This year has been great travel-wise. Despite some unfortunate circumstances in Curacao this month, 2015 has given me a number of new experiences (from downhill mountain biking to mountain climbing), immersed me in amazing cultural situations (like homestays with herbalists and experimental art playgrounds) and even introduced me to a promising love interest on the road (not ready to disclose more about this yet, but stay tuned!). Instead of just telling you about the highlights of my year, however, I thought I’d show you.
Without further adieu, here are my best travel Instagrams of 2015.
1. Getting My Photo Safari Business Off The Ground
I’ve been a certified NYC tour guide for two years now. In the beginning I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to use my license for. While I dipped my toes into the water a bit freelancing for some tour companies — which I still do — I realized I ultimately wanted to work for myself. After having countless readers ask me to show them around New York, I came up with a plan: I’d offer private tours of NYC with itineraries customized based on the guest’s interests. Not only that, but I would include unlimited high resolution photos free of charge to differentiate myself from the competition. Business has steadily grown, and I hope it continues to in 2016 (especially with the recent launch of my affiliate program!).
2. Summiting Volcan Concepcion In Nicaragua
There’s never been a hike offered to me that I thought “I don’t think I can complete this.” Even the night before Volcan Concepcion, as my group sipped beers on Ometepe Island and Tim, Eric and Javier repeatedly asked me if I was sureeeeeeee I’d be able to do it, I took it as a sexist remark and spat that not only would I complete the hike, but I’d be the fastest (damnit!). Okay, so I wasn’t the fastest — and trust me, there were about 64.7 times I seriously considered turning around and heading back; but the support of my hiking mates (and a strong fear of ridicule later) propelled me forward. Summiting that volcano was one of the most proud moments of my life, not to mention the view — and workout — were incredible.
3. Growing A Love For Group Tours
Many of you who regularly read my blog, which is largely focused on solo travel, know I’m typically hitting the road on my own; however, when Intrepid Travel invited me to experience their Way to San Jose itinerary through Central America I accepted…with skepticism. What if everyone else sucked? What if I sucked and everyone hated me? These were my fears, but luckily they were quickly assuaged as I met other travelers who easily became some of my closest friends (I’ve already stayed with Tim in Detroit twice, and we almost went to Curaçao together until I got denied entry. It was also nice not having to think or worry; the guide is the one who gets all the stress, not you. Solo travel with likely always be my main travel style, but I’m definitely now open to sprinkling a few group tours into the mix.
4. Dissolving Stereotypes In Israel
I definitely received raised eyebrows when I told family and friends I was going to Israel. Most people thought I was out of my mind, and that the country was just a ticking time bomb — literally — with regular explosions and casualties. I’m not going to say violence doesn’t happen in Israel or that tourists don’t sometimes get stuck in the crossfire, but it isn’t happening all over all the time. Some highlights of my trip: floating in the Dead Sea (seen above), seeing a Madaba sunrise, hurling myself into Israel’s largest crater, cycling and camping in Timna Park, getting an aqua massage in a treehouse and sipping beers while tanning on the beach in Eilat.
5. Discovering A New Favorite Country In Slovenia
Before going I didn’t know much about Slovenia. My real reason for going to Eastern Europe was Croatia, and since Slovenia was so close I figured, why not? In the end I loved both countries, but Slovenia truly stole my heart. I mean, how could it not when it started with a homestay with herb pickers in the countryside? Along with amazing hiking and biking day trips — like Lake Bled (shown above) — I loved that the capital, Ljubljana, was car-free in its city center. I sipped wine along the river on cobbled streets, mingling with (very attractive) locals and enjoying the peace of it all.
6. Trying (And Dominating!) Downhill Mountain Biking For My First Time
Okay, dominating might be a strong word, especially since my downhill mountain biking guide separated my group of 10 into one group of nine and a group of one — the one being me since I totally sucked and was holding everyone back. It was worth being singled out though, as my lack of skill procured me free private lessons. By the end of the 5.5-mile Green World trail at Trestle Bike Park in Colorado’s Winter Park I felt unstoppable. And thankful that I didn’t bounce off of one of those scary rocks and fly off the mountain. In all seriousness, though, it was a lot scarier than I expected and it felt amazing to finish strong after a shaky start. I’ll definitely be doing it again.
7. Getting “Stuck” In Punta Cana
Not to make anyone who was stuck in New York during early 2015’s crazy snow storms, but I successfully avoided the worst of it. This was because I was on a media trip to Punta Cana when it hit the Northeast. The storms were so bad Delta cancelled my flight home — and couldn’t reschedule me for another week! And because it was a work trip my hotel comped me the extra days. Let’s just say it was probably the first time I was HAPPY about a flight delay.
8. Conquering Rock Climbing In Croatia
While I’ve gone repelling and canyoning numerous times, I’ve never actually climbed up a mountain face (unless you count Brooklyn Boulders and their plastic walls dotted with rainbow-colored foot pegs). In Split I was able to try it with two very knowledgeable guides from Croactive Holidays, who were also super chill (we went for beers afterward). While I’m not really afraid of heights or climbing I’m pretty weak in the arms. The experience showed me there’s more to climbing than just being jacked, and introduced me to a fun activity I’m actually not awful at.
9. Getting Inspired By Experimental Art In Detroit
There are a number of quirky and art-centric experiences to be had in Detroit, such as The Heidelberg Project (shown above), a non-profit, open air art gallery started by Tyree Guyton in 1986 that features “everyday, discarded objects to create a two block area full of color, symbolism, and intrigue.” The area was like a bizarre playground, gritty yet whimsical, childish yet thought-provoking, and truly opened my eyes to the idea that beauty is everywhere and in everything. A few other places that stirred me: the Z Lot, the Belt and the streets around Eastern Market.
10. Quirky Wine Touring In The Azores, Portugal
Pico Island is a volcanic island in the Azores of Portugal, and unlike any other wine region I’ve ever explored. Here, 15th century vintners adapted to the basalt-littered landscape with stone homes and stone walled vineyards to protect the vineyards from fierce Atlantic winds and surges of salty ocean water. This can still be seen today in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Criação Velha wine region in the municipality of Madalena. The small plots of land feature five-foot high walls for protection, known as “currais,” and myriad of them form a complex labyrinth rectangular pens quite spectacular to see from above or to walk through. In the background you see the active Mount Pico Volcano. It’s gorgeous — and delicious!
Do you have any of your own “best travel Instagrams” from 2015 to share? Add your link in the comments below!
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