2016 has been an interesting year in many ways. For me, it was a great year for travel. I had the opportunity to explore many new and exciting places and returned to some old favorites.
A lot of the memorable moments I've had while traveling this year have not necessarily been pleasant ones. There have been times of sickness, sadness, and great emotion. There's also been moments of joy and happiness, which have managed to help outweigh the bad.
Swings and roundabouts, as the English say.
So, here are my most memorable travel moments of the last 12 months. I can now look back on the majority of them with a smile, although that wasn't necessarily the case at the time!
Getting ridiculously sick in Trinidad, Cuba
I was more than a little excited to visit Cuba for the first time, as it was somewhere I'd always wanted to go.
So, I decided to escape the European winter for two weeks in February to finally check the place out for myself.
Unfortunately, I managed to get a horrific stomach bug on the bus to Trinidad (it luckily didn't hit in full force until I was off the bus). I was bed ridden for two days, unable to eat for more than a week and didn't feel fully recovered until the day before I left the country.
This had a massive impact on my time there, as you can imagine. I don't have the fondest of memories when I look back on the trip. It's a real shame.
Stepping foot in the Arctic Circle
One destination that did exceed my expectations was Svalbard – an archipelago that's not too far away from the North Pole.
I was enamored with the place from day one. Even the cold couldn't get me down.
While there, I went quad bike riding up a mountain, tried reindeer jerky, learned about the Global Seed Vault, hunted for the northern lights (no luck, unfortunately) and went dog carting.
Although I didn't see any polar bears (sob!), it was an incredible adventure, and I can't help but beam with pleasure when I reminisce about it.
Staying overnight in a church
One experience that I'll always look back on with great fondness is camping overnight in a church in the United Kingdom.
The UK has a high concentration of churches. Many of these beautiful, historic buildings no longer have services held in them, although they remain consecrated. Visitors often make donations when they visit, but it's not enough to fund their ongoing maintenance.
Champing is an idea conceived of by the Churches Conservation Trust. For a fee, you and a group of friends, family members or your other half, can rent out the entire church for a night (or longer, if you so wish). The money paid provides you with breakfast, either left at the church or a nearby pub.
Many of the churches that are in the program are located in tiny, picturesque towns – just the sort you'd picture when envisioning the English countryside.
It was a little terrifying I'll admit, but still one of the coolest things I had the opportunity to do this year.
Saying goodbye to London
Before the year was out, I decided I'd had enough (for now) of expat life in London.
I'd lived in the city for over two years, and although I'd enjoyed my time there, I decided it was time for a new adventure.
Leaving was emotional, especially saying goodbye to my beloved flat.
I knew I was making the right decision and I haven't looked back.
Returning to Australia
The sadness I felt about leaving London was short-lived. Why? Well, I couldn't be miserable when I was heading home, to my favorite country in the world.
I was back in Australia for the last of spring, entering into the summertime. Perfect timing, if I don't say so myself.
In London, I'd be fighting off the beginning of the winter blues and drinking my weight in mulled wine (okay, that last bit still sounds good). Instead, I've been exploring my home state, reading loads of books, and working on my tan at the nearby beach.
It's quite possibly the best holiday I've ever been on. And it's not over yet.
Your turn! What travel moments from the last twelve months have been most memorable for you?
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