messaged her to enquire how much she was selling tickets for and I do not kid you this is what she said “Oh no, it won’t cost you anything. You seem like a cool chick so I’d like you to come. I’ve been you when I was younger, travelling and staying in hostels. I really respect it. So if you’d like to come I’ve rented a car, booked an apartment and got a spare ticket. You won’t have to pay for anything. Can you be ready in 12 hours?”

You can read the full story of everything that went down here.

efia Coachella big wheel

 

Partying in Vegas

The older I get, the more I feel my stamina for partying begin to ebb away. I guess partly because my priorities in life have shifted, but also because homegirl CANNOT handle a hangover like she used to. Make the most of your teens I tell ya!

Despite this, I was determined to kick it like the old days on a girls trip to Vegas with my best friend Kajsa. The whole weekend we were fawned over and promised free drinks, food and pretty much anything we could ask for. Between flitting from party to party we’d cram in a few hours sleep before it was up and out again.

Before I went I envisioned finding the whole thing tacky and garish, I was also kinda nervous about the fact I’d never met any of the other girls we were going with. However, all-in-all I don’t think it could have gone any better. We had an amazing time and I’m sure in a few years time when I’ve fully recovered I’ll be back for one more crazy weekend.

Smiling in Las Vegas

 

Attending my best friend’s wedding

Seeing my childhood best friend get married wasn’t just one of the highlights of the year – it was one of the highlights of my life. After graciously accepting the invite to be Maid of Honor I flew back to Scotland to stand by her side. 

The whole thing was such an emotional experience. We’d literally been planning her wedding since before she’d even met her fiance and in fact, it was at my house that they first met. Every year on her birthday, Christmas – whenever – I would message to ask if this was the day she’d finally been proposed to.

Being there for her was like watching both of our dreams come true. Watching her look at him with as much love and wonder as she’d had for him 10 years prior was enough to trigger my hayfever allergies and induce a few well-hidden tears.

Best friend getting married, hugging the bride

 

Meeting Rani in South Korea

Since the beginning of the year, I’d had dreams of going to South Korea I just wasn’t really sure where it would factor into my plans. But come September there I was, making my way to Bunk Guesthouse in Seoul.

I met my roommate Rani after waking up from an extended nap and we bonded over the fact that we were both from the UK but called Melbourne home. As I hadn’t really made any plans for the trip I decided to second wheel Rani and what a week of adventures.

From getting her so drunk she vomited in her own hands and had to be carried home, eating mountains of South Korean food until we were fit to burst and crashing a stag party and staying in a karaoke room ‘til 5 am. Every moment of that trip was spectacular. 

Girl smiling against bright lights in South Korea

 

Nusa Penida

Returning to Indonesia for my second trip, I opted not to stay in a hostel but to live it up in a guesthouse. As such, I spent a lot of time lounging and enjoying all the room for activities, but not really having anyone to share it with.

On the second week, I decided to browse the Facebook group Girls Love Travel for suggestions of things to do in Bali. As I scrolled I came across a post that caught my eye. It was a post from a woman who’d been travelling alone and was looking for people to meet up with. Bingo!

Upon messaging her, it turned out she’d already left, but she left me with the details of Andrea, another woman she’d met from the group during her travels. After reaching out to Andrea she invited me to join her on an Airbnb Experience to a neighbouring island. Without hesitation, I told her I was in.

That weekend Andrea and I met with another solo traveller, Sherry and headed to Nusa Penida. Though we’d all met that day it felt like we’d known each other for years. On our private Airbnb Experience we learnt more about the locals and increased tourism to the island, and of course, took a tonne of photos too.

Girls over looking the ocean

 

Eating with a local in Seoul

One of my absolute favourite activities that I took part in while I was in Seoul, was an Airbnb Experience with a local host. After taking us to some of his favourite spots in the city, Nathan invited us into his home where his wife had prepared South Korean specialities of creamy dumpling soup and kimchi pancakes that melted on your tongue.

Having the opportunity to sit in a local’s home and hear firsthand about their traditions and ways of life was truly eye-opening. I would highly recommend the tour if you’re ever in South Korea.

what to eat in Seoul rice cake soup

 

Final thoughts

All in 2019 was pretty fucking spectacular for travel. However, I don’t want you to think it’s always idyllic. Last week I shared my worst travel moments of 2019. I felt it was important to highlight those moments that may have not quite made it to the ‘gram. If you haven’t already – you can check that out here.

 

What about you? What are your best travel moments of 2019? Let me know in the comments!

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