When I sat down to write this and reflected on my year in travel, I expected 2017 to be disappointingly light due to a lengthy passport renewal, procurement of various visas and being out of commission after an automobile accident. Now that I have actually done the calculations, I'm actually pleasantly surprised. Considering that I was unable to travel for a total of 30 weeks, I still managed to visit 14 countries in 2017 (six of which were new to me)! Below is a summary of my travels broken out by month as well as some stats.
I started the year strong with visits to six countries, on three continents, all within January's 31 days: India, UAE, Egypt, Netherlands, Italy and UK. Okay, okay, so the visits to five of those countries were for less than 24 hours, but they still count and I have the passport stamps as proof!
On 21st January, I took part in the 'Women's March on London', alongside 100,000 of my fellow-minded compatriots. It was a peaceful and powerful event, which I hope my niece and nephew will one day learn about in history class.
I headed north to Oslo, Norway the first weekend in February to experience the Nordic winters, drink outrageously expensive booze and take a boat trip around the fjords. Burrrrrr!
After that trip, I grounded myself for seven weeks whilst I renewed my passport and sorted out my Brazilian visa for a trip planned in May. Although my passport didn't actually expire for another one and half years, I had run out of empty pages and the authorities were beginning to get frustrated with me.
A weekend in Wales, in early March, was the perfect way to ingest a bit of countryside fresh air with one of my best friends. (That's mistletoe pictured below, by the way).
Late March had me back in my old stomping grounds on the West Coast of the USA. I was a bridesmaid in a wedding in Malibu, California, but worked in San Francisco the week beforehand. I had not been back to SF since I had moved two and a half years prior. My SF housemate, from when I lived there, was kind enough to let me stay in my old room, so it truly was a blast from the past. I had forgotten just how much stuff I had left behind, and was surprised to find what remained, both in my former flat and at my old office. Clean the fridge much, IDG?
I returned to the UK, from California, on 2nd April, and spent ten whole days in London before I jetted off to Venice, Italy, for the long Easter weekend. I was delighted to finally ride on one of the famous gondolas (well worth the €80 for 30 mins).
After my Venetian holiday, I worked a three-day week and then headed to South America for what was meant to be a two-part, 16-day adventure. I began in Peru, with the parentals. We met in Lima and then toured around Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Cusco and finally Pisco/Paracas. In addition to exploring various Inca ruins, we went white water rafting, flew over the Nasca Lines and sailed around the Ballestas Islands.
After ten days of hiking and almost fully abstaining from alcohol in Peru, I was feeling quite svelt and slender. However, I managed to undo it all in a mere six days in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after meeting up with some girl friends for sun, exploration, delicious food and lots of caipirinhas. The highlight of the this portion of the trip was the helicopter ride over Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer. The low point of the Brazilian bit of the trip was the car accident I was involved in on my final night of holiday, which landed me in the hospital for an additional two weeks and extended my stay in Brazil until late-May. I was unable to return to the UK at that time, so instead went to the US, to recover at my folks' house. This setback caused me to miss subsequent May trips to Dublin and to Monaco.
I also had to cancel another two trips in June (Beirut, Lebanon and again to Dublin), as I was still rehabbing from the accident in the USA.
Being laid up on the couch all month wasn't all bad though. It gave my mum a chance to wash my Pumas and get them bright green again. I also got to spend a lot of quality time with friends and family whom I rarely see. AAAAND, I got to meet the newest member of my family, Baby Natalie Belle (AKA Ducky). What a precious little nugget.
JULY AND AUGUST
Although I was still recovering over the Summer, by July I was out of the wheelchair and on crutches. As a result, I was a bit more mobile and was able to tour around the Northeast USA a tad, allowing me to spend time with people I don't get to see often enough.
I spent the week of July 4th lounging around in the Hamptons with my friends from Syracuse University. It was nice to be in America for Independence Day, get off my parents' couch, catch up with mates, eat lobster rolls and work on my tan.
I had an opportunity to go to a lake house in New Hampshire for a long weekend as well. My family goes each year, but I haven't been around to attend since the early 2000's. Such a treat!
I also had the great pleasure of being able to see my sister's offspring a number of times, in Boston. I already miss their little faces!
Lastly, I got to see my aunt, uncle and one of my best friends at the shore on Long Beach Island, New Jersey.
After a hundred+ hours of physio, I was finally able to walk unassisted again and was strong enough to return to London. Once back, I basically spent every waking moment in a doctor's office, enduring physical therapy, doing pilates or dealing with insurance claims/general life admin, but I did manage to escape to Edinburgh for a weekend and Dublin for one night.
Returning to work on 2nd October, after not having been there since 20th April, was a shock to the system. I couldn't, in good consciousness, take any more time off from work for a while, so I stayed put for the duration of the month and decided it was a good time to submit the paperwork to move my current UK work visa from the old passport to the new one I obtained in February (so I no longer needed to carry both with me on my travels). This endeavor was a massive fail.
The first weekend in November, I flew down to Cornwall to visit a friend and tick a few things off my bucket list (since the flight was domestic, a passport was not required).
Later in the month, I made my annual pilgrimage back to the USA for Thanksgiving. However, I still had not received my passport back from the UK government, so I had to visit the US Embassy and get an emergency passport the day before I traveled to the States. On this trip, I visited NYC for a few days, to catch up with friends, and then took the train up to Connecticut for an abundance of family festivities.
On 29th November, after seven weeks, I FINALLY had my passport safely back in my possession...But only for a matter of moments before I handed it over to a visa services agency to try to rush through a Chinese tourist visa ahead of my pending trip to Shanghai and Beijing.
I got my passport back, inclusive of my approved Chinese visa, the day before my flight to China. Cutting it a bit fine for my liking, but it all worked out in the end. I spent three days in Shanghai before flying to Beijing for four.
Because it was -8°C/18°F in Beijing, I had the pleasure of visiting all the great sites (Jingshan Park, Olympic Park, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City and the Great Wall) without mobs of other tourists.
I celebrated Christmas in London with other expat orphan friends, and then headed to Porto, Portugal to ring in the new year.
In case you are a numbers person, below are some travel-related stats from 2017:
Air Miles Flown: 62,976 (More than 2.5x the Earth’s circumference - which is 24,902 miles)
Airline Segments Flown: 32
Airlines Flown: 13
Total Countries Visited: 14
New Countries Visited: 6
Continents Visited: 5 (North America, Europe, Asia, Africa & South America)
Nights Spent in Hotels: 43
Seven Wonders Seen (from various lists): 4 (Great Pyramid of Giza, Machu Picchu, Christ the Redeemer, Great Wall of China)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites Visited: 14 (Cairo, Giza Plateau, Venice, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Lima, Nazca Lines, Greenwich, Royal Botanic Kew Gardens, Edinburgh, The Summer Palace, The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, Historic Centre of Porto)
27 out of ~46 European countries (the total depends on the list you’re using)
68 countries per the Travelers’ Century Club list of 325
59 countries out of 196 on the United Nations list
6 of 7 continents (only Antarctica to go)
I'm not going to lie, I am pretty happy to see the back end of 2017, but I have a lot of make-up travel to do in 2018, so stay tuned for updates!
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