We are just into the second week of 2018, and before this year runs away with us we want to share a review focusing on the positive superlatives of our year in travel. On NYE we posted a ‘Best of 2017’ review on some chronological highlights, but I’ve been inspired by one of my absolute favourite travel bloggers, Helene from heleneinbetween, to do a second one! I mean, who doesn’t love reminiscing about all their adventures? So for this travel year in review we are listing all the best things of 2017 – and, lucky for us, we get to double up because Joel and I are actually two separate people with separate interests and passions, believe it or not.
We have decided to not do ‘Best and Worst,’ superlative-wise, because…well honestly, we have had a really awesome year! Things that were frustrating or tiring were so contextual and minor (or just super common for all travelers) that it’s not really worth memorialising in our hall of fame. So here is a quick list of all the places and experiences that made our 2017 Travel Honour Roll:
The big one right off the bat – what has been our favourite trip of 2017, all things considered?
Part of why this has been my best trip is that we flew out of London on the day my Art History Masters thesis was due, AND Joel had planned it all as a surprise, AND Croatia has been a major bucket list destination for me, AND we had the most incredible itinerary because of some killer tips given by some Croatian friends (copy our itinerary here). So after a month of complete and utter stress, I got to spend the last weekend of summer completely stress-free, with nothing to do but enjoy a place I’ve always wanted to go to with my favourite person in the world.
AND Croatia was even more amazing than I had anticipated!
I was surprised by this one, but Joel’s overall favourite 2017 trip was Morocco. It makes sense, though – the perfect balance of a laid-back coastal weekend, the crazy hustle of the medina of Marrakech, and a mind-blowing bucket list experience of heading into the Sahara desert on camelback. The MVP here though was Essaouira, the underrated seaside city west of Marrakech, who also won another of Joel’s categories (read on!).
We’ve separated airbnbs and hotels, because they really are different animals. There are certain things that aren’t givens when you do a homestay or airbnb – like how easy it is to check in and out, cleanliness, how at home you feel, hospitality, and uniqueness. And we’ve had some great airbnb experiences this year: from a cozy snowed up cottage in Norway to a sleek city pad in Ottawa, but for both of us it has undoubtedly been the charming little house in Copenhagen that we stayed in when we went to the Haven Music Festival with our friends Crystal and Rob. I am pretty sure this is what hygge is all about:
Annchen: Ndaka Safari Lodge, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Shun me for my obvious answer, I don’t care, but spending two nights in a luxury safari tent with our bed, living room, gigantic bath tub and outdoor shower all facing the wild South African bush was just dreamy. Think waking up to roaming antelope, showering next to grazing buffalo, and soaking in the bathtub gazing at giraffe…and the chance of seeing bigger predators too.
Joel: La Siesta Hotel Trendy, Hanoi, Vietnam
As the name implies, a super cool and trendy hotel in the middle of Hanoi. The rooms, the breakfast, the afternoon tea, the plush cocktails den, the view, but most of all the service – everything was better than perfect. And we really utilised this hotel – I had to write two essays in two days and doing it in the comfort of La Siesta Hotel Trendy was all the motivation I needed. So trendy – we were like 10% trendier after two nights in this place.
Speaking about Hanoi, we peaked early in 2017 when we had our best meal in an alleyway in Hanoi. We came upon a little restaurant that only serves Bun Sa and spring rolls – they fit about 6 customers, they serve you within 30 seconds, and they do not speak English. But hot damn, they can cook. Read more about it here.
Some strong contenders in this category – Budapest, Edinburgh, Dubrovnik, Hanoi, and also, our home base, London – we really got in our London groove this past year. But these two cities take the cake for us:
Joel: Essaouira, Morocco
What did I tell ya!? The laid-back atmosphere, the beautiful blue shoreline, incredible Moroccan food, and possibly the best seafood we’ve ever eaten (also runner-up for our best meal). Essaouira is commonly a day-trip kind of place from Marrakech, but we spent two nights here and could have stayed much longer. (Check out these 5 reasons you’ll love this city).
Annchen: Lisbon, Portugal
We did not get to spend a whole lot of time here and I had no idea what to expect when we headed to Portugal for one night on our way back from Morocco to London, but I was just blown away by the little bit of Lisbon we did get to see. What a beautiful and colourful corner of the world – both aesthetically and atmospherically. It just felt easy to be adventurous and wonderful in Lisbon. Also, with all those Pastel de Natas going around it’s easy to fall in love with Lisbon. And don’t even get me started on that peri-peri chicken…
We love going to concerts.
Joel loves going to concerts, and I enjoy them reluctantly.
Then one day Joel announced that Arcade Fire added two 1000-seater London shows to their European tour and they were giving away tickets – all you had to do was make some art and tweet it at them. I indulged Joel and spent a couple of hours making a stop frame animation, and, sure enough, we won tickets and went all in and it was INCREDIBLE. The whole band was set up on a boxing ring in the middle of a gym, with a small group of about a 1000 people on all sides. Everyone had front row seats, everyone was pumped, everyone walked out there soaking wet with sweat from having a good time.
Both Joel and I were deciding between the same two top contenders – kayaking in the mangroves in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, and riding camels into the sunset in the Sahara desert (though our South African safari and exploring Angkor Wat was up there too!).
Joel: Kayaking in the mangroves, Havelock Island, India
Havelock island is equal parts jungle, white sandy beaches, and wild mangroves that grow into the azure-blue Andaman Sea. We got to go kayak between these mangroves on our visit in November and it was a super cool experience! In the middle of our kayaking we could see a shower cloud moving towards us like a curtain, and then we heard it rumbling our way through the mangroves, and then it showered over us as we let our paddles rest, cooling down in the afternoon rain. It passed in a minute, and the sky was blue again and the water crystal clear. Such a special memory.
Annchen: Exploring the Sahara desert on camelback
You can read more about the experience here, but basically it’s an indescribable, unforgettable bucket list adventure. Even thinking back on it seems like a surreal dream.
We love hikes and we’ve had some really great hikes to choose from in 2017 – from a birthday hike in the Cambodian island-jungle to summiting the highest peak in Wales. But for Joel it has been our day of hiking on the Scottish island of Arran, when we had one glorious (and rare) sunny day hiking to waterfalls, ancient stone circles, and hilly views – chasing it all with some whiskey tasting in the afternoon.
For me it’s been trekking through the jungle on Havelock Island to get to Elephant Beach, which really surprised Joel. There were some real frustrating moments with slushing and slipping through thick post-monsoon jungle mud – but with the bright green jungle canopy (and the bright green snakes!), wading through the mangroves in the end, and finally ending up on the picturesque and remote elephant beach, I just had to make it my pick!
I still can’t believe it’s already 2018, even as I look back on a year chock-full of adventure. And looking back on these has really made me excited for what’s to come – with a move to Berlin next week (!!!) we are ready to explore some more. Alright, that’s the last review post from our side, we promise, so from here on out we are looking 2018 right in the eyes and putting one foot in front of the other. Onwards! But where should we head to in 2018…???