Well, the final trip of the year has been taken. I’m hanging up my 2018 traveling shoes (and pinching pennies for my 2019 travel-booking spree). As I look back on the travels I’ve taken this year, I wanted to reflect on them in a unique way. You’ve been reading along my blog so you don’t need a month by month recap of every trip! Casey from Land of Marvels had such a fun post on this very subject, so I’ve decided to create my own in that style. I’d love if you wrote your own ‘travel favorites’ post and commented your link below!
2018 Travel Favorites
In a year full of health struggles and repatriation back to the USA, I still managed to fit in lots of travel! Maybe I didn’t visit 17 countries like last year… but I focused on local travel, reconnecting with family and friends, and trying to manage my health during shorter trips. Here are some of my travel favorites from 2018!
Favorite travel moment
Dan and I went to Portugal in July, and one day we decided to go on a coastal hike on our own. Now this was not really on an ‘official’ trail, but rather a worn footpath along the cliffs, peppered with occasional ‘CAUTION’ signs. We scrambled along and I tried not to look down too much! We came to this crevice in the rocks, with a rope. At the bottom of this deep crevice was a secluded beach, turquoise water, and only a few people laying in the sun. It was only accessible via rope, or by sea. We had just decided the climb was too risky, when an Australian family came along. Now, the mom was about 7 months pregnant, and they had a two year old. The two year old grabbed the rope, and started the journey to the beach. If he (and she!) could do it….so could we! It was a risk but I am SO glad we took that risk and spent the best day ever on this secret Portuguese beach.
Favorite new place
The winner has to go to Lagos, Portugal. It was my first time ever in Portugal and we had an amazing time by the sea and yes, even enjoying the energy from the football world cup tournament.
Favorite place I returned to
I returned to a lot of places in 2018 so this one is tough. The winner has to be Stratford, Ontario, though. Mostly because I’d been to Stratford on day trips before, but this time we made it a full weekend trip. I finally got to experience the city, the gluten free foodie scene, even did a foraging trip, and got to do it all with my mom!
Worst travel moment
Disclaimer here, that I love even the ‘bad’ travel experiences because I always learn something, and if nothing else… they create a good story! However the worst travel moment of 2018 has to go to my weekend trip to Grand Haven, Michigan with some friends. It wasn’t the trip itself, it was more that it was scheduled literally right before my big surgery. As in we had the trip on the weekend, and I got last-minute scheduled for surgery on Monday. I was so stressed with work and health and everything going on in my life, and then various mishaps happened during the trip (involving multiple locking-keys-in-cars/airbnbs situations, airbnb destruction via dog, dog emergency vet visit, etc). Lesson learned that travel isn’t always the answer, LOL.
Scariest travel moment
Dan and I went surfing in Portugal and to be honest, I found it very frightening. It was my first time ever surfing, and the conditions were pretty rough and not ideal for a beginner. We drove up to the surf group, and it was basically me (5 foot 3 inches, optimistically), and a bunch of 6 foot tall athletic men. I wanted to LOVE surfing, but I felt really unsafe. To give an example of the conditions, one of the guys on our trip got hit with a wave (he was just standing there, didn’t even have his surf board with him), and the power of the wave literally dislocated his shoulder. We had to end the class early and wait for the Portuguese ambulance service to come rescue him (which took ages and then refused to come down to the beach to get him, so poor guy had to walk across the massive beach and climb the stairs in extreme pain).
I’ve had a lot of amazing hotel stays this year so you’d think it would be hard to pick a favorite…. however my favorite obviously has to go to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. This hotel is an experience in itself, and after staying I see why it’s no surprise they are ranked the best hotel in the Midwest and a top 500 hotel in the world. I don’t need to go back to the Grand Hotel ASAP, but it was an incredible travel experience that I would recommend to anyone!
Worst hotel in 2018 has to go to a hostel I stayed in during my trip to England. I had an early morning flight so decided to stay at a hostel close to Paddington. The hostel itself wasn’t bad (and I’d actually stay there again!), it was everything else. First of all, I arrived to the hostel after drinking about a million ounces of water. I unpacked my bag, and when I went to go to the bathroom…. I was LOCKED in the room!! With nobody else there, and no international phone plan. Long story short, I managed to get rescued and not pee my pants so that was a positive. Then my hostel roommates decided to come home, turn on all the lights, and yell and dance around at 3am, before my 6am wakeup call. I was not impressed. I really do love hosteling but this was not one of my better experiences!
SO many good eats this year, that you can see in my gluten free guides. It is hard to pick a favorite, but I’m going to choose my recent meal at Buddy’s in Detroit with Dan. Buddy’s is a local favorite that serves Detroit-style pizza. I was able to have a safely-made gluten free version of this pizza, and honestly it’s what dreams are made of.
Most emotional travel moment
Being in an international long distance relationship, a lot of my travels this year revolved around seeing Dan. So the most emotional travel moment(s) obviously have to go to every time I had to say goodbye to him.
In July, Dan and I drove up to Wales where I got to see (and stay with) one of my best friends from my MSc and my time living in Plymouth. One morning, we all drove up to Pen y Fan which is a small Welsh mountain. Wales and the UK in general usually have rainy/foggy/cloudy weather, but I was visiting during their biggest heat wave in decades. It was a super clear day and the view from the top is something I’ll remember forever!
My favorite country I visited in 2018 has to be (and will always be) England. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy living in the USA right now and I don’t regret my decision to move back to my home country. But to me, there is just something special about England. I don’t want to get too woo-woo on you all, but I believe that sometimes when you visit a place, you just know it’s ‘home.’ That’s how I felt about England. I have a soul connection to it, and whether I am living there or not, it will always feel like home to me. I only spent a couple weeks in England this year but it was perfect.
This year has been tough in many ways for me. But looking back, I’ve had so many special travel experiences, not so much for the destinations visited, but the experiences had and the people I was with. In the end, no this wasn’t my favorite year of travel, and no I didn’t go to any truly exotic places. But it was perfect for what I needed.
What are your 2018 travel favorites? Share them in the comments, or write your own post!