Ten years ago, I was a fresh-faced 20-year-old with a hell of a lot ahead of me. In some ways, it feels like that was a lifetime ago; in others, I can’t believe it’s been a decade.
There’s no denying that a lot has changed in the past ten years. I’ve learned a lot about who I am, about the world in general, and about life. I’ve travelled to around 40 countries, and I’ve owned a shop, sold a shop, backpacked around the world, lived and worked in Australia and Canada, jumped out of a plane (again), and finally settled in the city of my dreams, Edinburgh.
It’s been a hell of a ride. Like I said in my turning 30 post, the past decade really has been split into “shop” and “travel”. In that time, I’ve grown as a person through owning a business, and I’ve grown even more through seeing corners of the world that I never thought I’d see.
I’ve gone from dreaming about becoming a digital nomad and living out my days on a tropical island, to being content with what I have at home and working my dreams around my life.
Here’s a look back at the last decade of my life.
2010 marked a turning point in my life almost immediately, because Ash and I were getting to know each other, and made it official at the end of January.
Ten years later, here we are stronger than ever and planning our wedding and the rest of our lives together!
In February, we took our first trip together – which is actually why we started talking so much in the first place! A group of us were planning to go to Europe to see one of our favourite bands, and I ended up convincing Ash to not only come to Amsterdam, but Berlin too.
We also managed to get away to Gibraltar, with a side dish of Morocco.
At this point, I’d owned the shop for a year, with absolutely no idea what my future would hold… I did pretty well in 2010, but after that, it was nowhere near as much travel as I would have liked.
So from saying that I didn’t manage to rack up much travel in my shop years, in 2011 I somehow got to six countries. The only thing is, four of them were in two days.
That means I spent a total of six days abroad in 2011 – four of them in Rome and Barcelona, a hop over to Belgium (with some stops in France) for the day with my parents, and an insane day trip to Denmark, in which we also popped over to Sweden.
2011 was the start of me realising that I couldn’t take my precious time for granted, and kickstarted a talent to pack a lot into the time that I did have.
I squeezed in two crazy day trips in 2012 – one to Paris, which really was crazy because we went for about £10 return on the overnight bus. The overnight bus both ways. On a day trip.
The other was to Munich, which was a really, really fun day out with our old flatmate to see the Christmas markets!
The only other trip we took that year was a quick break in Athens for Ash’s birthday.
Apart from that, it was a pretty quiet year, with camping trips with friends, family visiting, and lots of gigs.
By 2013, I was starting to go stir-crazy in the shop. I had been hoping to be out of it at this point, and every time somebody was interested and it fell through, my fear that I would be trapped in it forever rose sharply.
In 2013, I spent a total of one day abroad.
And it was in Milan, which I’ve got to admit is not my favourite place in the world (in fact, I haven’t even written about it yet). But it was a fun day out.
Not, perhaps, as fun as our day out at the Harry Potter Studio Tour (pictured above), though!
Thankfully by this point, I had a lot of good friends in my life and they kept me powering on.
After over a year of it being on the market, I FINALLY SOLD THE SHOP!!
It was about as stressful as it could have been, and the day I handed over the keys, I was both relieved and filled with sadness. It had been half a decade of my life, after all, and I had turned it from a dying business into a viable one. I had hundreds of regular customers that I was leaving behind, and a sense of accomplishment I don’t think I ever would have had if I hadn’t had the shop. It kind of felt like I was handing over my baby.
But I was glad to leave it behind, because it meant I could finally start looking forward with my life.
To celebrate, the first thing we did was book a holiday. We’d been talking about going to Florida for years, and a jaunt to Disney and Universal felt like the perfect way to celebrate such a huge life event!
Even better, as soon as I announced we were going, it turned out another friend was going on the exact same dates! We got to spend two weeks unexpectedly on holiday with her and one of her friends!
It was the first time I’d ever taken a two week holiday (yes, really!) and we had so much fun.
In December, I also went on a fairly last-minute trip to Budapest with my friend Sam! Budapest quickly catapulted itself into my top European cities.
After just over six months of sorting our lives out in preparation for long-term travel, we set off in February on a one-way ticket to Asia, with no idea of what would come next!
The rough plan was 3 months in southeast Asia before flying to Australia on a working holiday visa. We would work for maybe the six months that you can work for one employer, then use our savings from that to travel the country for a couple of months. Or maybe we’d find our way in Brisbane for a bit, then move to Melbourne for a few months, then travel for the remainder of our visa.
We did indeed spend 3 months in Asia, and we had the best time ever and fell in love with unexpected countries. Vietnam remains my favourite country, although Thailand is very much up there. I have so many highlights from Asia that I could go on all day.
The top ones include meditating with a monk in Cambodia, volunteering with elephants and celebrating Songkran in Thailand, and pretty much everything that happened in Vietnam (but especially discovering jackfruit smoothies!).
Then we flew to Australia, and within a week all of our plans had changed. We were in Sydney within a few days. In the end, we spent over a year down under, working for an entire year to make the most of our working holiday visa with patches of travel, followed by almost a month-long road trip up the east coast. We lived in a hostel in Brisbane for five months. We never got around to living in Melbourne. We did farm work, which is something we were not counting on. We never made it to Uluru.
But we really did have an incredible time in Australia, and for the most part I wouldn’t change a thing.
In fact, we entered 2016 with a bang in Sydney, where Ash proposed to me!
Now that’s gotta count as a decade highlight, right?
Our working holiday in Australia came to an end at the end of May, and we flew out to New Zealand for three weeks. We absolutely loved New Zealand and immediately planned on coming back to live in Wellington for a few months. Then Wanaka. Then Queenstown.
Absolutely. Loved it.
We went with not nearly enough money, had a terrible trip in Milford Sound which I’d like to re-do one day, and I decided to swap out a canyon swing that had been on my list for years, for a sky dive over Lake Wanaka and all the surrounding mountains. We geeked out at Hobbiton and loved almost everywhere we went.
But we were headed back to Australia to finally travel and see a chunk of the country before leaving permanently. A very, very small chunk of the country, but still, Brisbane to Cairns incorporates a lot of Australia’s highlights and we did a hell of a lot, from snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef to driving across sand highways and driving boats around the Whitsundays. We hung out with kangaroos on a beach and saw a wild platypus!
All too soon, the Aussie dream had come to an end, and we were off to Canada. No, wait – Hawaii. I am forever grateful that we had the chance to do this – I was horrified by the prices of flights to Vancouver, and managed to find that it was MUCH cheaper to book a flight to Hawaii, another flight onwards to Vancouver, and stay in Honolulu for five nights. Yep. All of that was CHEAPER THAN THE DIRECT FLIGHT.
Not only that, but a really good friend of mine was au pairing in Hawaii and we managed to time it so that we could spend a few days hanging out with her! It was such a great few days.
From there, we landed in Vancouver and immediately fell in love with it. Now we were torn – do we go to New Zealand or Canada for a working holiday? To be quite honest, we couldn’t face doing both; starting all over again is exhausting.
After a trip to see my family in BC and Banff and an exciting road trip in Banff and Jasper with my aunt and uncle, it was finally time to go home after over 18 months on the road.
After two years of solid travel, 2017 was a much quieter affair! I worked in a seasonal hostel, which meant virtually no time off over the summer, and we were quietly squirreling away money for our next adventure, which we decided would be… *drum roll* Canada!
We did get one road trip in, over to the Isle Of Man for a wedding and back up through Scotland with a friend, which introduced us to some absolutely incredible spots in my home country that I can’t believe I’d never visited.
In October, I’d had enough of the fact I hadn’t left the country in over a year, and booked a trip to Venice with my mum. And then three weeks in Portugal. In which I’d be working in a hostel on the Algarve. As you do.
I started 2018 with a crap job in Orkney, and was quite glad to leave for my next adventure. In a lot of ways, Canada was WAY better than our Australia experience. Vancouver is the best place I’ve ever lived, I absolutely loved my job, the people I worked with and lived with were AMAZING. It was a solid six months of adventures, friendships and fun, and I felt like I really made the most of being there (with trips to Squamish, Whistler, Victoria and Seattle), while in Australia we became kind of complacent with exploring what was around us.
I also saved more money (somehow!?) which meant less scrimping and more travel afterwards.
The downside? Ash wasn’t there to experience it with me. He had had a problem with his visa, and ended up staying home to join me a few months later.
It was all worth the wait, of course – when he flew out in October, we embarked on a five week road trip around Canada and the USA, and it’s one of the most epic trips I’ve ever taken! We had SUCH a good time!
We hit up 10 US states, from the cities of the west coast, to the national parks of Arizona and Utah (although Yosemite in California was one of my highlights of the whole trip, along with hiking in Zion!). We had a ton of adventures, including camping at a Flintstones themed campsite at the Grand Canyon, breaking down in the middle of Monument Valley and jumping off the Stratosphere in Vegas, and some epic driving days like Highway 1 on the coast of California and the unexpectedly fun drive from LA to Vegas.
2019 has been the year of settling down. We finally moved to Edinburgh after years of planning to, and although we’re not in the perfect situation at the moment, we are loving the city and we’re both in stable jobs, which we are thankful for.
Our first trip abroad was to Ireland in May, which was a very quick jaunt over to the emerald isle. We only went for one night, but managed to hit up Dublin AND Galway. I enjoyed both, but I preferred Galway!
A few weeks later, I was supposed to be finishing my contract at work, and promptly booked a two week tour in the Balkans. Then I was offered a permanent position at the company – but I’d already booked the trip, so it had to be honoured.
My Balkans trip was pretty rushed, but I absolutely loved it and I’ve found one of my favourite corners of Europe! Montenegro was just as magical as I thought it would be, Croatia was way quieter than I thought it would be (which is DEFINITELY a good thing!), and Sofia was way more beautiful than I thought it would be.
However, since then I haven’t left the UK again, so that seems to have been my travel quota for this year. Instead, I’ve been focusing on exploring more of Scotland, which has been most weekends with trips to Fife, Loch Lomond and beyond, but the biggest trip was just over a week road tripping up to Skye and then the whole North Coast 500 route, which was incredible!
So – that’s my wrap up!
How about what else has changed?
Well, as may be evident throughout this post (although I realise most of the photos are of me rather than by me), my knack for taking (and editing!!) photos has improved so immensely that I feel a little embarrassed looking at old photos! I actually really struggled to find good ones from the earlier years! That’s partly because I’ve also become much better at actually taking photos of myself.
Looking back at the first half of this decade, my mental health has improved drastically too – the shop was horrendously draining, and I had so much stacked against me for those years, too. From authorities being on my back, to the building being a complete nightmare and my landlord being a misogynistic bellend (seriously – my favourite quote from him, when I told him I had finally found a buyer for the shop: “oh good, at least it’s a man so he might know what he’s doing”), so many things about that place really brought me down. I had become a negative shell of myself, and people who knew me were shocked that I was no longer the bubbly and overly optimistic girl they knew.
I was actually scared that this was who I’d become; that I wouldn’t bounce back. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and the second I stepped on that plane to Vietnam, I could feel myself finding my old self again.
That said, the shop did have its good moments and it’s given me a shed load of life experience that I wouldn’t have got from, say, going to university. I had hundreds of regular customers who put a smile on my face every day. I worked hard to prove myself every time something was difficult. I stood up in the face of adversity and stared it down until I’d beaten it. It was, ultimately, probably the most life-changing experience I’ve ever had, and for that I am grateful.
But as much as the shop gave me confidence in myself, it also knocked it down just as quickly. Travel, however, gave me all the benefits and never pushed me back. Travel was the real game-changer this decade, as I knew it would be.
I am 100% the most confident and assured that I’ve ever been. I finally have a future ahead of me that I can plan, which is something I haven’t really had at all this decade. I never know where I’m going to be in a year, much less five.
I’m not sure I want to talk about where the world is going. I’ve talked enough politics in the past couple of months to last me a century, and I’m sure you’ve heard more than enough about it from too many people. But let’s just say that I am worried for the future of the planet, and the future of the UK. Looking back, it feels like the first half of this decade was the most positive the UK has been for a long time. We had the Olympics, the Royal wedding, Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, and a solidarity that we hadn’t really felt for a while.
Then in 2016, that all changed (hmmm, I wonder what could have caused that?) and now it’s the most negative that I’ve ever known it, even more so than during the recession. In the USA, it got even worse. Now, we seem to be in this perpetual nightmare where our seemingly inclusive bubble has burst, people’s vitriolic opinions are somehow legitimised by the fact other people share them, and I’m pretty scared that this is how our world is going to be for a long, long time yet.
That’s if climate change doesn’t kill us all first. Ha haaaaaa, and you thought this was a happy post!
I am semi-joking of course, and that’s one positive throughout the last decade. Despite the fact it feels like corporations and politicians are still standing against the planet as long as they’re making a profit, a lot of positive changes have come in this decade which hopefully will have a lasting effect on Earth. Whether it’s enough remains to be seen, but I’m glad to see so many people taking a stand, and huge steps forward – things like plastic bags being reduced by 90% in the UK since we started charging for them, and a further 50% again just in the past year. I’m glad to see this stance extending to Thailand, one of the worst place I’ve ever visited for plastic pollution, and that was less than 5 years ago.
One thing I’ve learned this year is that I will not be able to change much myself. So I’m making a pledge – I won’t stop standing up for what I believe in or trying to make small changes to help the planet, but I will focus on making myself happy, and the people I love, otherwise the whole thing is going to drive me mad.
2020 is going to be very interesting to say the least, as well as the years to come after it. Where do I see myself in 10 years?
In Scotland definitely, hopefully working in the travel industry or doing something I love. Maybe with a family. I’ll still be standing up for what I believe in, but I’ll be making myself happy too.
But while I feel like we’re now in a position to plan our future, I still don’t know what that’ll hold. Where will we be living in six months? Somewhere around Edinburgh, but we have no idea where. Where will I be working in a year? Not a clue. But that’s all part of the fun – life would be very boring if we knew exactly where it was heading!
One thing’s for sure – the next decade is going to be another great adventure.
How have you changed in the past ten years? Where do you see yourself in the next ten?