It feels like a hot minute since I left my full time corporate job in Banking and I can’t believe I have already hit my two year Freelance anniversary!
Since my last update on my 1 year anniversary , I had my first solo working trip abroad to Bangkok and Bali, before I was joined by my family in Thailand for a family wedding. I also had my trip of a lifetime which I won last year as part of the UK Post Office Blog Awards, to India, and in particular it was to retrace my ancestral roots in Rajasthan.
In the interest of trying new things and stepping outside of my comfort zone I also dabbled in Video presenting and took a surfing lesson!
I stepped up my involvement in Wildlife Conservation and other CSR initiatives and was shortlisted for more awards, which kept my motivation going.
I have also increased my client portfolio, smashed my own personal goals on income targets and we managed to buy our second property earlier this year.
As well as the highs, there have been some aspects which were initially harder to adjust to when it came to being a solopreneur compared to being in full time employment such as working alone at home, remembering to take time off so I don’t overwork, remembering to invoice clients on time to make sure I was paid, keeping money aside for the tax bill and also the fact that there is no-one to cover my work if I fall ill and so the work has to go on!
It has been an eventful, fun and action packed time and I have absolutely loved every minute.
Starting with travel, I was grateful to have had lots of exciting trips both in the UK and abroad, and here are some highlights.
I returned to Bali for my first ever solo trip as a digital nomad and I absolutely loved my time there. This time I stayed at The St Regis Bali and I had a great time with amazing hospitality, the food, weather and managed to have the perfect balance between working and relaxing.
I loved this trip, especially as due to the time difference I was able to spend most of the day relaxing or exploring before the UK woke up and then I would do my client work before dinner time.
You can read about my stay at The St Regis Bali here.
You can read about my suggestions on things to do in Bali here.
We had a big family holiday in Thailand this year, as well as it being the start of my solo trip. This time I revisited Bangkok, and new parts of the country to me were Khao Lak and Phuket.
In Bangkok I stayed at:
In Phuket I stayed at:
Cyprus is known as the island of love and the mythical birthplace of the Goddess of Love – Aphrodite. It is no wonder that when people visit Cyprus the first time they fall in love with this beautiful Mediterranean island, just like I did when given the opportunity. I am actually headed back there this December for a family holiday.
You can find my Cyprus Travel Guide here.
The dream invitation popped in my inbox to visit the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, a family owned, independent, artisanal cheddar cheesemaker in the village of Cheddar to learn all about the process of ‘Cheddaring’ as well as tried lots of Cheddar cheese.
It was amazing and I would highly recommend visiting their store to purchase some of their fantastic cheese.
You can read all about it here.
My penultimate trip of the year was to Fuerteventura, a Canary Island, where we explored the island as well as learned how to surf, which was so much fun and my first time!
Read about it here: Fuerteventura Travel Guide
The last trip of 2018 was to Murcia over Christmas, where we explored the town, visited the Christmas markets, then ate, drank and chilled by the beach, having a very relaxed trip.
In February, fellow freelance friend Emma and I headed out to Valencia for a city break and were blessed with warm weather and an apartment close to the local market, which was a delight – all that fresh orange juice just on our doorstep alongside other amazing produce.
Read about our trip here: Top 10 things to do in Valencia
In February I also headed home after almost 2 years and spent some quality time with family in both Nairobi and Mombasa, as well as attended the wedding of our dear sister in law.
March was the month I was most excited about – I was finally getting to go on my trip of a lifetime, which was my prize for winning The Post Office Blog Awards in July 2018. I went with my dear friend Priyam and we landed in Delhi and then travelled to Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Mumbai, and made a special stop in Osian, which was part of my quest to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors.
You can read about my India Itinerary here: https://www.binnysfoodandtravel.com/2019/04/29/my-india-itinerary-delhi-jaipur-jodhpur-osian-ranakpur-udaipur-and-mumbai/
You can read about Osian here: https://www.binnysfoodandtravel.com/2019/04/19/retracing-my-ancestral-roots-in-osian-the-gateway-to-the-thar-desert/
I had a quick 24 hour trip to Amsterdam with Holland America Line to celebrate their newest ship. Highlights included visiting the Rijks Museum and eating at the Michelin starred restaurant Rijks.
Over Easter bank holiday Amit and I headed over to Bradford-on-Avon for the long weekend and had an incredible time with great weather, visiting National Trust properties and soaking up the sunshine.
We stayed at Widbrook Grange which I highly recommend, and it is a dog friendly hotel. Read about it here: https://www.binnysfoodandtravel.com/2019/05/01/a-staycation-in-bradford-on-avon-at-widbrook-grange/
By now you know I loved food themed press trips and so when I was invited to attend the Grenada Chocolate Festival in June it was a massive yes from me, and what a trip it was! If you are planning to visit the Caribbean, would highly recommend Grenada and if you can time your visit with the Chocolate festival, it is truly an amazing experience.
Read about the festival here: https://www.binnysfoodandtravel.com/2019/06/12/the-grenada-chocolate-festival-2019/
My friend Sima and I also headed for New York in June for a holiday which involved sightseeing, rooftop bars, gourmet food and lots of shopping! It was a fantastic girl’s trip and we are already planning to go again next year!
Read about our trip here: https://www.binnysfoodandtravel.com/2019/07/08/5-days-in-new-york-the-ultimate-guide-on-what-to-see/
The week we got back, Sima and I also headed to Studley and stayed at Studley Castle, an adults only hotel by the Warner Leisure Hotel group and where you can do lots of activities, watch live performances, go to the Spa and have a fantastic break.
We tried our hand at Archery which was another first for me and something I absolutely loved!
No year is complete without a trip to Devon, and we headed to Plymouth and stayed at Boringdon Hall which was just superb. They have an excellent Spa, fantastic food (the 7 course tasting menu is really special) and it is the perfect escape for some R&R.
You can read about it here: https://www.binnysfoodandtravel.com/2019/09/08/hotel-review-boringdon-hall-hotel-the-enchanted-place-on-the-hill/
Coventry may sound like an unlikely place to head for a staycation but the Laura Ashley Tearoom was an excellent reason, especially as it had just been awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in the Afternoon Tea Awards 2019.
We stayed the night having a girls night in there and it was buckets of fun!
Paris is always a good idea and in mid- September Emma and I headed there on the Eurostar, Croissant and Prosecco on hand, and had a wonderful time eating and drinking before taking the train to Reims and Epernay for a press trip to the Champagne region.
The Champagne region has always been on my wish list and an opportunity for a press trip presented itself and I have literally just gotten back and will be writing about it soon. We visited both Reims and Epernay, both within easy reach of Paris, and had a wonderful time tasting various Champagne from different houses and seeing the buzz during harvest time.
I stepped majorly outside my comfort zone and presented in two videos in collaboration with Chef Signatures and Aqua Shard and Hutong, both located in The Shard, which by now, it is a running joke that I live there.
The first video can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3YuvTrPWpM
You can watch the Aqua Shard video here:
I also got to have a cooking class with the legendary Ken Hom which was out of this world – what a lovely chef!
This year I have gotten more involved in wildlife conservation initiatives and a highlight was meeting Born Free Foundation’s President Will Travers earlier this year at an event to launch an amazing initiative called ‘Raise the Red Flag’ where you can report unethical animal activities around the world on an interactive map. Find out more: https://www.bornfree.org.uk/raise-the-red-flag
Watch this space for projects coming up and details on how you can help.
I was excited to be shortlisted as ‘Travel Influencer of the Year’ at the Blogosphere Awards 2019, and I attended the ceremony which was amazing.
I have just been shortlisted as a finalist for the Asian Media Awards 2019 for ‘Best Blog’ and will be attending the ceremony in October.
Corporate Social Responsibility
I have been putting my writing skills to use and helping Dream Come True by writing up articles on completed dreams for their blog which has been a grounding experience as well as something I have really loved doing. Dreams Come True helps children and young people with serious and life-limiting conditions to fulfil a dream.
I have also been helping to raise awareness of Born Free Foundation’s initiatives which has been great for me, especially learning all about their projects at the same time.
A new initiative I have committed to help with is ‘Happy Mums, Happy Tums,’ a campaign between October-December 2019 to support maternal health projects in Sierra Leone with Health Poverty Action, so there will be more on that soon on my Social Media channels.
Coming up is a trip to Lisbon, Hamburg and Cyprus as confirmed trips, and possibly another long haul trip.
I have just taken on a new client and so I am settling in to a new routine with that, which is exciting!
New blog posts coming soon will be about my Champagne trip as well as Wildlife themed ones.
Finally, I will be attending the Asian Media Awards and so will be sure to cover that on my Social Media Channels so be sure to follow along!
Thanks for reading and all the support so far and here’s to the next year of freelance life! xx