This year of travel has been another rollercoaster ride and as always it’s full of highs, lows, unforgettable moments an moments I’d rather forget!
Still backpacking is all about taking it in your stride and looking at the positive side of life (no matter what it might throw at you sometimes!) and in the last 12 months I’ve covered 9 countries and done some incredible things.
So I thought I’d end 2015 on a positive note thought and look back at my travel highlights of the year. It took a lot of editing to get it down to just 15 but these are my personal favourites…in no particular order!
Surfing Raglan With My Little Bro
In March I landed back in New Zealand and headed to the surf town of Raglan ASAP, as my little bro was living and working there. We hadn’t seen each other for over a year and were super stoked to catch up, share some beers and of course share some waves too!
And luckily Raglan served up the goods – with the famous Manu Bay offering some epic left handers and sunshine!
Finally Visiting Fiji
There are only a handful of countries that really stand out on my to do list (despite the fact there are heaps still to visit!) but there was one I was incredibly excited about ticking off – Fiji!
The guys from Awesome Adventures Fiji invited me over for a week of island hopping in the Yasawas and it was everything I’d hoped it to be – I went freediving with sharks, snorkelled with Manta Rays and sipped cocktails in hammocks…island bliss!
A week wasn’t long enough though so I’m hoping I can get back there again pretty soon.
My First Press Trip – To The Philippines
Talking of press trips, this year was the first time I’ve been in the right place and right time to jump on any and was super stoked when Tourism Philippines invited me out to one of my favourite countries.
Alongside some awesome fellow bloggers we explored Palawan, Bohol and Manila enjoying everything from island hopping and underground rivers to incredible 5* dinning and photographing the Tarsier – the world smallest primate!
Living In Byron Bay Again
Without a shadow of a doubt Byron Bay on Australias East Coast is my favourite spot on the planet and I need very little excuses to get back in the Byron Bubble again and again!
What was meant to be a couple of weeks soon spiralled into nearly 6 months of my year – filled with waves, beach time, road trips and good times!
I even rented a house – the first time I’ve done that since graduating university!
Spontaneous San Francisco Adventures
America has never been somewhere I’m super keen to explore – it simply doesn’t appeal – but when a gorgeous Californian lady I met in Byron invited me to come stay after a few weeks in Australia together I couldn’t say no!
Totally random I know but those 3 weeks in San Francisco were just the beginning of an awesome chapter in my life and I’m stoked to still be travelling with Erin!
Hiking The Tongariro Crossing
As part of my New Zealand stop this year I finally tore myself away from the surf long enough to explore the North Island alongside the guys from the Kiwi Experience and one of my longer stops was in Taupo, where I was crashing with an old travel buddy who now lives there.
He highly recommended I tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing as part of my stay and the one day hike was gorgeous – the Tongaririo Crossing is something I highly advise you schedule into your NZ plans.
Meandering through some of the New Zealand landscape, underneath ‘Mount Doom’ and past glistening Emerald Lakes is something I wont forget for a long time.
Freediving In Coron
Not only did I spend my time here with some of my favourite backpackers (big shout out to the legend that is Alan!) but I also got the opportunity to go freediving on some the of WW2 shipwrecks that litter this part of the world.
It’s an eerie sensation being amongst so much dark history – but the tranquility and isolation of gliding through the wreckage deep beneath the surface is a unique experience.
Zorbing in Rotorua with OGO
Bouncing down a hill in a giant hamster ball filled with water?!
Well what is there not to love about that?!
I don’t think there’s much more I can say about it…except go visit the guys at Ogo in Rotorua and give it a try for yourself!
Having A Shot Featured By Tourism Australia
As a travel blogger there are a few goals I’ve set myself to achieve through my work and this year I was stoked to discover that Tourism Australia featured one of my images on their Instagram feed and later on Facebook too!
It was pretty fitting that the image was taken in Byron Bay too ;)
Travelling With Stephen From A Backpackers Tale
Stephen from A Backpackers Tale is one of my favourite blogging buddies and I’m always stoked to share some time exploring with him! We caught up again this year in South East Asia and made our way through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam together which was heaps of fun as usual!
We explored sand dunes, ate amazing street food, endured overnight buses, got tailored suits made and of course caused some bucket fuelled chaos too!
Always sad to part ways with this dude so hopefully we’ll cross paths again sometime soon – n the meantime check out his site.
Alongside Fiji, Vietnam was the other new country I ticked off the list this year and it was well worth the wait…in fact I’m still not sure why it took this long to get there given the amount of time I’ve spent bouncing around South East Asia.
From the sand dunes of Mui Ni and the moped chaos of Ho Chi Min to the peaceful lanterns of Hoi An and the mountain top town of Dalat it was a beautiful pace to explore and I’m looking forward to blogging about my experiences there over the next few months.
Getting Upgraded To Business Class
There are a few things most backpackers and travellers all want to experience and being upgraded on a flight is certainly one of them!
Despite how many flights I’ve taken since hitting the road it’s something that I’ve never had the privilege of personally experiencing (maybe its the flip flops and big curly hair!) but I finally got a taste of the good life on my flight from LA – Sydney.
Needless to say having ice cream served in flight, champagne on take off and a lie flat bed has ruined flying a lot for me now!
Capturing The Perfect Angkor Wat Sunrise
This is now one of my favourite images from my adventures and was actually shot on my iPhone – it goes to show you don’t need to lug a hefty DSLR around to capture epic moments.
Backpacking With My Family
As well as travelling with my little brother we were also joined by our parents in Australia too – the first time we’ve all been together as a family in 4 years!
We spent 3 weeks bouncing around Melbourne, campervanning the Great Ocean Road, chilling in Byron Bay and finished up in Sydney before they flew back home to the UK.
I couldn’t have asked for a better family trip and it was amazing to show the parents around a country I love visiting so much.
Finishing The Year On An Island Paradise
I’m also ending 2015 on one of my travel highlights too – kicking back on the island surfing paradise of Siargao in the East of The Philippines.
Ever since first visiting here last year I’ve wanted to come back for a longer stint so I’m now based here for the next month and have even been joined by one of my surfing buddies which is always fun.
It’s postcard perfect here – crystal clear waters, palm trees and empty beaches…the perfect way to finish another incredible year of travel.
2015 wasn’t a a bad year all in all hey?!
Lets hope 2016 carries on the good times…judging by the plans I’m working on at the moment I’m sure it will!
What were your travel highlights of 2015?
Share them in the comments!