2019 has been all about the next huge step of our lives. It’s been about accepting the end of long-term travel adventures and embracing the new adventure of finding our forever home. For us, it was always going to be Edinburgh.
We’ve been low-key planning to move to Edinburgh for pretty much the past decade – we both wanted to be in Scotland, we absolutely love the city and I have several close friends here, so everything about it made sense.
We would have moved here in 2017 after returning from Australia, but we decided to spend some time in Orkney to get our bearings back in the UK and to catch up with friends and wind down. In 2018, I moved to Canada for a few months, and Edinburgh took a back burner again.
By the time I got home, all of my friends had moved away from Edinburgh. It absolutely sucked; most of them had been here for roughly ten years, and they’d ALL decided to move away in the year before I moved here.
But we knew we loved the city, and we finally took the leap in January.
While we had a rocky start in the city, living in a bed & breakfast with temporary jobs, including one absolutely shit one (Ash got a phone call one day and literally was told he didn’t have a job any more because they were closing the business without notice), it instantly felt like home.
We lived in the bed & breakfast for two months (yeah, seriously), before finally finding a room in a flat with a friend of a friend, and we both started temp jobs around the same time that have led to permanent positions. It’s just office work, but it pays the bills and much more.
But what’s really hit me about the move is the loneliness.
I make friends really easily on the road, and suddenly here I was struggling to make permanent friends in a permanent place. I started to wonder if maybe I’m only cut out for temporary friendships. Have I hit a point in my life where I can’t find people to stay in my life long-term? Am I looking for something different in friendships now that I’m 30 and settling down?
On the upside, everybody wants to visit Edinburgh, and we’ve had no shortage of friends visiting! One of my closest friends passed through the city on my birthday, a week after we moved here. A week after that, one of the girls who moved away came here for an appointment, and she’s been here virtually every month since. Our old neighbour in Orkney has been down a couple of times and we always grab drinks. My German friend that I worked with in Vancouver came to visit for a few days. And August was mental with Fringe, plus two of our best friends visiting for it! Three more good friends have visited since.
On the travel front, 2019 hasn’t been too shabby – I’ve visited 10 countries, all of them new to me, but being that I’ve only been abroad for a total of about three weeks this year (compared to seven months last year!), it doesn’t really feel like I’ve travelled all that much.
Here’s the low down on all the trips I’ve taken this year.
Our first trip of the year was in March – I was going to see Busted in London, because I didn’t know where we’d be when tickets went on sale! We decided to make a trip out of it and spent the weekend in London for the first time ever, which is bizarre to think about because we’ve been to London so often that we know it inside out.
I really enjoyed exploring the east side around Shoreditch and Brick Lane. I’ve become so accustomed to going to the same places in London that it was fantastic to discover a different area. We also finally walked along the canal from Little Venice to Camden, which was incredibly lovely!
Plus we caught up with a ton of friends, so it was a really fun weekend!
A couple of weeks later, we made the most of the long Easter weekend and took a trip up to Orkney to catch up with everyone up there, and also sort out all of our stuff which was still at my parents’ house.
On the way back down, we took the long way back through Glencoe, which is always a fantastic journey.
In fact, I didn’t really take any photos in Orkney, which is why the featured photo looks mysteriously un-Orkney-like and looks like it’s been plucked straight out of… Glencoe.
We didn’t go abroad until May. I was shocked to discover that our cheapest option for going to Dublin was a bank holiday weekend, so that’s exactly what we did.
I, of course, decided to complicate things and rather than going to Dublin for a weekend, we went to Dublin and Galway for a weekend. We had a blast and I’m really glad we hit up Galway because it’s such a cool town!
At the end of May, my temporary contract ended, and I decided to book a trip to Croatia and Montenegro. I was looking into all sorts of options, even considering flying out to Venice at one point so that I could hop over to Slovenia and then down through Croatia.
Then I discovered TravelTalk tours and they were so ridiculously cheap that it was a no-brainer. You’ll know by now that I had a great time on the tour, and although there were a couple of things I didn’t like about it (like the negativity towards Albania and how rushed a couple of the stops were, though that was to be expected on such a whistlestop tour), I thought it was a really good tour that hit a lot of the highlights of the Balkans.
The tour started and ended in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, so I ended up flying out to a city that I never thought I’d visit – and ended up loving it! In fact, Sofia was probably one of my favourite places on that trip.
Read more: Sofia: A City Of Colour And Contrast
Other highlights? Sarajevo. Mostar. Dubrovnik. Lake Ohrid. And last but very much not least: Kotor, which has been at the top of my Europe bucket list for several years now. It totally lived up to expectations, and now I just want to go back to spend more time there!
In total, I visited nine countries on this trip, including Austria and Slovakia on my way home.
Read more: Hiking & Heating Up In Kotor, Montenegro
North Coast 500
My friend excitedly asked me a few months ago about the North Coast 500, exclaiming “wow! Is this really where you live?!” I immediately replied saying we should do a road trip when she gets home from working on a cruise ship.
I love Sam to bits because when she says she wants to do something, SHE DOES IT. She’s one of my favourite people I know! So as soon as she knew when she was coming home, she messaged me and we started planning the trip instantly.
I’ve got to be honest with you – I’ve done half of the NC500 countless times, and I was slightly concerned that the whole thing was going to be a marketing ploy by Visit Scotland, because the only reason it’s now so famous is because they promoted it as “Scotland’s answer to route 66”.
Route 66 it is definitely not in any way, shape or form, but it is home to some of the most stunning scenery I’ve seen in Scotland, which is no mean feat! I was constantly amazed by the changing landscapes, and by the end we were giggling every time we said “wow!” or “oooh, that’s nice!!” because they’d become our catchphrases of the trip!
We managed to see and do a hell of a lot on our trip – from Edinburgh, we passed by the Kelpies up to Glencoe, then on to Glenfinnan, Eilean Donan Castle and Skye, and that was before we’d even hit the NC500. It was great because there are so many iconic sights of Scotland that I’d never seen.
Anyway, the North Coast 500 is amazing, from the rural towns like Ullapool and Lochcarron to the sweeping beaches of Achmelvich, from the hair-raising Applecross pass to the single track roads blocked by Highland coos. We explored massive sea caves and lived our best fairytale life in a beautiful castle. We discovered waterfalls and gazed at brilliant night skies. We saw incredible sea stacks and watched some wonderful sunsets. Not bad for a week’s work!
We had a busy few weeks once we got back from our respective trips (while I was camping around Scotland, Ash went to the USA with his parents and brother!) with friends visiting and me working a whole bunch of overtime, and the only other real getaway we’ve had was a weekend in York earlier this month.
We both absolutely LOVE York, and it’s easily one of my favourite cities in the UK.
Read more: A Festive Weekend In York
Life in Edinburgh
Apart from that, life has been low-key as we get to know Edinburgh (and Scotland) better while also trying to squirrel away as much money as possible.
This time, for possibly the first time in my life, it’s not for travel (well – mostly).
Because you guys, WE ARE OFFICIALLY GETTING MARRIED NEXT YEAR!!
Ash proposed to me half an hour before we entered 2016 in Australia, but wedding plans have been quiet ever since. But this year, we finally started planning our 2020 wedding, which began with finding the absolute perfect venue!
From there, things have been going really – in fact, worryingly, for us – smoothly. We had a couple of hiccups finding a celebrant to perform our ceremony, but we ended up actually managing to arrange it with one of the first celebrants I contacted, and she seems absolutely perfect! I bought the first wedding dress I tried on (!) AND it happened to be on sale. I designed our wedding invites AND I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER WITH THEM!
They’re BOARDING PASSES!! I’ve posted them out in air mail envelopes and everything is just so cute and I LOVE THEM!
We are getting married in June, and we couldn’t be more excited!
Of course, lots of people are asking if we’ve got an exciting honeymoon planned. We do – but it won’t be next year. Because we’re also saving up to buy a house.
A wedding, a honeymoon AND a house in one year?! I mean if we win the lottery, sure. But given that we don’t even play the lottery, I find that highly unlikely.
But we ARE doing something incredibly exciting travel-wise instead! We’ve been talking with a friend for years about something we’ve all wanted to do for our entire lives. The problem is, it never seems to be the right time. I owned a shop, we moved to Australia, we came back and didn’t have the money, I moved to Canada, we came back and didn’t have the money, our friend was in a long-term relationship and was struggling to convince him to come, and she never had the money either.
BUT IN MARCH.
WE ARE GOING TO JAPAN!!!
Japan has always been number one on my bucket list. Like, since I was a kid before I knew what a bucket list was.
But for that reason, I’ve always wanted to do it right. I didn’t want to go with little money and struggle each day with compromising what we should do (like we did in New Zealand). I want to go with savings and have the absolute time of our lives!
We’ll be hitting up Tokyo (of course), Osaka and Kyoto with a couple of day trips to places like Hiroshima and Nara. We’ll also be squeezing in a day’s layover in Shanghai, which will mark our first time in China after our visa disaster in 2015! (Long story short – we tried to go from Hong Kong to Vietnam overland, but because we had no accommodation and couldn’t book the bus to Hanoi in advance, we had no proof of leaving China, so they wouldn’t let us in.) Hopefully we manage to enter the country this time.
I don’t think 2020 will exactly be travel-packed, but depending on money I’d like to fit in a few weekend trips. Of course, we’ll be exploring a lot more of Scotland, as I have loved doing this year.
Anyway, enough of my life – here are some more highlights of 2019!
Far and away, the most exciting thing for me has been Busted’s new album! It’s exactly what they always should have been – brilliant and unapologetic pop punk.
I went to see them twice on their tour, which had added excitement for me because they had Charlie’s brother’s band, Brigade, supporting – who I absolutely adore and pretty much consider friends. I almost cried with pride seeing them playing Wembley Arena!
Another highlight was not so much an album, but I FINALLY managed to catch Marianas Trench in the UK! Admittedly I’m not a huge fan of their most recent album, so although the show was great, I don’t feel like I appreciated a few of the songs. That said —
If I’d met Josh Ramsay five years ago, my heart would have been in my mouth and I wouldn’t have been able to shake off the nerves. Well, I walked straight up to him and told him he looks fucking freezing. He laughed. We took a terrible photo. The fact is, Josh is my favourite singer in the entire world, and I bloody met him and thanked him.
Other highlights: Blink 182’s new album! Tell me Darkside isn’t addictive.
It will come as NO surprise to you that my ultimate highlight was Endgame. I cried. I laughed. I cried some more. It really has marked the end of an era.
I know the Marvel cinematic universe is continuing (seemingly endlessly), but everything up to Endgame has been pretty much perfect, and the send-off could not have been better. Everything has been building up to this for ten years.
You know what? I can’t even think of another movie this year that comes close.
Watchmen. I hadn’t heard much about the show and might even have missed it if several people in my team at work weren’t anticipating it so highly. We all watched it simultaneously each week and reported back the next day to theorise. And honestly – it is absolutely FANTASTIC. I thought it was brilliantly cast, every character was great (except, ironically, Dr Manhattan), the plot twists and intrigue and Easter eggs were really well executed. I could happily watch a spin-off show with Looking Glass.
His Dark Materials. After the calamitous let-down that was The Golden Compass, I was intrigued to see whether this would be a worthy adaptation of one of my favourite books. IT IS. It is soooo good! Ruth Wilson was born to play Mrs Coulter, and the girl who plays Lyra is spot on.
The Umbrella Academy. I have to admit I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in seeing this, despite it being written by My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way. We decided to give it a spin, and boy am I glad we did! The characters are excellent and the cinematography is really spot on for a comic book adaptation.
And finally, some of my blog highlights…
I feel like I’ve written a lot of my favourite blog posts this year! Here are some of them.
And my most controversial blog post to date, which has been receiving tons of comments and shares, and has been cultivating really interesting discussions:
As always, I’m really grateful that so many of you follow along and regularly comment on my adventures and ramblings! Here’s to much more of that in the coming year.
Hope you all have a wonderful 2020!