Surprising no one, 2014 flew by fast. I always have a blast writing these yearly roundup posts because not only does it give me an opportunity to express gratitude but it lets me re-live some of my fondest memories. Here are 10 of my best travel moments of 2014. Make sure to tell me yours in the comments section!
Ringing in the New Year in Argentina
For me, I started things off in Argentina where I celebrated the New Year for the second time in South America. This time felt different though, because instead of toasting to one of my best friends in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, I was toasting to my husband, his family and a slew of musical instruments just waiting to be played. Language-barrier aside, I really let my guard down in Argentina. I sang, played the flute and even practiced my Pictionary skills when my limited Spanish vocabulary failed me, which was often. There’s something very freeing about feeling vulnerable and I found moments where no words were needed, like when we day-tripped to the countryside, surrounded by mountains in every direction.
Winning a SMITTY from Travel + Leisure
Technically the winners were announced in early summer but I knew about it for months beforehand. I’ve had to keep secrets before but this was a tough one to conceal, mostly because I was ecstatic and somewhat in denial of the whole thing. As a travel writer and blogger, I’m usually in the background of things rather than front and center so winning a SMITTY made me both excited and a little nervous. The best part was getting to celebrate with the other winners and T+L staff during an official award-ceremony and rooftop party. My parents surprised me by driving from Washington to New York to help me celebrate along with my husband. I also got a glass cube as a trophy!
Getting Weird in Portland
Not that I need an excuse to be weird but Portland was the perfect place to unleash my inner nerd. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this quirky city and getting the chance to find out for myself was a major treat. Speaking of treats, the food there is unreal and I mean that figuratively because the food is, in fact, locally sourced and organic. I realized that Portland might be one of the best cities to live if you want to achieve a truly healthy lifestyle. We even popped by an all-organic brewery one day and the next, we were shopping at the daily Farmer’s Market. One of my must-do weird moments was ordering a funky Voodoo Doughnut and observing the hilarious chaos around me. All in all, Portland is just the coolest.
Volunteering in Jamaica
A huge reason why I chose to visit Jamaica this past spring was because it included a volunteer opportunity with a local school. Volunteering abroad is something that I don’t have much experience with, yet something I so desperately want to do more. During my high school summers, I taught swim lessons to kids and ended up babysitting most of them. People used to tell me I’d make a great teacher and maybe I might have, but I chose another route. Spending time with the children at the Negril All Age School showed me that could make a difference, however small, in the lives of others. They also taught me quite a lot too, like how to live in the moment and to smile from ear to ear.
Honeymooning in Bali
While I did to a select number of press trips this year, I also made it a priority to do some personal trips as well. My husband and I finally took our belated honeymoon this past September and all I can say is that it was well worth the wait. In all honesty, the first time I ever heard of Bali was while reading Eat, Pray Love but ever since then, it’s been a place that I’ve wanted to visit. We finally took the plunge, so to speak, and spent two weeks alternating between touring the island by motorcycle and lounging on the beach. Balangan was the perfect locale, as it’s a local surf destination at the very bottom of the island. We stayed in a humble bungalow, complete with a bamboo outdoor shower and it was perfect.
Finding my Element in Macau
Macau is a destination that surprised me to no end. I’ll be honest…I didn’t think there was as much culture and intrigue there as there is and I totally own up to that. Oddly enough, my time outside the Sheraton Macao rivaled my time within it. Hands down my most memorable spa experience, I answered a few questions via an iPad app and determined my primary and secondary elements according to Feng Shui: Wood and Water respectively. It’s no secret that I’m mesmerized by the concept of balance and always in search of how to achieve it in my daily like. That, plus the amazing performance of The House of Dancing Water, made Macau soar high on my list of destinations to visit again.
Celebrating my Birthday in Paris
One of the perks of working in the travel industry and having your partner work in the industry too, is that you can travel at the drop of a hat. Sometimes that’s easier said than done but when my husband surprised me with a trip to Paris for my birthday, I didn’t think twice. This was my fourth time in Paris and I honestly think that I fall more in love with the city every time I’m there. My husband was working most of the time during the day and that was perfectly fine with me because it allowed me free reign over what neighborhoods to explore, what museums to pop into (I did the Picasso Museum this time!) and gave me the independence that is synonymous with Paris.
Speaking at SPARK Sessions in Toronto
I remember writing down a list of goals I wanted to accomplish in 2014 and one item I hardly imagined checking off was speaking at a conference. After learning about SPARK Sessions during my Jamaica trip, I was beyond excited when I was asked to speak about the Power of Google Plus. Sure, I realize G+ isn’t the cool kid at school when it comes to social media platforms but it’s worked for me and I’m happy to share tips with others. Similar to my volunteer experience in Jamaica, it was a refreshing change to be at the heart of the action rather than simply observing. I also had the chance to tour Toronto for the first time, including the Kensington Market and West Queen West neighborhoods.
Photo credit: Danny Tang
Feeling like a Mermaid in Curacao
I’ve been reading a lot of Young Adult novels over the past few months and my latest read happened to revolve around mermaids. I’m a sucker for fiction and fantasy, so heading to Curacao after finishing the book made me feel like I was still living within the pages. My biggest mermaid moment was when we snorkeled in the infamous Blue Room and one of the awesome ladies of Diamond PR snapped photos of me swimming underwater. The coolest thing about this snorkeling spot is that when you enter the cave’s narrow entrance, the darkness makes everything underwater illuminate. It was kind of scary coming in and out of the cave but I did so in true mermaid fashion.
Touring New Orleans in a 1965 Rolls-Royce
New Orleans has been on my bucket list for years and earlier this month, I officially checked it off my bucket list. Of course, there is so much to do there that I know I have to go back. Since New Orleans is so rich in history, it was fun getting to stay at one of the Hilton Hotel’s historic locations. Unlike most chain hotels, this one incorporated the flavor of the city into the decor, the food and the cocktails. As if things couldn’t get any better, I actually took a tour of the city in a 1965 Rolls-Royce. This is definitely one of those once-in-a-lifetime type excursions so there was no way I was skipping out on this chic ride. Also worth noting is how sincerely nice the locals are and it was very refreshing.
What was your best travel moment of 2014? Tell me in the comments below!
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