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My Top 11 Posts of 2014

Paris - photo by Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog travel blog

2014 is the year that I've really gotten into travel blogging. It's the year that I've transformed Second-Hand Hedgehog, from something I used to dip into occasionally, into a real commitment. And so far, I love it. 

I've had some incredible trips, and it's been great to be able to share them all on the blog: I've explored Paris some more, spent a bit more time wandering round London, been to the Isle of Man, had a brief stint in Croatia; I've rediscovered more of the Lake District, as well as venturing a bit beyond to Richmond in Yorkshire, and Heysham and Carnforth in Lancashire; I also visited Cornwall for the first time, and spent time in Cromer, exploring the Norfolk Coast. And in just a few days, I'm off to New York. 

So I thought it was only fitting to share with you my Top 11 posts from the year. (It was supposed to be my Top 10, but I couldn't quite choose.)

My Top 11 Posts of 2014:

I was quite pleased with the title of this post, in that annoying sort of way some people have of being pleased with themselves. Sorry. 

But the reason it makes this list is that the incident involved proved a point to me: if you live your life being too afraid to take chances, then you miss out on some spectacular experiences. 

'A life lived in fear is a life half lived.'

St Mary's Benedictine Church, Zadar, Croatia - photo by Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog travel blog

By the time I visited St Ives, I was ready for a break. I'd worked flat out over the summer, and I was desperate to get away from it all and explore somewhere new. What I found in St Ives was something the art world has known for ages: a visually arresting coastal town, with its own special quality of light, and a laid-back atmosphere that just made me shrug away all my problems.

I hope that the photos in this post go some way towards explaining what I mean by that. 

St Ives - photo by Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog travel blog

I didn't actually visit Dubai this year. In fact, I haven't visited since 2007. It's just taken me that long to come out with what I really thought of the place. As you can see, it isn't wholly positive. 

For me, it's important that I keep this blog honest. What's the point of writing at all if I'm only going to give half the story? Why share the positive bits if I don't also delve into the uncomfortable truths?

Dubai didn't cut it for me - but that's ok. You can't fall in love with every place you travel to, and as they say: there are plenty more fish in the sea.

Dubai skyline - photo by Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog travel blog

The best hostel I have ever stayed in. Bold, chic design. Free WiFi. Breakfast included. Fabulous views. And incredibly helpful staff. 

Unfortunately, I now set this as the benchmark for every hostel I visit, meaning that everywhere else inevitably falls short. Oh well. I guess that's the price you pay for a few nights of luxury-on-a-budget. 

View from the Boutique Hostel Forum, Zadar, Croatia - photo by Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog travel blog

My travel preferences have changed, but I used to do quite a lot of small group tours. They can be fantastic ways of seeing a new place and getting to meet a whole bunch of new people. 

But, like any occasion where groups of people are involved, things can get unpleasant if you have tricky personalities on board. This post is a few tips on how to avoid that, based on my own experiences. 

New Zealand Adventure Tours group

Ok, so that thing I said earlier about not lying on the blog? This post is the exception to the rule. 

As every little Australian can tell you, Drop Bears and Hoop Snakes are not only Australia's deadliest creatures; they're also about as real as the Loch Ness Monster. I wrote this post as a kind of spoof, but what tickled me was the number of people who actually fell for it. 

Who knows? Maybe one day I'll find myself face to face with the Abominable Snowman. 

[no photo - obviously]

There are some places that are just beautiful, that take your breath away with the vibrancy of their colours. Plitvice Lakes National Park was one of these places. Everywhere you turn, it looks like one of those screensaver shots you get on new laptops - probably because it is. You've probably seen photos of Plitvice Lakes, even if you don't know it. It's utterly stunning, and somewhere I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone. 

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

This was possibly the highlight of my year: my grandma was named in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. She received the BEM (British Empire Medal) for services to Oxfam, where she has worked for over 30 years, since she retired (she's currently 94). She was presented with the medal at Bath Pump Rooms, and I was thrilled to go along with her. 

British Empire Medal

In the day-to-day bustle of work/sleep/food, it's easy to forget that time is running out. It's also easy to forget how quickly the world can change. But when I was in Norfolk earlier in the year, I got to see it with my own eyes: huge sections of coastline that had fallen into the sea; half-houses clinging to the clifftops; gaps on the prom where beach huts had been washed out to sea. 

Happisburgh Lighthouse embodied all of this. The sea is huge and powerful and dangerous, and all we can do is shine our lights out across it, until the water consumes even those.

Happisburgh Lighthouse, Norfolk - photo by Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog travel blog

Terrifying, exhilarating and downright mad. This was my unexpected adventure during my trip to the Isle of Man over Easter. It was a fantastic island, and my new favourite place to recommend to people. It's definitely one of those under-visited places, and the Chasms was my favourite place of all. It just shows that, sometimes, it's good to get off the bus at the wrong stop. 

The Chasms, Isle of Man, UK - photo by Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgheog travel blog

This post is at number one because it sums up where I am in my life at the moment: the balance between my desperation to go out and travel the world, and my desire to accomplish other things in life as well. It's like a see-saw. Sometimes one wins out, sometimes the other. For now, I'm working hard on both fronts (tiring, but hopefully rewarding in the long run).

But life, as they say, is an open book...

Yasawa Islands, Fiji - photo by Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog travel blog

I hope you enjoyed my favourite eleven posts from 2014. Which is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below - and here's to another great year in 2015! 

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