And just like that, the year is over! It’s crazy looking back through all that has happened, most of all how much travelling has happened. This year alone has allowed me to set foot in 11 countries, 4 of which I’d never visited before (Scotland, Portugal, Netherlands and Japan); 4 of which I was visiting for a second or third time (England, Spain, Australia, France); two of which were sites of study (France and the USA), and lastly my two home bases, Kenya and Singapore.
And while it has left me wondering where, what or who “home” is anymore, I have loved making new memories with new people and learning about new places. Seeing as today is the last day of 2018, here are some of my favourite memories from each of the countries I was in this year:
1. Seeing my city (Nairobi, Kenya) in a new light
I was in Nairobi when we ushered 2018 as the new year, and it also happens to be the city that I did my very first blog post on! Being abroad has given me a renewed appreciation for all the things I grew up doing – visiting popular attractions such as the Giraffe Centre or the Mamba Village.
Yet I’d never done this one thing, which was seeing Nairobi from the 8th tallest building in the city – the iconic KICC. Needless to say, it was breathtaking.
2. Studying Abroad in Paris, France
I’d been to Paris twice before: first for a week with my family, then for a month for a summer course, and now for six months to NYU Paris. My semester abroad was full of many, many memories (both fond ones and painful ones), and all these experiences managed to create a special place in my heart for the city.
I learned how to people-watch at restaurants, how to be comfortable in my own company, how to (pretend to) speak French, and how to make the most out of any and every opportunity.
I also think I mastered the Parisien metro system quite well.
3. Rubbing a Statue’s Nose in Edinburgh, Scotland
I visited a close friend in Edinburgh for the weekend. It surprised me how lifeless, old and medieval-like Scotland’s capital was, but the walls of each building were thickened with centuries and centuries of history.
It was perhaps a little less crowded than usual because I’d visited during the University of Edinburgh’s ‘reading week’, in which most of the student population return home. Nevertheless, I enjoyed walking through the city and seeing several landmarks, such The Elephant Café where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter; and the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog whose nose you’re supposed to rub for good luck.
4. Eating Nandos in England (both in London & Nottingham)
As with Scotland, my time in Nottingham and London were spent visiting friends from high school. I revived my love for Nandos (Nandos actually used to be in Kenya when I was younger but it unfortunately left!), and spent a night at the famous Ace Hotel in London, located in the vibrant Shoreditch area.
London also included walks around Buckingham Palace and a morning at the Tate Modern Art Museum.
5. Redefining my idea of a capital city in Lisbon, Portugal
Portugal felt familiar and unfamiliar to me, and I absolutely adored the time I spent travelling with friends that mean a lot to me. If you’re a first-timer on this blog, my previous post was on my four days in Lisbon, so don’t hesitate to give it a click to see all the things we were up to! I was amazed by how different of a capital city it was.
6. Returning to Barcelona, Spain
I first visited Barcelona when I was 13 years old, accompanying my brother as he participated in a football tournament in a nearby town, Salou. We spent time after in Barcelona after the tournament to explore the city – including watching the talented footballer Lionel Messi score a goal at Camp Nou; seeing the unfinished Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, and having giant milkshakes by the Mediterranean Sea.
Returning to the city some seven years later, I’m happy to report that the cathedral remains unfinished.
I’m also obsessed with the popular tapas meal, patatas bravas, and have gained unparalleled amounts of patience when it comes to waiting for Ubers (the company has had a complicated relationship with the city.)
7. Spending my 20th Birthday in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Alone!
This marked my first solo trip in which I took an early morning bus from Paris to Amsterdam with no working cellular data and no Dutch in my vocabulary.
It was terrifying, but it was a fitting way to spend my 20th birthday. (If you want to know more about how I finessed my way around alone, you can also read it on this post!)
8. Exploring New Corners of Australia (Melbourne, VIC)
My love affair with Australia, which had begun in Sydney, led me back to spend some more time exploring another along the East Coast of the country. It was magnificent time spent reconnecting with friends, and Melbourne itself was a warm city, filled with so much art and character.
9. Eating Dragonfruit in Singapore
I spent about 2 months in Singapore this year in total, most of which I spent eating dragonfruit (I LOVE) and attempting to work out. Quiet walks by the bay or loud nights parties at the top of a 66-storey building also constituted a lot of my time in the city.
10. Discovering Japan with My Family
Japan is an incredibly beautiful country blessed with stunning natural resources as well as stunning infrastructural advancements. From exploring the sacred Itsukushima shrine to the gorgeous views of Mt. Fuji to spending two smooth hours on the famous Bullet Train and spending quieter hours at Hiroshima’s memorial park, we learned so much about a country that has been at the forefront of much of world history.
11. Returning to the States for Junior Year!
Back to the city to begin my Junior (3rd) Year of university. The past few months were spent dedicated to school, but I managed to steal some time away during Thanksgiving break to visit relatives living in Maryland. In addition to a drive around country’s capital, Washington D.C., we went hiking at the nearby Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park.
But while I always appreciate the change of pace that not being in NYC brings, I still find myself missing its action when I’m away. There’s always something happening, whether it’s a street fair or a new exhibition or a concert or a giant parade. As an artist, it’s one of the places that I find myself constantly inspired by all the talent art that I’m surrounded by.
Cue in 2019! I’d encourage you all to go somewhere you’ve never been before – regardless of whether it’s only two miles or two thousand miles away from your living room. I believe there’s an adventure in every corner. As of the coming year, I’m excited to explore new places. I’ve never been to the West Coast of the USA, so I’m excited to venture out to California to kick things off!
Another highlight of 2018 is that this blog was birthed (!!), and I’m excited to continue writing and sharing my experiences with you all! Thanks for all your support in the journey so far.
Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe with your e-mail or WordPress account below to get more updates. Happy New Year y’all!