2013 has been the best year of my life. It’s official. It exceeded all expectations and surpassed my most optimistic dreams. I actually spent more time travelling than at home. And that’s quite the feat for a non-nomad.
A Grand Total of 51 flights in 2013! Flying will always hold marvel for me. It’s a world of wonder and awe. Despite a life of travelling, I will never tire of flying. It’s a thing of beauty and privilege. The proof of this exists across the globe, as I see huge crowds of locals attracted to their nearest airport, often with young children by their side, just to watch planes land and take off outside the runway boundaries. In countries such as Ethiopia, Mozambique and rural India, they’re a common sight and reminder of how much of a privilege it is to take to the skies.
My year has been built not only on planes but startling one-off experiences; in the skies, on water & on land. Hot air balloons, private helicopters, yachts, speedboats, king’s boats, private planes, Cessna planes, Tuk Tuks, paddle boards, canoe boats, bullock carts… It had been spectacularly all-encompassing! The highs, literally, have been out of this world!
In each of the locations, I’ve been treated to private destination dining in the most unique fantastical exclusive spots on Earth, from the middle of the Indian Ocean to the heart of the African bush!
Here’s a run-down of my fabulous year of travel:
ETHIOPIA: We all know, by now, that Ethiopia taught me the most. An eye- opening, challenging (mentally & physically) trip with everything thrown into the mix including severe sickness, a car accident in the jungle & being hit on by a guide while travelling solo with just him. But it left the greatest impression on me. Nowhere in the world have I felt such energy resonate from the land. History radiates from the earth and the minute I wondered UNESCO Heritage Sites and fabled lands, I knew the place was unique. Later, making friends there from all over the globe, I was hooked.
MYANMAR / BURMA: was the most varied & warm-hearted. The people left the greatest impression on me. The Buddhist country has a beautiful naivety which glistens in the eyes of the Myanmar people. Their warmth & hospitality is second to none. How often can you explore a country feeling completely safe and surrounded by spirituality? From the mountains in Kalaw to busy multicultural Rangoon to the sweeping beaches of the Bay of Bengal, the beautiful smiles of the people remain etched in my memory.
THAILAND / BANGKOK is an eclectic place for shopping, culture and gastronomy. It’s one of my favourite cities in the world and one in which I feel completely calm wandering alone amidst complete chaos. I was grateful to re-acquaint myself with the beautiful temples and sights, and stay in some fantastic properties in Bangkok at the start of the year.
GUATEMALA: was the most beautiful country with such variation from jungle to black sand beach to azure Caribbean waters. The country is built on crumbling Spanish colonial legacies, deeply engrained in the people. With some of the best Mayan archaeological & historical sites and the oldest Maya tribespeople, it’s an unforgettable experience in a classic culture where time has changed little.
We all have to have a bit of MIAMI in our lives. I had a lot of it, always in transit, but it was so great to catch some of the Miami rays after a couple of years since my last visit. The music, energy and vibe of the place is addictive.
BELIZE: boasts the most picture-perfect scenes with so much more than only pristine Caribbean beaches. The topography of the tiny country combines dense rainforests of thousands of species of flora & fauna to offshore Cayes & atolls of the colour, sparkle & beauty of your wildest imagination. The underwater life is more famous than the overground Caribbean culture in the sole English speaking nation in Central America. This is the place to be as active as you like or to kick back and take it easy.
NORTH ISLAND SEYCHELLES & MOZAMBIQUE: I’m left wondering if anything could or will ever compare to the worlds most exclusive private island. A place where the ultra-rich and famous (and royals) go for honeymoon with the best service on the planet. Being able to eat anything, anywhere & anytime is the ultimate luxury. Villas are 3x bigger than most houses in the UK. It felt pure indulgent fantasy. And to get married there – that was the ultimate privilege and a lifetime dream come true. Mozambique features the most surreal landscapes. Walking along the seabed at low tide, a mile into the Indian Ocean under a blanket of stars, dining on a sandbank 5 m wide spliced into the ocean while whales somersault metres ahead, having champagne picnics on private empty beach at sunset, hopping on board the yacht to have a lazy boozy picnic on a nearby uninhibited island which takes 15 mins to walk around: such are the magical moments on offer. And the colours: the most striking vivid azures, acute aquamarines & Emerald green & turquoise, wait to welcome you. A Sumptuous, ultra-lavish trip in summary.
OSLO: kick-started the year with a bang, literally as, after a fine dining 10-course meal at the grandest restaurant in town, everyone wandered to the harbour to watch a stunning fireworks display. Where else can you hop on a train 20 mins away from the city centre ice skating rink to land in spectacular snow-filled ski slopes & natural toboggan slopes? Or where else do you find an erotic-themed statue park? It’s a costly city but I found it to be worth every penny.
LISBON / PORTUGAL: was a return to my favourite city painted in pastels and adorned in colourful tiles. Nearby Sintra is a city of majestic palaces, parks & winding alleyways bursting with cuteness. Excellent nightlife and trendy dining options ensured a great trip with friends.
2013 brought my first trip to NEW YORK! Having always delayed it as it just didn’t excite me in the way emerging destinations do, I now see what all the fuss is about. It has a magic about it & the best food & shopping. I combined city with beach, heading also to MEXICO’S MAYAN RIVIERA. The UNESCO and heritage such as Tulum & Chichen Itza were an added bonus to private beaches along a sumptuous stretch of coastline.
I also returned to my beloved VIENNA this year for my annual pilgrimage of converts, art exhibitions and coffee houses. This time I had the added bonus of Christmas market magic. It proved to be everything that Christmas should be!
My birthday trip to KENYA & ZANZIBAR culminated in WOW as I started the day with a hot air balloon ride at dawn over the epic Masai Mara plains. I saw all the big 5 on game drives & from the skies, being told that most people only see 4. Then I hopped on board a couple of internal private planes to Zanzibar! Here I was treated to an overwhelming private dinner with butler & champagne in the Presi suite of my beachfront ultra-exclusive hotel. I look back in complete disbelief that it was real & actually happened! Meeting the Masai tribes and a village community in Zanzibar who set up their own nursery school were highlights.
A quick romantic getaway saw my return to OMAN, 5 years after my initial visit. I was delighted to see that not much had changed. Oman retains its sensual, traditional and discrete Arabian beauty.
HUNGARY was my immediate getaway a week after returning from wedding & honeymoon no.1. A girl needs some time out after such a major event. I’m fortunate to be blessed with the most supportive and encouraging partner who was kind about me heading off solo to pamper myself, nourish my mind & soul with culture, immerse myself in a new country & to do it alone. It left me feeling satisfied, ultra-happy & desperate to be reunited with my boy!
Currently I’m in Tamil Nadu in India, on a stunning itinerary of temples, tigers and tea plantations. I can’t wait to arrive in the land of ‘The Life of Pi’- India’s French Riviera. Seeing in the New Year immersed in such a vibrant colourful culture, also seems the most fitting way to lay 2013 to rest.
So, what’s in the pipeline for 2014? I haven’t confirmed trips yet but will keep you posted upon my return from South India! I think you know to expect a fantastic mixture of ultra-luxury, extremely emerging destinations and some interesting (former) conflict zones. Kick-starting 2014 in the fascinating Tamil Nadu is a promising sign of things to come! Enjoy your 2014 and I look forward to seeing and reading all your inspiring travels over the coming year!