2017 has been another incredible year! I have spent time in over 10 countries, including seven USA states, and ticked off two countries I have wanted to visit since forever. This is my year from Croatia to Australia and everything in between.
I had been Croatia where I had been living since November 2016. Croatia is one of my top two as my grandfather was born here on the island of Korčula and I had always wanted to visit his homeland. I spent most of my time in the capital city, Zagreb but travelled to Dubrovnik, Korčula, Split, Zadar, Samabor and Plitvice National Park during my time here. Ticking Croatia off my ‘to do’ list was definitely a highlight of 2017.
While living in Zagreb I did a trip to Slovenia, if you have already read my post on ‘Europe’s top ten cities’ you will know how much I love Slovenia! This has got to be one of my favourite countries in Europe due to the incredible nature, how environmentally friendly it is, the great food and lovely people. While I was here I stayed in Ljubljana but with a friend we hired a car and visited Lake Bled and Bohinj, Postojna Caves and Castle as well as Savica waterfalls.
I left Croatia at the end of January and headed to Ireland where I spent a few days in Dublin and a few days in Galway. Both great cities but both so different. While in Ireland I did a day trip up to Northern Ireland which included Belfast, Carrick-o-rede Bridge and the Giants Causeway. I also did tours to Connemarra including Kylemore Abbey and the Cliffs of Moher. Along with Slovenia, Ireland has got to be one of my favourite countries in Europe, here I met some of the happiest people!
After Ireland came Scotland and England. Edinburgh and the highlands were amazing! I fell in love with Edinburgh then headed to Bristol to spend time with a travel friend who showed me around this very bustling English city. I am a huge fan of the street artist Banksy so it was a real treat to see some of his original work in his home town. I finished the UK in London. I stayed with a cousin I had only met for the first time when I was there in 2016. London is a place of familiarity for me so it was nice to return to this city to enjoy a few comforts of home.
I left London to spend the next few months in the USA. My only reason for visiting the USA was to spend time with two special friends whom I had known most of my life. The three of us started school on the same day at the age of five. We all turned 40 this year and planned to celebrate that together but our plans didn’t quite work out. However, I still got to spend time with each of them separately.
My first stop was Miami, Florida. This was really just a stop over and I spent two nights here before moving on to Kingston, Jamaica. This is the second of the top two on my ‘to do’ list. I have always had a fascination with Jamaica, I love Bob Marley and the accent is so sexy! I was determined to really get among the people so a week in Kingston it was. There is too much to share here and that will be another post but lets say Kingston did not disappoint.
From Jamaica I headed to New Orleans, Louisiana and it was the weekend before Fat Tuesday, better known as Mardi Gras. They call this weekend Family Gras, the parades are more family friendly but the city is still buzzing with a hive of fun and entertainment! New Orleans turned out to be my favourite city in the USA, I fell in love with the energy and colour that saturates this place, especially in the French Quarter.
After that came the State of Texas. This is where one of my childhood friends lives, in Fort Worth. First stop though was Houston, as I was travelling by bus this was a good stop to break up the trip to Fort Worth and I was keen to check out NASA. I was super excited to get to my friend who I hadn’t seen in about ten years and I spent two weeks with her. During that time we did a road trip through the hill country, down to San Antonio and a stop in Austin. I know Texas is humongous but in the two weeks I was there I feel like I saw a lot!
I was heading to California next but first I had to make a stop in Las Vegas. The main reason for this was to get on a tour to the Grand Canyon. Being a fan of the outdoors I couldn’t come all this way and not see this incredible natural wonder. I just wish I could have spent a few days here and explored it on foot. Las Vegas is an experience for sure but one I only need to do once, not really my kind of place.
I started off my time in California with San Fransisco. Going from Texas to here was like changing countries. They seemed like two very different places. I loved San Fransisco and it was my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. It reminded me how close to home I was after being away for so long. From San Fransisco I headed down the coast to Salinas where I spent a week with another friend I had worked with back in Aotearoa New Zealand in my early 20s. She took me to places like Big Sur, Monteray, Pebble Beach and Carmel.
From Salinas I caught the Amtrak down to Los Angeles to spend some time with my other childhood friend. The two of us have known each other since the day she was born, I was born four days before her and it is then that our mothers met. It is pretty special that 40 years on we are still great friends despite the miles between us. We had a tonne of fun going hiking, visiting Disneyland and whale watching from Newport. While I was there I also did a trip down to San Diego for a few day which included a day in Tijuana, Mexico.
My time in the USA came to an end and it was time to start my journey home to New Zealand. Next stop though was Australia to visit family and friends but to get there I had to transfer in Auckland, New Zealand. This felt strange as I hadn’t been home in nearly 8 months and I wasn’t even stopping here. First stop was Brisbane to catch up with friends all over from the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast and then I then flew down to Sydney to catch up with family.
I arrived back in New Zealand mid April with just enough time to see more family and friends before heading out to Great Barrier Island for 10 weeks work. This island is a 30 minute flight or four hour ferry ride from Auckland City. I have been spending winters out here for the last four years and was super excited to be heading back. This place is paradise and probably my favourite place in the whole wide world. The island is off the grid, has a population of about 900 and life completely slows down. My job here is lead teacher on an outdoor education programme for 30 teenagers who stay for five weeks. I have written all about Great Barrier Island so do check it out.
While I was working here I was offered another five weeks work but there would be six weeks between programmes so I ended up doing a three week trip to Hawaii during that time. I just posted about that yesterday so be sure to check that out if you a haven’t already. I returned to Great Barrier Island for another five weeks then finished up near the end of September.
The plan from here was to take a couple of weeks visiting friends and family then head north to Whangarei and do some relief teaching while I applied for jobs to teach in the United Arab of Emirates. I did all my research about living here and was excited about finding a job in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. This was going to be the perfect location to travel from every school holidays! I was compiling the paper work and liaising with recruiting agencies when a family emergency had me back in Sydney, Australia. And this is where I I will see in the New Year. What an adventure, Croatia to Australia.
This wasn’t part of the plan but this is where I need to be for now and it won’t be forever. While I am here though I have been and will continue to make the most of exploring Sydney, New South Wales and Australia. 2018 is going to be the year of the unknown. Without going into detail my current situation means making no plans and taking one day at a time. If there is one piece of advice I can leave you with for 2017 it is that you must enjoy every great moment, be thankful for the freedom you have and never take a day for granted. So that is it, Croatia to Australia and everything in between!
I wish you all the best for the new year to come and hope it is filled with loads of love, laughter and of course travel!