My Best (and Worst) Travel Experiences of 2017

This year was insane: I saw four continents, twenty-nine countries, and sixty UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Along the way, I visited every country in the Balkans, stepped foot in nine US states, and took my dog on eight flights.

 

Here are the most fun, coolest, and best things I got to do this year. And here are also the absolute worst.

 

January

 

Best

Seeing Hamilton on Broadway! Fulfilling a major dream with one of my best friends. You can read about my Hamilton-Inspired NYC Trip here.

 

Curtain call at last night's show. #SoGood #ImNotCryingYoureCrying

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Runner Up

Catching up with old friends up and down the east coast. From exploring Charlotte, grabbing dinner in the Atlanta suburbs, and crazy nights out in Philly, I got to see a ton of my favorite people in the world.

 

 

 

Worst

January 20th, 2017. Yes, I actually signed my divorce papers that day, but that was a positive experience. Nope, I’m talking about watching Trump getting sworn in as president. Not even the amazing queso and guac I was eating could curb the pain of watching that shit show.

 

 

February

 

Best

Setting up a new base in Sofia!  When I started traveling full-time, I anticipated being fully nomadic for years. But life is funny, and I love my semi-nomadic, semi-settled life getting to see the world and coming home to someone I love in between.

Love on the Streets of Sofia

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Runner Up

 

Cruising the Danube at night in Budapest. Even though I was underdressed (it was soooo cold), it was still a magical trip.

 

The Hungarian Parliament tonight. #GothicRevival #iphoneography

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Worst

 

Cracking my iPhone screen on my way into the Sofia airport. The first of three cracked screens of 2017. I hate the iPhone 7plus, and last week I gave up and switched to Samsung.

 

 

March

 

Best

 

March was a huge travel month. I went to Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. I also explored more of Rila Monastery and visited Plovdiv, Bulgaria for the first time. I met people in Israel that I’d end up traveling with through six countries. It’s a hard month to pick a favorite experience.

 

The experience that was the most life-changing though was visiting Palestine and seeing the West Bank Separation Wall face-to-face.

 

 

 

Runner Up

 

Seeing Petra in Jordan. Jordan surprised me, and, while Amman was probably my favorite place in the country, seeing Petra fulfilled one of my all-time bucket-list places.

 

One of the many beautiful tombs at Petra

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Worst

 

The brief time that I thought I was being kidnapped driving from Quseir Amra to Um Er Rasis.

 

 

April

 

Best

Spending Easter in the Bulgarian spa town of Devin in the Rhodope Mountains. The drive was gorgeous, the town adorable, and it was great to explore a bit more of Bulgaria.

 

 

 

Runner Up

 

Seeing the enchanting Rudi Monastery in Moldova by accident and then making it out to the Struve Geodetic Arc afterwards. An obscure UNESCO site and an Orthodox Monastery in one day? How lucky can one gal be?

 

Rudy Monastery, far out in the Moldovan countryside.

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Worst

 

In Bucharest, I had booked a rental car to drive out to Horezu Monastery in the Carpathian mountains. When I got to the airport rental office, the company had given my car away, had none left, and I was either stuck wasting the day or finding an alternative way out there. I ended up spending a lot more money with a driver, but at least I got to see the monastery.

 

 

May

 

Best

Seeing Chernobyl. I almost didn’t make it because I waited too late to book, but I found a company that was able to get me on the permit list last-minute.  Walking through the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone was amazing.

 

 

 

Runner Up

 

Visiting friends in Istanbul and exploring the city’s modern side. I’d already seen Istanbul’s historic highlights like the Grand Bazaar and Hagia Sophia in 2011, so this trip was all about rooftops, good food, and hanging with new friends.

 

 

Worst

 

I hung out in Berlin with one of my best friend’s from college and had an awesome time. I did make a completely bone-headed move, though, and slept through my flight there. I had to buy another ticket (about $100), and I missed one day of my trip. Yuck.

 

 

 

June

 

Best

 

Seeing Normandy on the anniversary of D-Day and learning more about the Normandy invasion.

 

 

 

Runner Up

Getting back to Malta. I went to see a friend who was staying on Gozo for a few months, and we explored more of Gozo and went on a day trip around the island of Malta.

 

The Rotunda at Mosta

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Worst

 

This month, there was a tie, as both situations were disasters. One was my fault, and one was not, but they both messed up my travel plans.

 

  1. My car breaking down in Malta on my way to the airport: I missed my flight and got stuck in Malta for two extra days.
  2. Getting stopped at the Bulgarian border on my way to Macedonia and being slapped with an overstay penalty. I had been counting my days wrong, and therefore had to turn my three-week trip into a six-week trip and pay about $300 in overstay fees.

 

 

July

 

Best

 

Spending my birthday exploring Serbian Orthodox monasteries and then ending with great tacos in Belgrade, a city that I ended up loving.

 

 

Runner Up

 

Seeing Mostar. The city is still rough and there is still visible damage from the nineties’ war, but there is so much beauty in the city, too.

 

 

 

Worst

 

The heat. Everywhere I went was so much hotter than previous years, there were some days when I had to cut plans in half, skip places that were just going to be miserable to see, and replacing most of my wardrobe mid-trip with clothes that were much cooler.

 

 

 

 

August

 

Best

 

Seeing the beautiful city of Milan where I got to see Lucretia Borgia’s hair, thwart a train pickpocket, and have my faith in Italy restored after kind of despising Venice.

 

 

 

Runner Up

 

Going to Port Aransas for my family’s summer vacation. We ate awesome food, swam at beautiful beaches, and saw a partial eclipse. This is my favorite beach in the US, and I can’t wait to go back.

 

 

 

Worst

 

Fleeing Hurricane Harvey. Luckily, I was able to fly out of San Antonio on time, and our trip only got cut off by one day. But the town is still devastated, and so much of the rest of the state is still not rebuilt.

 

 

September

 

Best

 

Bordeaux! One of my best friends and I spent ten days in Paris and Bordeaux. While I think Paris is beautiful, I love love love Bordeaux and the beautiful town of Saint-Emilion.

 

The medieval city of Saint-Emilion. #swoon #ig_france

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Runner Up

 

Traveling Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail, especially walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

 

 

Worst

 

Getting stopped at Border Control going into Northern Ireland and being told they couldn’t stamp my passport because it was too full. I hadn’t had time to get a new one, and I’d run out of room quicker than expected traveling through the Balkans. The answer (stamping a card that I keep with my passport) was simple enough. However, they made me wait almost an hour before they told me this easy fix and let me go on my way. I’ll never let my passport get too full again.

 

 

 

October

 

Best

 

Seeing the historic and literary side of Dublin. I had forgotten how much I love Irish literature, and now I’m slogging my way through Ulysses.

 

Dublin is a city of gorgeous brickwork. #lovedublin #tbexireland

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Runner Up

 

Going on a Communist Monuments road trip in Bulgaria.

 

 

Worst

 

Eating lunch in a freezer. Having to not call someone out about sexual harassment that they did to other people to protect the victims/not get sued. Dealing with constant bullying, both in person and in writing. Watching people (and myself) be publicly humiliated in person and in writing. Being generally disgusted with the behavior of someone who believes they are a travel leader, and then watching people suck up to the bully/bullies. Watching victims get blamed and be called nasty names in writing. Having my overall faith in humanity lowered.

 

 

 

 

November

 

Best

 

Despite being wickedly sick for the beginning of November, I enjoyed a lovely day in Poiana Brasov. Delicious pizza, outdoor hot tubbing, a beautiful spa-it was amazing.

 

 

Runner Up

 

Going back to the Sofia Christmas Market. I love Christmas markets in general, but there’s something so sweet about the Sofia market. It’s smaller and less commercial than the one’s I’ve been to in other countries.

 

 

Worst

 

The same shit that happened in October continued into November. It was maddening and disgusting.

 

 

December

 

Best

 

Seeing Carthage! It was one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites that I most wanted to see, but I had been scared off going by the 2015 terrorist events that happened in Tunisia. Of course, like most places in the world, when I got there I realized how silly I’d been not to go. Tunisia is an amazing country, and it’s really easy to travel around safely.

 

 

Runner Up

 

Spending a few days in Bankso, Bulgaria. While I can’t say that I love Bankso (honestly, I didn’t get it), I loved driving through the gorgeous Pirin Mountains blasting classical music like we were in a car commercial. The trees were snowcapped and perfect, the waterfalls were inspiring, and the cold wasn’t too cold.

 

 

Worst

 

The Frankfurt Airport. Everything about it. I spent two hours waiting in lines to get through border control and security, and everyone there was the opposite of helpful. What should have been a three-hour layover for a pleasant dinner and getting some work done ended up being a mad-dash to get a snack stuffed in my backpack before getting on my flight.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

So that was my year in travel.  Going through it all, it’s so crazy to me that all of this happened in just twelve months. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings!

 

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My Best (and Worst) Travel Experiences of 2017
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2 Comments

  1. I wish I could write a post like this for the end of the year but mine would look like this:
    The Best: I taught world history all year
    Runner up: Visited Sedona did a lot of hiking in the mountains around southern Arizona.
    The Worst: Didn’t travel outside the U.S. this year.
    I’m always torn between teaching and traveling, I love both. I’m not sure how many more years I want to teach. When I’m on the road, teaching is calling, when I’m teaching the road is calling. I enjoyed reading your post though.

  2. Wow – you really covered a lot of ground this year and saw so many cool places! I’ve enjoyed following on your blog and IG! Sorry about the bad experiences with harassment at the end of the year. That really sucks. 🙁 Looking forward to seeing where you go in 2018!

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