My 2019 Roundup and Life Update
Happy New Year! I want to start 2020 with a personal post. Nowadays I tend to just write travel tips and guides and as I reflect back on the last year sometimes I feel like I’m not traveling enough anymore to be worthy of being a travel blogger but in this post I’ll explain why and share a roundup of what I got up to in 2019 in travel, blogging, life, yoga and everything else.
I guess I’m writing more for myself than anyone else but if you are reading this I hope you find it interesting and I hope 2020 brings you lots of happiness and adventures! Thanks so much for reading, following and supporting me through the last year – it means everything to me and helps to keep me on the road and my dream of being a digital nomad alive. Thank you!
January to March 2019 – Goa, India
January to March is the best time to be in Goa and I started 2019 at home on the coast on Southern India. Why do I spend so much time in Goa? Because, it feels like home and after 7 years traveling full time I really need a home base. For the first couple of years I loved the excitement of traveling full time but now I find that if I travel too much I get lonely, my health suffers, I feel too unsettled and find it hard to work. I long for somewhere to call home and Goa is the closest thing I’ve got to that. Here’s why I love Goa so much.
I have many friends in Goa and even though I’ve spent 6 months here every winter for the last 7 years there’s always something new to do, new places to explore, new workshops to learn from and new people to meet. I spend most of my days here practicing yoga, writing and working on my blog, enjoying the beach and relaxing with friends. Here’s an old post about a typical day in my life in Goa.
But also this year I had some complicated and serious dental problems which meant that every week for 3 months I had to go to Panjim to the dentist. Ouch. I don’t know why it took so long but at least dental work is a lot cheaper here than in the UK.
When I had time without dentist appointments I drove down to explore quieter South Goa. In February my amazing Mum came to visit me in India again!
It was her 3rd time in India but her visit in 2018 was mainly spent in hospital with me when I had typhoid fever. This time she wanted a combination of yoga and relaxing beach time but also wanted to see ‘real India’, some history, culture, rural life and city buzz. So I curated the perfect 2 week trip for her to Palolem, Hampi and Mumbai.
I used to have horses as a teenager so my highlight of the whole trip was galloping down the beach and in the sea bareback on a horse on Agonda beach! Check out our itinerary here.
April to May 2019 – Bali, Indonesia
Apart from Goa, my favourite places to live include Koh Phangan, Thailand and Bali, Indonesia because of the laid back tropical island lifestyle, the alternative, spiritual, international communities and opportunities for yoga, ecstatic dance, raw vegan food etc. As I long to feel more at home nowadays I tend to find myself spending a couple of months in each of these places and it’s nice that I’ll also see some familiar faces who are also following the same lifestyle.
In April I jumped at the opportunity to visit Bali again to do an Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training Course on the island of Nusa Lembongan with All Yoga Training. I loved the island of Nusa Lembongan, it’s so much less developed than the rest of Bali and it became my new favourite place in Bali during the month I was there for the YTT.
I was super impressed with the comprehensive program at All Yoga and the beautiful shala on the beach was probably the best place I’ve ever practiced yoga. But doing an Ashtanga yoga teacher training proved physically challenging for me as I was used to practicing mainly Hatha yoga and because I’d be up till 2am most nights working after a full and intensive day of yoga training.
Doing a YTT is challenging enough on it’s own without trying to keep up with other work at the same time but I learned so much from the experience. Check out my post about my experience doing this yoga teacher training for more.
After the course finished I headed to Ubud, the spiritual and cultural heart of Bali, to check out some more yoga trainings. I love Ubud and there are so many amazing yoga centers there but after exhausting myself with the YTT I kept getting ill with conjunctivitis and ear infections.
Then I received the sad news that my friend Rachel Jones who runs the blog Hippie in Heels and lived in Goa had suddenly passed away aged only 29 at her bachelorette party in the US. This news was so shocking and devastating that it made me question everything and I felt like I had to go back to the UK and spend some time with my family.
June to August 2019 – Italy and UK
Rachel’s sudden death shows us that we never know how long we have and left me re-evaluating everything about my life, wanting to really make the most of every day and wanting to be closer to my family so I flew back to the UK.
After spending some time with my family, my friend Alice from Teacake Travels mentioned that she was going to speak at Traverse in Trentino, Northern Italy, a conference for travel bloggers. So, determined to make the most of my life and travel blogging career, I spontaneously went to Italy for a week. The Traverse event was really informative and inspiring and it was great to connect with so many fellow travel bloggers.
I also really loved the underrated and untouristy region of Trentino, I should probably write about it someday but my friend Emily Luxton wrote a great guide to Trentino that you can check out.
I don’t have my own place in the UK anyone, I sold everything in 2012 when I quit my job to travel full time, so after Italy I needed somewhere to live in the UK. I can’t afford a house there and would be bored being stuck in one place anyway so I decided that the perfect solution for the traveller who wants to feel at home was to buy a campervan!
I had a campervan before when I lived in Australia. It was a great way to have the ultimate freedom to travel the country whilst taking your home with you wherever you go and saved us a ton of money. I loved the campervan lifestyle in Australia and had plans to visit and reconnect with everyone in the UK and then head off exploring Europe in my campervan but the reality of vanlife in the UK was alot different to my experience in Australia.
I visited many friends and family all across the UK, a highlight being visiting my sister in Wales, but I quickly realised that while the campervan was fun for a weekend camping or going to a festival I couldn’t live and work in the small campervan I’d bought.
The UK is not as campervan friendly as Australia – it’s actually illegal to wild camp so finding safe and pleasant places to park and sleep at night was a problem, the camper used a lot of fuel making it expensive to run, there was no electricity in the van and rarely a mobile internet signal where we parked up so I couldn’t really work and I quickly got fed up of peeing in bushes and not having any washing facilities and being cramped in a tiny space. I also found it a bit lonely.
After my experience of vanlife in the UK and considering the high cost of fuel and ferries I decided not to take the campervan over to Europe. I’m not sure if I’m quite done with vanlife though, perhaps I’ll sell the camper and get something newer and bigger with electricity and a bathroom for next summer? Let’s see.
One thing that had been annoying me for years was my eyesight. In 2012 a routine trip to the opticians resulted in a referral to the hospital and an operation on my eye to fix a detached retina that could have left me blind in one eye if untreated.
The operation put things in perspective and gave me the kick I needed to live my life for now and to start traveling and start living my dreams as I realised that life is too short and even in your twenties you are not too young to get sick. Read more here about my journey to a life of full time traveling.
Even though that operation stopped me from going blind my eyesight was never the same though as it left me very short sighted. I always found contact lenses very uncomfortable to wear, especially in the heat and dust, and suffered from eye infections and my bad eye sight made everything a hassle so in August 2019 I had Laser Eye Surgery at London Vision Clinic.
I could have saved money by having laser eye surgery in India but after the first operation I really didn’t want to take any risks. I had RELEX SMILE – the latest non invasive procedure, the surgeons at LVC are the best in the world and the interest free finance plan means I can pay it off in small amounts monthly. The surgery itself was quick and painless and after a few weeks taking it easy at my Mum’s house I was ready again to take on the world again and really see it in all it’s glory for the first time.
This surgery really changed my life and now I have 20/20 vision! I’m grateful everyday that I no longer need to mess around with contacts or glasses and I’m so glad I overcame my fears and did it!
September 2019 – Ibiza, Spain
It was actually never my intention to travel to every country in the world – I simply wanted to find my happy place. I realised that vanlife wasn’t really for me but still long to find a place in Europe closer to home in the UK where I could live.
I decided to visit the Spanish party island of Ibiza to see if there was still a quieter, hippie side to the island that would perhaps make it a good summer base. Ibiza is an expensive island so to save costs my base was Camping La Playa in Es Canar in the North Eastern side of the island – a long way from party mad San Antonio.
Ibiza is a gorgeous island with a special energy, a hippie history and plenty of beaches, yoga and markets but it doesn’t offer the plethora of workshops and like minded people that places like Goa, Koh Phangan and Bali do so to be honest I don’t think It will be my summer base but it was still interesting to explore the other side to the party island.
Read More: Exploring the quieter, hippie side to Ibiza
October 2019 – Ladakh, India
When I returned from Ibiza it was starting to get colder in the UK and I was missing India, 6 months is the longest I’ve spent out of India in years so I jumped at the chance to explore Ladakh with India Someday and Unplugged Life. Ladakh is a region unlike the rest of India full of snow capped mountains, colourful Tibetan monasteries and prayer flags and surreal high altitude landscapes that I’d been dreaming of visiting for years.
This trip was a spectacular adventure although I did suffer a bit with the cold and altitude sickness so was really glad I went with a tour and would advise visiting earlier when it’s a bit warmer. See my Ladakh itinerary and more travel tips here.
November 2019 – Rishikesh, India
Yoga is such a big part of my life now and so another visit to Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world, made sense. I spent my time swimming in the refreshing Ganges, exploring the Beatles ashram, visiting temples and old friends including Mariellen Ward from Breathe Dream Go who lives there now.
I was thinking about doing another yoga teacher training program here and and checking out different yoga centers and staying in a few different ashrams (Parmath Niketan, Yoga Niketan and Ved Niketan.) But, to be honest, I find Rishikesh too noisy and crowded nowadays and my heart was pulling me back to the beach and back to Goa.
December 2019 – Goa, India
Every yoga teacher training course is different and after studying Ashtanga yoga in Bali I wanted to train more in Hatha yoga so I finished off the year with another YTT this time at Diya Yoga in Arambol, Goa.
I loved the location and views from the shala at the quieter, southern end of hippie Arambol Beach and the softer, heart centered approach of this course lead by lovely Meera who grew up in the Osho commune.
I was blessed to train with an amazing, supportive group of people and this time I took a break from work, blogging and everything else so that I could really focus on doing this course for myself. Another transformative experience which I will write more about soon.
As this year has taught me that life can be suddenly cut short at any moment and not to take our health, life or those we love for granted I then flew back to the UK to spend my first Christmas in 7 years with my family in the UK.
What’s Next – Plans for 2020
I’m so grateful that I still have the freedom to travel the world and live life on my terms even if it doesn’t always go smoothly. I’m trying to enjoy the moment and don’t tend to make too many plans nowadays so that I can go with the flow but I do want to spend 2020 learning more, traveling slowly and connecting with others more instead of traveling alone.
I will start 2020 by returning to Goa to spend time catching up on work, enjoying the beaches and parties with friends and doing more yoga training. I’m hoping to spend some more time in ashrams in India including the Osho ashram in Pune and Sadhguru’s ashram in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. I’m also planning a trip to Sri Lanka and hope to return to Bali. Maybe I’ll buy a bigger campervan in the summer and travel around Europe if I can afford it and find the right person to share the adventure with.
My big project for 2020 is that I’m also working on leading my first small group tour which will be a yoga focused tour of Kerala, Southern India! I’m super excited about this and can’t wait to show people around my favourite places in India and practice yoga together. I will let you know more details once I have the itinerary all planned out.
So that was my life and travels in 2019! I found this quite therapeutic to write and reflect and realised that I did do quite alot this year even though I still get FOMO and feel like I’m not traveling as much as other travel bloggers but we all have our own path to follow and challenged to overcome.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and I’d love to hear from you – where did you travel and what did you learn in 2019? And what are your plans for 2020? Please share in the comments below.