My 2012 travels

2012 has been an exciting year for me; I have visited as much as 20 countries and am so many experiences richer. I will sum up my travel year by showing you my best travel shots from this year, and a short story for each. I hope you will enjoy – and get inspired!

Italy – Travel Bloggers Unite conference 
This was the first time I attended a travel blogger conference, and it is for sure not my last time. This weekend was full of wonderful people, professional bloggers, representatives from the travel industry, workshops and talks from experienced bloggers. I also got a helicopter ride and a three days blog trip to discover more of Umbria. Whether you are a newbie travel blogger or have travelled for years with lots of experience – I hope I see you at TBU in May!

Mongolia Charity Rally
This summer I did the Mongolia Charity Rally with two friends. We drove an ambulance all the way from Norway, via England and to Mongolia – 18200 kilometers and 19 countries! We are proud to have not just finished the rally and made it all the way without anything stopping us – we also did a stylish charity rally I would say: we donated an ambulance worth at least 15000 Euros, and donated a total of 16200 Euros to three different charities in Mongolia. It is not easy to make a summary of such an adventure, so this is just a small part of my memories from this trip. If you want to read more, my
Mongolia Rally Diary is still in progress, and will eventually tell you just a few of my memories from all the countries I visited.

We just passed through Denmark briefly on the way to London, and spent one night with the family of one of my friends – here we proudly pose in front of our ambulance on Sæby.

We went to England to join the common start of the rally, and with us came 10 friends to throw a goodbye party and wave us safe off. I spent three days in London and a whole day in my favorite area Camden before we moved into the car for the next three months. This photo is taken at The End of the World pub in Camden.

I didn´t really get much of an impression from France, I mostly rushed along the highway, taking the fastest route to Italy. I did pass by Saint Maximine for a great evening meal and a good night’s sleep, and I also spent one night in Annecy followed by a morning walk by the lake – where this photo is taken.

In Italy we visited a rice producer who produce the risotto rice for one of our sponsors for this trip, we had a delicious Italian pizza made by a smiling chef in Torino, and we went to a winery run by two Norwegians and joined a wine tasting and some relaxing hours in their beautiful garden. We camped by the Lake Garda, and all though the rain was pouring down when we made our tent camp the next morning were nice and sunny – and we had a boat trip on the lake before we continued driving. This photo is from the wine tasting in Piemonte.

A brief impression of Ljubljana, and a stay at the Celica hostel in Metelkova, which is a social center and artist collective. In the one evening I spent here I went to the top of the hill to see the Ljubljana castle, and after a visit to the vegetable market the next day we were on the road again.

We went straight to the island Brac, along with all the other tourists. “Vacation? In an ambulance? COOL!” The conductor on the ferry was clearly envious. We stayed at a nice hostel surrounded by pink flowers, and enjoyed two days of sun, swimming and writing. This photo is taken outside our lovely hostel.

Bosnia Herzegovina
Bosnia was hot, and we passed through one of the warmest area: the town Mosti to see the famous bridge Star Mosti before we continued to Sarajevo. It´s less than 20 years since the terrible war in Bosnia ended, and scars from the war is still visible in the capital. If you ever go here, I suggest you go to the Tunnel Museum, which will give you a great overview of the newer history of Sarajevo.  This photo is taken in the center of Sarajevo.

This is a country of beautiful nature, and we drove up into the mountains to see the peak which this country is named after, and we had a boat trip on Lake Skadar – a protected wild life park with 260 species of birds. This photo is taken by the shore of the lake by the village Vipazar.

The first country which was kind of “different” from the rest of Europe, and I loved it – probably because it reminded me of Africa. The Tirana backpacker hostel was a great place, and so the tiny restaurant Oda which we stumbled upon in an alley. They had two hand written menus, and a lot of exciting vegetarian options.

Macedonia showed us its hospitable side when we arrived late in Struga and the hotel was full. A friend of one of the guests had a room for rent, and we got it for the night.  We got a taste of the market in Struga before we continued, and then we visited the winery Popova Kula in the small village Demir Kapija. The village was too small to have a hotel, so the next morning people passing by the public park was very curious about the three tents in the village park – with a big yellow ambulance parked beside!

My friend The Chef is obsessed with Greece and Greek food, and was very excited to pass through. We were all very excited when we got the chance to cook for the guests in the hostel we stayed at, and in exchange we stayed for free and a chance to wash our clothes. We had great company of the Norwegian woman running
Kairos Gardens in Eleftheres and the big group of Norwegian women who stayed there.

Turkey Istanbul with its buzzing streets and exciting markets, visiting an old couchsurfing friend and meet his family, a swim in the Black Sea in Amasra, a visit to Safranbulo where I found my lovely Turkish tea pot, and a stay in Göreme, the most fascinating landscape I´ve ever seen. I loved the food, the people, the fake live size police cars made of cardboard along the roads – and I had an amazing hot balloon ride over Cappadocia by sunrise.

Iran is a country a lot of people fear before they have been there – I fell in love with it. From the moment we crossed the border people were all helpful and treated us nice, and off course they giggle of us struggling to keep the headscarf in place all the time. I had a friend in Teheran who picked us up, showed us the markets and took us around in the big city, and introduced us to her friends and showed us the private side of Iran. Esfahan was a lovely city, and camping in Filband with our new friends was amazing.

It was not easy to get a visa to Turkmenistan, and by the time we got it in Teheran it had already started running. We had four days to get from Teheran to the border of Uzbekistan, and one of them we chose to use camping in Iran. We spent 56 hours in the car, and did not see much of this country. What we noticed though, is that all the wealth is concentrated in the capital Ashgabat, and as soon as you leave the big city the country is pretty poor. The roads were bad, and we counted three road signs as we crossed the country.  This photo is the entrance gate to Ashgabat.

Lovely country! Bukhara was full of history and fascinating buildings, and on the way to Fergana Valley Oman stumbled upon us in a cross road while we were busy photographing a cute boy in the sunset. He was a lucky 14 year old boy getting the chance to take English lessons, and he was so happy to have a chance to practice that we were invited to his house for dinner, a good night´s sleep and a wonderful cultural experience. This is truly a hospitable country!

Osh was full of other travelers, most of them by bike. The mountain roads over to Bishkek showed us the wild side of the country, and we got the first glimpse of the nomads and the yurts. In the beauty beside Lake Toktogul I celebrated my birthday, and in Bishkek I almost drove myself to tears signing up for a week intensive course in Russian – but I somehow got through it. I stayed in the most wonderful hostel of Sabyrek, and spent my evenings chatting with other globetrotters in the garden every night. The photo is taken by Lake Toktogul.

Almaty was a lively city; we met two other travelers and lived life with soviet champagne and good food. A talkative guide took us to Charyn Canyon, and we visited the very special grave yards of Kazakhstan. I learned from the Kazakh police that the words “straff” is pretty international, and got three tickets due to the lack of a Kazakh insurance. Astana is a truly magnificent city. The couple who sold us the insurance when we finally found an “office” turned out to give it to us for free, and served us a delicious lunch in addition. Kazakhs are friendly, but the police are pretty annoying. This photo is taken in Astana center, and the other one on the “beach” of the hostel we stayed at outside the city center.

In Russia I visited the town of Barnaul, and we had some nice walks on the market which was situated right next to where we stayed. We went bananas in the big supermarket, buying a lot of local dished and had a Russian tapas party in the room. The nature between Barnaul and the Mongolian border was just amazing, and with the autumns colors setting in we enjoyed some days of camping in the wilderness of southern Sibir.

We finally made it past the last border check, where we camped for one night at the border station to get our car through. The “roads” where just crazy here, and we drove navigating from the sun and the Mongolian GPS: Ger Positioning System – stop at any ger and ask for directions! After eight days of driving through desert, mountains and wild rivers surrounded by camels, goats and herders we finally made it to our destination Ulaanbaatar, where we donated the car and lived the Mongolian city life enjoying good food at restaurants, singing karaoke with local friends and I really enjoyed the Gandan Monastery with its enormous Buddha. The photo is taken at the Mongolian four field “highways”.

Netherlands – meeting spotters from all over Europe
When Spotted By Locals started their city guide in Oslo more than two years ago I was one of the spotters who joined them – and I like it so much that I still continue writing about my favorite spots in Oslo. This November all spotters were invited to Amsterdam by Sanne and Bart (the funders) – and I met almost a hundred wonderful writers from all over Europe. It was a great chance to see Amsterdam from the “inside”, it was inspirational, it was fun – and it was some great parties on the sail boats we stayed at! This photo is taken by Maarten van Poll for Spotted by Locals.

Western Norway – Christmas vacation at home
Going home for Christmas is one of the highlights of the year, when all of my family are gathered at home. Chrismtas is what it is always about for us: spending time togehter, and off course way too much food. I also had a trip to the mountains to my uncle`s cabin, which is built on the ground of the old mountain farm where my grandfathers family are from. I`m certainly not a big fan of snow – but I have to admit: it is beautiful!

That´s my 2012 travels in a very short summary, and I think also 2013 will be a very exciting year for me. My plans so far are to do the MatadorU travel writing course this spring and I will attend the TBU blogger conference in May. I have some dreams and thoughts on making some quite big changes in my life from this autumn, but they will be kept a secret until all is set!

What is your highlights from 2012?


About the Author Elin

I´m an Oslo based web publisher with passion for communication, travel and a green lifestyle. When I travel, I prefer to go slow, sustainable, and “live like a local”. Why slow? It is about challenging the cult of speed, and to enjoy the small things in life and to live in the present.

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