2015 Bucket List Review!

This is it, the year 2015 is more or less wrapped up. For me, this time of the year is always dedicated to re-living everything that has happened over the course of the last months. If you are one of those awesome fellas that regularly read my blog (YAY, big shout out to you guys!), you might remember my bucket list for 2015. It’s an excerpt from my infinite bucket list that I am hoping to check off in decades from now.

A bucket list really is like a to do list for me. As I have uttered several times, I simply like checking things off lists just to be excited for the next step on that list. But what I’ve learned this year is that bucket lists are a tad different. They really mostly fuel my excitement and are less straightforward than a regular to do list. I’ve learned how much I like veering off the beaten path and finding myself in situations I hadn’t planned out for myself.

So here is what I had planned and what actually happened:

Athens, Greece

Yep, that definitely happened! I still look back to this trip regularly. Not only because I relish thinking back to the incredible Greek architecture or the vast amounts of mouth-watering dishes we consumed but also because it made me learn a life-lesson right at the start of the new year: getting robbed and still managing to enjoy your trip.

Filopappou Hill Athens

Filopappou Hill Athens

Exploring Wales

I can also cross this off my list! And as a matter of fact, I could cross it off several times because I was lucky to explore Wales more than once. Every day whenever I wander through the streets that I currently call home or used to call home, I am determined to explore and look behind each hidden corner. But not only did I meander my immediate surroundings, I took three road trips around Wales!

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Driving around North Wales

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Skrinkle Haven Wales

Scotland

Well, I was not able to visit Scotland this year. I was all too consumed with running around Wales or sitting at my desk in Cardiff, head fuming with thoughts about assignments or my dissertation. But Scotland, I’ll be back someday!

Alberta, Canada

Hell, yeah! Words cannot even begin to describe how much this trip impacted me. Being a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding, road tripping through the most incredible landscapes I have ever seen, summitting my first mountain and just loving everyday life in rural Alberta. A trip to remember and a heart lost to Canada!

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Southeast Asia

A trip of a lifetime. My first backpacking trip and also my first time in Southeast Asia. This trip made me learn a lot about myself and about travelling. And even though we’ve been back for almost three months now, I am still basking in Bali bliss with my head in the clouds and radiant sun streams still leaving warm marks on my skin.

Sunrise hike on Mount Batur

Sunrise hike on Mount Batur

Jimbaran Beach Bali

Jimbaran Beach Bali

Breakfast at Crate Cafe

Breakfast at Crate Cafe

Black Forest, Prague and Barcelona

These three destinations still remain uncovered. With a year as eventful as this one and with as many accomplishments and changes happening, I am at peace with not having discovered these destinations. Instead, I focused on going back to my hometown more, admiring it with the eyes of a first-time visitor and building up an immense amount of gratefulness about having grown up here.

Well, were did I veer off the beaten path then? Being caught up in one-of-a-lifetime-experiences often doesn’t come planned. Just as my most recent trip to Japan did. Sitting at home, caught up with job applications with no immediate bucket list destinations ahead, I had never expected for such an opportunity to happen that quickly. A very dear friend and her family suddenly swooped me out of my rut and invited me to a road trip through Japan. Who would I be to say no that?! Against my I-am-an-adult-now better judgement I left my job applications instantaneously and went to rove around Japan.

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Himeji Castle in Japan

It made me realize that this truly is what I love about traveling. Expect the unexpected and just go with the flow. Those are the times when you discover who you’ve always been, what drives and motivates you and how you find your utter bliss.

 

The ebb and flow of Canada

Today’s post brings you back to my trip to Canada. As I mentioned before, I had a long bucket list with things I wanted to see and do. But the main reason I went to Canada was my friend’s wedding. So planning an itinerary was inappropriate and almost impossible. In everyday life, I am an avid and notorious planner. Checking off to do lists makes me happy and seeing progress just keeps me going. I also plan my trips. Right after booking a flight I ALWAYS immediately buy a travel guide. I relish this time of anticipation and daydreaming about the new adventures and experiences. But, I never plan too much. Like when I was planning my trip to Asia. It is all about doing the right amount of planning. Knowing where you want to go? Yes. Planning out every single hour of every single day? No. At least not for me.

Back to Canada – we had a frickin’ wedding to plan. Well, the planning was done so it all had to be put into place now. The wedding was being held on the family’s land so we did everything ourselves – the decoration, the setting up of the tent, the tables and the bar, planning every detail for the ceremony and the party and on top of all of that memorizing a flashmob-type choreography for the first dance.

While we were doing all of that, I got to see the most beautiful places in all of Alberta. Before we knew it, we had been to Lake Louise, seen Canmore and had a couple of beers in a local pub there, taken a roadtrip on the Icefields Parkway through Banff and Jasper National Park all the way up to the Athabasca Glacier and the Glacier Skywalk, did all my shopping of my favourite North-American brands (yep, always a must!) and visited a traditional bull riding contest in rural Cochrane. That’s six items of my bucket list in only three days.

What I learned from this, is that while traveling I will always let go of my finicky and detail oriented character traits. Eventually, everything fell into place without even trying. For our trips as well as for the wedding. These two weeks were definitely the highlight of this year for me. A country as magnificent as Canada and a wedding that couldn’t have been any more perfect, personal and memorable. As Corrie said, we just went with the ebb and flow of the crazy busy days and everything turned out exactly the way we imagined.

Here’s a little snapshot aka my first attempt at videography:

In case you’re wondering, I am not the biggest Taylor Swift fan – the song was part of my bridesmaid’s “speech” for the wedding.

Road trippin’ through Canada

Highway 93. Sounds like any other highway in North America. Don’t be fooled by it. It is also referred to as “Icefields Parkway” or “Promenade des Glaciers”. It takes you all the way through Alberta’s flagships, Banff and Jasper National Park. Sit back and just take in the breathtaking beauty of 230km of the Canadian Rockies leading you all the way up to the Columbia Icefields, Corrie’s and my destination for the day. The Athabasca Glacier is the main attraction there – you can book a tour that takes you onto the surface of the massive glacier where you can walk around and explore. Or you can check out the brand-new Glacier Skywalk: a glassbottom skywalk that hovers over a valley surrounded by sharp mountain ridges. To be honest, it is not as scary as I imagined it to be! Even if you are afraid of heights, you should give it a try. It is definitely worth peeing your pants!

Glacier Skywalk with the Canadian Rockies.

Glacier Skywalk with the Canadian Rockies.

Although these attractions are incredibly stunning, being on the road is the main attraction on this trip. The freedom of hopping into your car and just leaving everything behind is the best feeling in the world.

Canada is jaw-dropping, hey?

I can’t tell you – yet. I haven’t ever been to Canada but I am on my way right now. Well, technically I am only flying out to Canada on Wednesday but I am at the airport in London right now, flying to Germany to go to Canada from there next week.

First time in a new country, let’s get the basics down first:

  1. Canada only has 35 million inhabitants. What? That’s like 4 people per square kilometre. Compared to Germany that has 232 and India with 426 people crammed into one square kilometre.
  2. It’s the globe’s second biggest country. Cool, if you have a scratch map at home, that’s a whole lot to scratch off with only one visit!
  3. It has two national languages. English and French – although for someone like me who has learned proper Parisian French, I don’t understand a word of what they’re saying.

I am lucky to say that I won’t get to know Canada as a typical tourist. I am visiting my dear friend Corrie at her home in Cochrane, Alberta. This girl is lucky in saying that for her, paradise is right around the corner. Here’s my top ten bucket list for Canada:

1. Banff National Park

Lake Louise Banff

Lake Louise http://laurenconrad.com/blog/2014/09/tuesday-ten-the-coolest-honeymoon-destinations-of-2014/

According to Lonely Planet “Discover Canada”, Banff is the number one highlight in all of Canada. Yup, I can see why. Even Lonely Planet can’t describe Banff without getting caught up in clichés: rugged mountains with snow-glazed peaks, turquoise-coloured lakes and and a jaw-dropping scenery make you want to pinch yourself.

2. Jasper National Park

Just like Banff, Canada is definitely showing off its beauty with Jasper National Park. A less-touristy version of Banff that’s a bit more untouched, much bigger and has many more bears, elk, caribou and moose.

Maligne Lake Jasper

Maligne Lake https://joedonaghy65dotcom.wordpress.com/

3. Poutine

Canada’s national dish. Although I am sure most Canadians are sick of hearing this and are defending themselves when it comes to Poutine being their culinary flagship. National dish or not, I am definitely in. Fries with cheese and gravy are always a win!

Poutine

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/poutine-recipes_n_2001832.html?utm_hp_ref=taste&ir=Taste

4. Calgary

Calgary Stampede

Source: https://m.flickr.com

Of course you have to visit Alberta’s capital. Defined by its flourishing oil and gas industry, I am sure it has a very distinct character that I have never seen in a place before. Unfortunately I am going to miss the Calgary Stampede, the city’s yearly highlight, showing off the Province’s cowboy-like culture!

5. Canmore

Canmore

Source: http://gi365.co/adventure/canmore/

A town just at the edge of Banff National Park. Wherever you turn in Canmore, you can see the mountains. Well if this is not selling it for you, then I don’t know what is.

6. Glacier Skywalk

Well, I am torn between terrified and amazed with this one. Opened in 2014, this is the newest attraction in Jasper National Park. I mean, who doesn’t dream of standing on a thin glass floor hovering above a canyon filled with sharp mountain ridges?! Urgh.

Glacier

Source: http://www.archdaily.com/505500/glacier-skywalk-sturgess-architecture/

7. Icefields Parkway

Icefields Parkway

Source: http://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/photo/icefields-parkway-jasper-national-park-royalty-free-image/158048077

…or Promenade des Glaciers is a 230km long section of Highway 93, going from Lake Louise in Banff National Park to Jasper National Park. It’s said to be one of the most spectacular roads in the world.

8. Sylvan Lake

A typical summer retreat for Albertians. There’s not much more to say, just taking some time off to breathe and relax during this dissertation madness.

Sylvan Lake

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bencito_traveller/4750821126/in/set-72157624395803496

9. Cochrane

Maple leaves in Autumn.

Source: http://livingcochrance.com/photos-of-cochrane

Corrie’s hometown. A rural city with just below 20,000 inhabitants – I can’t wait to get out of the city and dive into the life of rural Canada.

10. Wedding

Last but definitely not least, this is the real reason I am travelling to Canada. I am going to attend my “first real wedding”. I am very grateful to being able to celebrate the life and love of two beautiful and inspiring people.

Wedding

Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/510032726524386271/

They say, go some place you’ve never been before each year. I can happily scratch that off my bucket list!

More can’t-miss-this-lists:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/h2/bfam/travelalberta/sites-in-alberta-that-will-make-you-feel-alive#.sdNyPJPba0

http://www.buzzfeed.com/cylapanin/street-foods-in-calgary-that-you-need-to-eat#.mtepzaz1kw

Daydreaming. Throwback. Summer.

This is a throwback. Technically, throwbacks apparently only work on Thursdays now, with the widely known #throwbackthursday. But you can’t really control your longings and feelings, can you? Summer has finally arrived in Wales. Blazing hot summer days, long and warm nights on the patio and blissfully enjoying the warm and hot sun streams on your skin.

Can you really enjoy it though? When you’re in your everyday life, you most probably can’t appreciate summer as much as you would want it. Running to work or to uni, hauling groceries around in 30 degree-stuffy-air and only finding time to truly enjoy the weather in the evenings.

In these times, I always pretend my head is in a little travel-bubble. In my head I am in Santorini right now. Sitting on the patio, drinking coffee and enjoying a Greek breakfast.

Or, even better, returning to my favourite memory – hiking from Fira to Oia, the two biggest towns in Santorini. Passing by lush infinity pools, admiring the endless and ultramarine coloured ocean and taking in the tranquility around you.

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Do you have these reveries you can escape to when you’re feeling you need a break? My advice is to keep them as close to your heart as possible. There’s nothing better than going through your memories and pictures from past travels and feeling an excitement bubbling up inside you, only waiting to board the next plane and go on a trip.

I am lucky to say that my next take off is only 22 days away now. Soon I’ll step foot onto Canadian land for the first time, visiting Calgary, Banff and Jasper. And of course, being a guest at one of my best friend’s wedding!

Where do your throwbacks and daydreams take you? Or even better, where are you travelling next? I still have a long bucket list for 2015!