I fell asleep with local rum and Spanish music in Nicaragua when the calendars flipped to 2015. The year feels like a racy dream – from the Himalayas to the Caucasus, from working on a vineyard in Germany to going vegan in New York, from living with nomads in the Mars-like desert of Jordan to watching a meteor shower in the cracked salty desert of Gujarat. These moments of incredulous beauty and serendipity filled me with an inexplicable love for the road.
Behold, my 2015 in a nutshell:
The Caribbean spirit: Trinidad & Tobago
I knew nothing about the West Indies (well, except cricket) until I actually landed in Trinidad, thanks to an incredibly cheap flight from New York. And it was an instant love affair. Trinidadians have the coolest accent I’ve ever heard. We had pristine white sand beaches all to ourselves, pigged out on Caribbean-Creole-Indian influenced food like “Buss Ab Shut”, and hiked in the mountains of the indigenous herb-growing Paramin community.
Giraffes in my backyard: South Africa
I was a bit bummed out when my first South Africa trip, planned by South African Tourism, didn’t include a wildlife experience. But they sprung a last minute surprise that had me staying at the Dinokeng Game Reserve, and when I stepped out of my room in the evening, I saw a family of giraffes hanging out in the bush nearby. I gazed into their gentle eyes, and they into mine, and the rest of the world just faded away.
See: Incredible Moments in South Africa
Life through the lens of an Italian artist: Umbria, Italy
On an unexpected solo trip in Italy, I booked a last minute Airbnb – the dreamy home of an Italian artist on the countryside of Umbria. He invited me to a lazy Sunday brunch of stone oven pizzas, in the 100-year-old country home of his friends, charted out little known bicycle trails for me and encouraged me to crash neighbourhood gatherings. Those sunny post-siesta afternoons, chatting in broken Italian over homemade strawberry cake and coffee, surrounded by olive trees, was straight out of an Italian dream.
Read: Living With An Italian Artist in Umbria
Delving deeper into the heart of Kumaon: Uttarakhand
I accepted an invitation to stay at Itmenaan Estate in Kumaon, unaware that they had planned a 40km hike through remote villages for me. I’m not much of a hiker, but decided to take on the challenge – and away from civilisation and connectivity, it turned out to be an introspective journey into a region I love so much. By day, I walked with my guide through terraced fields, sleepy villages and deodar forests, and by night, we lit a fire and swapped leopard stories and village gossip.
Read: What the Village Folk of Kumaon Taught Me About Life
A world connected only by water: Spreewald, Germany
I thought I knew Germany. Then I discovered a little-known region with villages connected only by water – Spreewald. I navigated the water “streets” with a kayak and map, and saw cops patrolling by boat, a yellow postal boat delivering mail, charming houses with river-facing mailboxes and locals fishing in their backyard. What a life!
Read: First Time to Germany: Practical Tips to Plan Your Travels
Cycling to the Russian border: Georgia
When my friend scored an internship in Georgia, I jumped at the idea of rubbing shoulders with the mystical ways of the Caucasus region. Hiking through dreamy meadows in the backdrop of snow-capped glaciers in Kazbegi, starting the morning with a traditional shot of homemade whiskey in Racha, the fierce way of life in Svaneti – it felt like another world. Then we cycled past vistas straight out of a Lord of the Rings movie to the border of Russia!
Read: Go to the Causcasus Mountains, Find Your Soul, Set it Free
Kayaking in the backdrop of an active volcano: Nicaragua
Nicaragua and I got off on the wrong foot – visa troubles, terribly cramped chicken buses, an epic new year plan gone wrong. Then a 16 hour ferry journey deposited us on the stunning Ometepe Island, and kayaking on Lake Nicaragua in the surreal backdrop of Volcan Concepcion and Volcan Maderas finally made me befriend this strange country.
Read: Isla De Ometepe: Where the Streets Have No Name
Falling in love with Himachal Pradesh again
After two years of feeling too weary of the changes that have gripped Himachal Pradesh, I was so glad my friend discovered Jibhi – a little village where Himachali culture and pristine mountain life still survive. Our abode, the incredible mountain home of a young couple, was the cherry on the cake.
Serendipitous friendship: Orjan, Jordan
Finding soul connections in unexpected corners of the world is what keeps me on the road. And so it was in Orjan, a small village of olive groves and apricot fields tucked away in the remote north of Jordan. Maysoon, who’s family we stayed with, invited me into her life with open conversations on relationships and the role of women in Jordan, shared traditional family recipes, and made me realise how similar we all are at heart.
Read: Meeting the Real Nomads: The Bedouins of Wadi Finan
Working on the vineyard of a wine merchant: Lorch, Germany
On my mission to discover #NotJustBeer in Germany, the tourism board set me up with the Rossler family – wine merchants from the little village of Lorch, who grow and make their own Riesling. I joined them for a day of work in the vineyards, pruning mature vines, cleaning the ground for younger ones, and well, learning just how much work goes into a bottle of fine wine.
Read: Incredible Ways to Experience the World of German Wines
Susagade in the rains: Goa
Goa in the rains has become my annual ritual, and what can I say? I fall deeper in love every time.
Read: Offbeat Goa: 12 Mind-Blowing Experiences
Unexpected love: Tbilisi, Georgia
I’m not much of city person, but I fell so in love with Tbilisi that it was hard to tear myself away. I crashed my friend’s loft, loved buying fresh produce at the supermarkets (everything from fresh oregano to hand made pasta), never once felt cheated in a taxi even on a late night at the train station, got invited to a traditional supra in the house of a Georgian family, and felt right at home despite how hard the language is.
Read: If You’re Looking for the Shire, Come to Georgia
Turning vegan in New York
So, after a dozen years of being vegetarian, I decided to go vegan this year. The reasons and challenges are for another post, but buying, cooking and eating vegan in New York City was such a delight that I can’t wait to go back.
See: Could Dying Be Beautiful? Fall Colors in New York City
Solitude in the mountains: Dominican Republic
On an impulsive solo trip to the Dominican Republic, I found myself high up in the mountains of a family-owned eco lodge. The nearest village was 3km away, the caretakers only spoke Spanish, and I had an entire forest to myself – sometimes, that’s the kind of solitude I need to understand my own thoughts.
The Geminid Meteor Shower: Little Rann, Gujarat
After catching the bright green Gemenids on a dark night in the sandy Rajasthan desert in 2013, I wanted to be somewhere far with clear skies this year – and decided to finally travel through Gujarat. For 3 dark nights, from the roof of a watch tower in the Little Rann, I spotted long tail, strange, orange meteors in the sky, among a thousand shooting stars, as foxes and jackals howled in the distance!
The calendars flipped to 2016 at an off-the-grid hideout in the rice paddies of Sri Lanka, with locally brewed Arrack and Sinhalese music. I can’t wait to find out what this year has in store for me.
What were your favourite travel memories of 2015?
Connect with me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to join my adventures virtually.
Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, instagrammer, social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes in the transformative power of travel.
Happy New Year 2016
Keep writing ! Keep inspiring !
I have huge crush on you. 😀 keep writing. keep travelling. God bless you !
Sounds like you had a great year and ticked off some must travel destinations on my list! I definitely want to head to Georgia and Trinidad and Tobago sometime soon 🙂 Zara says your blog makes her feel peaceful. Sounds like a pretty good compliment 😀
Aww, I love that compliment 🙂 I’m sure you’ll LOVE Georgia and Trini, two of my absolute fav places this year!
Such an accomplished year Shivya. 🙂 I love that your write from the heart and it reflects in the writing.
Thanks so much! I’m glad it shows a bit 😉
Hi Shivya have a nice day you are good and great i want meet to you.
Great moments. Full story is very inspiring for the travelers.
Hi Shivya! Happy new year and hope you have another year of interesting travels and adventures 🙂 I have read some of your posts and it always makes me wonder how you manage to visit places or find home stays that are uncommon and of the ordinary. Would love to know how you go about your research and your pre-travel preparations.
Thanks Parul! The short answer is pouring in hours of research on google. The long answer I shall blog soon 😉
Hats off Shivya.
this is just so special. what a wonderful year you’ve had. 🙂 Happy New year
Amazing. Love your work and travel as always. You will have an awesome 2016
Such a treat to read your posts. I almost feel like I’m living your experiences, as I read them. Keep going, girl!
Thanks Pavithra, glad to hear that!
Looks you got so many things to do…. Apart from that you are having courage to say NO to daily job and traveling the beautiful world.
Keep it up, would like to meet you somewhere in some corner of the world, and love to listen your travel stories….
Hope our paths cross sometime Rahul!
You are a true inspiration. Hope to travel the whole world one day.
Wow what an amazing set of experiences those are! Cant wait to travel with you through 2016. 🙂
Always enjoy your virtual company, Chaitali!
Keep going and Keep inspiring Shivya!!! You already have written awesome memories!!
I am just in love with that picture of Georgia. Another addition to the list !! Keep inspiring me !!!
Awesome Awesome. Place you visited looks unique and not yet explored much. Hope 2016 will take you to more lovely and unique destinations and eagerly waiting to read your stories.
I envy you each time I read your blogs.Keep writing 🙂
Your journey of 2015 is very inspiring and motivating. I have fallen in love with the beautiful clicks of Trinidad, Italy and Germany. Goa is one of my favourite destinations in India, I visit Goa whenever I have a few free days in hands. Very inspirational blog, loved it!!
This is very cool. I want to travel when I become more mature. Would you mind reviewing my blog? I am a newcomer and accept constructive criticism…
As usual you do in your own unique and enviable style!!! 😉
accidentally came to your site and as i am going through your travelling adventure and you travelling stories. you are inspiring me to travel. well not the world but some place obviously..