I can never really decide if I want to do a year in review post until it gets to Christmas and I suddenly realise the year’s almost over and start looking back at what I’ve done, what’s happened and thinking about what’s going to happen.
2018 has been a really strange year for me. I mean that in the best way – I had an absolute riot of a time living in Vancouver and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I started the year in a job I hated, and packed it in. It sounded like “the dream”, right? But there was the indecision of whether to do it, the stress of moving to another country (again), and most of all, there was a huge Ash-shaped hole in my year – and it was tough.
I’m ending the year with more stress and more uncertainty. We arrived back in the UK, and within a week I thought I had a job, and then suddenly I didn’t. And I still don’t, and 2019 is edging ever-closer while my bank account is slowly dwindling (I am, of course, doing a few side hustles to keep it from dwindling too much more!).
I really thought we’d be in Edinburgh by now, and it’s tough to admit that it’s not going to happen this year, and even tougher to admit I have no idea what next year is going to bring. My life for the past few years has been full of uncertainty, which has been very exciting and even liberating, but I was starting to look forward to settling down and getting a routine back. Start thinking about my career, even.
So to be certain I had a job I know I could walk into, for a company I’ve worked for twice, and then have it snatched away from me was a hard (un)welcome back. It was even a downgrade from my previous jobs; it was really just to get ourselves set up in Edinburgh and see what happens next. Whether it was an exciting opportunity or not was here nor there; it was exciting for us, and our future.
But I’m not here to be a Debbie downer. What’s happened has happened, and what will happen will happen.
Let’s focus on the good things, and what HAS happened in my life!
Moving to Vancouver
I absolutely love Vancouver more than almost anywhere else in the world. It felt instantly like home to me, and I really did land on my feet. I started work within two weeks of arriving, and moved into my own room with a fantastic housemate at the same time.
I loved the area I lived in, I loved the people I worked with, I already had friends in the city, I made friends with another blogger and we had some awesome times together, I went to see one of my favourite bands, and the whole summer was filled to the brim with good times. I even loved my job, despite it not being exactly… glamorous.
It was probably the perfect summer, except for Ash not being there to enjoy it with.
I miss Vancouver so much. What’s the word for homesickness when it’s not really for home?!
Here’s a recap of my entire time in Vancouver summed up in six minutes:
Read more: Why I Love Vancouver
Read more: 10 Things To Do In Vancouver
Read more: An Update On My Canadian Life
The road trip
I’m STILL writing about our epic road trip, because we did SO MUCH!
I’ve barely left the west coast on my posts – we still have Zion, Antelope Canyon, Page, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Utah, Yellowstone, Montana AND a little town in Washington to cover. I am nowhere near done.
Monument Valley, obviously. I fell hard for Monument Valley the first time I visited ten years ago, and it’s been high up on my list of places to return ever since. I’m REALLY glad we did, because I finally got all my postcard perfect photos, AND we camped completely by ourselves with a stunning view of the valley. It probably doesn’t quite beat sleeping in a hogan mud hut IN the valley, but it was still completely magical.
Zion National Park – I missed out last time on doing Angel’s Landing, so I was determined to do it this time. Is it scary? Kind of, but not really. The hardest part was actually letting crowds of people through the narrowest parts with drops either side – but to be honest, I don’t think it would be THAT easy to fall off if you’re sticking to the path and the chains. You’d have to be really not paying attention. However, the view at the top is TOTALLY worth it – probably one of the best views I’ve ever seen.
Yosemite National Park – probably my new favourite national park in America. It is totally stunning from all angles and we maximised our day there by visiting all the viewpoints of the valley. I absolutely loved it, and couldn’t believe my eyes every time we went to the next place.
San Francisco – SF was one of the first places to ever go on my bucket list, so I was thrilled to finally make it there! And it did not disappoint at all – in fact, we even ended up spending an extra half day there, and it was already one of the longest stops of the trip! We stayed three nights, despite my blog post title!
Read more: The Perfect Day(ish) In San Francisco
San Diego Zoo – another place that had firmly been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, San Diego Zoo was absolutely phenomenal. From a conservation perspective, there were animals there that I had never seen anywhere else. It was by far the biggest zoo I’ve ever been to as well. San Diego itself, though, really surprised us. I can’t call it a highlight because we didn’t spend enough time there, but we really want to go back!
Read more: We Wish We Had More Time In San Diego
The wildlife of Yellowstone – we hit VERY lucky with Yellowstone, all things considered. The south road was closed by the time we arrived, so we had to make a massive detour (which took us past a moose!) and we ended up arriving a bit later than we wanted to. But within an hour, we had seen elk and bison. On our second day, we drove from the north entrance and by the time we got to Old Faithful, the northern road had been closed too! Unfortunately we didn’t see any bears or wolves, but the wildlife we did see was astonishing and more than made up for the weather.
The Rockies & Icefields Parkway – not forgetting Canada, of course, we started our road trip with a bang and took in some of the most incredible views we will ever see.
Bozeman, Montana – …wait, what? Yeah, I know, right? We ended up booking a very last minute hostel in Bozeman because camping in -10 degrees in Yellowstone is a terrible idea. Turns out that Bozeman is a really cool city! We had incredible pizza and some of the most delicious fried chicken we’ve ever had. The hostel itself wasn’t amazing, but everyone was super friendly. Being a university town, there were some cool bars around, too. And who knew Montana is beautiful?! I knew about Glacier National Park, of course, but I sort of pictured the rest of the state as flat. HOW WRONG I WAS.
Honestly, almost every part of our trip was a highlight. Driving down the coastal Highway 1 in California was incredibly fun, and we fell in love with lots of small towns like Carmel-by-the-Sea on that stretch, Cannon Beach up in Oregon and Moab in Utah. All of those could be highlights alongside Bozeman (I think it’s just that Bozeman REALLY surprised us! And the food!). The Warner Brothers studio tour in LA was fantastic and one of my most memorable parts of the trip. Las Vegas was a lot of fun, because of course. The Grand Canyon was mindblowing, because of course. Horseshoe Bend was far busier than it was ten years ago (because… of course) but still as stunning as ever. Antelope Canyon was INCREDIBLE.
Before we came home, we spent a couple of days back in Vancouver, but we were far from winding down. We went and hung out with penguins at the aquarium (LITERALLY HUNG OUT WITH ONE!!!) – in fact, I’m gonna interrupt myself because you guys need to see this!!
Other than that, there was lots of packing to do – and it was the most stressed I’ve ever been while packing. I could barely get everything to fit in my backpack!! I STILL only came home with about 12kg, but somehow I must have had bigger things to fit in.
We had a fantastic night out on our last night in Canada, and I invited pretty much everyone I knew in Vancouver. AND EVERYONE CAME!!! Apart from like, one person! (You were missed, Taylor! ♥) I was amazed, and extremely grateful and I left Vancouver with my heart full, while feeling like I was leaving a piece of it there.
Our travels weren’t over yet – in my determination to avoid the turbulent, tumultuous hell-hole that is Toronto airport, without spending way more on a direct flight, I had booked us on a flight to New York City. We then had a full day before our next flight back to the UK, and in total it was costing us about $30 more than if we had gone via Toronto. $30 for a day in NYC.
And that brings us about up to date!
Despite the problems and uncertainty of being home, we have been enjoying ourselves. We’ve caught up with family and friends, and now we’re staying with my parents at their holiday cottage near Inverness for Christmas. We were planning to drive up here from our new home in Edinburgh, and instead we left Orkney with a car-load of stuff and still haven’t quite made it to Edinburgh (apart from a quick trip over the past couple of days for flat viewings and job interviews). Such is life.
So what else?
Well, there are a few movies I’ve enjoyed this year.
The ultimate one, of course, is Infinity War. In case you don’t know by now, I am a massive Marvel girl, and this was one of the most anticipated movies in YEARS. It’s the first one I haven’t gone to see with Ash, but I went with my housemate and we literally came out of the cinema half way between screaming oh my GOD, and just being silent trying to take in what we had just seen. Cinematically, it’s probably the best film Marvel have released. The plot and character development, the devastation and especially the VILLAIN, are the strongest Marvel have ever done. But the ending. THE ENDING!!!!!!! I can’t take it! Captain Marvel and Endgame can’t come soon enough!!!!
Black Panther was also a fantastic addition to the MCU, and although I think it got ridiculously hyped up, it was not entirely undeserved. It’s a great movie, even if it’s not one of my favourite Marvel films.
My favourite film of the year, though, was probably The Greatest Showman. I know technically it was released in 2017, but it didn’t grace Orkney’s cinema until FEBRUARY. I had no interest in seeing it; I didn’t even really know what it was about. But two of my best friends insisted on going to see it, and so I went too. Oh my God. I came out raving about it, and basically haven’t stopped since.
Ash was so sick of me banging on about it and playing all the songs (I literally bought the soundtrack the next day) that he straight up refused to watch it. Eventually, he caved while we were on our road trip. Guess what? He loved it! My housemate, an avid musical lover who looked at me skeptically when I raved about it to him, declared it one of the best musicals he’s ever seen.
Surprisingly, there aren’t many new music releases that have really struck me this year.
Busted, one of my all-time favourite bands, are back with a vengeance and I am LOVING their new material! But I haven’t got any stand-out albums. On a related note, I did get a tattoo of some lyrics by Charlie’s “other band”, Fightstar – and CHARLIE RE-TWEETED IT!!!! Not only THAT, but a couple of people then commented, recognising me from my old Busted fan site! So that was my favourite music-related moment of the year.
I have been terrible at reading this year, but I’ve promised myself that I’m going to up my game next year. So I’ve only got one to talk about, I’m afraid.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine was sitting on the bookshelf of the hostel I worked in, and I immediately grabbed it, having heard it’s brilliant. And it is. Eleanor is an unlikely heroine of a book that essentially, at its core, is about mental health. It draws on her trauma from events that are very slowly revealed, both to us and her, through her every day life and thoughts. It comes with a shocking twist at the end, but the real take away from the book is the way her new friend, Raymond, completely changes her life just by being there for her. Not doing anything outstanding, often not by TRYING to help, but just by being a friend, which is all anyone needs sometimes. Despite everything Eleanor has gone through and is going through, the book is uplifting and portrays the struggles of depression perfectly.
Let’s just say there’s a reason it has almost 5,000 5-star reviews on Amazon.
And, without getting too much into politics, that has probably summed up my year.
Because God knows we’ve heard enough about Brexit and Trump.
Countries visited: shockingly, only 3, including the UK! But when you consider I spent 6 months in Canada, that’s not TOO bad…
Favourite places: Vancouver, Canada; Icefields Parkway, Canada; San Francisco, USA; Yosemite, USA; Monument Valley, USA
Least favourite places: Not sure, actually! Emeryville, just outside San Francisco, and LA are two.
Miles driven: about 7,000!!!! (11,000km on our road trip!)
Flights taken: 8!
Hostels stayed in: only 5 – how did I manage that?!
Hotels stayed in: 4
Motels stayed in: 4
Nights slept in a car: too many to count! About 10?
And, in fact, nights slept in a tent: 5
In a terrible turn of events, I don’t actually have anything booked for 2019 yet. We’re waiting to see what happens in Edinburgh before we organise anything. But I’m going to be setting myself a few challenges, including visiting at least 5 new countries (mostly Europe, I would imagine) and climbing a few mountains in Scotland, including Ben Nevis! In fact, I’m going to put a whole list together of things I want to do in Scotland in 2019 (I’ve kick-started this with a visit today to the Kelpies!), so make sure to follow along to see how I get on!
But for now, it’s goodbye to 2018. It hasn’t been too bad. ;)
What have YOU been doing this year? Has 2018 treated you well?
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