2018 Review: A Turning Point and Plans for the Future

Do you ever have those years where you feel like things really changed? 2018 was one of them. And when I say things really changed, I don’t mean that any major life events particularly happened, but as a person, I feel pretty different to how I walked into the year.


The couple of years leading up to 2018 were pretty tough, and they just felt like going through the motions. I was spending a lot of time at placement but hadn’t found an area that motivated me, and I wasn’t able to commit to travel and writing as much as I wanted. My passion for university was at an all-time low and there were many hours spent on Skyscanner genuinely planning to commit and pursue blogging full time. Fraser and I were still slowly recovering health and relationship-wise from events in 2016, and were struggling to keep positive.


But after those few tough years, things feel like they turned around in these last 12 months, and now we’re at a point where we couldn’t be happier.


As I said, there aren’t any big turning points or events that we can pinpoint and say “yep, that’s what changed”. It must’ve been all the little things just coming at once.








2018 marked my fourth year in Melbourne since making the move from Tasmania, and it was the first year where I really felt at home. We were able to move closer into the city compared to where we were living before which we were happy about. Really taking time to find a suburb that was a good fit made a lot of difference. Being close to parks, shops, the beach, and good friends, made us really want to live where we did, and we’re excited to live there again next year.


We also made a commitment this year, now having a car, to get out and see more of Victoria when we could. With any long weekend available, we headed somewhere to provide a breath of fresh air. This took us on a beautiful weekend to the Grampians, where we had the chance to see never-ending sunsets and hike until we dropped. Journeys to Mildura for Easter and Wilsons Promontory National Park in the winter break were also beautiful escapes from city life.





There were also several opportunities to return back to my home-state of Tasmania too, which is really special after a few hectic years. In the middle of the year, after a wonderful few days exploring Wilsons Prom with friends, I was able to spend a couple of weeks re-exploring Tassie with Fraser. We went on a few great road trips but the most memorable was to South West National Park. Being in Strathgordon in the middle of a Tassie winter meant there weren’t many people around, so we were able to truly enjoy the beauty and remoteness of Lake Pedder and the surrounding trails.


I was able to spend almost all of December back in Tassie too, catching up with friends new and old, and getting in some quality time with family. It was the perfect way to finish the New Year and be reminded of what’s truly important.







Aside from experiences around Australia, there was a healthy dose of international exploration in 2018 as well. The year was bookended with adventures in Asia and New Zealand, with a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in the middle of the year to attend the Asian Medical Students’ Conference.



The year was started with an epic month-long trip throughout Japan with family. I think it’s fair to say that we all fell in love with the country: the history, the culture, the landscapes, and the food. Between wandering through ancient roads in Kyoto, to being overwhelming in the bright lights of Tokyo, all the way to the ski slopes of Nozawa Onsen, Japan was one helluva ride.



Highlights/best memories:

  • Walking through the old Kyoto streets and bamboo forests
  • Accidentally misreading the menu and ordering a plate of cod sperm (only to realise the truth when it was already too late)
  • Catching a bullet train past the base of Mt Fuji – a surreal experience
  • Exploring the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, and particularly enjoying eating at the hidden hole-in-the-wall eateries
  • Learning to ski for the very first time and somehow surviving
  • Creating our very own pot noodles at the Pot Noodle Museum




Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

In the middle of the year, it was time to escape the freezing winter in Melbourne and head for the humidity of Kuala Lumpur. Having only been to the KL airport before, I was more than excited to see Malaysia and get involved with the Asian Medical Students’ Conference. Being the second conference I have attended with AMSA, I knew it was going to be good and I was not disappointed! We all had a blast together meeting new people, exchanging medical knowledge, and learning about different cultures. Kuala Lumpur was the perfect backdrop to our experience, and with a few days to spare before the conference, I felt as though there was time to get to know the city.




Highlights/best memories:

  • Meeting wonderful and motivated medical students from all over Asia
  • Winning the Scientific Poster competition for Australia with a team of legends
  • Discovering the true extent of my stomach capacity in the face of anything satay (I’m impressed)
  • Experiencing a beautiful moment of kindness from a perfect stranger in Chinatown
  • Wandering through the forests of the KL Eco Park in the peaceful moments just after sunrise
  • Trying durian for the first (and quite possible last) time at the Jalan Alor markets



Palawan, Philippines

At the end of the exam period, Fraser and I jumped straight onto the plane and to the Philippines. We were pretty tired after rounding off a big uni year and were ready to just relax. This was Fraser and my first trip together in two years and I was so stoked to be travelling together again. Between going back to bare basics in Port Barton, to seeing the dramatic landscapes of El Nido’s archipelago, to experiencing the notorious traffic of Manila, every day in the Philippines was a wonderful adventure.



Highlights/best memories:

  • Lying on the beach watching the sun set over Port Barton
  • Discovering our love of snorkelling in Port Barton and El Nido
  • Eating the most magnificent Filipino food off the back of the bangka boat on our El Nido Island Hopping Adventure
  • The ATMs in the whole of El Nido running out of money, having $5 left, enduring a tropical storm, and still managing to make it to Puerto Princesa the next day for our flight
  • Enjoying delicious craft beer in a female-owned Filipino brewery (the only one in Palawan) where all the flavourings were sourced locally, Palaweno Brewery




South Island, New Zealand  

We somehow made it to New Zealand after the Philippines. All it took was five planes, several missed connections, four buses, a few trains, and 12 hours in Melbourne… no biggie. We were pretty relieved to finally make it to the picturesque South Island, a place that Fraser and I have always wanted to visit. We hiked almost every day and soaked up as many phenomenal vistas as possible.





Highlights/ memories:

  • Seeing the waterfalls and sheer cliffs of Milford Sound with the BBQ Bus
  • Staying in (possibly) New Zealand’s dodgiest motel to explore Mt Cook National Park
  • Watching the sunset over Lake Tekapo, with blooming lupins surrounding the lake
  • Hiking up to the dramatic landscapes of Rob Roy Glacier
  • Finding peace on deserted walks surrounding Wanaka, and finding hidden views overlooking lakes and mountainsides
  • Eating some darn good fish and chips (and a not-so-healthy amount of Whittakers chocolate)






This year was fantastic for Frase and I as we became closer, explored more, and found new passions. Having not travelled together since Switzerland two years ago, for a few reasons including our health, we were finally able to get to a place where it was possible again. Those two trips to the Philippines and New Zealand meant the world to me, and finding the most fun and lovely travel buddy in Frase was the highlight of 2018.


Feeling the love with family and friends was also a key part of the year. 2018 saw the development of new friendships and relationships, but also the opportunity to reconnect with friends from the past. This year I am the most at peace with these relationships than I have been in a long time, and I cannot wait to keep building upon these next year.







As I mentioned before, my motivation for uni was at an all-time low during 2017 and thankfully, 2018 was a fantastic turning point. Undertaking a placement in Women’s Health helped me to discover my passion and has reinvigorated a love for the field. Having found that area where I feel that I will one day fit, meeting some fantastic teams and field leaders, and being given some amazing educational opportunities, were all contributing factors to feeling a lot better about uni now. Outside of the university course, I started to try properly pursuing other educational areas and took up short courses on certain hobbies and interests.







This year is my final year of medical school so will hopefully involve graduating and lining up a hospital job for internship. For the last year of university we are allowed a six week elective sometime during the semester. Mine is from March to April and I’ll be heading to the UK to learn more about women’s health, i.e. my ultimate dream. Hopefully during the elective there will be some weekends free to explore more of the UK and maybe a few sneaky weekend trips.


The rest of my placements for the year are dotted around Melbourne so there will be plenty of time to keep exploring the city, discovering new eateries, and enjoying our proximity to parks and beaches.


During the second half of 2019, Fraser is hoping to be on exchange for six months which will be challenging for us but something he has always wanted to do. We haven’t been apart for this long before, so maybe a journey to Deutschland is in order after graduation! We’ll see.


I really hope that 2019 can be anything like what we had this year. It will be exciting and nerve-wracking to finish this year as a professional, but I have no doubt that the experiences lined up will leave me feeling ready. Without the stress of major exams this year, I want to kick back a bit and enjoy the people around me, the adventures, and live a li’l more in the moment.



Happy New Year xxx





Lucy Owens Travel Textbook


My name’s Lucy and I’m the junior doctor and travel writer behind the blog. If you’re a fan of scratching beneath the surface of travel, visiting interesting destinations, and exploring ethically, then you’re in the right place. Focusing on purposeful budget and solo travel, Travel Textbook hopes to inspire more young people to seek meaningful adventure.


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