2018 was a great travel year for me
It was an up-and-down year in the rest of my life, but I was able to visit India for the first time, with my mother – an incredibly personal and special trip, and Mexico – my first taste of Latin America (and definitely not my last!).
It’s not the most countries I’ve visited in a year (hands up, 2017), but I took two pretty significant trips (using up nearly all my holiday allowance at work!) which were particularly special and memorable.
Countries Visited: 3 – India, Mexico, Germany (+ the UK, obvs)
Places Visited: 16 (India: Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Jaipur, Agra, Delhi, Kochi, Alleppey, Mumbai | Mexico: Isla Holbox, Merida, Valladolid, Tulum, Cozumel (+ Cancun but we only flew in and out, haha) | Germany: Frankfurt)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites Visited: 5.5 (India: The Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Red Fort, Jantar Mantar, the Hill Forts of Rajasthan (we visited three of the six, hence the .5 – Kumbhalgarh, Jaisalmer, Jaipur) | Mexico: Chichen Itza)
Days abroad: 41
Flights Taken: 9
Trains Taken: 3
Boat Trips: 4
Dives Completed: 8 (4 Mexico, 4 UK)
Souvenirs Bought: Let’s not count that…
Place: Generally Rajasthan, particularly either Udaipur or Jaisalmer, really stole my heart.
Meal: Hands down the tacos at Barba Negra in Isla Holbox. There are no words. Though closely followed by the AMAZING meal we had on our houseboat in Kerala and the curries and naanzomg at Pindi, Delhi. Hat tip to the mozarella sticks we ate in Cancun airport after our 14 hour flight for keeping us sane. And the cucumber-cheese toasties in Jodhpur which were the only thing I could keep down.
Cultural Site: This is difficult. I thought that Ranakpur was out of this world beautiful and not like anything I’ve ever seen before – and I adored Jaisalmer Fort.
Natural Site: Probably Cenote Xaci in Valladolid, above ground. Below the waves, definitely the dive sites of Cozumel. I have to say – generally, Rajasthan and Kerala were gorgeous, but that’s not a ‘site’ and more a general place!
Animal Encounter: This is hard because there were so many good ones this year – but seeing tigers in India was crazy. The whale sharks are a close second!
Souvenir: Probably my blanket-turned-rug that I bought at Jaisalmer Handloom in India
Beach: I mean, we only visited beaches in Mexico – but again, the beaches (thanks to the water!) at Isla Holbox were beautiful (which I’ve just written an ode to).
Top Travel Moments
India was incredible. It was such an important and special trip for me. I first remember asking to visit aged around 7 – and somehow or another, things just got in the way. I am half Indian, but I’d never been before; my Mum raised me to be very proud of my heritage – she spent a lot of time working in India in the 70s and it’s one of her favourite countries. To visit India for the first time with her meant the world to me. It was a fantastic trip, I absolutely loved it – I’m so proud to be 50% from such a beautiful, colourful and intense place. Read my posts on India here and find my vlogs of the trip here.
Swimming with whale sharks
Whale sharks are one of my favourite animals. I wrote a whole post on the experience I had swimming with them in Mexico in a responsible and ethical way, which was important to me. They were beautiful, gentle creatures and the experience was just out of this world – made even more special by the surprise appearance of manta rays swooping past! Check out my vlog above!
This was just an absolutely surreal experience. I truly felt a bit out of this world here – it was just incredible and I’m so overwhelmingly happy I got to see this beautiful place.
Finding wild tigers
Despite our first day and a half being absolutely miserable, we ended up seeing FIVE tigers AND a leopard in Bandhavgarh, India. This was the national park that David Attenborough and the BBC ended up shooting their tiger-special episode of Dynasties in – which explains the BBC cameramen we saw while we were there! Seeing wild tigers so close was utterly, inexplicably incredible.
Scuba diving in Cozumel
Cozumel was nuts – it was like being in an episode of Blue Planet. I dove through underpasses, saw nurse sharks and massive turtles feeding, tons of fish, eels, barracuda, a ray… I had the best time with Scuba Tony and the dives were just thrilling.
Worst Travel Moments
Getting stranded in Bandhavgarh
Our flight got cancelled unceremoniously on our last day in Bandhavgarh, and we spent hours trying to find another – the airline, SpiceJet, told us that NO flights were leaving Jabalpur airport that day. We and the great staff at our resort spent over an hour calling, booking, Googling – anything to find another flight. Finally we found one, leaving about six hours later (which was then 2 hours delayed) meaning we made it to Delhi with an hour spare to sleep (what luxury!) before our flight to Kochi. I’m so thankful we found another flight – so although this was stressful it was almost really a good moment!
So ill in India we had to go to hospital
Unsurprisingly, we got very ill in India (it was a surprise that my Mum got sick, considering how much time she spent/lived there). Unfortunately, after my night spent sleeping on the blissfully cold floor of our bathroom in Udaipur, I didn’t get better – I just got worse – and after about three days of being so ill, we ended up going to the hospital to get some medication. I was so impressed with the doctors there – they saw us straight away and the medication began to work straight away – and it only cost us about £3.
Not eating any guacamole in Mexico
I mean, this isn’t really bad – but I’m allergic to avocado, so I missed out on a lot of tasty food!
Train travel in India
I really liked our train journeys – but there were quite a few stressful moments. I had one guy just not leave me alone for the whole trip from Kochi to Alleppey – which was fine, he was just being friendly, but I had really wanted to take some photos of the gorgeous scenery! We were given the wrong seats on the train from Jaipur to India and there was an awkward and tense fifteen minutes with the people who had booked the berth (neither of us knew the other’s language!) – they ended up being so kind (the gentleman bought me a cup of chai and offered us some of his dinner, despite the language barrier, and helped us off the train) so it was a win in the end. Our midnight train to Jaisalmer ended up being an actual midnight train as it was so delayed. And finally, a bird pooed all over the velcro closure on my backpack.
Not speaking more Spanish in Mexico
I spent two months on Duolingo teaching myself Spanish (it’s not a language you learn in primary school in the UK) – but as the friend I travelled with learnt it at school (and is French, so has the same “base”), she ended up doing most of the talking for clarity’s sake. I should have tried harder to have more conversations though!
So that was my 2018!
All in all, as I say – a great year for travel. I’ve already got two trips on the horizon for 2019, so keep your eyes peeled for my 2019 goals…
How was your 2018? What was your best travel moment?