16 Best Travel Moments of 2016
I think we can all agree that 2016 was kind of like that one weird dream that you wake up from and think, “what the heck did I eat last night?”
Some great things happened, some terrible things happened and now, on the last day of the year, we are left to reflect on it all. After everything that has happened this year, I’m going to take today to remember all of the great that 2016 brought me, including my wildest year of travel yet! So let’s cut my usual pre-amble short and wrap this year up- I know you all have some champagne that needs drinking!
16. Escaping Civilization on Escameca, Nicaragua
Escameca is one of those places that you might hear about in passing, but never get the chance to see for yourself. This perfect beach is just a 45 minute drive from the party haven of San Juan del Sur, and scarcely populated by two yoga-based eco lodges and the private guesthouse I was able to stay at with my Free and Easy Traveler tour. The cliffside scenery is complimented by gorgeous pink sunsets and phosphorescence lights up the waves at night. This place is also heaven for a Survivor fan-girl like me, as a season was recently filmed on this very beach. Me and my Jeff Probst impression fell in love with Escameca before we could even make the merge.
15. Eating Pork Knuckle in a Cave, Latvia
At this point you’re probably wondering, “who is this barbarian and how did she figure out the internet?” Luckily for me and my carnivorous tendencies, you don’t have to be a cavewoman to eat in one at Folksklub Ala in Riga. This bar and eatery is hidden in Riga’s literal underground, and has somehow made a cave feel cosy. Friendly bartenders will help you find the perfect local beer as live music plays in the background, but the experience is not complete until you try this surprisingly delicious Eastern European delicacy. The bar is a mix of locals and tourists but as a return customer, I can vouch that this place is always a good time.
14. Old Town Living, Estonia
As my sixth country in Eastern Europe, I was beginning to get a little weary with old towns as I hit Tallin. My initial impression of the town was on-par with others we had seen and even though it was beautiful, I had a hard time justifying all of the hype this city had recently received. That was before I dragged my grumpy arse to the top of St. Olav’s Church tower and saw the city from above. The red rooftops and spiky cathedral towers are hard to look away from and even from this height, the ambience of the town below is visible. When I tore the town apart the next day, I was finally able to see the magic of Tallin, and that it really is the perfect fairytale town.
13. Swinging Life Away, Guatemala
Sometimes the best days of a trip are the unplanned ones. The day after a long haul trip to Tikal, all I needed was a lagoon rope swing, colds beers in a hammock, sunshine and great company. Luckily Jorge’s homestay in Flores had me covered. The simple days seem to be the ones that remind you how lucky you are.
12. Casual Cliffside Beers, Iceland
Maybe it’s the sentimental cheeseball in me, but I like to end every trip on an undoubtably epic note. Cue the mind-blowing landscape of the Latrabjarg coast. Giving cheers to an amazing European trip while watching the sunset reflect on the crystal waters of the Atlantic is epic by definition, and one of the best memories that I will take away from this entire year.
11. Trekking Through Ice, Canada
Is there anything more Canadian than strapping on ice spikes for a winter walk? Probably, but I’ve yet to see a beaver playing hockey while eating poutine, so I digress. Maligne Canyon is just a short drive outside of Jasper, Alberta and is undoubtedly the most fun you will have while constantly falling on your butt. The trek will take you inside canyons, across rivers and even up an ice wall if you’re feeling adventurous!
10. Living Tranquilo, Nicaragua
When you think of the Caribbean, your mind probably goes to crystal clear water, icing sugar sand, and all-around good vibes. The tiny island of Little Corn definitely hits the trifecta, and with gorgeous beaches and laid back locals everywhere you look, it’s hard to not fall in love with this place. After a few days of snorkelling, deep sea fishing, and hammock-lounging, I found that island time was just about my speed.
9. Loner-ing at Lake Bled, Slovenia
Travelling solo definitely has it’s perks and is a great way to see the world without ties- that is, until you find yourself at one of the most gorgeous sights in Europe with no one to share it with. While I spent a good amount of my time at Lake Bled throwing myself a pity party and passive aggressively glaring at couples, it’s hard not to love every minute you spend looking at the gorgeous surroundings. If there’s anywhere that will make you put aside your pouting, it’s here in the heart of Slovenia!
8. Standing Behind Seljalandsfoss, Iceland
Let’s be honest, all of Iceland is a highlight. If I had to pick a single standout moment though, it would be this. After an entire day of waterfall chasing (sorry TLC), I thought I’d seen enough for a lifetime. That was until I got the chance to actually stand behind one. There are really limited times of the year that this is possible, because Iceland is not exactly a misleading name. For me it really was once in a lifetime though, and has renewed my passion for water-falling.
7. Rooftop Eruptions, Guatemala
Like I said, I have a flair for the dramatic when it comes to the last day of my trips. Luckily for me, Antigua was happy to oblige. With a bottle of wine in hand, we set up camp on our hotel’s roof to watch the sunset. Antigua is sandwiched between two large volcanos with mountains on the side, and they all had something planned for us. I had the chance to see one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life, a lightning storm, and a volcano eruption. Simultaneously. How’s that for legendary?
6. Beers Under the Chain Bridge, Hungary
2016 taught me than if you plan your trip to the last second, things are bound to go awry. I learned this lesson when one missed train resulted in my time in Budapest being cut in half. I arrived in the city franticly trying to make up for missed time and see everything I could, feeling more stressed than excited. When I spotted a pop-up bar under the Chain Bridge, I realized that I was done for the night. This place was seriously doing it right with draft beer, live music and an iconic view setting the stage for an ideal night. I didn’t see everything I would have liked to in Budapest, but the time I spent there felt pretty perfect nonetheless.
5. Sleeping Under the Stars, Peru
Do you ever just shake your head and wonder how you got so lucky? That was the entirety of my time in the Ica Desert outside of Huacachina. After spending hours surfing through the sand, we drove our buggy into the bottom of a dune and settled in for a night of star gazing, pisco sour consuming and life celebrating. Something about that night was so surreal and anytime 2016 handed me lemons, my mind went back to Huacachina.
4. First Day Solo, Czech Republic
Nothing particularly spectacular happened this day in Prague. I people watched on Charles Bridge, ate my body’s weight in Czech goulash, and wandered around Mala Strana for three hours under the impression that it was the Old Town. It was a pretty standard day on the road, but it was my first full day as a solo traveler, and it was full of little victories. I navigated the public transportation system, ordered something off a foreign language menu that did not contain animal feet, and made it back to my hostel in one piece at the end of the day. These things are actually impressive in how unimpressive they are, but doing it all for myself made it one of the best days of 2016.
3. Climbing the Rainbow, Peru
I would love to say that I love pushing myself and doing things I never thought my body was capable of. It’s the perfect bio for a dating website, but it’s lies. I like things easy, and when I talk about pushing my body physically, I’m probably referring to how many hot wings I can fit in my stomach. So when I looked at doing the hike to rainbow mountain and was told that it would be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, my inner voice began chanting nope, no thanks, no bueno. Luckily my other fatal flaw besides laziness is stubbornness. So not only was I going to do the hike, I was going to do it without a horse. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I would do it five times over for the incredible experience it gave me. Maybe these fitness junkies are onto something…
2. The Ultimate Water Day, Guatemala
A new staple on the Guatemalan backpacker trail, Semuc Champey was the highlight of my trip! After a day of caving, rope-swinging, bridge jumping, tubing, and laughing myself to stitches, I hit a new level of love for this incredible country. If the glowing teal water is not enough to suck you into a visit, the hilarious guides and endless activities will make your trip worth it ten times over. I can also personally guarantee the best night’s sleep of your life after a day spent here- if you have any energy left after a day at Semuc Champey, you’re doing it wrong!
1. A Wonder of the World, Peru
And here we are. The grand finale. The big cheese. Although my Peru trip was obviously planned around a visit to Machu Picchu, I did not go into the day with huge expectations. I find that when places are hyped up too much I’m often disappointed, so I did not even look at pictures of the icon before visiting. Slightly groggy after my 4 AM wake-up, I begrudgingly made my way through the sea of tourists to get my first glimpse at what all of the fuss was about. After a night of heavy rain, my first sight of Machu Picchu was of nothing but clouds and I began to wonder when an acceptable time to break for lunch would be. But when the clouds parted a few minutes later, I lost my mind. Seriously, if minds could literally blow, I would be nothing but neck. The sight of an ancient city floating in the mountains and clouds is one that will stick with me to the bitter end.
2016 was a whole new ball game for me. I did things I could never have predicted for myself, met some of the most important people in my life, and completely renewed my love for travel and everything that goes along with it. I hope you all felt the same about your year and that you continue to kill it in 2017! As for myself, I guess I’d better get back to the drawing board if I’m going to get 17 for next year!
What was your #1 travel moment of 2016, and what are you looking forward to in the year to come?