2010-2019: What I did in the last decade

As the end of the year closes, it often leads to a lot of reflections and aspirations. Reflecting on the year just gone and aspirations for the year to come.

I often think about the year that has just gone and how quick it has been. However, this year is a little different in that we are now entering into a new decade. Yes the roaring twenties are back!

2009: My attempt at dressing up as a flapper during a University party

With that in mind, I thought I’d reflect on the past 10 years. Where did it go? Where did I go? What did I do and achieve?

10 years ago was the year when I transitioned from student life into the real world. I completed my degree in Occupational Therapy, and got my first ‘proper job’. I suddenly felt like an adult, and I was able to afford to eat well and go on a proper holidays (like a package holiday to Rhodes in Greece). It felt amazing and I was excited to see what the decade would hold for me.

2010

2010 was a strange year. The start of the decade saw me see in the new year in the North East of England, with my then boyfriend. We had been dating since the beginning of university and had graduated together. We were excited about the year ahead and his impending move closer to where I lived at the time.

I spent the year travelling around the UK in between Sunderland and the Midlands with other trips to Staffordshire and London to visit my sister.

The end of the year was quite a turbulent one as I ended our relationship for various reasons.  It later was a catalyst for me travelling so much more.

Travelled to: Spain

2010 in Fuerteventura, Spain
2011

After my relationship split, I felt the need to do something different. I saw in the new year at my parents home in Northern Ireland.

I had spent a lot of the end of 2010 in tears over my decision to leave my boyfriend. I slept a lot and I barely ate. I lost around 1 stone in weight and saw that I was slowly falling into depression.

So a change was what I needed. I had already planned a huge trip to New Zealand  and Australia (Sydney) to visit some family, and did incredible things such as skydiving and scuba diving.

Skydiving in New Zealand 2011

Following my trip where I fell in love with the country I decided put all my efforts into planning to move there to live and work.

Meeting a Koala in the blue mountains. Feb. 2011

I wasn’t particularly enjoying living in England at the time as everything reminded me of our relationship and I wasn’t finding my job as inspiring anymore.  So in August 2011 I had my qualifications recognised by the New Zealand board of Occupational Therapy and I was able to apply for jobs.

2011 wasn’t all bad though. I celebrated my mum graduating with a BSc (Hons) degree. Something she had worked incredibly hard on after having 5 children and focusing on all of us rather than herself.

2011: With my sisters, celebrating my mum graduating

Travelled to: Belgium, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Republic of Ireland.

In November 2011 I had a telephone interview, secured a job and booked a one way flight to New Zealand, all within the space of about 4 days.

2012 was to be the year of change.

I spent New Years Eve 2011 in London with my two sisters, watching the fireworks on the embankment.

2012

The start of a new year and a new adventure. On January 1st 2012 I boarded a flight to Christchurch, stopping briefly in Singapore (where I got to explore for 6 hours). Leaving the UK I had mixed feelings. Sadness for the relationships I was leaving behind, but excitement of the unknown.

I touched down in Christchurch early on the 2nd of January and took a few days to adjust to the new time zone.

I had secured a place to live before I arrived and moved in with the most amazing woman called Juanita (who even now feels like a sister to me).

My NZ home

It was strange arriving into Christchurch so soon after an earthquake that destroyed the majority of the city. A lot of people questioned why I was there (as so many people were leaving). In all honesty; it was because of the job.

The Central Business District (CBD) closed down and very much like a ghost town since the Feb. 2011 earthquake

2012 was such a great year however. I spent it exploring most of both islands. I got to visit my aunt and cousins who lived in Auckland at the time and do a number of things that I didn’t think I would ever do, including bungee jumping, cliff jumping and learning to snowboard.

I experienced a southern hemisphere winter, were I saw snow falling in June, and had a Christmas day BBQ.

Snow in June.

At the time I had only a 1 year working holiday visa and I had the mindset of wanting to see and do as much as possible. After just 7 months there I asked work if they would sponsor me for an extension, which they did. It then became a 2 year work visa.

During my first year in New Zealand I also took a trip over to Fiji (a nearby pacific island) during winter time, which was incredible and postcard perfect.

I returned to Sydney in Australia for a weekend trip for my birthday and also visited Melbourne for the first time.

Brighton beach in Melbourne, Australia

At the end of 2012, I had taken around 26 different flights. I spent new years eve in Nelson, near to Abel Tasman National Park.

Travelled to: Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Fiji

2013

2013 marked another year in New Zealand. I continued to travel around the island and loved the laid back lifestyle.

In July I returned back to the UK for a 3 week trip for a friends wedding and travelled via Seoul in South Korea (my first taste of Asia).

It was a bit strange being back in the UK after 18 months away, but I loved catching up with family and friends.

After this trip I realised that there was a big wide world out there and wondered if I could see more of it, so by the end of the year I had commenced planning to leave New Zealand and travel around South East Asia.

I spent Christmas in Tasmania having a BBQ in a backpackers hostel.

I visited a national park, spotted some wallibes and splashed about in clear waters.

I ended my 2013 in Melbourne Australia, with the plans of looking into leaving New Zealand within the next 6 months. It saddened me thinking of it as I had made so many great memories and friends during my time.

Reflecting on the next steps at Melbourne airport

Travelled to: New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, UK

2014

1st January 2014 and I travelled along the Great Ocean Road in Australia. It was a fab trip.

Scenes along the Great Ocean Road, reminded me of Northern Ireland

2014 was the year the travel bug really hit. I returned from Australia in the first week of the year and back to work. I realised that life was too short and that I wanted to see and do so much more.

I spoke to my work to inform them I was considering leaving. Originally I had booked flights for May, but changed them to June so that I could save another month of salary.

For the first 6 months of 2014, I spent time exploring more of Christchurch. It had changed so much in the time that I had been there (and to this day I long to return to see how much more it has changed).

I completed a few day walks including Muller Hut in Mount Cook and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

I visited my family in Auckland for a final time and enjoyed all the wonderful places locally that I had grown to love.

My plans for my South East Asia trip were vague, 

I had booked a flight to Bali in Indonesia with the first 5 nights accommodation in a hostel sorted and an onward flight to Singapore a few weeks later.

The day I left New Zealand was bittersweet. I cried after leaving but in my head I felt I’d travel for a bit then I’d return within the year.

Leaving New Zealand. June 2014

I spent the next 4 months exploring South East Asia, and what a trip it was. I had several adventrues and met so many incredible people.

In Ubud, Bali 2014

 

The Cameron Highlands in Malaysia

I had some misfortunes including being in a motorbike accident and having my clothes stolen, but I got through these times and they now form great stories for my future.

Thai boxing in Chaing Mai

I learnt a lot from my trip around Asia. Firstly that I could be more spontaneous and didn’t need to plan every single day. I rocked up to some towns and cities with no accommodation booked and no idea how long I’d stay there.

With Koo, my couch surfing host in Malaysia

I hopped around from country to country and just loved it. I felt so young, wild and free.

My sister joined me on the final month in Asia to see Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia again. It was lovely having this time with her. We celebrated my 28th birthday in Indonesia, which was quite special.

With my sister in Bangkok, Thailand

I returned back to London in October, having secured a locum job to start a few weeks later. I stayed with friends prior to this as had pretty much depleated all my funds. I helped my sister move house and house sat a property in Essex.

I attended and was a bridesmaid at a friends wedding and later travelled to Slovakia and Austria with my youngest sister.

At the Christmas markets in Vienna, with my sister 2014

I got back to Northern Ireland at the end of the year and suddenly thought wow, what a year!. That kick started me into much more travel in the years to come.

Sailing home for Christmas dressed as a snowman on the Cairnryan to Belfast ferry

Travelled to: New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, United Arab Emirates, Slovakia, Austria and Republic of Ireland.

2015

At the beginning of 2015 (which I celebrated in London with my sister) I was getting quite tired of living in London. The commute and busy lives around me was quite tricky. I moved from the house I was looking after in Essex into East London and worked in Epping.

The job and money was good, but just wasn’t satisfying enough, so I started to consider a change in jobs.

In March I flew out to Berlin in Germany to attend a friends wedding and enjoyed reminising with her (we met in NZ)

In April, I took my little sister to New York City for her 21st birthday, and after i returned I secured a job in Staffordshire (another temporary job) where I worked for the next 2 months. It was quite a highly stressful job and one which I did not enjoy.

Travelling to New York with my youngest sister, who was just beginning life in her 20s

I then decided that perhaps I should slow down and settle somewhere in a job I enjoy.

In June 2015 I secured a job working in a hospice in West Sussex, so was again on the move. For the job I was required to have a car so had to make my first car purchase of my adult life. Quite an exciting milestone.

My first car purchased in June 2015

Before my move, I took a trip to Turkey for the first time and loved it. I paraglided, went on a hot air balloon trip, sunabathed on the beaches and explored the culture of Istanbul. It reminded me a little of Asia the year prior and again reignited a passion for travelling.

Paragliding in Turkey (June 2015)

After moving to West Sussex, I discovered that I was just 10 minutes away from Gatwick airport. Way-hey I thought, more travel.

In August I travelled to Copenhagen and met up with Jonny Blair (a fellow blogger from Northern Ireland) who writes at Don’t Stop Living.

Meeting up with fellow blogger Jonny Blair (from Don’t Stop Living) In Copenhagen, Denmark

In October it was my 29th birthday and I took a trip to Portgual (another new country) which I loved.

Exploring Lisbon, Portgual

2015 was also the year of another rugby world cup, and I travelled to Cardiff to watch a few matches.

At the end of 2015 I met my now husband and we started to go on a few dates.

My new year ended in my house with my sister in West Sussex.

Travelled to: Germany, USA, Turkey, Denmark, and Portugal

2016

2016 marked another great year for travel and change. It was the year I was turning 30 and I was determined to try to get to my 40th country by my birthday. The challenge was on! So starting in January I travelled to the tiny country of Luxembourg and visited some dear friends, then had my first snowboarding holiday to Bulgaria, were I also toured around the capital Sofia.

Exploring the Luxemborg/German border

Shortly after my friend and I travelled with my friend to Brazil and Argentina and again fell in love with far flung destinations.

In Rio, Brazil

I had even considered quitting my job to travel yet again. However, I realised that I didn’t really need to and with a secure full time job and manipulating my annual leave with bank holidays I could travel quite a lot in the year.

In April I took my first trip with my now husband to Amsterdam. We briefly stopped in Rotherdam and got to see the Tulips in Keukenhof.

June saw an amazing trip with my mum to Germany and Austria. I was lucky enough to win a hotel stay at the foothills of the barvarian mountains and I loved it.

Relaxing in barvaria. June 2016

I previously hadn’t been too keen on Germany, but realise that if there are mountains and lakes involved then I am there.

In July I went to the South West of England to camp in Durdle Door and visit the Eden Project, whilst partnering with the YHA at one of their recently opened hostels.

At the Eden Project in England

August marked another trip, this time to Prague, where we met some friends from New Zealand. We loved it, despite it being busy and walked miles everyday exploring.

Relaxing on the rooftop of the Park Inn after a busy day exploring in Prague

By the time September arrived I knew I had just a few months left to each country 40, so I booked a last minute flight to Gothenburg in Sweden, where I stayed for just 2 days.

Experiencing the Swedish way of life in Gothenburg

My 30th birthday was celebrated in Croatia, a country that my husband and I both adore. We were on a little island with barely anyone another and it was just bliss.

Celebrating my 30th birthday in Croatia

I thought that when I turned 30, I would sit and relfect on what I had done or not done in that time. However, I realised that I had in fact done a lot and was feeling fairly content with life at that time.

Once back in the UK we took on another challenge and walked over the 02 arena in London.

At the end of the year I again went on another trip with my youngest sister to Milan in Italy. We wanted a trip to go to Christmas markets, but Milan didn’t seem to have many on offer. Despite this, we had a good time, and even visited a cat cafe.

Exploring Milan with my youngest sister. Dec. 2016

2016 ended celebratng in West Sussex with friends of my husband. Takeaways and board games (the way people in their 30s celebrate!)

Travelled to: Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Brazil, Argentina, Holland, Czech Republic, Sweden, Croatia, and Italy.

2017

2017 was yet again another big year of change. I decided to make the move to be closer to my husband and secured a job locally. So on Janurary 6th I moved from West to East Sussex (around an hour further south). I was enjoying my job to a point, but wanted to return to working for the NHS as they’re a really good employer.

Prior to starting my new job I decided to discover a new country and travelled to Morocco.

Eating snails on a food tour in Marrakech

My eyes were well and truely open during this trip. Having mainly been to European countries in the year prior, it suddently felt quite ailen to me, though reminded me of places in Asia. We enjoyed Morocco, and I was so glad I travelled with my husband (partly as he is mixed race, so they all spoke arabic to him, thinking he was from there).

In February I got to experience a helicopter flight over London as a belated 30th birthday present with London Helicopter. I really enjoy flying via plane, but this was an altogether more epic experience.

In March we travelled to Poland for the first time (Gdansk) and discovered how pretty it was (It wasn’t somewhere high on my list originally), but after reading about it from the Northern Irishman in Poland. I knew I needed to visit. It didn’t disappoint. It was beautiful and we also got to see the largest castle in the world.

Shooting at Marlborok Castle, Poland: 2017

May was a huge month as I took my then boyfriend to Basel in Switzerland for his birthday. He surprised me by asking me to marry him (I said yes) and so I returned to England with a Fiance and a ring on my finger.

Following this I went into full on wedding planning mode, even though we had no idea when we would like to get married (we initally said at some point in 2018).

In June we attended some wedding fairs and fell in love with Blackstock Country Estate. Took advantage of their winterwedding offers and set a date for March 2018.

Our wedding venue. A country barn in Sussex.

With that in mind and saving for the big day, we couldn’t afford to travel as much.  I visited my sister in Cardiff and then travelled to Montenegro and Albania  as my last big trip of the year. There we hiked up huge hills, went from snowy mountain tops to baking hot sunshine and slept in a treehouse.

Hiking up St John’s Fortress in Kotor.

In the autumn, my mum had moved to Liverpool to teach at one of the universities there, so I took my oppotunity to visit and explore a new city.

Liverpool – November 2017

My final trip of the year was to Barcelona in Spain. It was a surprised hen party trip organised by my sisters. Having not been a massive fan of Spain in general, I loved it. I’d definately return there as there were quite a few places we didn’t get around to seeing.

Hen Party in Barcelona

Travelled to: Morocco, Poland, Switzerland, Wales, Montenegro, Albania and  Spain.

2018 

2018 came and again it felt like a big year. We had 2 months left of our wedding planning and it felt very full on trying to get everything organised.

In February I had a second hen party in Brighton with an afternoon tea and a night out with some friends.

Then the snow came.

The beast from the east arrived and totally changed our wedding planning. Well, when I say totally changed. It meant we had to rearrange table plans, and at one stage didn’t think two of the bridesmaids would make it.

It all did work out in the end and we had a lovely day.

Couple shoot by Victoria Brocklebank Photography

You can read about our wedding day here. 

Directly after our wedding we took a little ‘mini-moon’ and travelled to Paris for 3 nights. It was beautiful but little chaotic as we felt we needed to go and see all the sights, when really a spa break in the UK would have been more beneficial.

Our honeymoon was equally as chaotic, but incredible as we travelled to Asia. We ended up going to 6 countries in 3 weeks. It felt like we were living in airports, but we had a great time and I enjoyed being back there.

Lost in a World of my own in the Philippines

After our return, we decided to do some home renovations and get some new kitchen doors and windows (the exciting life of a married woman) and also spent some time making our garden look neater. So ended up having a lot of BBQs in the summer time.

I May I returned to see my mum in Liverpool again and spent most of the time exploring the Wirral.

In Port Sunlight, The Wirral

As we had been on quite a big trip for our honeymoon, we stayed local for my husbands birthday and did a stay-cation in Cornwall. Somewhere I haven’t been to a lot, but it was stunning.

In October we travelled to Malta, where I fell in love with the laid back atmosphere and charm. A place I would go back to for sure.

In Gozo, Malta

In November I travelled to Chamonix in France for my middle sisters birthday and fell in love with the place. It was quiet, but we got to experience one of the most amazing spas in the whole country (In my opinion).

What a view. QC Terme Spa, Chamonix

Our year ended with Christmas spent at home, where we discovered we had a major leak in our roof. So ended up having to rip down the ceiling have it replastered and fit new carpet and lights (a bit of an expensive end to the year).

We travelled back to Northern Ireland just after Christmas and celebrating the new year there. I felt like rubbish and there was a very good reason for that.

Travelled to: France (twice), Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, The Phillippines, and Malta.

2019 

After a few days of 2019 spent in Northern Ireland, I had a sneaky suspicion that I may be pregnant. We had been hoping for a baby at some stage and so on 7th Janurary I got a confirmation that I was indeed pregnant.

How I told my husband we were expecting

It was such a shock at first. I was elated but also petrified. I knew change was coming. 

Being pregnant didn’t put me off travelling however. We had a few trips planned before we found out, but in the end we went to 6 different countries in the first 5 months of the year.

In February we went to Nice and Monaco.

In Monaco with my husband

Then to Cyprus for our wedding anniversary at the beginning of March.

In Cyprus. Knowing that this scene will look so different in the next year or so.

This was followed quickly by a trip back to Northern Ireland to inform my family they were about to become grandparents and aunties. They were over the moon!

A few days after this trip we travelled to Slovenia with some friends. It was such a beautiful country, but with the pregancy and back to back trips I was exhausted by the end of it and needed some time at home.

In slovenia. March 2019

Home wasn’t overly relaxing though as with all the roof leaks we decided to do some DIY and repainted the living room, updated our kitchen with a new work surface, sink and tiles and made a start on our nursery for our new arrival.

The beginnings of our nursery

In May we found out we were expecting a baby girl, and started staright into finding the best name for her, as well as buying a load of girlie clothes.

We also took our final overseas trip of the year, back to Croatia and into Bosina as a new country.

Dinner views in Mostar, Bosnia

This trip felt like such a different one for us as we were acutely aware that it would be our last as a couple, and all future trips would be with a small person in tow.

The summer seemed to fly in after this as we continued to prepare for the arrival of our baby. I remained really active by walking and doing garden DIY.

37 weeks pregnant

In September we finally welcomed the arrival of our beautiful baby girl.

Then the chaos began.

I struggled with breastfeeding and adjusting to parenthood in general. The fourth trimester was certainly the hardest.

However, we managed to get in a little road trip in the UK, where we learnt how much stuff a baby actually needs and then made a mamoth journey back by ferry to Northern Ireland for Christmas.

Our new year, once again was quiet but with a sleeping babe in her crib. 2019 was quite the year and I feel truly blessed.

Travelled to: France, Monaco, Cyprus, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia.

So in short. The past 10 years I hav lived in 9 houses across 6 towns/cities. Had 6 different jobs. Travelled to 43 countries, met my husband, got engaged and married, then had a baby and became a mum.

I welcomed new people to our family and sadly lost some too. Celebrated incredible family moments including graduations, engagements, new houses and jobs.

10 years ago I was 23 and had no idea life would pan out how it has, but that’s the beauty of it.

I am excited for what 2020 and hopefully the next decade will bring.

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