2014 was my first full year of travel blogging and I covered quite a bit of ground. I spent exactly 26 weeks travelling this year (more than any other year since 1997) visiting a total of 10 countries. Only two of those countries were new ones though. I even went back to six cities or towns I had seen before. Obviously, I’ll have to make a resolution for 2015 to get out of my comfort zone!

Below is a recap of my travels this year. (The letters next to place names reference the map at the bottom.)

Burma, Thailand, Australia, and Indonesia

January 1st 2014 found me in Myanmar (Burma) where I arrived on December 26, after spending three weeks in Southern Thailand. This was my first trip to Myanmar, a country I had tried to visit not once, but twice before! I mostly enjoyed Yangon, Kalaw, Nyaungshwe/Inle Lake, and Bagan. But I hated Mandalay so much that I cut my trip short by eight days!

Our two hiking guides

Hiking guides near Kalaw, Myanmar

Then it was back to Thailand, in the north this time. I spent three weeks in Chiang Rai, relaxing, exploring night markets, visiting the amazing White Temple (twice!) and working on my e-books. I also met a Luxembourger who drove me around the countryside on his rented scooter. 🙂

More photos of the White Temple...

White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

On the second week of February I made my way to Bunbury in Western Australia for three weeks of house and cat-sitting in a gorgeous house located 300 metres from the Indian Ocean. But last minute unplanned circumstances saw me share the house with the owner’s daughter and her own two daughters. There were both advantages and disadvantages to this arrangement as you can imagine.

Sunset over the Indian Ocean

Sunset over the Indian Ocean, Bunbury, Australia

After a failed attempt at swimming with dolphins in Bunbury, I moved on to Perth, (an expensive city even by Australian standards) for a few days of big city life.

I finished my winter trip by spending 10 days in the town of Ubud, the cultural centre of Bali. I had fallen in love with Ubud and Bali on a previous trip in 1995, and although I still liked the place, I discovered that the passion was gone. Nothing stays the same, and Ubud had changed quite a bit. The elaborate Balinese dances and other-worldly gamelan music are still enticing though. I flew out of Bangkok after spending a few more (very hot) days there.

A scene from the Ramayana

Balinese dance performance in Ubud

France and Belgium

In mid-May I flew to Bordeaux to meet-up with a French woman I had first encountered in Yangon (Myanmar). I really liked that midsize French city. I stayed in an AirBnB room and went on a few day trips to Saint Emilion and Arcachon. Needless to say, I drank a lot of red wine. 🙂

View from "Chez Fred"

Café in Bordeaux, France

Being already in France, of course I had to visit my American friend in Paris. Since I had been there many times before, I asked her to show me Paris off-the-beaten path, and she was happy to oblige.

Next I crossed the border into Belgium for five days of cat-sitting in the small Flemish town of Herentals. I also visited Lier, a larger and more showy town, on a day trip. I ended my European trip in Brussels, a city I really liked and vowed to return to, as two days were definitely not enough. I also checked out Ghent briefly, another beautiful Belgian city.

Leie river, from Grasbrug bridge

Ghent, Belgium

San Francisco, USA

I hadn’t planned to go away in September, but when I saw the perfect cat-sitting opportunity in one of my favourite US cities, I couldn’t resist. I stayed in an apartment located in an upscale area of San Francisco, taking care of two indoor cats. I went on plenty of free walking tours and cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge. I even attended a wine tasting and had dinner with some of the owner’s friends.

Colour coordinated cyclist!

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, USA

Spain, Greece, and Turkey

I believe it is the first time that I go to Europe twice in the same year. But ever since I heard of TBEX, the largest travel bloggers conference, I knew I wanted to attend. I signed up way back in April, committing myself to being in Athens (Greece) at the end of October. My best friend had also been floating the idea of southern Spain early in the year, and since I was going to be in Europe anyway…

Looking back to the Alhambra

The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

And so a two-week “vacation” in Andalusia came to fill up the first part of October. The Air France strike derailed our plans a bit, as we had to delay our departure by two days. There are so many things to see in Andalusia that it was a challenge narrowing down the itinerary, but in the end we agreed on Cadiz, Sevilla, Granada, Campaneira (a white village in the Alpujarras mountains) and Málaga. After my friend left I also spent a few days in Nerja, on the Costa del Sol.

Aegina Town waterfront

Aegina Island, Greece

I had a great time at the conference in Athens. Besides the workshops and talks, I went on two comped excursions (sailing to Aegina island and a food tour of Athens) as well as a 3-day/2-night familiarization trip to the Pelion region (based in Volos).

View from the Acropolis

View from the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

I had always told myself that I would check out Turkey next time I went to Greece, so after visiting the archeological sites of Athens, I flew to Istanbul. The beauty of Sultanahmet surprised me, and I spent a total of 10 days in both the old and newer part of town, interrupted by a few days on the quirky island of Büyükada. Having found out that it feels perfectly comfortable for a solo woman to travel in Turkey, I plan to return soon!

Aya Sofya (Sultanahmet, Istanbul)

Aya Sofya, Istanbul, Turkey

Plans for 2015?

Toronto is only going to get colder, so I’m leaving on January 5 for the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The plan is to make my way down from Cancun to San Cristobal de las Casas, and then cross into Guatemala. Once there I will visit a friend temporarily posted in Guatemala City, then tour the highlands (Quetzaltenango, Antigua, Lago Atitlán, Chichicastenango). After that I’m hoping to visit El Salvador, a little (and little known) Central American country. This will be a completely new destination for me.

Something unusual about this trip is that I only have a one-way ticket! I know this isn’t strange for many long-term travellers, but I have never done this before. This will feel weird: leaving home with no confirmed way to get back. Talk about getting out of one’s comfort zone!

(What do you think of the map below? Like it? Hate it? Don’t care? I’m thinking of adding it to future posts  to more precisely pinpoint the locations I’m writing about.)

Mentioned in this post
  1. Myanmar

  2. Thailand

  3. Australia

  4. Bali
    Bali Indonesia

    Bali Indonesia
  5. France

  6. Belgium

  7. San Francisco
    City in California

    San Francisco California
  8. Greece

  9. Spain

  10. Turkey

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