This week is the third anniversary of my blog. Although an insignificant milestone for the 409 million people viewing 19.7 billion WordPress blog pages each month, I am feeling inspired and reflective. As with my 1st and 2nd blog anniversaries I have chosen twelve photos (all taken over the past year) to highlight worldwide or personal events month by month.
Thank you to all the people who visited my blog over this period. I continue to be humbled by the number of you who have taken the trouble to read, comment and contact me, offering feedback as well as their own thoughts on many a travel-related topic.
As the number of my blog posting grows (now over 150) I have been delighted to hear that they have been inspirational to people researching, planning and arranging a travel trip. The blog is after all a window into my soul, as much as a reflection on what we at Nomadic Thoughts are most inspired by.
Some of my blog postings slip by unnoticed, some attract more attention than I bargained for. Only this week I received the comment ‘Reading your blog, I just want to dive into those pools above Iguassu Fall’.
Following my talk on hitch-hiking for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Four Thought’ programme (and subsequent blog posting) I was introduced to the power of 600,000 plus listeners with all manner of comments, emails and telephone calls, including a number of angry twitter trolls.
Here are my reflections on the last twelve months. I plan to carry on posting stories on my favourite destinations, travel topics and nomadic thoughts: thank you for joining me.
1. February 2014 New Life Mexico sign agreement with Mexican Water Company Seapal.
Four years ago our grassroots charity New Life Mexico (set up and run by my sister Philippa in 2002) commenced a programme with a vision to install a water house in each of Puerto Vallarta’s 130 schools. We designed a simple structure to be rolled out in as many locations as we could raise funding for. Since then New Life Mexico has built 32 water houses, collectively producing over 37 million cups of freshwater a year.
In February we signed a partnership agreement with the local water company Seapal to continue building the water houses. Forty more water houses have been built, with a commitment to install one in every other school. Which means we (New Life Mexico, with Nomadic Thoughts running UK operations) will be ultimately responsible for annually bringing 151 million cups of fresh water to the schools of Puerto Vallarta.
Feels good, looks good and in the mid-summer heat it tastes fantastic.
2. March 2014 Outbreak of Ebola virus in west Africa.
I heard the news in March 2014, just before I was scheduled to depart on a trip to Africa. Since then the world has watched as the people of West Africa struggled with the disease. The lack of medical facilities coupled with an inadequate reaction programme has resulted in devastation in some countries.
In addition to the immediate suffering of those afflicted, many people are losing their livelihoods as thousands of tourism destinations throughout Africa have seen an almost total cessation in international visitors. As highlighted in my blog, the craziness of it is compounded by the fact that the vast majority of East and southern Africa’s tourist destinations are further away from the Ebola outbreak than most European capitals.
Photo: An African airstrip medical station, snapped in March. To me it represents how meagre the continent’s medical facilities can be.
3. April 2014 – Okavango Delta, heaviest wet season in 30 years.
The explosion of greenery visible from the plane when I flew over the Okavango Delta in March/April last year was astonishing. Having just experienced the heaviest rainy season in 30 years, the lush landscape below looked like a majestic, naturally coloured quilt. Elephant and hippo bathed in water pools, and birdlife was prolific.
Photo: of a meandering water channel, flying between Jao and Vumbura Concessions.
4. May 2014 BBC Radio 4 ‘Four Thought’ – my call to ‘Bring Back Hitch-Hiking’.
In May 2014 I was approached by Sheila Cook, the producer of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Four Thought’ programme to do a presentation on ‘travel’. After airing a few of my ideas on the most relevant present day travel issues I was asked to produce a piece on my belief that there should be a strong call to ‘Bring Back Hitch-Hiking’.
Photo: taken by BBC photographer at Somerset House just before I recorded the piece.
5. June 2014 – Charles Bridge Under Moonlight, Prague.
In May I was invited to moderate at the AITO Specialist Travel Agents Conference in Prague, a fabulous city. My trip happened to coincide with the arrival of their first blast of summer heat. The whole city threw off the shackles of a long winter as the mercury climbed into the upper twenties. Prague Twilight to Moon Shadow.
Photo: A midnight full moon flooding the old town, including the famous Charles Bridge over the Vltava River.
6. July 2014 Brazil World Cup.
This was the eighth World Cup in a row that I have attended. I visited Sao Paulo, Rio and Belo Horizonte over a ten day period; suffice to say that the country was on flying form. After the pre-tournament demonstrations and familiar montage of media gloom it was the world’s biggest party from start to finish. 10 World Cup Images you won’t have seen.
Photo: I took this photo from a Copacabana seafront roof-top looking down onto the enormous Fanzone, moments before Ghana kicked off against Germany, the eventual Champions.
7. August 2014 Hill Gathering, Brecon Beacons.
One of my favourite times of the year, gathering the sheep from high above our house Llwyn-y-fron in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. Big country, with the colours to match.
Photo: flock gathered and penned.
8. September 2014 Palace Square, St Petersburg.
In September I visited St Petersburg, just as the Ukrainian crisis descended into further chaos and confusion. International tourism numbers had already dramatically fallen, even this far away from the trouble, in particular after the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight no. MH17 on 17 July killing 283 passengers.
Photo: I took this image of a sparse, hugely under-visited Palace Square from a window on the top floor of the Hermitage Museum.
9. October 2014 Mid-West, USA.
Travelling to Russia one month and the USA the next, I was taken by how both countries appeared stuck in a time warp. Russia harped back to Soviet times with T-shirts, posters and political sentiments veering towards the ‘hammer & sickle’ style, rather than modern day hedonist ‘slap & tickle’. The US mid-West tourism industry seemed to be stagnant; hotels felt staid and old school. It was in total contrast to the vibrancy and sense of modernity one finds in Asia or Latin America. Very few people in the mid-West appear to travel abroad, perhaps as they have limited annual holiday time. Certainly in ‘tourism development’ terms there is a sense of remoteness from the rest of the world.
Photo: I took this leaning over the 300m precipice above Horseshoe Bend, Arizona. A natural phenomena that endorses my belief that the single most exciting aspect behind any trip to north America is the wondrous National Parks landscapes.
10. November 2014 Istanbul, trapdoor between Europe & Middle East.
Visiting Istanbul in November I was reminded not only of the vibrancy of this wonderful city, but also how important its strategic location is in today’s world. Standing on the street waiting to cross the road, as the infectious call to prayer echoed all around, a car whizzed by thumping out Eminem’s at top volume. Istanbul: vibrant, fun and traditional. If you haven’t been you must go. My Top 10 Istanbul nomadic thoughts.
Photo: A lady posing for her husband’s photograph just before entering my favourite building in Istanbul, the Blue Mosque. Moments later the midday call to prayer was so beautiful I considered converting on the spot.
11. December 2014 Wobbly Bridge, River Thames.
London, my home town. Always special at Christmas time. In this instance I posted a blog on the iconic River Thames walk from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge.
Photo: Midnight cyclists arriving on the Southbank from St Paul’s Cathedral.
12. January 2015 – IS who?
Who needs the barbarism of Islamic fundamentalists, derangement of Christian zealots or racist bigotry of the far right? Rock the Kasbah… living in London.
Photo: Brick Lane, East London – Islam, living in the heart of London’s vibrant and sought after area – Shoreditch.