I love this time of year.
Not just Christmas, but the whole run up to the New Year and this elusive “fresh start” everyone talks about.
I don’t buy into the new year, new me bull but I do like to think of the New Year as the perfect opportunity to set goals and rekindle the aspirational side of myself that unavoidably falls down the side of the sofa with my spare change around half way through the year.
A new year is like opening a new notebook and making sure that the writing on the first page is absolute perfection. I used to have a minor obsession with notebooks as a kid and remember that one time I actually cried when I spelt a word wrong on the first page.
Every year for as long as I’ve been travelling, I’ve written a wish list of places I wanted to visit in the coming year. Some of them are on this blog, others are on a piece of scrap paper that might still be hiding under my bed back in Wales. I like to think that writing my plans out in black and white will somehow help them to manifest into reality. And half of the time they do. The other half of the time they get put on the back burner because real life shit happens like death and what-not.
So just like every year for the past 7 years, this is a list of places I want to visit in 2019. I’m trying to be more realistic this year, though, taking into account my current geographic location as well as my poor-person bank account. I’ve only listed places there’s at least a microscopic chance of me seeing – so Antarctica is out!
There’s also the fact that I’m facing a new challenge in my travel life.
I have a boyfriend now. And, what’s more, I have a boyfriend with a third world passport, which is gonna make thing just that little bit trickier for these size 4 itchy feet. Trying to find countries that accept both our passports without too much effort is like trying to play the Sims without using Motherlode: definitely achievable but also inherently annoying and a wee bit of an inconvenience.
Not that he has to accompany me on every trip, but it would be nice as he has a driving licence and I can just about manage a bicycle.
The ideal scenario for this year would be to hide out in the Southern Hemisphere for a while and then follow the sun north in a few months. In other words, I just want to chase summer all year. Because I’m a cold weather Grinch and I’ve grown fond of not wearing socks.
Disclaimer: This post uses stock images because obviously I haven’t been to most of them yet, and the ones I have been to my photos are probably awful.
New Zealand’s South Island
After spending the last 4+ months slowly making my way around New Zealand’s gorgeous North Island, I’m more than ready for pastures new and to make my way down south!
Prior to coming here in April, my geographical knowledge of New Zealand was non-existent beyond knowing that Auckland was not the capital city (that accolade goes to little old Welly).
I don’t think I even knew it was 2 different islands?!
Fortunately since arriving I’ve had the chance to not only brush up on my Aotearoa education but also find out things like you have to get the ferry from one island to the other (or fly, but you can’t drive), the ferry can be expensive and the South Island is the one with the pretty views.
Honestly, the North Island does have its fair share of knock you off your chair bloody beautiful views too so don’t let that put you off visiting, but all the whimsical ones are down south. The never-ending roads with a horizon of snow-capped mountains, the tiny little mountain peaks that have about 1000 people queuing to get the perfect Insta-shot and that lonely old tree in the middle of the lake? All down south.
I’ve been hoping to build up my hiking stammer (current level of fitness: -1,012) before heading down south, but I think the longer I put it off the less likely it is to actually happen. I think I’ll just have to bite the bullet next time I have a significant amount of time off work and just go.
What is it they say?
The mountains are calling and I must go– John Muir
Pretty sure Fiji was on my list last year too, but now I can’t seem to find that list to check it. I guess I thought I would have been there by now but lol, no, I’m still living my life completely Fiji-less.
If you Google “reasons to visit Fiji”, the top 4 results tend to be diving, river and cave safaris, Fijian nannies (the kind that look after your kids, not the Gramma Tala variety) and fire-walking.
Take babysitters out of the equation for this childless wench and could you think of a better list of activities?! I’d probably sit on the sidelines and enjoy a cultural fire-walking show from afar as opposed to literally walking on hot coals but the rest of it is enough to make me cry at the realisation that I’m not in Fiji right now.
Fiji comes with the added bonus of being a country with incredibly lax visa requirements, meaning neither British Me nor Indian Boyfriend require visas. We can just waltz on in with a wave of a return ticket and latest bank statement.
I also really like hammocks, and Fiji apparently has a lot.
Have you heard of Niue?
I hadn’t until I went to Auckland Zoo last May in an attempt to pass some time before my flight home and got really mad that the South Asian elephants were put right by the “African Savannah”. It irked me as people were obviously going to assume they were African elephants, and in my eyes that’s akin to calling a guinea pig a rabbit – they’re not the same.
I read the information plaque just to double check that they were, in fact, Asian elephants (FYI, they’re from Sri Lanka so it’s a big yes). On the plaque it said something like “thank you to the people of Niue” because they’d let them keep the elephants there in quarantine so as not to infect the people of New Zealand with something or other.
Intrigued, I immediately got on Google and searched for Niue, thinking it was maybe some small little Kiwi town I hadn’t heard of off the mainland somewhere way up north.
Nope, Niue is actually one of the smallest countries in the world.
And it is BEAUTIFUL!
At first it looks incredibly similar to a lot of the other Pacific Island nations, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll find out that because there’s no lakes or rivers on the entire island (all 261.5 km² of it…), the ocean is so incredibly clear that visibility is sometimes up to 100m. ONE HUNDRED METRES OF VISIBILITY UNDER THE SEA. Imagine that!
Aside from incredible snorkelling opportunities (not really sure why I’m excited about that as my last foray into snorkelling gave me nothing but extreme sunburn and memories of accidentally punching a shark in the face), Niue has coves and caves and coconuts and nice weather. And to top it all off, its population is less than 1,700 people. My tiny little hometown in the South Wales Valleys has twice as many people as that.
In short, Niue looks like an absolute dream and has quickly worked its way to the top of my bucket list.
It’d just be wrong to live in New Zealand for so long and not hop across the Tasman to Australia, don’t you think?
Honestly, Australia hasn’t ever appealed to me for much beyond Neighbours and Steve Irwin’s Zoo. Aside from a brief few months of contemplating whether to apply for a Working Holiday Visa or not, I’ve never considered flying all the way across the planet just to see Australia as something I want to do.
But now that I’m right next door, it’d be a shame to miss out.
Australia (and visiting it) has also grown on me considerably since learning all about how fond they are of really big things.
Every year I say that I want to see more of my own country. Every flippin’ year! And every year I instead choose to spend my money flying off to the far corners of the world where they eat pies for every meal and say “sweet as” instead of “no problem!”
That makes it sound like I resent all the trips I’ve taken, but to be clear, I absolutely do not. I couldn’t be more grateful for the places I’ve seen and the opportunities that have arisen as a result of travel, but being away from Wales only intensifies my love for that adorable little pig-shaped country I call home.
Then there’s the rest of the UK – Scotland (a country so close but yet apparently too far for me to have bothered to take a trip there in the last 26 years), Northern Ireland (again, somewhere I’m yet to visit!) and England, the last of the lot and probably the least exciting to me but still somewhere I’d like to visit because The Cotswolds and Cornwall look pretty jazzy.
At some point this year I will go back (ideally with the boyfriend tagging along, visa-dependent) and I swear to the Heavens, I know I’ve said this every year for the last I don’t know how many, but I will explore my own backyard.
Italy and maybe France or Slovenia?
This is probably the biggest reach of them all!
I lived in Italy for 6 months as part of my studies back in 2013-14 and have been dying to return ever since! My Italian is getting way too rusty for my liking, and I think it’s about time I dusted off the old vocabulary by ordering way too much fresh penne arrabbiata and pizza napoletana.
Living in the tiny little city of Forlì, just outside of Bologna, meant I was incredibly well-connected to most of the country and was able to see most of the main tourist spots (Rome, Venice, Pisa etc.), but I really want to go back and explore “off the beaten track”.
Enter Traverse 19!
This awesome travel blogging conference (I say it’s awesome but I haven’t actually been before, just going off other people’s recommendations!) is going to be held in beautiful Trentino in June and I’ve managed to secure my ticket well in advance. I’m thinking a week for the conference and then an extra week or two exploring a bit more of Italy.
So I haven’t quite worked out the logistics of this one yet, as if everything goes according to plan I should still be in New Zealand come June. At the moment I’ve got my eye on return flights to Rome for just over £500 (it’s almost too cheap for me to believe, and has part of me thinking I’ll end up in a very Lost-esque situation on a desert island somewhere) but there’s also the question of getting a Schengen visa for the boyfriend.
If we’re going through all the effort of applying for a Schengen (and it’s a lot of effort – we actually have to book things in advance which is almost enough to give me palpitations), we may as well make the most of it. Perhaps a little road trip through Slovenia or France?
Oh, India. Will there ever come a day when you’re not on my ever-expanding list of desired destinations?
I think not.
I’ve been writing a lot about India recently, reminiscing about past trips and tentatively planning future ones, and it’s just making me really, really, really want to go. Like, now. At least once a day I turn to G and announce that “I really want to go to India” or “I really like India”, and as much as I’m sure he appreciates his girlfriend’s fondness of his home country, I think he kind of wants to sew my mouth shut at this point.
A friend of his is getting married this time next year and we’ve both received a verbal invitation in passing, which could obviously be revoked at any time but I’m taking it as absolute gospel and have already got my sari on order.
If I do make it to India in 2019 then I’d want to branch out a bit from my previous Indian explorations and see some of the country I haven’t been to yet. As much as I adore Kerala and Rajasthan (Goa, Mumbai and Agra not so much), I definitely want to give the rest of the country a bash. The ultimate dream would be to see the whole of India on the back of a motorbike, but I’d probably need a bit longer than a few weeks squeezed in for that.
There are a few other places I’m keen on getting to in 2019 – Singapore and Cook Islands if I have to name names, but remember when I said I’m trying to be realistic? To visit just one of the places on my list would be an absolute dream come true, so here’s hoping 2019 is going to be a fun and travel-filled year!
Where are you hoping to travel next year?
I’m a sucker for nosing at other people’s plans so let me know!