twenty-eighteen in review + lessons learned

If you’re new to my blog and here just for this post, welcome, you’re in for a treat. This little space on the internet has sadly been neglected this year, but it’s coming back with a bang in 2019! Grab yourself a drink and a snack because it’s gonna be a long one.

Twenty Eighteen.

What a long-ass year this year has been, eh? I was genuinely a little shocked when I was scrolling through my camera roll and reminded that Mods were this year. It sure does not feel like they were this year. So much has happened in 2018 it’s hard to organise my thoughts.

And although at the outlook 2018 might not have been the best year of my life so far, I probably learnt the most I ever have. I also travelled more than I did last year. And I achieved more than last year. Maybe this year actually turned out pretty great.

Highlights of 2018

  • For the fifth year in a row, I brought in the New Year somewhere away from home, with one of my good friends Chloe. I gorged on chocolate while we chatted about everything that was on our minds. A perfect way to bring in the New Year.
  • Going 30 days sugar-free and breaking it on the 31st January with the gooiest chocolate brownie. I’m proud I managed to go without chocolate for that long, especially as it was revision season!
  • Celebrating Chinese New Year at home with my family. With my sister at university up in Leeds, it’s difficult for us all to get together at this time of year. It was really special being together this year. 🎎🏮
  • Really enjoying my 21st birthday, despite it falling two days before my exams started. I had dinner with my Mum {and the restaurant somehow knew it was my birthday?!} and then spent the evening surrounded by close friends. Looking back at photos really makes me smile because it was such a lovely celebration.

  • FINISHING MODS! I got through my first set of Oxford exams and could not have felt better. You can see the video here.

  • Working with one of my all-time favourite restaurants: wagamama UK on a campaign. I still can’t believe it!
  • Travelling to California for two weeks. I visited Los Angeles again and went to San Fransisco for the first time – would highly recommend! I also took a trip to Las Vegas as I’d just turned 21 and had a really… interesting time. We also managed to get into a pool party with David Guetta for FREE?! Definitely a highlight.

  • Camping in Yosemite. Just wow. I really want to write a couple of posts about my trip and give you lots of my insider tips & knowledge 😉

  • Finally taking my sister to New York for her 18th birthday present (see last year’s post for an explanation). It was such a lovely trip together and I really enjoyed spending quality time with my sister. It’s very rare that we’re both around at the same time during the holidays because I’m always off travelling!

  • Spending Easter with my family at my grandma’s. This year has really shown me how much I truly appreciate and cherish time spent with my family.
  • Flying to Italy for two weeks with my family: we went to Pisa and then spent the majority of our time living in Florence. Florence is such a beautiful, beautiful city and gahhh, I fell in love all over again with Italy. It definitely remains my favourite country. 

  • Hosting a meal for five of you lovely people at wagamama. I had such a lovely evening meeting, eating and chatting with lots of you – more of these in 2019 please? <3
  • Being on the Oxford Law Society Committee – I’ve met some really great people and had a bunch of laughs with them throughout my time on committee throughout the year. And now I’m the Treasurer?! Joining a committee at university is 100% worth it.
  • Having Ibz to stay for 4 days. What an experience. We did a collab on his channel on whether or not you should take a gap year – you can watch it here. Love you Ibz xxx
  • Going up to Leeds for 4 days to visit my sister during term time… whoops. Again, I really appreciate spending time with her, as much as she drives me round the bend sometimes.

  • Flying to Greece for a 4 day holiday during term time. Big whoops. No regrets whatsoever though. I still managed to hand in my essays on time AND make it make for my tutorials. Had the best time in Athens and then the most quaint little island, Hydra.

  • Punting trips in the summer sun with good company and good food. Will definitely remember those punting struggles haha.
  • The Law Society Ball at Aynhoe Park. It was the summer term, I had one of my really good friends with me, and we had a blast. I also got to go in a hot air balloon – how cool is that?! Was definitely a night to remember.

  • Jetting off to Copenhagen just two days after term officially ended for the year. Catch me if you can, hey? This was the first trip Alice and I had both been on together since our Gap Year. Crazy! Was such an enjoyable 5 days exploring a new {but expensive!} city.

  • Two days back in London before flying off again! This time on a Mystery Holiday with Jack and Kushal. The suspense was so real. You can watch everything in the video here. The holiday was definitely one of my favourites on the entire year. I was surrounded by two friends who I hold close to my heart and we had a fucking blast. We ate our way around Warsaw and created some very special memories.
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  • Five days back at home catching up with family and friends and I was off again! I flew to Helsinki for 24 hours and explored the small Finnish capital solo.

  • I then flew to China for 8.5 whole weeks. I’m crazy, right? But those 8.5 weeks turned out to be some of the best weeks of 2018. I caught up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while in Beijing and Hangzhou. I undertook an 8-week internship in a Chinese-speaking company. I lived in a new Chinese city, Qingdao, which I’ve fallen in love with. I travelled more. And, most importantly, I met some truly life-changing people. My summer in China will be unforgettable.

  • Hitting 10,000 subscribers on YouTube – I’m sorry, what?! I can’t thank you all enough, really. I honestly didn’t think I’d hit 1,000, let alone 10,000.

  • I took another trip to Hangzhou whilst I was in China. This time was with Louise, and we also met up with my sister who was doing the British Council Study China programme. Revisiting the city made me realise just how much I loved it.

  • Spending 3 days in Shanghai with my sister at the end of both of our trips. We ate good food and lazed about in a city that we’d both explored before. It was great.
  • Moving into my house in Oxford! Always feels good to have some kind of fresh start. I completely transformed the look of my bedroom by moving around the furniture, building my own bookcase and decorating everything Viola-style.
  • Going to the Dancesport Beginners Team Trials and actually making the team?! I’m now learning Ballroom & Latin dancing and really enjoying it.
  • Visiting my new house in… *drumroll please*… EXETER! Yep, my family have moved to an entirely new city and I am so excited. I’ve not been at home much so far, but I’ve loved it when I have been. My bedroom might still be filled with cardboard boxes, but I can’t wait for it to be my creative project in 2019.
  • Marching in the People’s Vote March with my family in October. 

  • Going to the World Travel Market in London for a day and a half. Again, during term… oh well. I stayed with one of my good friends and boy was she a breath of fresh air. Both my sister and mum also happened to be in London {a very rare occasion!} so we all went for dinner together. It was nice escaping the Oxford bubble, even if it was just for a bit.
  • The Oxford Law Society Ball at the Victoria & Albert Museum. A stunning venue and an evening spent with genuine souls. It was beautiful and I had the best night. Why did it end so soon?! 🙁

  • Visiting my sister in Leeds with my family to watch her dance show. I also got to catch up with two other friends who also live in Leeds which was SO nice.
  • Spending a week in London doing work experience. Working life is actually pretty interesting. I think I could do it.
  • Very spontaneously flying to China for a week. One day I was at my desk at home, the next I was on a plane to Beijing. Really. Spending time in China during the Christmas season is a) bloody freezing, but b) really fun. I would fly there just for the food. No lie.
  • Meeting so many new people this year, as well as other YouTubers! This year has really brought some of the most beautiful souls into my life, and for that I am so thankful. I’ve met some people who I wish I had met sooner because really, where had they been my entire life?! Hold onto the people that you have genuine, pure connections with.
  • Catching up with friends who don’t live close to me. Remember that just because you might not see them all the time, some of the best friends you could ask for are only a phone-call away. I love having friends dotted about everywhere and I love that we all still manage to stay in touch!
  • GUYS, we’ve hit 18,000 subscribers. What a way to end the year. Just wow. I’m speechless. Thank you for ALL of your support, I love you <3
  • Spending time at home with my family. This will never, ever get old and I will probably treasure this more and more as I get older. This year it really hit me that I will, one day, lose some of the people I love the most. It absolutely terrifies me, and really does upset me. That’s why I appreciate every moment I’m with my family. I love them with every fibre of my being.

Boy, was that bloody long. 2018, you were pretty damn good.

Lessons learned in 2018

  1. Never give up who you are for anybody. Stay true to who you are and your people will come.
    This year has thrown me headfirst into situations that I’ve never encountered before. I’ve been presented with situations that have challenged who I really am as a person. Not only have I learnt from these experiences, which have in turn led me to self-reflect (a goddam lot), but I’ve also come to accept who I am. Never, ever give up who you are for anybody. There’s a saying I heard recently that actually really stuck: ‘It’s okay not to be friends with everyone; it’s worse to be friends with everyone.’

    But what this also taught me was that personal growth and self-awareness is a journey. You are always learning something new about yourself everyday. It might take others longer to realise something about themselves, but they will learn. Eventually. Stay true to who you are, what you believe in and what you value, and don’t let that go. You will attract the right type of people for you. It just takes time.

  2. Always be kind for you never know what somebody is going through.
    Boy has this quote never been more relevant than this year. Last term taught me a lot. I finally saw for myself that every single person is well and truly going through something. Everyone has issues; everyone has problems. We all know that. But do we really take that on board? Think about everything you’re struggling with, everything you might be desperately trying to hide from others, and try and understand that everyone is going through the same sort of thing. Be kind. There might be a lot more beneath the smiley surface than meets your eye. Trust me.

    Equally, be understanding, but not too understanding. Give people the benefit of the doubt, but if they continue doing something, or they continue acting a certain way, that’s when you know it’s time to reconsider the relationship.

  3. Comparison is the thief of joy; jealousy will destroy you.
    It’s hard, I know. But stop comparing your beginning to somebody else’s middle. No two people are the same; everyone is on their own, separate journey. Try not to compare yourself to other people because it will only make you feel worse about yourself. It also creates a lot of negative energy, which you don’t want to be around. If you find yourself doing this, switch off from social media. Unfollow accounts that makes you feel bad about yourself. If you must compare, or if you simply can’t help it, use it as a motivator. Channel that energy into something good.

  4. Taking time for yourself never needs to be justified.
    Does this even need explaining? If you drop off the grid for a couple of days, weeks, or even months, it’s okay. If you want to work on yourself or your goals instead of doing things you don’t enjoy, that’s perfectly acceptable. If you don’t feel like going out, then don’t. You shouldn’t need to justify your actions to anybody. Taking time for yourself is the most important thing you can do for you. It gives you clarity, peace and focus. Your family and friends should be understanding and should not resent you for it.

  5. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.
    A standard money-saving tip that people always throw about. This year, I really honed in on my finances and drew up a massive spreadsheet. I documented every single expense this year and accounted for all of the money that was coming in and out. It’s a chore and a hassle but it pays off. I saved more money this year than I ever have. If you want more tips on saving money, you can read my post here.

  6. Actions speak louder than words. Always.
    You will know where you stand with someone just by looking at their actions. You will know who is truly there for you by judging their behaviour. You will know who is worth investing your time in. Actions will always speak louder than words, in every possible context. Remember that next time someone tells you they care about you.

  7. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is tough, but it’s more rewarding than anything.
    I hate letting myself be vulnerable and I run away from situations where I expose myself to people. I never dig deep enough in personal conversations to allow myself to be vulnerable around people I don’t fully trust. But when I do feel comfortable enough to confide in someone, I say what I want to say. But that leaves me anxious because I’ve let that person in. And although it scares me, I know that allowing myself to be vulnerable actually helps me. It gives me strength and courage to look deep inside of myself and it allows me to heal. Being in vulnerable situations this past year has taught me the value of it. It has taught me that being vulnerable only pushes me to think more about myself and who I am as a person. It allows me to question myself more and to learn more about who I am. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is tough, but it’s more rewarding than anything.

  8. Never chase people to stay in your life. Ever.
    The minute someone shows you who they really are, believe them. We live in a world where people like to look past what is put right in front of their faces. People spend so much time and effort chasing people, be that friends or romantic partners, when it’s hopeless. If someone really wanted to be in your life, you would know. They wouldn’t ignore your messages and say they ‘forgot to reply’. You wouldn’t always be the one messaging first or suggesting to do things. Don’t go wasting your precious time on things and people that don’t matter and don’t add to your life. Shit happens. Friendships end. Relationships break up. But you know what? There are thousands of people out there who you are yet to meet. Doesn’t that excite you?! The situation you are currently in right now is not the one you will be in for the rest of your life. The people you are surrounded with right now may not be the same people you will be surrounded with in ten years’ time. People come into your life in the strangest of ways. They may stay but they may not. But what is constant is the fact that you are meeting new people so often. Never, ever chase people to stay in your life.

  9. Family are so important to you.
    This year, more than anything, has made me realise just how much I value and appreciate my family and the time I spend with them. It was only when I was preparing for 2019 and listing all of my positives that showed me how much I cherished the moments with my family. As I said above, it really hit me this year that my family will not be around forever. I hate thinking about it because it makes me want to curl up into a little ball and I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I care about them so much that I want to enjoy every moment I’m with them. In 2019, I’m going to make sure that I see enough of my family.

  10. You work better in the mornings, so go to bed earlier! 
    I don’t know why, year in, year out, I never learn. I work so much better in the early hours of the morning than in the evenings. And yet I choose to go to bed at god-knows-how-late and stumble out of bed mid-morning. This only makes me feel tired and annoyed with myself for not getting up sooner. If I want to be the most productive I can be, I need to start waking up earlier.

  11. Friends from the internet might actually be able to relate to you far more than anyone you know in person.
    Everyone goes through things. Sometimes it’s the usual, predictable stuff like heartbreak or exam stress. But other times, it’s something that people you know in person may not be able to fully relate to. And that’s okay. This year, I’ve found people who get me on such a level that none of the people I know have. People who I’ve met through YouTube, Instagram or the blogging world. It’s crazy that these platforms have introduced me to some amazing people. Just remember that whatever you’re going through there are always others out there going through the same thing.
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Aaaand, I’m done. 


Twenty-Eighteen has been a year of personal growth and understanding. It’s been a journey filled with highs and some really low lows. I realised an awful lot about myself and about others this year. I worked really hard at university only to discover that I was working inefficiently and ineffectively. I pushed people away. I isolated myself. I bottled up my emotions so much that it hurt at times. I threw a healthy lifestyle out of the window completely and barely had a routine. I let myself drown in commitments at the expense of my health.

But, I explored and travelled more than ever. I learnt what mattered most to me in this life. I spent my money on some really crazy experiences and regret absolutely none of them. I was spontaneous more times than I can count and I loved it. I met people that make me laugh so hard I could cry. I created content that inspired and helped thousands of people from all around the world. I worked with the most brands I ever have, some of whom are my all-time favourites. I re-evaluated the people I chose to invest time in. I realised that everyone you meet can teach you something. I learned to embrace the unknown. I started journalling again. I went on new adventures with new people. I allowed myself to fall in love again.

I explored new places and revisited old ones. I understood that what brings me the most joy in life is travel, especially if I got the window seat on flights. I did a lot of thinking this year. About anything and everything. I did more self-reflection. And then some more. I started listening to Podcasts and watching the News daily. I read inspiring blog posts and watched motivational videos on YouTube. I realised my full potential this year. I found clarity in what I want to do in the future. I created some of my most treasured memories this year in some of the most beautiful places with some of the most gorgeous people. And finally, I accepted that I will always be on this personal journey for the rest of my life.

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If you made it this far, I’m impressed. Thank you for taking the time to read my end-of-year rambles
– I hope you gained something from it. 

I hope you have a fantastic New Year with your friends and family. Thank you so much for all of your support, I honestly love you all. I’ll see you again in 2019! <3

Follow the adventures for more…

Instagram📷 & Twitter🐥 – @violahelen_

Peace and love,


20 years old | bit of a nerd | thoughts about life | travel, fitness, fashion + student blog |
Posts created 152

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