2019 was the year I moved to Australia. No biggie.
2019 was an incredible travel year – it was terribly difficult to leave the UK behind but I’ve fallen in love with Australia and I love living in Sydney.
I managed to get 6 weeks of travel around Asia in at the beginning of the year – spending time in both Singapore and the Philippines, before heading out to Oz to make a home here. Over the Christmas break, I managed to squeeze in New Zealand and Vanuatu – I’ve always wanted to visit the South Pacific, so this was really exciting!
Countries Visited: 5 – I hit my travel resolution! Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and Vanuatu (+ the UK, obvs)
Places Visited: 17 (Singapore | Philippines: Coron, Manila, el Nido, Moalboal | Australia: Melbourne, Sydney | New Zealand: Auckland, Wellington, Kaikoura, Queenstown, Rotorua, Lake Tekapo, Christchurch | Vanuatu: Tanna, Efate | United Kingdom: Canterbury)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites Visited: 3 – poor, this year (Australia: Sydney Opera House, Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens | New Zealand: Te Wähipounamu)
Days abroad: This is difficult as I live in Australia now, so I don’t know how to count those, and my time in Singapore was for work. I took two 16-day holidays and one 8-day holiday outside of Australia & Singapore.
Flights Taken: 22, eek. About half of those were for work, however.
Trains Taken: 2, in New Zealand
Boat Trips: At least 12, but probably more
Dives Completed: 12 (1 New Zealand, 8 Philippines, 3 Vanuatu) + around 4 in the UK but I can’t really remember as they were training dives in a lake and were certifiably horrific
Souvenirs Bought: Again, it’s been… a choice I’ve made. I feel like this metric needs to be hidden!
Place: From a life POV, Sydney has stolen my heart and it’s where I’ve decided to base myself in Australia. I adored living in Singapore, though it’s not a place I’d go on ‘holiday’.
Meal: We had so much incredible food in Auckland, in particular at a place called Odette’s. But the steak I had at Whitegrass in Tanna, Vanuatu, was the best I’ve ever had. Hat-tip to the beetroot-and-ricotta-fritters from Darling Cafe in Melbourne. Bonus, my favourite drink – the winery at Medhurst in the Yarra Valley was incredible, but I had a 2017 Pinot Noir from Shaw + Smith which is one of the reasons that apparently I’m a wine snob now.
Cultural Site: The Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. Generally walking around Singapore is like walking through a cultural heritage site – the buildings are so, so beautiful. Hobbiton also was such a vibe, particularly for a LOTR geek like myself!
Natural Site: Diving in the Philippines – so much life; or, the volcanic landscape around Tanna in Vanuatu. Followed closely by the geothermal sites around Rotorua in New Zealand!
Animal Encounter: The diving in the Philippines was absolutely incredible, and the sea life in Vanuatu was unlike anything I’ve ever encountered. But my dolphin swim in Kaikoura was magical, and I really don’t use that word lightly.
Souvenir: Easily the wooden carved statues I bought in Vanuatu – I can’t believe how affordable they were for the quality and history.
Beach: Tamarama in Sydney has my heart forever <3
Top 5 Travel Moments
Moving to Australia
This is a bit of a cheat, but moving to Australia has been life-changing (literally and emotionally). I had an up-and-down 8 weeks in Melbourne – I love the city, but it’s not for me. It reminds me a lot of London, which is why I like it – but not why I moved away! Sydney, however, has stolen my heart. It’s a beautiful, small-and-big, incredible city and my quality of life here is amazing.
Working in Singapore
It has been a funny year for travel – I ended up working in Singapore for a month, which was also a highlight. I don’t know if I’d have enjoyed a holiday to Singapore as much as I liked living and working there. It’s an immensely liveable city (other than the malls, which are all connected and thus inescapable hellmouths you get lost in) with huge personality and incredible food.
White Water Rafting
I didn’t think I’d love white water rafting as much as I did – it was so much fun, easier than I thought (and this comes from someone who fell out of the raft going down the biggest waterfall…) and absolutely thrilling. The landscapes were outstanding and it was a hugely adrenaline-filled experience. I’m hooked!
Swimming with Dolphins
Swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura, New Zealand hadn’t been at the top of my list to do. We visited originally to see the whales – but I decided, on a whim, to go do the dolphin swim. I so pleased that I did. It was an absolutely surreal, sublime and magical experience. The dolphins were respected at all times – and it felt abundantly clear that the humans were there for the dolphins’ entertainment and not the other way round.
Diving the Philippines
The diving in the Philippines was out of this world. It was my first ‘proper’ encounter of wrecks (I swam past one in Indonesia but had only just qualified so didn’t really explore it much) and the insane amount of life they support. I’d never seen clown fish before and my word, did I see a lot of them in the Philippines – not that that got boring! I saw lion fish, turtles, angelfish, bannerfish… it was incredible. (Photo by Fisheyeunderwater)
Worst Travel Moments
Being overwhelmed in the Philippines
For some reason, I felt really overwhelmed in the Philippines. I’m reluctant to call it travel burnout – I’d only been on the road for four weeks – but I didn’t feel up to my best and so spent a lot of time mentally and physically ‘recuperating’. Luckily, the Philippines is a pretty good destination to relax in! I was able to spend a lot of time on gorgeous beaches and mooching about – because the Philippines is all about r’n’r! However, I’d have liked to have done a few more tours and trips. I was just too exhausted and overwhelmed to think of doing much at all. It’s made me realise that I need to bake in plenty of ‘longer’ stays in places – I’m no longer really up for continual overnight or two-day stays on the road.
Not being able to dive Coron fully
Another one from the Philippines – Coron is one of the best places in the world to dive. It was high on my hit list and I reserved five days there in order to dive as much and as safely as possible. I was so excited on my first day of diving with the fantastic Reggae Reggae Dive to book onto another one or two days of diving. Unfortunately, when I tried, I was told that sadly all the other available sites are for Advanced Open Water divers only – I’m only (currently!) qualified to Open Water level. This, for non-divers, means that the sites are deeper than I’m qualified to go to. I was really gutted – but it’s my own fault for not investigating in advance!
Train travel in New Zealand
My Mum and I were really excited for train travel in New Zealand. We’re from a railway family and we both love a train journey – the train from Ella to Kandy in Sri Lanka was one of the most beautiful trips I’ve ever taken. The New Zealand tourism body is really pushing train travel as a convenient and scenic way to see some of New Zealand’s magnificent landscapes. Unfortunately, to be frank, it wasn’t mind-blowing. We saw stunning scenery in New Zealand on our road trips, but the train travel was a little underwhelming. It was a quick and easy way to get about – but very expensive.
Rained out in the South Island
Unfortunately, despite great weather in the North Island, we were pretty rained out in the South Island. We managed to get one glorious day to see the Southern Alps, but otherwise most of our time was rained out. Our Milford Sound cruise and day trip was so foggy and rainy, we barely saw anything and our driver decided it would be best to call off the activities on the drive back as it was just too wet. I was supposed to do a Franz Josef Glacier heli-hike which – I was very prepared for this to happen! – was called off twice so unfortunately, despite kitting up on day 2, I didn’t get there. Our kind pilot did take us on a flight over the glacier though, which was absolutely stunning!
Wine tasting in New Zealand
I feel bad for New Zealand in this list – I honestly had a great time there! I think sadly, my absolutely incredible experience in the Yarra Valley – which I wrote about here – has ruined all wine tours for me, because to be honest, I didn’t enjoy the New Zealand wine as much as I thought I might.
So that was my 2019!
Such an incredible year – I am so loving living in Australia, and my experience in Singapore has me itching to get back to South East Asia (if I can resist the call of the South Pacific!).
How was your 2019? What was your best travel moment?