2017 was an incredible year for me, both personally and professionally. It felt like a year of constant travel, but when I sat down to do the math, I realized I probably traveled less this year than I have since starting my trip almost four years ago.
I wish I were organized enough to give you detailed stats about how many different flights I took or how many total miles I flew. There were so many beds and flights, a few trains, too many buses, a couple of boats…perhaps the best statistic for this year is that I visited a total of 13 countries, five of them for the first time.
In January I rang in the new year in Bali, Indonesia. It was my Christmas/NYE vacation from Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I was living at the time.
I had visited Indonesia before I started blogging. It was nice to return to visit, and this time around I was fortunate enough to work with many great companies as I developed my Bali travel guide.
I also went to scope out the location as a place to live during my next North American winter after spending my summer in Europe.
I rarely say much about my personal life on the blog, but at the time I was seeing someone I actually liked quite a lot. But we both knew the relationship had an expiration date on it, as we were headed in different directions. And I don’t mean metaphorically, I mean literally.
He was moving to Australia on a work visa, and I had no plans to follow him. We made the most of it, even leaving Bali to visit another of my favorite places in Indonesia — Gili Trawangan.
Our goodbyes said, I sent him off to Australia and lingered in Bali a bit longer. During this time, I visited Canggu and fell absolutely in love with it. I know that if I do ever move to Bali, Canggu will be where I choose to live.
After Bali, I returned to Chiang Mai until May, where I caught up on work. The only travel I did between January and May was my visit to Koh Phangan, which I had meant to do forever.
It was a quick trip, and soon I returned to pack up my apartment and say goodbye to Chiang Mai. I had decided I wouldn’t return, even though it’s one of my favorite places in the world.
It had simply become too easy there, too comfortable, too familiar. I had spent the past two winters in the city, more than a year in total — longer than anywhere else I had stayed during my trip. My decision was difficult, as I have a lot of great friends there, and I genuinely love the city. But I need to be challenged.
I left Thailand and flew to Romania, where I was participating in the Experience Bucharest project.
Part conference, part press trip, Experience Bucharest was one of the highlights of my year. I had briefly visited Romania years before I began blogging. Back then, I liked it. This time I fell in love.
The city is gorgeous, Romanian food is delicious, the people are friendly, and the country is very affordable and well-connected to the rest of Europe. If I had to decide today, I would likely make Bucharest my base for summer 2018. We’ll see.
After Experience Bucharest, I flew to Nepal to work with their ministry of tourism on a project designed to promote tourism to the country.
Nepal was another country I visited before I began blogging. I hadn’t been there since the earthquake devastated the country. and I wanted to return to see how the country has rebounded in some ways and in many other ways has not.
Because over 100 of us attended, this press trip gave me the chance to catch up with many of my blogger friends. There were many I had just seen on the Bucharest trip, and also friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. Months later, I still talk almost daily with some, and we still share stories from the trip.
During that trip, I was finally able to do something I hadn’t been able to during my previous visit — hang gliding over Pokhara.
It was fun, but I must admit — for me it was a one and done. I don’t think I’ll ever do this again now that I’ve crossed it off my list!
Nepal is a beautiful country with some of the most genuinely kind people I’ve ever met. I hope they’ll continue to rebound and rebuild quickly.
After Nepal, in June, I flew home to the states for some family time. My oldest niece had graduated high school and earned a full ride scholarship to a great university. We were of course extremely proud of her, and family came from all over to celebrate. It’s always nice to be home, but I was also excited for my next trip: to Madrid to meet with a bunch of friends for World Pride.
It was an insane party in one of my favorite cities — an estimated 3 million people attended! It was also a great chance to catch up with friends from all over the world who were in town for the event.
Madrid is one of my favorite cities, and I stayed for a while after the festival. In July, I set off to reunite with another really great friend in Budapest. Hungary is another country that I had visited before I began blogging, but I was happy to return and explore more. I remembered it had some of the most underrated wines in the world, and I was happy to return and jog my memory.
After meeting in Budapest, my friend and I tossed around the idea of visiting Slovenia. We put a plan together. First we would spend several days in the popular Hungarian vacation region of Lake Balaton, then we would move on to Slovenia.
Lake Balaton was amazing, and I had a great time catching up with my friend. But while there, I kind of hit a wall. It seemed like all we were doing was working. I was visiting somewhere truly gorgeous that I might never be able to see again, but we spent all day locked indoors, working.
Every night we went for dinner and drinks, and if you were watching me post photos like this
on my social media, you probably would have assumed everything was great. But things weren’t great. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, suffering from beauty burnout, and really missed traveling just for the sake of traveling. I vowed to slow down a bit and take on less freelance work, a plan that has only kind of worked.
After Balaton we made our way to Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana.
I had heard how small the country and assumed there wouldn’t be much to see, so I did something I rarely do — I booked a flight out of the country before I had even arrived. This proved to be a mistake. I had no idea how much I would love Slovenia. For such a small country, there’s a lot to see and do, and the food and wine scene is amazing.
In particular, I loved the high end street food market called Open Kitchen, which happens every week throughout fair weather months. I would go back to Slovenia just to visit Open Kitchen again!
I was also able to spend some time in Slovenia’s wine valley, Vipava.
It was great to get out of the city and learn about Slovenia’s phenomenal wine production. The country makes some of the most delicious wines in all of Europe!
In August, I was off to Albania. The past two summers in a row I had tried to make it to Albania, and I was happy to finally make it happen.
The country impressed me and I was surprised how much I loved it. This was another country that was incredibly affordable. On top of that, I loved Albanian food, and it was a good place to get caught up on work.
I ended up spending almost all of August and September in Albania, excluding a few short trips I took to Prizren, Kosovo to attend a documentary film festival called Dokufest and a visit to Skopje, Macedonia.
At the end of September, I made my way to Greece for the first time. This is a country I knew I’d love before setting foot on it. I arrived in Athens and spent most of my time eating all the Greek food I could. But I also found a bit of time to wander the streets and explore the ancient temples.
I was in Greece to participate in the Discover Syros campaign, a press trip run by a good friend of mine designed to promote tourism to the Greek island her family is originally from.
I could not have asked for an introduction to Greece that was better than this trip. Many of the other attendees were friends I’d met in Bucharest, so it was another chance to catch up, enjoy amazing food and wine, and promote Syros as an upcoming travel destination.
After the Syros trip, I spent a few days at the beginning of October lounging around the island of Mykonos with friends, basically doing nothing. It was actually pretty perfect to be “offline” for a few days. We ate, we drank, we laid on the beach. I did nothing blog related, and I probably won’t even write a post about my time there — it was the closest thing to an actual vacation I had taken in a while.
From Mykonos I flew to Barcelona to work with the Costa Brava tourism department. Spain is one of my favorite countries in the world, and I was excited to explore a new region. This visit didn’t disappoint, and I enjoyed working with their tourism board to promote all the things the region has to see and do (and eat and drink!).
It was also a historic time to visit the region, as Catalonia was voting on their independence from Spain.
It was all anyone could talk about, and their were daily demonstrations in the streets — opinions fell on both sides. I’m happy my visit occurred during such an important time in the country’s history.
From Spain, I flew to Bulgaria to attend the Bloggers on Top (Un)Conference in Bansko. Again, I had previously visited Bulgaria, but never Bansko, a town famous for their skiing.
The conference differed from others I had attended. As an unconference, it was led by the participants. This was a great way to get to know the other bloggers, and even though I went in not knowing what to expect, I enjoyed my time there and valued the opportunity to network. There were also several friends from the Bucharest trip I was able to catch up with again — blogging truly is a small world!
From Bulgaria, I flew back to my hometown of Oklahoma City for another family event and some time with friends and family. I hadn’t been home to Oklahoma in almost a year and a half, so it was great to see old friends, revisit my favorite haunts, and try new places that had opened after I left town.
Oklahoma City is growing at an incredible pace, and every time I return I’m impressed by the big strides the city is taking. I hope to make it back in 2018.
At the beginning of December, I made my way to Orange Beach, Alabama to participate as a judge in the World Food Championships.
The World Food Championships are one of, if not the biggest, events in United States food sport. It was a lot of fun to be involved with an event like this and see how it runs behind the curtain, so to speak.
I’ve always enjoyed watching shows like Top Chef at home, but I promise you — it’s a lot more intense in person! The food was as incredible as you’d imagine. I was able to judge three different Top 10 categories and try truly the best of the best dishes. Judging at that level is difficult, but I was happy to help!
I was also blown away by how much I enjoyed Orange Beach itself. It’s a part of my home country I’d never visited before, and it is truly gorgeous.
I’m in talks with the tourism board about working together on a few future projects that I’m pretty excited about.
Next was maybe my biggest adventure of the year — moving to Mexico!
As I mentioned earlier, I had decided I wouldn’t be returning to Chiang Mai. I wrestled with where I wanted to go — Bali, Vietnam, the south islands of Thailand, the Canary islands?
I first came to Merida to visit some good friends. I planned to check out the city and likely continuing on, making my way toward South America. But once I arrived, I knew Merida was where I wanted to be, at least for several months.
I have friends here, I found a house I love, the food is incredible, and the city is perfectly situated for visits to other areas of the country that I want to explore (and I’ve already gotten quite the head start). In fact, I have a trip to Mexico City planned this weekend, so look for material about that coming soon!
While I’m here, I’m also applying for a Mexican passport and dual citizenship. I decided to hire an attorney to handle the paperwork, and the entire process is a bit tedious, but if it’s granted, it would open up travel opportunities to me that would otherwise be unavailable. Fingers crossed that all goes well.
That brings us into 2018.
So what’s next?
At the moment, I’m quite happily based in Merida and am planning lots of shorter visits around Mexico and the surrounding countries.
In the near future I hope to visit Oaxaca and explore the city’s famous food scene. Also, Cuba isn’t far from here, so I’ll likely plan a visit there. I’d love to visit Belize and possibly revisit Honduras and Nicaragua while I’m in this part of the world.
I plan to stay until I find out whether I’ve been granted a Mexican passport, or until it’s time to leave for another summer in Europe, likely around May. This summer, I hope to visit more of Eastern Europe, and I would love to make it back to spend more time in Greece, as I feel I only got a small taste of the country!
What about you — what are your plans for 2018? I would love to hear about them! Let me know in the comments section below!