A Reminder to Make the Most out of Life: 2016 in Review

Another year has passed and I am proud to say that I had made several significant achievements this year and had a lot of fun! I write a reflection post every year, listing my highlights of the previous twelve months and I am always surprised at how much I have accomplished. I am a working example of how you CAN make your dreams come true, you CAN afford that holiday if you budget and work hard to pay for it, you CAN get that good grade if study hard, you CAN get on the property ladder, buy that new car and pay off your debts if you make the right financial choices and you CAN lose that extra weight you gained over Christmas or whilst staying in that all-inclusive hotel. All you need is a little motivation, planning and willingness. So, here I demonstrate to you, my highlights of 2016…


  1. Welcoming in the new year in the Amazon rainforest

So I haven’t actually got round to blogging about my experiences in the Amazon last year (read the rest of this list and you’ll understand why!), but I can assure you it was an INCREDIBLE trip! Surrounded by the nature of the rainforest, trekking through the deep undergrowth in search of Caymans and tarantulas and canoeing through the meandering rainforest rivers was one of the most amazing experiences I have had, EVER!

Amazon rainforest honeymoon

  1. Travelling through Mexico

In 2015 I made the transition from college to university lecturer and as a congratulations to myself I bought tickets for my husband and I to fly to Mexico during the 2016 Easter break. Mexico had been high on my bucket list for several years and we had an amazing time exploring the Aztec and Inca temples along with jungle treks and beach days. Thinking of visiting Mexico? I would recommend Tulum and Calakmul.

Mexican pyramid

  1. Drinking cocktails at Miami beach

Our flight home from Mexico was via Miami so we thought it would be criminal not to stop off for a fleeting visit! It was great to see so many of the scenes that I’ve watched in the movies and to enjoy a bit of luxury on the beach. This hammock photo is one of my favourites, just looking at it takes me back to my happy place! For more of my favourite travel photos you can follow me on Instagram.

hammock on the beach

  1. Winning the three minute thesis competition

Summarising three years’ worth of work in three minutes is no easy feat. But I was incredibly proud of myself when I not only accomplished this, but when I won! I never realised my research could be humorous and that so many people would be interested in it! You can watch the three minute presentation on YouTube and find tips on how to do it in this blog post.

three minute thesis

  1. Starting the count down for Baby Butterfly’s arrival

I was very lucky to fall pregnant very quickly once we decided to try for a baby and June 2016 marked the beginning of the next nine months. We are SUPER excited to become parents in around nine weeks’ time and have been busy getting the nursery and all of our much-needed travel-related baby items ready for when baby Isla arrives!

baby announcement 2017

  1. Travelling through Greece

I’d wanted to visit the Acropolis for quite some time but the urge to travel long-haul during my previous holiday time had always taken precedence. With the need to avoid areas with Malaria or Zika this year however, we decided to stay a little closer to home and explore Greece. The Acropolis was fantastic as was Meteora, Delphi, Bala Lagoon and Elafonisi.

Traveling to Delphi when pregnant

  1. Paying off my debts

A couple of years ago I got myself into a pretty difficult financial situation. Nobody would lend me any more money and I was paying astronomical amounts in interest each month. With the help of my husband and a family friend, who kindly gave me an interest free, I was able to pay off the debts I had accumulated over the past few years. It was HARD work (I am to this day still wearing clothes I bought from Primark in 2010), but that final credit card repayment felt AMAZING! I paid off a total of £14,000 in 2 ½ years, read how I did it here.

  1. Buying my new house

I will always love travel and have the urge to get away whenever possible, but staying home has become a lot nicer since my husband and I bought our beautiful four bedroom house. It’s a new build so we got to design a lot of the interior features and it’s in a beautifully quaint village location in Berkshire. Since moving in (and without the crippling debts repayments to worry about anymore!) we’ve also treated ourselves to a new sofa and super-king size bed with an extra comfy mattress- hotel beds are never going to live up to this now!

  1. Submitting my PhD

I can’t believe how close I am now to becoming a Doctor! I was under no illusion that having a baby and writing a PhD would be an easy feat, so with my maternal instincts calling I put in some serious man-power this year in terms of my research. I worked almost every weekend and spent very long days, week after week, on the computer coding, undertaking statistical tests, re-writing my literature and discussing my findings. In November I finally submitted the beast and my viva is scheduled for just over two weeks’ time… wish me luck!!! Thinking of doing a PhD? Check our my 5 reasons for and against here

PhD thesis

  1. Finally making it to Poland

After three failed attempts I FINALLY made it to Krakow for the weekend to celebrate both my 30th birthday and our first wedding anniversary (nothing says romance like a Jewish death camp, right?!). I also secured my first sponsored hotel stay, you can read my full review here.

pregnant winter clothes

  1. Having two academic papers published and securing a contract to write a book

I have made excellent progress on the work-front this year too. Alongside all the research and teaching I have also managed to have two papers published. The first is in the top tourism journal, which was a fantastic accomplishment. The second was also in a very highly rated and competitive journal. You can read the papers here and here. I also have another three papers under review that I hope will be published in 2017 and have secured a publishing contract with Cabi Publishing for my forthcoming book on TEFL tourism. I suspect this will keep me occupied in the last few weeks of pregnancy before baby butterfly makes her arrival!

  1. My ‘babymoon’ in Abu Dhabi

Travelling has, without doubt, become a lot more challenging and less comfortable when combined with the endurances of pregnancy. But I was determined to take one last trip as two before baby Isla is due to arrive in March. Abu Dhabi was a good choice with nice weather (but not too hot) and lots of opportunities to sit back and relax (not my usual holiday style but necessary at 30 weeks pregnant!).

grand mosque

So, with that I say goodbye to 2016 and welcome in the new year with open arms. This is the year I *hopefully* become a Doctor and a mummy! This will, without a doubt, be a life-changing year and I am super excited for what it will hold! Travel plans are not yet confirmed but my current intentions are to take baby Isla on her first trip to visit her granddad in Spain in June, to run a special session at the ICOT conference in Thailand in June (subject to university financial approval), travel around China and possibly the Philippines in July and then another big long-haul trip at Christmas-I’m thinking possibly Peru, South Africa or Cuba but we will see…. I also hope to publish some more papers and make good progress on writing my book. But most importantly, I hope to spend as much time as possible with my baby girl and to watch her grow over the coming months!

I wish all of my readers a happy new year and that 2017 brings you health, happiness and TRAVEL!