2019: A Year in Review

2019: A Year in Review

2019 was a transition year for me, which meant that travel for personal interest had to take more of a backseat. I started a new job at the end of February and prioritized visiting friends and family over my travel bucket list. That being said, I still managed to squeeze in some restful escapes and exciting adventures – including my highly anticipated return to South America (the continent that launched my blog) after nearly a decade pursuing other regions. It feels fitting to bookend the 2010s the way it started so as always, I’ve captured the highlights of the past year in the list below.

1. San Diego, California (February)

It doesn’t take much to encourage me to book a quick weekend getaway to Southern California but when I found out that my boyfriend had never been, we used a cold snap as the perfect excuse to fly south for the winter. My friend Jennie hosted as per usual and we spent our days introducing Markus to Coronado, La Jolla, Liberty Station, Pacific Beach… oh and all the craft beer and tacos!

2. Kauai (April)

My friend Mindy and I may have fallen into a slight travel rut as of late, but who really cares when that rut is Hawaii! This time we maximized a 4-day long weekend and a couple of red-eye flights to explore my 4th Hawaiian island, Kauai! The amount of time we had was perfect since this island is much smaller than some of the others. We rented a car and drove all over the island – soaking up the beaches and hiking the gorgeous Waimea Canyon. I’m sure we’ll be back again soon.

3. Toronto, Ontario (May)

For someone who has travelled to 38 countries on 6 continents, it came as quite a surprise to many that I’d never been to my home country’s largest city. But, when my brother moved to nearby Waterloo in 2017 it felt like time to finally make the journey East. We spent 3 days exploring cool neighbourhoods like Queen West and Kensington Market, took in a showing of the fantastic and very Canadian musical Come From Away as well as an obligatory trip to the top of the CN Tower. I had very low expectations and was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable Toronto was to visit and if our paths cross again, I won’t be too disappointed.

4. Point Roberts, Washington (June)

For this year’s annual girls trip, we decided to stay close to home as we had a stowaway in the form of Crystal’s 4 month old baby, Jack. But, we still wanted to go somewhere new and seeing as none of us had ever visited the odd little American exclave of Point Roberts. Only accessible by land from Canada, Point Roberts is a sleepy little town, with one grocery store and a handful of restaurants. It was the perfect place for us to get away from the city and enjoy the quiet woods and beaches.

5. Kelowna, British Columbia (June)

I typically try to get to Kelowna at least once during the summer. It’s somewhere I’ve been going since I was a child and there’s something about boating on the lake that brings back so much nostalgia. Now as an adult, I love exploring the plethora of excellent wineries in the area and this trip was no different. I’ve previously visited the wineries in West Kelowna, Summerland, and Naramata and now added Grey Monk, Arrowleaf, and Ex Nihilo in Lake Country to the list. The weekend actually ended up being a bit of a family reunion with my cousins from Portland making the trip up with their new baby in tow. I always feel so lucky that my cousins are some of my most favourite people!

6. Pender Island, British Columbia (July)

To me, there is no place more tranquil and restorative than the Gulf Islands off the coast of Vancouver Island. When I found out that my boyfriend spent summers on Pender Island as a child, I knew that we had to plan a getaway for him to show me his favourite spots. We stayed in the most adorable little cabin complete with an outdoor bathtub overlooking the ocean and spent lots of time reading books and sipping wine on the patio. I stayed on brand with a visit to the local winery, Sea Star and checked out lots of different coves and beaches. It was everything I love about summer and I’m already planning a return trip in 2020.

7. Winnipeg, Manitoba (September)

I’m on a bit of a hot streak with trips to Winnipeg having recently visited in both 2017 and 2018. This time, I snuck in a long weekend with my best cousin, Teri-Lynn to capstone the summer. We visited her new ice cream store, Fête,  which was still under construction at the time, but I did get to taste test all her latest creations. We also tried to burn off some of the calories by hiking in the Pinawa Dam Provincial Park, which was a beautiful little oasis that I had no idea existed. I also made it back to the Forks, which is touristy but always a fun stop for snacks and shopping. Winnipeg and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship and I’m sure I’ll be back again soon.

8. Raleigh, North Carolina (October)

My second-ever trip to North Carolina had me re-visiting Greensboro for my travel bestie Megan’s wedding and a little side trip to check out nearby Raleigh. While the city itself left me a little underwhelmed, we did enjoy the craft beer scene, southern comfort food, and the unseasonably warm weather. The 25°C temps in mid-October saw us renting a canoe to float around William B Umstead State Park in near isolation. While it may not have been thrilling, it was relaxing, and sometimes that’s enough.

9. Buenos Aires, Argentina (December)

I didn’t expect to be writing about Argentina in 2019 but here I am. Due to some dramatic events in South America, my travel bestie, Megan and I, ended up cancelling our intended trip to Chile/Bolivia a mere 3 weeks before departure and re-scheduled to nearby Argentina. While originally disappointed and honestly quite stressed about the change of plans, we both agreed that we may have ended up with an even better trip in the end. We spent 3 days soaking up the affordable luxury and warm summer sun in Buenos Aires exploring markets, eating steak, drinking Malbec, strolling through cemeteries, and wandering through parks. It was a great teaser for what was still to come.

10. Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil (December)

Our second stop on our whirlwind tour of Argentina was a major bucket list highlight. I’ve always loved waterfalls and Iguazu Falls is arguable the most impressive in the world. We viewed the falls from every possible vantage point, including both the Argentinian and Brazilian side (which yes, did involve some new passport stamps) and by helicopter. Iguazu was awe-inspiring at every turn and certainly warranted two days of exploring to do it justice. We coupled that with some rooftop pool hangs at our hotel and a last-minute visit to the Parques de Aves to see all the tropical birds including my very first toucan! Add this to your Must See list.

11. Mendoza, Argentina (December)

If there is one thing that you should know about me by now, it is that I love wine. And there is nothing that I love more than a wine tour in a new country. It also, just so happens that Malbec is my favourite type of wine, and Argentina is the king of Malbec… so you can imagine how much I loved exploring Argentina’s Uco Valley wine region during a full day tour with Trout and Wine. I’ve done a lot of tours in my day, both self-guided and professional, and I can without a doubt say that this was the best wine tour that I’ve ever been on. The three stops we made were all educational, unique, picture perfect, and very VERY generous with the pours. We even enjoyed a 6 course lunch with paired wines at our third stop (all-inclusive)! And Mendoza is an adorable little city with great night life as well. I can’t think of a better way to end the decade… more bliss in the 20s please!

2019: By the Numbers

Countries Visited: 3 (2 new ones) –  USA / Argentina / Brazil

States Visited: 4 – California / Hawaii / Washington / North Carolina

Provinces Visited: 3 – British Columbia / Ontario / Manitoba

Plane Rides Taken: 14 one way flights (I count a flight as a flight regardless of how many segments or layovers it has).

Airports Visited: 13 (YVR, BLI, SAN, LIH, YYZ, YWG, SEA, RDU, MEX, SCL, EZE, IGR, MDZ)

Kilometres Flown in 2018: 55,933

Beds Slept In: 14. Of those, 5 were Airbnb rentals, 4 were hotels, 4 were crashing with family or friends, and one was my own bed!

2018: A Year in Review

2018: A Year in Review

We didn’t realize we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun. – Winnie the Pooh

Even numbered years have historically been good to me and 2018 was no exception. I travelled to seven countries on four continents, visited friends and family all over the world, got a promotion at work, and spent another year living in my favourite place on earth. In my typical fashion, I’ve recounted the big travel highlights below in chronological order.

1. Nashville, Tennessee (January)

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I kick started 2018 with my bestie Joy in sub zero Nashville. We bar hopped and ate really good food and danced our way into the new year at a Y2K themed party.

2. Dubai, United Arab Emirates (March)

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I’ve been fascinated with the Vegas of the Middle East for over a decade, since I saw a TV special on the building of the famed “7-star” Burj al Arab hotel (pictured above). Over the years, the city only gets more impressive as it seemingly breaks every record in the book.

3. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (March)

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Abu Dhabi wasn’t really on my radar until I learned of the stunningly beautiful Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The city takes luxury to the next level and felt even wealthier than Dubai, which was hard to imagine.

4. Cape Town, South Africa (March)

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South Africa has topped my bucket list for years and with dear friends recently moved back to Cape Town, the time was finally right for a visit. I spent about a week in total in Cape Town exploring everything from Cable Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, Boulder’s Bay to the V&A Waterfront. I could easily have spent a month in the Mother City, flitting between beaches and wine farms.

5. Stellenbosch, South Africa (March)

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My dream day trip from Cape Town to the famed Stellenbosch wine region where my hosts Debbie and Theran took me to multiple wineries for tastings of cheese, chocolate, and yes, all the wine! I couldn’t get over the cheap prices and wished I could’ve brought home an entire case.

6. Hoedspruit, South Africa (March)

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During my trip to South Africa, I finally lived out my biggest bucket list activity to date – an African safari! Since, I was travelling solo for most of this trip, the price was more expensive than it needed to be, but still worth every penny. It is the best thing I’ve ever done while travelling and something that every single person should do before they die! I plan to write a more detailed post about this trip at a later date. But, in short is was four days of all-inclusive luxury, sunshine, and the Big 5!

7. Napa, California (May)

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For our 10 year friendaversary, my group of university girlfriends and I upgraded our annual girls weekend and flew down to Napa for ALL the wine. We couldn’t have picked a more picturesque place to celebrate our amazing friendships that have seen us through marriages, pregnancies, career changes, and all the ups and downs of life. I’m forever grateful to be doing life with this crew!

8. Cannon Beach, Oregon (June)

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In June, I made my 7th trip to Oregon with a new travel buddy in tow. My boyfriend, Markus, and I made our inaugural trip together one for the books by visiting the beautiful coastal towns of Astoria, Seaside and Cannon Beach on our way to spend a few awesome days with my cousins in Portland. We fit in some of the usual tourist trappings like Powell’s Books and Washington Park, but added in the Edgefield Brewfest to really get us into the spirit. Every time I go to Portland is better than the last… What can I say? I’m a PNW girl through and through.

9. Kelowna, BC (September)

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For the second year in a row, my cousin, Teri-Lynn, flew out from Winnipeg for the long weekend and we drove straight to wine country! (are you sensing a theme here?) I love the Okanagan Valley and was thrilled to finally be checking out the Naramata Bench. We managed to squeeze in stops at Legend Distilling, Lake Breeze, Van Westen, Ruby Blues, Sumac Ridge, Mission Hill, and Quail’s Gate. Some we visited for the wine, and others for the view. Either way, this is one of my favourite places to go every summer!

10. Helsinki, Finland (September)

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A trip to Europe wasn’t originally in the plans for 2018, but when my Finnish boyfriend decided to visit the mother land for his first visit, I couldn’t resist the urge to tag along and visit friends Kathrin and Kristof. We had an incredible five days soaking up the food (munkki and karjalan piirakka were faves!), sauna culture, and beautiful natural surroundings. I know that this will be a place we come back to again and again!

11. Tallinn, Estonia (September)

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We were stoked to learn that the gorgeous historic city of Tallinn is just a 3 hour ferry ride from Helsinki. We decided to spend a day wandering the old town, which I cannot recommend enough. It was straight out of a fairy tale and far less touristy than other old towns I’ve seen throughout Europe. The Baltic countries are quickly climbing up my destination list as I seek to combat overtourism with less popular destinations.

12. Copenhagen, Denmark (September)

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Now, Copenhagen certainly is a popular city, and one I’ve had my sights on for years now. However, travelling in late September helped us to avoid the summertime crowds and really enjoy the city at our own pace. We LOVED Copenhagen and can’t think of a reason why any person wouldn’t want to go there. Again, a more detailed post is yet to come, but our favourite spots were Nyhavn (pictured above), the hipster bars in Norrebro, Reffen, Freetown Christiania, and Kastellet.

13. Winnipeg, Manitoba (October)

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I often spend Thanksgiving away from my friends and family but this year, we all made the trek to Winnipeg to celebrate my grandpa’s 80th birthday. It was so nice to be all together, which is becoming less and less common. And it also gave me the opportunity to enjoy the fall colours at Fort Whyte Alive even if it meant digging out my winter coat far earlier than I would have preferred.

14. Whistler, BC (October)

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Whistler is one of my favourite places on Earth and since it is both an incredibly popular winter and summer tourist destination, I like to visit in the off-season. This year I went with a group of friends in late October, one of the most beautiful times to go in my opinion. The weather couldn’t have been better, still allowing us to go for a classic walk around Lost Lake as well as sit on a patio outside, but without all the crowds.

15. Mexico City, Mexico (November)

My last big trip of the year, was my annual girls trip with go-to travel buddy Megan. This was our 7th trip together since we met in Vietnam back in 2014 and our 6th country. We had the BEST time exploring the impressive Teotihuacan pyramids, the beautiful parks in Condesa and the fascinating Casa Azul. I could easily see myself returning to Mexico City for the cheap and delicious food, year-round perfect weather, and picturesque neighbourhoods. I didn’t sign up for beginner Spanish next year for nothing.

2018: By the Numbers

Countries Visited: 7 (5 new ones) –  USA / United Arab Emirates / South Africa / Finland / Estonia / Denmark / Mexico

States Visited: 4 – Tennessee / Washington / California / Oregon

Provinces Visited: 3 – British Columbia / Manitoba / Alberta

Plane Rides Taken: 15 one way flights (I count a flight as a flight regardless of how many segments or layovers it has).

Airports Visited: 15 (BNA, SEA, DXB, CPT, HDS, YVR, SFO, PDX, LHR, HEL, CPH, YYC, YWG, YYZ, MEX)

Kilometres Flown in 2018: 82,957

Beds Slept In: 16. Of those, 5 were hotels, 5 were crashing with family or friends, 4 were Airbnb rentals, 1 was a safari lodge, and one was my own bed!