I love this time of year. It’s time to reflect on the year that has passed and remember all of the good times. This year, I’ve visited 24 countries and in every one of them, I’ve had beautiful and memorable moments. But some of those moments stand out more than others – they are the moments that I think back on with a huge smile on my face, as I remember the overwhelming feeling of happiness that I had at the time.
This list does not contain some of my favourite places that I visited this year – I will leave those for another post. Instead, this list represents the single moments, where I felt the most happy and the most appreciative of my travel life in 2016. Moments of complete and utter happiness, some for a very obvious reason and others for no obvious reason at all, other than that everything felt right at that exact moment.
So, here it is – my list of best travel moments of 2016:
A day at the coast in Howth, Ireland
My day in Howth is one of the happiest days of solo travel that I remember. Whenever I think about happy times, I always think of that particular day. I can’t explain why or how, but something happened to me that day – I felt passionate about travel and hiking, I felt like hugging the entire world, and I generally just felt happy!
The day in Howth was my only day travelling solo in Ireland – the other days had been spent with Bethann, one of my best friends. Although the weather had been against us on those days, the time spent with her was also beautiful. But instead of feeling sad about Bethann leaving, I remember feeling blessed for having her in my life in general. Maybe that’s why the day alone in Howth was so great – I would even call it life-changing – to me. What a brilliant way to start the travel year of 2016!
Read all about my beautiful day at the coast in Howth here: Hiking in Howth: The Bog of Frogs Loop
Watching the total solar eclipse on Pulau Belitung, Indonesia
This was hands-down the most exciting event of the year! My journey through Asia started in Indonesia, and the main reason for travelling to the area was for the total solar eclipse, which happened on March 9th. I watched the phenomenon at Kaolin Lake on the remote island of Pulau Belitung with two new travel buddies and a ton of locals. The whole setting, the lake, the people, the sunrise, the build-up, the lack of clouds at totality – everything was perfect! I’ve never felt so completely overwhelmed in my life!
Read all about my eclipse experience here: Total Solar Eclipse ’16: Indonesia
Reaching the summit of Mount Kinabalu at 4.095 m., Malaysia
When I went to Malaysian Borneo in late March, I climbed my first ever mountain over 2.000 m.! Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia and rises to a staggering 4.095 m.! The climb took two days and it was no doubt the toughest thing I’ve EVER done! Thankfully, I had Josh by my side to share the pain with – but most importantly, I had him by my side to share the overwhelming feeling of joy that we both felt, as we reached the summit of Mount Kinabalu early in the morning of the second day, just in time for sunrise! What an experience that was!
Read my mountain climbing experience here: Climbing Mt. Kinabalu: Ascending to the Resthouse at 3,272 m. and Climbing Mt. Kinabalu: Summiting and Descending During an Earthquake
Sunset mountain climbing in Taipei, Taiwan
When I looked back on a list of good travel days that I made while I was in Asia, I had described this particular day in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, as “a day of pure joy”. I remember the feeling of freedom, happiness and appreciation as I climbed two small mountains in the center of Taipei and watched the sun set over my new favourite city. Taipei stole my heart and the very moment when I watched the sun set behind the magnificent skyline is one that I’ll always remember.
Read about the short mountain climbs here: Taipei from Above: Climbing Mt. Elephant & Mt. Muzhi
Meeting Buyan Khishig in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia
I met a lot of amazing people in Asia, and especially in Mongolia, which is now one of my all-time favourite countries. I spent seven days on a Gobi Desert tour with four travel companions, and stayed with nomads every night. They were all so extremely friendly and welcoming. But there’s one particular encounter that I’ll never forget – one that makes me smile just a little bit more.
That was the adorable 5-year-old Buyan Khishig. She was extremely talkative and energetic, unlike most other Mongolian children that I met. Despite the language barrier, we became great friends and spent the entire afternoon chasing goats, pulling funny faces and trying to teach her Danish words, which she was actually really good at. Buyan Khishig was an all-around beautiful person and I feel so blessed to have met her and spent time with her!
Read about my time with Buyan Khishig and her family here: Stories from the Gobi Desert: The Khongor Sand Dunes
Befriending Molly the Cat in Osh, Kyrgyzstan
Do you know that feeling when you meet someone and you just instantly click? Well, this year, that happened to me with a cat. A cat, who I got to name Molly.
I met Molly at Bayana Guesthouse in Osh, where Steve and I stayed for two nights in May and another night two weeks later in June. Molly had recently been given to the owner of the guesthouse and had become a popular pet for all of the guests visiting from all over the world. But I will argue that no one fell for her as quickly and as much as me! I’m a HUGE cat person, but still it’s rare that I come to care about one so much. It has only happened to me a few times, and Molly is actually the only cat in the world who I’ve had this connection with without her being mine. What a gem of a cat!
Read all about our time in Osh with Molly here: Osh: An Insight Into the Divided Ferghana Valley
The entire Afghan experience
Oh wow, Afghanistan! I still cannot believe that I’ve actually been there! I mean, it’s freaking Afghanistan!! How crazy is that!?
But it’s true. Steve and I went to the village of Sultan Eshkashim in Northern Afghanistan for two days in late May and during those two days, I fell madly in love with the region and especially the people that inhabit it. The Afghan people are to date the most friendly, welcoming and open-hearted people I’ve ever met. They made the two days that we spent there so memorable and really made me reconsider my materialistic lifestyle. Sometimes, I even feel like moving there and starting all over, although I know that I could never actually do that.
Still, I feel extremely blessed to be able to say that I went there and that I experienced the Afghan culture and was enriched by it. Every moment spent in Afghanistan was dreamlike and therefore, the entire trip deserves a spot on this list – I simply cannot point a single experience out!
Read all about our unique experience in Sultan Eshkashim here: Two Days in Sultan Eshkashim: A Taste of Afghanistan
Tasting potato twisters in Khujand, Tajikistan
Haha okay, so this might seem a bit stupid. But unhealthy food actually made it to the list this year, because when Steve and I were in Khujand in June, we tasted the most DELICIOUS thing ever at a festival – potato twisters!
Seriously, we ate so many that I never thought I would need food again. Little did I know, I REALLY feel the need for those potato twisters right now! I’m even considering going back to Khujand, just so I can find these amazing treats again.
Food of the year, right there! Simple, yet out-of-this-world good!
Read about our evening in Khujand and see a ginormous photo of the potato twisters here: An Evening of Festivities in Khujand
A day of friendship at Lake Leitisvatn, Faroe Islands
Katrine and I have been good friends for a long time, and during our travels in Australia in 2015, our friendship grew closer. But nothing could have prepared us for what happened on our trip to the Faroe Islands in August. We learned many new things about each other and found out just how much we have in common! We spent so much time laughing that I had stomach pains for months afterwards. Now, Katrine is one of my best friends.
One of the best days from our trip was spent at Lake Leitisvatn, which we hiked to the end of with another good friend of ours, Andras, and his nephew, Liam.
In many ways, our trip to the Faroe Islands laid the foundation for our friendship, and the day at Lake Leitisvatn is the perfect example of just how great it is!
Read about our perfect day at the largest lake in the Faroe Islands here: A Walk along Leitisvatn: The Most Beautiful Hike in the Faroe Islands
Introducing my family to my Faroese families
So, as you’ve probably figured, the Faroe Islands has a special place in my heart. That’s not only due to the outstanding nature and the cute animals – it’s mainly because of the wonderful Faroese people. When I first travelled there by myself in March 2015, I had the honour of staying with two lovely families. The first family was Rigmor, Jens, their three sons and dog in Skála, who later moved to Vestmanna. The second family was Ása and Erling and their grandson Regin in Tórshavn.
When my family and I spent a week on a cruise to the Faroe Islands and Iceland in October, I finally got to introduce my family to my two Faroese families! Both moments were amazing and it was something that I had been looking forward to for a long time. I’m sure that someday, I’ll be able to bring my families together again!
Read about our Viking Cruise journey here: Viking Cruise on the North Atlantic: A Week in the Faroe Islands and Iceland
As you can see above, 2016 was a year full of great experiences and happy memories. There are many more treasured memories that didn’t quite make it to this list, such as helping monkeys drink water from bottles on Bali, seeing orangutans in Malaysian Borneo, exploring a lava cave in Jeju Island, climbing sand dunes in Mongolia, horseback riding in Kyrgyzstan and driving the Pamir Highway in Gorno-Badakhshan. But not every moment has been as fantastic as those mentioned in this post. Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll tell the stories of my worst travel moments from this year – this should be an entertaining post! 😉