Well, let’s start with the obvious. I absolutely sucked at blogging here in 2017. As my writing gigs have picked up on other blogs, I almost completely abandoned you all here. Hopefully there will still be a handful of people that read this post! In 2018, I’m going to try to post here more… but that’s not what this post is about! Let’s take a look back at 2017.
In 2017, I visited nine new countries for the first time… plus Taiwan! That’s a few less than in the previous two years, but since I’m not trying to break the record for being the youngest American to visit every country anymore (it’s been broken two times this year!), I decided I wanted to take my time.
In addition to the nine new countries I visited this year, I went back to 16 (!!) countries that I have been to before. In some cases, I spent almost a month in a country that I had already been to (Iceland) and in some cases it was just a 14 hour layover at the airport that warranted a trip into the city (Athens, Greece).
Considering how much bouncing around I did, there were a lot of flights involved this year! I flew just over 102,000 miles this year which is honestly a bit more than I want to fly, but not as crazy as 2015’s 160,000+ miles! I did get to fly on a few pretty awesome flights including one of EVA’s Hello Kitty planes, Japan Airlines First Class, and a KLM flight with an amazing crew.
Here are a few highlights of the year in photo form.
The year started off with a road trip from Michigan to Colorado. 2017 was the second year that I headed out to Colorado for the ski season, and I always like to take a different route. This year I headed up north and took I-90 through South Dakota and visited both the Badlands National Park and Mt. Rushmore. Let me tell ya… the Badlands in January with a -30 windchill is a pretty desolate place!
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"… he did not know that love cannot be tested. Honesty can be tested, and loyalty. But there is no test for love. Love goes on forever, once it begins, even if we come to hate the one we love. Love goes on forever because love is born in the part of us that does not die." -Gregory David Roberts (Shantaram)
I couldn’t stay in the cold for too long, so I headed to Grand Cayman! I had a free night to redeem at the brand new Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa and that was just too good of a deal to pass up! It was an absolutely gorgeous hotel and one night was no where near long enough to stay.
Following Grand Cayman, I headed to Austin, TX to meet up with friends for a few days. After that, it was time for the first new country of the year: Algeria! Unfortunately, the way timing worked out I only have three days to visit. Luckily, my visa is good until January 2019 so I’m planning to go back in 2018! Algeria was amazing and there were practically no other tourists there. This photo from Tipaza is one of my favorite photos I took all year! It’s held the prestigious title of phone background photo all year.
After flying half way around the world on a $160 business class mistake fare, I ended up in Japan. It was just a quick visit this time, but I finally had a chance to go to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market — and of course ate a mandatory sushi breakfast after!
After coming back to Colorado from that trip I stuck around Colorado a bit and did some skiing. It wasn’t the greatest ski season in the world (though it’s looking like 2018’s might be worse!), but I still got a solid 20 days in. After that it was time for the premier #avgeek route of United’s Pacific Island Hopper – flight UA154. If you don’t like planes, 24+ hours of travel from Hawaii to Manilla probably sounds like torture, but with a bunch of friends and views like this it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in economy.
When we finally arrived in Manilla, we spent the night there and then drove a couple hours south to spend a few days scuba diving. I’ve been certified for a couple of years, but I did get my Nitrox certification. Everyone else got their open water certification. We were spoiled both by the prices and the sea life.
After scuba diving, I made my way over to Taiwan. This was actually my second visit to Taiwan for the year, but I didn’t take many photos the first time. Brendan and I spent a few days rock climbing at Long Dong, in the northern part of the island. Fun fact: much later in the year I wrote my first print article about Long Dong for Cebu Pacific’s in-flight magazine, Smiles!
We flew EVA’s Hello Kitty flight from Taipei to Paris and I surprised Brendan with business class. Seeing the look on his face when he realized we were sitting up front was priceless! We then continued on to Iceland and stayed there for a full MONTH! What that means is that a) I have WAY too many photos and it’s difficult to pick just one and b) I wanted to go to a MUCH cheaper country after we left. Let’s be real — Iceland is amazing, but it’s expensive! I would love to go spend more time there but might have to save up for a year or two to make it happen.
Also, shout out to my awesome friend Becca from high school who lives in Iceland now! She was able to road trip with us and it was so much fun! Especially considering that we planned a massive US road trip while we were in high school that we never ended up taking. This was probably better 🙂
Continuing to bounce around the world in an order that doesn’t quite make sense, we next headed to Israel. My friend Ari took us around with his family in the northern part of the country for about a week and then we headed down south and did some traveling on our own.
We then crossed the border over to Jordan and visited both Wadi Rum and Petra. Everyone I talked to ahead of time said that one night was enough to spend in Wadi Rum, and I can’t disagree more! It was stunningly beautiful and so vast! I would recommend staying at least two nights and I need to go back! Hiking up to Petra’s Monastery was also a highlight, but a little rough temperature-wise in late June.
After a few months of traveling, it was time to come back and spend some time in the U.S. for the summer. Hiking and backpacking in Glacier National Park was definitely one of the highlights.
I didn’t take may photos when I was back in Colorado and Michigan for two months during the summer because I was too busy catching up with all of the travel photos I had taken! So now, it’s already time to head back to Europe! We started out with eight days in Prague and boy did we love it. Prague has some great climbing gyms, and I was finally able to make it to Kutna Hora to see the famous bone church.
Shortly after leaving Prague, my mom met up with Brendan and I in Italy. We spent a couple of days in Northern Italy and headed over to Croatia. Piltvice Lakes National Park was so beautiful (and so crowded!). We also visited Velebit National Park and ate a bunch of delicious seafood.
We had a few days to kill before going to meet some friends in Munich for Oktoberfest, so we started by going to Chamonix, France for three days to see how we liked it. Spoiler: Chamonix is amazing! It turns out that we liked it so much that we’re going to go there for a whole month in 2018!
And then Oktoberfest. 🙂
In 2017, I FINALLY WENT TO IRAN!!!!! I didn’t write about it much here, but I was supposed to go in 2016 and at the last minute all of the Americans in my tour group didn’t get visas and weren’t able to go. Instead, we all got to go on a tour in 2017… and we got our visas this time! Iran is a stunning country and I can’t wait to go back someday.
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I'm seriously loving Iran. When I told people I was coming here I got so many comments like "you're crazy!" and "stay safe." But let me tell you, I've seen nothing but love since I arrived. Iranians are super friendly and every time they meet us they are so excited to have Americans in their country! I can't wait to continue sharing the beauty of Iran.
After Iran, Brendan went back to Colorado for a month and I went back to Europe for about two weeks to celebrate my friend Ari’s birthday in Vienna and visit Lichtenstein, my 72nd country. A long hike from Malbun to climb Augstenburg was an amazing way to spend a beautiful sunny day. I didn’t really have a plan of what to hike when I took the bus to Malbun in the morning, and it couldn’t have turned out much better than this!
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Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must live. || I wasn't really planning to climb a mountain (Augstenberg), but why not?! This 10 mile hike from Malbun, Liechtenstein was a bit tough, especially considering I was hiking through snow in regular tennis shoes, but it was so so stunning. I'm so glad I did it!
After spending some time in Europe, I still had two weeks before meeting back up with Brendan in Cambodia. There was a good airfare from Milan to Jakarta, Indonesia, so I headed to Java and Bali for two weeks. My time in Indonesia was focused around temples, volcanoes, and relaxing.
Then it was off to Cambodia! I went back to Angkor Wat for the third time, because Brendan had never been and then we went to one of my favorite places in the whole world for a week: Kep. On the drive there we stopped at Cambodia’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site: Sambor Prei Kuk.
After Kep, we stayed at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc for my birthday — seriously what an amazing hotel! — for a week, and then started our journey back to the U.S. for Christmas via Japan. Overall, it was an amazing year of travel and I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store!