January is not over yet, so I can still say Happy New Year!
This month marks the first anniversary of my travel blog. I may not have millions of readers, but writing brings me joy and over the past months I’ve received lots of positive feedback from friends and strangers. Looking back at the past year, I can tell with confidence it has been a rich and fulfilling one. I have travelled to 15* countries, which has resulted in 29 blog posts. Below is a brief overview of the highlights of 2015.
The year started with an impromptu trip to Iceland, where we skidded on ice in Reykjavik, explored snowy national parks, experienced sunrise at midday, swam in hot spring lagoons and made snow angels in our swimsuits, and we chased the aurora, albeit without much success.
February brought a trip to Kenya, with a short but intense stopover in Dubai. I watched the sun rise on the desert, rode a camel and a quad on the sand dunes, and then explored that ruthless, turbo-capitalist and fascinating city. I confronted the traditional way of life, with its dhows on the river and old mosques, with shining glass and steel towers of the financial district. I watched night fall from the 148th floor of Burj Khalifa and then dined in style, pondering over the blood and tears of exploited migrants that have built this city.
Nairobi was different – the restless, bustling African city where walking is off limits any time of day and driving at night means you’re looking for trouble. The high point of my stay was a safari in Masai Mara, where I watched herds of elephants, walked with giraffes, giggled at cuddly baby leopards and pointed my zoom at sleeping lions.
Spring brought me to a rural part of Tanzania, where I hiked mountains meeting remote farming communities and discovered the journey of food. Then, joined by my husband, I indulged in a luxurious beach holiday in Zanzibar, with a mixture of pleasure and guilt, for we were in a bubble of comfort amidst poverty.
April was Kenya again, where this time I had more time to explore Nairobi, including the super cute Giraffe Centre. I also finally got a chance to visit Kibera, the world’s biggest slum, and meet some fascinating people there.
In May I travelled to Tanzania, to Arusha, a town at the foot of the majestic Kilimanjaro.
With not much time to spare, I spent a few days visiting Masai villages in the mountains and learning about their traditional way of life which is slowly disappearing.
From there I travelled via Qatar to my beloved India, where I had time to visit a good friend before taking the flight back home the day of my birthday.
In July I went back to Tanzania, this time spending a bit more time in Dar Es Salaam, exploring its street markets. Ironically, it was not market food but an upscale hotel that gave my colleague food poisoning which meant a night spent at the hospital.
From there I flew to Kigali, towards what was to become the most momentous one of my adventures that year, if not ever. First I cried my eyes out visiting genocide memorials and talking to survivors. Then I hiked the jungle to stand eye to eye with extremely rare mountain gorillas of the Volcanoes National Park. I concluded my stay by chilling by the shores of Lake Kivu at the Congolese border.
Little did I know that on that jungle hike I was already pregnant, something I wouldn’t find out about till almost a month later.
August was a quiet month, with less remote trips to Poland and France. In France we hiked the Alps and indulged in good food, even if for me it was without the blue cheese and wine.
In October I travelled to Uganda, where I attempted to visit Kampala on foot in knee-deep rain and learn about its past, darkened by the shadow of dictator Idi Amin.
The first Autumn colds saw us take refuge in sunny Canaries, where we sunbathed on pebbly beaches, ate fresh fish watching the sun set, and hiked volcanoes.
In December we went to see family in France and Poland, spending Christmas in two different traditions and wondering what 2016 will bring.
As we are awaiting the birth of our daughter, for sure the new year will mean a bit less travelling for me, at least in the first few months. But that won’t mean less writing.
I want to focus on posts on travel writing as well as explorations of ‘foreign’ London, a city that can take you to five continents in one day, just using the underground. I’m also planning to dig out photos and travelogues of my past travels to tell those long-overdue stories of: Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Japan, US, Canada, South Africa, more of India, and countless European destinations.
But most importantly of all, I will be busy raising my daughter to become an intrepid traveller too. She will be growing up with three passports and three languages in one of the most cosmopolitan cities on Earth. I want to infect her with the travel bug and instil in her the love of foreign encounters. They say that children grow faster than we know it, so soon enough my daughter and I will be setting off on an adventure together.
*Iceland, UAE, Kenya, Germany, Tanzania, Benin, Belgium, Qatar, India, France, Poland, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Spain