2016 Travel Year in Review

Oh, 2016. What a year it’s been. Like many of my friends (including Katie and Erin), I had an incredible year personally, and while we can’t just ignore everything that’s going on in the world and in our country, that’s not what this post is about. With all the memes showing “me at the start of 2016” and “me at the end of 2016,” my favorite, and my goal, is this one (though the video version communicates the message better):

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I spent 25% of my time this year out of the country. Depending on how this next year and the next three go in regards to how the United States are being run, I may try to up that percent. But in reality, 2016 might be my most traveled year until actual retirement because I will need a job at some point since my travel savings is smaller than it was in July.

In 2016, I added 4 new states and 4 new countries to my list. I was in Singapore for dinner and a night’s sleep, and in Minnesota, China, and France for layovers in the airport, but I don’t count those. I visited the Dominican Republic twice. If my math is correct, I took 26 flights this year, though I’ve been on 27 planes. I took countless train rides between New York and Hamilton, NJ and countless buses between New York and Atlantic City. In Myanmar alone, I took an eight-hour car ride, a ten-hour boat ride, and two five-hour bus rides.

Here’s where I went and posts I wrote about each trip:

Austin, Texas

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In January, on our second frousins {friends + cousins} trip, my sister, three of our cousins, and I went to Austin where we took in the music, mural, and taco scenes. We ate multiple breakfasts, queso dips, and desserts each day. Even though I was told to “go home” by someone driving by and we were told, “it’s just a mural” by another local, I loved being there and eating the (sometimes rude) locals out of house and home.

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

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In March, I had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic on the final pilot trip for Fathom Travel. The group of travelers I was with was incredible. It was our job to test out three of their volunteering activities for the cruise that would be launched the following month – planting trees, working on English with some kids, and working in a women’s coop recycling paper. To say that this trip was life-changing is not an exaggeration. I remember the exact moment where I was 100% sure that I needed to build in more volunteering and more time with locals into my travels, and I’ve done that in other trips this year.

Guadeloupe Islands

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In April, my family wanted to go on a trip together but we didn’t know where. Requests came in for somewhere warm and some relaxation time, unlike a few of our past “go go go” trips. We decided on the Caribbean but didn’t want to just sit in a resort and I, personally, wanted to try a place none of my friends had been, so we ended up with the Guadeloupe Islands, which we discovered on the NY Times 52 Places to go in 2016 list. We had many adventures – waterfalls, snorkeling, hiking, bokit sandwiches, getting twisted and turned around trying to find restaurants, me attempting (and failing) to use my French – and had some of that relaxation time as well with oceanfront bungalows, pools, and palm trees.

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

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After the pilot trip to the Dominican Republic was so successful, I couldn’t wait to try out the full cruise to participate in additional impact activities. This time, I brought along my sister for the seven-day cruise in June, which completely made up for my negative history with cruises. We met so many wonderful people – writers, other travelers, and locals – and I was so happy to share the experience with family, especially when installing concrete floors in homes in Puerto Plata.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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In August, I used Kuala Lumpur as a rest-stop on my way to Myanmar on my first adventure after quitting my job. I overcame my intense jetlag, visited the Batu Caves (where I played with tons of monkeys and spent time outside of my comfort zone in the absolute darkness), experienced the food scene, and explored the sights.

Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, & Inle Lake, Myanmar

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From mid-August to mid-September, for 29 days – one day past my visa limitation – I was in the incredible country of Myanmar – or Burma, as some of you may know it. I was there to volunteer with Sundara, an organization that provides soap to those who need it, but I also took the opportunity to explore a ton on my own. I fell in love with the food, the clothing, the environment, and the people. I traveled throughout Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, and Inle Lake and took one last trip out to see Golden Rock before I had to fly out. Part of me wanted to keep Myanmar to myself, but I also want others to experience it – just not too much – please don’t change Myanmar!

Nevada, Arizona, Utah

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A week after returning, at the end of September, my family took another trip together, which I didn’t have to plan at all – a relaxing change from when I was in Myanmar and had to figure things out for myself. Though I was relaxed from not having to plan, this was one of those “go go go” family trips, unlike our Guadeloupe Islands one – but there’s nothing we saw that I would have wanted to miss. We experienced some of the best scenery, weather, and car-trip sing-a-longs this country has to offer.

Bangalore & Goa, India

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My final trip of the year was five and a half weeks in India, a country which wasn’t high on my list until my friend went last year and raved about it, but now I can’t wait to return. I went to intern/volunteer with Leave UR Mark, an organization that connects travelers with opportunities to work and volunteer locally in India. I worked at Arth Ayurveda and learned all about natural Ayurveda health, volunteered at a girls’ home, and then helped out with the Goa Department of Tourism’s #escape2goa project with some really incredible people.

I still have lots of posts to write about my trips from 2016, especially the most recent ones that I’m still reflecting on, so stay tuned.

The big question – where to in 2017? For the first month, I’m hanging out in New Jersey and New York, but I’m busy planning a pretty big trip for February that I’ll fill you in on later. Beyond that, I’m not quite sure. As of last year at this time, none of the above trips were on the horizon aside from Austin, so I’m not too worried about it.

Part of this time off is to add states and countries to my list while I am not confined by limited vacation days. I’m hoping to get to my age in country-count so that in future years when I might not be able to travel as much, I can at least match my age with one new country a year. This way, I’ll only have to live until I’m about 200 to visit them all.

Another part of this time off is to learn more about the nonprofit world as I likely want to go into this field when I get a job again. This is why I’ve been trying to volunteer while traveling as I did in the Dominican Republic, Myanmar, and India.

But part of this year is also just to reset and be me. That’s why I won’t be working hard on this next trip in February. I’m taking some time to travel in the way that I fell in love with traveling.

I hope you’ve fallen in love with traveling along with me. Thank you so much for all your support this year! I appreciate every single follow, comment, retweet, and “like” more than you know. And for those of you that I know personally, you mean the absolute world to me. Making the decision to quit my job to travel and actually going through with it would have been a lot harder if I hadn’t had your kind words of confidence and inspiration or your couches to now sleep on. I love you all.

xx

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