So far, 2018 was my best year of travel. And I didn’t expect 2019 to top it off. But what a year of travel it has been!
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I brought in the New Years in Atlanta with my close friend. We went ice skating and that was my first time trying ice skating! I lost count of the number of times I fell down, but it was such a thrill!
I had a layover in Paris from Atlanta, and due to a strange twist in fate, I was thrilled to get business class seats in Jet Airways. While it may not have been as swanky as a business class in Singapore Airlines or Emirates, I was nevertheless grateful for the experience. Business-class in an airline really spoils you. You get top-notch treatment, great food, and best of all, you can sleep like a baby.
On the job front, I was working with Expedia back then as a full-time Engineer. The pay and the food at the office were great, but the work wasn’t something that excited me.
My first trip in 2019 was to Bidar, a small town in Karnataka. I was working with MyEcoTrip back then on a part-time basis, and I was off to attend a bird festival in Bidar as part of MyEcoTrip who was facilitating the event.
Having brushed off Bidar as a boring town, I was pleasantly surprised to see dozens of Black Bucks and plenty of birdlife there. Who knew there’s an airforce base in Bidar?! It came as a shock to me!
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Weather-wise, it’s usually blaring hot during summers. But February was pretty cool and the weather was quite similar to Bangalore.
My brother was planning to go for higher studies in 2019 in the US. And before he went off to do his masters, he was keen on learning skiing. And I signed up right away for the adventure. While we initially had plans to go to Gulmarg, it got canceled due to Pulwama attacks. We ended up visiting Auli instead, almost at the end of the skiing season.
While we had only 4 days to learn skiing, we made sure we got the best of those 4 days. And skiing in Auli was quite an experience in itself. At the end of it, we could ski from relatively good slopes. But there’s still a long way to go. And I’ll plan for a longer duration next time.
hile Auli skiing was the main agenda, we managed to squeeze in some time in Rishikesh and visited Lakshman Jhula as well. I’ve visited it twice before already – one when I came on my first Himalayan trek (which changed travel for me) and the other was with my family when I was back in school. While I don’t remember too many details from that time, I clearly recall how chilly it was the morning we visited there.
Read: Bungee jumping in Rishikesh
The next couple of months flew by with work at Expedia followed by MyEcoTrip.
I did my Engineering in Mysore, so visiting the town was nostalgic, to say the least. I used to be this timid girl who constantly felt like a stranger living is in my body, and it was a difficult time for me then. When I was there in Mysore this year, it made me realize how far I’ve come already and that I’ve so much to be thankful for. I went on a boat ride at Ranganatittu Bird Sanctuary, but apart from that, I didn’t do much in Mysore.
Also, on a personal front, the first half of the year was difficult for me as I was reeling with heartbreak, and I let it get the best of me. But then I got better and I started focusing on myself more. And as fate would have it, I met an amazing guy who matches my idea of a partner so perfectly (and I’m in my dream relationship at the moment).
While I didn’t travel anywhere this month, July is the month I started planning my big trip. I initially had plans to visit Central or South America, but I quickly realized that it would require far more planning, and I was already thinking of starting my travel plans in August. So no way it was going to happen.
Then, I decided to travel to Europe instead as I thought it would require far lesser planning and it worked perfectly with my August plans. And then, I started putting things into motion. I jotted down the countries I’d like to visit and things I’d like to do on this trip. I applied for a Schengen visa through Germany and received it in 10 days. Also, I reached out to local hosts for Workaway. Once the dates were set for the Workaway, I planned the rest of my itinerary around it.
I didn’t really know then that I am going to be traveling for 3 months. I was thinking of 1.5-2 months initially and then ended up staying there for a month longer.
Read: Planning a 3-Month Euro Trip – Tips & Tricks
Before leaving, I only had a week of hostel bookings in place. While the volunteering was confirmed, I planned the rest of my itinerary around it. I decided to volunteer in Slovenia, Estonia, and a couple of locations in Portugal totaling over a month.
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I booked the flight tickets to Sofia (as that was the cheapest I could find in a couple of week’s short notice). I planned to travel by the end of August and ended up visiting Sofia (Bulgaria), Kotor and Skadar Lake in Montenegro, and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina). On the way to Montenegro from Sofia, I had to take a long route through Nis (Serbia) as there were no direct buses there. Traveling in the Balkans was a little tricky and I realized the transportation is not the same as the rest of Europe.
While a lot of people think this as my 3-month vacation, this was more like a work trip for me. I did quite a bit of blogging, made some money as well (through sponsored posts on the blog, and on Instagram). Also, I got into serious content creation on this trip. Apart from travel stories for this blog, I leveled up on my Instagram and shot videos for my Youtube channel.
Find my Europe Trip Video series here:
This is when my actual travel started. I started my trip in Sofia to get to this point. September began with a week in Croatia, 10 days in Slovenia, a couple of days in Budapest and 10 more days in Estonia. Since I was traveling by bus, I had stopover days in Warsaw (Poland). And an unexpected stop in Vilnius (Lithuania) since I missed by bus due to the time difference.
My October began with a couple of days in Tallinn, followed by a couple of days in Stockholm (where I celebrated my birthday), and then Copenhagen. Then I was off to Berlin for a few days and caught an overnight bus to Frankfurt from where I had a flight to Lisbon. This was the first flight I took after landing in Europe. I wanted to avoid air travel as much as I could as I wanted to be a more responsible traveler. The rest of my trip was through public transportation.
And I was only in Lisbon for a day before I took off to Flores island (I was looking forward to this eagerly and it didn’t disappoint). Flores island is probably my idea of heaven. Also, I went on a day trip to Corvo island from Flores island which forms the westernmost part of the Azores islands together. And btw, Corvo Island is nothing short of spectacular either. See it for yourself here. It was far off from the tourist radar, one of the most beautiful of the Azores islands, and so raw and full of adventures.
After Flores island, I was back in Lisbon for a couple of days, followed by another Workaway somewhere in the south of Portugal. I was off to a national park near Odemira, and I literally stayed in the middle of a national park in an old house with a loving family. It was surreal. And then I was in Porto for a couple of days. While I heard so many good things about Porto, it didn’t strike a chord with me. Maybe because of the incessant rains, or that I didn’t have much time to explore or maybe it was just me.
Also, I did quite a bit of Couchsurfing as well. While I would never have tried couchsurfing before, I wanted to give it a shot considering the number of days that I was traveling. I couch-surfed in Zagreb (Croatia), Tallinn (Estonia), Copenhagen (Denmark), Frankfurt (Germany), Porto (Portugal). Here’s an in-depth post on Couchsurfing based on my personal experiences. Apart from Couchsurfing, I stayed with my friends in Budapest (Hungary), Stockholm (Sweden), Berlin (Germany).
Anyway, I left for Madrid after Porto from where I had a flight to New York. I spent a few days at my cousin’s place in New York and then a week with my brother in Pittsburgh who is studying in a university there.
I was back in India at the beginning of December, with less money in my bank account than when I started, but richer by experiences. In the meanwhile, I ended up winning a contest with Tripoto for my post on Macao and received Amazon vouchers worth 10k.
I didn’t have any other travel plans for the rest of the year, but I was invited to Assam by Bodoland and Assam Tourism on a bloggers trip, and I couldn’t pass it up. While I said yes, I wasn’t really sure if it was going to happen until a week ago due to the situation in Guwahati. But everything cleared up, and I explored Assam with a bunch of 11 other bloggers/vloggers/photographers. Attended Dwijing festival (a 10-day river festival in the Bodoland region of Assam), visited a Bhutanese border town Gulephu (technically making it my 29th country). Called in the New Years exploring Assam and it was hectic for sure but surreal.
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Wrapping it up
2019 was my best travel year yet, and I loved the variety of experiences that came my way. I visited 16 countries altogether, and it was quite surprising how it all turned out.
I’m so grateful for the year 2019 and cheers to all the old and new friends I got to meet this year!
So, what are my plans for this year 2020? Well, nothing as of now. I’m living on my own now in Bangalore, and I want to take some time in and finish off all my pending work. I’ll think of somewhere to travel in a month or so. But until then, I’m going to base myself here. At least, that’s the plan for now.
But, 2020 is going to a milestone year for me in terms of travel and blogging. Looking forward to slaying my goals and reaching bigger heights this year.
As I’m typing this, here I am wishing for a better 2020 for all of us. Let’s make it bigger and better than our previous years. Much love and power to you all. Wishing you all the love, happiness and of course lifetime of travels! Cheers!