2015 has been a crazy kind of year for us and a rollercoaster in the truest sense of the word, from being originally billed as a quiet year saving up for our long term travels which begin in 2016 it ended up becoming one of the most action packed yet! We ticked off probably more from our bucket list this year than ever before, achieved things we had been working towards and visited some dream destinations. The year wasn’t without its low points either from personal tragedies to family members ending up on life support and a major operation we had more than a few moments which put things into perspective but also made us realise just how precious life is…and in 2015 we lived ever moment!
A rollercoaster year of adventure
Well after saying this year would have to be a quiet one and also having completely different plans for which countries we might visit we ended up going to 9 countries in total, 5 of them being new for us! Not too bad going…this also takes Nic up to 29 countries and Shorty up to 20!
Slovakia and Austria
In March we headed over to Bratislava in Slovakia and spent just over a week in this wonderful and contrasting capital city. It was a place we knew little about past the many preconceptions but what we found was a great budget destination full of history, charm and a wild mixture of architecture. The city is described as being “little, big” due to its relatively compact nature but huge spirit! It certainly lived up to that!
Whist in Bratislava we took the hour long trip over the Vienna, the capital of Austria to take our first footsteps into this beautiful country. As budget travellers staying over in Slovakia meant we could experience this opulent city without spending a fortune. As much as we love the roughness of Eastern Europe crossing over to Vienna was like a fairy-tale, it’s perfect architecture and stunning streets something that left us awe inspired.
Read more about these trips here:
Ireland and Northern Ireland
Then it was back over to the Emerald Isle this time to celebrate St. Patrick’s day in Dublin: Another ticked off the bucket list. An amazing day in the country of my ancestors and also a unique opportunity to see my favourite band (The Dropkick Murphy’s) in Dublin and on such a day! After visiting this great city last year we wanted to get out and see more of the country this time so we explored the stunning Wicklow Mountains!
Then it was up to Northern Ireland, a new country for us and an often misunderstood country (see Sons of Anarchy for the worst portrayal ever!). Not only was it amazing and eye opening to see such a feisty country but we were also able to fulfil yet another live long dream in heading up to the coastal regions and stepping on the famous stones of The Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge!
Read more about these trips here:
We headed back to one of our favourite countries for a camping weekend in the beautiful Mid-Wales countryside with some freinds. We explored the stunning Nantcol waterfalls as well as having a well needed digital detox under the clearest sky we have ever seen. The day after we discovered a beautiful abandoned slate quarry with an unbelievably blue lagoon hidden inside…so of course we abseiled down the side of the huge wall!
Read more about this trip here:
Switzerland (Germany and France)
Over the summer I headed over to Basel in Switzerland for my first ever solo trip. It was a crazy few days in which I went through a whole host of different emotions and learnt a lot about myself! I also discovered an absolutely stunning city with the most amazing town hall I have ever seen and a river more turquoise than I could have ever imagined! This was also the first time I have ever been to Switzerland, somewhere I had always dreamt of visiting! I also took advantage of the city’s unique location on the border of France and Germany to visit 4 countries in one day as well as taking a day trip to the stunning mountain city of Lucerne and heading up Mt. Pilatus on the unforgettable Golden Round Trip!
Switzerland and Liechtenstein
So…not content with visiting Switzerland once in a year (Shorty had a weekend in Interlaken on a bachelor party too) we both heading back over and this time together! We have liked Switzerland before…but this time we really fell in love! It fulfilled all our imaginations of this Alpine country, everyday was a new adventure and another item ticked off the bucket list. We did things we had always dreamt of doing and in the most stunning of locations. Finally seeing the Alps in all their glory was something that will stay with us forever!
We also rented a car for the first time in Switzerland and took the opportunity to head to another country…and one step closer to our goal of visiting every country in Europe by going to the tiny country of Liechtenstein! Vaduz was such a surreal place considering it is a capital city but the country makes up for its size with its mountainous beauty!
Read more about these trips here:
This year was huge on the adventures front, we have always been adventurous but in 2015 we really pushed the boat out and did so many things this year that we had never done before, be that progressing ourselves whilst climbing or finally getting a chance to try an awesome new sport! We fell in love with so many action sports this year that we will definitely be continuing with as well! We just had so much fun!
We improved our climbing no end this year managing to climb at our best ever grades in all three major types of climbing: Bouldering, Trad and Sport! We had much more opportunity to get out on the rock in 2015 and it really paid off. After finishing my masters last year this was something I had been looking forward to concentrating on!
Read more here:
Hiking, canoeing and Ghyll scrambling!
We also took some more hikes this year and finally got round to summiting Helvellyn, the infamous Lake District mountain known for its knife like ridge “Striding Edge” that claims many lives each year. We had the most perfect day which began by hiring a Canoe (Our first time in one!!) and paddling across the picturesque lake of Ullswater and exploring a small island! The we ascended the mountain taking a slightly unorthodox route by Ghyll scrambling up the river Glenriding Beck before the clouds finally parted and we were greeted with amazingly clear views as we tackled Striding Edge!
Read more here:
We also got out and did some amazing Canyoning this year, this sport is taking off big time and we got to experience some of the best spots to give it a go both in England and Switzerland! Jumping off cliffs, over waterfalls, down natural slides and rappelling off huge drops this adrenaline pumping sport really sparked our enthusiasm. First it was over in The Lake District in the crystal clear waters of the Esk to learn the ropes and progress to some decent sized jumps on our first outing. Then we headed for an advanced canyon in the Swiss Alps called Chli Schliere, this was one of the most thrilling, challenging and enjoyable days out we have ever had!
Read more here:
Paragliding, Via Ferrata and White Water Rafting
Switzerland not only gave us the most amazing canyoning experience but again allowed us to tick off even more amazing adventures from the Bucket list. Firstly we went Paragliding off the side of a 4000ft mountain over the amazing town of Interlaken, watching the sun rise over the Eiger and shine down on the beautiful lakes of this absolutely perfect location. We then tackled our first Via Ferrata…an extreme hike on the side of the 2000ft high lauterbrunnen valley with only staples and pins in the wall to keep you in place! Hanging off the Nepalese bridge and sitting on the edge of the BASE platform were spine tingling moments! Just to try and outdo ourselves on the same trip we again tried our hands at something we had always wanted to do: White Water Rafting! But this wasn’t just any river, this was an ice cold river flowing straight from the glacial melt waters of the mighty Jungfrau and rated at grade 4 in difficulty!
Read more here:
Ok, back to Switzerland again but with good reason! We finally made it to the Alps this year and we had to make the most of this opportunity and head up some mountains! In Lucerne I took the golden round trip to the top of Mt. Pilatus which included a ferry over Lake Lucerne, the steepest cogway railway all the way up the mountain and a series of thrilling cable cars back down! The weather wasn’t quite on my side but I did have an amazing day in the mountains. On our return to Switzerland only a couple of months later we headed up the impressive Schilthorn for the most breathtaking views of the infamous three Alpine peaks of The Eiger, Monch and jungfrau. Something that will stay with us forever!
Read more here:
Kayaking and Stand Up Paddleboarding
Yet more new water-sports! Firstly we had a go at Stand Up Paddleboarding on a fun and overcast bank holiday Monday over near Blackpool! We had been intrigued by this growing sport and discovered it’s actually easier than it looks! But one thing we were really keen to do this year was to learn how to Kayak…and kayak properly! Not just on ponds and lakes but to take to the rivers and rapids, to capsize and really do it as a sport. We absolutely loved our intensive course and feel Kayaking could be something we take up and do much like climbing. If we were not heading off around the world next year we would have been looking at buying kayaks right about now!
We got out urbexing again and explored the abandoned theme park of Camelot not too far from where we live. Scaling the 80ft rusting rollercoaster was something we had had in mind for a while – as you do! We also got to abseil into the impressive blue lagoon quarry over in Wales as we mentioned before as well as getting back on the Slackline a number of times most memorably above the snow!
Taking my first solo trip was an adventure of another kind but in many ways much more out of my comfort zone that being at height or having to rely on my strength and dexterity! I went through so many emotions in such a short amount of time but I also learnt so much! Going it alone is a daunting prospect but one I think we all should try!
Progression & The blog itself
This year we have also made some progressions ourselves. Firstly it was my Master’s Graduation which I had been patiently waiting for since finishing my course last year and throughly enjoyed being able to bask in my achievement for the day!
I also started a TEFL course in December and completed the 20hour section on a weekend long course and will finish the online 100hour section in the new year. This really felt like it had opened up so many doors for me and that the world really is our oyster with the possibility of working and living almost anywhere!
We also made huge progressions on the blog this year too, we worked hard and concentrated on improving the content as well as getting it out to a wider audience. Then we finally did it, we made some money from blogging, and got sponsored for some trips and tours. Woo hoo! At the moment it is only a very modest amount but we feel that our hard work is starting to pay off!
Shorty also finished his college course and so now is qualified enough to be able to apply for university in the future which is something he would love to do. We also made some pretty big steps in terms of the grades we climbed outdoors this year too as we mentioned above.
We also had some real soul searching and realised a lot of things about what we do want to do with our lives and what we really don’t! We realised that we don’t want traditional careers but to live a life of freedom built around our passions. It was quite a liberating moment to finally be able to tell our employers that we would be leaving to travel the world!
Ups and Downs: Reflecting on tough times with family and friends
2015 though wasn’t without its challenges and in many respects in this area it has been one of the most emotionally turbulent of our lives. I believe this is the first time I have mentioned this on our blog but in March of this year we nearly lost my Grandad. He was taken into hospital with acute pancreatitis and spent almost a month in a coma in the ICU. This time was so hard on the family but we banded together and got through it, even at those times when it looked like he might not make it. I spent a lot of time at the hospital and at my nan’s house and looking back much of it is a blur. My Grandad thankfully pulled through and has made a great recovery, he is an absolute hero of mine and has always been there for both of us. Times like this really make you appreciate those around you and this Christmas will be extra special knowing what might have been.
We were also struck with the devastating news in April this year that a friend we had grown up with and in fact had been one of the people who was there on the day I first met Shorty had taken his own life. The news absolutely rocked us to the core and even months on we still can’t get our heads around what went on. From being someone so full of life and soul, someone we shared amazing times with and an absolutely legendary character in our village of Littleborough to being gone at only 28. Lunney is someone we will never forget and since that day have carried with us in everything we have done. So many people I know also feel the same, the day of the funeral saw the crematorium overflowing with people and the party afterwards was one which he would have been proud of.
R.I.P Lunney (The boy)
This year also saw me finally getting my knee fixed, I had put this day off for so long…13 years in fact, that it was only getting worse! I left it for as long as I could to squeeze the most out of the summer and the year possible before facing the inevitable! Recovering from major surgery took more out of me than I ever imagined and learning to walk again was a humbling experience which puts many things in perspective. Having the patience to know that I couldn’t do the things that I loved again for a long while and also keeping my drive and determination up to do my rehab 3 times everyday was tough…and still is. But my recovery is going well and I hope to be out on more adventures again before we set off in March next year.
Making the most of our time and realisations
Much of the amazing things that have happened this year has been influenced by the bad. What I mean by this is that they have made us realise even more that we already did how short life is, how fragile it is and how quickly your life can change in a flash. From everything being in front of you and feeling fit, healthy and like you can do anything to before you know it finding yourself either old or incapable whether that be mentally or physically.
The truth of the matter is we just never know how life is going to pan out and this year just confirmed to us that you have to go for your dreams now and not put them off for “someday”, because before you know it someday is gone. Because of this we became even more disillusioned with the idea of betting all your dreams on the idea of “retirement” later in life, it only seems fitting that we will be setting off on our full time travels next year.
Towards the end of the year we also both got new tattoos (matching!!) that featured those famous mountains in Switzerland and the saying “Get busy living”. Of course, this is on the one hand a tattoo to memorialise that trip of a life time, but at the same time it brings together the message we really learnt this year and will make sure we never forget it.
Read more here:
One step closer to our dream: 2016
This year was also about taking huge steps towards making our long term dreams and plans a reality. We have moved back into my parents house after renting out our home. This was a huge thing for us not just because it ended up being much harder work than we imagined but to have someone else living in our home did and still does feel strange. Even though it is a big step towards the travelling lifestyle we want it is also tinged with a hint of sadness too. We have been saving up too, selling lots of stuff and packing a lot up too as well as starting to plan out our route, places we want to visit and gathering together ideas, tips and inspiration. We feel that this year we have actually really begun this process of changing our lives!
What’s in store for 2016?
Well, what isn’t in store for 2016! In previous years we have set out countries we want to visit, adventures we want to go on and milestones we want to reach. Next year is going to be slightly different in that we will have so much more freedom to travel and will be visiting so many more places! We will begin our epic overland journey from the UK to NZ as well as starting our new nomadic life which we hope to be a permanent thing. We hope to work as we travel doing casual work, teaching English, working on the blog and keeping ourselves open to other possibilities. 2016 will be the year we put much of our preaching into practice! It’s scary and exciting at the same time but we are so ready to give it a go!
But…that’s not until around March time so we do have a few things we want to get done before then!
Knee – Back to full fitness
General fitness – Get as fit as we can before we set off
Kayaking – Do our 1 and 2* qualification
TEFL – Nic finish course/ Shorty start and finish one
Climbing – Get fit enough to get back out and maybe a trip to Pembroke/ Giggleswick
Blog – Get blog ready for travelling maybe launch new site/ Teach Shorty how to help out more
UK to NZ Plans – Get visas sorted, book first few bits, banks and phone sorted, logistics, buy bits we need, money saved.
So there was our A rollercoaster year of adventure. How was your 2015?
Here’s a video of our year: