I was in Norway for a chance to see the northern lights but I was redirected to Sweden instead. It is a beautiful part of the world, currently a winter wonderland. The Norwegian coastal geography makes for cloudier and thus less ideal weather conditions. So, the small town of Abisko is perfect, lodged between mountains and a lake. By walking to the lake, you are already far enough from civilisation such that there is minimal light pollution. During the day, I could spend my time cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and dog sledding! I also spent time planning for my return journey home and booked multiple flights. As for the lights themselves, I got really lucky on the second night. It is different from what you see in the pictures. It is so special. I was very emotional.

After this, I took an overnight train back south, this time to Stockholm for Christmas. (Abisko accommodation bookings were tight, seeing as it was the festive season). I’ve always wanted to spend Christmas in Europe, with abundant snow and cheery lights which negate the cold weather. Christmas markets raged through the entire month of December – I found them in the north of France, in Bergen (Norway), Stockholm, as well as Brașov in Transylvanian Romania. The best selling item is definitely the mulled wine, but it is also interesting to admire handicrafts such as wreaths and figurines. In France we found metre-long crêpes. In Bergen I tried their local fish soup as well as reindeer stew.

My plan was to go home slowly, sampling each region between Scandinavia and Sydney since there was a lot of ground to cover. There remains a lot of unexplored territory for me, plus it is a good way to adjust to the time difference. I spent 5 days in Romania and Bulgaria, then flew to Dubai just in time to catch the fireworks from the Burj Khalifa! I stayed a week in the UAE, and I loved Abu Dhabi. From there was a transfer in my beloved Singapore, to Yogyakarta in Indonesia. I’d always wanted to see the unique temple architecture there, so a 5 day layover was a great strategy. Finally, I gave one day to Bali for some pampering, indulging in a massage and body scrub.

Now I am home! I’ve been busy unpacking, organising and reflecting – unpacking my mind. I did smell the smoke when I was in the airport, as well as in my room despite cleaning efforts. I gave my room decor a simpler look, perhaps inspired by Scandinavian design. While travelling you are exposed to so much input, so much chaos. At home your room then needs to be a quiet haven to unwind. In the future I would like to travel less and enjoy the life I already have at home. I have already covered a lot of ground. I can invest the money that would have been spent on travel in other ways, and have a clearer conscience when it comes to eco-friendliness and sustainability. (In the next two years the only two trips I wish to make are Japan and the Americas – I think that in total, that would make for a comprehensive enough overview of the world!)

I made 2019 my own, running up and down Swiss mountains, witnessing the aurora borealis. It was my first time properly making my own money. I discovered 24 new countries. I’ve now spent over a year away from home, cumulatively over my 22 years of life.

2020 is a clean slate for fresh opportunities. I start my Masters in a month! Let’s see what 2020 brings us.

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