Happy New Year everybody and thanks so much for following along with our family adventures.
With the end of 2019 in plain sight everyone tends to look back on the previous 12 months and so do we. We had grand plans for last year – some of them failed, others succeeded.
In the end, what matters most is that we tried our best, survived all the bad days and did more things that enriched our lives.
Yes, another 12 months are gone in a blink, and what a year it has been, a year we would like to repeat! We laughed and danced. We travelled and learned and travelled some more.
When I think about all the adventures, new experiences and friends we made along the way it feels like several years got packed into one.
Being home with family over the winter holidays has given us a lot of perspective on our life in Sligo so far. We’ve both changed so much ever since moving across the country, a process, both physical and emotional.
We learned to feel grateful for being alive, and we practised the art of letting go of the things that no longer serve us, after all, it is up to us and our actions to make our lives better.
A year in review: Our Top 2019 Personal and Travel Highlights
Listening to the northerly winds rattle outside I closed my eyes and let my mind wander before reflecting on the last year – we travelled to fewer countries, yet we still learned, had fun and grew personally.
In brief, we went to Biarritz and visited Hossegor and Bayonne for the first time. We went home to Latvia to get hitched, visited Bratislava for the Ice Hockey Championships – and visited Munich, hiked through Slovenia and finally had a chance to explore Lake Bled.
We jumped at a chance to travel to Edinburgh and were also delighted to marvel yet again at beautiful Venice’s crumbling facades.
In 2019, we stuck to our pre-arranged schedule and successfully published a total of 52 blog posts with an average of 2000 words per post on Our Crossings travel blog.
That’s publishing once a week, and that’s what we were comfortable with producing – instead of releasing half baked travel stories, our primary focus was providing value with well-crafted and informative blog posts.
Writing consistently can be challenging, inevitably there are days when life, work and responsibilities tend to take over, yet we write every single day, even if it is just for 20 minutes.
We believe that even with demanding day jobs, we can write at least 500 words; it’s all about the discipline. We never wait for inspiration to arrive, we simply make a point to sit down and write – sometimes typing away on our laptops or scribbling down ideas in notebooks.
To satisfy our increasing appetite for something new and exciting, we took up the challenge to grow vegetables in our back garden. We started off small and planted only what we wanted to eat and were amazed by vibrant textures and juicy flavours.
We had to protect strawberries from nasty looking slugs, and we got rid of weeds with a good old fashion hand pulling. In the end – edible gardening proved to be a fun way for all the family members to take part in.
Even though slugs got away with most of the strawberries, and it was too cold for tomatoes to ripen, we ended up with plenty of fresh herbs, black radishes and lots of courgettes.
Attending Ice hockey Championship
When the opportunity presented itself, and one of us had a chance to travel to Bratislava for an Ice-Hockey World Championship, we jumped at the chance to hop on a plane just a few days before going to France.
Ice Hockey is a holy sport in Latvia and having watched it in a local pub on a big screen for the past year, supporting our team in the Ondrej Nepela Winter Stadium alongside many other Latvians was a bucket list experience.
While in Slovakia, I made time to go on an urban adventure too – I had a chance to experience Bratislava’s tourist attractions as well as travel to Austria’s capital Vienna.
Exploring Biarritz and Hossegor
After a couple of months of poor weather, firewood chopping and short escapes to the nearby woods we planned to leave rainy Ireland behind and travel to mainland Europe.
We were super excited to see France again the last spring. Biarritz was bright, warm and our time in the city was all about letting days gently unfold.
By revisiting Biarritz we desired to explore nearby villages and towns too, so it made perfect sense to make the most of our trip – we ended up renting a car. We headed for a road trip to nearby Capbreton, Bayonne and Hossegor.
Every summer has its own story, and last year we completely fell in love with our lives even more – after 17 years together we finally made a decision to get married.
Travelling to Latvia in the last week of July to get hitched, with closest family and friends by our side, was our last year’s personal highlight. Getting married in Valters hometown just added more sentimental value to our already special day and returning back home to Sligo as a married couple was an emotional moment to remember forever.
To honour our lifelong commitment, we started off with an intimate ceremony followed by celebrations in a beautiful outdoor setting with bonfires and live music.
Being amazed by Slovenia
Travelling to Slovenia, a beautiful country in Central Europe, was a trip to be remembered – surrounded by full life cycles and beautiful landscapes I was greeted by friendly people and gorgeous autumn colours.
One of the main reasons I eagerly wanted to set foot on its soil was to capture its natural beauty, hike through the Triglav National Park – a place where mountains are full of treasures to be discovered – and visit Lake Bled.
It took me two trains, one flight and 72 hours to reach my first stop Lesce but I quickly became to the realisation that the journey was 100 % worth it. Slovenia has everything you would want for a perfect European getaway – exciting history, pretty landscape and beautiful castles.
Also worth mentioning; the entire downtown area of its capital Ljubljana has been transformed into the pedestrian zone only. It has been awarded the European Green Capital of 2016 – which is a big deal for us eco-conscious travellers like us.
Growing pine trees from seed
With Amazon Rainforest continuing to shrink and with the forests all over the world in rapid decline, we desired to take on the challenge of growing trees. Yes, we are aware that one tree might not make any difference at all, but we strongly felt the need to do some good and imagine an impact if 20 people would follow our example and do the same?
Two years ago on a sunny fall day, we collected a couple of pine cones from the nearby forest in Sligo, brought them home, laid them out at room temperature and patiently waited for seeds to be released.
We then sowed the seeds in pots and with the power of unconditional love and care managed to grow two beautiful pine trees that now are approximately 20 cm tall.
Top Tip* To help conserve biodiversity, mainly collect seeds from trees native to your country, and if you wish to plant them, avoid buying imported trees that bring with them a risk of disease. You also need to think about how well a tree would grow and how big it would get.
Wandering around Munich
Wandering around Munich, a lovely gateway for travellers within Europe as a flight is easy to come by, I was enjoying my introduction to Bavaria’s capital.
Within my 24 hours, I had a chance to check out its river breaks popular with surfers, visited many tourist attractions and witnessed preparations for the world-famous Octoberfest.
Although Munich is known as a getaway to the Bavarian region and everything it has to offer, for me, it was a getaway to Slovenia. I took a train from the central railway station in the city and after four hours arrived in Lesce.
Returning back to Venice
Renowned for impressive architecture, beautiful canals, art and picture-perfect corners, Venice is pretty much on everyone’s bucket list as there is so much beauty to capture.
It doesn’t matter how many times you have seen photos and heard stories about the floating city, being there in person and seeing its alleys and churches will leave you full of high-spirited delight.
Visiting Venice whose Old Town has been World Heritage Site since 1987, was a part of my multi-city trip in September. After days spent exploring Slovenia, I boarded the bus and travelled to Venice, where I made it my mission to wander around its quiet locations like Cannaregio and Castello.
Seeing more of Ireland
Before our move to Sligo, we made a simple yet powerful promise to only say yes to things and places that excite us.
In search of inspiration, we made a conscious decision to swap round-the-world adventures for local ones and were delighted to extensively explore Ireland and write about it.
Some of the most impressive places we have seen on our travels around Ireland were made by mother nature, and we were delighted to cross off a couple of bucket list adventures we always wanted to do.
Visiting Fanad Head Lighthouse, cycling through Glenveagh National Park, surfing in County Clare and climbing Croagh Patrick were just a few highlights from our last year’s Irish adventures.
My heart warmed as I caught the first glimpse of Edinburgh’s skyline with the burnt orange leaves of autumn adorning the trees from the upper decker bus.
The Scottish capital is a place I have been revisiting for the past 10 years and always managed to find new and exciting things to see and do. After all – Edinburgh is a centre of culture and the arts and is especially known for its festivals.
I was looking to enhance my travel experience to Edinburgh by listening to the Scottish folk tales, catching up with my Scottish friend and by exploring every nook and cranny of this ridiculously good looking city.
I wandered around elegant Georgian neighbourhoods and narrow winding lanes of Old Town and enjoyed the slower path and more relaxed atmosphere that comes with changing seasons.
Spending yet another year without the TV
Yes, I know, getting rid of TV doesn’t change anything. Today we can watch our favourite TV shows on-demand pretty much on any device, and I am as guilty of screen addiction as anyone out there (marathoning through all six seasons of Grimm in three weeks scared the hell out of me).
The idea of getting rid of TV was something we wanted to do for a very long time, we didn’t want a living room where all the furniture is positioned around the TV. Having lived without it for a year, we are delighted with our decision as it changed our lives and mindsets forever.
It was the most productive year in our lives! We don’t feel the temptation to sink into a sofa for hours as soon as we get home from work or switch it on first thing in the morning. Our house is more peaceful, we read more, and we engage more!
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Now, over to you!
What’s your last year’s highlight? Share it in the comments below!