I can say without any doubt that 2015 has been the best year of my life! The reason being the amazing 5 month trip I made with my husband to New Zealand and Southeast Asia. I loved traveling for months… The feeling of freedom and experiencing new and exciting things every day.
It was AWESOME!
Getting back home on the other hand was a little less fun… But no complaining, I feel incredibly fortunate to have made this amazing trip. And besides my long 5 month journey, I took 4 other trips to 4 different countries in Europe as well! So onto the stats:
#Days traveled: 161
#Countries visited: 13, 9 of those for the first time!
#Amazing experiences: countless…
January: Austria and New Zealand
I started 2015 abroad, in Austria to be exact. A pretty clear sign this would be a year of travel;-). My parents-in-law were celebrating their 35-year anniversary by taking the whole family on a great skiing trip. I am a real family person and had a great week skiing, chatting and playing with my cute nephew and nieces.
I spend one Sunday in the Netherlands before boarding a plane to Christchurch, New Zealand! I’ve said it before and I will say it again: New Zealand is my favorite country in the world and I cannot imagine a place more beautiful…
Frank and I explored New Zealand for 6 weeks, driving in our little campervan, crossing the entire South Island and a large part of the North Island. I was in a constant state of euphoria and wonder about the incredibly beauty of New Zealand landscapes.
And even after visited many amazing countries in Southeast Asia, I can still say this is the country I want to return to the most. I have got to save up some money first because it certainly isn’t cheap (check my budget breakdown to see how you can travel New Zealand for 160NZD a day as a couple).
February: New Zealand, Hong Kong and the Philippines
The first half of February I traveled the North Island of New Zealand, the absolute highlight was hiking the Tongariro Crossing and climbing Mount Doom.
Best hike ever!
After saying goodbye to our van and New Zealand, and solemnly promising myself I will return as soon as I can, we flew to Hong Kong to celebrate our second New Year: Chinese New Year. Our first evening in Hong Kong wasn’t a huge success and I definitely prefer Singapore over Hong Kong.
Nevertheless, Hong Kong was our first big Asian city and I was impressed by all the skyscrapers and all the people. I mean, 7 million people live in Hong Kong, quite a shock after spending 6 weeks in a country with a total population of 4 million people (and 40 million sheep;-).
The Philippines have the most beautiful beaches and bluest ocean I have ever seen. Getting around varied from frustrating to easy-breezy and the food was not my favorite.
March: the Philippines and Vietnam
Luckily we went to Vietnam next and the food there was amazing! A month in Vietnam was too short to try all the delicious dishes. As I traveled from North to South, I fell in love with Southeast Asia.
The bustling cities, the countless scooters, the smell of food in the streets, the tiny stalls that sell everything you can imagine, the pagodas, the temples, the incense, the people, the history, the chaos on the roads, I LOVE IT! Yes, Vietnam was very much fun and the country I spend the most time besides New Zealand.
April: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos
Halfway through April our one month visa ran out so we went to Cambodia. Cambodia was impressive. Not so much because of the nature, though there are definitely some pretty parts such as Kep National Park, but because of the history and the way that history impacted the country. The contrast between the Killing Fields in Choeung Ek and the temples of Angkor is too big to properly put into words…
I spent just 8 days in Cambodia, coincidentally during Khmer New Year, making it our 3rd New Year celebration of 2015:-). Choosing the Sunday after Khmer New Year to cross the border to Thailand was a big mistake, you can read about it in my 8-day itinerary for Cambodia…
I did make it to Thailand eventually, Bangkok to be precise. There I explored the city by taking as many different forms of transportation as possible and visited sparkling Wat Pho, famous for the Reclining Buddha.
After three hot and sweaty days in Bangkok we boarded a plane to Chiang Rai, boarded a bus to the Thai-Lao border and entered the 7th country of our trip: Laos.
Laos is beautiful and our 2-day trip on the slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang was a great way to see more of the country. I stayed in pretty Luang Prabang for a week, visited its many temples and cycled to the Kuang Si Falls. Though, Vang Vieng was without a doubt my favorite place in Laos.
The steep limestone cliffs rising up from the flat rice fields and valleys are impressive and the relaxed vibe of the village made it an easy place to stay for a while… In Vientiane we boarded the night train to Bangkok and flew to Singapore.
May: Laos, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand
Singapore was so much fun! Extremely organized, clean and regulated. The contrast with the other countries in Southeast Asia I visited couldn’t be bigger. But it was a nice change of pace and I walked many kilometers exploring this tiny state/city/ country.
Singapore was not so good for our budget so after an expensive couple of days we went to Malaysia. Malaysia was amazing and I want to go back for sure! Diving at Tioman, exploring Kuala Lumpur and touring around Langkawi was how I spent 2 wonderful weeks in this marvelous country.
In one of the longest tracks of our trip we managed to get from Langkawi in Malaysia to Koh Tao in Thailand, though not without some obstacles. On Koh Tao I did my advanced PADI course, went wreck diving and splurged on an expensive resort as a proper ending to my phenomenal five month trip. I cried at the airport in Bangkok, I couldn’t accept my amazing and seemingly endless trip was over…
June: back in the Netherlands…
I struggled the entire month, it was very hard for me to come to terms with the fact the trip I had been dreaming about for so many year was over. I can honestly say I didn’t expect travel to have such a lasting impact on me, though I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Yes, travel changed me, but I think in a good way. It taught me to be grateful for everything I have. It made me realize how lucky I am with my amazing family and friends. It made me prioritize different things in my life, for example, I spend much more time outside now than before my trip.
July: a new home in Utrecht
I moved back to Utrecht, to a nice apartment in a great neighborhood with cute canals and a lovely park. The beautiful summer weather made is slightly easier to adjust to live in the Netherlands. I spent time with my family and friends who I hadn’t seen for so long, drinking wine on long summer evenings and catching up on the latest developments in their lives.
I was actually already writing posts for Phenomenal Globe, but was still hesitant about actually buying a domain and get started. I mean, with all the great travel blogs out there, would anybody want to read mine… Also, I spent sooooo much time coming up with a good name!
August: London baby!
The lovely summer weather continued and I got to visit my beloved London again! I spent 5 days revisiting some of my favorite places in London (I’ll write about London soon, I promise!) and discovering new ones. It was great to catch up with friends living in London and just strolling around the amazing city that feels like home to me.
September: amazing Azores
In September I finally took the plunge and started this blog! I bought a domain (after I finally settled on Phenomenal Globe as the name for my blog) and lost myself for many hours in the addictive world of WordPress themes.
Besides starting Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog, I took a short trip to the amazing Azores!
It was a wonderful weekend, exploring Sao Miguel on a scooter and in a Smart, together with my dad. The sunny weather prevented me from slipping into an early winter depression. After 8 months of following summer around the globe I was getting a little depressed from the rain and wind in the Netherlands.
October: all about Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog
I spent October improving Phenomenal Globe and writing lots of posts. No travel outside the Netherlands but I enjoyed walking around the pretty city center of Utrecht and the wide skies at the ‘hei’ in Havelte.
I had planned a trip to Paris with my husband, to celebrate our 6 year wedding anniversary. It would be my first visit to the city of love and lights and I was very excited about it.
Well, that weekend certainly didn’t work out as planned. We arrived mere hours before the terrible terrorist attacks… I am so grateful that nothing happened to us, but even so it was a terrifying experience. I have written down what happened to process it, but haven’t published a post yet and I am still not sure if I will…
December: spending time with my family
December is all about spending time with my family, no trips this month. But I have some exciting plans for 2016 so stay tuned…
Altogether I can say 2015 has been super exciting, had a lot of impact on me, has been an amazing adventure and truly the best year of my life!
Read my 2016 review post here