2016 was an interesting year, with travels I didn’t see coming at all, and visits to places I had on my travel wish list but didn’t think I’d go to this year. I terribly failed at my travel wish list – out of the ten places I wanted to visit, I only made it to one (Colombia).
2016 was the year I started off by saying I really want to slow down (see: The Evolution Of A Nomad), but then I ended up traveling more than in previous years. Even though I only visited six countries, my time in the US was spent between five states, and I ended up on 23 flights (from one place to another, not counting connecting flights), which means I took about two flights per month.I tried to add up the number of beds I slept in and came up with 82, but to be honest, I may have forgotten a couple. That means I’ve slept in a new bed every five days, and at least 12 beds more than in 2015, even though I visited less countries this year – down from 15 countries last year. I spent time in five different US states, however, I spent around a month in each: Washington, New York, Arizona, Texas and California.
I have to admit that it wasn’t easy to narrow it down to 16 favorite moments, because I’ve had special moments in each place I visited. I had to cut out Dallas, which I unexpectedly loved, my days in a beach hotel in Brighton this past summer, a month in Seattle with so many moments I cherished, or my awesome weekend in Cologne in July.
I shared the details of each month’s ups and downs in my monthly round-ups, but here are my top 16 travel moments of 2016 as a whole:
16 Ice skating in Manhattan
There are only two things in New York City that get me excited for winter: Central Park covered in snow (which I witnessed two years ago) and the ice rinks. Despite spending all of December in New York last year, I never found someone to go ice skating with. This year, I finally made it to Bryant Park for an ice skating session, and if I end up spending next winter in New York, I’ll definitely invest in skates – so much fun!
Thanks for the photos, Kristin!
15 Visiting the Amazon
When I mapped out my time in Colombia, I decided not to visit the Amazon, simply because it was a bit of a hassle to get down there (only accessible by plane) and I felt like it wasn’t a good place for a solo traveler. When a friend I met on my travels through the country happened to fly down to Leticia though and invited me to tag along, I didn’t have to think twice. I was going to the Amazon! Soaking up life in small villages along the Amazon (only accessible by boat) was an amazing experience, and seeing the seemingly endless green of the Amazonian jungle was truly awe-inspiring. Kayaking in the Amazon and seeing pink river dolphins were the icing on the cake.
14 The Sweet SoCal Life
Last year, I spent a few days in L.A. – my first visit to Southern California since 2010 – and even though it was only a brief visit, it was one of my 2015 favorite travel moments. This year, I was lucky enough to return to SoCal, and ended up spending over a month there, three weeks of which were housesitting for my friend Jen in Long Beach. Looking after her pup Henry was such a treat, and I loved getting a taste of the sweet Cali life: runs on the beach, going for drives along the Pacific Coast Highway, and exploring L.A.’s neighborhoods. I feel extremely lucky that I got to spend so much time in this beautiful State.
13 A day in Rome
I only had one full day in Rome after my week-long hike through Umbria and Latium, but I sure made the most of it. I wandered around Trastevere, my favorite neighborhood, for hours, I returned to some of my favorite landmarks (the Colosseum, the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain), I had tasty pizza and gelato, and even got to see the papal audience.
12 Beach hopping along Mexico’s Pacific Coast
I’ve seen so much of Mexico in the past few years, but for some reason, I never made it to the popular Riviera Nayarit. This year, I finally made it to the famous Pacific beaches and beach hopped between Sayulita, San Pancho and Puerto Vallarta. I loved each place for different reasons, and was happy to enjoy beach town living for a few weeks. My routine there was simple, but it gave me so much joy: a few hours of work in the morning followed by a jungle hike or a SUP session, an hour at the beach with a good book and watching the sunset with a cold beer.
11 Christmas Markets in Germany
I admit it: I am not the biggest fan of winter in Germany. It’s grey, it’s cold, it rains a lot, and the sun comes up at 8am and disappears at 4pm – if it shows itself at all. But one thing that got me excited about spending the Holidays with my family? The Christmas Markets! There’s just nothing like a German Christmas Market with mulled wine, sugar roasted nuts and other Christmas Market foods, seeking out gifts and catching up with friends over a glass of hot eggnog.
10 Living in Mexico City
Mexico City wasn’t on my travel wish list for 2016, and not in a million years would I have thought that I’d end up there this year. But as so often happens, a life of travel often brings you to some unexpected crossroads, and I chose the road to Mexico City in March. Living there for a few weeks allowed me to revisit all of my favorite museums, neighborhoods and art galleries, and thanks to my local friends I got to know some new cool hangouts. Settling into a routine of work in my favorite coffee shop during the day and after work urban exploration was easy breezy – I could’ve stayed for much longer, but the Yucatan was calling (see #2).
9 Summer in New York City
I was really bummed out when I learned that I had to travel to Germany for a couple of months this year, which meant missing out on my favorite time in New York: the summer. Luckily enough I was able to spend at least a month there in August (after a short week at the beginning of June) and tried to make up for lost time in those four weeks: a weekend getaway to Fire Island, the food markets, picnics in the park, outdoor movies, and even kayaking on the Hudson River. There’s just no place I’d rather be in the summer than New York.
8 Playing tour guide in Berlin
I ended up playing tour guide in Berlin three times this year, and each time I visit the city, I fall in love with it a little bit more. Spending time in Berlin in the summer again was a real treat, because that meant I could show my visitors all my favorite things there: sunset picnics in Tempelhof Airport (sans planes), al fresco dining in Kreuzberg, strolls along the canal, bike rides through Tiergarten Park, flea markets, self-guided street art walks, beach bars and cheap wine bars, drinks with a view at Klunkerkranich, bar hopping in Friedrichshain, and I even happened to be in town for the Gay Pride Street Fest.
7 Hiking in Southern Arizona
I love my annual trips to Southern Arizona and I hope I’ll get to go in 2017, too. This year, two friends visited Tucson while I was there, which was the perfect excuse for several desert hikes. If you’ve been reading Globetrottergirls for a while, you’ll know that I can’t get enough of the desert, and especially the Sonoran Desert with its ginormous Saguaro Cacti.
6 A month in Austin
2016 was the year I finally made it to Austin – a city that has been high on my travel wish list for several years now. And it did not disappoint! In fact, it turned out to be a city I loved so much that I’d consider moving there. So far, I thought NYC was the only U.S. city I could see myself live in, but Austin charmed me with its incredible live music scene, the countless food trucks, craft brew bars and coffee shops that serve beer. I loved how active the city was, with people kayaking and SUPing on the river at all times, and the lovely running and walking paths along the river and in the Greenbelt. Plus a bunch of other things which you can read here: 33 Things I Love About Austin
5 Beach time in Isla Mujeres
When I got to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in April, I hadn’t been to a beach since January, when I beach hopped along Colombia’s Caribbean Coast. I also hadn’t taken any time off in a while, which is why I was beyond excited when the ferry pulled into the small ferry port on Isla Mujeres, a tiny islet off the coast near Cancun. I hadn’t been to the island since 2010, but I’d never forgotten the pristine beaches and crystal clear Caribbean waters. Spending a few days there after my Mexican road trip (another 2016 highlight!) felt like heaven. Read more here: Isla Mujeres – Finding Paradise in Mexico
4 New Mexico’s White Desert
This wasn’t my first time in New Mexico’s White Desert – I went there on my New Mexico road trip in 2013 and loved this spectacular desert with its white sands. When I decided to road trip from Tucson to Austin I knew I had to plan in a short detour to stop there again. Last time I visited in the morning, so this time I wanted to be there in the afternoon, for golden hour and for sunset, and my plan worked out. It was, just like the first time, an incredible experience, and I loved that because of the late hour of our visit, we had the desert almost all to ourselves.
3 Hiking in Italy
A week of hiking through the Italian countryside? I didn’t have to think long when the opportunity for this trip arose, and I loved every minute of it. We stopped in small quaint mountain towns along the way, hiked through vineyards and ate copious amounts of pasta each night. This was definitely one of the most epic hiking trips I’ve ever done.
You can read all about the hike along the Via Amerina in these two articles:
2 A Yucatan road trip
The Yucatan will always be my favorite region in Mexico, no doubt! So when my favorite travel companion and I decided to go on another trip together (after two weeks of backpacking in Colombia in January) and she wanted to explore Mexico, I put together an epic Yucatan road trip for us, which would introduce her to cenotes and Caribbean beaches, Maya ruins and my favorite Spanish-colonial town in Mexico: Valladolid. We even snorkeled with sea turtles! The trip went exceptionally well and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
1 The jungle trek to Colombia’s Lost City
I’d been intrigued by this trek ever since I’d first heard about it in 2010. Funnily enough, I am not sure if I would’ve had the guts to do it had I visited Colombia in 2011, as I’d originally planned when I set out on my round-the-world trip in 2010. Traveling to Colombia solo and challenging myself to hike through the jungles and the mountains for a few days showed me how much my travel style has evolved over the past few years. I was so proud when, after the four-day hike, which culminated in the climb of over 1,000 stairs to reach the ruins of an ancient city, I finally set foot in the fabled ‘Lost City’ in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Even though the hike to the Lost City was a trip where you’d say it was equally as much about the journey as it was about the destination, I found La Ciudad Perdida much more impressive than I thought I would.
I can’t wait to see which adventures 2017 will bring, but I am ready for another epic year of travel. A big Thank You to all of you for reading Globetrottergirls and following my adventures!