Looking Back on 2017 and Looking Forward to 2018

Statue Musee d'Orsay
She feels my pain!

Well that was a rollercoaster!

The year of 2017 has been incredibly challenging. It has had some big highs and awful lows. I’ve made some great friends, reconnected with brilliant old mates and lost one of the most amazing people in my life. It has taken me a month to think about how to write about the end of 2017 because I don’t like to dwell on the negative but couldn’t wait to see the year end.

My grandfather was a big part of my life. He became ill last year and died on 16th December 2017. Although he was 97 years old and I knew he couldn’t live forever, it was still a huge blow. I’m still coming to terms with the loss.

I used to call him when I was overseas or ask my mum to let him know I had arrived safely. I’d tell him about my trips when I arrived home and chewed the fat about anything going on in my life. He knew about job interviews, driving lessons and my test (even pulling up at his house to tell him I had passed) and any arguments or things that were troubling me. He gave some incredible advice. Simple but amazing life lessons and philosophy from a Northern lad who was born in 1920. It never failed to amaze me how up to date with politics, news and current trends my grandad was or how much he enjoyed hearing about the latest technology we had or what we had been doing with our spare time. He asked me about my blog and was genuinely interested in all of our lives. He was straight talking and funny. He had his way and I loved that he knew what he liked in life. He also knew what he didn’t like and would certainly let you know! He ate cornflakes for breakfast from April to October and porridge from October to April with a rare bacon and egg on a special occasion. He was a great golfer and loved his social life.

Grandad and Me

He was always very dapper. I remember seeing him from an early age shining his shoes and taking great care with his appearance. He met my grandma dancing when they were young teenagers and they didn’t stop until she had dementia in her 80s. They spent very little time apart. The longest separation being his time serving in World War II as a Royal Engineer. They were apart for 7 years and wrote to each other the whole time. They married in 48 hours leave he had and got their anniversary card from the Queen at 60 years. They had been together for 72 years when my grandma died and married for over 65. I’ll never be with someone for that length of time now. I can only hope someone loves me that much one day. He was one of the closest people in my life and has made me the person I am today. The world is definitely a poorer place without my grandparents.

Despite a very tough bereavement in 2017, I did have some things to celebrate and be grateful for. One of those was work.

Work

I got the job!!

I was ecstatic and cried my eyes out in front of my director. I didn’t do the best job interview and nerves totally got the better of me but I managed to get my dream job. I can officially say I’m an International Officer which I’ve been working towards for a few years. Its a great feeling to work on something I believe in and to recruit fantastic students to Engineering degrees from all over the world. I get to work on market strategy and challenge myself all of the time. It is much more responsibility and can be tough but I’m doing it. I’m giving this part of my life a lot of energy because I want to do well. I want to be proud of the job I’m doing.

There is no doubt that I am on yet another learning curve but I’m happy to be learning in this role. It definitely fits well and I can feel that I’m more comfortable even though its new and slightly different to the regions I looked after before. I’m getting to know a new team and finding my feet in a new department and office. It will take a few months to settle in completely I think.

Travel

I celebrated New Year in Iceland which was one of my most memorable. A great trip with some magical moments like seeing the Northern Lights.

Straight after I got back to work from Christmas and New Year break, I was off overseas again to Hong Kong and Singapore on a work trip. These regions are special for me as the first places I’ve managed for student recruitment in the university I work for and they have brilliant students. I love both cities for being full of opportunities and life. Busy and fast paced with little pockets of tranquil garden spaces.

Singapore Boat Quay

Singapore

My mum turned 60 in February too so we had a meal with family and friends to celebrate. It was really good to see everyone.

In March, I was travelling for work again to launch a new Foundation study provider at our university. I went to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore with a colleague from the study provider and it was a very busy trip. We presented to groups of people in our overseas networks. I got to talk about Durham a lot which is great! It’s a nice feeling to promote my hometown and the university here all over the world.

By April, I needed a holiday to relax. I visited Belgium for the first time. Brussels was a great city and I definitely wanted to go back and explore more of the country. I got that chance later in the year. Paris, Bayeux and London were the destinations later in the month. I started my project following my grandad’s footsteps through World War II. I’m so pleased I got to talk to him about this project before he died and I was able to make notes and hear a couple of his stories. Although most were devastating. I re-connected with Paris, a place I loved since the first time I set eyes on it. It’s not a fairytale place which disappoints some people but the romance is there. Its gritty and unapologetic. Almost dismissive but with some of the best art, food, music, culture and landmarks in the world. I don’t mind if you hate Paris, I love her! Here are two photos from the beauty that is Paris.

Paris France

Paris By Day

Notre Dame Paris

Paris By Night

On my return from France, I had a great but again hectic few days in London. It was a travel and blogging conference with old and new friends and loads of things to do. We had a fantastic river cruise and events for the whole time I was there. Sadly at the end of the conference, on the very last night, I fell down three steps and did quite a bit of damage to my right ankle. This injury led to some trips being turned down or cancelled (Canada) and a long road of healing and physio.

I went to London twice more for work including a great CIM course. I also travelled to Edinburgh, in a leg brace, for a friend’s wedding. Nothing like ski boot type footwear to really make a nice dress look even better! Amazing day and great honour to celebrate with such lovely people.

Finally out of the boot, I went to Glasgow for TRNSMT festival and saw bands like Biffy Clyro and the singer Rag n Bone Man. A great, if slightly soggy, weekend. Live music is so good. I need to go to more gigs.

Malta was my final overseas holiday and was perfect relaxation. This was followed by my final business trip to Hong Kong and Singapore.

I ended the year in London’s East End, one of my favourite neighbourhoods in the capital. A good but bittersweet end to the year and I was shattered.

Blogging

This area got neglected and I also had to contact a couple of people I worked with to say there would be delays in getting posts written for a press trip and an event I had done. I’ve never let anyone down in blogging so far. I’ve made things happen and stayed up very late to hit deadlines but I couldn’t deliver a couple of times at the end of the year. It was a horrible feeling.

I want to get more consistent and schedule posts ahead of time to take some of the pressure off. I still love to blog and find writing therapeutic.

A total of 99 countries with UK and USA being the highest number of readers with Canada and Australia close behind. It’s nice to see returning readers who have stuck with me since 2014 and a whole new batch of followers and readers since.

Blog readership

Top Countries for Readership

Top Ten Best Posts of 2017

  1. New Year’s Eve in Geneva, Switzerland
  2. La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
  3. London Hotel Review – Hub By Premier Inn
  4. What is #PTTravel?
  5. .#PTTravel Autumn Destinations
  6. Top 5 Things to Eat in Montenegro
  7. Edinburgh Hogmanay – Torchlight Procession
  8. Eat, Work, Travel, Repeat & How Not to Find a Good Balance
  9. Restaurant Week – Mantra Thai
  10. How Far Could a Virgin Trains Adventure Take You?

What Does 2018 Hold For Me?

My family are still going through a tough time so no doubt I’ll spend some time in the UK with family and friends. I will also be spending time with other travel bloggers in Rotterdam and trying to meet as many part-time travel community members as possible. I’ve had huge support from the community online and started to meet a lot of people in real life in London last year. We’ve built something amazing together and reach 1.7 million accounts per month with #PTTravel on Twitter. I can’t believe how far it’s come.

Work will be full of learning experiences and I’ll be focussed on doing a good job in my career. Working in education and promoting engineering is very worthwhile and gives me a real sense of contributing to building a better future. I’m excited to see what it has in store. Fingers crossed I hit my targets and make improvements/progress with this area of my life.

Travel is set to happen in the coming weeks. I am going to India first and will visit Mumbai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Cochin, Pune and Delhi for work. India is a fantastic country and I hope I get to meet more incredible students. The travel in the rest of my year is unclear at this point but I’m sure there will be a couple of new places and vague plans to re-visit Belgium and Montenegro. Two great countries. Time will tell!

There are also a couple of challenges that I’m setting myself. The first in July is a Macmillan Cancer Mighty Hike in Northumberland. This is a 26 mile walk and I’m doing it with my team at work. I hope to write about it and share on social media too. The other challenge is the Great North Run which I’ve entered the ballot for recently. That’s 13.1 miles of tough running and will test how well my ankle is doing after the injury in March 2017.

Whatever comes my way, I hope I’m strong enough to get through it. I’m ready to face the next year with as much positivity as possible.

Let me know what your hopes and dreams for 2018 are. Have you set any goals or challenges?