2015: The Best Year Of My Life

Looking back on 2015 I can honestly say this has been the best year of my life! I visited 13 countries and I am countless amazing experiences richer. 2015, a year to be very thankful for...

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.


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.

Austria mountain ski wintersport

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…

New Zealand most beautiful country in the world

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.

Abel Tasman New Zealand National Park

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!

Tongariro Crossing Mount Doom New Zealand

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.

Hong Kong fireworks

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;-).

After the New Year celebrations and firework show we flew to the Philippines where I hiked the incredible rice terraces of Batad, got my PADI at El Nido and explored Bohol on a scooter.

El Nido Big Lagoon

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.

Cooking class in Hoi An visit market to buy ingredients

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.

Vietnam Bahn Mi tiny street stall

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 usually don't particularly like getting up at 4am. But for this stunning sunset I would happily do it every day!

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.

Reclining Buddha in Bangkok Wat Pho bring a scarf

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 mountaints Luang Prabang

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.

Vang Vien Limestone Cliffs

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 by night skyline

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.

Sunset on Tioman Island

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.

Cambodia most relaxed chair in 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.

Back home in the Netherlands, also quite pretty!
Back home in the Netherlands, also quite pretty!

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.

London Greenwich Canary Warf view

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!

R 1-1 road: from Sete Cidades to Ribeira Grande, another day enjoying the beautiful coast road, passing through villages like Ajuda da Bretanha and Remédios.

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.

Utrechtse grachtenSky at Havelte Drenthe hei

November: Paris…

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.

Paris Eiffel Tower

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

2015 An Amazing Year

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  1. December 17, 2015 / 12:07 am

    Wow you had such an amazing year of travel! 🙂 New Zealand is also in my bucket list, now so is Vietnam. I’m sorry to hear about you experience in Paris, but glad to know you weren’t harmed. Overall a great year!

    • Lotte
      December 17, 2015 / 8:29 am

      Yes it was an amazing year! I hope you get to visit New Zealand soon, I am sure you’ll love it:-) Happy 2016!

  2. Denise
    December 18, 2015 / 7:01 pm

    Wow, lot’s of beautiful countries in 1 year. Of the ones you mentioned I also loved Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and the Azores. I still want to post (more) about these countries too. Vietnam and the Philippines are still on my list. I didn’t know your blog before but I will come back. Wish you the best for 2016.

    • Lotte
      December 19, 2015 / 1:46 am

      Yes, it has been an amazing year… I can definitely recommend going to Vietnam and the Philippines! Hope my posts about these countries help you plan your trip:-) Happy travels in 2016!

  3. Sandra
    December 18, 2015 / 8:46 pm

    Wow! What a great travel year. 161 days of traveling… I’m a bit jealous ;-)! I really want to visit New Zealand, and Vietnam and all the other countries haha! I wish you a great 2016!

    • Lotte
      December 19, 2015 / 1:51 am

      Haha yes I am not sure if I can ever top that. I’ll give it a try though;-) Of the 13 countries New Zealand was my favorite, I would definitely try to go there in 2016! Best wishes to you for 2016 as well!

  4. December 18, 2015 / 9:04 pm

    Nice travel year!

    You haven’t been to Indonesia yet? That’s my absolute favorite!

    • Lotte
      December 19, 2015 / 1:52 am

      An amazing travel year indeed! I haven’t been to Indonesia but it’s on my list;-) I would love to go diving there!

  5. Antonette
    December 20, 2015 / 2:16 pm

    Ha, funny that Amanda is one of the bloggers that made you decide to get writing, same happened for me when I started researching blogs a couple of years ago. Although I don’t really follow her blog anymore nowadays (so many, perhaps too many, great blogs to read) she really made me aware of the fact that you can live a life with travel! Fijne kerstdagen en gelukkig nieuwjaar xxa

    • Lotte
      December 20, 2015 / 3:32 pm

      That is such a coincidence since there are so many great blogs! For me it was indeed the final push I needed, you don’t have to quit your job and travel fulltime. It is perfectly ok to combine travel with a job! Voor jou ook fijne feestdagen en een gelukkig 2016! Op vele mooie reizen:-)

  6. December 21, 2015 / 8:53 am

    Definitely sounds like it was a great year. Love your pictures!

    • Lotte
      December 21, 2015 / 10:19 am

      Glad you like my pictures, that’s always nice to hear! And yes, it really was a great year:-)

  7. December 21, 2015 / 8:54 am

    You have had the perfect year with so many beautiful travels. New Zealand is still the one high on my bucketlist and I would love to do the Tongario Crossing! My husband (who’s also named Frank!) and I travelled for 5 months this year (Asia and Australia) and I loved Singapore. Just like you I was curious about the “different” Asia after visiting SE Asia for so many times. Fijne dagen met de familie en een heel goed 2016!

    • Lotte
      December 21, 2015 / 10:18 am

      Such a coincidence that you also traveled for 5 months this year and your husband is also named Frank:-) What are the odds! Australia is on my list for next time… Fijne Feestdagen en Happy Travels in 2016!

  8. Arlette
    January 3, 2016 / 7:41 pm

    Geweldig dat je zo’n tijd hebt mogen genieten van Nieuw-Zeeland. Daar zou ik ook nog erg graag eens heen willen.

    • Lotte
      January 3, 2016 / 8:20 pm

      Nieuw Zeeland bezoeken was een voorrecht, echt geweldig! Ik hoop van harte dat je nog een keer in de gelegenheid bent om er heen te gaan:-)

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