With only a couple of days left until my 40th birthday I wanted to take some time out to reflect on the adventures I’ve been on this year. You see I made the decision in January (hey I like to plan in advance!) that rather than celebrate my milestone birthday with a big party, instead I would challenge myself to 40 days of holiday before the big day. And OK sure, hardly the biggest challenge in the world I know (other than financially, jeez it’s been an expensive year!), but it’s certainly been eventful. There have been ups and there have been downs and it has enabled me to explore the world with my family and create some incredible memories that will stay with me way longer than any party.
Here’s a round up of my #40daysofholiday challenge…
Iceland (7 Days)
Iceland has long been on my travel bucket list and back in February half term I decided this was the perfect location to kick start my challenge. Described as the land of fire and snow, Iceland is a country like no other, and the best bit for us was that we had proper full on snow – something my daughter had never fully experienced before. Although rather ironically when we came back to the UK it decided to dump a load on us… seriously you spend all that money on a snowy holiday and that happens… flippin’ marvellous!
We stayed in a self catering airbnb apartment in the centre of Reykjavik and hired a car so that we could explore things on our own terms. We swam in the Blue Lagoon at night, we trekked through underground ice caves, we saw geysers, waterfalls, seals and ummmmm lots of penises (yep we totes dragged our kids around a Penis museum…. well it’s educational ain’t it 😉 ) We ate soup out of giant bread rolls, whale meat, fermented shark, crepes, waffles and love balls (nooooo not that kind!). We had snowball fights, made snowmen and snow angels and got caught in a snow storm. We spent a LOT of money – not gonna lie Iceland is flippin’ expensive (£60 for a house bottle of wine eek!) but boy did we have fun!
To read more about my time in Iceland read my blog post – Travels in Iceland #40daysofholiday
UK Road Trip (15 Days)
In theory a road trip around the UK should have been hell. All that time spent with two kids cooped up in a car was almost definitely asking for trouble. But no, it just worked. And if I had to choose which of my holidays this year was my favourite, I think I would have to choose this one.
We travelled from our home in Petersfield, Hampshire up to Telford, Cumbria, Glasgow, the Scottish Highlands, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Nottingham and then back home all within the duration of the Easter holidays. It took a lot of organisation – booking different accommodation (we stayed in everything from a yurt, fancy hotels, Travelodge’s and a wooden hut by the side of a loch), booking activities (we jumped off waterfalls, we climbed up and across waterfalls, we did an Escape Room, explored the underground city in Edinburgh, watched Dancing on Ice, saw Loch Ness, drove through the snowy Highlands, and so much more. But the best thing about it for me, other than climbing the waterfall which was one of those life moments where you just think wow, was that we got to spend quality time together as a family and for the most part all managed to get on with one another!
If you’d like to read more about our UK road trip check out my blog post My A to Z Guide To Surviving A UK Road Trip With Kids
Dubai/Singapore/Bali/Kuala Lumpur (11 Days)
This was the biggie. The one I’d been looking forward to for so long. We all had. But then it went wrong, very wrong!
This was the first time we’d taken the kids long haul, but having coped OK on the road trip we figured they were of an age that flying outside of Europe wouldn’t be a problem. Especially when it involved flying with the likes of Emirates and Singapore Air – ummm hello posh nosh, ALL the films, and a blanket and eye mask (everyone loves an aeroplane eye mask right!)
Dubai was as expected: hot, glamorous, opulent, excessive and super luxurious. We stayed in the Atlantis Palm for three days and basically swam (when it’s that hot you either want to be in the water or in an air conditioned building!), ate, drank and lorded about thinking we were all that. The kids loved the over the top buffet breakfast, maybe due to the fact there was a chocolate fountain and mountains of sweets, and us adults loved cocktail hour. We shopped in the mall, stood beneath the tallest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa) and we went on a desert safari and ate an Arabian feast watching belly dancers and fire dancers as night fell around us.
Singapore is a great city; so clean, the people are friendly, getting around is easy and the food and culture is beautiful. Aside from a bit of confusion over our hotel room (for some reason they’d reserved us a room with only one double bed) which we managed to eventually get sorted, our Singapore experience was great. We had arrived there just as the country was preparing for their National Day celebrations which meant there was more of a buzz than usual and we got to see fireworks and air displays that wouldn’t have normally happened. We all loved the food, in particular the cheap and oh so tasty dishes from the Hawker Centres where all the locals go to eat. I loved seeing the kids faces as they took in how different everything was – the temples, the way people spoke, the signs written in symbols they didn’t understand, the hubbub of the markets and the smell of the durian fruit. This was our hectic city part of the holiday and four days was enough, next up was the relaxing part, the part where we could just chill out around our own pool and do things on our own terms.
So on to Bali, where we had booked a three storey self catered townhouse style villa on a hotel complex in the middle of jungle in a part of Bali called Ubud. If we thought Singapore had been busy, that was nothing compared to getting from the airport in Bali out to the jungle. Pure chaos and thank goodness we didn’t have to drive ourselves. However when we arrived in Ubud, apart from the rain, it was everything we could have hoped for. Monkeys in reception, drinks handed to us on arrival, beautiful accommodation with our own infinity plunge pool overlooking the jungle – pure heaven. And it was all good, until that evening when we sat down for dinner in the restaurant and suddenly the room began to shake.
I’ve never experienced an earthquake before, but let me tell you it is proper poop your pants scary, especially when you’ve got kids with you. The staff rushed us all outside screaming ‘Earthquake, earthquake, quick get out, NOW!’ and we were terrified. However as quick as it started, it was over and other than a mild aftershock, that was it. Obviously shaken, we sat down to dinner and tried to laugh it off to calm the kids, but as the evening wore on we relaxed and figured it was a one off.
That night we all slept in the same room, just in case.
The following day all seemed fine. We had breakfast, we explored the jungle and the rice fields, swam and started to get into tropical holiday mode. Dinner went by fine and so again we assumed that was it for earthquakes. The decision was made that the kids would share a room with us again, they were still a bit nervous and the room was massive so it wasn’t a problem. That night a storm came, as did the earthquakes. From 11pm, on the hour every hour we had more earthquakes and with the storm blowing outside and with the roof starting to leak, I don’t think I have ever been more afraid. Here was us, stuck in the centre of Bali, in the jungle, in clearly a not very well made house that was in the middle of a hill and for us to get to safety would involve us climbing up a lot of stone staircases. You can’t help but think the worse. So as the kids somehow managed to sleep, the hubby and I made the decision that we just needed to get out of there. And what made it even scarier was that as we looked for fights, they were literally disappearing before our eyes – everyone was having the same idea!
There are no direct international flights from Bali, planes only fly within Malaysia, which is why we had added Kuala Lumpur to our itinerary. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any availability on the Kuala Lumpur flights and we were left with one option – to fly to Jakarta, stay there the night then catch a flight back to Singapore and then get a connecting flight to London. We had no choice.
2 days later after surviving some quite frankly terrifying car journeys with no seatbelts, taxi drivers that spoke zero English and drove like absolute madmen, staying in the slums of Jakarta and having to book another hotel at Singapore airport because of a massive delay, we eventually made it home. Exhausted, sad that our holiday had been cut short, paler than when we left and with empty wallets from having to buy all the extra flights and accommodation, it was not the holiday we had hoped for. But we were home, we were alive and we were safe. And that was all that mattered!
New Forest (3 Days)
After the traumatic and downright disappointing end to our big summer holiday it only felt right that we attempted to end the school summer holidays on a positive note. And so we decided to book a last minute weekend away at Sandy Balls in the New Forest. Tropical it is not, but pretty much comes with an earthquake free guarantee so ya know gotta look at the perks right!
Simple always works best in my eyes and whilst a static caravan isn’t exactly my idea of the perfect holiday, spending time in nature most definitely is. And oh my goodness we were so lucky with the weather (well we all were this summer weren’t we!). Three gorgeous long hot sunny days playing football, trail running, having water fights, playing family Nerf gun wars and Zorb football (basically playing football while encased in a giant inflatable see through ball and yes me and the hubby were the only adults joining in – jeez what is wrong with people?!?!). Literally perfick!
We arrived feeling knackered, stressed and sad that the summer holidays were coming to an end and we left feeling happy, refreshed and glad to be getting back to a bit of normality again. Just what we needed after everything we’d been through in Bali.
Disneyland Paris (4 Days)
This one was all about sharing the big 4-0 with one of my besties who also had her big birthday this year. We wanted to do something together that was fun, a bit different and had a challenge element to it. Basically we wanted something that we could look back on and smile about. So we thought about doing something huge like trekking Machu Picchu, hiking along Hadrian’s Wall, doing the Three Peaks Challenge… and then I stumbled across the RunDisney half marathon and bingo that was the one!
4 days at Disneyland Paris, 2 day park access, Disney cowboy themed hotel, a chance to dress up and run around the parks and then get the most awesome medal ever to take home with us…. ummmmm hello, how could there ever be any other option?!?!
It was epic, like truly, truly EPIC! And definitely something I will never, ever forget… in more ways than one.
Highlights included getting over my fear of rollercoasters by jumping in at the deep end and just bloody going for it. OK, OK so I was heavily persuaded by my mate who managed to convince me to go on the Hollywood Tower of Terror with the understanding that if I did she would forever refer to me as Becky ‘the legend’ Stafferton. I mean what can I say… I’m easily pleased 😉
And well after you’ve been on one rollercoaster you’ve kinda been on them all right? But that still didn’t stop me being a complete and utter big girl’s blouse, screaming like a banshee, and manically repeating ‘oh no, oh no OH NOOOOOOO!’. I hated it and loved it all at the same time – it was a 100% Marmite job.
And then there was the race itself which was unlike any I have ever run before. Characters, amazing crowd, running through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (I know!), and the medal oh that gloriously heavy, blingtastic medal.
Read more about my Disney adventure in my blog post How Disneyland Paris Changed My Opinion Of Half Marathons.
Woburn Forest (3 Days)
And just because I hadn’t tallied up my days properly and I was worried I hadn’t quite made it to 40, we decided to book a last minute break to Centerparcs. Turns out I would’ve been OK, but hey I’m totally into this holiday lark now and the kids had an inset day so it made total sense!
A wooden lodge complete with wood burner, a forest bedecked with twinkling Christmas lights and decorations, a massive swimming pool with outdoor rapids, badminton, mini golf and a pedalo. An awesome end to what has been a fantastic year of holidays.
In total I managed 43 days of holiday this year and got to see and experience some amazing and incredible things – as did my family the lucky blighters! For me this year was about doing things that took me out of my comfort zone, opening my kids eyes to the wonders of the world, sharing my love of travel and new adventures and spending time away from screens and daily routines. Call it a mid-life crisis if you like, but if a mid-life crisis involves a ton of holidays and heaps of fun then I say BRING IT ON!
43 days later, earthquakes, a broken shoulder and a LOT of extra travel arrangements my challenge is complete!
Now, I wonder if I’ll get away with 50 days of holiday in ten years time….