It might not have been the busiest year for the blog, but behind the scenes a lot was going on in 2018. I visited yet again some exciting places, from Poland to Pakistan and from Andorra to Australia. In this post I will talk statistics and take you through some of last year’s travel highlights.
Technically speaking my year started in Israel, where I had spent New Year’s Eve in Tel Aviv. I then visited Jerusalem before going back to the Netherlands. In my review of 2017 I have already shared those experiences, so let me take you through the other trips I did this year.
In 2018 I visited a total of 11 countries. In chronological order: India, Pakistan*, Oman*, Northern Ireland*, Iceland*, Poland, Spain, Andorra*, Portugal, Singapore and Australia; those with an asterisk were new to me. All together my private travels in 2018 made up for 53 days abroad.
I also had to combine my travel schedule with a busy full-time corporate job. This year for work alone, I reckon I spent 140 days in hotels across Germany. On top I also had to go to Belgium and Portugal for team activities.
Therefore 2018 breaks the record for least nights spent in The Netherlands since I was born (that actually sounds quite dramatic). Close second is my 7-month trip to Australia and South East Asia, back in 2009.
Indeed I have now been travelling for exactly 10 years. It’s been one hell of a journey ever since I bought that first backpack. I did not travel full time, but on and off between studies, jobs and during holidays. Adding it all up, it means I have travelled almost 2 years.
My absence from home explains why my activity on the blog has been low. In 2018 I posted just 2 articles, which is an unfortunate fact. The good side of that, is that 2019 can only be better. In fact this article is already my second one for this year!
In the background I did work al lot on the backend of my website. As you might know I fully manage it all by myself, which can be a challenge given all the technical knowledge needed to keep it up and running. My highlight is perhaps a new interactive world map view I have on my home page, which indicates the places I have travelled. Also I changed my logo so it reads better and looks a bit more fresh, I hope you like it.
In terms of visitors I welcomed 34.000 new visitors with 52.000 page views. Most popular is my article uncovering the love fraud scam around Petra in Jordan, second is about the world’s longest overland route in a straight line (which went viral on Reddit in 2017). In 2019 I hope to do some more collaborations with other bloggers again, which will help me to reach a bigger audience.
Last but not least I spent more time on Instagram. During 2018 I posted tons of stories while on the road and shared 29 pictures on my feed. My following is still limited, but I like the interaction with other travellers that I get through the platform. Feel free to find me on Instagram here.
India is loud, overwhelming yet fascinating. My second visit to the country last March did not change that perception. This time I visited for a wedding in a village at the foothills of the Himalaya, combining it with a visit to Delhi and Amritsar.
A definite highlight was visiting the bizarre Wagah border closing ceremony. It features Pakistani and Indian soldiers in a perfectly synchronised and intimidating choreography.
After my visit to India I crossed overland to Pakistan. It was a trip I had been looking forward to for many years. So many legendary adventure travel bloggers are boasting about the wonders of the country these days, so I had to come and have a look.
Read More: Visiting the Swat Valley in Pakistan
Pakistan did not disappoint. Away from the tourists crowds I spent a week there, getting a glimpse of what the country has to offer. I visited the Swat valley, Peshawar and Lahore – using Couchsurfing as I went. The security situation in the country is improving each day, so I’m expecting a bright future for Pakistan’s tourism industry.
3. Muscat, Oman
On the way back from Pakistan I scheduled a short stopover in Oman. It was a quick visit, but I managed to explore a fair bit of the capital Muscat. It’s an incredibly hot city, scattered over many parts along the coast making it feel more like a set of small villages.
I noticed right away Muscat is popular with Western tourists. It gives a true multicultural vibe to Muscat, taking into account there are also many expat workers from India, Bangladesh, etc.
4. Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is technically part of the UK, but I had never visited it before. End April last year I therefore went there with a friend to explore for 3 nights.
We got ourselves a small rental car and drove to the north of the country, checking out the incredible coastal line and staying the night in an interesting village. We also checked out the night life and went exploring Belfast to find historic cues for its troubled past.
Everyone seems to be travelling to Iceland these days, attracted by the many (easily) accessible waterfalls and other natural wonders. I went there for 7 nights with a friend during May. We rented a small car and drove along the south coast, did the Golden Circle and spent a Saturday night out in Reykjavik.
Iceland might not be a destination you would expect me to prioritise, but it was actually good fun. With my visit I’m getting closer to my goal of visiting all countries in Europe.
6. Gdynia, Poland
I have been to Poland a couple of times now, and it never gets old. This time I was expected in Gdynia (next to Gdansk) to attend a wedding of 2 friends in June.
Getting there was not so easy. All guests were supposed to fly directly into Gdansk the day before, but bad luck struck when our airplane broke down. None of us left that day – a small group was able to take a similar flight the next day. I did not, so I went home, bought a new ticket to a different airport and flew early next morning. I then travelled for another 4 hours by train and made it in 5 minutes before the start of the ceremony, and less than 24 hours I was already back home! It was a fun but crazy trip, the Polish party that night was definitely a highlight!
7. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, most people have already been there but for me it was a new destination. I visited since it’s the most logical place to start a trip to Andorra, which is only a few hours driving away.
I spent 2 nights with a friend there, exploring most main sites and checking out a couple of local bars. We also went up to a cool spot offering panoramic views of the city. Interestingly this place was a key strategic position in the Spanish Civil War. Today you can still clearly see where anti-aircraft guns were installed.
Andorra is a small country hidden away in the Pyrenees mountains, between Spain and France. The most obvious reason to go there is for skiing, but during summer the mountains offer incredible (short) hiking opportunities.
I got there in September by driving a small rental car from Barcelona and went hiking around the Tarter area. Great views, good company and again one more country in Europe visited.
9. Cascais, Portugal
One of my crazy challenges of the year was to participate in an Iron Man (triathlon). Initiated by 2 colleagues at work, I signed up to swim 1,9km in the ocean as part of a relay team. I took a 3-month swim course and then trained each week throughout summer in open water in Germany and The Netherlands.
The race took place at the end of September in the bay of Cascais, a popular getaway next to Lisbon. I finished the swim in 42 minutes and felt fit as never before. It was definitely another highlight of the year. The best aspect perhaps is that I have continued swimming and I am still improving each week!
Christmas and NYE, unlike last year, was spent with family. I flew with my younger brother and dad to the other side of the world and to beat the jetlag we decided on a 3-night stopover in Singapore. I had shortly visited before in 2009, but much has changed so it was interesting going back.
We covered all the highlights of the city, including an unsuccesful attempt to enter the infinity pool on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. My father, my brother and me all tried to act like legit guests, but we miserably failed. The only way to enter is to book a room, which I think is well over 300 USD a night!
11. East coast, Australia
The final destination for the year was Australia, where we met up with my sister. In 2 weeks we drove from Brisbane, via Surfers Paradise, Byron Bay and the Hunter Valley to Sydney, an epic roadtrip I had done 10 years ago in the opposite direction.
Two highlights of the year were swimming in the beautiful pools around Sydney, and spending NYE at the Harbour Bridge. We booked tickets and had an amazing view on the Opera House and Bridge.
And that means I began and ended the year abroad, starting and finishing the year with a bang. I already know that 2019 will be even better, in my next article I will eleborate on that further. Make sure to not miss it, you can subscribe here if you want to be automatically notified about any future posts.