12 Amazing Travel Moments of 2016
I have a confession, I flippin’ loved 2016! Yes, I know there were some devastating moments – one or two that shook the foundations of my world – but the year is drawing to a close and all I can think of is how amazing it has been!
2016 will go down in my own personal history as one of my favourite years ever!
My top 12 Amazing Travel Moments of 2016
1. In the first few days of January I found myself returning to Helsinki, Finland. The sunrise that welcomed me that first morning was one of the most astounding sunrises I have ever witnessed. The plunging winter temperatures had caused the bay to steam and the sun broke clear of the horizon bracketed with spectacular sun dogs.
What a glorious welcome back to the city that has swelled my heart!
I spent the following five weeks enjoying a very wintery southern Finland, catching up with friends, enjoying Finnish hospitality, and discovering that I am absolutely a winter person!
2. Five weeks later, when I was just preparing to leave Finland to return to the UK, Helsinki wouldn’t let me go without a striking goodbye either. This extraordinary sunset was like nothing I’d seen before, it appeared to fan out across the winter sky in a riot of different colours.
It was the perfect end to a fantastic start to the year. I’d enjoyed myself so much I’d decided I was going to make this January trip to Finland a yearly thing. Yes, I’m heading back in January 2017!
3. Skip forward to April and after a couple of months back in the UK I set off travelling again: this time Chris and I were setting off on an epic road trip adventure to Scandinavia in our truck camper.
The gorgeous beaches we discovered in northern Denmark left us wishing we left a bit more time to explore this stunning stretch of coastline.
When we’d first arrived the beach was shrouded by a dark rain cloud, the rain sweeping in from the sea like a curtain. We sheltered in the camper until the sun broke through in the evening. A golden light bathing the hairy dunes, glinting off the windows of gingerbread cottages tucked in amongst the swaying grasses.
Time was short however, we had a ferry to catch, a ferry that would transport us to Norway!
4. I don’t know why it’s taken me until my 30’s to find out that Norway is the MOST jaw-droppingly beautiful country, I feel I’ve wasted three decades when I could have been exploring this incredible country!
Every day we drove roads that left us gawping in awe. These winding roads took us through deep valleys; under the shadow of mountains; along wild, windswept stretches of coastline; and over high snow-covered plateaus.
We saw the most sublime sunsets; we felt the swell of the sea on ferries; and we met some fascinating people.
It was a sunset, a heavy rain shower and a double full-circle rainbow all in one!
The following day we headed out on the water, heading into fjords around Flatanger to see White Tailed Eagles which was equally extraordinary.
It was warm enough to forget that we were now inside the arctic circle, a place that unknown to us at the time would be a latitude we’d be spending rather a lot of the rest of the year in!
We experienced our first sight of the midnight sun, while camped next to a beach at Ramberg, Flakstadøya. Something I’d been very excited to see!
7. I had wanted to experience the white nights of the midnight sun and this Nordic road trip was a race to get as north as possible for the Midsummer Solstice.
We ended up on a remote stretch of road in far north-eastern Norway for Midsummer. This particular road sweeps around the Barents Sea coast to tiny Hamningberg, a far and wild outpost at 70º North.
This location couldn’t have been more perfect. I woke around 2.30 am early on midsummer morning, the sun was streaming into the camper and I think it had woken me. The morning light was beautiful; I crept outside.
The world was still, just the quiet lapping of the sea and the distant call of gulls. The sun was warm despite the latitude and the fact that I was stood in my pyjamas. A blissful moment forever etched on my memory.
A night spent in a tiny wooden hide afforded us breathtaking views of bears padding out of the forest in the twilight of the summer night. A moment so magical it hung in the air, like a dream, like a fairytale.
We tarried long in northern Finland. We loved the silence of the forests; the herds of reindeer that pottered around the camper when we were parked up; the pristine lakes that made us feel alive when we slipped into the cool water.
I ticked of a bucket list item by leaping into a lake straight from the searing heat of a waterside sauna. I can’t recommend the life-affirming sensation of that enough!
We explored the islands in the bay – Vallisaari, as well as the islands of Suomenlinna – we wandered amongst the wildflowers and butterflies. We lazed in the sunshine, basking on the rock like seals. We watched the sailing boats drift by, and listened to the roar of speedboats.
I’d left these shores still frozen back in early February, what a transformation indeed!
Well, Deventer is a bit of a stunner! And there is a Deventer Cake: I like destinations that have a cake as part of their heritage.
We sat in the sunshine sipping strong coffee and nibbling on traditional Deventer honey cake. The cafe was Bussink, Deventer’s oldest producer of Deventer cake, they’ve been baking it for 500 years! What a treat!
11. Which brings me to the autumn. The most incredible thing happened. We were offered winter work! A chance to spend the winter, and hopefully subsequent winters, living under the northern lights in Swedish Lapland.
So after only being back in the UK for a couple of months, we turned around and headed back to Scandinavia!
And when they say that Abisko in arctic Sweden is the best place in Scandinavia to see the aurora, they aren’t kidding! We’ve been here since mid November and I can’t tell you how unbelievable the lights have been, some nights I’ve seen the most extraordinary shows dancing above my head.
I have to pinch myself that I’m not dreaming, I really am here! This is the stuff of dreams!
12. So my final moment is a little bit sentimental and a little surprising! We’re in our sixth year of living in a van yet this was the very first time we’ve celebrated Christmas in one!
And it was lovely! Maybe it felt festive because of our location deep in Swedish Lapland; maybe it was because we saw reindeer the day before Christmas eve when we drove back from Kiruna after getting some shopping; maybe it was because it snowed softly all Christmas eve.
We actually had our Christmas on Christmas eve, just as it is celebrated in Sweden. We had a huge stack of Norwegian waffles for breakfast then I cooked a Nordic-inspired vegetarian Christmas dinner for the two of us in the afternoon. We had carrot casserole which I cooked in the Omnia oven, Finnish rosolli salad (potato, carrot, beetroot, gherkin, onion, and apple, with a creamy dressing), and for protein some Pulled Oumph! (an awesome Swedish veggie subsititute-meat). It was all so good!
So there you go, my 2016 was pretty darn awesome and definitely life-changing. I’m sure some of the events of 2016 will reverberate through the next few years for good or bad, however one thing 2016 has taught me is that there is always light around the corner, especially if you go out and look for it.
I have a map sellotaped to the camper’s bathroom door with the route we snaked around Finland in the summer drawn on it with a fluorescent marker. It gives me so much joy to look at it and remember part of the great 2016 adventure. I see the lakes I swam in; the dot where we saw the bears; the national parks where we battled with mosquitoes and feasted on wild berries; the tiny towns where I tested out my limited Finnish trying to find someone to fix our broken down truck.
The map reminds me that while life can throw some difficult curve balls, it can also be truly amazing.
Pin it for later:
Try these posts:
50 Ways Finland Made Me Smile This Summer 8 weeks, one incredible summer.
Beautiful Frozen Helsinki Returning to Helsinki at -25º, incredible!
I’m Moving To Sweden! Ok, so it’s just for the winter, for every winter, in Lapland!
Nordic Road Trip Week One: UK to Norway Driving to Norway via the Netherland, Germany and Denmark.
This Is Why You Need To Road Trip Norway! Inspiration for an epic road trip through jaw-dropping Norway.
How was your 2016? Is your 2017 going to be better and amazing?