2017 is coming to an end and I’m in complete reflection mode on what this year has meant to me. I spent the first half of the year living abroad in Spain and traveling as much as possible. The other half, I’ve spent living back at home, working as an AmeriCorps Service Member and plotting my next steps when my service year is up. To countdown to 2018, I wanted to share my favorite trips of this year and the #1 tip I have for each destination! Itinerary blog posts on at least two of these places will be coming in the new year, so stay tuned. But right now, let’s recap.
Oh, the photoshoots I had here! If you follow me on Instagram, this should be no surprise. I finally fulfilled my Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants dream by spending spring break in Greece. The friendliness of all the Greeks I met, the calming sunsets, and endless number of spinach pies, were a few of my favorite things. It lived up to the hype. I did visit Athens and Mykonos, but Santorini was my favorite of three. Hands down.
#1 Tip: Stay in hostels while in Greece. They are very accommodating because most pick you up from the ferry or airport free of charge. Look for that tidbit in their housing description on websites such as Hostelworld.
I had to throw in one of my favorite day trips because it taught me the importance of having the right people on an adventure. This village, located outside of Logroño, was my short-term getaway where I visited a few times throughout my time in La Rioja. However, going with two friends to have a photoshoot outside Bodega Ysios, and to visit the winery El Fabulista, made it memorable.
#1 Tip: Going to a Spanish winery is a full experience. Maximize it by visiting more than one during your trip! Also, stock up because you’ll never find a cheaper place than La Rioja.
I love the international atmosphere of this city, food and all. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Berlin, though as the daughter of a history buff I guess it wasn’t that shocking. I went for the Fulbright Europe conference and was able to sightsee quite a bit. I think the mix of WW2 history I learned about in great detail as a child, combined with the eclectic/artsy scene, helped balance out the trip. I do think some parts are heavy due to their Nazi/Holocaust history, so just be aware of that if you go.
#1 Tip: Eat at Mustafa’s Kebab. It’s the best 3 euros you’ll ever spend.
Of course my first international home had to make an appearance. I ate tapas with my Spanish mentor, grabbed breakfast with my former program advisor, and took a friend from home to my favorite spots in the Albayzin and the Alhambra gardens. Roaming the streets again as if I was a doe-eyed newbie to Spain brought back many memories of me falling in love with travel. The highlight was a lunch my host sister-in-law, host nephew and her mom who was visiting from Equatorial Guinea.
#1 Tip: If you go nowhere else, go to the Alhambra gardens towards sunset. It’s one of the most beautiful tourist attractions I’ve ever seen.
Ok, I’m kind of cheating with this one because I went to Sintra in December 2016, but let’s just go with it anyway. Sintra was too beautiful to not mention! I had a friend who went and once I saw pictures of its Candyland-like qualities, I quickly added it to my list. From the personal tour my friends and I received by our Tuk Tuk driver to the fairytale colors cascaded on the castle walls, I felt like royalty.
#1 Tip: Don’t hike up to the castle! Take a Tuk Tuk. It’s surrounded by forestry and you don’t want to get lost or hurt yourself.
To travel is a privilege and to blog about it has been a blessing. With everything going on in the world, it’s important to be grateful for every moment we can live to experience another. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of all the good samaritans who’ve given me directions and the one-night friendships (keep it clean y’all) at bar crawls. Life is too short to to live in fear, but long enough to write it all down so it can last forever. Even if no-one reads it.
Let’s make it great.
What’s been your favorite adventure? What made it your favorite? Sound off in the comments!
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I'd rather splurge on a good meal than a nice hotel, wine than water and plane tickets than club covers. Traveling and eating are my two favorite things, so follow my journey to see where I go and eat next! I'm just living my best life.