I meant to write and publish this review post at the end of the year, but as usual I was having far too much fun. 2016 was without a doubt the best year of my life. Despite over a decade of travel and escapades, I’ve never travelled as much as I did in 2016. It was my first year of full-time travel and I like to think I made the most of every minute of every day. I still find it difficult to believe how many amazing opportunities I was given, that allowed me to travel to many of the most beautiful destinations on this planet.
My blog grew from strength to strength, and I was delighted to take away not one but two awards at this year’s Irish Blogger Awards and another at the Asian Travel Blogger Awards in Sri Lanka! It is thanks to all you awesome people, whether you follow along here or on social media, that my blog continues to grow allowing me to continue to travel. I have finally found a “job” I love and have made so many incredible friends through this line of work, all thanks to YOU. I couldn’t be happier with life and I hope this blog puts a smile on your face when you read it or at least inspires you to go out and live your dreams.
It really has been a crazy year, one that I could never have predicted and certainly did not plan. I’m off to Mexico in 5 days, a new adventure for a new year. Where will I go from there? Nobody knows!
Here’s a little glimpse of what my 2016 looked like, as told through my ever-growing Instagram account!
I started the New Year in Morocco, where I brought a group of 10 fellow adventurers on a surf trip to sunny Taghazout. Following a week of surfing and a few days exploring the markets of Marrakech, I flew on to Paris, one of my favourite cities in the world. I’ve never been a fan of cold weather, but goodness Paris sure is pretty in January. I was then invited by The Surf Office to spend a few days at a co-working space in Lisbon. it was my first time in Portugal and I fell totally in love with the country, but with Lisbon in particular. The streets were a photographers dream and those Pastel De Natas were….addictive! I finished a busy month of travel back in Ireland, celebrating my 30th birthday with close friends and family.
Paris at night has to be the most magical place in the world, where everything and everyone seems to light up all around you, leaving no doubt that you are have just stepped into a most enchanting place. A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Have you ever been to Lisbon? If you haven’t, did you have any idea it was this pretty?! I sure didn’t and now I am kicking myself that I let almost 30 years (big 30 next week…eeep) go by without stepping foot in this fairytale land. Definitely making up for lost time now though and exploring every last corner of this city. I am probably posting wayyy too many photos (sorry dear followers!) but I just want to share everything I love about this city with you all. I’m staying in a really cool co-living and co-working space called the @surfoffice while here…you should check them out. They have bases in the Canary Islands and here in Lisbon. Such a unique idea! A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Rode this ancient tram (operating since 1885!) on the steepest hill in Lisbon today. I was the only tourist on it…and the only person under 70!! I’m actually unsure if this is a tram or a funicular …but either way it’s beautiful! Was a fun experience and snapped some great pics from the top. Looking forward to taking the famous Tram 28 tomorrow which goes all the way around the old town.
Expedia sent me on a fun assignment to Norway, where I had to make a video about an unusual Winter sport there called Bandy. I brought my friend Lauren with me and we had a fun-filled 3 days playing in the snow, interviewing top Bandy players and even watching a world championship ski event! You can watch the video I made for them here. One of the most exciting things that happened at the beginning of the year was being selected to take part in Kerala Blog Express in India. It was the most amazing trip of my life, staying in 5 star hotels across the province, touring with 29 other travel bloggers from all over the world, and getting to see a total different side of India to what I had seen when working in Calcutta. You can read about some Kerala highlights here.
I have totally fallen in love with Norway despite the freezing temperatures and outrageous prices. When people say Oslo is expensive, listen to them!! You will have to sell an arm and a leg to buy dinner and a glass of wine but it’s SO worth it. The craziest thing of all? Today I’m playing in the snow in Norway and this day next week I will be touching down in Kerala, India for the #keralablogexpress blogger tour. Excitement overload. A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Flying down a mountain near Oslo on a kids toboggan was the most fun I’ve had in…YEARS!! A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Sometimes you just need to take a seat in a quiet place, clear your mind and simply watch the world go by. :-) #keralablogexpress #godsowncountry #tripofalifetime A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
“It’s raining tea, hallelujah it’s raining tea!” ;-) #keralablogexpress A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
I spent the entire month of March in one country – something that doesn’t happen to often. I flew straight from India to beautiful Thailand and spent the month island hopping from Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi and smaller islands on the West side of the peninsula to spending a few weeks in Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. I also went to another Full Moon Party – probably my last one! I’m too old for that stuff. instead of writing all about Thailand, I ended up writing about what Thailand taught me about myself. I should add that I was extremely lucky to be invited to stay at some of the most beautiful hotels in Thailand on this trip – which meant I bounced around from cheap backpacker hostels to luxury 5 star resorts! This is also where I met Ian (his new blog is Escaping Expectation) at a hostel on Koh Phangan, who would later in the year travel the whole way across Europe and parts of Africa with me. A friend for life.
Water so blue you have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s not a dream. Forget Maya Bay, if you’re looking for paradise this emerald lagoon near Koh Phi Phi is the closest you’ll get. A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Think I have officially found my favourite swimming pool in the world! What could possibly beat an infinity pool carved into the side of a cliff overlooking beautiful Aonang and with a panorama view out to some of Thailand’s most famous islands!! If you are ever in Krabi, be sure to book into the @aonangcliffbeachresort – it’s paradise.
A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Happiness is…. A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Taking a leaf out of @neyu_ma ‘s awesome Instagram profile by taking some fun silhouette shots on the beach here in Phuket! . . This is my failed attempt at a handstand / yoga pose…it should be noted that I have never done a yoga class in my life haha so probably not the best person to be attempting such moves! Also… OH MY GOODNESS the sunset was freaking awesome again tonight. These #Phuket sunsets are blowing me away. :-D
A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
I spent the first half of April in Thailand celebrating Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai and tasting all the amazing food on offer with my friends and fellow bloggers Claire and Emily. I then booked a last-minute flight to Hong Kong so I could chill out some more with the awesome Curious Claire, who I has met on the Kerala Blog Express in India. We did all the touristy things you would expect and had one fun afternoon pretending to be posh and indulging in Afternoon Tea. I booked a flight to South Korea on an impulse, despite the fact that I already had a flight to Vietnam on the same day…at the same time! I had great fun being a tourist in my second home (I lived in South Korea as an English teacher for 2 years), catching up with old friends and eating my weight in Korean BBQ. I also visited more themed cafes than you can shake a stick at. After about 2 weeks of Korea draining my bank account, I hopped on a flight to Vietnam and was SO glad to be back in a country where dinner costs no more than a dollar or two! I met up with Claire again and we had endless fun doing as many adventurous things from this list as possible. We also partied like crazy on the Castaway Tour of Halong Bay.
Today was so magical. I got to get up close and personal with my favourite animals in the world. Spent the day at a sanctuary for previously abused elephants. We got to feed them and let them hug us, then when they went to take a massive mud bath we got to get in the mud with then to help them cool down. Video coming soon but check out my snapchat for all the clips from today! <3 A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
There’s a bed inside the Hello Kitty Cafe!!! That’s right a bed…in the cafe! So much fun hanging out her with some new friends this afternoon. It was pink overload though. ;-) A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Never. Look. Back. . . Taken minutes before the daily 3.30pm madness of a train whizzing down this tiny, residential street. Everyone that lives here dashed outside at 3.15pm every day to bring their motorbikes, washing and other belongings inside before the train flies past. Such a unique place. Video coming soon! A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
I started the month of May continuing to travel down through Vietnam and then flew to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. From here I flew to the Maldives, where I spent the most amazing week of my life in paradise. Despite what you might believe, it is possible to travel the Maldives on a budget and it’s also inevitable that things will go wrong at some stage or another. I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved the Maldives – I have never seen water so clear in my life. It really is heaven on earth.
One of the most incredible places I stayed this year was at this amazing eco lodge in Sapa, Vietnam. Can you imagine waking up to this view, with the sound of birds outside your window and a panoramic view of all the terraced ride fields and then going for a walk up the hill and taking a MASSIVE outdoor bath ? It was the most magical experiences. What a place and definitely one of my travel highlights from 2016. I actually spent a whole month in Vietnam but wish I had way longer. I’ll be back! A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Okay one of my final throwbacks of 2016 involves one of my most fun travel experiences- 3 days sailing around Halong Bay in Vietnam and partying on a private island!! I won’t tell you anymore as my Mum will be reading this…. Let’s just say it was …interesting! ;-) A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
“Wait til your honeymoon…” they said. . . That time I travelled solo to the Maldives and was the only single gal on the seaplane. Best decision of my life and one of the highlights of my year of travel! Had to take this photo by placing my camera in the sand and propping it up with a bottle of Champagne. That I then drank. #solomoon #yolo A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Ballin’ on a budget. #YachtLife #SoloMoon A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Good morning from Kuala Lumpur! A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
I flew from the Maldives to Sri Lanka, where I was attending the Asian Travel Blogger Awards organized by Cinnamon Hotels and the PTBA. We spent the first week before the conference touring Southern Sri Lanka, seeing turtles, elephants and leopards and staying in some of the nicest hotels I’ve ever laid my eyes on! After the conference I decided to stay an extra 10 days and travelled with two fellow bloggers Dave (from Jones Around The World) and Raphael (from Journey Wonders) – we had a ridiculous amount of fun and adventures and I really hope to travel with them again this year! From Sri Lanka I flew back to Paris, my second (but not last) visit of 2016. I swear I can never get enough of that city. I then flew back to Ireland to spend some time with friends and family.
“Elephants love reunions. They recognize each other after years and years and separation and greet each other with wild, boisterous joy. There’s bellowing and trumpeting, ear flapping and rubbing. Trunks entwined.” #smallasanelephant #elephantlove A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Train travel. Sri Lanka. Vagabond life. ❤ . . : @journeywonders A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
From mid June until mid August I actually stayed put in Ireland. I got a job with Lonely Planet at their headquarters in Dublin, and used this opportunity to save a good bit of money for my travels (some great money saving tips here) and plan what I hoped would be my biggest and most ambitious adventure to date. I also bought a drone so had a lot of fun taking aerial photos of my favourite places in Ireland!
Today was nothing short of magical! I got to photograph my favourite place in Ireland, the Oratory Church in Gougane Barra, Co. Cork from the air. This photo has not been edited or photoshopped…I just added a simple Instagram filter to pop the colour a little more. This church really is as beautiful as it looks and the water surrounding it is almost always flat calm. I will upload a photo of the church perfectly reflected in the lake tomorrow! . What’s your favourite place in your home country?? #huaweisnapys #wildatlanticway #travel A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Between the trees… The Oratory Church in Gougane Barra, West Cork. A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
On August 18th, Ian flew into Ireland and after a few days meeting my friends and family, we set off on our epic overland adventure, travelling overland from Cork to Cape Town. Our first stop was France where we took a boat to Cherbourg, spent a few days in Paris and then on to the fairytale town of Annecy.
“I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky…” A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Quote of the day so far, “Are you SURE you’re on the right boat love?”. Our #Cork2CapeTown adventure is off to a fun start on board @irish_ferries from Rosslare to Cherbourg! We even got upgraded to a FIVE STAR cabin!! Have you ever got a surprise upgrade?! :-D @irish_ferries A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
My first Swiss castle selfie! There shall be more…don’t you worry! Do any of you hate selfies? I guess I might take too many haha #mylausanne #swiss A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
By September we had made it as far as Switzerland, and spent an incredible week doing the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland – a travel memory I will never forget. While there is no denying Switzerland is horribly expensive, it’s also one of the most naturally beautiful countries on earth and I absolutely adored exploring cities like Lausanne. Breathtaking in every direction.
From Switzerland we continued by train Italy, stopping off in Venice, arriving just in time for the Venice Film Festival and annual Venice Regatta.
From here to took 3 trains, a bus and a taxi to get to Big Berry Luxury Landscape Resort in Slovenia– which I shamefully have not written about yet but will very soon! We spent two amazing weeks in Slovenia and I think Ian will agree with me that it was one of the highlights of our entire trip. We spent the second half of October exploring Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. While Ian fell totally in love with Dubrovnik (and rightly so!) I was so surprised by how much there was to see and do in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We spent about 8 days there in total, which naturally wasn’t enough, and one of our best memories was two interesting nights spent in a War Hostel. Blog post on that coming soon!!
Travelling around Switzerland by train means views like this out the window. That’s right…I shot this from a moving train. ❤️ A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
When you cross a tiny bridge at the perfect moment, just as the sun shines through an adjacent alleyway and a man manoeuvres a traditional gondola down a deserted canal. This is Venice. A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Rowing across beautiful Lake Bled in Slovenia – add it to your #bucketlist people! . . Just another awesome stop on our #eurotrip with @eurail from #cork2capetown. Big thanks to @bigberry.eu for taking us there – I already know I want to go back!! :-D A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Snapped myself this moving-train-cross-border selfie as we travelled from Italy to Slovenia today. Country number 55 you are looking BEAUTIFUL! Now we are off to @bigberry.eu for a week of relaxation and fun in the Slovenian countryside. #cork2capetown A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Want to know how to escape the 10,000 cruise ship visitors that descend on beautiful Dubrovnik each day?? Just walk as far away from them as possible until you get to a spot that is totally deserted and has the MOST spectacular views on the old town! Mission accomplished! A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Our time in the Balkans definitely wasn’t long enough, but as the weather had started to get colder and we weren’t equipped for any harsh Eastern European winters, we made our way south pretty fast. We travelled all the way across Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania in about a 3 week period and ended the month of October in sunny Greece, happy to be back in a warm country again!
I made it to my 60th country – achieving yet another travel goal!! I also only realised AFTER I climbed onto this tank that you’re strictly not allowed to. #whoops A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
Today we hitchhiked across Albania as far as Berat and what a crazy adventure it was! It took us over 4 hours and TWELVE different rides, including riding in 2 pick-up trucks and a freaking cement mixer!! We tried to buy one guy a drink to say thanks and he ended up buying US two beers instead!! Absolutely LOVE ❤️ Albania already!! A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
I have to say out of all the countries in the Balkans region, Macedonia was by far the biggest surprise! I absolutely loved the lakeside town of Ochrid down South and imagine it would be absolutely stunning in the summer months. Highly recommend you visit sometime. ❤️ A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
We spent the first two weeks of November chilling out in Greece – one week on the island of Crete attempting (and failing!) to get a cruise or cargo ship to Egypt and one week at a really nice Airbnb in Athens, attempting to figure out our next move. Having travelled the entire way from Ireland to Crete without flying, and despite being just 300 miles from Egypt, we gave up our overland plans and jumped on a flight to Cairo. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat. We spent two weeks travelling around Egypt, and I cannot wait to share with you how much I love this country. Forget what you’ve read – you really must visit Egypt!
Island life is suiting me well! Corfu ❤️ A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
What’s up Athens?! . . Funny story – I once got told by a hairdresser in South Korea that she could not do “anything” because I had “dangerous hair”. Alrighty then. A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
My Monday morning blues…. ;-) #toughlife A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
How high can YOU jump?! Fooling around at the Great Pyramids of Giza today! #cork2capetown A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
….and just like that, after 3 INCREDIBLE months crossing Europe, we found ourselves in Egypt! #Cork2CapeTown adventure continues! A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
“…and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
December was the month where sadly our epic Cork to Cape Town trip came to an end. Sadly things did not work out as we planned, we simply could not get the visas that we needed and again admitted defeat. We hopped on a flight to Cape Town, determined to finish the trip we had started, making it our final destination of the year…South Africa. We spent 3 amazing weeks in beautiful Cape Town and along The Garden Route, and I fell in love with South Africa all over again. I flew home for Christmas, back to lovely Ireland, where I’m currently writing this blog post.
Always with the mountains, always with the views. Cape Town is Instagram heaven ;-) A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
I’m. Never. Leaving. . . Seriously though….can you believe this amazing bath and incredible view is part of a HOSTEL here in South Africa ?! Forget hotels….backpacker hostels are where it’s at!! ❤️p.s. Water is all from nature so it was indeed a little funky in colour – it’s even heated in an old barrel using logs and a fire!! A photo posted by Janet Newenham (@janetnewenham) on
What a year it has been!