My Favorite Travel Moments of 2017
January is a great time for reflection, so I figured I would take a minute to think back on my 2017 travels and remember those special moments that remind me why I travel. This year I had the chance to travel to 4 continents and 9 countries as well as several new states and cities. Some of these places were new to me but many I was re-exploring alongside someone else which gave me many opportunities to see my favorite places with new eyes.
1. Exploring Santorini
In March of 2017, my mom was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. Knowing that it was terminal I decided to share my love of travel with my mom by taking her on a Mediterranean cruise. Every day of our cruise was so special to me for so many reasons but Santorini was the cherry on top. The island was just as magical as I had remembered it being. Seeing my mom fall in love with those beautiful blue domes and endless sea below the same way I had was truly incredible.
2. Seeing Blue-Footed Boobies
While visiting Ecuador, this had not been on my radar at all. I had plans to spend a couple days in Guayaquil but thanks to the suggestions of a newly made friend and a tour guide I ended up spending 2 days in Puerto Lopez. While it may not have been glamorous, it did give me the chance to get up close and personal with blue-footed boobies, whales, and turtles at Isla de la Plata which turned out to be my favorite experience of the whole trip. Standing feet from these ridiculously cool birds in one of the most beautiful settings I was reminded of how cool the planet is.
3. Eating lunch with monks in Taiwan
My favorite travel moments are the ones that seem to occur serendipitously. The moments that you don't plan but simply happen because you are in the right place at the right time. We had taken a bus from Kaohsiung to see a famous Buddha statue an hour away, instead of dropping us off at the main tourist area, the bus driver told us to get off when we arrived at the decidedly nontouristy monastery side. While exploring the beautiful grounds we heard bells chiming and followed a small group of people into a small room where we sat opposite the monks and got to experience the ritual and ceremony of meal time at a monastery.
4. Hiking in Howth
This little village is just outside of Dublin but feels remote and serene. We lucked out with beautiful blue skies and warm weather making it the perfect day for a hike. Hiking alone on the edge of the cliffs staring out at the sea and watching the birds fly overhead felt so surreal.
5. Seeing Big Ben for the first time
My friend and I arrive in London just after sunset on a cold and rainy day. As our Uber was passing the West Minister palace the bell began to chime and we could see Big Ben illuminated in front of us. It sparked this excitement in me to be exploring a brand new place I had never been to before and made me feel a bit like I was in Peter Pan.
6. Watching the 2017 solar eclipse
This year we decided to watch the famed solar eclipse in Oregon. Having done an elementary school presentation on solar eclipses complete with a working diorama I was pretty excited to see one in person. It easily lived up to the hype. For 2 incredible minutes, we got to be a part of something so much grander than us and stand in awe while looking at a beautiful sky full of stars and the total solar eclipse.
7. Picnicking in Mount Hood National Forest
While we were in Oregon for the previously mentioned eclipse, we spent a few days exploring which included a drive through Mount Hood National Forest. Thr park is definitely worth visiting and is home to some beautiful forest and waterfalls but the highlight for me was our lunch stop at the most idyllic little picnic table by a small stream. As we sat there eating lunch all we could comment on was what an incredible setting it was and how it felt to perfect to be real.
8. Swimming in cenotes
Writing this list has made me painfully aware of how many of my bucket list items have been influenced by homework and books. Since learning about them in high school Spanish class, cenotes have been high on my list of things to experience. While visiting Merida, Mexico I hopped on a collectivo to check them out for myself. Once I arrived I met two incredible girls who lucky for me spoke Spanish and were also vegetarian. Thanks to their Spanish skills we got a guide to take us well off the beaten path to experience this incredible, hidden cenote devoid of people or rope swings. It was a magical moment of swimming alone in this secret little swimming hole that was just ours alone.
9. Meeting a snowy owl
As a Harry Potter obsessed child, I desperately wanted a snowy owl of my very own. Unfortunately, that was just not meant to be. Luckily for me, our trip to Ireland included a stop at a bird refuge where I was able to meet a snowy owl up close and in person which made me so unbelievably giddy.
2017 was a pretty incredible year of travel for me, filled with magical moments and memories shared with friends and family. What were your favorite travel moments from 2017?