Wow, another year has passed. Well, almost. 2012 has been an incredible year for me, full of unforgettable travel moments, speaking engagements and many highlights shared with family and friends. I spent the first half of 2012 traversing the globe and the second half, erm… doing the same. And what a ride it’s been! Here are my twelve highlights of 2012:
1. Seeing the northern lights – I dreamed of this moment ever since I was a child and when I finally saw it, I mistook it for a strange cloud! Haha! My trip to Finnish Lapland is one I’ll never forget!
2. Speaking at ITB Berlin – ITB Berlin is one of the world’s largest travel fairs. In 2012, they went out of their way to woo travel bloggers to Berlin and I had the grandest honour of taking to their biggest stage to speak about travel blogging. I can still feel the adrenaline rush whenever I think of my presentation in that cavernous hall.
3. Back to the Iguazu Falls – the Iguazu Falls has a special place in my heart. I visited the falls for the first time in 2008 and its immense beauty inspired me to muster up the courage and embark on a new career path. I wrote about this moment in my ebook Travelations. Returning in 2012 was a trip down memory lane, this time with my friends and we had a blast!
4. #LoveCapeTown and up to the Victoria Falls – hardly a month after that trip to Brazil, I found myself in one of my favourite cities: Cape Town. I didn’t get to frolic with the Great Whites (Haha!) due to a fever (BAH!) but I got to enjoy the city’s breathtaking scenery, the Western Cape’s finest food and wines and stay at a villa I could, oh so easily, call home! Check out things to do in Cape Town.
After a week of immersing ourselves in Cape Town, we flew up to Livingstone, near the Victoria Falls. These falls have always been high on my bucket list so it was an extraordinary experience to see them… about a month after being at the Iguazu Falls, another of the world’s iconic falls! We also spent a few days cruising along the Zambezi River and going on several safaris in the Chobe National Park in Botswana.
5. Spending (most of) the summer at home – after all that travelling, it was lovely to be back home and spend time with my family and friends. We headed for the beach every chance we got! Amsterdam is absolutely gorgeous in the summer, when everyone’s out in their boats and the alfresco restaurants and cafés are packed.
6. Digital detox in Budapest – After several weeks, I felt the travel bug stir and off I went, partner in tow, to Budapest. I decided to leave my laptop at home and promised myself I wouldn’t work while on this trip. We had a fabulous time exploring Budapest’s stunning cafés, thermal baths and markets, and not once did I log on to my blog or social media channels. It was the best thing I did that summer!
7. Winning the Best Luxury Travel Blog award at TBU Porto – I went down to Porto, Portugal, for the Travel Bloggers Unite conference in Porto in early-September. I didn’t get to see much of the city, unfortunately, but the cruise down the Douro River and a stroll around the old city centre were absolutely wonderful. The Destinology Travel Bloggy Awards were held on the second night of the conference and it was awesome to win my very first award!
8. Turning 40 – I rushed back home from Porto to celebrate my 40th with my family and friends (some of whom had flown in from Canada). There was no big party. I hired a boat, prepared a picnic and off we went for a three-hour cruise around Amsterdam’s canals and harbour. The weather was perfect and we had a terrific time taking in the sights (I’ll never tire of seeing Amsterdam from the water) and drinking champagne. That evening, we had a lovely dinner at home and more friends joined in the fun. It was an unforgettable day! I must’ve heard the phrase “life begins at 40” a thousand times. Haha!
9. NOSH – a few weeks later, I was on a flight bound for Kuala Lumpur to attend an important family event: the opening of my sister’s restaurant, NOSH. It was great to spend time with my family again and to see my sister’s excitement. I may be biased but the food really impressed me. Despite the thunderstorms that day, the opening went very well and in the following weeks, the reviews appeared in the newspapers, blogs and websites. They were all superb! I couldn’t be more proud of my sister!
10. Pisa Forum – the Pisa Forum is one of the world’s leading tourism forums where experts in various fields (from research institutes to tourism boards, PR agencies and heads of travel businesses) are invited to Pisa each year to share their thoughts about tourism trends in the current year and brainstorm about potential trends in the next few years. Their discussions are then compiled into a report: the World Travel Trend Report, and distributed at the ITB travel fair in Berlin. This year, I had the honour of being the first travel blogger to receive an invitation from the Pisa Forum. It was an amazing experience to present the travel blogger story to this distinguished group in a stunning 15th century villa, Villa di Corliano. Look out for the report, and my contribution, at ITB Berlin next year!
11. TEDxTalk – arguably the highlight of 2012 for me was the opportunity to present a TEDxTalk. I was always a big fan of TEDTalks so when the Saxion University asked me if I would be interested in doing a TEDxTalk, I could hardly contain my excitement. YES!!! I chose to tell a simple personal story about passion and empowerment, and about how travel has changed me as a person. The adrenaline pumped through my veins and I couldn’t keep still. I’d never felt this nervous and excited in my life! Behind the curtains, I jumped and skipped around – to the detriment of the make-up lady who kept running behind me to ‘patch-up’ my face. Haha! I can now say that I’ve done my very own TEDxTalk! Woohoo! You’re most welcome to view my TEDxTalk.
12. Winning the “Best Online Coverage” of Costa Brava award at PremisG! – the Costa Brava Girona Tourism Board organises an awards ceremony each year for the best media coverage of the region as well as prizes to selected local businesses and organisations to reward them for their contributions to tourism. This year, I won the award for best coverage of Costa Brava in the digital media category. I was thrilled beyond words! The PremisG! awards ceremony was classy, the plaque I received was beautiful and the cash prize was great, but for me, the best part of the evening was getting to share the stage with the Roca brothers who manage El Celler de Can Roca, one of the top restaurants in the world. Read my guide to the best places to visit in Costa Brava.
2012 was an amazing year, a breakthrough year for me in many aspects. Looking back, I’m filled with gratitude for everything that has landed on my path this year, and the love and support from my family and friends. Thank you!
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a
HAPPY, HEALTHY & PROSPEROUS 2013!
All the best and hope to see you back here on Velvet Escape soon! 🙂