As 2017 is coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on what we’ve done this year, the experiences we’ve had and our best bits. We feel incredibly lucky to have had another year full of adventure and fun, living our dream of travelling and working abroad. 2017 has been a big year for us; we finally managed to start this blog back in May (after talking about it for ages), we became vegetarian, we travelled around Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand, and we moved and started a new life in Valencia, Spain.
January: Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand
We rang in the start of 2017 in Ubud, Bali with some fellow travellers we had met, enjoying some drinks and the town’s impressive firework display. We enjoyed a great range of activities there; from meeting monkeys at the Sacred Monkey Forest, to walking through the lush green rice fields, exploring temples to watching a fire dance.
Next we spent 2 weeks in Cambodia. The highlight was of course getting to visit Angkor Wat, where we spent an amazing 2 days exploring the never-ending temples. We also had some very unique experiences in Battambang, riding a bamboo train and watching an impressive circus performance.
Our final stop was Thailand, where we stayed in the best Airbnb ever, a beautifully decorated house tucked down a quiet alley of Bangkok, filled with plenty of cosy corners and delicious snacks. Our favourite place in Thailand was Chiang Mai, where we gorged on delicious veggie food, wandered through the old town, and had some unforgettable experiences in the nearby area (visiting an elephant sanctuary and playing at an inflatable water park in the Grand Canyon).
February/March: Return to the UK
After 17 months in South East Asia, the travelling continued as we made our way through the UK visiting family and friends. It was a strange feeling landing back after getting accustomed to South East Asia living. We were amazed by little things like using proper crossings at traffic lights and the amazing selection of chocolate, biscuits and other great British products.
We landed in London where we spent a couple of days chilling and recovering from jet lag before starting our journey up the country. I managed to visit a few places I’d never been to before: Cambridge, Bristol, Manchester and Exeter, staying with various friendly faces along the way. Ryan and I met up again in Newcastle, where we reunited with uni friends and went back to all our favourite places: cafes, bars and museums. We even got round to doing something we’d been meaning to do for ages; visit the Victoria Tunnels, which were used to transport coal and as an air raid shelter.
It really was great to be amongst family and friends again after so long, and be able to tell them all about our adventures. We eventually made it over to Northern Ireland to see my family, and fit some interesting things in, such as visiting the nearby whisky distillery and taking a day road-trip through several counties in Northern Ireland and Ireland (Ryan’s first time in Ireland!).
All the while this was going on, we were thinking about what was coming next. We knew we wanted to head to Spain and eventually decided on Valencia, due to many factors including its great location on the coast, affordable living costs and English teaching opportunities.
April: Moving to Valencia
We packed up our things once again and were eager for our next adventure in the sunny climes of Valencia. We spent our first 2 weeks staying in an Airbnb on the edge of the beautiful Turia park that runs through the city, so we were able to enjoy walks and runs through the park while we searched for a flat and jobs. In our free time we got the chance to explore the city a bit, visiting the beach and wandering around the beautiful old town.
After deciding at the start of the year to cut down on our meat consumption, by the time we got to Valencia, we were ready to become vegetarian. And boy had we picked a good city to be vegetarian! We soon discovered there were an incredible amount of vegetarian restaurants in Valencia and enjoyed trying some tasty veggie dishes.
May: Same Same But Different was born
Our biggest accomplishment in May was finally starting the blog. After months of thinking about it, and with no job keeping us back, we finally had the time to sit down and get the blog up and running. I was so happy to start writing about our adventures in Asia and our new life in Valencia. I’ve learnt a lot about blogging since then, and I’m incredibly grateful for all the support we’ve received, and fellow bloggers and travellers we’ve connected with along the way.
The blog wasn’t the only thing born in May, so was I! We celebrated my birthday with a day out at the Bioparc, an innovative zoo with a zoo-immersion philosophy, followed by a delicious meal at a vegetarian restaurant.
We ended the month with a holiday with my family in Salou, a small coastal town on the way to Barcelona. We enjoyed relaxing by the pool, taking a walk around the coast and were pleasantly surprised by the vegetarian options. The highlight of the trip was a day spent at Port Aventura water park, which proved to be a fun day for my niece and nephew and us adults too.
June: Visitors and yoga
June saw us having 2 groups of visitors, first my friends and then my dad later on in the month. This kept us busy and distracted from the fact we hadn’t had any luck with getting jobs for September. As we waited, I got a few private classes teaching kids and adults to get earning a bit.
Having friends over was a great chance to get to know the city better and enjoy the weather, walking through the City of Arts and Sciences and taking in its beautiful architecture. We even tried our first yoga class with my friend, which we did on the beach at full moon; it was lots of fun.
When my Dad was over we had a great day out to Albufera, Spain’s largest lake which is a short 20 minute bus journey out of Valencia. We took a boat trip around the lake, swam at the nearby beach and ate (our first vegetarian) paella on the way back. Paella actually originated near Albufera, so it’s a great experience to have a traditional paella while you’re there; it was very tasty.
July: Teaching at a summer club
We managed to get jobs teaching English at a summer club in Valencia, which we did for 4 weeks throughout July. It was nice to get back to teaching again and we did lots of fun lessons with the kids, including cooking, drama and going to the park. We even taught a class together! Our colleagues were very friendly, and that’s where we met our now good friend Matt.
With the summer heat scorching the city during the day, there were lots of fun night activities going on around the city. We went to concerts in the park and had lots of tasty food, including trying out a vegan fast food restaurant.
August: Job and flat hunt
This was a tougher month as we were still struggling to find jobs for September and we were getting a bit worried we wouldn’t have any luck. We’d had some interviews but the pay they were offering was very low so we continued our search. It certainly didn’t help that most academies were closed during this month for holidays.
We were also in a limbo with searching for a new flat, as we didn’t want to find a permanent place when we had no secure jobs yet. But things turned around, and by the end of the month I had been offered a job and we found the perfect flat in an ideal location in the city centre.
In amongst the stresses, we still took time off to enjoy ourselves; renting bikes and cycling through the park, discovering cute cafes and going to a funfair. We even had an escape from the city, to a beautiful river in Enguidanos, about 100km from Valencia, where we spent the day swimming.
September: Settling in Valencia
We were finally able to get settled in September, after finding a nice flat, Ryan finding a job and getting into the swing of teaching again. But before starting work, we had a couple of weeks to make the most of our free time, explore our new area and welcome more visitors. My mum and stepdad came first, and then Ryan’s brother shortly after. We had lots of delicious meals out, including more paella in Albufera and some tasty tapas. We took the chance to do some touristy things; my favourite being climbing a set of towers right next to our flat (Torres de Serranos) and taking in the spectacular view.
We ended Ryan’s brother’s visit with a day trip to Port Sa Playa, known as Valencia’s little Venice, filled with colourful houses and surrounded by water. Despite it being August, there weren’t many tourists around so we had a peaceful walk around the stunning town.
October: Festivals and camping
With some public holidays going on, including Valencian Day, there was lots going on around the city in October. Our Vietnamese friends (that we met while living in Hanoi) came to visit; we went to a medieval market, ate paella together and watched correfoc, a fire parade where people dress up as devils and light fireworks. It’s absolutely incredible to see.
The other highlight of October was celebrating Ryan’s birthday. We spent a night camping in the mountains, in the grounds of a beautiful country house complete with a swimming pool. It was a fantastic night away spent swimming, hiking, stargazing and relaxing in hammocks.
November: Castles and caves
The weather was cooling down and we wanted to do some more day trips before it was too cold, so we spent a day in Sagunto, home to some castle remains with a history of over 2000 years and spectacular views.
Another day trip we had was to Coves de Sant Josep, some caves that are home to Europe’s longest underground navigable river. We took a boat trip through the caves, and felt slightly transported back to Vietnam where we visited lots of caves.
We are constantly being exposed to the amazing talent of artists and musicians in Valencia, especially in November when we started going to more live music events. I’ve also got very interested in street art and spent lots of time wandering the streets in search of new pieces.
December: Valencia, Barcelona, the UK
We started December off with our final visitor of the year, a friend from England. We took him to our favourite tapas place, drank some agua de Valencia (Valencian water- a mixture of gin, vodka, cava and orange juice) and watched live music in our favourite bar. We also took one last day trip, to another castle in Xativa.
Our final trip before the Christmas holidays was to Barcelona with friends. We had a long weekend off work so we spent 3 nights staying in a cool vintage style hostel. We spent the weekend wandering the tree-lined streets, taking in the beautiful architecture, visiting cute cafes and eating delicious veggie food. It was a much needed break, especially before the final week of term with exam marking and report writing.
The rest of 2017 has been spent in the UK, catching up with friends and family over Christmas and New Years. We are looking forward to the adventures that await us in 2018. Thanks to our readers for your support this year, we hope you had a great Christmas and enjoy 2018! Have you got any trips planned for 2018? Let us know in the comments below!
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