This post is long overdue, mostly due to the fact that it did not feel to me as if we were travelling at all in December and January.

But that isn't the whole story... although December set a record for not travelling!

Osaka & Kansai

We spent the entirety of December in Osaka, without even a single side trip to a nearby city or province. It was the most "normal" month we have had in a long time, and both managed to do a lot of work and get a semblance of routine in our lives. I managed to go running very frequently and converted Celine to join me with yoga practice. 

Christmas and New Years' Eve were uneventful, although we did attempt to go to a local temple on 1st of January (as is the custom in Japan, if you don't already go at midnight). It was too crowded though, and we just ate takoyaki instead... I think that's what a lot of other people also ended up doing.

Mid-January, a friend came to visit us in Japan, and for the last 10 days in the country, we ended up seeing a few more places in Kansai: Nara, which is always worth a visit, Arashiyama in Kyoto, which both Celine and I had never made it to before, and Himeji Castle, which I had been to before during the renovation. Out of all Japanese castles, this is the biggest and one of very few which are original and have not been rebuilt after the war. Himeji City pretty much is a one trick pony, but it's just a little over an hour from Osaka by train, so well worth the detour.

Back to London

So, this was the end of our Japan experiment (for now!), as no teaching job materialised for Celine. When we landed in London, culture shock hit us hard, especially since the UK is gradually turning into a more grim and hostile place, thanks to Brexit, politics and the general disillusionment of the population, no matter how they voted in the referendum. It's always good to catch up with friends, but this time, I knew upon landing what had been coming for a long time: I will not call London home in a very, very long time to come. Being told on a daily basis how I don't belong, having random strangers asking me "When are you going home?" might not be as bad as downright hostility or racism, but it does not make for a country I feel comfortable living in. 

A whirlwind Germany trip

After a few days in London, we set off to Düsseldorf to catch up with friends and family on the other side of the canal. Mostly, there was food and dogs! I also managed to pick up a new snazzy backpack for our upcoming trip, which I had sent to my mum. We then popped over to Leipzig for a gig and also to meet a friend, and then spent a few days in Hamburg, mostly to look at what is going to be our home for the spring and summer. A nasty cold managed to grab hold of me, so I spent most of the time in our Airbnb, pitying myself.

Coming up: Mexico, Colombia and Hamburg!


On 1st February, we landed back in London, where we are spending 10 days, followed by another 9 days housesitting in a small town near Bath. This year is going to have a lot less travel than the previous two years, but before we settle in for the spring and summer, we will be spending 6 weeks in two countries we've been meaning to see for a long time: Mexico and Colombia!







I know that 2016 hasn’t been kind to many, but for me, it was an awesome year, if not the best year of my life so far! We were on the road full time without a base for the entire year and managed to visit a mind-boggling 19 countries! We dabbled with housesitting, Celine started teaching English. I finished my degree, amped up my language learning and managed to stick to an exercise routine with regular running and yoga, and it was the best year of my freelance business so far, too!

We managed to visit some places I had longed to go for a long time, while also spending a lot of time exploring countries we know very well, especially the UK, Ireland, Japan and Germany. It sounds busy, but I don’t feel exhausted in the slightest!

As a recap, here are some of my favourite new places of 2016!

Favourite new country: Ukraine

I had been meaning to visit for a long time, but really, had not expected such a colourful, varied country, with amazing people, food, history and art. Ukraine should really be on the must-visit list for anybody who loves culture and has enjoyed other places in Eastern Europe – but if you haven’t been to Eastern Europe at all, Ukraine is a good place to start, too!
I definitely want to return and see more of what is technically Europe’s biggest country (not counting Russia)!





Favourite new city: Tbilisi, Georgia



Anybody who’s been to Georgia loves it, full stop, and Tbilisi is just one reason for that. Located on the very eastern fringes of Europe, this city has wide boulevards reminiscent of Paris (scrap that, nicer, cleaner and more vibrant than those in Paris!), a multicultural and turbulent history that will send your head spinning. A magical botanical garden that seems a world apart – and literally is, as it’s in a gorge right next to the centre, a crumbling old town and all the modern, hipstery things you could want. Plus, ancient baths which have served as anything from meeting point to brothel over the years, and which can be yours to soak in with a private room for $20. And I haven’t even mentioned the food! Tbilisi would be the clear winner of all the places I have visited this year, if there wasn’t…

Georgian food - so simple, so good, so salty!

Biggest, most mind-blowing surprise: Armenia




We hadn’t even meant to go to Armenia, but it turned out that is was much cheaper to fly back to western Europe from Yerevan than from Tbilisi. So, we set out on a crazy Cross-Caucasus ride from Georgia to Yerevan, a modern and easy city that also is full of fantastic food
But really, it was the Armenian landscape and mountains that captivated me the most. This little country can easily rival the US or Latin America in terms of natural sights, and throws is a lot of history alongside. And the Middle East is not far at all. Armenia is a little bit like Eastern Europe, Western Europe, the European Mediterranean and the Middle East, all in one, yet it’s very own thing. People have been incredibly nice, too. There is not a single bad thing I can say about our time there, which means something, coming from a critical bitch like me!
 

In 2017, we are planning to be a bit more settled, although we have some exciting plans for February and March, and are hoping to make it to the Middle East and/or Africa at some point in the year!




People often wonder what our everyday life looks like. A few months ago, my girlfriend joined the ranks of the freelancers, so I feel like we can provide a more balanced overview of what our work-life-travel balance is like.

Of course, not all weeks are created the same. Sometimes we travel very fast and hardly get any work done. Sometimes, especially when we spend more than 10 days in one place, we live like locals, working a 40-hr week or probably more, to catch up with the times we work less, and barely do anything touristy at all.

This first example week is more middle of the road, and describes the week we spent in Seoul in November. We have both been to the city before, so there wasn't a lot of sightseeing. We mostly decided to go to Seoul this time because it was on our way from HK to Japan and we can't say no to Korean food :)

Sunday

After a slightly crazy flight from Hong Kong, we arrive at our Airbnb in southern Seoul in the late afternoon. As the last few days had been very busy, we quickly nip into the supermarket on the corner to get some basics for preparing an easy dinner. After dinner, we catch up on email and might have watched too many YouTube videos, because the Internet in Korea is so fast! 

Monday

We get up around 8.30 and have a breakfast of canned Korean coffee and sugary biscuits, which our Airbnb host left at the apartment in plentiful amounts. We kick ourselves for not getting decent breakfast items the day before. After breakfast, we both work a few hours until it's time to cook a quick pasta... I get very grumpy when hungry, and am picky about where to eat, so we aren't taking any chances. After 2 pm, we head out to explore our neighbourhood at last, and end up spending what feels like 3 hrs in Artbox, a Korean homeware / stationery shop that sells all the things you never knew you needed. I am looking for a new wallet, and manage to find one at a not so crazy price (it broke when we were in Japan, where wallets as seen something auspicious and even the cheapest cost $80, because that will be bad luck. If you want a lot of money in your wallet, spend on the wallet first!)

On our way back, we stop by the supermarket for some more reasonable breakfast options... which don't really exist there, it's all white bread and jam. We pick up some pastries at the bakery instead. The rest of the day is more work, dinner and random internetting.

Tuesday

As on Monday, we get up around 8.30 am, have breakfast and get back to work. Around 1.30, we head off to a restaurant we found the day before for an incredible steal of a set lunch. After that, we jump into the subway Seoul Station to purchase our onward train tickets. Then we have the genius idea to check out the adjoining supermarket, which is crammed to the gills with Chinese tourists buying Koreans sweets and cosmetics. But they do have muesli and organic food! Finally, breakfast sorted.

Wednesday

We get up, work for 3-4 hrs, cook lunch, then head out to visit the Korean War Museum, which I highly recommend. It's free, massive and gives a great overview of the country's history. Some kind of military parade is going on outside, which helps after the more depressing (most) parts of the exhibition. On our way back, we try to find a cafe, but ironically (usually every second shop in Seoul is a cafe), we find nothing within half a mile's walk and head back home instead.

We cook dinner and I do some more work from around 7 to 10 pm, then it's time for some yoga and sleeping.

Thursday

Thursday is a blur of work for me, with really nothing exciting to report from my side. After lunch, Celine heads out to Hongdae for a hipster haircut at a place she discovered last year. This year, they don't do as well a job...

Friday

This time in Seoul, my mission is to visit some of the museums I haven't been to. Again, we follow the morning routine of a few hours of work, and decide to grab lunch at the cafe around the corner.

Then we jump into the subway and towards the Seoul Museum of History, although we first nip into nearby Gyeonghuigung Palace (the last palace out of five in Seoul I have been too, not very impressive, but free).

The museum does a great job of telling the city's success story, but it's the special exhibition with photography from the 60s and 70s that captivates us most. I can hardly believe that such a modern city counted among the world's least developed just 30 years ago!

After we get back, I catch up with some work before and after dinner.


Saturday

You know the routine... get up, breakfast, work. At 1.30 pm, we start walking southwards to Gangnam station, where we meet my Korean friend Yeseul, who takes us to a rad noodle & bulgogi restaurant. We met in a hostel in Korea a few years back and as we are both avid travellers, we see each other at least once or twice a year when we randomly end up in the same place. After lunch, we head to a cafe nearby to continue catching up.

As Yeseul is heading to a demonstration later in the afternoon (against the Korean president, if you have been following the news), we say goodbye. And as it's a Saturday afternoon in Gangnam, we become part of the consumerist stampede and end up buying all the Korean cosmetics... (well, some! Sheet masks are great to moisturise your skin after flights)

Sunday

It's our last day in Seoul already! Sunday is spent working and packing, as we jump on a train to Busan the next morning.

So, that's it! This was a pretty well balanced week for us, with equal parts of work and play, I would say! Would you have expected more work or less? More partying and eating out? More socialising? I definitely regretted not making time for Korean street food in Seoul - but we caught up with that in Busan ;) Seoul is one of my favourite cities and I can imagine spending a couple of months there sometime in the future.




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