It is probably absolutely ridiculous to post an annual review of 2015 on the 21st of January 2016 but different than in 2013 and 2014 I didn’t manage to write my end-of-the-year wrap-up for 2015 still in the old year.

This January I already achieved my first goal for 2016 and moved my blog from Bluehost to Hostgator. During the transfer process, it is not advisable to publish any posts or reply to comments because any content published during the transfer process might get lost. Huge thanks go to Conny, a lovely lady from a German WordPress & SEO help group on Facebook, who made a complete backup of my blog, and to the guys of Hostgator who transferred my website and helped me to change the domain name servers. Without these people, the transfer of my website would have probably never happened because I only know little about these things. Now there is only one last thing to do and I hope this won’t cause any problems.

However, I don’t want to forbear to write my annual review because, like many other travel bloggers, I love these posts. Although 2015 wasn’t as spectacular and exciting as 2013 and the last five months of 2014 were, 2015 still had several highlights.

March: Dubai & Beijing

In March I spontaneously booked a flight to Beijing with a 28-hours layover in Dubai. I had lots of miles on Emirates and I could only use a large number of them on bookings till the end of June otherwise these miles would have expired. The alternative would have been “to go shopping” in the online Emirates shop, not really an alternative for someone who is as passionate about traveling as me.

In Dubai, I attended a heritage tour through the Al Bastakiya neighborhood of the Al Fahidi historic district including a visit to the Diwan Mosque and a get-together at the „Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding“ with Arabic tea, coffee and dates, the opportunity to talk and to ask further questions. Just like during most of my stays in Dubai, I also spent some time in the Dubai Mall area, in downtown Dubai, where the Burj Khalifa and „The Adress Downtown Dubai“ hotel are located which burned on New Year’s Eve 2015.

Heritage tour Al Bastakiya Al Fahidi Dubai United Arab EmiratesOur local guide during the heritage tour

Al Bastakiya Al Fahidi Historical District Dubai United Arab EmiratesAl Bastakiya neighborhood

Diwan Mosque Al Bastakiya Al Fahidi Dubai United Arab EmiratesDiwan Mosque

Sheikh Mohammed centre for cultural understanding Al Bastakiya Al Fahidi Dubai United Arab EmiratesArabic coffee, tea, dates, and talks in the “Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding”

Burj Khalifa Dubai Mall Dubai United Arab EmiratesBurj Khalifa at night

Dubai Fountain Dubai Mall Dubai United Arab EmiratesDubai Fountain

“The Adress Downtown Dubai” Hotel (left) and the neighboring souk (right)

Later that evening I got picked up from my hotel with the Emirates limousine service and was taken to the airport. I couldn’t use my miles on Emirates to pay for my flight but I could use them to upgrade one leg to business class. So I chose the Dubai to Beijing leg because firstly it was a night flight and secondly it was operated with one of their A380s. I got pampered in their business class lounge and in the business class during the flight. It was really a special experience although I also enjoy flying in their economy class.

Business Class Lounge Dubai International Airport Emirates Business Class Lounge at Dubai International Airport

Bar Emirates A380 Business Class Bar in the Emirates A380 Business Class

In Beijing, I spent some time with Leon, a local friend, and I got the chance to explore a few of the hidden corners of the city with him which I would have never found by myself, and to indulge in some of the best local foods. In short: I just had a great time.

Time with friends tea break in a hutong Beijing ChinaTea break in a Hutong in Beijing

Local life Hutongs Beijing ChinaLocal life in the Hutongs

Shichahai Beijing ChinaShichahai

I also spent a lot of time in the Hutongs of Beijing and revisited my favorite temple in Beijing, the Lama Temple aka Yonghe Gong. I discovered the quite unknown Guangji Temple which is home to the Buddhist Association of China and was a new temple for me, wandered through Qianmen street for the first time and headed back to Liulichang street for a deeper exploration.

Locals Hutong Beijing ChinaLocals in a Hutong in Beijing

Lama Temple Yonghe Gong Beijing ChinaLama temple aka Yonghe Gong

Guangji temple Xicheng district Beijing ChinaGuangji temple in the Xicheng district

Liulichang street Beijing ChinaLiulichang street

Qianmen street Beijing ChinaQianmen street

Despite wandering on the restored Mutianyu section of the Great Wall twice in 2013, hiking on the unrestored Gubeikou Great Wall, and encountering the abandoned westernmost section of the Great Wall in Jiayuguan in 2014 I still can’t get enough of this infamous monument. So I took a day trip hiking from Zhuangdaokou to the Walled Village. As the spicy food lover who I am, I attended a Sichuan cooking class in Beijing and learned how to prepare a few of the local dishes of Sichuan province. I also participated in a tea tasting where I was introduced to six different categories of tea according to color and harvest process. Furthermore, I took a free Mandarin trial lesson in a Chinese language school and I hope to learn some Mandarin this or next year.

Great Wall Zhuangdaokou Beijing ChinaGreat Wall at Zhuangdaokou

Sichuan cooking class Beijing ChinaSichuan cooking class

Sichuan cooking class Beijing China

Tea tasting Beijing ChinaTea tasting

April: the Netherlands & Spain

In April I got the opportunity to meet Leon in Breda in the Netherlands. We both loved the city and I was amazed at how beautiful my neighboring country is. Apparently, I should go there more often.

One and a half weeks later I flew to Barcelona where I spent 24 hours exploring the city before heading to Lloret de Mar at the Costa Brava for a travel blogging conference called TBEX. It was my first travel blogging event ever and it was amazing to meet hundreds of travel bloggers from Europe, North America, and Australia. The speakers, the keynotes, the sessions, and the closing party were fantastic. Although I had read the blog post of another travel blogger about her first TBEX beforehand I was quite unprepared so I missed the Pre-BEX and the Post-BEX tours, Travel Massive at TBEX, and the opening party. But I swore to myself that this wouldn’t happen again when attending my next TBEX.

Palau de la Generalitat Placa de Sant Jaume Barcelona SpainPalau de la Generalitat at the Plaça de Sant Jaume

Plaça Reial Barcelona Catalunya SpainPlaça Reial

La Deessa Placa de Catalunya Barcelona SpainLa Deessa at the “Plaça Catalunya”

TBEX Europe 2015 Lloret de Mar Costa Brava SpainMeeting Dale and Franca, two fellow travel bloggers, at TBEX

TBEX Europe 2015 Lloret de Mar Costa Brava SpainPosing with artists

TBEX Europe 2015 Lloret de Mar Costa Brava Spain

Late summer: taking a TEFL course

In late summer I finally took the TEFL course I had planned to take for quite a while. At first, I wanted to take this course on-site in Beijing but in 2015 all courses there didn’t take place and the courses in the other locations I had considered were either full or the dates didn’t suit my personal schedule. So I chose a 120-hours online TEFL course which I successfully completed on 6th October with a grade of A and an overall score of 98.58 percent.

I finally got my TEFL certificateGetting my TEFL certificate

TEFL certificate - Vanessa Schade, Germany

October: Bangkok

One week later I flew to Bangkok where I attended TBEX Asia, my second TBEX, and the first TBEX which was ever held on the Asian continent. This time I joined it all: Travel Massive at TBEX, a Thai Spa visit as a Pre-BEX activity, the TBEX opening party, the keynotes, the sessions, and the closing party. At the conference were travel bloggers from Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, Europe, and North America. I met several bloggers again who I had met at the conference in Lloret de Mar, quite a few who I only knew from their blogs by then, and many who I didn’t know before. After the conference, I spent a few extra days in Bangkok and finally visited the Royal Barge National Museum, something I had planned for a long time. I returned to a few of my favorite places in the city, stayed at my favorite hotel and just enjoyed my time in Bangkok.

Travel Bloggers at TBEX Asia 2015 in Bangkok (Copyright: Art)Travel bloggers at TBEX Asia in Bangkok

Myself at TBEX Asia in Bangkok (photo taken by Alice Nettleingham of Teacaketravels)

Muay Thai boxer at the closing party of TBEX Asia 2015 at Muay Thai boxers at the TBEX closing party

Prayer ceremony Golden Mount Bangkok ThailandPrayer ceremony on the Golden Mount

Menam Chao Phraya river Bangkok ThailandMyself at the Menam Chao Phraya river

November: Jordan, Middle East

In November I spontaneously traveled to Jordan in the Middle East. I spent some time in Amman by myself but chose an adventure tour to explore the rest of the country. Our local guide was a hilarious Jordanian guy named Ayman from the capital Amman and my fourteen travel mates came from Canada, the US, Mexico, Italy, the UK, Belgium, and Germany.

We wandered through the largest and most well-preserved Greco-Roman ruins outside of Rome in Jerash, took a bath and floated on the surface of the Dead Sea, and visited Mount Nebo, the Madaba Mosaic Map in Madaba, and the crusader castle in Karak. We experienced Petra by night and hiked through almost the whole sandstone city of Petra by day. We explored the desert of Wadi Rum by 4×4, by camel, and on a night walk, and experienced both, sunrise and sunset at different locations in the desert. In Aqaba, we hired a yacht for a day on the Red Sea where we swam, snorkeled, and relaxed before returning to Amman the following day. We slept in hotels and in a Bedouin tent camp in Wadi Rum. Besides the 4×4, camels, and walking we used a private bus for transportation. After the tour, I spent another full day in Amman by myself before flying home to Germany.

Greco-Roman ruins Jerash JordanGreco-Roman ruins of Jerash

Siq Petra Wadi Musa JordanThe illuminated Siq

IMG_1915_bearbeitet-2The Treasury, Petra

Sanstone city Petra Wadi Musa JordanSandstone city of Petra

Wadi Rum JordanWadi Rum

Camels Wadi Rum JordanCamels, Wadi Rum

Roman theatre Amman Jordan Middle EastRoman theatre, Amman

December: joining Travel Blog Success

In December I purchased the main and another course of Travel Blog Success and registered myself for an online search engine optimization (SEO) course but due to a busy month of December and because of the transfer of my website from Bluehost to Hostgator I haven’t started any of these courses yet. But this will be one of the next things I will do once the transfer of my website is completed.

2015: a diverse year

2015 was a diverse year! Now I hope that 2016 will hopefully be as great as 2013, the second half of 2014, and parts of 2015 were. I hope for a lot of time with friends from home and abroad, lots of fantastic experiences, and more amazing and memorable travels.

Although the year has already started three weeks ago I wish all of you a happy and healthy new year 2016!

How was your 2015?

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