I’ve got this habit of writing a year review. It’s a great way of summarizing it and memorizing great moments. My reviews usually were mainly about work and since this year didn’t end up work-wise as expected, I thought I won’t write one. But then I read a beautiful travel review from my friend Petra and thought, “Damn, this was a great travel year and I want to remember that!”. With 15 visited countries it was probably the busiest travel year so far and I loved every piece of it.
February – SNB&Ski in Kazakhstan
While we got many questions like “WTF you’re going skiing in Kazakhstan? They have ski-lifts there?”, Almaty was perfect! Beautiful ski resort in 3,000m which is 30 mins drive from the airport, sunny weather and Czech pub as a bonus.
…and to make Feb even better – Macklemore came to town!
In March, we did the first company event outside Dubai and took most of the team to Cairo. Pyramids, many great people, camels and – horses. For the first time, I was riding a horse without my sister holding it and I loved that!
We were considering maybe 6 different destinations for our April retreat and in the end, chose Zanzibar – which was absolutely perfect for that purpose. April is the start of the rainy season which is our favourite time to travel – that usually means little rain but no tourists. We had a whole resort (The Sands Beach Resort – TOP) for ourselves and enjoyed the beautiful nature and the kindest people we’ve ever seen. As far as I remember, this was the first place where I woke up and walked to the beach (50 meters) to see the sunrise.
May: New Delhi
In May, I had a chance to visit New Delhi for the second time as we organized a company event there. Didn’t see anything but few office buildings so I still need to make a proper trip to India.
June: Phuket wake trip and Beirut
Phuket has been on our list for a while but only after our friends told us there are 3 cable parks for wakeboarding we gave it a try. First days we stayed in International Wake Park near the airport – it really is near and planes are just above your head! After that, we moved to inland Tinidee Golf Resort where we stayed for the rest of the time. Perfect place to rent a bike and drive around to 2 remaining parks, Phuket Wake Park (oldish but with good facilities) and Anthem Wake Park (on a lake with old obstacles and loooong distances if you fall, but lovely staff and best atmosphere of all 3).
I ended June in Beirut where I went to speak at one of the biggest tech events in the region, Arabnet. Anna joined me for a weekend so we could enjoy the vibe of Beirut (my favourite bar is Ales&Tales) as well as the ancient monuments in Biblos.
July: Business hustle in Cape Town
I wonder why didn’t go anywhere in July to escape the heat in Dubai but the only travel was my business trip to Cape Town. While I didn’t see much of touristy stuff there, I loved the city, its relaxed atmosphere, waterfront promenades and mountains just outside the city. I hope in 2020, we’ll get here for a nice trip.
August: how to visit 3 countries in a day
August was our big travel-first-time! Not only a miracle happened when after 10 years we finally agreed with my high-school friends to rent a villa in Croatia and spend some summertime together, but Anna&I decided to spend a few extra days on a road trip between Croatia, Slovenia and even Italy. We rented a car at Zagreb airport and went straight to Slovenia to see their popular lakes Bled and Bohinjsko. (read more about Lake Bled here) We spent a night in a beautiful wine area Vipava – it reminded me of South Moravia a lot.
From there we crossed the border to Italy where we haven’t been for several years and missed it A LOT! Right after arriving to Trieste we had to run to have some pasta and gelato. I don’t know why is that, but anytime I put my feet on Italian ground, it makes me so happy. (read more about Trieste here)
From Trieste to Croatia we had to cross Slovenia again (i.e. in one day we went Slovenia-Italy-Sovenia-Croatia :D) and visited beautiful coast towns Izola and Piran. Both are picturesque but of course – in August full of tourists – that made us drive-away pretty quickly.
And then – finally – a week with friends in Croatia. We had a nice villa in Zadar and enjoyed it to the last bit. BBQ, drinks, pool, trips around, wakeboarding at Zrce (that sucks and bringing our boards for that wasn’t worth it) and a lot of fun! My personal highlight was probably boat trip to Kornati National Park – dozens of beautiful islands, nice bays and dolphins 🙂
September: Oman drive&camping
In September we finally got back to our beloved Oman. We made a nice overnight trip to its highest mountain – Jebel Shams – where it was cool enough to camp. The trip got way more adventurous than we planned – getting stuck on a border because of all the beers Anna had or Hussein’s flat tyre wasn’t on our itinerary. But how boring life would it be without a few unexpected surprises?
October: Dublin, Wicklow Mountains and Em
Traditionally rainy Dublin in October turned out to be my last business trip as a Hunter which was making me sad. On the other hand, Anna joined me for the weekend there and thus for the first time, I saw something else than Facebook or Google office. We even did a nice hike in Wicklow mountains – definitely recommended.
At the end of the month, we went to Abu Dhabi (not only for wakeboarding as usual) to see someone I never thought I would see live and if – I never thought I would make Anna to join me 🙂 While Eminem’s show was awesome, the organization was horrible (credits to FLASH entertainment) and we’ll probably never forget the 2hrs hunt for taxis with people walking around AD like zombies.
November: first dive trip & second Spartan Race
Being jobless in November was a new thing for me and I wanted to travel somewhere to not get crazy at home. So when we were sitting in a pub and Petr said “I’m going tomorrow for a diving trip to Phuket” we both were surprised that the next day I’m at the airport with him. We spent 5 days on a boat diving on beautiful spots of Similan Islands (and around). I never thought I’d be sleeping like a baby on a boat but it was absolutely amazing life-time experience.
On the other hand, it didn’t really help in my training for Spartan Race in Oman. It was my 2nd and Anna’s 1st race so we were glad we survived (especially the run on the beach) and were only surprised to end up both in TOP 30 🙂
Decemer: first-ever safari
And finally… Kenya. It took us a while to decide where to go for national day holidays but it turned out to be one of the most interesting trips of our lives. We visited 2 camps. First Mara River Camp just outside one of the parks is right at Mara River so we saw hypos and crocodiles swimming from our tent. When we thought it couldn’t get better, we moved to Eagle’s View Basecamp in Naboisho. When we first saw the view over the valley full of zebras, giraffes, antelopes and I don’t even know what else – we were just quietly staring for a moment. ❤ I mean,
I could write a full article about Kenya – and inshallah I will – I wrote a full article about Kenya and ideally, I would like to post all 1,400 photos we have, but I won’t. You can see at least 30 of them on FB here.
We ended our travel year on a Christmas market in Vienna, which made Austria 15th country I visited this year. More than half of them for the first time. I am truly grateful for so many experiences and I am glad I just wrote it down to remember it forever. If leaving the job I loved helped me to see so many new places and experience so many new things, it is just reassurance that everything bad brings something good.
Happy and safe travels in 2020! Cheers!
I love the airport buzz, planes and most of all – the feeling when you discover or experience something new. Together with Anna, we launched our gift voucher platform Ithara.ae. Photos are usually taken with Canon EOS 4000D, my Huawei Honor phone and DJI Mavic Pro.