Our Sapa Selfie

2015 Travel Round-up

2015 has been a year of two very different halves for us; the first spent in Asia, the second in America and the UK. We lived in Vietnam’s crazy capital city, Hanoi, where we saved over £14,000 (and nearly lost our minds!) by teaching English. We relaxed on beaches in Thailand, house sat in London, toured South Wales and took the best road trip ever through New England in the USA. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas in Blighty for the first time in nearly three years, here’s our 2015 travel round-up.

Us eating ice cream in the UK

2015 Travel Facts and Highlights

Let’s start with some fun facts, highlights and top posts from 2015:

– This year we earned £21,100 by teaching English in Vietnam. Thanks to the amazingly low living costs in Hanoi, between £700 and £800 per month, we managed to save over £14,500 of our earnings.

– Although we were abroad for nine months of the year, we took just five flights (costing £1,499) and visited four countries (Vietnam, Thailand, the UK and the USA) in 2015.

– Our three-month trip to the USA cost £7,890.

– Some of our most popular blog posts this year were:

What’s it actually like to teach English in Vietnam?
How we’ve survived travelling as a couple
Teaching English in Vietnam: pay, visas and finding a job
How we can afford to travel full-time
What’s the cost of living in Vietnam?
Reflections on life after two years of travel

Vietnamese Student

– Here are some of our top travel highlights from 2015:

Road-tripping through New England
Hiking through the rice terraces of Sapa
Visiting one of the largest cave networks in the world
Our luxury stay on the island of Koh Chang
Celebrating the TET New Year holiday in Vietnam

– The worst moments of the year:

Crashing our motorbike and scarring my knee in Vietnam
My traumatising first teaching experience
Finding out we’d been driving illegally in Hanoi

Road Rash from a motorbike crash in Vietnam

Our Crazy Life in Hanoi

Sat here in the middle of a grey December day in the UK, it’s hard to believe that we spent the first five months of 2015 living and working in Hanoi. Our days were a whirl of boisterous kids and lesson planning, singing songs and playing games; we drove a motorbike through throngs of beeping traffic to work, bought mangos everyday from the market and became a part of the community through working at local government schools. When we weren’t teaching we were wandering the maze-like streets of the Old Quarter, having dinner with friends in our favourite Hanoi restaurants, strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake, having foot massages and chilling out in our apartment.

Eating Spring Rolls in Hanoi

Sunset in Hanoi, Vietnam

We kicked off 2015 with a weekend escape to Cat Ba Island and celebrated the Vietnamese TET New Year in February with visiting friends from the UK. We took the night train to Sapa, a mountain town surrounded by never-ending rice terraces which I fell deeply in love with, and cycled around Vietnam’s oldest national park: Cuc Phuong.  The remaining months of the academic year were tough as we became disillusioned with the Vietnamese school system, crashed our motorbike and struggled with illness after illness and the general chaos and pollution of Hanoi.

Rice Terraces in Sapa, Vietnam

A boat floating down the river in Tam Coc

Despite the tough times, when the school year ended I was awash with conflicting emotions; I was relieved to finish work and excited to start travelling again, but I was also incredibly sad to say goodbye to the kids at school, the friends we’d made in Hanoi, our apartment and the city we’d come to call home. During our last few weeks in the country we explored the spectacular countryside retreats of Mai Chau and Tam Coc and visited the most incredible cave system we’ve ever seen in Phong Nha-Ke-Bang National Park. At the end of May we flew away from Vietnam having made some incredible memories, friendships and over £14,000 in travel savings.

Hanoi's Old Quarter at night

Street barber in Hanoi

Recovering in Thailand

Hanoi took a hell of a toll on our health and we arrived in Thailand in June physically and mentally exhausted. From Bangkok we headed a few hours south straight to Koh Chang, a less touristy island we’d never visited before. It was low season and incredibly quiet, so we had the resort pool almost entirely to ourselves and were given a free upgrade to a luxury villa with a sea view. We started to eat and sleep properly again, clear the Hanoi smog from our lungs, tan our pale bodies and slowly come to terms with saying goodbye to our life in Vietnam.

Sunset on White Sand Beach in Koh Chang, Thailand

We couldn’t leave Thailand without revisiting our favourite haunt: Chiang Mai. We love this northern Thai city and over the past few years it has become our Asian home, the place we retreat to periodically to recuperate from our travels, work and stuff our faces at all our favourite vegetarian restaurants and the Sunday Night Market.  We have many happy memories of hanging out with visiting family and friends in Chiang Mai, renting an apartment, volunteering at the nearby Elephant Nature Park and celebrating Songkran.

The Pool at TOP Resort, Koh Chang

Our two weeks in Chiang Mai this summer whizzed by in a blur of tasty meals, long afternoons at the swimming pool, walks around the old city and general relaxation. At the end of June, after the most incredible two years of my life, we bid an emotional farewell to Asia; leaving was especially poignant as we have no idea when we’ll be back in this corner of the world.

Us in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Summer in the UK

We spent July and August back in the UK, visiting all our favourite people and places and plotting our autumn trip to the USA. We stayed with my family in Southampton, went sightseeing around Andrew’s home turf in Wales and took trips to Devon and our University City, Bristol. We also spent a fast-paced week in London cat sitting and catching up with friends.

Sheep and Coastline in Wales

Three Months in the USA

This autumn we took a long-awaited trip to the USA where we hired a car for eight weeks and drove through New England; from Massachusetts through New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine. We took a detour to see the mighty Niagara Falls and a day trip to the sought-after summer getaway, Martha’s Vineyard. We drove along Cape Cod, toured Ivy League Universities, learnt about the American Revolution, hiked, biked, kayaked, leaf-peeped, ate and pretty much had the time of our lives.

Catching a Red Sox Game at Fenway Park

fall foliage in New England

The last month of our USA trip was spent exploring some major cities; Philadelphia, Washington DC and New York City. These visits were full of history and museums, iconic landmarks and non-stop city sightseeing; while we had a great time we were also exhausted by the end of it. Our final week in America was spent with Andrew’s relatives in New York, where we experienced our first incredible Thanksgiving.

Jamaica National Park, Vermont

Lighthouse in South Portland, Maine

A couple of weeks have passed since we returned from the USA and I still can’t stop thinking about the amazing experiences we had there, especially during our road trip in New England. As each day passes I fall more in love with the memories of our time there; the long drives through forests, the golden autumn leaves, the wonderful people we met, the craggy Maine coastline, national parks and delicious food. In particular, I cannot shake my love of Vermont, a state I vow to return to one day.

Headlight Lighthouse, Cape Cod

Us at Billings Farm in Vermont, New England

Christmas in the UK and beyond

So here we are in December, back in the UK and ready to enjoy the festive season with family. As I write this, Andrew is on a train bound for Wales,  while I’ll spend Christmas in the South of England surrounded by my family, their pack of eight hounds and my boisterous, lovable nephew Alfie.

My nephew visiting Santa

This is our frst Christmas in the UK in almost three years and although I never used to enjoy the holiday much when we lived here, I now find myself delighting in the festivities; tree decorating, taking Alfie to see Santa and eating lots of delicious Christmas food, including tons of mince pies!

Happy Christmas Everyone! Stay tuned to hear about our exciting travel plans for 2016.

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15 Comments
  • Louisa Klimentos
    Posted at 01:46h, 18 December Reply

    You both have had an incredible year and many more to come ,love always Louisa

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:51h, 18 December Reply

      Thanks Louisa, I hope you have a great Christmas and even better 2016!

      • Louisa Klimentos
        Posted at 22:48h, 21 December Reply

        You too Amy ,have a great Chritmas and the best new year ever and keep travelling .Please send my love to Andrew and your families.I wish you both or the happiness in the whole wide world,love Louisa

        • Amy
          Posted at 10:45h, 22 December Reply

          Thanks Louisa 🙂

  • Elisabeth
    Posted at 14:21h, 18 December Reply

    Hi guys. I really enjoed reading this summery of your year. Looks like you’ve continued to have an amazing time since we met in Hanoi. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    • Amy
      Posted at 14:51h, 18 December Reply

      Thanks Elisabeth, we have had an amazing year and I can’t believe how the time has flown since we met you guys in Hanoi! It looks like you’ve had an awesome year too, have a brilliant Christmas and New Year 🙂

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 09:29h, 20 December Reply

    Hi Amy, you and Andrew certainly have had an amazing year and covered a lot of ground. I hope your knee is now fully recovered from that nasty bike accident? Sounds like leaving Asia was bitter sweet for you both and no doubt a very memorable experience of living as expats in a very exciting part of the world. You are very near me here in Southampton, so if you and Andrew have any spare time before you head off to the next adventure do come over for dinner, it will be lovely to meet you, also you are very welcome to stay for a sleep over, I promise no bed bugs hahaha. We are off to Edinburgh for Christmas. I wish you both a very Merry Christmas and can’t wait for your 2016 adventures?

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:58h, 20 December Reply

      Hi Gilda, yes, we are so lucky to have had such an amazing year. I still have a scar on my knee from the accident, a nice reminder of life in Hanoi! Thanks so much for your kind invite, we would love to meet up with you at some point, perhaps when we’re back to visit around Easter time (if you’re not away travelling of course!)? Have an amazing Christmas in Edinburgh – I love that city! Happy New Year too 🙂

  • [email protected] The British Berliner
    Posted at 08:36h, 23 December Reply

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts guy. You’ve had a really wonderful, yet exciting year and and may you have more of the same! I look forward to reading what 2016 has in store for you.
    I’m sure next year will be even better lol! 🙂

    Have a great festive season with you and yours xx

    • Amy
      Posted at 14:19h, 23 December Reply

      Thanks Victoria, it has been a great year. Festive wishes to you too and I also can’t wait to follow your travels in 2016 🙂

  • Pingback:We’re Moving to Spain! 2016 Travel Plans - Our Big Fat Travel Adventure
    Posted at 11:15h, 01 January Reply

    […] flights to Spain are booked, but we have few concrete plans for 2016. We did learn a lot from our journey in 2015 though;  we want to strike a balance between work and travel, between living in one country for a […]

  • Jimmie Petré
    Posted at 11:48h, 06 January Reply

    Hello Andrew and Amy!
    Just came across your wonderful blog while looking for inspiration for my upcoming SEA trip. Definitely going to look at more of your past posts.
    Wish you a great 2016. 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:06h, 06 January Reply

      Hi Jimmie, thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you have a great trip and if you have any questions about planning or the places we’ve been to, just let me know. Have a great 2016 too 🙂

  • Izzy
    Posted at 10:10h, 18 January Reply

    This post has introduced me to a wealth of information and resources! I just love how detailed your posts are and it seems like you two have a great future ahead of you as a traveling couple. My boyfriend and I are looking into jobs in Vietnam right now so we’ll check out all the related posts. Come check out my travel round-up and let’s talk about doing a collaboration post in the future or something!
    http://thenextsomewhere.com/2016/01/02/2015-travel-roundup/
    Cheers! Izzy 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:45h, 18 January Reply

      Hi Izzy, thanks for reading and commenting, I’m glad you’ve found our site useful. Are you thinking of moving to Hanoi? Let me know if you need any help, I’m happy to answer questions. Yes, I will come and check out your travel round-up 🙂

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