Last year I did a round up of my 2018 travels and this is something that I want to make an annual thing, so here it is my travel roundup for 2019..
2019 has been an interesting year for me. If you’re a new reader you probably don’t know that last year I was blogging under a different name. I was in a serious relationship and we had a couples travel blog together. However, at the end of 2018 that relationship fell apart and with it our blog.
In January 2019, after months of hard work, I relaunched myself as Curious Claire (the blogging name I had before the ex), or as I like to call it, Curious Claire version 2.0.
I’m not going to lie, those first few months were up and down. It takes a while for a new blog to establish itself and be, in Google’s eyes, worthy of being added to search results. I sat at my laptop as someone who had been blogging for 4 years with a blog only a few months old. I yearned for the traffic I used to have. The traffic I felt I ‘deserved’ as a 4 year old blogger. It was hard for me to accept that I was starting over from scratch and I honestly felt like a failure.
Thankfully that all started to change in March. I took some much needed time off and flew to Bali to be with friends. It’s amazing how quickly my attitude changed after giving myself time to enjoy just being me. Not Claire the freelancer, Claire the daughter, or even Curious Claire. I was finally relaxing and everything started to fall in place. Yes, I was a 4 year old blogger but Curious Claire v2.0 was only 3 months old and quite frankly kicking ass!
- 1 Deciding to Live in a New City
- 2 Life in Manchester
- 3 The Trips I’ve Taken
- 4 What’s Planned in 2020?
Deciding to Live in a New City
For those that don’t know, I’m not a full time travel blogger. I’ve worked hard to build a good career for myself in the television industry and I like it too much to give it all up. I know it’s weird to like your job but I’ve been weird my whole life so why stop now!
Almost 4 years ago I quit my full time job at a well known British sports channel to go backpacking around Asia. When the trip was over I returned to work but went freelance. While I do love my job I also love travel and going freelance gave me the flexibility to travel (almost) as much as I liked. It was definitely the best decision I ever made! The only downside is when I’m traveling I’m not making money. Well apart from the little (and I mean little!) money I earn from this blog.
At the start of the year I was offered a 5 month job in Manchester. Usually I only sign up to projects that are between 1 week to 2 months long. Anything longer than that has already felt like too much of a commitment to me! However, this changed after being offered work for 5 months in Manchester. It was for a reality show I had worked on last year but this year we were making the show for 4 countries and not just the UK. I’ve never worked on a show in another language so this definitely tempted me to sign up for a longer job. Plus, the job was in Manchester so it was a chance to escape London for a few months. Don’t get me wrong, I love London but after living and working here for almost 10 years I was excited to see what it would be like to live in Manchester.
Life in Manchester
One of the main reasons I was excited to take this job was that I wanted to use it as an excuse to explore the north of England. Sometimes as a traveller you get so caught up in seeing the rest of the world that you forget to take the time to explore your own.
Unfortunately the job was a lot more intense than I originally anticipated and I had very few days off to explore. I did a couple of day trips to Sheffield while I was there but by the end of the 5 months I was so exhausted that when I did get a day off all I wanted to do was lounge around the flat watching tv. It felt like such a shame not to explore the area more but sometimes your body needs rest.
Don’t get me wrong, I did explore Manchester while I was there. I found loads of super cute cafes, great restaurants and plenty of breweries and tap rooms. During the time I was up there I fell in love with the city (even though it rains a lot there!) and for the first time I could see myself living somewhere other than London. Maybe in 2020 I’ll take the risk of leaving my comfy life in London where I have work contacts and try to ‘make it’ in Manchester.
The Trips I’ve Taken
January – Morocco
Before the ex and I had split up, we had been planning a road trip around Morocco with a friend of ours. Morocco was a country I instantly fell in love with so a break up was not going to stop me exploring more of the country I adored. Only the flights had been paid for when we split up so he backed out and it became a girls trip to Morocco.
We didn’t really fancy driving around the country so we decided to change the trip to a train journey across Morocco. We started planning a route around Morocco based on trains available and before we knew it we had our 16 days planned out. We started in Tamraght before heading to Marrakech, then we went camping in the Sahara desert. From there we visited Casablanca, Rabat, Chefchauen and finally ending in Fes.
February – Berlin
Ever since I started embracing a more vegan friendly diet I’ve wondered what it would be like to be fully vegan. I love vegetables and I can’t handle too much dairy so at home I buy diary alternatives. It would be easy for me to switch to being fully vegan when I’m at home but I’ve always worried about how difficult it would be to stay vegan while traveling. Especially as lasts year I was in a relationship with a guy would wouldn’t have one vegetable on his plate, let alone a whole dish of vegetables!
After being single for a few months it dawned on me that vegan travel would now be a lot easier. I decided now was the time to try for a vegan trip to see if it’s something I’d want to do in the future. To make this first trip as easy as possible it needed to be to a vegan friendly city. Berlin was the perfect choice.
February – Marseille
A few days before my birthday I decided to treat myself to a few days of luxury in the sun. I love France so I decided to book myself a couple of nights at the 5* InterContinental Hotel in Marseille. A stay at this gorgeous hotel was definitely the best birthday present I could have given myself. The room was luxurious, the pool was relaxing and the spa was exactly what I needed.
March – Bali
On Black Friday I had bought cheap tickets to Bangkok. I didn’t necessarily want to visit Thailand, I just wanted to be in Asia for a few weeks. Once I had the tickets to Bangkok, I knew I could get cheap tickets to other parts of Asia.
Janet, a travel blogging friend I have travelled with a few times, was living in Bali over the winter months. We started making plans for potential trips we could take around Asia, mostly basing our decisions around food! But after a serious of long, exhausting press trips, Janet needed to spend some time resting in Bali. Since I had never been to Bali, or even Indonesia for that matter, I took her up on her offer of being shown around Bali.
I was there for 2 weeks and it was great to get a taste of what living in Canggu was like as a digital nomad. While I’ve never really wanted to be a full time blogger I could definitely see the appeal. I was tempted to return to Bali in 2020 and live as a digital nomad for a month or two.
As this was my first time in Bali I didn’t want to just be working so we took a girls trip to Nusa Lembongan for a few days and I also took a solo trip to Ubud while I was there.
March – Thailand
After spending an amazing 2 weeks in Bali, I did need to go back to Thailand for my flight home. I wanted to spend a little bit of time in Thailand so I left Bali early to spend my final week of the trip in one of my favourite places in Asia. For the first few days I went to Koh Lanta as I had never been before. I explored the island a bit but honestly this trip was a chance for me to rest after working so hard to relaunch my blog. I was happy just to sit back and watch some amazing sunsets.
Afterwards I went to one of my favourite places in Thailand, Ao Nang. I love this underrated area of Thailand. It never seems to be too busy with backpackers and it’s a great place for some island hopping. Plus a hotel I had worked with previously had invited me to stay at a new accommodation of theirs, Alisea Pool Villa, and I was excited to spend my final days relaxing in my own private villa.
April – Glasgow / Aberdeen
This trip was a little more last minute but when my Canadian travel blogger friends said they were going to be doing a road trip around Scotland I knew I had to find a way to meet up with them. Since it was last minute I already had worked booked in London but I saw a three day window and that was better than nothing. We checked against their schedule and they were going to be in Aberdeen at that time. I checked train and flight prices to Aberdeen and was shocked at how expensive they were. It was actually cheaper for me to fly business class to Glasgow and take the train to Aberdeen from there.
I got to Glasgow a day before they were due to arrive in Aberdeen so took advantage of this time and explored the city a little bit. My favourite part of the day had to be the visit the Tennent Brewery Tour at Wellpark Brewery.
After that it was time to head to Aberdeen to finally meet Justin Plus Lauren in person. We’d been talking online for a long time and it was exciting to finally meet them in person. We didn’t have long together but we made the most out of our day exploring Aberdeen. It was worth the trip even if it was to briefly see them.
June – Trento / Verona
In June I headed to Italy for a travel blogging conference. I always love attending these as not only is it a great way to learn from your peers at the sessions organised, it’s also a great chance to catch up with travel blogging friends. The worst part about having travel blogger friends is that they are always traveling. Even if you visit their home city there’s a good chance they won’t be around. While we’re all at the conference together we make the most out of our time and party as much as can around the ‘work’ and the blogger sessions.
This year the Traverse conference was held in beautiful Trento in northern Italy. The area was absolutely stunning and I’m so glad I came. At these blogging conferences as well as arranging sessions to learn from each other, they also organise trips with the Tourism Board. These can be anything from a couple of hours, to a couple of days long. Being a fan of trying local beers and wines, I signed up for the hiking in the vineyards, a wine tasting and a brewery tour. Not only is the landscape in Trento stunning, they also make fantastic beer and wine!
After the conference was over I headed to Verona where I would be getting my flight home. I didn’t want to miss out this city completely so I planned a couple of days to explore Verona before flying home.
While travel blogging conferences are fun, they are also exhausting. The days are full with different sessions and then every night there is a party and travel bloggers know how to party! Plus with all the day trips I did as well I was in need of a rest before I returned home to work. I found a lovely hotel just outside the city (but still in walking distance) that a spa and knew this was the perfect place to relax. I upgraded my room to include a jet pool bath tub and this was probably the best decision I made!
Of course I did leave the tub to explore Verona, as much as I did kinda want to stay in there the whole time! But Verona is a beautiful city to explore and I had a great time walking around. I also took a day trip to the nearby Valpolicella region which produces some amazing red wine. I got a tour of the stunning vineyard where they explained the wine making process before sitting down for a wine tasting. I definitely enjoyed my Valpolicella wine tasting experience.
August – Manchester
In August I moved to Manchester to start my 5 month job on a reality tv show. As I said before, I loved my time living in Manchester, even though I was working much more than I usually do. I made some fantastic friends on the job, found a lot of cool food places, enjoyed finding street art and quickly discovered where to go in Manchester for beer.
As much as I was looking forward to the job finishing I was sad to leave the city. I felt like I had so much more to do there. Could I really be considering a move to Manchester…. watch this space!
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October – Sheffield
While I didn’t get as many days off to explore northern England as I would have liked, I was lucky to be apart of Visit England’s #MyMicrogap campaign. The campaign was aimed at showing people that they didn’t need to leave the country to have amazing ‘gap year’ experiences, you could take smaller weekend breaks around work and still have the same adventures.
With an easy and fast train connection to London, Sheffield is easy to get to, even for just a day trip. During our day in Sheffield we got to go canoeing and stand up paddle boarding. I never would have thought Sheffield would have been such a great place for water sports but I was clearly wrong! It was such an incredible day and I felt lucky to have been apart of it.
November – Las Vegas
My final trip of the year was to Las Vegas with my mum and step dad, John. There’s a big car show that happens in Vegas and John needed to go for work. He wanted to take my mum with him but needed someone to ‘babysit’ her while he was at the show. If only he had a step daughter who loved any excuse to travel… or wait he does! That is basically the conversation we had about me joining them to Las Vegas!
I had never been to Vegas before so was excited to go. We had a great time exploring the place together. It was John’s birthday while we were out there so we treated him to the Freemont Street Zipline. An hilarious experience for me and my mum since John is scared of heights! Before you call use mean, the zipline was his idea!
Probably my favourite part of the trip though was the drag queen brunch mum and me went to one of the days John was at the show. The food was good, the unlimited supply of mimosas was appreciated and the show itself was hilarious. Such a great brunch that I highly recommend!
What’s Planned in 2020?
At the moment only the start of the year has been planned out as I definitely like a bit of spontaneity with my travels but booked so far is:
- 1 month in Bali in January/February
- Bloggers conference in Italy in March (and maybe a cheeky trip to Malta afterwards)
- 2 week road trip around Scotland in April
- 1 week in Barbados in May (my first time in the Caribbean)
- Potentially a trip to Toronto in September for the Veggie Food Festival
- 1 week in Bordeaux for wine tasting with a friend in September or October
After that, well who knows! The world is my oyster as they say. Maybe I’ll spend some time exploring new countries in Europe or maybe spend more time exploring my own. Watch this space!
As always, thank you to everyone who reads and supports this blog. It was really tough having to start all over again but the support network I had was just incredible. I can’t wait to see what 2020 holds for Curious Claire!