I planned to write about my best and worst travel moments of this year but as I dug through my mental archives, I realized I didn’t have any bad travel experiences. Sure, there were a few delayed + canceled flights, but I think those come with the territory so they don’t count. 2017 was a good year for both travel and personal growth.
I’m a different person mentally, emotionally and physically this year than I was last year and that’s not JUST because of travel. Travel was simply the medium through which my experiences became catalysts for change.
Although I missed out on a few travel opportunities this year, I’m grateful for the places I visited that wouldn’t have made my 2017 wanderlist, the people I met on the literal and figurative road, and the unforgettable experiences that this year brought.
In no particular order of preference, these are some of my favorite travel stories from 2017.
10,000-foot climb in Pichincha, Ecuador – Last year, or even the year before that, you wouldn’t have gotten me to think of climbing a mountain, much less be excited to accomplish it. As we hiked up to 10,000 ft above sea level, I could feel my heart beating faster than normal, my quad and hamstring muscles ached and drawing in breaths had started to get uncomfortable. Nothing in my regular workout routine in flatscape Florida prepared me for the hike up Ilalo; which was apparently an “easy” hike.Close to the end, the terrain became so steep, I was certain my legs would not move any further. Unfortunately for my legs, my will was stronger. I walked into the clearing and acknowledged my friends -who I’m certain ran up the mountain- before I sat at the base of the cross overlooking the valley. The view on that cloudy day was definitely not worth the 2.5 hr hike, but I was far more excited that I had simply done it.
My 8 weeks in Ecuador were the most interesting and fulfilling weeks of my year and I shared my thoughts+feelings in detail in the Ecuador Journals which you can start reading here.
R&R in Montreal – If there was a list of 5 items worth spending my money on in 2017, the water circuit at Bota Bota would be on it. We started in a warm steam room, came out sweating but also smelling like a combination of citrus scents then attempted an ice-cold bath, sat in a hot tub overlooking the frozen-over water and snowy city, sat barefoot by a warm outdoor fire and ended the circuit in a lukewarm pool. I still don’t know how we didn’t freeze. Instead, I felt warm, light, almost as if my body was a feather and for a few hours, I felt unburdened. You couldn’t have told me I wasn’t walking around in a protective bubble at Bota Bota. At the end of the circuit, hunger set in as it often does when I spend long hours in water, and just like that the spell was broken, but those were easily the best 3 hrs of my week. Coastal hike in San Francisco – The coastal trail is a walk in a small park compared to the steep climb at Ilalo. Thank God, because I did it alone and if I had done Ilalo alone, I might not have reached the top. I like water. I like to be in it, near it, listen to it, photograph it…you get the point. This trail was ~3 miles of scenic ocean views in varying shades of blue, and on it, I met a San Francisco native who was kind enough to let me use her binoculars to see a humpback whale. It was my first time seeing one & I could only mouth a barely audible “wow”.Satisfied palate in New Orleans – I had ranked New Orleans as my favorite city visited in 2017 until San Francisco happened then I not-so-slowly knocked NOLA off the number one spot. Fickle. Regardless, my weekend here was worthy enough to put NOLA on this list. I uncharacteristically flew to NOLA without a planned itinerary, but I knew I didn’t need an itinerary to tell me to eat. My boyfriend and I honored our appetites and ate some of the best food NOLA had to offer including the famous French donuts – beignets- which we ate every day from the afternoon we landed to the afternoon we left. Amazing people in Cartagena – I could tell you about how I danced champeta for the first time, made chocolate, fed fish in the ocean, ate delicious coastal cuisine or swam in Isla Baru’s warm turquoise waters, all of which were memorable events but wouldn’t be the same without the people in those memories. This includes my travel buddies whose presence was in itself a highlight of the trip. When you’re laughing till your abdomen hurts and/or tears start rolling down your eyes, you know you’re in good company. And then there were the people we met, from our hotel concierge to our tour guides (Americo & Fernando) at the beach and our chocolate tour guide (Alfonso) we met + spent some time with people who not only made us laugh but helped us when needed, and made us feel comfortable and welcome in a country where we were foreigners. It reminded me that there’s still some good in this world, and for some people, showing kindness is the norm. 2017 took me to Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, Orlando, Spain, Canada, Panama, Ecuador, & Colombia, and for the first time in a while, the year will end without any concrete laid-out travel plans for 2018. While the plan-in-advance half of my brain struggles to come to terms with that, the spontaneous likes-a-good-surprise half is excited about the unknown.
Where did your 2017 travels take you?
thank you for reading!
All photos are mine.
Same footprints, Different sands