2016: highs, lows, firsts and lasts

I’ve never done a yearly recap before, but this year’s been a bit different. I like to use this blog to record the changes in my life and I think there have been some quite significant ones this year. Maybe you’ll disagree. Maybe you’ll just enjoy the pretty pictures. All valid responses. Let’s go!


Highlights: A promotion for me at work. Hooray! This month was mostly spent building friendships both old and new, a few trips to London and one to the deepest darkest Forest of Dean. Other than that I spent most of it wishing I could go back to Sydney, where I’d been in December 2015. Warm.

Lowlights: The cold. I hate Januarys and this was no exception. I spent most of it hibernating under either my heated throw blanket (best purchase ever) or the electric blanket in my bed (best Christmas gift ever).

Read more: Being gentle with oneself


Highlights: The pancake party we threw for our new Bedford friends on Shrove Tuesday. We introduced more people to the wonders of a crème egg pancake (come round and I’ll introduce you as well).

Recapping some stories from my Australia travels at the end of 2015.

Putting my 2016 ethos into practice by getting contact lenses and an exploratory appointment at the orthodontist…

Lowlights: My staff manager at work leaving which I was pretty sad about, because he was one of those rare, excellent staff managers. He had also encouraged and kicked off conversations with the Australian office for me which I was very grateful for.

Read more: Sister Love at Palm Beach, Balmain Beauty, a semi disastrous day trip


Highlights: Visiting Istanbul! I fell deeply in love with the city which you might be able to tell from my posts from the time…

The Blue Mosque over the roofline - a highlight of my travels in 2016

The Hagia Sophia is now one of my all time favourite buildings in the world.

A weekend in London supporting our friend releasing her new EP, at which she wore a dress that lit up.

Deciding to treat myself to a solo spa weekend. Because why not.

Lowlights: Arriving at the very old, very damp cottage in Rutland Water that we were to spend a weekend away with some couples from church in, to discover that the heating a) had been left off for at least a week before our arrival and b) was ineffectual to say the least. Suddenly my over-preparedness against the cold seemed like a stroke of genius. Now I’m not saying everyone should travel with a fan heater and spare duvet, but…

Read more: 10 things I learned about Istanbul, the scents of Istanbul, how to get a Bosphorus cruise for less than £5, a street art tour of Istanbul, why I took a solo spa weekend


Highlights: Returning to our old stomping grounds in Birmingham to see one of our favourite bands, The Cat Empire. They were amazing, as per usual. We visited some old friends and generally had a big Birmingham hug. I love that place – particularly the Cannon Hill Park Nature Centre Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park.

A golden tamarind at the Birmingham Nature Conservation Centre - a highlight of my 2016 travels

We also visited my big sister in Leeds, enjoyed seeing her happier, and explored the gluten free scene in her new locality.

We also had a weekend in Norwich during which we visited some colourful markets…

saw some nice old buildings…

and called in on Oxburgh Hall on our way home, a lovely moated Elizabethan property.

I declined to go down the priest hole…

Lowlights: Having folks around for dinner the same day I had my braces fitted, followed by a family dinner two days later, and another family lunch two days after that. Safe to say a lot of people laughed at my lisping during those meals.

The awful hotel we stayed in in Leeds which was last refurbished in approximately 1975 (judging by the bathroom tiles) where there was a hen party going on in the room next to ours which lasted basically all night. Reception refused to help. This I would expect from a hostel, not a Mercure.

Read more: Incognito lingual braces days 1 & 2gluten free Leeds


Highlights: I turned 30! I celebrated in Santorini with S and it was perfect.

The first couple of days were quite grey and overcast, but on our last two days the sun came out and lo and behold, there was the blue sky needed for those iconic photos.

I even climbed a big ol’ rock to celebrate the big ol’ 30, and it was surprisingly enjoyable!

I’d say the whole of May was a highlight: I also had a couple of days in London meeting friends, and I also met Kelly IRL for some gluten free treats. Safe to say we hit it off immediately!

I reviewed my 30 before 30 list smugly, and decided not to set myself another one for a while. I did enjoy using the list to encourage me to try new things, but it got a bit stressful towards the end.

Lowlights: I wasn’t a huge fan of the touristy side of Santorini, but that’s hardly a lowlight as I still had a fantastic trip. The crowds at sunset were insane (this was the scene about half an hour before actual sundown). There were more selfie sticks than people on that island I swear.

I was still settling into my braces at that point, but to be honest nothing could really dampen what was all in all a most excellent month for me.

Read more: my 30th birthday in Santorini, 30 by 30: how did I do?, the year of ‘I always wanted to’


Highlights: New York. New York New York New York! My bestie and I took a trip to celebrate both of our birthdays and to say I had the time of my life would be an understatement. We crammed a lot in, both activity and food wise, and after she left I had a couple of days to myself in the city. It was my first ever trip to the US and I loved every second.

I also fell in love with views from tall buildings. It’s a niche interest.

Other highlights were a last minute birthday supper for my uncle, a Patagonia evening at the Royal Geographic Society, and the fact that I did not do white water rafting with the rest of my company but instead took some hilarious pictures of them all falling out of their boats.

Lowlights: the unfortunate incident on the Jitney that left me with the most impressive bruise (which still hasn’t gone away, 6 months later).


Read more: my top 6 activities in New York (and 2 I’d skip), gluten free New York City, what I learned about the New York subway


Highlights: My sister arriving from Australia with two small children and a bump in tow towards the end of the month.

S and I taking a trip to Barcelona to celebrate his 30th birthday. We had a day trip to Andorra (and France) just because we could, fell in love with Gaudi, and generally melted in the heat.

We searched for but didn’t find gluten free churros, but we did find some sort of cookie ice cream sandwich thing that I still dream about sometimes.

As well as the most mouth watering displays at La Boqueria.

In other food related happenings, Kelly and I went on a little road trip to have a gluten free picnic under a certain famous tree.

And finally I spilled my guts about my secret wish to emigrate…

Lowlights: The kick off of an awful project at work that I’d quite like to forget.

The fact that our trip to Barcelona ended up being a bit of a shambles unfortunately, because what with the awful project I’d been working evenings and weekends therefore hadn’t been able to plan the trip very well. Pro tip: don’t hire a car in Barcelona, even if it’s free. The hassle of trying to park will take years off your life. It’s not worth it.

Read more: A picnic under the most famous tree in history, oops I’m in Barcelona (and Andorra), why do I want to emigrate to Australia?


Highlights: My sister, niece and nephew still visiting, and the arrival of my brother in law.

S and I throwing a party to celebrate both turning 30. It was quite a turn out and we were both quite surprised about that. I loved having everyone together in one place.

Finally feeling able to go back to one of my favourite National Trust properties, Cliveden. For reasons of sadness I couldn’t bring myself to visit for a long time, but I was glad I was able to go back. The gardens are some of my most favourite.

Thankfully, the awful project coming to an excruciating close just before we embarked for our Big Trip!

Lowlights: Interring my Dad’s ashes with the rest of the family. It went as well as it could have gone, but ultimately it’s a horrible thing to have to do and it wasn’t pleasant for any of us.

Read more: Incognito lingual braces 3 month update, what a week


Highlights: Our Big Trip! It was epic and I loved it. The trip involved visiting Chicago for the first time ever and me getting an awkward one-arm sunburn…

…taking a train across to Seattle via 7 new states…

…exploring Seattle from on high…

…and at street level – and even underground….

…getting on a big ship where we celebrated our 6th anniversary, going flightseeing over Alaska…

…visiting a new territory…

…and some family…

Lowlights: Arriving back at Heathrow at midnight, 9 hours after we were supposed to have landed. There was no food on the plane for me for the previous 9 hours, and we had to get up and go to work first thing the next morning. Not fun.

To add insult to injury, I was put straight on to doing the boring bits of a project I had asked to be on instead of the awful project. Not amused.

Read more: Seaplane sightseeing, whale watching, Norwegian Jewel cruise recap, what I learned about Chicago, tour our Amtrak roomette, a comprehensive carry on packing guide


Highlights: Celebrating my Grannie’s birthday with a delicious and very well attended lunch.

My sister coming to stay for a weekend and enjoying Bedford together.

One definite highlight was finding out that my request to transfer to the Sydney office at work had been granted. Let the emigration countdown begin!

Lowlights: My Dad’s birthday. We did make it less sad by meeting up with my mum and sister and going for a curry at his favourite restaurant, but again. Ultimately still sad.

Read more: what’s my big news?do you remember when?


Highlights: Visiting my parents house, Leeds, and Birmingham to tell important family and friends our emigration news.

We visited the new library in Birmingham, which S hadn’t seen yet as it was completed just as we moved away. It’s pretty and I love the Shakespeare collection.

Lowlights: Telling my Grannie that we’re going away for 2 years. Of course she was happy for us but we’re both still sad about not seeing each other for that long.

Read more: my big news is…, on pumpkins and why I love blogging


Highlights: My brand new niece arriving!

Spending Christmas with family, including an unexpected scenic beach walk, luckily narrowly avoiding the Boxing Day swim (brrrr).

Trying to be as festive as possible with various friends whilst S was away in Australia for work. I also played in carol concert at church, my rusty cello playing seeming to go down fairly well considering how out of tune I was most of the time.

Lowlights: Feeling very jealous that S got to meet my brand new niece before me.

Read more: pre-Christmas stream of consciousnesstravel habits I need to stop, start and continue

So why am I calling this a year of firsts and lasts? Well, along with the obvious firsts like all the new places I visited, the new experiences I had and the new people I met, there were a lot of lasts as well. You may have noticed that conversations about moving to Australia started off pretty early in the year. The time it took for these to come to a conclusion was no accident; after everything that happened last year I didn’t want to rush into anything. After we made the decision to go, things took on a new significance and whilst I don’t think it’s helpful to think of things in terms of lasts all the time, it definitely helped me to mark occasions as they passed.

The way things changed in light of our emigration plans also segued neatly with the thoughts I had last year after everything that happened with my Dad. I think my general philosophy of the year can be vaguely summarised as; if not now, when? 

Did you have a philosophy in 2016?


Linking up with Emma, Angie and Polly for this month’s travel link up and with  Kristen and Gretch for What’s New With You.

2016 - my year in review



  1. 30th December 2016 / 20:46

    What a great year you’ve had! I’m so jealous of your Alaska trip!!! I love reading about your cruise recap and am so inspired to do one of my own (I just have to visit Alaska and Hawaii, and then I can check off all 50 states!)

  2. 30th December 2016 / 21:21

    seriously what an amazing year! so much travel! nyc and barcelona – favs! and greece. sigh. i need to travel more next year hehe. cheers to an amazing 2017!!!

    xoxo cheshire kat

  3. 30th December 2016 / 22:35

    Y’all really did manage to do so much this year, and I love the fact that you loved your time in the States! And hooray for finally getting some great immigration news! I seriously can’t wait to follow along with your adventures in 2017! I hope that you have a very happy new year!

  4. KenP
    31st December 2016 / 05:59

    “If not now, when?” For you Rachel, that “someday” is now. Time to drop all the things that are holding you back and move on to the greatest adventure of all…that of being an expat. Whilst in Australia, tour every bit of it, every chance you get. When finished, start on Southeast Asia and just keep going. Without change, something inside of us dies.

  5. Nomadic clan member
    31st December 2016 / 13:46

    What an awesome time you’ve had this year. Amused to see we’ve shared far more of the ‘lows’ than the ‘highs’…! However so thankful that’s the case – would be awful to have to face the bad times alone.

    Go on, off to Australia with you: 2017 will be our year, full of adventures, life defining moments and super opportunities. 😊

  6. 1st January 2017 / 10:19

    That’s a great philosophy for every year, love it! Really enjoyed reading this recap, you sure managed to fit it so many adventures. Here is to an amazing 2017, with the biggest and most exciting change of them all. So happy for you!!

  7. 2nd January 2017 / 00:46

    You did have such an eventful year, with lots of awesome travel and time with family 🙂 I think time with family and friends is always the best, so definitely want to prioritise it more in 2017!

    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and you have a happy new year 🙂

    Away From The Blue Blog

  8. Jen
    2nd January 2017 / 04:55

    What an amazing year dear friend! Here is to an even better 2017! <3

  9. 2nd January 2017 / 17:17

    “If not now, when?” is a very good question indeed! The answer (almost always) is now now now! It was good to catch up with you from this post and see your exciting news about moving to Australia! Life can take us some pretty crazy directions and places, but it’s better to live without regrets and just go for it. So cool you celebrated your 30th in Santorini – ideal location!!

  10. 2nd January 2017 / 20:51

    A great roundup. I think this should be a yearly tradition. 🙂 Good luck to you in Australia!

  11. 3rd January 2017 / 00:41

    I absolutely detest cold, which probably has something to do with my choice of living locale. 🙂 Making the decision to move overseas takes time, especially with pulling everything together. I think for us, Angel decided we ought to pursue living overseas on July 31st 2013…and we arrived in China on July 31st 2014, so it was exactly one year to make that big change.
    And I know what it’s like to dream of some kind of food that you ate somewhere and you’ll probably never have again but it was just so delectable that you can never, ever forget it. 🙂

  12. 3rd January 2017 / 17:19

    It’s been such a year for you! So glad I discovered your blog this year 🙂 can’t wait to follow along with your Oz adventures!

  13. 3rd January 2017 / 20:20

    The hotel you stayed in in Leeds reminds me of the rather grim travellodge is stayed in in Edinburgh – which came with a gap underneath the door that was big enough for hte motion sensor light in the hall to wake me up and some rather striking 90s decor.

    I’ll be interested to follow your emigration story too – I’ve been considering finding a new home too! Love your photos from the top of tall buildings – it’s a pretty good interest to have!

  14. 3rd January 2017 / 23:22

    I’m so jealous of your adventures in Istanbul and Santorini… I’ll be waiting for awhile to go to IST I’m afraid; it was the trip my dad and I were going to take together… but hopefully I’ll make it to Santorini soon. 😉

  15. 4th January 2017 / 18:20

    WOW!!! You had a pretty adventurous year it looks like! Where was your favorite place you traveled? I see you went to Chicago… That’s one of my favorite cities! In fact, we might’ve been there at the same time!!

  16. 4th January 2017 / 20:29

    You travel with a fan heater and a spare duvet? You are a freaking GENIUS. Also loved that there’s a moat in this post. Will probably go around saying moat over and over again for the next three hours now. My husband thanks you XD

  17. 4th January 2017 / 23:57

    It was so lovely to meet you tonight Rachel! 😊
    Sounds like you had a very eventful year!
    I love the “if not now, when?” Philosophy – it’s definitely something I need to put into practice.
    I didn’t really have a philosophy for 2016 but for 2017 I’ve chosen a word – “confidence”.
    Here’s to a fabulous 2017! Xx

  18. 5th January 2017 / 09:12

    I’ll be round next month for some of those creme egg pancakes 😉

  19. 5th January 2017 / 12:16

    What a year! You did so much and had so many highs. I hope 2017 is even better 🙂

    Thanks for always linking up! I’m glad I found your blog!

  20. 5th January 2017 / 13:16

    Wow, you had an amazing year. I’m jealous of all your travel (even though I went to new Zealand in March, the rest of the year was pretty uneventful as far as travel is concerned).

    I’m here from the link up, but plan to stick around for more 🙂

  21. 5th January 2017 / 15:04

    If not now, when, is a great way to live.

    Love your photos and travels this year. Every time I see Santorini I think I should put it at the top of my list, then I don’t.

  22. 5th January 2017 / 15:53

    It sounds like you had a fantastic year! This year I’m embracing the philosophy “Be peaceful, patient and kind.” because at the end of the day those are the things that really matter.

  23. 5th January 2017 / 15:59

    i have no real words except what a year. highs and lows and all sorts of in betweens. hugs for the sad things and high fives for the awesome ones. i know what you mean about lasts. the if not now, when? is so important and scary to think about sometimes. go you girl. i cannot wait to see what 2017 has in store for you, and of course, seeing you in 2017 RIGHT?!

  24. 5th January 2017 / 19:03

    I really loved reading your recap! I like the idea of highs AND lows from the month. I usually just do the highs from travel and each month, but life is about wholeness not just happiness, right?
    I couldn’t help but laugh at your Santorini photo–so true! Even in the off-season when we went. The island seemed pretty deserted until we arrived for the sunset, haha. I kind of liked that it felt like a party–there were random musicians and all that–but the selfie sticks are the worst!

  25. 5th January 2017 / 23:07

    I am so sorry Rachel for the parts of the year that have been painful and tinged with the kind of sadness I can’t even begin to imagine. I am, however, really pleased for you that you have been granted a move that it sounds like you really wanted. What an exciting new chapter for you. And third and most trivial but definitely the one that perked up my taste buds from the start – your Creme Egg pancakes sound epic!!

  26. 6th January 2017 / 01:12

    I did, in fact, enjoy all the amazing photos. I’ve been missing your pics on Instagram.
    So many wonderful travel adventures packed into one year. I’m envious, yet so happy for you.

  27. 7th January 2017 / 17:44

    WOW, what a year! I then got side tracked by your 30 before 30 post!
    Such a lovely post – I really enjoyed reading it.

  28. 7th January 2017 / 19:26

    Love the philosophy! Some highs and lows, but what an amazing amount of travel. I loved your northern America posts – it definitely inspired some additional wanderlust in me!

  29. 9th January 2017 / 18:48

    What exactly is a creme egg pancake? I think I need these in my life and the recipe!! I wrote a 30 before 30 list too and then didn’t do anymore because also found it a tad stressful lol …I’ve now reverted to writing annual bucket list which are more manageable in length 🙂 . I must say we do seem do have very similar taste…great taste infact 🙂 xx

  30. 15th January 2017 / 12:07

    Okay I’m popping around for these creme egg pancakes which you have NEVER EVER mentioned before! Should I bring my 16 kilos of gluten free flour with me??
    I’m impressed with your packing skills, a heater and a duvet…do you also pack the kitchen sink?
    2016 was a strange old year wasn’t it…I can’t wait to read about your big move to Oz this year and all the ups and downs that I know you will share on the blog.

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