Well, 2016, you've been...interesting.
Generally speaking, this year has been kinda crazy, exhausting and, at times, brutal. From Brexit to the U.S. Presidential Election to the numerous deaths of sooo many incomparable influencers and icons (seriously, 2016, not okay) — it's been an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least, and I can only hope 2017 isn't so...eventful.
Personally speaking, from a travel perspective, it's actually been a really good year; better than I anticipated. I started a new job at the end of last year and thought my travels would be somewhat restricted in 2016 due to my limited vacation days. But, the travel gods (and remote work gods) were on my side, and I found myself taking more trips than I anticipated and having some amazing travel moments.
To recap briefly, I started this year memorably — watching fireworks on the beach in the Philippines with friends, which was an incredible way to enter 2016. I then flew to Hong Kong, where unfortunately I found out my childhood dog of 19 years had passed. It was an emotional start to the year, but the months that followed were, fortunately, mostly full of wonderful adventures. Over the last year, I traveled to Florida five times for both work and personal reasons, Charleston for my birthday, Philadelphia, Ireland, Scotland, Chicago, Italy, Lisbon (twice!), Jamaica, London, the Hamptons, Connecticut and Washington D.C. Woo/whew!
As I reflect on the last year and everywhere I've been, I wanted to share my favorite travel moments of 2016 and what I'm looking forward to doing in 2017:
Walking the Quiet Beach in Isle of Palms, South Carolina
I love a quiet beach. Crowded beaches are great for people watching and fun, but quiet beaches always strike me as so peaceful and calming. Chalk it up to my INTJ tendencies and my love of solitude, but I think quiet beaches are the best. When I traveled to Charleston in March and spent some time in the beachside town of Isle of Palms outside downtown Charleston, I got the opportunity to wander up and down the almost deserted and slightly chilly beach. It was the off season, so it was just me, a handful of people taking an afternoon stroll and a few dogs happily running up and down the beach without a care in the world.
Seeing the Scottish Highlands
Despite living in London for over a year, I never took the time to visit Scotland, which was silly of me. But, better late than never, right? After a work trip to Ireland in May, I decided to tack on a few days in Edinburgh and, while there, take a day tour to the Scottish Highlands. I truly lucked out during my trip to Scotland because the weather was sunny and clear about 95% of the time. During my day in the Highlands, which I took via Timberbush Tours, the day started out chilly and foggy, but by the time we reached what I thought of as the main attraction — a stop called Rest and Be Thankful — the day was unbelievably gorgeous. Thank you, weather gods!
The Many Favorite Moments of Summer 2016
Earlier this year, I wrote about my favorite travel moments of the summer, so I figured there's no need to cover that again. From the weddings I attended in Puglia, Italy and Port Antonio, Jamaica, to my first night in Lisbon, Portugal, to my day swimming in a secret lake with friends in Connecticut, I had so many unforgettable travel moments this summer that I'll always think of fondly and be grateful I got to experience. Overall, summer 2016 was a time of celebrations, great food and wine, friendship and just plain 'ole fun.
Enjoying Sunset Drinks at Wölffer Estate Vineyard in the Hamptons
During my favorite travel month, a few girlfriends and I spent a girls' weekend in the Hamptons, where we ate too much, laughed until our stomachs ached and explored the Hamptons after the end of the summer high season. One of my favorite moments during that weekend was when we spent a late afternoon/evening at Wölffer Estate Vineyard drinking wine, listening to live music, nibbling on cheese and crackers and chatting with one another. The sunset was gorgeous, the moon rising into the sky was incredible (wish I could have captured it on camera but I knew my camera wouldn't do it justice) and the atmosphere was pretty much perfect.
Spending the Day at Stone Barns in Westchester
In between trips out of New York, I decided to take a mini break from the city to spend the weekend in Westchester County, just north of the Bronx. The first half of the weekend, it was rainy and cold and not ideal weather for exploring the area. But then Sunday came around, and while it was a bit nippy, it ended up being a gorgeous fall day — perfect for spending time at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture in Pocantico Hills. Stone Barns is a functioning farm with cows, pigs, sheep, goats and an array of fresh produce. It's also the home of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, one of the most well known and celebrated restaurants in the world. While I didn't get to eat at the restaurant, I did have a delicious lunch at the cafe and spent the day communing with farm animals and nature.
Returning to London
My trip to London this past November came only two years after my last visit there in 2014, but this most recent trip was the longest amount of time I got to spend in London since moving away five years ago. During my time there, I caught up with friends still living in the city, ate some great food, saw both old and new parts of London, watched the holiday lights start to turn on and showed my sister, who had never been to the UK before, some of my favorite places in one of my favorite cities. It was a trip that felt like the ideal combination of discovering the new and visiting the familiar. I loved my time in London and can't wait to return for what I hope will be an even longer stay.
Taking a Holiday Tour of the White House
Talk about ending the year with a bang. After applying for a White House tour months ago, my family and I were approved to take the tour in mid-December of this year. Fortunately, this meant lots of holiday decorations and merriment, and we loved it. The rooms were beautifully decorated and had interesting meanings and context that only made you further appreciate all the effort that went into the decor. Everything from the White House Library to the State Dining Room looked beautiful and, to top it off, there was an all-girls high school choir singing Christmas carols in the Entrance Hall. It was an amazing way to say goodbye to the Obamas and experience the People's House during the holidays.
What I'm Looking Forward to in 2017:
I don't often vocalize my travel bucket list, but trust me, there is an ever-growing list of places I want to visit lodged very firmly in my head. Of course I know I won't be able to visit everywhere in 2017, but I'm hoping to tick a few boxes off my list:
- Japan: I've never visited Japan and am looking to get there this year. Oh, and when I do, I will eat all the sushi and sashimi, all the noodles, all the okonomiyaki and basically just all the food.
- Cuba: I'll be honest, my desire to go to Cuba is only moderate at best, but I feel like I need to take advantage of these friendlier U.S.-Cuban relations while I can, so Cuba has been added to the list.
- South America: I've never been to South America! This is so overdue and such a huge goal of mine in 2017. Specifically, I would LOVE to go to Chile and Argentina, but we'll see what I'm able to do in the next 12 months.
- U.S. National Park: A few years ago, I had a trip to the Grand Canyon booked but unfortunately it coincided with the U.S. government shutdown, which included the temporary closing of our national parks, so the Grand Canyon was a no go. Hopefully I can get there, or some other national park, this year.
So, 2016, it's been real (sometimes too real), and I'm looking forward to seeing what's ahead in 2017.
What are your favorite travel moments of 2016?