While on a global scale 2016 was a pretty tumultuous year, personally, it was also a pretty big year of changes and big moves. I was lucky to be able to travel most months of the year and managed to check-off all the clichés on the young traveler’s list of being 25, quitting my job, moving out of the city, moving back with my parents, becoming a freelancer, and then traveling the world. It’s still TBD where 2017 will lead, but here are some of the highlights of 2016:
February: Toronto, Canada
My dad’s birthday trip to Toronto was literal proof that it’s possible to travel (and have fun) in any weather! Even though the temperatures were freezing almost every day, I had such a great time exploring the city and of course going to the NBA All Star events. My favorite night was definitely when we went to the Dakota Inn and found a “95-year-old” playing bluegrass covers of a bunch of pop songs. Toronto was also full of yummy food surprises from the Distillery District to Kensington Market and a reunion with a great friend to finally see her city.
Our annual girl’s trip took us to some cute towns in PA. The weekend was a great reminder of how many fascinating things there are to learn about—ahem Henry Chapman Mercer’s house and all of the knowledge stuffed inside—and how wonderful to travel with friends whose interests align with yours. From stunning nature walks to window-shopping to delicious (yet affordable) meals, it was once again a beautiful reunion and a perfect weekend escape from the city and our normal lives.
Colombia is an amazing country and I am so happy to have spent 2 weeks there this year, although it was far from enough! With such a lively spirit and so much diversity, a traveler could easily spend a year there and never be bored. I was lucky to experience Colombia both with friends from home and friends from Colombia and feel like I had a perfect blend of backpacker and local experience. My two favorite places ended up being Minca, for cards, hiking, Nena, Oscar, the perfect day, and appreciating life, and Villa de Leyva, for the energy, spontaneity, horseback riding, and hospitality. As Colombia continues to change and become a bigger tourist attraction for Americans, I hope these places keep their hidden charm.
August: New York City & Long Island, NY, USA
After a year apart, one of my best friends in the whole world came to visit for my birthday this August. Since we initially became friends during our travels, it was special to be able to show her my life at home and connect the puzzle pieces. From frolicking around NYC to having her meet all my friends for a spectacular weekend at the beach, the whole week turned out to be a perfect birthday celebration with people from many different parts of my life. I love to bring friends and people together and my birthday and all that came with it was a really great time for this. Plus, it was a perfect occasion to say goodbye to my NYC life as I moved to the next adventure.
August: Carson, North Dakota
Going back to North Dakota for the Grant County Fair in Carson was definitely a cultural experience. With so many events and energy, it was fun and exciting to take in the atmosphere in a part of the country that is so different than the one I call home. From events with animals to the parade to the rodeo, each part of town truly lit up with people coming from near and relatively far for the events. After just returning from Christmas this December, it was hard to imagine the icy main drag was the same one where we had been swing dancing at the street dance just a few months before.
September: Oxford, England
Although just a quick day trip from London, we had a perfect day to visit Oxford. It was sunny and warm and the city and campus were stunning. I loved everything about the mixture of town, history, and gardens. The scholarly atmosphere was overwhelming, even though the students weren’t on campus yet, and being there reminded me of why I miss school and learning. Plus, we found the cutest stationary shop on a side street with plenty of Lewis Carroll references, but mainly just beautiful notebooks and cute cards.
My whole stay in the Czech Republic was wonderful, yet I loved going to Veselý Kopec with two of my very close friends and one of their families. While this historical park was a great lesson in history and anthropology, it was also such a beautiful, crisp autumn day. As we drove through the Vysočina region, the leaves had just changed color and the oranges and yellows around the park were beautiful. Then the meal we had after was the perfect thing to warm us up before the drive home. It was one of the first moments when I truly appreciated and loved the autumn season.
Continuing on this trajectory, I’ll never forget the ghost hike my friend took me on through the trails outside of Innsbruck. The day was grey and foggy, but we kept climbing; even when it was so thick we could barely see past the next bend in the road. Despite the slippery rocks and leaves, we managed not to fall. The clean air and beautiful surroundings were enough to forget being damp and lose track of time as we made our way from one stopping point to the next.
November: Santa Maria de Jésus, Guatemala
After a whirlwind flight from Europe to Central America, it was so special to attend the wedding of two close Guatemalan friends in Santa Maria de Jésus. The day before the wedding, we went to help with the preparations and had such a fun time learning (failing) to make tortillas and playing with all the children. Then the wedding day was beautiful and we were honored to be included in so much of the ceremony. The warmth and joy there, despite the fact that people have so little, was a refreshing reminder of all there is to celebrate. Most of all, it was nice to celebrate being together.
Here’s to an exciting year of open-ended adventures! Happy 2017 🙂