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What travelling taught me in 2015

I started this post wanting to remember where I had travelled in 2015, but then I found myself questioning why I had travelled and what travelling taught me. I started reading more widely about the art of travel and picked up some brilliant quotes. Who would have thought Dr Who would put it all in perspective?

Visiting HOVIC in Kenya, a comic relief funded project

Chatting to Nancy, photo by Annie Spratt


1. Kenya, with Comic Relief. 

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
Edward Everett Hale

This was my third trip to Africa, with Comic Relief. Our visits to projects were longer and much more immersive. We understood more and could ask better questions. We overheard death and witnessed newborn babies being vaccinated. We danced with street children, met David Walliams, and made porridge under a tree in a village in the middle of nowhere.

Visiting a Comic Relief funded project in KIsumu, Kenya with David Walliams for Red Nose Day 2015 Launch-2

Travel changes you, and your priorities. Back at home, so much of life in the UK seemed inconsequential, and I knew I really wanted to help others much more. On the flip side, Africa influenced me so positively, I became more aware of the pitfalls in so called advances, like technology. The women we made porridge with had been through so much, illness, poverty, grief, yet under a tree, watching children and goats wander round, with no internet access I was strangely liberated, joining a community to do something collectively was a moving experience.

I can’t wait for Comic Relief fundraising to start again, it is Sport Relief this year and Team Honk have great plans!


2. Cardiff, Visit Wales

“We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good, you’ve got to keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.”

Eleventh Doctor Who

I learnt that my kids were growing up faster than I realised. Filming an online advert for Visit Wales at the Doctor Who Experience introduced us to Dr Who, who ‘time travelled’ us into new family territory, all four of us hiding under a throw watching episodes of Dr Who. That place where parenthood and your own childhood collide.

Some of my travels this year were time travels, to remember those people I used to be, much of it reminded me how fast time is travelling and helped me find the ways to put the brakes on – by creating memories and trying new things – life moves slowly for children because everything is new.

THe Dr Who Experience Cardiff Bay-5


3. The Water Tower, Cheddleston, Staffordshire.

A well-ordered life is like climbing a tower; the view halfway up is better than the view from the base, and it steadily becomes finer as the horizon expands.

William Lyon Phelps

I had to throw that quote in, as life was so chaotic at this point, and I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, but as the year unfolded, order returned and I can read this quote and nod along a bit more sagely now.

Perhaps the most bizarre place I have ever stayed in, and one that needs to be written up still. Time with the girls from Uni, in a Victorian Gothic Water tower, friends who remind me to create perfect situations, embrace fun and conquer new and quirky places to stay.




4. Dungeness, Kent, for Dad’s 70th

‘I need Vitamin Sea’

Dungeness – Britain’s only desert – is a place I have visited before, but I am always moved by it’s other worldliness, facing the sea there feels like being on the edge of the world, it’s a place I have shared with only a handful of very special people.

The Thatched Barn in Kent taught me to pull my wider family close and to make new memories. I loved spending time with my brother and family and my Dad as he turned 70. My kids love being with their cousin B.

Dungeness, Kent-4


5. Bunny Wood, Nottingham

I realised nature was ‘my religion’, and that my kids were finally at the age where we can tackle proper walks.

Bunny Wood - 12


 6. North Norfolk, Visit North Norfolk

‘The journey of life is sweeter when travelled with a dog.’

It’s amazing how much a weekend can transform you as a family, and great when Max the dog can come too. Pubs, walks and cafes  – nowhere could be more dog, and wriggly child friendly, than North Norfolk.



7. Forge Cottage, Kent, Snaptrip.

‘Nature is the best playground’

Magical memories of days spent roaming wild outdoors as the sun blazed down, on the heath and on the beach. We spent part of Easter in Kent, staying opposite an amazing heathland, while Mr A worked away. Chips on the beach as at the sun set will never be forgotten.



8. Sherwood Forest, Experience Nottingham

‘Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky’

Kahlil Gibran

This was the trip that gave me roots, that made me feel at home in Nottingham and made me see my home city with fresh eyes. I still can’t get over how old the Major Oak is, this began a fascination with trees, and history.

Sherwood Hideaway


9. Dad’s House, Macclesfield

…and she got off at Macclesfield
The Trainspotter of Love by Henry Normal

A quick trip to stay with Dad while he had a routine op. The train journey across the pennines from Nottingham to Cheshire was stunning. This was the year I remembered how much I love this green and pleasant land, and how much I love learning about travel and the world from Dad too.



10. Lake District, Sykes Cottages, May

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” (Dr. Seuss)

The life affirming Lakes taught me the magic of achieving things as a family, of having common goals. Goals that nowadays are no longer as basic as remembering nappies, getting out the house on time, or managing a day without a melt down. Climbing Loughrigg Fell with the dog was a hugely unifying family adventure. I don’t think I have felt happier on holiday, we had a secret wedding too…

Family break in the Lake District - 08


11. Thorpe Cloud, Derbyshire

I wandered lonely as a cloud…

William Wordsworth

Blogging has felt incredibly scattered this year, as the landscape changed rapidly, I spent a lot of time trying to work out where I belonged and what I wanted to be – at times I wondered if I wanted to blog at all –  but I was reminded to try to keep up with blogging friends in real life. It was magic and grounding to meet one of the first bloggers I befriended, Kate Takes 5 and family and climb another peak, Thorpe Cloud. Ilam has to be another of my favourite UK places.

When Kate told me recently she sensed I had got my blogging voice and mojo back, it was akin to standing back on this hill, feeling like you’ve conquered the world again.



12. Conkers, Leicestershire

My Dad always says the joy of camping is about getting up each day and fighting the elements…

There is nothing more rewarding and happiness-inducing than making a camp fire in the rain, especially when the reward is a s’more.

We sold our caravan this year, because our travels and travel blogging have taken us in so many other directions, there were tears, but I was reminded that simple camping, and camp fires,  are things we can always do.

Conkers Centre, National Forest, Bushcraft and Barefoot Trail - 08


13. St Aubyns Gardens, Brighton.

“They must all go to Brighton. That is the place to get husbands.”

Pride and Prejudice

We took the kids to see our first home to together, a flat on Hove seafront. A mixed bag of emotions, as Brighton is a place I miss hugely, but it was wonderful to be reminded me of so many magic times, and of Mr A’s marriage proposal. We will be back!



 14. Britmums and the Brilliance in Blogging Awards

We are stronger together than we are alone…

Walter Payton

June brought Britmums, which I decided I couldn’t miss this year. It was amazing to have 7 months of collaborative travel blogging over at Space In Your Case recognised with an award.

Collaborating gave me a much needed burst of creative energy, and we have all learnt so much from each other.


15. Blackpool, Visit Blackpool and Choice Hotels

“Nice to see you, to see you nice”

Bruce Forsyth

Blackpool was the kids’ idea and it was a chance to revisit a place I had been with my grandparents. I even managed to conjure my grandparents in a slot machine. So many silly distractions, so much hedonism, so much sand, just the kind of unwinding I needed and a wonderful reminder to embrace fun.

Blackpool Highlights of our Weekend - 18


16. Levante, Rhodes, Mark Warner

When the storms of life come, adjust your sails.

Like Cardiff, Levante reminded me how much my kids are growing up and that our family holidays need to keep evolving to meet everyone’s needs.  Sailing, jet skiing windsurfing, kayaking, swimming and paddle boarding were pretty awesome and started a whole new love of adventure in all of us.

A busy year had taken it’s toll, I was eager to get away from it all. It took me a while to wind down, but oh my the pastel sunrises and sunsets helped hugely.

mark warner levante wall

It felt odd to be sailing in a luxury resort, while the world woke up to the refugee crisis. But on the other hand, it was helpful to be investing money in Greece as it’s economy crashed. If anything, my travels this year taught me that tourism can help the world to support it’s people.


17. Holbeck Ghyll, Lake District

Love is a winding mountainous road

Mr A and I returned to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary in the Lake District at Holbeck Ghyll where we climbed Wansfell Pike.

A night or two away from kids a few times a year should be compulsory for all couples. We missed them, but we also remembered what it feels like to be us two.  The best wedding gift, experiences are worth their weight in gold, or tin (10 years married = tin).



18. Berny Riviere, France, Canvas Holidays. Paris and EuroDisney.

A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.

What a joy to spend some of our Canvas Holiday with my cousin and her children who live in France. Our eldest children  have exactly the same age gap as we do. Magical to see history repeating.

canvas holidays croix de la vieux pont berny riviere - 11

Travelling via Calais ferry we would never have known anything of the troubles there, but it weighed on my mind, and the tunnel did get closed a few times. I returned ready to try and help and I am looking forward to working with UNICEF in 2016.

When the Paris attacks happened I was relieved to hear my family was safe, and then outraged, as they were, for the attacks on this city, so representative of freedom, culture and creativity. Our time with my cousin near Paris and trips to Paris and to Eurodisney, this time with kids, were so inspiring.



19. Blogstock, Traverse Events.

Life is a festival, only to the wise.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was really unsure about Blogstock, but I had the time of my life. There is something so liberating about meeting people in a field, like Sonia, Jen and Monika. My talk went well, I met lots of great bloggers and having waved a sad farewell to our caravan this year, I enjoyed my stay in Monika‘s Campy.

It was in this field, in a small session for a handful of people, that all the organisational tactics I had been flinging at life suddenly came together in the most incredible light build moment. It was an unexpected turning point.


Monika and I went straight to spend the day on a Princess Cruise ship, setting foot onboard immediately had my heart racing and it wasn’t just the skywalk, our cruises as Carnival’s Funnest family have a huge place in my heart. It was exciting to meet Sonia from Mummy Constant who is about to have that adventure as one of the Carnival 2016 families.



20. Sensatori Fethiye, Turkey, Thomson Holidays.

‘The limit is not in the sky, the limit is in the mind’

If that is not a face of someone who has reached satori, than I don’t know what is. I was nervous about travelling with journalists I had never met on this press trip, but I have never laughed so much, or relaxed so much. Sensatori is an incredible recipe, I returned to life ready to finally strip back the things that had been holding me back and put into place that lightbulb moment from Blogstock.



21. Nottingham Robin Hood Half Marathon

Let’s run away!

I have travelled so many miles with the ladies from See How She Runs over the last year, and it felt amazing to run my first half marathon with them. Running lets my mind travel freely.



22. Edinburgh, Visit Scotland

‘Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.’ 

JK Rowling

Edinburgh has inspired me in so many ways, but it was sitting in the cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter that really had an impact on me, that’s a whole post in itself. This was a trip that let me revisit my 19 year old self, fearlessly and successfully company managing a student production on the fringe, it was magical to walk the streets with both a younger me, and the kids and husband I have gathered since.

I gathered my nerves, some people to support me and made some big plans.



23. Secret Location, Mr A’s Birthday.

Marriage is not a noun it’s a verb.

Barbara De Angelis

The tradition of escaping for anniversaries and birthdays has been cemented, and I couldn’t be happier with life with Mr A. It’s so important to take time out together to reflect on life. I have been reading about the impact travel has on our personality and mind, it has the power to let us be ourselves.



24. Bologna, Italy, with Hotel Touring, Osteria Dei Poeti and Italian Days

‘It is not necessarily at home that we encounter our true selves’

Alain de Boton

After lots of rethinking, pondering and wondering this year, this Autumn I grabbed hold of life, shook it up, realised what makes me happy, and re organised myself. With Christmas planned for the first time ever, and lots of charitable acts of kindness performed, I found myself with a spare weekend, and after vowing not to leave the country again for a bit, I suddenly found I had itchy feet.

Travelling with people who have known you over half your life is also an amazing way to reconnect with yourself, and with friendship. It was a trip that joined up all the dots of my travel adventures this year.

Apart from realising just how easy travel blogging can be when you are not combining it with family life, travelling with a new companion (the Dr Who references keep on coming) gives you new eyes.  Taking photos without worrying about losing a child is up there as one of life’s greatest pleasures.


As the sun sets on 2015, I am feeling recharged, ready for travel, adventure, but I am seeing travel with new eyes after all I have learnt in 2015. In 2016 I will be thinking about the art of travel, why I am travelling, who I am travelling with, and how I want travel to impact on me, and my family.

Tell me what you have in store travel wise? Are you making plans? What’s on your list?





  1. 31/12/2015 / 4:51 pm

    Gosh Penny, you have done LOADS this year!
    Really enjoyed reading this, can tell you have been quite a journey with some thoughtful reflection.
    What adventures for 2016? Time will tell! Can’t wait for the story to unfold and to hear about it along the way…

    • parentshaped
      13/01/2016 / 9:56 pm

      I was so annoyed I couldn’t access the picture of you at Blogstock, an adventure needs you in it in 2016!

  2. 01/01/2016 / 2:34 pm

    Wow! What a year. More than a little honoured to make it in there – and you’ve made me resolve to make sure we meet up again this year. Love you x

    • parentshaped
      13/01/2016 / 9:55 pm

      I must get to Ireland, love and hugs x

  3. 07/01/2016 / 7:02 pm

    It has been one of my highlights this year working with you and getting to know you better Penny. I love the way you’ve put this post together – you are one of my inspirations for how to write travel these days x

    • parentshaped
      13/01/2016 / 9:52 pm

      Helen, likewise, and thank you for the kind words, I think you know how much it makes me scratch my head trying to decide which story to start with! Love your stories too, and following kids who are just a little bit older is always exciting.

  4. 11/01/2016 / 10:17 am

    What a lovely, lovely post Penny, and what wonderful adventures you have all had, although I can imagine how exhausting it much all have felt at the time.


    • parentshaped
      13/01/2016 / 9:53 pm

      Tiring at times, but oh so worth it! Coming to catch up with the Vanstones!

I'd love to know your thoughts!