December...it's always a time for reflection. Here's a travel retrospective...a look behind each travel trip, how we got there, and what we learned along the way.
This year we went to:
I started 2016 with a long list of travel goals. We are privileged to have you along on our adventures. To me, travel is the best teacher. But learning is not enough - you have to pass it on. So here are some of the things I learned through travel that I might not have learned had I not ventured out.
January - Arizona Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley
Over the New Year's holiday, I wanted to go somewhere with a unique culture. With the time constraint of 3 days, I decided to stay in the US, but go somewhere very different. I went to Navajo Nation! It is like a country within a country - they have their own language, food, traditions, and beautiful nature. This trip taught us that you can see diverse cultures and surreal landscapes without leaving the USA.
2016 presented a new country that was previously off limits to us Americans...Cuba. In my 9 day trip, I got a mini-PhD in foreign policy, economics, and political science, as well as an expert lesson in dancing and learning to enjoy life in the face of adversity. The Cuban people are extremely hard working and never let their circumstances get them down. The trip taught me to be appreciative of many things - from having ATMs, to variety in supermarkets, to one thing many people take for granted - the ability to travel. The Cuban people are restricted from traveling and seeing those freedoms taken away taught me how special it is to live in a country where your passport enables you to go almost anywhere. It also taught me that one voice can make a difference. Each of us has a little bit of power, and we can use it to be a voice for others. Don't just travel here to go to the beach, do a people-to-people excursion or a volunteer trip. Cheers to a new beginning with this amazing country.
March - Iceland
Iceland had always been my ultimate goal for landscape photography travel. Being from California, I must admit that the harsh winter weather was daunting. I never thought I would make it up a volcano, let alone trek across the icy glacier. Aside from that, we packed in so much within 4 days. The biggest highlight was mother nature. From the geysers, to the waterfalls, to the northern lights, Iceland has it all. The trip taught me that you can accomplish anything if you push yourself. I documented my trip in a video that reached over 32K views on YouTube.
May - Sweden, Norway, Denmark
From the time I first saw pictures of the fjords, I knew I had to see them in person. They were epic. But what I liked most about this trip is the unexpected. I took a side trip to a small fjord town called Alesund that ended up being one of my highlights. Sometimes venturing off the beaten tourist path can be the most memorable part of the trip.
This year, I had the opportunity to revisit a city where I grew up - Boston. I left Boston at age 5 and am sorry to say that I had not visited since then. From the time I was little, I mostly remembered being snowed in so never thought about revisiting. A work trip brought me there, and was surprised at how my perception was instantly changed. I found the city enchanting and its history was inspiring. The trip made me realize that you should give cities a second chance. If you haven't been somewhere in a while, revisit.
June - Mexico City
As a huge foodie and fan or archeology, Mexico City was a perfect destination. The goal was to fit it in a weekend. I left SD airport on a red-eye on Friday night and came back Sunday evening. It opened my eyes to how much we Americans don't know about one of our closest neighbors, Mexico. The regional cultures, traditions, and foods are exquisite. I did not see many Americans during my trip and I learned that it's important to help change the travel perceptions of this great city. I documented my trip and the video ended up getting over 14K views.
July - Montana/ Calgary
Glacier National Park was a huge goal for me from the time I first learned about it. Getting there was another story. It is relatively isolated from any major airport, so we trekked in through Calgary. The scenery was unmatched, wild, and pure. We passed through Waterton-Glacier National Park on the Alberta side, which was less touristy and offered similarly beautiful sights. Sometimes, getting to the destination can be one of the highlights of the trip.
August - Oaxaca
Oaxaca is one of the foodie capitals of Mexico. I learned about how diverse Mexico is with many different indigenous cultures and language. In fact, our tour guide's native language was not Spanish, it was Zapotec. The food in this region is as complex as it is delicious. Somehow the travel gods smiled on us during this trip because I not only packed in the Herve de Agua trip that I wanted to see, but I also saw managed to see Monte Alban, and even stumbled upon a wedding festivity. It is amazing what you can see when you are in the right place at the right time.
September- Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech, Austria
I revisited Germany, Austria, and Hungary, but went to new parts. In Germany, I visited the castles, Austria- I went to Mozart's birthplace and the Alps regions, and Hungary- I saw the city from the Danube. I liked seeing the contrast of cultures from the West to the Eastern European side. Slovakia for example, was laid back and inexpensive, whereas Vienna is highbrow and elegant. The cities have a different language, currency, and for many years - political structure, and they are only an hour drive away. Go to cities that are lesser known and less touristy - they may be the best surprise.
October - Israel, Palestine, Turkey
Israel and Palestine were two of the more eye-opening and enlightening travel experiences thus far. This region is the source/epicenter of 3 major religions, and it was amazing to see where they got their start and visit the locations from the Bible. This trip challenged my beliefs in many things, including faith, culture, and history. Above all, we have more in common than we think. Had I listened to the news stories on this region, I would have never made it here. Go to places where you have the most to learn and seek to understand.
November - Peru
Peru and South America were two of my biggest travel goals. I was able to accomplish this over the Thanksgiving break. The Peruvian people are warm and genuinely care about the travelers who visit their country. Before embarking on this trip, I was a bit intimidated by the altitude of this region. Cusco is 10K feet high, and going from Lima which is sea level with no time to acclimate is very challenging. I drank a ton of coca tea to help alleviate altitude sickness. I must say I truly challenged myself, not only in cramming this trip into a 4 day weekend, but trekking, climbing, and beating the altitude. But the most surprising thing was seeing Machu Picchu - it truly is one of the wonders of the world. Challenge yourself, it will pay off.
So there you have it! If you learn anything from me and reading these posts, know that travel is possible - whatever your constraints of time, fear, money, etc. If you have the opportunity to travel, go! You can do it. Book those flights. Put a flag in that country. Make it happen.
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We are two adventurous young professionals who turned our passion for travel into a blog to help others travel more.