2019 turned out to be the year of interesting pedestrian walk signs. Perhaps I just never noticed them before, but I learned that not all crossing symbols are alike in 2019.
I was tickled by the animated crossing man who started sprinting as the clock counted down in Taipei, Taiwan.
I obeyed the be-hatted Ampelmännchen in Berlin because I wouldn't dare jaywalk and go against the organized principle of German civilization.
I was inspired by the fourteen empowering pedestrian lights in Vilnius that have been fitted with female figures to serve as a reminder of how far women in Lithuania have advanced and still have yet to go.
I was moved by progressiveness of Munich, which have installed same-sex pedestrian crossing lights, in celebration of the LGBTQ community.
Although I found these symbols intriguing and quite thought-provoking, you'll be pleased to know that traffic symbols were not the most exciting part of my 2019 travels. Read on for a recap of the more interesting bits of my 2019 trips and experiences.
I kick-started the year in extreme relaxation mode after returning from Cape Verde tanned, refreshed and ready for a new, exciting year ahead.
I wasn't able to make it to the USA for my sister's 40th birthday, in early January, so, instead, opted for a trip back to the USA in mid-Jan, to celebrate my nephew's 5th birthday - I prefer him to my sister anyway! His Ghostbuster-themed party was a huge hit, despite being interrupted by an ice storm.
February was spent trying to escape London's bitter cold spell.
I visited Warsaw, Poland the first weekend in February, which was only marginally warmer than the UK. Warsaw served as an inspiring example of indestructibility, having come a long way since the decimation of its city in WWII and Soviet occupation.
At the end of the month, I made the long journey to tropical Naples, Florida, for equal measures of family time, tennis and poolside cocktails in the sunshine.
I booked a super quick trip to Southeast Asia, spontaneously, in mid-March. First stop was Bangkok, Thailand, for brunch with a friend.
After quickly passing through BKK, I went on to meet a friend in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, for a couple of days. HCMC was a great city and another example of resiliency!
It was 34°C (93°F) in Vietnam and then only 4°C (39°F) in Riga, Latvia, when I landed, two days after returning from Saigon. That was a shock to the system! But the real shocker of Riga was the food! I had not anticipated Latvia to be such a culinary delight!
At the tail end of April, I hit the road in Morocco. Literally. Starting off in Marrakesh, I clocked about 900 miles on my six-day journey around the Atlas Mountains, Dadès Gorges, Sahara Desert, Aït Benhaddou, Taghazout Bay and Agadir. You can read a more detailed account of this whole trip here, if you are so inclined.
For the first May bank holiday, I went to Hampshire with five girlfriends. We hired an adorable cottage in New Forest, communed with nature, ferried over to Isle of Wight, drank lots of wine and set the world to rights in our dressing gowns.
The second May bank holiday was spent in San Diego, CA, USA. It had been nearly five years since I had last visited and was amazing to be back, catching up with old friends, walking along the coastline and eating all my favorite local foods.
Having discovered £66 return flights from London to Kiev, it seemed like a no-brainer to go. Kiev was a pleasant city to visit for a weekend, but the real draw of Ukraine was Chernobyl. If you want to see what the aftermath of a nuclear disaster looks like, there is no better place than the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. But get there before the rest of the nuclear hipsters turn up. Oh, and also before the buildings collapse.
The weekend after the Ukraine was spent in Mallorca, which was my 12th trip to Spain, in five years. It was a soul satisfying weekend full of gossip, laughs, booze, sun and tapas!
To celebrate the 4th of July, I went (with eight South Africans and one Australian) to a pimped out villa in Carvoeiro, Portugal (the Algarve). Lots of jokes were shared and rosé was consumed.
Most of August was spent saying farewell and packing up all my worldy belongings. On the 30th of August (five years and two days after initially moving to London), it was time relocate overseas again. This time, to Munich, Germany. I left Britain with my same job, a one-way flight, two weeks booked in an Airbnb, five suitcases and a six-month visa.
Much of this month was spent trying to acclimate to my new surroundings. It was tough navigating a new country, in a language that I didn't (and still don't) speak, where everything was different and bureaucracy was exhaustive.
Towards the end of the month, I went on my first weekend break since my relocation. I headed to lovely Lake Garda, Italy for some lakeside R&R, delicious food/wine and temperate weather.
I wrapped up the month with THREE Oktoberfest sessions, all in one week. I had great fun, but I must admit, I was well and truly Oktoberfested out.
Back to London I went, for the 1st-4th. Despite the fact that it was a work trip, it made my heart happy to be back 'home'.
I normally go on a trip with the parentals around this time of year, but the 2019 annual adventure was cancelled, which meant I had a few extra days of annual leave to use up. I decided to go with some girlfriends to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Laos and back to Vietnam (north this time). Squishing all these destinations into a 16-day trip was exciting, but also a little exhausting.
In an effort to explore more of my new home country, I headed to Berlin for a weekend at the end of October. It was an interesting time to be there as it was two weeks prior to the 30th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall, which physically divided East and Wast Berlin, from 1961 to 1989.
At the last moment, I booked to five-day trip to Amsterdam, to meet up with a friend who was visiting from NYC. It was an indulgent weekend filled with pampering, luxury, shopping, great meals, lots of drinks and some quirky typical Amsterdam-y bits thrown in.
In the middle of the month, I returned to London for a quick weekend. Although fleeting, I loved being back.
This year's annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage back to the homeland, started off with a weekend in Philadelphia with one of my best friends. From Philly, I made my way north for a week in Newington, CT where I celebrated Thanksgiving and attended my 20 year high school reunion.
Then it was onward to NYC for my boyfriend and my joint birthday celebrations. As a birthday treat, we took a doors-off helicopter ride over the Big Apple, which was equally as exhilarating as it was freezing.
Smells of mulled wine, roasted nuts, bratwurst and gingerbread filled my nostrils at Germany's most famous Christmas markets, in Nuremberg, when my friend and I went the first weekend of the month to check out this 400 year old tradition.
Two days after returning from Nuremberg, I repacked my suitcase and headed to London for my annual work Christmas party. This year's event lasted alllll-day and was filled with lots of holiday cheer!
On 21st December, I left Munich for the remainder of the year. I went to London first, for Christmas and a Boxing Day football match and then rounded out the year in Vilnius, Lithuania.
STATS FROM MY 2019 TRAVELS:
Air Miles Flown: 83,789 (*it's 24,900 miles around the world)
Airline Segments Flown: 48
Airlines Flown: 14
Amount of Time Spent in the Air: 183 hours
Total Countries Visited: 17
New Countries Visited: 9 (blue bubbles below)
Continents Visited: 4 (North America, Europe, Asia & Africa)
Nights Spent in a Hotel/Airbnb: 67
I'VE NOW BEEN TO (PER THE UNITED NATIONS COUNTRY LIST):
34 out of 44 European countries
73 out of 193 countries
6 of 7 continents (Antarctica still remains)
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