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!

Hello Autumn: Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway

Hello Autumn: Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway

Living on the West Coast is the best. I love our mild winters, idyllic summers, and laid back style. But, one thing the Pacific Northwest is lacking in a big way is fall colours. I’ve never really understood the autumn obsession and that is likely because it’s not really a thing in my part of the world. I started to understand it better when I travelled to New England last November and got to enjoy the tale end of the beautiful red, orange, and gold.

So, this year I decided to make a return trip to the East Coast but this time to North Carolina. The main purpose of my visit was to visit my travel bestie Megan who recently relocated to Greensboro. But, the breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway was a close second. We spent two days exploring the area and I was blown away by the incredible pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. Who knew North Carolina was such a stunner!

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We lucked out with picture perfect blue skies, warm but not too hot weather, and PEAK FOLIAGE! The hiking couldn’t have been better, well, except for the crowded trails. It seems like everybody else at the same idea for their Sunday afternoons. But can you blame them?

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We spent about 6 hours driving, stopping, and hiking on the parkway. The highlight was definitely our scramble up the muddy trail on Rough Ridge where we saw the best colours of the day and found many rocky summits to perch on.

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We also pulled off to enjoy the overlook of the Linn Cove Viaduct, which was built to protect the fragile slopes of Grandfather Mountain.

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And we ended our day at the Linville Falls. We hiked to several vantage points in the Gorge where we were able to get some very impressive views of the two cascading falls descending nearly 2,000 feet.

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After such a wildly successful day, we definitely weren’t done exploring. So on a much quieter Monday, we ventured out to a different, but equally majestic spot, Pilot Mountain State Park. The foliage wasn’t quite as vibrant but the views were just as epic and it often felt like we were the only two people on the trails. We viewed the big pinnacle and even got to circle under the cliffs.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I committed myself to a weekend in North Carolina but I was very impressed by the natural beauty. Nature lovers take note. This state is not to be overlooked.