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Whoa, whoa, whoa. I can’t believe it’s already 2016. What happened?
Seriously, time flies. It feels like only yesterday my best friend and I attended a Gordello Bordello concert to ring in 2015. We screamed at the top of our lungs, as balloons fell around us, and we proclaimed 2015 would be the best year ever.
I don’t understand how the days disappeared so damn fast.
In general, I kept extremely busy, between teaching and traveling and thinking too much, throughout much of 2015, so I shouldn’t feel shocked that a brand new year arrived on my doorstep, but still. I’m sure I’ll be accidentally writing 2015 on the board multiple times this week, because what the heck, time?! What the heck. Slow down.
While I’m depressed that I’m a year older (argh), 2015 was a fabulous year for me travel-wise. Let’s recap some of my best travel memories of 2015, shall we?
1. Backpacked for over a month
As you (duh) know, I spent most of my summer vacation wandering around Central Europe. I’ve only traveled for short stints (~2 weeks) prior to this epic, sweeping adventure through Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, and many other remarkable countries.
7 weeks may not seem a lot of time for hardened, long term travel veterans, but for me, this trip was a huge deal and improved both my confidence and travel abilities.
I’m a pretty materialistic person, some of the time, and knowing that I could not just survive, but thrive as a person, with only a few basic clothes and beauty products available in my backpack, was pretty damn empowering for me. Who says piles of stuff equals happiness? Not me.
2. Visited 10 new countries
2015 took me to 10 new countries: Portugal, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, and Iceland.
I’m not arrogant enough to claim that I’ve “done” all these countries. (I still don’t know how you “do” a country, but whatever, travel lingo). God, I feel like I barely scratched the surface of most of them. Barely.
Each place touched my heart in a different way. I already know I want to return to Iceland in the summer months and see far more of Croatia, along with the rest of the Balkans. These trips were teasers for the future.
3. Paraglided in Slovenia
In this blog, I talk a lot about the importance of facing your fears and not allowing your anxiety to crush your dreams into sparkly dust. I try not to let irrational fear stop me from enjoying life, which is a precious gift and ought to be treated as such.
We all know I’m scared to death of flying, so when I visited Slovenia, I made an impulsive choice to try paragliding. Um. What?
Forcing myself to run off a mountain and relying on a stranger to navigate me to solid ground took a lot of courage. Trust me, I was thisclose to telling the guides I had changed my mind and wanted to return to sea-level. But I did it and proved again that while on the road, you can conquer your biggest fears.
4. Repeatedly faced my flying fear
I fly a hell of a lot (over 40 hours this year) for someone who hates airplanes and turbulence so much. For me, the anticipatory anxiety itself is a great challenge and the days leading up to a longhaul flight are usually wrought with over-analytical and doomsday thoughts that resemble a traumatic reenactment on the TV series Mayday.
For example, I couldn’t even eat my dinner at Newark Liberty because I was so nervous about my upcoming flight to Reykjavik. I would take a bite of my salad and then blankly stare at the gate and wonder if my death was waiting nearby, more specifically in a fiery plane scorched pit in desolate Greenland.
Protip: If you’re scared to fly, you probably shouldn’t check the turbulence forecast like yours truly did. It’s wrong 99% of the time and you’ll only give yourself stomach ulcers. Don’t do it.
But I boarded all my flights and arrived at each destination safely. Score.
5. Snorkeled in Silfra
I’ve never snorkeled prior to my December adventure in Iceland. You can say I’m a late bloomer of sorts.
But, honestly, who else can say that their first time snorkeling took place in frigid glacier water, in Iceland, in December? Not many people, I’m sure, unless they’re as crazy as me.
I’ll write a post about this unique experience in the coming weeks, but let’s just say, the time I spent gazing at the awe-inspiring earth formations was worth enduring the uncomfortable dry suit and cold weather. Silfra’s waters are remarkably clear. If I had been warmer, I could’ve easily stared at the crystal blue abyss for hours. Hours.
6. Enjoyed Easter in Lisbon
Lisbon turned out to be a fantastic low key Easter destination. There aren’t any parades or anything, but the city was still buzzing.
After wandering the streets, I returned to Home Hostel and enjoyed a delicious lamb dinner and great international company. Even if you hate hostels, Lisbon boasts some of the very best and you can’t go wrong with Home.
7. Rode bikes in the Austrian countryside
I’m totally not in shape. I don’t say that to belittle myself or fish for compliments from my well-meaning readers. It’s the truth, and losing weight and getting fit is a challenge that I’m seriously going to tackle in 2016. With that outta the way, I’m probably the biggest disaster on a bike. Bikes make me nervous. How I’ve not crashed into a car or mountain, and killed myself remains a mystery.
Nonetheless I’m trying not to say “no” when I go traveling, and biking riding in Grunau im Almtal wasn’t an exception.
I biked for at least 12 km. each way, some of it uphill, and enjoyed pristine Alpine views on all sides.
8. Took my students to Massachusetts
I travel solo most of the time, and my teaching job very rarely overlaps with my overseas adventures. But what about domestic journeys? Any mingling there?
But of course!
In May, my department took a few students to Massachusetts to see the literary and historical sites. At first I was a little nervous about being The Responsible One and taking care of my students six hours away from home. Turns out, traveling on a bus packed full of teens is a bit fun! High schoolers don’t have much of a filter, so their amusing comments create interesting travel experiences, both on the road and at the destinations themselves.
9. Frolicked on black sand beaches on Iceland’s south coast
I have a fascination when it comes to unique, exotic, untouched, or simply cool beaches. My childhood summers were spent soaking sun on the Jersey Shore, while Thanksgiving Breaks were dedicated to exploring Marco Island, a white sand paradise situated on the Gulf of Mexico. Sand and water were a vital part of growing up.
So give me a crazy otherworldly beach, and I am so on board!
Wandering along the black sand beaches near Vik made me feel like I went to another planet. Look at that sand. The weird rock formations. The gigantic waves. This place was a photographer’s paradise.
10. Rafted in Cesky Krumlov
While I have gone whitewater rafting in the past and loved it, nothing could quite prepare me for the quirky awesomeness of a Cesky Krumlov raft pub crawl. Each time I’ve gone rafting, I have had experienced guides take me to the appropriate drop off and pick up points.
HA! Handholding guides weren’t on the itinerary in this adorable Czech town, my friends!
A few Busabout friends and myself bought some cider, rented a raft, and took off Vltava River on an adventure! We only spent a few hours on the water and I honestly think I could’ve traveled all afternoon if I had the available time. Many adorable and quirky stops en route to your final pick up!
11. Celebrated New Years Eve in Reykjavik
Haha, oh my god, what an epic and promising way to ring in the New Year. I think every traveler should go to Reykjavik at least once for New Years Eve. You will feel euphoric because the energy permeating throughout the streets is soooo happy and insane, trust me.
Unlike NJ, you can purchase fireworks and set them off til your heart is content. I heard explosions every fifteen minutes, morning and afternoon and evening, leading to the night celebrations in the streets.
I promised myself I wouldn’t be a total NYE shut-in, like I have in previous years, and now I’m determined to ring in a brand new year in a new location from now on.
12. Overcame language barriers in Nazare
A lot of people avoid traveling solo not only for safety reasons, but because they think they’ll feel alone. Nothing could be further from the truth!
I can’t quite summarize the kindness of these incredible people in a few sentences, so I highly recommend that you check out the post itself!
What were your favorite travel memories of 2015? Share in the comments!