If 2011 was good, then 2012 is going to be GREAT…

I spent some time yesterday thinking about what I wanted to achieve this year and it got me thinking about what I achieved last year.  I had a super exciting year last year filled with trips from Istanbul to America, from UK to South Africa.  The highlight of course, well, there were 2 actually, the day I resigned and the day I left work.  After some severe soul searching, I decided to leave my office behind and travel the world.  The writing only came later and as a direct result of this blog…

Here is a brief summary of my amazing time last year:

January:  The first highlight of my year, playing with my new camera.  It is a Panasonic Lumix GF1 (nicknamed Geoff) and I absolutely love it.  It came with a 14m – 45mm lens and I have since bought a carbon fibre tripod, a 45mm – 200mm lens and various filters and bits and bobs.  My favourite travel accessory.  My first big outing with my new toy was to Kloster Arnsburg, north of Frankfurt in Germany.  It is an abbey ruin but beautiful to photograph.  Here is the link to my photo set on Flick.
This is also the month I started thinking seriously about resigning.

February:  I started my blog on 11th February.  It’s hard to believe that a year has gone so quickly.  I can still remember very clearly my first few entries and how I was scared to tell anyone in case they laughed.   Check out my first entry here.
It has morphed a lot since I started and I hope that it is now an entertaining look into my travels along with some travel tips along the way.  Coupled with my photos, I hope it gives those that don’t get a chance to travel, a look at some fascinating places around the world.
I also travelled to Dresden this month.  Various entries:   Day 1    Day 2   Day 3   Day 4

March: A trip to Wuerzburg in Germany – read about it here, then over to the UK to visit friends and family and a visit to Gloucester Cathedral. Blog entry here. I also visited Winston Churchill’s birthplace, Blenheim Palace.  See photos of both as well as others of England here
Also on schedule was a long awaited trip to Istanbul with my friend, Christel.  Check out the amazing memories from the trip here. A beautiful mystical city with so much more to see than I was expecting.  Spice markets, mosques, museums, underground caverns, gorgeous food, friendly people and lots of cats (??).  What do you mean I need a VISA for entry? Read about it here.  Is it a church or a mosque?  Bizarre Bazaars   Travelling Standby and heading home

April:  Ah, the memories.  12th April, after much suspense and excitement, I resigned from my job.  My boss was sadly shocked but we chatted openly about my new plans which was nice.  I quit!  I have to give 3 months notice and I gave 3.5, I leave end of July.  I now start one of the most exciting countdowns of my life.

May:  Back to the UK for another visit. Building up to a trip planned to America in June and lots of documentation in preparation for my handover at work.  End of May, I am booked off work, AGAIN, with stress.  I also am starting to have a MASSIVE clear out at home, selling my stuff, throwing out and making various charities happy.  I sell at flea markets, on eBay and at work.  Read about it here and check out the picture of my kitchen covered in post-it notes!!!
I write an emotional post about why I will miss Germany, read it here.

June:  June was both an excellent month and a hard month.  After being booked off for stress 3 times in the last 8 months, the doctor eventually tells me I have burnout and I need to rest.  Rest!  I can’t rest, I have got a massive handover to do at work and loads of travel to plan.  “REST!”  he says and booked me off for 2 weeks.  He insists I still take my holiday to America.  It’s just as well because I am flying Business Class as it is probably my last flight as a Lufthansa staff member.
Finally my holiday in America arrives. I drive in a Ferrari and find a temporary cure for my stress, I hike up waterfalls, I cycle a weird bike with no gears and the stress starts to disappear. I visit the crazy Last Vegas, experience the wonder of Yosemite,  I walk through the Valley of Fire (don’t worry, it’s not some strange biblical place!) and experience the heat of Death Valley.  I was even able to do a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon.  Now, THAT was an experience.  I also watch two AMAZING Cirque du Soleil shows.  By the time I return to Germany, I am more certain than ever before that I want to go travelling.

July:  This was my last month at work and was a hectic combination of getting rid of the last of my furniture, the last of my junk, handing over the last of my work, saying goodbye to various people, organising not 1 but 2 farewell parties at work, packing and decorating.  18 Days to go.    12 Days to go  No more working days   A hectic time filled with wonderful memories, people and places that I will never forget.  I made some very dear friends in Germany who I will NEVER lose contact with and I am so grateful that my time there was so happy.  An interesting journey back.

August:  A day trip to Bristol with its lovely cathedral, another trip to UK to visit my best friend and sort out some boxes which I am storing in her loft.  This was the weekend of the riots in London and even though I was in London that day, I didn’t so much as see a bit of smoke let alone crazy rioters.  Thank goodness.
I write another post about what I will miss in Germany.
I spend just over 3 days in a small seaside town called Sidmouth, to relax a bit from the past few months.  Photos here.
I start writing for Pink Pangea – an online travel resource for women.  Very chuffed.
Next trip coming up is a camping trip to Wales.  We spend 2 nights in the Brecon Beacons National Park, 2 nights in the Pembrokeshire National Park, and 2 nights in the Snowdonia National Park.

September:  France is on the itinerary stopping off at Calais, walk the sea defences and explore the cobbled streets of St Malo, admire the rock formation at Etretat, eat salt marsh lamb and explore the monastery at Mont St Michel and build a camper van in Pontivy.
Have you heard of “Minimalism”?  Its about learning to live with only what is necessary and getting rid of clutter and junk.  I notice a theme in my past blog posts
I put all travel on hold and fly urgently to South Africa as my Mum was really ill. (Well to be fair, I WAS going to South Africa anyway, I just brought my flight forward a week!)

October:  My mum has a pacemaker fitted and is well on her way to recovery, I discover things really have changed in the new South Africa, and we all enjoy a week down the south coast breathing in the fresh sea air and watching the most beautiful birds.  Check out monkeys, proteas, giant grasshoppers and massive waves here.

November:  One of my Frankfurt Skyline photos is selected for sale in National Geographic’s photographic stock.  As you can imagine, I am over the moon.
I discover why it’s good to have travel insurance…  I discover I am missing work…(yes, you did read that right!)

December:  I write about the amazing things one can do in Durban.
I conquer the World’s highest gorge swing and realise that 38 years can indeed flash before your eyes in 2.3 seconds. More pictures here.  I cycle along Durban’s cycle path in the amazing African sunshine.
Merry Christmas :-)

As you can see, it was an absolutely AWESOME year.  Life is truly what you make it and there is no reason for us to settle for anything less than what makes us happy.  We only get one shot at this so don’t muck it up.

Here’s to a FABULOUS 2012.

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