I can’t believe it’s almost 2017 – this year has completely flown by! As I’m packing for a quick end of the year trip to Europe, I started thinking about all the trips I’ve been fortunate to go on this year. I explored nine new countries, finally made it to Central America and the Carribean, and gained many valuable travel tips from my experiences. It was hard to pick, but here are my favorite travel moments of 2016.
While it may not be a different country, I’d always wanted to go to Hawaii. I got to spend two relaxing weeks there exploring the Big Island, and even did a road trip around the whole island. This trip was special to me because I conquered two fears: scuba diving and needles. I got over my anxiety of learning to scuba dive, had an amazing time, and became certified. I also got a tattoo while I was there of the coordinates of where my family comes from in Ireland and Poland.
I honestly didn’t have this on my list until I saw Icelandair’s stopover program, which fit in perfectly with my flight home from Stockholm. I am SO glad I spent a few days here before I went home – it has to be one of the most adventurous countries I’ve ever seen. You can snowmobile on a glacier, drive around the island and stay in remote villages, and even scuba dive between two continental plates. I love it so much that I’m going back here this winter!
Poland is one of the countries I didn’t realize I’d like so much until I got there. My mom was born outside of Warsaw, so I made it my goal this summer to visit that small village. To be in a place where absolutely no one speaks English was completely new to me, but they still showed me such hospitality. I explored Warsaw and Krakow as well and found them to be beautiful cities. It’s also a very affordable country to get around, which doesn’t hurt!
I took a cruise to the Dominican Republic, where we stayed for four days volunteering. We would drive an hour out each day to help small businesses from the country, including a chocolate factory completely run by women and a recycling factory. I was so impressed with how hard these women worked every single day, yet how happy they were that we were there helping them. At the end of the trip, we were able to get these businesses completely caught up with their workloads and produced hundreds of extra dollars of inventory for them. I loved the feeling of traveling to a new place with the purpose of helping others.
I went to Sweden to attend my first TBEX, a travel blogging conference. By the end of the week, I didn’t want to leave! I loved walking around Stockholm, exploring all the restaurants, and having unlimited places to shop. They also have some of the best pastries I’ve ever had. Before the conference, I had a chance to head out east on the archipelago to stay at a lodge on the Baltic Sea. It reminded me of the Pacific Northwest with how much it has to offer with outdoor activities. My goal is to come back again in the summer to drive further north and explore this huge country.
This was my last big trip of this year and I finally accomplished my goal of visiting Central America. While I still want to visit every country there, this was a beautiful place to start. I stayed in the northwestern part by Liberia, which didn’t have the tourist crowds of San Jose. I loved being able to explore the beaches with just locals. I even got stung by my first jellyfish while I was snorkeling!
Where are you headed in 2017?
Looking for more travel tips?
Sign up for my weekly newsletter to get travel tips, plus enter to win travel contests!