2014: A Year in Review

2014: A Year in Review

W h a t.  A.  Y e a r !  I can’t believe that it’s actually time to say goodbye to 2014 and what has been my best travel year since 2006. I somehow managed to squeeze 18 trips into the past 12 months and I did it all while holding down a full-time office job. That’s right people… you CAN travel the world without quitting your day job. To celebrate the end of an absolutely incredible year, here’s a review of my 2014 travel adventures.

1. New Orleans (January)

I began 2014 with a bang and a kiss (teehee) while watching fireworks over the Mississippi River in New Orleans! This is definitely one for the record books and redeemed a holiday that I had pretty much given up on. Now it’s my new mission to celebrate NYE in a new city every year! photo-3 2. Victoria (February)

One of many weekend trips to Vancouver Island to visit my best friend (guest blogger Katie Smith) – it was cold. So cold that the fountains in front of parliament froze over. You don’t see that everyday.

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A less cold weekend back in Victoria to visit same friend… yeah, I’m awesome that way ;)

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4. Lake Whatcom (April)

Only the single best girls weekend ever! Okay, that might have been the wine talking but seriously, we had a great time checking out the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and relaxing by a very lovely lake.  IMG_0652 5. Winnipeg (May)

At long last, I made my first trip back to Winnipeg in nearly four years. I used to go all the time (to visit family) but with domestic flight prices soaring, it’s a rare occurrence these days. Lucky for me I have connections and when my WestJetter friend hooked me up with 40% off – I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to catch my dear cousin (the actress!) on closing night of her musical. IMG_0932 6. Las Vegas (May)

VEGAS BABY!! Okay, so maybe my long weekend in Sin City wasn’t exactly what movies are made about… but it was fun! I hadn’t been since I was a teenager so the adult version was a whole new experience. IMG_0829 7. Vietnam (June)

My first trip to Asia and I chose Vietnam (by way of China) and decided to go all by myself too. Well, I didn’t end up being alone for long as I made a lot of great friends on the road. Two weeks went by all too fast as I sweat (holy hot batman!) my way up the coast enjoying beautiful beaches, amazing food, and fascinating cities. IMG_1144 8. Lac Le Jeune (July)

My first (real) camping trip was a roaring success! My expert camper friends planned a perfect two days in the Central Interior where we basically just lazed around the lake and ate. Summer in BC = Bliss! Lac Le Jeune 9. Kelowna (August)

Last year’s annual mother/daughter(s) weekend took us to Whistler Village where my sister-in-law and I took the plunge by bungee jumping for our first times. This year we headed to wine country for a perfect weekend of boating, drinking, touring… basically living the good life! IMG_1616 10. Whistler (August)

When my friend Katie casually mentioned that she’d never been to Whistler before, I hung up on her and called a hotel immediately. Whistler is an annual summer retreat for me and I’ve been at least 15 times. So, I was thrilled to show off this little resort town and all of the off-season activities it has to offer. IMG_1801 11. Tofino (August)

This trip! The trip that I never thought was actually going to happen. First we were going to Alaska. Then we were going to Hawaii. Then we ditched the idea completely. Then we were back to Alaska. But, by the end of it all, we settled on Tofino/Ucluelet for our first family vacation since 2007.

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12. Sunshine Coast (September)

When my friend Kendra got a job in the seaside town of Gibsons, I knew that it was finally  time to take a trip to the beautiful Sunshine Coast. We spent a perfect final weekend of summer driving up the coast and feasting our eyes on the impressive Skookumchuck Narrows!

Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

13. Prince George (September)

Not the most glamourous destination on the list but it was travel and a new city. This work trip took me the furthest north that I’ve ever been in Canada and I got to squeeze in a quick visit with my friend Mel. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to find impressive old growth forests nearby and a lot more activity than I would have initially guessed in such a remote community. This really is Beautiful British Columbia from top to bottom.IMG_2156 14. Boston (November)

One of my favourite benefits of traveling is the great people you meet along the way. Megan and I became fast friends while visiting Vietnam earlier this year and we were already googling flight prices between Vancouver and Boston before we even went our separate ways. I knew right away that I wanted to see New England in the autumn and I lucked out with an absolutely glorious weekend of blue skies and radiant fall colours. The Northeast is definitely a region I am eager to explore in more depth.IMG_2484 15. Seattle (November)

A frequent stomping ground for concerts, shopping trips, cruise departures, and cheap flights over the years, Seattle has become a second home in many ways. And now, with my family’s recent obsession with the Seattle Seahawks, we have more excuses to go and more love than ever for our sister city on the West Coast.  IMG_2506 16. Victoria again (November)

Back to Vancouver Island again… this time for some pre-Christmas festivities in sub-zero temperatures. Note to self… start visiting in summer from now on. Brr…

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17. Portland (December)

When I found out that my cousin Jordan and his wife Emily were moving from the mid-West to the weirdest coolest city in America… I couldn’t start scheming fast enough. One weekend was barely enough time to get a taste of what the city has to offer so expect many more adventures in Oregon in the months and years to come!

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18. Lisbon (December)

When the office shuts down over the holidays, why not celebrate in… P O R T U G A L ! This quick Euro trip reunites me (once again!!) with my Boston Bestie, Megan. We are spending the final four days of 2014 in beautiful Lisbon… and the travels don’t stop there! Follow my adventures into 2015 and see how (and where!) I ring in the new year!

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2014 By the Numbers:

Countries Visited: 3 (2 new ones): USA / VietnamPortugal

States Visited: 5 (2 new ones): Louisiana / Washington / Nevada / Massachusetts / Oregon

Plane Rides Taken: 12 (I count a flight as a flight regardless of how many segments or layovers it has). Of those flights, four were heavily discounted by family/friend discounts, two were paid for by work, two were almost covered entirely by points, and the remaining four inspire me to keep looking for great deals.

Other Modes of Transportation: 10 ferries, 3 overnight trains, 3 buses (long-haul), 1 motorcycle, and more vehicles than I care to count.

Airports Visited: 16 (YVR, MSY, SEA, YWG, YXS, LAX, BOS, AMS, LIS, BCN, BLI, LAS, CAN, SGN, HAN, MCI)

Beds Slept In: 26. Of those, 10 were hotels, 7 were crashing with family or friends, 3 were sleeper trains,  2 were house rentals, one was an Airbnb apartment rental, one was a bed & breakfast, one was a tent, and one was my own bed!

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Photo Essay: Summer in the Pacific Northwest

Photo Essay: Summer in the Pacific Northwest

It’s the last week of summer, and instead of getting sad about the shorter days and the inevitable rain, I am choosing to celebrate my favourite season!

If it wasn’t already obvious from my posts over the past couple of months… I love summer and I especially love summer in the Pacific Northwest! This region, which is loosely a combination of BC, Washington, and Oregon, enjoys warm, long, dry summers that stretch into the late days of September. The temperature typically sits in the mid 20s Celsius near the water and peaks around 30 degrees inland (sometimes a bit hotter). For the most part, the temperature is so deliciously perfect that you can get a tan without dissolving into a puddle of sweat and with the sun setting late into the evening you can really make the most of all the great activities that only happen at this time of year.

I may be known to use a bit of hyperbole from time to time (okay a lot of the time), but I can honestly, without a doubt proclaim that we have the best summers of any region in the world.

Don’t believe me? Well maybe these photos will help change your mind…

Active Pass, Southern Gulf Islands

Active Pass, Southern Gulf Islands

Coal Harbour, Vancouver (this is where I work!)

Coal Harbour, Vancouver (this is where I work!)

Chesterman Beach, Tofino

Chesterman Beach, Tofino

Kettle Valley, Summerland

Kettle Valley, Summerland (see… it even has summer in the name!)

Howe Sound, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park

Howe Sound, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park

Bridal Falls, Chilliwack

Bridal Falls, Chilliwack

Gastown, Vancouver

Gastown, Vancouver

Mission Hill Winery, Lake Okanagan, West Kelowna

Mission Hill Winery, Lake Okanagan, West Kelowna

Sunset over English Bay, Vancouver

Sunset over English Bay, Vancouver

Lost Lake, Whistler

Lost Lake, Whistler

Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

Vancouver Skyline

Vancouver Skyline

Farewell summer! Until next year…

Maquinna Provincial Park and Hot Springs Cove!

Maquinna Provincial Park and Hot Springs Cove!

Some like it hot… and those people should definitely be at Hot Springs Cove!

On my recent trip to Tofino, my family and I decided to embark on a little adventure to Maquinna Provincial Park. Our main purpose: to check out the all-natural, geothermal hot pools located just 32 km up the coast.

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To get to the very secluded provincial park, we took a 90 minute boat ride, courtesy of the Whale Centre, in which we enjoyed beautiful scenery and even spotted a couple of bears along the way.

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Once we arrived at Hot Springs Cove, we hiked a 2 km boardwalk through an old growth rainforest. The trail was so lovely and tranquil with interesting carvings in the planks and lookouts to capture the views.

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When we finally reached the hot springs, we were able to soak in small pools of water at a toasty 107°F. We even found a pool at the opening of the rocky penninsula where the cold ocean water was seeping in. We thought we had found the perfect lukewarm pool until we began getting blasted with icy waves. The entertainment for the afternoon quickly became watching my brother squirm as the temperature switched from hot to freezing cold at less than a moments notice.

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It was so great to see that the springs hadn’t been altered or expanded to make us tourists more comfortable. The rocks were slippery. The pools were small. And the location was remote.

The spot is definitely popular with more people than pools at times, but it’s still worth the effort and the crowds to experience such a unique natural phenomenon.

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Seriously Big Beaches in Tofino

Seriously Big Beaches in Tofino

With summer coming to a close, the Labour Day long weekend is often the last chance for sun worshippers to get their fill before the chilly autumn weather kicks in. To escape the inevitable city crowds, my family retreated to Vancouver Island for some R&R – destination Tofino!

I’ve been trying to plan a trip to Tofino for over three years now and I am so glad that I finally made it happen. Although it seems close by, the trip from Vancouver was deceptively long. I had to take a sky train, bus, 2 hour ferry to Nanaimo, and 3 hour car ride to get to my hideaway in Jensen Bay… but it was well worth the effort.

I could get used to waking up to a view like this

I could get used to waking up to a view like this

Our house rental was conveniently located right across the Pacific Rim Highway from Chesterman Beach and I couldn’t wait to soak up 3 kilometres of white sand.

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Can someone explain to me where all the people are on a sunny Saturday afternoon in August? I mean you won’t hear any complaints from me… but seriously, where is everyone?

Next on the agenda (because one gigantic beach was certainly not enough) is one of Canada’s top 10 beaches as rated by Reader’s Digest – Long Beach.

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At first I was slightly turned off by the park fee required to even check out the beach here in Pacific Rim National Park, but I guess 16.6 km of pristine sand comes at a price. Long Beach earns its name by holding the title of longest sandy beach on Vancouver Island. It’s also a surfing mecca for us Northerners, although I certainly wasn’t brave enough to tackle the waves and cold waters this time around… I’ll save that adventure for my next trip to Hawaii instead ;)

Earning it's name - hello Long Beach!

Earning it’s name – hello Long Beach!

Combine all of this epic beach time with some reading on the back deck, soaking in the hot tub, and a delicious family dinner at Sobo in Tofino Village and you’ve got a recipe for a happy travelista! And that was just the first day!

Next up: Excursion to Maquinna Provincial Park and Hot Springs Cove!