Reflections on 2017

Reflections on 2017

‘We do not remember days, we remember moments.’ – Cesare Pavese.

Every year, I write a reflection post on the past 365 days, looking back over everything I’ve done and remembering the highlights, the bad times and throwing up some of my favourite images taken. You can find my previous posts here, reflecting on 2015 and 2016 respectively.

2017 has been a busy year. And the time has flown. I can barely believe I am writing my annual reflection post again, looking back on 2017. What a whirlwind it has been. There have been plenty of highlights, a few lows and lots has happened.

The 2017 Recap

I started the year with a trip to Bruges for my birthday. A and I explored this beautiful city at a leisurely pace, enjoyed a quiet few days together and then headed home to begin the year properly back in London.

February was quieter, and I stayed in the capital for the whole month. It was the one of only two months in the entire year where I did not leave London once, and it was much needed before a busy March! I started March with a flying visit to Wales, before heading off for a two week tour of Israel and Jordan. What a great trip that was! It’s the first time my sisters and I have travelled together and I’m so pleased we had such an amazing time.

We went to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank to visit the Dead Sea, Jericho and Masada. After our flying Israeli visit, we went overland into Jordan and spent just over a week exploring this amazing country, visiting Aqaba, Wadi Rum, Petra, Amman and Madaba during our stay. It was a wonderful trip, full of adventure and fun, and Jordan is a country I would really love to return to very soon!

During April, I took a Surprise Trip (no longer available) which ended up being a weekend away in Brussels. I really wasn’t in the mood, and ended up coming home a day early, which was the very best thing I could have done. I spent the rest of the month in London, enjoying the spring and the longer, warmer days marking the beginning of summer. April was an extremely busy month, and by the time May came around, I needed a break!

May was the second month I spent entirely in London, and it was much needed. I was a little burnt out from all the travel in March and the trip to Brussels in April. I explored Kew Gardens, walked Regent’s Canal from Bethnal Green to Camden and celebrated two weddings.

As June rolled around, I was ready for another trip. The month opened with the London Bridge terror attack which shook me more than I cared to admit at the time. Then, to compound a terrible month for London, as S and I were travelling to Chefchaouen to spend a few nights there, the news of the Grenfell fire broke. I remain absolutely horrified by this tragedy and the awful, needless loss of life. Whilst Morocco was wonderful, June was overshadowed by these two events and the city I love dearly felt shaken.

Into July, and some much needed family time. The five of us spent a night in Wiltshire which was lovely – the first time we’d been together since Christmas! My aunt and I saw Green Day, who totally rocked Hyde Park and J and I enjoyed a day trip into Kent to visit Hever Castle. I started my coding course.

After a pleasant summer month spent largely in London, I saw out the end of August in Wales with my parents. This was my first trip back in six months! As well as this, A’s hen do was held, I saw C for the first time in eighteen months and E and G visited London for a night.

A and J’s beautiful wedding was held in September, a week after my return from Wales. It was one of the most special days of 2017 and I still love thinking back and remembering how perfect everything was! I also attended C’s 30th birthday party and spent a lot of quality time with E upon her return from Greece.

My long awaited holiday in Ireland rolled around in October. I spent a wonderful five nights away all by myself, and it was just what I needed. I took scenic drives, walked a lot, spent a few hours visiting relatives and faced my fears to ride a cable car over the Irish Sea so that I could visit Dursey Island. This break was one of the highlights of my year. It came just at the right time and I longed to stay.

In November, I took a group of friends back to Wales to enjoy the annual Mid Wales Beer Fest and we spent a pleasant Saturday exploring Elan Valley. I’d not been for years either, so it was nice to return. I also attended the TEDx Women’s Conference and left feeling inspired. I  finally went up to the Sky Garden for the first time as well!

Now, the end of the year is nigh. I’m back in Wales at the moment, having just spent Christmas Day with my Mum, Dad, sisters and grandparents. In a couple of days I am going to Devon to round off the year and spend New Year’s Eve with A celebrating quietly in our AirBnB. No big parties for me this year! And then, it’ll be time find out what 2018 will bring…

Where I’ve Travelled in 2017

This year, I visited Belgium, Israel, Jordan, Wales, The Republic of Ireland, Morocco and in between all these, I’ve been in England. I’ve visited three new countries, taken eight flights and travelled on numerous buses and trains, the most memorable trips being the impromptu bus I took from Brussels to London when I returned early and forfeited my flight home and the Eurostar train from London Kings Cross to Brussels on our way to Bruges.

My Favourite Book in 2017

Having scrolled through the list of books on my Kindle, I have to say that my favourite book of 2017 isn’t actually one that I downloaded. I actually read the paper version, and it’s also the most recent book I’ve read – ‘Through Siberia By Accident’ by Dervla Murphy.

I’ve read one of Murphy’s books already this year whilst in Jordan. ‘Between River and Sea’ is her recounting of the time she spent in Israel during 2009 and 2010 and offers fascinating insight into the Israeli occupation of Palestine. When I finished ‘A Siberian Winter’s Tale’ by Helen Lloyd just a few days ago, I decided to pick up another of Murphy’s books from my parents’ library and read some more of her work.

In keeping with the Siberian theme, I chose ‘Through Siberia By Accident’ and I have to say, it has been an utter joy to read. Murphy tells her tales as she weaves her way across Russia, by train, boat and bus, interspersed with plenty of Russian history and insights into the Siberian culture. Having been to Siberia, this book only served to fuel my longing to return again some day, and explore this fascinating part of the world in more depth.

Low Moments in 2017

I experienced a lot of anxiety this year. For a long time, it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what triggered it, but I’ve come to the conclusion in hindsight that it was usually a combination of feeling tired and sometimes hungover that made it worse. I’ve learnt ways of dealing with anxiety during the year, but it’s been hard sometimes, perhaps more so than I’ve let on, even to family and friends.

Moreover, I feel that I lost myself a little in 2017. I invested a lot of time and devoted a lot of energy into something which never gave much by way of return, and I think that this only served to fuel my anxiety on occasion. I am now taking steps to remove myself from the situation. I don’t need certain things in my life to make me content and I am re-learning how to make myself happy.

Thanks to G in particular through all this. She has spent countless, often extremely boring, hours listening to me and offering advice. As she said to me at the beginning of December, I’ve been ‘forgetting that I’m special too’. Well, now I’m starting to remember!

Just some of my 2017 Highlights (The Most Memorable Moments)

  • The Call to Prayer, Jerusalem. We stand on the road overlooking East Jerusalem as the sun slips towards the horizon and lights begin to flicker on in buildings across the valley. As dusk falls, the relative peace is broken by the call to evening prayer. Minarets scattered around the city begin to crackle into life. The haunting, wailing chants echo and bounce all around us. We are captivated, listening silently, transfixed as it continues. Nobody speaks for a minute or two as the call fades and dark begins to fall proper. Then, as if woken from a spell, we continue on our stroll, tugging our coats around us more tightly as the evening chill digs in.
  • The immense silence in Wadi Rum. I can almost feel the weight of it on my shoulders. I sit in the deepest shade, knees bent up to my chest, feet bare against the rock. All around me, the desert simmers, heat rising from the burning sand in shimmering waves. The others are at the camp, drinking tea and allowing Bedouins to adorn their hands with henna tattoos. I am taking a moment to myself in the hushed red desert. It feels as old as time.
  • All the blue in Chefchaouen. The sun is searingly hot, beating down onto the top of my head, threatening to burn my scalp. I can feel myself turning red, sweat prickling my skin. And then, quite suddenly, we are plunged back into the cool blue world and the temperature drops noticeably a couple of degrees. I pause, take a breather, sip water. There is a muted feel to this city, as though everyone talks in hushed tones and tiptoes wherever they go. Nowhere seems busy, or is that because it’s the middle, and therefore the hottest part, of the day? We stroll on, taking the easy route wherever possible, immersed in this surreal blue world and lost in a maze of alleys and lanes.
  • Finding peace and space on the Beara Peninsula. The wind is sharp as a knife and is trying to pierce my waterproof jacket. It howls across the cliff top and whips my hair in every direction. Below, the sea is in turmoil, hurling itself against the sharp black rocks, again and again. I’ve driven to the end of this headland, down a rocky track which has petered out here, on the cliff edge. I’m completely alone. It is exhilarating. Across the narrow strip of water, clouds are wrapped around the mountain tops. I’ve not seen clouds shroud mountains like that since New Zealand. This land makes me nostalgic for that country, reminds me of it constantly. I turn away from the edge and set a course that follows the coastline, shaking off memories, living for the now. As the land dips slightly, the wind lessens. Time to walk.
  • Rocking out to Green Day in Hyde Park. ‘Is this the real life… Is this just fantasy…?’ The first chords of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody flare across the impatient crowd. The song is taken up by every individual, echoing around the park, thousands of people singing discordantly along to one of the most famous songs in the world. I watched the video back days later; it’s a beautiful sight and sound. Later, after Billie Joe Armstrong and the others have rocked out, he sets a quieter, more melancholic tone with acoustic versions of some of their slower songs. His voice rolls plaintively across the crowd. ‘It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right, I hope you had the time of your life…’ The crowd roars its approval and then sings passionately along, every lyric an old friend.
  • Learning how to make dumplings. As London grows dark, we descend upon A’s house so that she could teach us how to make the most delicious dumplings in the world. She lives in a basement flat with a big cosy kitchen, where we congregated to snack and drink mulled wine before beginning the making process. At the table, A showed us how to enclose the filling in the wrappers, hand folding the edges, ensuring they were sealed. We are focused on the task in hand, making dumpling after dumpling, so many we lose count. A cooks them in batches, each as wonderful as the last. Hot, moist and moreish, dipped into the best sauce I’ve ever tasted. It is the perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon and slide into evening.

Top Photos from Instagram in 2017

Throughout the year, I have posted the top three ranking images from Instagram in my monthly recap posts. Many of the photos I personally enjoyed performed less well than images I liked less, and it’s obvious when scrolling back through my Instagram for 2017 that I post more frequently when I’m travelling. I’ve posted images from around the world this year, including from Belgium, England, Wales, Ireland, Israel, Jordan and Morocco. As well as this, I’ve posted ‘throwback’ posts from Germany, China, Mongolia, New Zealand, Hungary and Poland. I posted the most images in January, and had my highest average number of likes then too. I obviously had better IG game in January!

To round off the year, I’ve selected the three most liked images from 2017 on my Instagram feed and shared them below.

Last light, Green Day, Hyde Park BST Festival. London, July 2017. This photo got me 90 likes, the highest number of the year. It was ranked in the top 9 images on several of the hashtags I used, which is why it proved to be so popular!

Reflections on 2017

Sunshine and Flowers, Aqaba. Jordan, March 2017. With 86 likes overall, this image comes in at number two on my most liked photos on Instagram in 2017. It makes me feel happy whenever I see this picture – it feels like the essence of holidays.

Reflections on 2017

Taking a Cycle Break, Bruges. Belgium, January 2017. And coming in third position, with 72 likes, this photo that I took in Bruges in January. Of the three, this is the only image taken on my DSLR, which has seen less use in 2017 than my iPhone when it comes to photos. Time to get it out more in 2018?

Reflections on 2017

My Favourite Photos from 2017

The images above may have ranked most highly in Instagram in terms of number of likes they received, but they’re not necessarily my favourite photos from the year. Below, I’ve added my personal three favourite images, and explained why!

Rolling in off the Tasman, New Zealand. Taken in 2016, shared in January 2017. This was a throwback shot to Ship Creek Beach in New Zealand. It is one of my favourite beaches in the world, and definitely my favourite in New Zealand. I love the motion and action in this photo; the power in those waves, and the subtle colour tones. It is one of my personal favourite images shared in 2017 because it reminds me so strongly of New Zealand, and why I love that wonderful country so much.

Reflections on 2017

Peace at St Dunstans, London. Taken and shared in August 2017. Whenever I look at this photo, it just fills me with a sense of calm. This beautiful old church in the City was the perfect place to explore one Sunday in August, when I had an afternoon to myself and wanted some quiet time alone. This picture seems to encapsulate that afternoon perfectly. I think it’s all the green and the soft edges!

Reflections on 2017

Twin hats, Carmarthanshire, Mid Wales. Taken in August 2017, shared in September 2017. These are my parents. At the risk of sounding corny, these two people are my absolute rocks and two of the most important people in my life. In my opinion, this photo perfectly captures them – enjoying life in Wales while wearing wide-brimmed hats. If there was one photo I’d print off and frame this year, it’d be this one.

Reflections on 2017

The poorest performing image of 2017.

Colour Town, Castletownbere, Co. Cork, Ireland. Taken and shared in October 2017. I love this photo and have no idea why it performed so badly, only receiving 18 likes overall, the lowest number I received on any image in 2017. This cafe served one of the best burgers I ate this year and it was made all the most delicious because I literally wasn’t expecting it to be so good! If you’re ever in Castletownbere, I’d highly recommend a visit to the Fuchsia Cafe for one of their veggie burgers. You will not be disappointed!

Reflections on 2017

So there you go.

2017 in a nutshell. It’s time to look ahead towards 2018 now and everything that the new year will bring, including my stay in Devon, a trip to Norway and my birthday, just for starters in January! However, it is good to pause and reflect on what has happened over the course of the year and remember the good times that were had. Hopefully, 2018 will be just as good, if not better!

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