A year in the life of a world traveler!

backpacking asia

Inspired by a summary post of 2012 on one of my favourite travel blogs Mapping Words, I decided to do something rather similar myself. This year has been an extremely eventful one for me. I didn’t exactly achieve what I set out to do, but I did have an absolutely amazing time! For those of you planning your own long-term travel here are some fast facts about my trip:

Total money spent: 7,000 USD
Time spent working abroad: 4 months
Time spent purely traveling: 8 months
Countries visited: 5

January – South Korea

As the climate dropped below freezing and my time in Korea began to draw to a close, I decided to make the most out of the snow. I attended an ice festival to catch fresh mountain trout, went snowboarding at one of Korea’s best ski resorts, and joined the many brave men and women battling the cold each week to campaign for women’s rights in Seoul.

ice fishing in south korea

women's right south korea


February – South Korea/Malaysia

After saying goodbye to everyone at my school in Korea, I put on my backpack and headed to Malaysia. I didn’t really like Malaysia that much, but it was an interesting start. Coming straight from -20 degree cold to 30+ was a very strange experience. I literally left my coat in a bin at the airport. I was only in Malaysia for a few weeks, but my fondest memories are of food, colour, and multiculturalism.

teaching in south korea



March - Sri Lanka

Arriving back in Sri Lanka, I decided to make a road trip across the country on bike with my Italian friend Luca. This was probably one of my favourite experiences of the year. We came across wild monkeys and elephants, got invited in for tea by a Sri Lankan family, and saw huge amounts of the country. I also tried to pick up some new skills and took surfing and traditional drum lessons. I wasn’t very good at either though!

road trip sri lanka

surfing sri lanka

April – Sri Lanka

Settling into life on the South Coast of Sri Lanka, I let my friends guide me through the road less traveled, and ending up getting up close and personal with a whole bunch of awesome wildlife. I even met a snake doctor and escaped a tsunami! April was also the month of celebrations. I spent Sinhalese New Year at a friend’s home eating traditional food and watching fire dancers. Only a few days after that, it was my birthday, and I had a party on the beach.

sri lankasri lanka

May - Sri Lanka

May was supposed to be my last month in Sri Lanka, so I traveled extensively, heading across to the East Coast to dive and try to catch lobsters in Trincomalee, before catching the train inland towards the vibrant green tea estates of the hill country. Eventually I made it back down to the South Coast to spot leopards with a luxury safari camping company. When they surprised me by offering me a job as their marketing manager for a few months, I couldn’t refuse and I decided to change my travel plans and stay in Sri Lanka.

sri lanka

June – Sri Lanka

Whilst keeping my head down and working hard at my new job in the rather boring town of Negombo, I became friends with the first man to travel to every country in the world without a plane, the lovely Graham Hughes. Not only did I spend a lot of time with him in Negombo’s pubs (his favourite spot whilst he tried desperately to escape from Sri Lanka and continue his trip), but he also managed to persuade me to go and see some cricket in Colombo, which I have never done before despite spending a lot of time in Sri Lanka. So thank you Graham for an amazing month of friendship in Negombo.

graham hughes sri lanka

sri lanka

July – Sri Lanka

In July I really felt like I was living the high life. I was invited to go and do a review of a five star hotel by Hi Magazine and so I made my way to the East Coast again to enjoy scuba diving, fine dining, and champagne breakfasts for free! And I even got a five page spread in the magazine!

sri lanka

August – Sri Lanka

Even though I enjoyed my new job as marketing manager of a safari company, I decided that it was time to continue on with my travels, so I said a sad goodbye to Sri Lanka and spent my last few weeks staying with a friend in the South Coast and trying to learn how to cook the Sri Lankan dishes I knew I would miss when I left.

sri lanka

September – India

After a slightly shaky start spending a week in a Himalayan hospital after contracting typhoid fever, I made my way down to Rajasthan where I was amazed by the beauty of people’s clothing, the worrying gender gaps, and the stark and stunning landscape of the Thar desert. I met a fellow travel blogger Candace Rardon in the little fort town of Jaisalmer, and ended up getting to see the finale of the Rickshaw Run, which she was working on at the time. From there I trekked into the desert with a camel and a trusty guide where I saw sand dunes for the first time in my life. It was an intense and memorable start to my time in India.

rajasthan india

camel safari india


October – India

Leaving Rajasthan, I made my way to Agra where I quite literally fell in love with the Taj Mahal. From there I took a two-day train ride down to the South and made my way toward Kerala on the hunt for India’s so-called spirituality. I spent two weeks in an ashram in Kerala and then gave up on spirituality and exchanged it for excellent food, spice gardens, houseboat tours, and beaches.

taj mahal india

india kerala

November – India

I spent most of November in Goa, making amazing friends and getting far too comfortable at the amazing Asterix Hostel. In between griming out on knarly beaches, partying too hard, and going for long motorbike rides, I tried to look for a calmer and more sophisticated side to Goa. And eventually I found it.



December – Sri Lanka/England

After my typhoid incident in India, my mum offered to loan me the money to come back to England for a bit. I decided to take my flights from Sri Lanka – because I already missed the country like crazy – and so I headed back there to soak up a little more sun on the beaches. I arrived in London on the 22nd of December, tired from two years of traveling. But spending Christmas with my family for the first time since 2009 more than made up for it!

sri lanka



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24 Responses to A year in the life of a world traveler!

  1. I love your pictures from the year – especially Sri Lanka! It’s one of the places I’m most looking forward to visiting in the coming year. :D

    • girlandtheworld says:

      Hey Audrey,

      Oh that’s great! So you are leaving Korea this year then? What is your 2013 plan? When will you be in Sri Lanka? It’s a wonderful country and you will love it!!

      Natalie x

  2. What an amazing year you’ve had, your photos are beautiful! And I didn’t know you were also from England (or maybe I did and forgot, I don’t know!) Hope you have an amazing 2013 too :-)

    • girlandtheworld says:

      Thanks Beverley,

      Glad you liked the photos. And yes, I’m a fellow Brit! Perhaps see you in England sometime! Or maybe Thailand…or maybe NZ…. !

      Happy new year!! xx

  3. Stephanie says:

    This is a perfect exapmple of how travel plans can change and the importance of being able to ‘go with the flow’ when travelling.
    I love your traditional outfits, it must be so inspiring to be amongst women with such different lifestyles and traditional dress. It’s a shame that theres such inequality with how women experience India compred to men. Did you find any inequality towards women in Sri Lanka?

    • girlandtheworld says:

      Hey Stephanie,

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, you are so right, this year would have been a nightmare if I hadn’t allowed myself to go with the flow. Luckily I didn’t book anything in advance so I just meandered around as I pleased. I’m so glad I stayed those extra three months in Sri Lanka because I had such an amazing time, and learnt so much more about myself in that short time. Also, sometimes it is good to break up long term travel by staying put for a short while to recuperate – traveling continually really takes it out of you!

      As for sexism in Sri Lanka – yes, it is very much there. It’s not quite on the same scale as India, and I’ve certainly never felt scared as a solo woman in Sri Lanka (but like everywhere in the world, you must always be cautious) but it certainly does exist, more for Sri Lankan women than Western women though. Anyway, you can see it for yourself and judge accordingly. I’m so excited to hear about your trip Steph. It was six years ago that I first visited Sri Lanka, and now I get to re-live that excitement again through you! Also – how long will you be in Dubai for? I’m stopping there for a few days on the way back to SL in April and would love some tips on where to go/what to do!

      Natalie x

      • Stephanie says:

        Hi Natalie, I leave for my trip on the 23rd February, I’m spending 3 days in Dubai. I would have loved to have spent longer but it’s so expensive. It also seems like a place where loads of couples go too, not what a solo traveller needs! I’m really excited about it and I’m hoping to do a desert safari and try some traditional food.

        After that I fly out to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is probably the place I am most excited/nervous to visit as it doesnt have a ‘well trodden path’ like Thailand seems to have! It will be a real culture shock but I think thats what I’ve been craving. I have booked a flight out of Sri Lanka after 2 weeks just in case I don’t like it. If I do like it I will change the flight and stay longer. Maybe try to do some volunteering with Workaway.info to try and save some money!

        Your website has been a great help in researching my trip to Sri Lanka. Hopefully I will fall in love with it the same way you did!

        I am going to pack outfits such as shirt dresses and leggings for Sri Lanka to try and cover up a bit. Save the denim shorts and vests for Thailand :)


        • girlandtheworld says:

          I think you’ll be fine in shorts and vests if you stick to the South Coast of Sri Lanka, but when traveling on trains and buses it might be a good idea to cover up a bit. Where abouts are you headed first in Sri Lanka? I recommend you start with Unawatuna or Hikkaduwa – both great places to pick up fellow travelers. If you go to Hikka head to Funky De Bar, there’s some awesome guys on the bar there and its a popular spot for backpackers. Mention my name at the bar – they all know me. Another good place is Koha Surf Lounge in Unawatuna. It has a relaxed and artsy atmosphere and there’s usually a few interesting people about.


          • Stephanie says:

            Thanks for the advice! I think I will follow your advice and take a bus down to Hikkaduwa when I land at the airport. Are there a lot of backpackers in Sri Lanka?
            I can’t wait to see the beautiful beaches of Southern Sri Lanka. It looks like paradise!


          • girlandtheworld says:

            There certainly are a lot of backpackers in Hikkaduwa! They tend to gather in Narigama (the part of Hikkaduwa furthest from the town centre) and you can usually find a good crowd in Hansa Surf, Funky De Bar, and Top Secret. Good luck with everything! I’m jealous because I will be missing the main tourism season (Feb-March) when everything really gets exciting! You’ll have an amazing time. Oh, and a very good American friend of mine called Beth is working out there at the moment. I think she will still be there at the end of Feb. You can find her at Blue Moon. Alternatively feel free to add me on facebook and I will ‘introduce’ you both over a facebook message. I’d be happy to link you with some other people who will be out there at that time too if you are interested?

  4. denise says:

    Beautiful beautiful pictures and some amazing experiences. I love end of year travel recaps and this one is amazing. I’ve been doing mine for the past 3 years and here is the 2012 one! http://www.theartofslowtravel.com/2012/12/my-best-in-travel-2012/

  5. kami says:

    looks like you had an amazing year! stunning pictures! let’s hope 2013 will be even better!

  6. Naomi says:

    Aaaaaaaaaaaand…what’s next for 2013?? ;)

    • girlandtheworld says:

      Haha good question Naomi! But to be honest I’m not really sure at the moment. I have a flight booked to Sri Lanka for April, and I will be spending a few days in Dubai beforehand. After that I am hoping to go across to Australia to work for a year. I’m hoping to be able to squeeze in a few countries on the way to Aus, but it all depends on how my money situation works out!

      As for the next three months, I plan to stay in England and travel as much around here as possible. Am hoping to see some of Scotland, and would also like to visit friends in Germany and Sweden if I get a chance!

  7. Sarah Shaw says:

    Thanks for the mention, Natalie! I love your photo collages and how you’ve organized them by month. I’ve enjoyed keeping up with your travels over the past year. Hopefully our paths will cross again soon! X

  8. Loving every single photo, even though they make me miss sri lanka even more. Thinking I might go back for my 30th. Amazing year by the looks of it, cool that you’re back for a bit though, means we get to catch up. See you next week :)

  9. Tea says:

    amazing! I am probably going to spend the rest of the night reading on your Sri Lanka posts … really want to go there

  10. This is a lovely blog post – so nice to see so many destinations all together in one place!

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