A look back on 2018

2018 was an amazing year for me, travel wise, in my work life and also in my personal life. I visited 6 new countries, returned to 4 countries and visited home three times to see family. I wanted to write this blog to reflect on some of the amazing memories I made last year. 

2018 NYE in Germany

We saw the new year in from Frankfurt in Germany. Although it’s a country I’ve previously visited it was the first time Ryan and I visited together. Frankfurt was also a new city for me. When we booked the trip a lot of people asked “why Frankfurt?” Honestly, the reason was because we got such a good offer on flights from London to Dubai with a 3 day layover in Frankfurt so we thought, why not?! One of the highlights of this trip was stumbling across a wine and food market where people were out dancing and singing in the streets, drinking wine and it was only 10am! Inside the marquee was a huge food market and we went from stall to stall trying cuts of hams, cheese, breads and olives, we were absolutely in our element!img_0512

To celebrate New Years, we went for dinner at a teppanyaki restaurant called Kabuki. There was a chef for every table of 8 and the food was absolutely delicious. We finished our meal at around 11.45 and headed out to the bridge to watch the fireworks. It really was the perfect way to see in the new year. 

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Tbilisi, Georgia

This was the first new country of the year for me, and honestly, not a country I had ever really considered travelling to. Ryan loves to ski and since we moved to Dubai in 2015 we hadn’t been skiing together. Georgia was the perfect option for a ski holiday from Dubai. The flight was less than 4 hours, ski passes and equipment hire is super cheap (especially compared to Europe) and we had the slopes almost to ourselves – which was great for me only just being off the training slopes in Ski Dubai!

We spent three days skiing followed by one day in Tbilisi to explore (and drink lots of wine). It’s given us the bug to look at skiing elsewhere in 2019 (please Ryan!) and we are exploring options close to Dubai such as Romania, Azerbaijan or Lebanon. 

It was after this trip that I first decided to start documenting our travels, and you can read about skiing and Tbilisi here.

The Philippines

Our second new country of the year and I have to say my favourite holiday of 2018 (obviously Italy will always hold a special place in my heart and I will get to that soon) but, I have such a connection with Asia, I think it’s because when I first travelled solo at the age of 19 I spent two months in Asia exploring Thailand. The Philippines really was everything I imagined it to be and more, it is the most breathtaking country I have visited with so much natural beauty, the people are some of the friendliest I have met and we just loved the chilled out island vibes. 

We spent time on Coron island, which is an island just of Palawan, and also in El Nido. I would love to return to explore more of what the Philippines has to offer.

Nepal

The third new country that we visited for a long weekend in June at the end of Ramadan was Nepal. As I’ve said previously, we really try to make the most out of the long weekends and public holidays we get in the UAE and a long weekend in Nepal was the perfect escape from hectic Dubai life. The flight to Nepal is less than 4 hours from Dubai and you can pick them up relatively cheap (we don’t mind budget airlines). When we landed in Nepal, my ele pants were straight on, my backpack on my back and we were off to explore for the day. Kathmandu was a world away from the built up shiny city that is Dubai but the vibrant, crazy, chaotic streets of Kathmandu captured me. 

Although we only spent two nights in Nepal, we worked the flight times so that we had three full days, packed full of activities and we felt like we had been away for a lot longer. 

England

I decided to take a short trip back to England in April as I was feeling a bit homesick, Ryan stayed in Dubai whilst I travelled back alone and spent the full four days in Lowestoft with my family, which was exactly what I needed. Our second trip home was in July, the reason we were flying home was a surprise 80th birthday party for my Grandad and we decided to make a little holiday of it. 

Every time we travel home we split the time between Kent and Lowestoft. This trip was lovely because we spent so much time with our families, the weather was amazing and the World Cup was on! We spent a day in London at Hyde park – you really can’t beat London in the summer!

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Mini Euro Trip

We were lucky enough to be invited to a wedding in Scotland in August and decided to make the most of being in that part of the world. So we spent four days in Prague, three in Scotland followed by five in Italy

Our euro trip ended in a way that I didn’t see coming, with Ryan proposing on our first night in Positano. I know I said the Philippines was my favourite holiday of the year, but Italy really was a dream. 

France

We returned to Dubai after our engagement and started looking at wedding venues for 2019. We fell in love with the idea of a wedding in France and found some stunning venues which meant we had to take a last minute trip to France to view them! Ryan and I got engaged on 28th August and confirmed our venue on 29 September – there was no hanging about!

Our trip to France was unexpected but extremely important and we now have plans to return to our wedding venue in April to trial the food etc. and then of course we will be returning in August for our actual wedding day!!

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Turkey

Turkey was my fifth new country of the year but Ryan wasn’t invited on this holiday, it was a girls only trip! Cappadocia truly took my breath away and it was a definite bucket list moment for me. I know social media often portrays things to be better than the reality and having seen so many amazing photos of Cappadocia I was worried it would be the same.  But honestly, the photos don’t even do justice to the magical sunrise with 150 hot air balloons coming up over the mountains. And riding in a hot air balloon basket 500ft Up in the air over the valleys and the mountains, this holiday was definitely one of the highlights of my year. 

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Oman

Last but not least, our final new country that we ticked off this year. Muscat was a real treat and took us by surprise with its natural beauty and all of the amazing outdoorsy activities you can do. The highlight of this trip was another bucket list moment for me as we swam with turtles out at sea (and didn’t get a single photo but I don’t care, the experience was amazing!)

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I wrote this post on the flight from Abu Dhabi to London as we were flying home for Christmas. I feel truly grateful for every country we visited, all the people we met and all of the new experiences we had in 2018. I know that Ryan often jokes that we go on too many holidays (and that we need to save for the wedding blah blah blah) but I love travelling, I love holiday planning and I can’t wait for the new adventures that lay ahead for 2019. Currently we have our March holiday booked which consists of two nights in Kuala Lumpur, four nights in Langkawi and two in Singapore so if anyone has any recommendations for those, they are always welcome!

Three years in Dubai

I’m slightly delayed with writing this post, but, on the 25th of May we celebrated our 3 year Dubai-nniversary! Three years! It is crazy how fast the time has gone.

To celebrate, we wanted to treat ourselves to a little staycation, somewhere that had an authentic Arabic vibe so we chose the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort. When I booked the stay, I didn’t actually realise it was a three hour drive from Dubai and almost on the border of Saudi!

The Qasr Al Sarab is possibly the most beautiful hotel I have ever stayed in, it is surrounded by nothing but vast desert and it felt so tranquil. The resort itself is located approximately 20 minutes away from the main road so it feels almost like you’re dune bashing on the drive up to the hotel! It was such a relaxing stay and I reflected on some of the amazing things we have had the opportunity to do since living here in the UAE, here are a few:

Skydive Dubai

I bought this as Ryan’s birthday present in 2015 and without really thinking about it, I purchased two tickets! I then thought shit I am going to have to do this now too! It was such an amazing experience and we were so lucky that the weather was perfect the day we jumped, you could see for miles! I would definitely recommend doing the skydive, I just wouldn’t advise doing brunch the day before!

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

I am so lucky to have an amazing group of friends that make weekends here so fun, but the best weekend of the year is the Abu Dhabi F1. In the two years I’ve been, I can’t say I have seen that many of the cars but we end up partying for the whole weekend and it’s such a great atmosphere there.

Dubai World Cup Horse Racing

It’s strange watching the horse racing and not being able to gamble, but the World Cup has such a buzz and it’s so nice to get properly dressed up for the races.img_5883-1

Dubai Opera

The Dubai Opera only recently opened in 2016 and as part of my Christmas present, Ryan bought us tickets to go and see the performance of Westside Story! I absolutely love the film and seeing it in the Dubai Opera theatre was so lovely. I am just holding out for Phantom of the Opera to do a tour over here because that is my absolute favourite West End show!

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Learning to ski in the Mall of the Emirates

So Ryan has previously skied quite a lot, I however had only been on one ski holiday and that’s when I was 15 at school. So for Christmas, Ryan bought me ski lessons at the Mall of the Emirates indoor ski slope. How crazy that I learnt to ski in the middle of the desert! The indoor ski slope is great and it actually has real snow so I had my ski lessons there right before we went to Georgia in February.

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Travelling

As I’ve said before, we try to maximise our holiday days as much as possible, so whenever there is a public holiday or long weekend, we try to get away. Since living in Dubai we have visited 10 countries (and counting)! We’ve done a safari in Kenya where I got to see eles in the wild – of course I burst into tears when I saw them! We’ve visited Sri Lanka twice for my birthday; we’ve also had holidays to Bali, Lebanon, Thailand, India, Philippines, Germany, Georgia and Nepal! Due to the central location of Dubai, it’s relatively easy to get around and you can usually be somewhere new and exotic within a few hours!

Making friends who feel like family

Living abroad is hard, and you don’t have the same support system as you do at home with your family, that’s why friends out here are so important because they really do turn into your family.

The past three years have had their challenges, but I wouldn’t change living here for the world. My time living in Dubai isn’t up yet!

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Home v Holiday

With such a small number of annual leave days per year, it’s always hard deciding on how to use them! The trouble with living abroad is wanting to spend my annual leave days travelling to places around the world that I have easy access to… but also wanting to spend them coming home to visit family! It’s funny though, living away from home makes you realise all the small things that you really love and miss (obviously family and friends) but also silly things such as a sausage roll from Greggs and mums cooking!

I decided to book a long weekend trip back to the UK to visit family in April and it was so lovely to just spend the days chilling at home with family and popping round to see my grandparents, I just really wanted to spend as much time with family in those 5 days as possible. One of the highlights of my trip home was spending the morning alpaca walking with my mum! It was so lovely just being out in the countryside and we had so much fun with the alpacas!

I have been feeling quite homesick again lately and I hate not having trips booked home as I feel like I always want to count down the days to seeing my family again. Ryan and I have just booked another trip back home for the first week in July and I really am excited as I will be able to spend some time with his family also this time. I’m praying that the weather in the UK stays nice as I am looking forward to BBQs and the long summer evenings – that’s something that I really miss, living in Dubai. The sun sets really quickly over here and the latest sunset throughout the year is only around 7.30pm.

Living as an expat really is an amazing experience, and I am so lucky that we have the ability to travel to so many new and amazing destinations, but nothing compares to home comforts.

“It’s good to know that the ones you love will always be in your heart. And if you’re lucky, only a plane ride away.” – Carrie Bradshaw