January – discovering southern Austria
My year began in Heiligenblut, a little ski resort beneath the Grossglockner (3,798 m), Austria's highest peak. Famous for its pilgrimage church, this traditional village is surrounded by Austria's oldest National Park, the Hohe Tauern and, as I skied on the edge of the forest and went snow-shoeing through the wilderness, I spotted everything from ibex to eagles. Little-visited by UK tourists, new weekly Easyjet flights to Klagenfurt (a two-hour transfer) have now made Heiligenblut more accessible for 2019.
February – sleeping for free in Wales
In February, I braved the cold with a weekend trip to a Welsh bothy. Free to stay in, bothies are found throughout the UK's hills and mountains but they offer little more than a stove and a wooden shelf to sleep on. While they certainly aren't for everyone, I love their simplicity and the sense of escapism they give, so I try to visit at least one a year.
March – a retro revival in Flaine
March saw me back in the Alps. This time in Flaine – a French ski resort which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019. The resort's raw concrete buildings were built in the ‘Bauhaus' style, while outdoor artworks by Picasso and Dubuffet adorn its centre. Set within the Grand Massif domain, Flaine gives access to one of Europe's largest ski areas, while the resort's 1970's architecture is enjoying a retro revival.
April – vans and treehouses
During the Easter bank holiday, I rented a campervan and spent a long weekend in the Gower. This part of Wales is famous for its beaches, and my favourites included Rhosilli, Three Cliffs Bay, and Broughton Bay.
A few weeks later, I took my Mum to Knepp Wildland in Sussex. It's one of the largest rewilding projects in lowland Europe, with free-roaming deer and longhorn cattle.
We were some of the first guests to stay in their new Treehouse accommodation – a cosy hideaway at the top of an oak tree.
May – a Scottish gin distillery
In May, I flew to Aberdeen for another new venture – a gin making and foraging weekend. I was among the first guests at Daffy's distillery school in Strathmashie House – a former Victorian shooting lodge in the Cairngorms National Park.
After a morning of paddleboarding on a loch and foraging for botanicals, I learnt how to distil my own gin using yarrow, bog myrtle, pine needles and juniper.
Saturday night saw me dancing at a ceilidh, before I put the final touches to my gin on Sunday.
June – my Ibiza tick-list
Come June it was time for some sun. Invited to Ibiza for a family wedding, I decided to make a holiday of it and spent a week in the north near Cala Benirras – a sand and shingle beach known for its stunning sunsets and bongo players. This was my first time on the White Isle, so I ticked-off a few Ibiza classics: exploring the battlements of Ibiza old town; listening to chilled tunes on Las Salinas beach; and dancing all night at Pacha – Ibiza's original superclub.
Summer in Sussex
The UK weather was glorious in July and August, so I spent the rest of the summer at home in Brighton and Sussex. It was a summer of barbecues on the beach, swimming in the sea and kitesurfing at my favourite local spots: Shoreham and Camber Sands. Towards the end of August, I took a short trip to Morzine in the French Alps to check out two new chalets owned by British ski company, AliKats.
September in Greece
With the summer crowds dispersed, I went on an island-hopping adventure to Greece. Flying to Mykonos, I visited historic windmills and sipped sunset cocktails in glamorous bars before hopping on a ferry to Paros. Quieter and more laidback than Mykonos, this Paros has beautiful beaches like Monastiri; fantastic kitesurfing at Pounda; and excellent seafood in the winding streets of Naoussa. I also took the ferry to Anti-Paros, which has hidden coves and unbelievably clear waters. Tom Hanks has a house here, and it's easy to see why.
October and November saw me back in the UK, hiking in the Brecon Beacons, and enjoying a couple of staycations closer to home. I spent a wonderful night at Rathfinny wine estate near the Seven Sisters cliffs. For visitors, the estate offers walking routes through the vines, a fine-dining restaurant, wine and gin tastings, and on-site accommodation in a beautifully converted barn.
December – a Three Valleys secret
I'll be rounding off 2018 back in the French Alps, this time in Courchevel, in the Three Valleys ski domain. The skiing in Courchevel is world-class but accommodation is pricey so, here's my top tip: stay down in the valley in Bozel and take the free ski bus up to the pistes each day. While Bozel doesn't have the glitz and glam of Courchevel, its restaurants and accommodation are half the price.
Looking ahead to 2019
I'm starting the year with a January trip to La Plagne in the French Alps to experience ho36 – the resort's new hostel-style accommodation. I'll also be checking out La Plagne's new spa and contactless payment system, and spending a night at 2,600-metres in a winter glamping shelter designed by Land Rover.
In May, I'm off on my annual family pilgrimage to Menorca – a tradition that we swapped last year for Ibiza. While discovering new places is always exciting, I love returning to old haunts where I can make a beeline for my favourite bars and beaches. My top Menorca experiences include paddleboarding at Es Grau, mooching around Mahon, and exploring the Cami de Cavalls hiking route, which circumnavigates the island.
I'm also planning a long-haul kitesurfing trip for 2019. In 2017 I spent three weeks in Brazil, exploring Salvador and kitesurfing in Prea, Jericoacoara and Tatajuba. Now I'm keen to discover more South American kitesurf spots like Mancora in Peru, Pinamar in Argentina, and Los Roques in Venezuela.
I've also got my sights on Singapore, which celebrates 100 years since it was founded as a British East India Company trading post in 1819. The Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA, is also celebrating a centenary in 2019, commemorating 100 years as a national park. It would be great to experience at least one of these two in 2019.
The lure of long-haul
With trips to the Alps and brand new experiences in Scotland and Sussex, 2018 was a fantastic year. It reminded me that there are so many exciting places to discover closer to home, with everything from English wine estates to re-wildling projects right on my doorstep. But I'm a sucker for long-haul travel too, and the excitement of distant lands, warm breezes and far-flung adventures beckons for 2019. Time to get planning!