It’s that time of year again; Christmas is over, bellies are full, wallets are empty and everyone’s making plans for 2015. At this time of year, we like to look back at what has happened in 2014 and all we have accomplished. It’s been an amazing year of travel for us through nine countries, two continents and a host of brilliant experiences.
Living and Travelling in South Korea
We spent the first eight months of the year teaching English in South Korea from January to August. It was our second time back to Korea to teach English and this time we were based in Daejeon, South Korea about an hour south of Seoul by train.
The year didn’t begin well, with Brian ringing in the New Year on crutches after a heavy fall snowboarding. However, things went from strength to strength and Korea afforded countless new experiences. In Daejeon, we tasted live squid for the first time, attended a Korean wedding and enjoyed our roles as English teachers in the public school system. We hiked in nearby Gyeryongsan National Park, took trips up and down to Seoul and went to our first Korean music festival; the Rainbow Festival. We also saw Queen (and The 1975) perform in Korea for the first time at Seoul Olympic Stadium and used our home in Daejeon as a base to explore other parts of the country.
In the south we took a trip to Yeosu, visited the Green Tea Fields of Boseong and wandered through the beautiful bamboo forest of Damyang. With a few extra days off school for Buddha’s Birthday and Children’s Day, we took a road trip to the North East of the country. Seoraksan National Park is renowned for its challenging hiking and stunning scenery and so this was a no-brainer. The east coast is home to some beautiful beaches and an oddity known as the ‘Penis Park’. A park full of phallic symbols… only in Korea! The northeast was also the location for our temple-stay experience where we meditated, chanted and learned about how life is inside a Buddhist monastery.
June brought our first visitors to South Korea. On their maiden Asian voyage, Brian’s parents stayed with us for five days. Together, we toured the sights of Seoul, took a trip to the DMZ and they were special guests at school for one day only. The kids loved it! With our time in Korea winding down it was great to have them over to see what life in Korea is like as an ESL teacher.
Travelling in Japan
This year, we were lucky enough to visit Japan, not once but twice! Our first trip was to Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital and we fell in love with the city. The city is home to thousands of temples and some of Japan’s most famous sights such as the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, the Golden Temple and Fushimi Inari. In the Gion district, we went Geisha-spotting and even had the chance to dress up as a samurai and a geisha ourselves on a rainy day in Kyoto.
In July, we were packing our bags for Japan once again, this time bound for Tokyo and Mt. Fuji. Both of us had always wanted to visit the Japanese capital and climbing Mt. Fuji had been on our bucket list for ages. The trip couldn’t have gone better really with loads to see in Tokyo, amazing sushi and hitting the summit of Fuji for both sunset and sunrise.
Travelling in Vietnam
For the winter school holidays, we took a two week trip to Vietnam. One of our best friends was visiting at the same time as part of a bigger trip and so we teamed up to explore the southern part of the country. The trip was packed full of highlights; taking a boat trip on the Mekong Delta, visiting Ho Chi Minh, exploring beautiful Hoi An and scooting around the tropical island of Phu Quoc in the south. It was a our first trip to Vietnam and we’re looking forward to getting back and checking out the north of the country.
Travelling in Taiwan
With our time in Korea behind us, Taiwan was our next port of call. Starting in Taipei, we spent three weeks travelling around the country taking in as much as we could. Taipei 101, river tracing in Hualien and scooting through the Taroko Gorge were all fantastic but the best was still to come. Renting bikes we cycled 180km to Taitung over three days. The views, the scenery and the landscape were breathtaking. That cycle trip is definitely a top contender for our best experience of the year, amazing!
Travelling in Hong Kong
From Taiwan, we flew to Hong Kong and had a few days to see what the city had to offer, and the answer? Everything! Seriously, Hong Kong has something for everyone. Temples, shrines, viewpoints, shopping, nightlife, beaches, you name it, Hong Kong’s got it. Restaurants serve food from all over the world and the standard is excellent, we even ate at our first Michelin Star restaurant for a grand total of €14.
Travelling and Hiking in Spain
Madrid was our first stop in Spain and we were really excited to be back in Europe. We had been wandering around Asia for five years at this point and so it was interesting to be on a new continent. After five days in Madrid we set off for Lugo to start a section of the Camino De Santiago. The Camino had been on our list for a while and while we enjoyed the experience, it didn’t quite live up to our expectations. With that said, we met some interesting people, visited parts of Spain we otherwise wouldn’t have been and got some exercise in the process.
Later in the year we visited Spain again from Albufeira, spending a few days stuffing ourselves full of Tapas in Seville. In a moment of madness, we rented a car and drove ourselves six hours to Madrid, went to see Ed Sheeran in concert and turned around the next morning and drove six hours back. It was a very last minute decision but definitely worth it to see Ed Sheeran live.
Living and Travelling in Portugal
If Korea was our second home for the year, then Portugal was definitely our third. After finishing the Camino De Santiago, we bussed it to Porto and began our Portuguese Road Trip. From Porto we drove the coast to Lisbon, stopping at Nazare, Peniche and Ericeira en route. In Lisbon, we met up with our friends Mike and Linda, who were holidaying there and wandered around the windy, steep cobblestone streets of the capital before flying to Ireland.
In November it was back to Portugal again, but this time to live in the small town of Albufeira on the Algarve. Our sole reason for setting up in Portugal was to get work done on this website. However, with stormy weather, electricity cuts and a generally terrible experience, it didn’t work out as well as we had anticipated. Despite the tough conditions in Portugal, we did get Wandering On redesigned and we visited some of the other towns close by. Just before leaving, we took a little road trip to Sagres, the most south westerly tip of Europe. That trip and the trip to Seville in Spain were the highlights of our time in Portugal, no question.
Travelling in Poland
When we were still living in Korea, we booked tickets and flights to see The 1975 in Warsaw Poland. Performing in a small venue in the Polish capital, we took our chance to sneak backstage and managed to meet the band. And then we met them again at their tour bus after. It really couldn’t have gone any better. From Warsaw, we flew to Wroclaw to the west and hung out there for a few days. Wroclaw gave us a different perspective on Polish cities and we enjoyed looking for the little gnomes hidden all over the city.
Home To Ireland
Noelle’s sisters wedding was our main reason for coming home this year and we had a blast at the wedding. It was great to catch up with family and friends and spend our first Christmas at home in three years. There’s no doubt Christmas is the best time to be back home.
Looking back it has been an incredible year for us and we can’t wait to see what 2015 will have in store. First stop for us this year will be Sofia, the Bulgarian capital to continue working on our website, experience life in Bulgaria and get in as much snowboarding as possible. From there, we’re not sure what’s going to happen but one thing’s for sure we’ll be wandering on.
Here’s to you…
We want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported us in 2014, all the great people we have met on our travels and through our website.
Thank you so much for reading, liking, commenting, tweeting, sharing and getting involved in what we do. It’s your continued support that keeps us motivated to bring you stories, tips, videos and photographs from around the world.
Now, it’s over to you. What were your highlights of 2014? What are your plans for 2015? Let us know in the comments below and all the best to everyone for the New Year.
Latest posts by Brian Barry (see all)
- A Guide to Cycling Taiwan’s East Coast: Hualien to Taitung - 31 August, 2016
- 2 Days in Kuala Lumpur: 15 Things To Do - 22 July, 2016
- 27 Photos of Morocco to Inspire Wanderlust - 27 June, 2016
- 33 Things To Do In Cork City: A Local’s Guide - 10 June, 2016