This year has had its ups and downs for me, the lows being made redundant and breaking my foot (both happened in the space of a few months), but the highlights of 2014 definitely happened whilst travelling about throughout the year!
From a girls trip to Amsterdam to the snowy slopes of the Pyrenees mountains, from road tripping on the Alentejo Coast in Portugal to sailing around with the travelette gals in Croatia; 2014 has had plenty of travelling and there’s a few things that I’ve learnt from this years trips!
1. Never feel guilty for taking a lazy holiday of sun to recharge those exhausted batteries – it’s much needed for the mind, body and soul!
2. When hitting the slopes, don’t think you’re better than you are. Finding yourself up an icy slope that’s out of your league with forceful winds is a touch hard when you’re only 2 days into skiing…
3. Don’t go to Amsterdam with hand luggage. It’ll make you cry that you can’t go shopping mad in their awesome vintage stores.
4. When travelling with girls, make sure that you’re not the only one with a boyfriend. Sometimes being the sole wing woman can get pretty tiring.
5. Daily yoga can transform your body and your mindset. Deep breath and caaaaaalm…..
6. Party yachting can be intense but just knock back a G&T or three and embrace it!
7. Meeting online friends for the first time is nerve wracking (I’m talking about the travelette girls here), but you soon find out that you’re friends for a reason. And that reason is that they are rad! It translates in person.
8. I finally found a view that has truly taken my breath away. And it lies in Italy at a small comune called Tremosine.
9. You can burn a billion calories and strengthen your leg muscles by sightseeing in Amsterdam. You won’t even realise how far you’ve walked until your legs give out and your lying face down on the hotel’s sofa.
10. If you need a good game to entertain in the evenings, crack out Cards Against Humanity. Awful, horrific, hilarious and risky – you won’t know who’ll be offended or piss themselves laughing.
11. When road tripping, make sure you travel with someone with great music taste. Awesome music amplifies the scenery around you!
12. When road tripping, make sure you have a credit card to pick up your hire car. That’s something I always forget to bring…
13. When dealing with 5 metre waves out at sea, hold on for dear life, wrap a sarong around you and keep your eyes fixed forward at the horizon. Forget about getting inside to use the loo so try not to wet yourself.
14. When dancing in an old Croatian fort, let your hair down and just dance till you can’t any more. You’ll soon be known as ‘the dancing girls’… although that does sound a little wrong on reflection.
15. When PR people go nuts about any disputes on how a trip is going, just run. Don’t try and argue your case.
16. Whilst on the road, make sure you have a ton of healthy snacks with you. It’s way too easy to eat bag after bag of potato chips from service stations. There’s no way I can keep up with a bunch of guys and their binge ‘snacks’.
17. A bio pool isn’t a freaky biological experiment. It’s an eco-friendly swimming pool that has weeds and plants lining the edges that help filter the water.
18. Knightsbridge in London is the poshest, yet one of the prettiest boroughs of the big smoke!
19.The small villages in the Pyrenees are incredibly picturesque with delightful door and window porn:
20. On that last day of holiday, don’t ever think that you can get away with no sunscreen. Having to fly home with sunburn ain’t an easy feat.
21. In saying this, if you are unfortunate to get as sunburnt as the backs of my legs did in Portugal, get hold of Lush’s Charity Pot. Not only is it packed full of cooling Aloe Vera, but you’ll be supporting a charity that Lush has chosen!
22. When sleeping on a boat that just won’t stop rocking…. just abandon it. It’s good to have some kind of back-up plan, but having locals take care of you is beyond amazing.
23. When buying a package holiday, do gooood research. Look up reviews on TripAdvisor or similar sites to get a rounded opinion of what you’re getting yourself into.
24. Try not to get too drunk on your last night of a weekend away. Having to check out of the accommodation and journey home is HELL. But do eat a sack of salted crisps to help you through it if you do. They have saved my life and stopped me from puking on the tube.
25. While eating on the tube in London, be prepared for people to stare. Only do it if you absolutely need to (see above point) and just don’t look up to see the lingering glances. And don’t dribble it in your hair.
26. Having a panic attack is awful, but the best way to get through it is to get hold of some loved ones on the phone, lie down and just wait for it to be over.
27. Always wear the right boots for hiking. Trying to scale a mountain/very very steep hill in boots with no grip isn’t good. In a Welsh winter. When everything is coated in ice and snow.
28. Keep going. No matter how puffed out you’re feeling. Take a break and get up to the top as the views will make it worth it!
29. Having a sister is great. Travelling with a sister is even better!
30. Getting your period when you least expect it is damn annoying, but it’s bound to happen at some point. Don’t be embarrassed to phone the concierge to send up some tampons. Don’t look the poor room service guy in the eye when he delivers it.
31. When in a new country, eat their local delicacies! Even if you’re not a big fan of cheese (etc), you’ll be tasting some of the finest foods by hands that have been making a flawless recipe for eons. It may just change your mind about what you think you don’t like eating.
32. When booking a place to sleep, always check out airbnb places. Not only will you find some great deals, but you might find a pad that makes your holiday go from “Yay, I’m on holiday” to “Holy shit, this is the best holiday ever!”
33. If you go on a weekend break of walking and exploring, stock up on good red wine and some board games for the evenings. I recommend Scrabble or cards, and if you’re desperate perhaps chess. Only if you’re desperate though.
34. When skiing, the top tip to remember is SNOW PLOUGH. That’s when you roll your feet inwards a touch and dig down with your heels. That’ll slow you down, help you turn and hopefully stop you from wiping out that small child in your way.
35. When missing friends from overseas, get Whatsapp or Viber – easy free apps for your smartphone which will put you in touch with your loved ones at just a click of a button! I now have a whole network of close friends, some I haven’t seen in years, who’ll always be there for me no matter what time it is.
36. If you’re lucky, your airbnb hosts (like ours in Wales) will cook you delicious brekfasts. We got some American waffles – who knew that bacon and maple syrup would actually work together? But as a breakfast dish…. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that.
37. The Alentejo coast in Portugal provides the highest amount of cork than any other country. And those cork trees are so unusual looking!
38. The people of Croatia are incredibly lovely, kind and generous. Whether it’s taking you in for the night when you’re lost, or providing deep wisdom on late night chats; they are quality people.
39. When staying at a plush hotel, it means so much when you have everything you could possible need. I love it when they provide a toothbrush, toothpaste, moisturiser, and when they go as far as shoe polish, a hairdryer, face wash, sewing kit, a loafer, a shaving kit… then I’m in heaven! These small touches help turn it from just somewhere to rest your head to a proper home away from home.
40. Wales is a country that has such a huge mix of landscapes which are amazing to explore. From rolling green fields full of sheep to sandy coves; from mountains of rock to snow topped hillsides. There’s something for everyone!
41. The freedom of having a car when travelling is so liberating! Now I’ve done a few road trips, I’m adamant that I will learn how to drive and get my license in 2015. I want to drive everywhere and explore everything, no matter how hard it is to get there.
42. If you suffer from hay fever, be prepared for it to hit you no matter what country you’re in. When I was in Tremosine in Italy, the rolling hills were stunning until the waves of pollen punched me square in the eyes. Ouch.
43. When travelling, I’ve finally figured out how to pack strategically. In regards to shoes, the bulky heavy items, I find the best to take is a pair of light shoes/sandals and a pair of sturdy waterproof ankle boots that can be worn when walking. R.M. Williams or other jodhpur riding boots look great with skinny jeans or dresses, but they may need a grip-able sole stuck on if they are slightly slippery.
44. Italian Sambuco is a cooling and refreshing elderflower drink and should not be mistaken with the gross aniseed alcoholic spirit Sambuca.
45. If you’re celebrating an epic birthday, why not rent out a huge house in country like my sister did? We rented a huge 9 bed house in Devon where each room had an en suite and there was a hot tub in the garden. It was stunning and it’s an unforgettable way to spend a 30th birthday with friends!
46. Taking slippers with you on holiday is a bit strange and takes up unnecessary space in your luggage. But it does feel great to slip them on in the evenings after a day of exploring in the cold wild of Wales.
47. When witnessing an argument amongst WWOOFers at your airbnb accommodation, feel free to step in and break up the punch up. It was ridiculous, but shit happens!
48. You can horse ride in the Italian countryside, you can run amok on a Croatian yacht, you can throw yourself down a vertical slope on skis… but sometimes the smallest thing can defeat you. And my defeat was a simple shower at home where I slipped and twisted my ankle and broke the side bone in me ole foot. Drat.
49. The mega bus always seems like a great idea since it’s so cheap. but after 2 hours, you find yourself clawing the windows – ‘Let me ooout, I need aiiiir!’
50. Even if you work full-time and are wishing to stay relatively stationary in a city for a while, you can still fit in muchos adventures and travels! A travel blogger can still exist despite not living as an expat or constantly on the move 🙂
Here’s to 2015, people; a new year, a fresh slate and a chance to spin that globe and see where you’ll next go!
All photographs by Sophie Saint apart from image 9 by Alex Saint and image 13 by 50p.