Ukrainian Flag at Tomorrowland Winter

Year in Review

Memories from 2019

Travel Map 2019
My Travel in 2019

Another bumper year for travel and life goals this year. My annual travel stats from TripIt and Google Maps tell me I’ve visited 10 different countries, 52 cities and travelled almost twice around the world in distance. Not quite as far as last year, but still pretty impressive!

My business continues to do well and Convert Case is still growing with over a million page views a month and now makes up a good chunk of my income.

January

January started with the usual Ukrainian New Year and Christmas celebrations until the 7th January. To be honest it all got a bit too much with the endless celebrations, so we decided to escape for a few days to Warsaw to meet Yuliya‘s friend. Of particular note in Warsaw was the interactive pinball museum called Pinball Station. As you’ll have guessed by it’s name, you can play Pinball. You just pay an entry fee and all the machines are in free-to-play mode. You can also try some craft beers at the same time so it makes a great evening activity.

Pinball Station in Warsaw
Pinball Station in Warsaw

March

We love skiing and dance music, so when we first heard about Tomorrowland Winter, we just had to go. After 3 flights to get there and a 3 hour bus journey, we arrived to Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps for a week of skiing and dancing. The week of non-stop fun resulted in 100kms of skiing, a treasure hunt around the local villages, hours of late night dancing in our ski costumes and getting rescued by a snow cat from the top of the mountain after bad weather closed all the slopes.

During March, we also visited Copenhagen for a long weekend for Yuliya’s Birthday. Highlights included a food tour, various castles and an art installation in a flooded underground sewer were you had to wear a pair of wellies to enter.

Flooded Sewer Art Installation
Apparently this is Art

May

As I keep spending more and more time in Ukraine, I decided to invest in buying an apartment in Kyiv, the capital city. It’s a brand new building ad we’ll live on the 23rd floor with great views over the exposition centre.

The buying process has been very insightful with a steep learning curve of local regulations, processes and the realisation of the slowness of how things happen. Maybe even a little stressful sometimes. As of writing this, we’ve still not moved in as they are still finishing the inside, which I guess is the nature of new builds.

Standard One, Kyiv
Our New Apartment Building

During May, we also launched Kyiv Guide to the public providing information on the city, it’s transport, attractions, restaurants and bars. It’s still in the early stages of it’s life and there’s a lot of work to do to add more content.

June/July

As part of Kyiv Guide, we found a unique Disc Golf experience on Airbnb and decided to have a go at this new sport.

Disc Golf in Kyiv
Disc Golf Experience

My friend and designer, Jamie also visited for a weekend for a concert and we gave him the full Ukrainian experience with a BBQ and vodka in the village. I’m sure he enjoyed it if he can remember what happened.

Ukrainian Experience in the Village
A True Ukrainian Experience

Yuliya came to the UK again for a month and we had a road trip across the country to Liverpool to see the home of the Beatles and experience glow golf. We also visited Hogsmeade station from the Harry Potter films.

My friend Lesya invited us to Amsterdam too for her birthday and we had a great time with them on their first time in the city. We even tried the swing on the top of the A’DAM Tower, not so scary at all.

August

When travelling to Ukraine, like the European Schengen zone there is a strict rule that says you can only visit for 90 days every 180 days which started to become a problem for me, especially with the new apartment purchase and having to be around to sort out any issues and sign documents, etc. I needed to look for ways of extending my stay in Ukraine.

Earlier in the year a Swedish guy living in Kyiv, Jesper wrote to me on my Travel & Code Instagram and we decided to meet up. He explained how him and his wife have a Temporary Residents Permit by volunteering in the city. While not a cheap process, it was fairly easy so I decided to apply myself.

The hardest part was getting a visa as you need to travel out of the country to get one. Our lawyer advised us to go to Krakow to get a same-day visa as it was the quickest place and easy to get to. We had an appointment at 9:30am at the consulate, but didn’t get in until around 1pm. It turns out all appointments are ignored on certain days and when you arrive you need to write your name on a paper list and queue. How modern!

Queue at Krakow Consulate
Queue at Krakow Consulate

While in Krakow, we also visited Energylandia, a fairly modern theme park, 1 hour from the city. There’s a waterpark and they have various themed events through the year like a beach disco when we were there. Highly recommended for children.

September

Earlier in the year I found a cheap flight deal to Thailand via Dubai and decided to book it not understanding that in Thailand in September it’s the rainy season. The advantage though was that it was less busy than in the peak season and hotels were cheaper so we managed to score an infinity pool village for a great price. We did get a soaking once, but generally the weather was still hot and most rain only lasted a few minutes.

Infinity Pool in Ko Samui
Infinity Pool in Ko Samui

On the way back, we stayed in Dubai for a week. Again, another weather issue with temperatures around 40 degrees making it hard to stay outside for more than a few minutes at a time. This didn’t deter us and we spent lots of time in Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, Desert Safari and the Atlantis Waterpark so still plenty of things to do. Next time, we’ll check the weather first before booking!

October/November

Amazon Warehouse Tour
Amazon Warehouse Tour

Another visit back to the UK before Yuliya’s visa expired. We visited one of the 22 Amazon warehouses in the UK for a free tour. It’s well worth checking out. We also went to a York Maze Halloscream with Matthew and his family and his under-aged son for some 14+ scare maze action which was much better than our previous experience at Thorpe Park a couple of years ago.

December

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to my childhood cat Cleo after short illness in December. She was around 16 years old, so had a good life, full of love and attention from my family. It was a sad day to say the least.

Our Beloved Cleo
Our Beloved Cleo

To lift our moods a little, we went away to Dortmund to see the Christmas markets and the world’s biggest Christmas tree (actually made up of 1,700 little ones). The fireworks on the TV tower and light festival in the city park were very inspirational. They also have a medieval Christmas market, best visited at night with lights on the lake, medieval costumes and mulled wine.

Conclusion

Another great and full year despite some of the sad moments. Hopefully in the coming months, we’ll move in to our new apartment and be able to dedicate more time to improving and growing Kyiv Guide.

We already have a repeat visit booked to Tomorrowland Winter again in March and hope to welcome my Australian friend, Terry and his wife to visit us in Ukraine in April.

Published on January 10, 2020 in Travel by Jason and tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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