Rethymno beach on a stormy day

2019: My Year in Review

Last year, 2019, was my fifth year as a nomad – time flies! But it was a bit of a strange year, personally and professionally, for several reasons.

I struggled with finances. I didn’t plan properly after a super-successful year (goddamn those payments on account!) and I waited for my new website to launch before marketing for new clients (doh!) – and in the end we were three months behind schedule. Plus, the extreme uncertainty caused by Brexit had a very negative effect on me throughout last year, not least because I couldn’t plan too far ahead.

I remain deeply grateful to house sitting. Not only is it a wonderful way to see the world, but I hardly paid for any accommodation all year and I had some truly wonderful experiences (along with a couple of challenging ones!). I chose my locations based on where decent sits came up, rather than choosing new destinations. But while I didn’t visit any new countries, most of the towns and cities I stayed in were new to me, so I had plenty to explore.

Here’s what I got up to in 2019.

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Jo at St Hilarion Castle, North Cyprus, 2016

2016: My Year in Review

Phew! Sometimes it felt as though 2016 would never end. With a stream of celebrity deaths and some seismic shocks in both political and geographic landscapes, there’s a danger of remembering last year for all the wrong reasons.

Personally I struggled a little last year too, mostly in the latter half of the year as I fought to understand my government’s determination to rob me of my rights as a European citizen thanks to a busload of lies and misinformation. This had a knock-on effect on my finances, where the drop in value of the GBP meant my rent and everyday living expenses increased dramatically. And it coincided with me trying to reshape my business, which meant a drop in income as I tried to build up my reputation in a different area. Messy!

In her annual workbook, Unravel Your Year, Susannah Conway asks the question ‘what you would call your year if it were a book or album?’ The difficult second album syndrome immediately popped into my head!

However while I found some areas of my life a challenge, I had another fantastic year of travel. 2016 was my fourth year in business and my second year as a digital nomad. I slept in twenty beds in fifteen cities, visited nine different countries (including the UK), three of which were new for me. I took ten flights, four train journeys (I’ve only counted long train journeys, not short trips to and from airports), and two ferry trips.

My highlights included finding a place to call home in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for five and a half months, returning to the Worldwide Festival in Sète for another memorable week of dancing in the sunshine to my favourite bands and DJs, getting my travel blogging head on in Stockholm, discovering the wine and wildlife of Slovenia, now one of my favourite countries, and connecting with my inner Lara Croft exploring the archaeological sites of Cyprus.

Here’s my review of 2016.

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Roque Nublo & Roque Bentayga

An Island of Many Faces: The Diverse Landscapes of Gran Canaria

As a traveller, I try to arrive in new places with an open mind and not form an impression based on things I’ve read or heard from others. That said, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what Gran Canaria was about before heading there earlier this year: mass tourism, good surfing and a buzzing digital nomad culture.

And Gran Canaria is each of these things. But it’s so much more besides.

It’s been described as an island of many faces, and with good reason. It has magnificent mountains, deep ravines and stunning craters, yet is fringed with beach resorts, ranging from secluded coves to huge tourist beaches with sunbeds crammed on every grain of sand. It has a desert, yet its interior has areas of rainforest. The tourist resorts lining the south are crammed with people, but drive a short way and you could be the only person around. It has a spiritual core and a reputation for brashness.

The diverse landscapes of Gran Canaria mean the island experiences extreme microclimates – you could be baking on a beach in the south, while sheltering from rain in the lush, mountainous north, and bemoaning the seemingly constant cloud in the city of Las Palmas (which I did a lot!).

With all this packed into a circular island only 1,560 sq. km. in size, it’s little wonder Gran Canaria has been called the world’s smallest continent.

As a fun way of showing off the diversity of the island, I thought I’d highlight some interesting places moving from south to north, inspired by a road trip with friends. During our journey I was fascinated to watch the landscapes of Gran Canaria vary dramatically as we drove from the desert at Maspalomas northwards into the heart of the island.

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Gran Canaria's Cheese Festival

A Trip to Cheese Heaven: Fiesta del Queso, Montaña Alta de Guía

I arrived in Gran Canaria at the end of January, just as the island was revving up for the onslaught of Carnival. February was certainly an experience – an explosion of riotous colour, outrageous drag queens, thumping drums, outlandish costumes, sultry hip action, huge dance parades, all-night parties, and a spectacular fireworks display.

But while Carnival is the big one, don’t be fooled into thinking the rest of the year is quiet.

Canarian culture is filled with a rich tapestry of customs and traditions, many of which involve some kind of party. There are numerous fiestas held around the island throughout the year, with almost every town seeming to hold its own celebration at some point.

So imagine my delight when my friends, by now fully aware of my love of Canarian cheese, announced a Fiesta del Queso (yup, that’s right – a cheese festival!) in Montaña Alta de Guía. I was all set for a trip to cheese heaven!

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The Finca de Osorio

Teror & the Finca de Osorio

Psst… The locals won’t like me mentioning this because they like to keep it a closely guarded secret, but I was recently introduced to a delightful green oasis in the heart of Gran Canaria.

I’m a sucker for clear, fresh mountain air and a day surrounded by lush, verdant countryside, so when friends suggested a trip to the Finca de Osorio, close to the historical town of Teror, I didn’t need asking twice.

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