I didn’t reach some of the loftier travel goals I had in mind for the second half of 2016. And that’s OK, because they were really a little ambitious. I’m sure I won’t reach all the 2017 travel destinations I have in mind either, but that won’t stop me from writing them down. Dare to dream, right? I also have a really good excuse: I moved from Boston to Chicago and started a new job during the summer. When you have a whole new city to explore, friends to meet, and a job to learn, you aren’t as eager to escape – because your every day hasn’t become “everyday” yet!
I did travel to six countries in 2016, visited two new U.S. cities, and spent a lot of time visiting friends and family which is always a good idea. So what were some highlights from the year, and where am I going in 2017?
I rang in 2017 on the Caribbean island of Martinique. Now that Norwegian Air flies there from Boston and New York for as low as $69, a getaway to this beautiful island is pretty much a no brainer. Martinique was totally different from other Caribbean destinations I’ve visited. Not many people are fluent in English (they speak French). There isn’t a huge nightlife scene. There also aren’t many mega resorts. It’s a good place to relax, go hiking, drink some local rum, and snorkel (not in that order, obviously!).
February: Miami, Dallas & Paris
February of 2016 was a pretty intense month of travel. I’m sure I was mega stressed out at some point, but all I have now are the great memories from three trips! I traveled to Miami to visit my friend Camila, Dallas with Nick for a long weekend, and Paris for a four-day weekend with my cousin, Maddy.
Obviously Paris was the most ambitious trip of the bunch. I finally made it to the Louvre, which I skipped on my first trip, wandered around the picturesque streets of Montmartre, and consumed way too many carbs in the form of bread and wine.
But a weekend in Dallas was also pretty awesome. Highlights were drinking a bloody mary with an entire meal on it (obviously I also ordered an actual meal), and visiting the Fort Worth Stockyards to watch a rodeo and visit the Cowboy Hall of Fame.
When I visited Miami, I got to see one of my favorite people ever, my friend Camila, who lives there now. But sadly my trip was cut short thanks to a flight cancellation. You can read all about how I turned that into a positive here!
March: The Philippines & South Korea
Favorite trip of the year hands down? My first adventure to Asia! Nick and I visited the island of Palawan in the Philippines after spontaneously deciding to book a too-good-to-pass-up flight deal. This was after we’d only been dating for, say, three months. Traveling to a place where there’s no electricity and limited running water (think no showers… or toilet flushing) with your new significant other probably doesn’t top the relationship advice column, but everything turned out fine. Palawan was incredible, we stayed right on the beach, and we were able to completely disconnect given that they didn’t even have electricity in the town we visited for most of the day. During this election year, a break from the news was the real vacation!
On our way back, we had a long layover in Seoul where we were able to take advantage of the free city tour offered by the airport. Yes, FREE!
April: New York & Chicago
As I prepared to move to Chicago, I took a break from my wacky international travel adventures so I could be responsible and save money for things like furniture. But I did get the chance to visit New York for a few days to see friends that still live there. I still miss the city all the time so this was much needed! I also went to Chicago for a few days to help Nick move in to our new apartment where I’d be joining him shortly.
May: Moved to Chicago!
In May I took the plunge and moved to Chicago! It actually only cost me like, $250 to move here, which is pretty insane. Shipping my stuff was around $200, and I was able to snag a $35 one-way flight on Southwest, which allows you to bring two checked suitcases for free. Luckily, Chicago apartments don’t require the insane down payments and realtor fees New York and Boston have, so all I had to do was pay my first rent check, get some furniture, and boom. I’m a Chicago resident.
June: Back to NYC & Michigan
In June I spontaneously booked at trip to NYC to catch up with friends. Moving to a new city where you know almost no one is pretty alienating, so when my friend Kate peer pressured me to book a flight and visit her three days in advance, I gave in pretty easily. The best part was that I didn’t tell anyone else I was coming. Surprise!
I also went to Michigan for a weekend to visit Nick’s family. While there, I purchased my very first fishing license. And I even caught a fish!
July: Ocean City, MD & Milwaukee, WI
In July, it was time for one of my favorite weekends of each year: Ocean City! I love visiting Ocean City, Maryland with my family and I’ve been going there since I was in my early teens. It’s not fancy or exotic, but it’s always a blast. Ocean City has a great boardwalk, a restaurant and bar called Seacrets that’s just the best place on earth, and the most delicious french fries on the planet at Thrasher’s.
I also ventured to Wisconsin for the first time for a quick one-night trip to Milwaukee. For some odd reason, every single hotel and Airbnb in Milwaukee was booked during this random weekend in July. So we stayed at a very sketchy motel – complete with cigarette burns on the sheets and questionable smells – in the suburbs for $40 for the evening. Unfortunately it rained almost the entire time we were in Milwaukee so I didn’t get enough photos for a blog post. But we ate and drank at some really fun places, and I’m dying to go back in 2017!
August: Miami & New Orleans
In August, I started a new job at a software company in Chicago. While I had to do some rebooking of flights to adjust to a new schedule, I still managed to travel to two places that most people would choose NOT to visit in the hottest month of the year: Miami and New Orleans.
Despite the weather predictions, New Orleans actually wasn’t that hot and we had so much fun. We drank on Bourbon Street, kayaked in a swamp with gators, and ate yummy food. It was my 4th trip there and I’d still go back in a heartbeat!
In September I didn’t do much traveling, but I did make it home to Boston for a weekend to visit family and friends.
October: Amsterdam & Berlin
In October, Nick and I visited Amsterdam and Berlin. I fell in love with Amsterdam, and literally never wanted to leave. It’s possibly the prettiest city I’ve ever been to! My post about Berlin is in the pipeline to publish soon, so stay tuned.
November: Boston & Portland, ME
In November, I went home to Boston again for the week of Thanksgiving. I spent actual Thanksgiving in Portland, Maine, and luckily had some spare time to wander around the city and have brunch. Portland is an awesome little city – the downtown area is tiny which makes it fun to explore for a day, and they have a bunch of great shops and restaurants.
In December so far, I have stayed put! I finally made some friends in Chicago, and it was nice to have a few travel-free weeks to hang out with them and get organized for the holidays. We’ll be leaving for Michigan this weekend for Christmas, but I’ll be back to ring in 2017 in Chicago with friends visiting from Boston. Oh, and speaking of 2017…
What’s Next: 2017 Travel Destinations
When I lived in New York and Boston, I was able to take a quick weekend trip to Europe a couple times per year. Now that I live in the middle of the U.S., and Chicago isn’t served by budget airlines like WOW and Norwegian, the other side of the Atlantic isn’t quite as accessible. But that doesn’t mean I’m not gearing up for an amazing year of weekend travel (and week-long travel)!
In February, I’ll be heading to the first of my 2017 travel destinations: Great Exuma, an island in the Bahamas, for my birthday with some friends. We got an amazing deal on the flight using miles, and rented a house right on the beach for just $75 a night. I’ll share all the details soon!
Photo: Barbar Gulda/Flickr
Then in March, I’m heading to Panama with Nick and another couple. We’ll spend two nights in Panama City, and the rest of our time in Bocas del Toro. Our hostel has a 150-foot water slide that goes from the bar straight into the ocean, so I’m pretty pumped for that.
The rest of the year is kind of up in the air. With the new job I started in 2016, I have to readjust to the fact that I don’t get all the same holidays and unlimited vacation that my job in Boston offered. It’s a happy medium between my previous job in NYC, which only offered 10 days, though!
I must learn how to better distribute my time off throughout the year while balancing personal obligations. One of my best friends is getting married in October and as her maid of honor I’ll need to save some time for the bachelorette and wedding. And since I live so far away from my family, I have to actively plan to see them.
As of now, I have 7 days of vacation left to schedule in 2017, and 100,000+ miles thanks to the sign up bonus from the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. As someone who once traveled all the way from New York to Oslo for a mere 36 hours, I’m confident that I’ll be able to get creative with each and every one of them 🙂
And with that, I’m signing off for the year. Happy Holidays + Happy New Year!