Happy New Year! Can you believe 2019 is over? Can you believe this decade is over?
2019 was a huge year for me and my little family of Colin and Ellie. It was incredibly stressful, incredibly rewarding, all kinds of challenging and all kinds of wonderful. This year was jam packed with so many life changes, big decisions and a ton of travel.
As is tradition around here, I’m going to spend this post looking back at everything we got up to in 2019, attempting to summarize our year, and looking ahead at what’s coming in 2020!
Without further ado, here’s 2019, a year in review!
January: Coming back to Vancouver and taking off again
2019 started off with us returning to Vancouver, after having celebrated Christmas in Toronto with my Ang-Canning-Lee families. This was the first time Colin was celebrating with my side in Toronto and it was so fun to introduce him to all of our traditions. We rang in 2019 watching the World Juniors hockey game (where Canada lost, boo) and then a couple of weeks later, my mom arrived in Vancouver! And she wasn’t just there for a visit, she was making her permanent move. Towards the end of the month, my mom took over pet-sitting Ellie while Colin and I took off to Southeast Asia.
Highlights: Mom moving to Vancouver and taking Colin to Asia for the first time!
February: Southeast Asia continued
We started off our three weeks in Southeast Asia with a few nights in Singapore. We loved the delicious food, their amazing zoo and the very cool Gardens by the Bay. From there, we headed north to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat was a bucket list item for me and it was surreal to be able to tick it off.
Next up was Thailand. We started in Phuket, quickly learning we’re not beach people, and then moved onto Chiang Mai where we ate delicious food and played with elephants. We ended in Bangkok, and were not huge fans of the city, but made up for it with an awesome and jam packed day in Tokyo on the way home.
Highlight: Exploring the incredible temples of Angkor Wat!
Surprise: Realizing in our Bangkok hotel room that maybe moving to the UK without Ellie wasn’t the best decision for us.
For a full recap, here is the best and the worst from our Southeast Asia trip.
March: Putting Prague in motion
After our Asia trip, we arrived back in Vancouver and spent the new few weeks sick (we picked up some kind of flu traveling) and thinking seriously about where we wanted to move abroad. I break it all down in this post about how we decided to move to Prague. From there, it was time to get the process started! We applied for our Czech Youth Mobility Visas, booked our flights (and then re-booked them when we learned about a wedding date) and started working on our big moving to-do list.
Success: Not only did we manage to successfully apply and receive our Czech Youth Mobility Visas but we also found our amazing apartment online!
Lowlight: After putting it off forever, I finally went in to get my wisdom teeth pulled this month. And yes, it was awful. But at least it was covered under Colin’s health benefits!
April: Moving and visiting Toronto
Once we made the decision about Prague, things seemed to really pick up pace. We booked our flights and started to make plans to rent out our apartment. So most of April was spent cleaning our apartment, answering Craigslist ads, hosting viewings and packing! And in the middle of all of that, I spent a week in Toronto visiting my family. I loved celebrating Easter with my Toronto family (and seeing Dear Evan Hansen with my cousins, thanks mom!) but the timing was pretty tight.
We ended up finding tenants who would move in for May 1, but since our flights to Europe weren’t until June 1, it meant we had to find a new place to live. And with my trip to Toronto, we only had 10 days to pack up and move!
Highlights: Dear Evan Hansen, finding tenants and celebrating our fourth anniversary with a fancy Italian dinner in New West!
May: Living in the West End
We were so incredibly lucky to have a place to stay for the month of May. My mom graciously offered to let us live in her West End apartment. We could not have been more lucky to have a whole place to ourselves and to be just a block from the beach! It has certainly inspired us to try and live in the area when we return to Vancouver.
Highlight: Walking Ellie on the Seawall every day!
June: Arriving in Europe and settling into Prague
On June 1, we had a final breakfast with our moms and then loaded up the car and headed to the airport. Our big adventure had begun! We flew direct from Vancouver to Paris with four checked bags, two carry-ons and Ellie in her dog carrier. Our sweet pup did such a great job on the flight!
We spent our first two nights in Paris, allowing us to adjust to the new timezone and explore Paris with a dog. Then we moved onto Munich, struggling onto the train with all of our luggage, for a couple nights of exploring the city and visiting the nearby Dachau Concentration Camp.
Finally, on June 7, we arrived in Prague. We spent most of the next few weeks settling into life in Prague, but managed to do a little exploring too. We walked around Prague’s famous Old Town, met new friends in a local beer garden, took the train to the creepy but cool Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, and spent a weekend in Dresden, Germany.
Highlight: Finally arriving in Prague and the excited (yet nervous) smiles we exchanged as we crossed over the bridge into our new home.
Surprise: I’m still surprised we managed to fit in so much travel in our first month! Paris, Munich, Prague, Kutna Hora and Dresden? Wow!
For more on our June adventures check out June in review.
July: Summer heat and visiting Vienna
July was a scorcher in Prague! I spent many days working from the cafe by our house as they were one of the few places in the area with air conditioning. On the travel front, we trained to Vienna, Austria for my 27th birthday. Back in Prague we spent an afternoon at Letna Beer Garden, went bowling with new friends, did a dog training lesson with Ellie, and splurged on a vacuum (needed when you live in an apartment with a dog and my long hair).
Highlight: Wandering around Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna!
For more on our July adventures check out July in review.
August: Big decisions and Stockholm solo
August was a bit of a preparation month for us as we knew September was going to be packed. It was also the month we made a big decision about how we wanted to spend the rest of our time in Prague. We eventually decided that Colin would quit his full-time job and join me working online, so we had more freedom to travel and explore. Colin put in his notice and I took off to Stockholm, Sweden for a solo trip, and my first trip to Sweden. Stockholm was amazing and I highly recommend it for a solo trip! Back in Prague we went to the National Museum and a board game cafe.
Highlight: I really enjoyed Stockholm! I’m a big believer in still travelling solo even if you have a partner at home and really appreciate Colin’s support of my solo trips (and his willingness to do all of Ellie’s walks while I’m gone).
Lowlight: Our strata back in Vancouver decided to hit us with a special levy, essentially doubling our strata payments for a year in order to do some maintenance work. Nothing makes you feel better about going down to one income than that!
For more on our August adventures check out August in review.
September: Moms trip!
September was all about 3 weeks in Europe with our moms! After travelling together to Washington, Oregon and California in 2017, we planned another train trip with my mom and Colin’s mom but this time, in Europe! We started our moms trip with a day in Copenhagen and then a southern Sweden road trip, hosted by my mom’s friends. Then we returned to Prague, met up with Colin’s mom, and got to show off our new home.
From Prague, we took the train to Salzburg and I fell in love with all of the beautiful Salzburg views. Next up was Italy! We started with a few days in Venice (because you have to tick Venice off the bucket list, right?). And then we moved onto Tuscany, where we lived our Tuscan villa dream lives with the most amazing views. We finished it off with a couple nights exploring Cinque Terre and cheesy photos in Pisa.
Highlights: The views from Hohensalzburg Fortress, long lunch at a Tuscan winery and getting to share our new home with our moms.
For more on our September adventures check out September in review.
October: Germany, Bratislava & Budapest
We couldn’t sit still for too long so after the moms returned to Vancouver, we headed back to Germany. This time, to cross something else off the bucket list: Oktoberfest! We managed to do Oktoberfest on a budget by staying outside of Munich and we spent time exploring the very cool city of Nuremberg – a place that is both adorable and full of dark history.
Back in Prague, Colin made us a delicious turkey dinner for Canadian Thanksgiving. We also hit up Signal Festival (a city-wide light festival), enjoyed the last sunny days of the year at a rooftop bar and beer garden, and went to our first Sparta Praha hockey game!
Later in the month, we headed out again for a week in Bratislava and Budapest. In Bratislava, we loved exploring Devin Castle and enjoying the warm weather. And in Budapest, we couldn’t believe how much there was to do between baths, castles, caves, museums, ruin bars and more!
Highlight: October was a pretty perfect month in terms of awesome travel and local exploring. I don’t think I can choose just one highlight!
For more on our October adventures check out October in review.
November: Cesky Krumlov & Italy
November started with a trip to Cesky Krumlov, a medieval town a few hours from Prague. I’m so glad we visited Cesky Krumlov in winter as this town is totally crowded with tourists in the summer but we had it all to ourselves. Back in Prague, we did something totally out of our comfort zone and had family photos taken!
At the end of the month, we headed back to Italy, this time to Naples and Rome. In Naples, we ate like kings with some of the best pizza, pasta and pastry of my life. We also visited awesome sites, Pompeii and Herculaneum, which were crowd-free. In Rome, we explored the Colosseum, toured the Vatican, did an independent walking tour (shout out to Rick Steves audio guides!) and ate all of the gelato.
Highlights: Going on a private walking tour of Cesky Krumlov when we were the only ones who showed up to the free walking tour, our cooking class in Naples and, surprisingly, family photos were really fun!
December: Christmas in Europe
This is the first year Colin and I didn’t celebrate Christmas in Canada with either of our families. Christmas is a big deal to me – it’s my favourite holiday and I almost cried when Colin suggested we don’t get a tree (he caved when we found one for only $5 on Dec 22!). It was sad to not be home with family this year but we did our best to stay festive and enjoy our expat Christmas.
We started December with a Christmas market road trip through the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany. It was super fun to plan out our own route and see all of the Christmas market magic. We also visited the markets in Prague and Colin whipped us up some amazing holiday meals. We ended the year with a surprise visit from my Uncle Neil and watching the World Juniors hockey game in Ostrava.
Highlight: I loved the Christmas markets in Salzburg, especially the ones hidden in little alleyways. So magical!
Surprise: Who would have thought my 2019 would be bookended by World Juniors games? We started 2019 watching a World Juniors game in Vancouver and ended it watching a game in the Czech Republic, because Vancouver and Ostrava just so happened to be the hosting cities this year and last! If we somehow manage to end 2020 in Edmonton (where the next World Juniors are being hosted), I will be very shocked! (But 2021 in Gothenburg, Sweden? Sign me up!)
My travel stats for 2019:
Like I said, 2019 was a pretty huge travel year for me. So I thought it would be fun to look at my travel stats.
- Countries visited: 14 (I’m counting each different country only once even if we visited it a few times)
- New countries visited: 8 (I’m now at 41 total!)
- Flights taken: 18
- Trains taken: 26
- Boats taken: 1
- Car trips taken: 3
- Hotels/Airbnbs slept in: 28
- Homes: 3
- Days spent in Vancouver, Canada: 125
- Days spent in Prague, Czech Republic: 153
- Days spent on trips: 87 (24% of the year!)
Looking back on 2019
2019 was a wild year. When I was chatting with Colin, we were both surprised to remember that our Southeast Asia trip was this year. How could that possibly have happened in the same year that we moved to Prague and travelled all over Europe? It feels like we’ve packed a decade worth of trips, memories and life changes into just 2019.
On the travel front, 2019 has been incredible. I would have been thrilled with 10% of the trips we went on. The fact that we travelled for almost a quarter of the year is wild to me – and so exciting! We’ve made the most amazing memories and had the coolest experiences in Asia and Europe. Even though finances have been a bit tight, I’m very glad we decided Colin should leave his full time job in Prague so we could really make the most of this year. And it’s been fun bringing Ellie along on our travels too!
My favourite travel experiences of the year would have to be exploring temples in Angkor Wat, remembering how much I love Tokyo on our 24 hour stopover (can’t wait to get back to Japan!), arriving in Prague for the first time, exploring Stockholm solo, visiting Salzburg twice (can we move there next?), living my best Tuscan villa dream life, crossing Oktoberfest off the bucket list, finding so much to do and see in Budapest, and eating the best food in Italy.
On the work front, 2019 has been a pretty awesome year too. I was able to cement my role with some longterm clients, take on new clients, get back in touch with old clients and really own some of my work. It’s been a super busy year, work-wise. There’s definitely been more on my plate and at times it has felt very overwhelming. It’s difficult to find the balance between working and travelling, especially when I have the opportunity to jump on a train to a new European city anytime. And it’s tough not to feel guilty when I can work at all hours, since I work from a laptop, and sometimes choose not to.
Overall, I’m happy with how my work life has developed in 2019. I’ve gotten to be a part of some dream projects and I genuinely love the work I get to do. I have no regrets about going freelance, working from home and leaving the 9 to 5. Yes, there are added stresses. But we would not have been able to move to Prague and have our current life without me in this career. And I love that I get to spend my days writing, planning trips and looking at beautiful photos for social media. In 2020, I hope to find some more balance and less stress with work.
I’m also very happy to report that my blog has grown in 2019! I’m not over here making tons of money or reaching a huge audience. But I’m improving and still having a ton of fun. This year, I posted a new blog post at least once a week (for a while there, I was posting twice a week but it was just too much) and my average viewer count has more than tripled since 2018. I discovered the power of Pinterest, found a wonderful network of travel bloggers over on Twitter, hosted my first sponsored post and enjoyed my first gifted experience.
It can be discouraging looking at other bloggers and knowing my blog isn’t as successful. But when I see how far I’ve come and how much I have achieved, I’m pretty proud. Plus, I still love it. I don’t turn to my blog because I have to – I write because I want to. I love sharing our adventures, helping others plan their trips, and having a keepsake of all of our travels.
In case you’re curious, these were my most popular blog posts in 2019:
- My 8 Biggest Packing Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them
- 2 Days in Paris – Your Perfect Itinerary
- 7 Tips for Your First Trip to Ireland
- How to Spend Three Weeks in Southeast Asia
- 12 Reasons Why London Is My Favourite City In The World
So in between all of that travel, work and blog stuff, there’s still life! I’m using this as a bit of a catch-all category for anything that doesn’t fit above. It’s hard to summarize how “life” went in 2019, but I’ll try.
I picked up my long-dead habit of reading this year, and finished almost 40 books (most read from May to Dec). I used to love reading and it’s been great getting back into it, especially on long train rides. In other life news, I barely did any cooking, but Colin has totally got that covered. I’ve continued to be my organized and neurotic self with our trip planning, budgeting and other decisions (I have a spreadsheet for everything).
I haven’t done much this year in terms of an exercise routine or diet, but I am trying to come at that aspect of life from a different angle. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts by fat activists, and others who talk about intuitive eating, body image, health at every size, anti-diet culture, etc. I’m learning a lot and am excited to see where it takes me in 2020. For now, I don’t want to feel any shame about any progress, or lack thereof, on “health” in 2019. And I empower you to leave any shame or guilt behind in 2019 too!
Life has been different for Colin and I this year. I think we’ve grown a lot in our relationship and seen each other through some very stressful times. Deciding to move across the world is a big deal. We rented out an apartment, Colin quit his job, we packed up (twice) and moved to a place we’d never been before where we knew no one.
And then Colin left his new job in Prague and now works online with me, as well as does a ton more around the house, which have been huge changes. We went from working separately and living in Vancouver to now working and living in the same space 24/7 in Prague. It has certainly been an adjustment and there have been some growing pains. But one thing I love about my relationship with Colin is that we can always talk through anything. And we’d both agree that even on our grouchiest days, we’re still so happy with the decisions we made and the life we get to lead. I’m very lucky to call this man my partner!
How did I do on my 2018 predictions?
One of my favourite things to do in these year end recaps is look back and see how I did on last year’s predictions and goals. It’s always fun to see how wildly off I am because life is just too unpredictable! For example, in 2016 I predicted that in 2017 Colin and I would move in together in the spring but had no clue we’d also adopt a dog and then buy a home that same year!
Back in December 2018, I thought our plan was still to move to the UK in the fall of 2019. But things changed and we decided to move to Prague in June! A huge change but definitely the right decision for us and I couldn’t be happier about it.
I also set myself some goals for 2019 and, shockingly, I’ve done pretty well on them! I didn’t do much travelling in North America and I don’t think I went on any hikes but I did celebrate my birthday somewhere cool, read at least a book per month (more like 3 per month!), and continued to blog regularly! Unfortunately, I’m still failing at my goal to floss daily. Maybe in 2020?
Looking ahead to 2020
All right, I think that about wraps up 2019. Which means it’s time to look ahead to 2020!
This year, I don’t think I want to make any grand resolutions or goals. I read a quote (probably on Instagram) that said something along the lines of, “Forgive yourself each night and re-commit each morning.” And I think that’s such a nice way to look at goals. I don’t want to come back to some list at the end of 2020 and see where I “failed.” And I don’t want to decide some arbitrary day on the calendar is when I should start achieving those goals. Every morning I want to wake up with an intention and try my best to achieve it. If I fail, I forgive myself. And I try again tomorrow.
I want to make the most of our remaining 161 days in Prague (not that I’m counting or anything!). I want to explore our city, tick things off our Prague bucket list, and visit as much of Europe as we can. And when we get back to Vancouver, I want to continue to keep that spirit of exploration alive and remind myself that I live in one of the best cities in the world! That’s my big intention for 2020 – making the most of it!
As far as predictions go, I have an idea of how 2020 is going to start. We’re actually taking it easy for the first few weeks of January. We’ll be in Prague and (hopefully) getting ahead on work. We then have a little secret project at the end of January before meeting my siblings in London for our next family trip!
We’ll pick up Jade and Lee in London and then we’re heading to Spain for a week! After a week with the sibs, Colin and I will continue onto Morocco. And then we don’t really have any firm plans until our flight on June 9 back to Canada. I expect the months in between will see us visiting Poland (Auschwitz is somewhere we’ve both talked about), meeting up with friends in Amsterdam, finally crossing Slovenia off my bucket list, possibly doing a road trip through Croatia, and hopefully a few more countries thrown in there!
Back in Canada, we’ll be attending Colin’s brother’s wedding in June and then joining his family for their annual trip to Pender Harbour in July (we were very sad to have missed this year’s trip). We’re hoping when we get back to Vancouver that we can live somewhere in the city while renting out (or maybe even selling? Who knows!) our apartment in Surrey. I expect the rest of the summer will be spent enjoying beautiful Vancouver weather, catching up with friends and family, and eating all of the Vancouver food we missed (I need all of the sushi).
In the fall, I have a potential work trip to Vegas (my job is awesome) and I have a feeling we’ll fit in one more big trip. I’m sure after a ton of travel in Europe this last year, I’m going to have a hard time sitting still for very long. So I can definitely see myself jumping on a flight deal and us spending a week or two abroad. I’ve got my eyes on Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Bali, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia or maybe New Orleans. I’m pretty much open to anywhere!
And then we’ll end the year with Christmas in Vancouver and start looking ahead to an even more epic 2021!
Happy 2020! I hope you had an amazing 2019 and that you have an even better 2020. Whether you’re a new reader, an old reader or a family member (hi mom!), thank you for following along on our journey and reading my blog. It really does mean the world to me and I appreciate you being here!
How was 2019 for you? What were your highlights? And what’s coming up for you in 2020?