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As this year is drawing to a close, I have been looking back at the past twelve months, the countries and cities I visited, the new friends I’ve made, the hurdles I had to overcome, the food I ate, the memories I made. Here’s a quick summary my travels in 2015:
- 15 countries
- 30 major cities
- 70 different beds
- 32 flights
- 16 ferry rides
Almost all the ferry rides (with the exception of the overnight ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm and back) and most of my flights were taken during my stint in South East Asia earlier this year – traveling in the Philippines, an island nation, upped this number quite a bit, and bouncing around some of Thailand’s beautiful islands also contributed to that number. In addition to boats and planes, I traveled in cars, buses, trains, jeepneys (the main shared transportation in the Philippines), tricycles, tuktuks, pickup trucks, on the back of a motorbike, in minivans, long-tail boats and Filipino fishing boats. Trying to remember all these places is not easy, and trying to pick only 20 favorites is even harder. I gave it a try though and am sharing my 20 most memorable travel moments of 2015 with you today:
20 Returning to California
I started my summer visit to the U.S. with a few days in L.A. and Santa Monica – my first visit to L.A. since 2010! I stayed in Santa Monica to be right by the beach and it was the best decision I could’ve made – it was worth it for these sunsets alone. Other highlights of the trip: the street art in West Hollywood, the Grammy Museum, cruising along the Pacific.
19 Temple hopping in Chiang Mai
I spent nearly two months in Thailand this spring and it remains one of my favorite countries. The Buddhist temples, the food (!), the elephants, the night markets, the rice fields in the north, and the beaches in the south.. There’s so much to see in Thailand! I know I’ll be back many more times.
18 A black sand beach littered with massive, blue chunks of ice
This was hands down one of the most remarkable moments of this year’s travels. It was my first trip to Iceland and seeing these icebergs, some floating in the ice cold Arctic water, some washed ashore, was a highlight of our road trip around the country. The icebergs are all pieces that have broken off of the nearby Jökulsarlon glacier, by the way.
17 Visiting Hong Kong
I booked a flight to Hong Kong on a whim and I didn’t have many expectations. The more surprised I was when I fell in love with the city! I couldn’t get enough of Hong Kong and returned a few months later for another visit. The vibrant neighborhoods, the chaos in the markets, the mouthwatering food smells everywhere and the amazing eateries quickly turned Hong Kong into one of my all-time favorite destinations. Curious to see how Hong Kong surprised me? Read 12 Things That Surprised Me About Hong Kong.
16 The deserted beaches of Siquijor
I didn’t have this tiny island in the Philippines on my original itinerary, but my friend Carla recommended it to me in Manila and so I included it in my island hopping tour, trusting her advice. The minute I walked off the ferry pier and laid eyes on the turquoise waters I knew that the detour was going to be worth it. Siquijor was one of my favorite places in the Philippines! Read more about my time in Siquijor here: Searching for magic in mystical Siquijor.
15 Rediscovering my love for London
It had been years since I spent time in the city I called home for three years until I left to travel the world in 2010. This year I finally spent some quality time in London, revisiting and introducing my friend Shannon to some of my favorite places around the city. London’s changed quite a bit over the past five years, but what hasn’t changed is how much I love the city.
14 Hiking through hundreds of thousands giant Saguaro cacti
I’ve talked about my love for Southern Arizona so many times already, but it’s the one place that I keep going back to – I am planning my fifth trip to Tucson for next year, and I can’t wait to get back to the Sonoran Desert. This year, I was lucky enough to show a first-time visitor around Southern Arizona, giving me an excuse to revisit all the great National Parks and hiking trails, and explore some that I hadn’t been to before.
13 Spending part of the summer in Germany
It had been a while since my last summer in Germany and this year I arrived just in time for a heatwave. Which meant pool parties with my nephew and going to the lake with my nieces! And lots of al fresco dining in sidewalk cafes everywhere I went, like my hometown of Erfurt which is pictured here. Getting to spend quality time with my family whenever I want is one of the best things about being location independent.
12 Cycling along dusty dirt roads in Cambodia
My rental bike was rickety, rusty and old, it was unbelievably hot and humid, but I had one of the best days of the entire year that day. First of all, I love Cambodia and while my return this year was not planned at all, I ended up not wanting to leave… Second, that day on the bike, cycling through rice fields and small villages, passing families on motorbikes and school girls on bicycles, was such a great way to absorb Cambodian country life and I was blown away by how friendly and welcoming everyone is, waving at me excitedly as they were passing me, yelling Hello from across the street, or just giving me a big smile. Not only one of my favorite countries I visited this year, but in all of my travels!
11 A beach vacation in Koh Tao
When I returned to Thailand this year I wanted to make sure to not only revisit old favorites but to explore places I hadn’t been to before. The tiny island of Koh Tao in the Gulf Of Thailand was one of them. It was the perfect beach vacation. I had the right person with me to make it truly special and we enjoyed long beach sessions, a daily sunset watching ritual, we cruised all over the island in an ATV, ate delicious food, took a snorkeling trip, watched the fire dancers on the beach at night. I will be back for sure.
10 Exploring the Lombardy region in northern Italy
It was my first visit to Italy (one of my all time favorite countries in the world!) in four years, and this time around I explored Lombardy, a region I hadn’t paid much attention to on earlier trips to Italy (with the exception of a short trip to Milan). I loved the places I visited – Bergamo, Lake Garda and Brescia (pictured) and all the delicious food I stuffed my face with! Want to see more pictures of Lombardy? Check out: Why You Need To Visit Lombardy, In 20 Photos.
09 Watching the sunset over the Bosporus in Istanbul
My time in Istanbul was short, but sweet. I hadn’t been there in years, even though I love the city, and in previous visits had never made it to the Asian side. This year, I got to know Kadikoy (on the Asian side), eat so much yummy Turkish food (and baklava of course!) and saw some spots off the beaten tourist path, all thanks to KatrinkaAbroad. My short visit was a good reminder that I should revisit places that I love more often, and a longer stint in Istanbul would be amazing.
08 Stopping in Amsterdam on my way to London
Amsterdam was a spontaneous addition to my European train trip in September, and I’m so glad that I decided to stop there for a quick visit (hadn’t been there since 2000!) I was blessed with gorgeous late summer weather, strolled along the canals for hours without a plan or a map, discovered corners of the city I’d never seen before and took a gazillion photos. Definitely one of Europe’s most picturesque cities.
07 My fall foliage road trip to the Catskills
We didn’t have much of a plan, the only thing we had on our agenda was to see the beautiful fall colors and to leave the city for a few days. We went on hikes, explored little towns in the Hudson Valley, took scenic byways through colorful forests showing off their bright yellow, orange and red leaves, we played in the leaves and loved every minute of it. You can see more fall colors here: Colorful New York – A fall foliage road trip.
06 A whirlwind trip to Tel Aviv
My rather spontaneous trip to Tel Aviv in October feels almost like a dream now, it came and went so fast! It was my second trip to Tel Aviv and everything was just right: great company, so much good food, a wild night out, beach time, awesome street art in the Florentine neighborhood where I stayed, oh and there was that film crew that followed us around most of the time – you can see more of my trip to Tel Aviv here: bit.ly/TLV-69 or read how I fell in love with the city when I first visited Israel in 2014: My short love affair with Tel Aviv.
05 Finding paradise in Thailand
I got really frustrated when I was looking for the picture perfect secluded beach in the Andaman Sea but everywhere we went was touristy or built up with hotels. That was until we stumbled upon Koh Poda, a tiny island off the coast of Ao Nang near Krabi. While there were quite a few tourists near the boat docking area, we just needed to walk down the beach a few hundred meters to find ourselves completely alone on a pristine beach with crystal clear water. It was heavenly – a true tropical paradise! You can marvel at more Koh Poda photos here: Please don’t go to.. Koh Poda.
04 All the little moments that made my love for Berlin grow even more…
I ended up visiting Berlin five times this year and I think I could come up with 20 favorite travel moments in Berlin alone! There were too many great moments to list them all here but memorable were all the meet ups with other travelers, showing several friends around the city (I have to thank Nicky for the photo below!), the Festival Of Lights, the amazing Lebanese food on Sonnenallee, Mauerpark karaoke on a hot and sunny Sunday in August, lazy afternoons in beer gardens, Tempelhof airfield sunsets, a bar crawl and a street art tour. Love this city so much!
03 Chasing waterfalls in Iceland
It was a head-on-head between Iceland and another country (#02 on this list!) for the title of ‘best new destination I visited in 2015’. I think it’s a tie, to be honest, because Iceland was spectacular! Road tripping around Iceland’s ring road with Rease was a highlight of 2015. I don’t know how many times each day we pulled over on the side of the road to photograph yet another stunning waterfall, geysers or lava fields, and the scenery was different every day. One day we drove though a barren landscape that felt like the moon, the next day we drove along beautiful fjords, or glaciers galore! Such a diverse country, considering his small it is. Iceland is magical and if you go, I highly recommend road tripping around country. Read more here: Icebergs, waterfalls, geysers and lava fields: Highlights from an Iceland Road Trip
02 Visiting the picture perfect White Beach in Boracay
Boracay is probably the most popular island in the Philippines, and it’s popular for a reason: the fabulous White Beach, which stretches for miles. It was not just the beach that made my time in Boracay perfect – it was also the people I met there, the wild nights out, the breathtaking sunsets, the vacation feeling that I hadn’t felt in so long. I felt so stressed and burned out when I arrived on the island, but I left Boracay feeling relaxed and with a smile on my face. You can read more about my time in Boracay here: Debauchery in paradise – Letting loose in Boracay.
01 Every single moment spent in New York City!
You didn’t think I wouldn’t include New York City in my list of favorite travel moments, did you? 😉 This was the second year in a row that I spent the most time of the year in NYC, and of course there’s a reason why I keep coming back to the Big Apple. There’s just no other city in the world that feels so vibrant and diverse, that allows me to travel to another country with just a short subway ride (not literally, of course), that has thousands (literally!) of food places for me to work my way through, that is so rich in culture and has more things to do than I could ever get around to doing – which is important for someone like me who can’t sit still. After living in eight different neighborhoods all over the city, I feel more at home here now than ever before. And after years of feeling unsettled, it feels good to have a place again that feels like home. I hope I’ll be able to continue to spend time here, making it a base in between trips, like my upcoming trip to South America! My 2016 travels are starting with the #1 destination on my travel wish list for next year!
Amazing travels – amazing year?
A quick word on the side of 2015 that isn’t shown here: everything that went wrong! I chose to share my favorite travel moments, but believe me, this year wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. I experienced some setbacks, I was completely overwhelmed with my workload at times, I was on the verge of a burnout in the summer, and I also experienced some difficulties on the road – like not being allowed to board a flight TWICE, almost running out of money at some point, and my personal life (read: love life) hasn’t always been easy either. I just thought I should mention this because even though I’m living my dream of a life of travel it doesn’t mean that my life is perfect.