A Year in Review. Chronologically retelling a year of travels, of lessons learned and finding myself. This might be the most in depth year in review on the blog to date, but bear with me as I countdown the months filled with highlights, relationship breakdowns and on where I am going.
Part One: Where I’ve Been
The year started with two back to back trips out to California in January, one to San Diego and the other to Los Angeles for my birthday. Semester at Sea was holding their “Rock the Dock” event, a fundraising/open house party in San Diego. However, it would also mark the last time the MV Explorer would be docked as part of the Semester at Sea program. The MV Explorer was bought out by Celestyal Cruises, in which the ship now sails around the Greek Islands. At the time, we had no idea what the future would hold in store for SAS: the ocean home was sold, and the institution was in debt as it is expensive to sail around the world for four months, all the while hosting 1,000 plus students, staff, and professors.
My friend Sammi, and Travis decided to revisit the ship for the last time. It brought back a flurry of memories of sailing around the world, it gave me overwhelming pangs of nostalgia as I walked through the halls. We visited our shipmate’s old rooms, and took a photo of their doors as they couldn’t be there in person. Most of the time on the ship was taking a picture of every last thing: the door, the hallways, the dining room, deck 7, the stewards, and even the basketball court. I wanted so much to be transported back to the days of 2011, sailing around the world with my friends, but this would have to do. For those wondering, several months later SAS bought a new ship, the really fancy “The Odyssey”.
I also took a road trip out to Salt Lake City. As most of you already know about my battle with thyroid cancer in 2012 – I went to get a yearly checkup and the ultrasound came back clear! YAY! Which was a sigh of relief. I’ve worked so hard for so long to get to where I am, to get healthy, and I did it – and I will do my best to keep it that way.
In April, I decided to extend my stay in London, following Traverse – a travel blogging conference that was hosted in Kingston this year. For a month I explored the city, and rediscovered my love for all things London. It gave me a time to “live abroad” even if for a short time. I had wanted to give London a test drive if you will, a sojourn by myself for a month and to see if I could fit in with the city. London has been a place full of wonderful memories, and painful memories. I won’t go all Taylor Swift on you with clues, but mixed signals and a kiss one night ruined a friendship. Despite navigating uncharted waters and heartbreak in the dating arena, I took solace with luncheons with my friends, museum strolls, and sunny days at Regent Park with it’s lovely spring blossoms. It was time to move on.
After the month was up, in May I would meet my best friend Tee in Barcelona, Spain for another conference. In the two week I would journey to Torroella De, Cadaques, Girona and Lloret De Mar for TBEX. While I liked Barcelona, and stayed in the most gorgeous penthouse suite I’ve ever stayed in at the Generator Hostel (review coming up soon!) I was enamored by the idyllic Spanish countryside. With its siestas, tapas stunning villages and sunny beaches, we would travel with our Spanish guide Raul. He is exactly as you would think, Raul is the kind of man that would remark on your exotic accent as sexy. “Say, rural one more time”, he would ask me when I happened to be talking about the rural countryside at lunch. Without skipping a beat, he would flirt shamelessly on every girl that he laid eyes on. While nothing happened as he wasn’t my type but it certainly cheered me up to hear that I had a sexy accent. Rurrral.
Traveling with someone else can be exhausting, frustrating, and fun. In all of the times I’ve traveled with Tee we would fight, and bicker as sisters would do. But this trip would bring out the biggest arguments we’ve ever had since we were kids. Our 15 year BFF friendship almost came to an abrupt end. It was then that I realized that my best friend/travel buddy and I were slowly growing apart. She was attached with the life she built with her boyfriend back home, and I, well just wanted to take off, keep exploring the world, fall in love and move abroad . We only have one trip slated in 2016 for Sweden, in which she would come and interpret the conference. But for the first time in years we won’t be traveling together as often. I know it it is for the best.
I decided to return to London in August for Blogstock, but tacked on Scotland and Wales with my family in tow. Again, I would stay behind in London for a couple of weeks, in addition to the two week whirlwind trip with my family. We would visit locales such as the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, and climb Arthur’s seat in Edinburgh. While it was safe to say that it was a disaster of sorts – riddled with family drama – the highlight was taking my 10 year old cousin and showing her all the cool places London, Scotland and Wales had to offer. It would be her first international trip, and I wanted so badly to encourage her to explore the world, experience other cultures and learn something outside of the U.S.
Despite the tumultuous journey – she fell in love with travel and remarked “Can we do this again next summer? I just love London so much!” It made my heart happy. After our teary goodbyes at the airport, I traveled back alone to a flat that my friend had invited me to stay in for the rest of the time in London. But after a disagreement, I had decided to check out of the flat and decided to AirBnB it at the last minute. A costly decision, but then came time for Blogstock. I would be alone, with no interpreter for the sessions. During the cold, rainy, camping adventure, I grew weary. Weary of the drama, and the awkward moments. I started to feel out of place, perhaps I didn’t quite fit in as well as I had thought I did in the beginning of the year.
Thailand had been high on my travel list for a while, but every time I would make plans to visit the country, it would fall apart. But when the opportunity arose to attend TBEX in Bangkok in mid October – I jumped at the chance, and took off with Tee in tow. I was nervous, since it would be the first time traveling with her after our huge fight. She would come along, and interpret the sessions. Thailand was one of those countries that we just couldn’t say no to. Having gone to Vietnam for the second time in 2014, I was so thrilled to be returning to Asia a year later. It reunited my love affair with Asia – the sights, the scent of fruit and incense wafting in the air, and the busy motorcycles zooming past with the occasional tuk tuks. Thailand was rejuvenating, healed me; it was exactly what I needed. While there was the chaos of the conference, the highlights are my dear friends I got to spend time with, laughing and swapping stories into the wee hours of the night on Khao San Road. It will be a country that will always be special to me and I hope to return one day. Tee and I got along surprisingly well, it would be one of the most calm, fun trips we’ve ever taken. Which made it all the more bittersweet.
November strolled right in with it’s chilly winter winds and the opportunity came up to visit London again – I had to decline. I needed time off from the city, to give myself time to move on from heartbreaks I had experienced earlier in the year. I never wanted to be the person that grew tired of my favorite city, and I was dangerously close. It broke my heart not to be in the city during my favorite time of the year, where the lights twinkle on Carnaby street, and Oxford. When ice skating rinks open up outside of museums, and little Christmas markets set up shop along the bank. I do miss it, it feels quite strange not to touch down on the english soil in months, I miss my friends and the beautiful city. I am sure there will come a time where I will visit the city in the new year, but it will be a while before I do.
December was a hibernation of sorts: I stayed home with my family, including my dogs, and had one of the best, most memorable Christmas to date. I even figured out how to Snapchat (Yay me!).
2015 was the year where I traveled to 3 new countries, a year of many reunions with my friends, it also gave me time to grow, and learn a lot about myself. It would test my strengths and weaknesses, pushed me to rethink a lot of things and to plan for the future. Which brings me to my 2016 resolution. In the next year, I hope to focus on the things that make me happy, things that will challenge me, help me to accomplish my goals.
Part 2: Where I’m Going
2016 will be a year of rebranding, fine tuning my website, and creating much more content, and uploading a backlog of articles that didn’t make it online last year. While I went through a website redesign in 2014, what didn’t make it to the blog was the horrible mistake of hiring a terrible website designer, who ripped me off for thousands of dollars, and yet did not nearly complete my vision. With the new year, I feel that it would be the perfect time to finally redesign my website to the way I had originally envisioned it. With a new look, more content, and videos – I strive to make this the year of the Travel Bee.
Which brings me to my next resolution on the list. I received an awesome GoPro camera for Christmas (Thanks Mom!), it will give me the perfect opportunity to delve into the world of producing videos. In 2016 I will be dusting off the cobwebs that is my youtube page, and giving it new life with videos.
In the last week of 2015, I was able to squeeze in a class on the foundations of Aerial Silk. A class that I’ve been wanting to take for a while now, and I finally seized the opportunity to snatch up a class for $5! Tangling myself in the silks, and swinging in the air was thrilling, albeit a tough workout. Even though I was fumbling around in the first class, I know practice makes perfect – which is why I will be enrolling in aerial yoga class, and doing weights at the local gym to build up my upper body strength further. This year, I hope to master the art of Aerial Silk and challenge myself in the air.
“Are you still watching Netflix, Cherie?” Waking up from slumbering on the couch – after binge-watching Jessica Jones, The X – Files, Star Trek, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – doesn’t paint a pretty picture! Don’t get me wrong, I love watching Netflix in my pajamas, but I decided it was time to do another book challenge. After receiving an awesome Kindle for Christmas, I devoured through several books in a week. I am currently reading “In a Sunburned Country” by Bill Bryson, and loved “As You Wish: Inconceivable tales from the Making of the Princess Bride” by Cary Elwes, and “The Martian” by Andy Weir. Perhaps I will do an end of the year book review? Let me know in the comment section of any books you think I may like!
Just like last year, I will be making a return to my beloved California; a week long trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco in January. I’ve also booked a trip back to Sweden for TBEX in July. I figure it would be the perfect opportunity to explore more of Europe a bit, perhaps a quick jaunt to either Greece, or Croatia. Watch for my next post, 2016 Travel Resolutions. Also, the Philippines is on my agenda for the year; I would love to return to Asia and explore the countries I didn’t get to yet, such as Bali, and Cambodia.
Take more road trips with my travel-obsessed dogs. Look at how cute they are! I used to take road trips all the time, but surprisingly in 2015 I only did 2 road trips – I want to explore more of Idaho, and the surrounding states, as well as Canada.
It’s also time to renew my passport, and finally apply for Global Entry. Sadly my passport with the extra pages expire in May. I hope to finish filling up the remaining pages, as it will be the last time I have the chance to do so. Now that the rules have changed regarding passports, they won’t allow any extra pages to be added to your passport. Bah, humbug! But at least I will have a new passport to fill up.
Get get in touch with my artistic side. When I was in high school I was very creative, participating in printshop classes, photography, wrote poetry, and I even took on a job at the local embroidery shop. I want to brush up on my photography, maybe take some art classes downtown.
Well that’s it for 2016 resolutions, simple but sweet. What are your new year resolutions?