canada · travel musings · usa

2018: My Year In Review

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.

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

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!

Vancouver from Queen Elizabeth Park, Canada

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

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Canada

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.

My highlights?

Monument Valley, Utah, USA

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.

Angel's Landing, Zion National Park, Utah, USA

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 Valley, Yosemite National Park, California, USA

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.

Read more: All Of The Incredible Views In Yosemite National Park

Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco

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

Panda, San Diego Zoo, USA

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

Bison, Yellowstone National Park, USA

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.

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada

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.

Read more: Road Tripping The Icefields Parkway In Autumn

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!!

Penguin encounter, Vancouver Aquarium, Canada

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! โ™ฅ) 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.

New York City, USA

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!

Victoria Street, Edinburgh, Scotland

Coming home

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.

Fun in Whistler, Canada

2018 Stats

Countries visited:ย 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

Kelpies, Falkirk, Scotland

2019 Plans

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

What have YOU been doing this year? Has 2018 treated you well?

(Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a little commission on any purchases, at no extra cost to you! This helps greatly with the running costs of the site and I’m very grateful to anyone that does so!)

 

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18 thoughts on “2018: My Year In Review

  1. It has certainly been a wild ride for you this year! Nevertheless all incredibly rewarding…you got to see so much of the US West coast even I haven’t all seen, which is really admirable, and it looks like you had fun doing it. Taking the chance to work in Canada has proved itself worth it in the long run, and I’m sure you’ve grown a lot during your time there. Wherever 2019 takes you, it’s without a doubt going to be another year of learning, growing, and (hopefully) more traveling! Wishing you a great new year. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. Fantastic wrap up. ‘Only’ three countries but your travels of Canada and USA look like seriously incredible adventures and you have seen so much of those countries which is an awesome achievement for huge countries. Your photos from the Canadian mountains and Yellowstone are calling me to visit one-day :). Happy New Year!!
    PS. I haven’t worked anything out for next year either lol. Best wishes with deciding ;).

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    1. That is very true! And I will spend much less of 2019 abroad, but I imagine a few more countries! That’s why I’ve kinda given up on “country counting” though – it’s more about the experiences in those countries. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am sure we will both figure out 2019 plans! After all, we have a year to do it in. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Happy new year!!

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  3. Happy new yeeeeear!!

    What a perfect way to finish off 2018. I am really glad I got to meet and have giggles with you. I really hope 2019 will be similarly epic for you as Vancouver now has a massive Clazz sized hole in it! Edinburgh is going to be perfect when you get there…if not, come back to Canada! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  4. Great write up of what seems to have been a fantastic year. I think my favourite bit of all though has to be THAT PENGUIN! How cute was that??? Good luck with your job hunt. Oh and happy new year!

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  5. What a year you’ve had! Wish I had known you would be in San Diego, my hometown – I could have given lots of suggestions. Let me know next time you come back – let’s follow each other on social! Don’t feel bad “only” visiting 3 countries, the US and Canada are so massive with such a variety of things to see it is truly like being in multiple countries! Here’s to a great 2019.

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    1. I know, we didn’t plan to go to San Diego really, so we only spent a day there (mostly at the zoo) and I REALLY wish we’d had longer! We went to North Park in the evening and it was so cool around there. I hear great things about Ocean Beach, too. We’ll definitely have to come back!!

      Thanks girl, I’ll grab you on Facebook & Twitter, already had you on Instagram! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. Awesome! Just found your blog through twitter. Looks like your year was kind of similar to mine. So glad you loved Canada, too bad you aren’t still in Vancouver. I live in Whistler, always looking for traveler friends. I also slept in the hogan this year, pretty amazing right? Hoping to see more of Canada this year, specially Banff and maybe the okanagan valley.

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    1. Thanks so much for checking out the blog. ๐Ÿ™‚ Awwh that is a shame – a couple of my friends in Vancouver moved on to Whistler for the winter! Canada is incredible, I would love to come back to be honest. Ahh that’s so cool that you stayed in a hogan! Such a great experience! You’ll love Banff, it’s totally incredible there. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m really lucky as I have family there, so I’ve been a few times!

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  7. Wow, looks like an incredible year! I TOTALLY get what you mean about being homesick for a place that isn’t really home. I did the opposite of you and moved from Canada to Scotland and I miss it so much! Love all of the North American travel you did! You saw so many cool things. Hope your 2019 is just as amazing!

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    1. Awww, I think Canada and Scotland actually have a lot of similarities. It’s like home away from home (except Canada has bigger mountains lol, and obviously the winters are much colder but I haven’t experienced that!). Thanks so much, hope you have an amazing 2019 too!

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  8. Monument Valley is so amazing right? I stayed in a hogan, but can totally imagine camping out there is just as incredible!

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    1. Yessss, I love it there so much! I actually visited 10 years ago and stayed in a hogan, it’s still up there as one of my best travel experiences. But camping was a lot of fun, waking up with that view! Did you go there with Trek America??

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  9. It sounds like you had a really incredible year in 2018. Your photos are beautiful. The one of Lake Louise was actually what caught my eye and brought me to this post. I’m headed to Lake Louise tomorrow morning. Your photos remind me of how lucky we are to see these beautiful sights in the world.

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