Many people get excited about the end of the year because of the holidays, the time off, the food, and seeing family and friends. Don’t get me wrong, all of that is awesome (duh), but another tradition I get excited about around this time is seeing the next year’s “where to travel” lists, the pinnacle, of course, being the NY Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2018.” Yes, I was one of the 9,000 people to apply for the job of visiting and writing about each of the 52 places over the upcoming year. I didn’t get it.
How do you measure, measure a year? 2017 was the year I spent time in 13 different countries and 11 different states. I traveled to Europe three times. I set foot on my fifth continent. I revisited London, Indianapolis, Ireland, and Portugal. I reunited with friends from college in Prague and Dublin and old coworkers in London, Chicago, and Dubrovnik. I traveled for 10 days in Cape Town with someone I met in Mandalay and for 12 days in Croatia with someone I met in Dublin. A twelfth of my year was spent dog-sitting, both in Chicago and Jersey City. I added Shenandoah National Park to my list of U.S. National Parks.
I could go on and on about the benefits of solo travel, but the truth is, sometimes it gets lonely – and it did for me in a few cities on this last trip. Something I recommend to people traveling solo for the first time is to sign up for a tour. As one of my tour guides once told me, when the guide asks everyone where they are from, it gives people on the tour permission to then talk to each other: “Where in Bulgaria are you from?” “I have an aunt and uncle in Indianapolis – is that nearby?” “I’ve always wanted to go to Luxembourg,” – even if you legitimately have no context for the place they mentioned. I knew I could fend for myself in the smaller cities, but I wanted to explore the bar scene with others when in Prague, and signed up for an Urban Adventures’ Beer & Czech Tapas Tour.
In March, I continued my whirlwind trip of 10 cities in six weeks, and accidentally added one more city to that list. March came in like a few days in magical, mythical Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, where I met a person whose profession is “fire eater”, and went out in the only Starbucks within a half hour in a drizzling, ghost-town-in-the-winter on the Jersey Shore. That makes it seem like I’m not happy to be home – this is not the case. It’s awesome sleeping in my own bed, having access to all of my possessions that are not packed away in my sister’s basement, and not having to pay for all of my meals. Well, and having phone service all of the time, being in the same time zone as most of my friends, and being able to catch up on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. And, of course, being with my family and the pup, and reuniting with friends.
The majority of the people I know who have been to the Czech Republic (or Czechia) have only been to Prague. I fell deeply in love with Prague, in fact, I started to look for jobs and apartments there after two days, but I also found a lot I loved in the other Czech town I visited, Cesky Krumlov. Cesky Krumlov is a medieval town designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It might just be the most charming place I’ve ever been and is one of the smallest towns I’ve explored. I joked to my family that it was the size of our neighborhood at home. In this most charming town I’ve ever been, I stayed in the most charming hotel I could find: Hotel Ruze.
As I wrote in my January recap, I waited a while for my 2017 to begin. After returning from India right before Thanksgiving and spending all of December and January either in New Jersey or New York, I was ready to take off – and take off I did. In February, I landed on a new (to me) continent, added five more countries to my list, and, for the first time, visited a European city and country I’d been before.