2019 Travel Favorites (And Least Favorites)

on December 13, 2019

I, for one, am cozying up at home for the rest of 2019. No more travels for me, but lots of time to reflect on the year that was. Last year I wrote a 2018 travel favorites blog post, reviewing the best (and worst) moments of the year. It was so fun to write, and a big hit… a lot of you ended up writing your own posts or sharing your own travel favorites in the comments!

So, of course, I had to share my 2019 travel favorites too… just like last year, feel free to write your own post in this style and let me know when you do!

2019 Travel Favorites

And least favorites… If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I like to keep it real. So let’s get really real and take a look back at 2019’s most honest and unfiltered experiences!

Favorite travel moment

My personal favorite travel moment of 2019 definitely has to go to reaching Everest Base Camp. After an arduous week of trekking, and in the middle of a snowstorm no less, we reached base camp. I thought I would cry but actually I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing – such pure joy and pride! I talk about it quite a bit in my Everest Base Camp diary, but this was a particularly special achievement for me after being sick for so long.

Favorite new place

I’m going to name Nepal as my favorite place I visited in 2019 for the first time. There were some other firsts: Vancouver, Canada; Portland, Maine; Nashville, Tennesse; Cheddar Gorge, UK…. but nothing compared to the utter magic and awe that I felt in Nepal.

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Nepal day 6 🇳🇵⠀ ⠀ Today was the first day I definitively felt the altitude. The trek Tengboche – Dingboche is relatively easy but it felt like my lungs were only half filling. My O2 sats are really good though which gives me some peace of mind. Just trying to channel all those years of yoga breathing ( @hilltopyoga ❤️) and it seems to be helping. In a lot of ways my body is adjusting to the altitude better than I could’ve hoped – I’m surprised and grateful and just hope it continues! ⠀ ⠀ We passed the tree line today. It’s rocky, shrubby, and started snowing as we arrived to our tea house. Every time a helicopter passes over head, which is pretty regularly, we can’t help but think of who it may be rescuing. @travel.her.way #brandambassador

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Favorite place I returned to

I returned to a lot of places in 2019! Most people only like to travel to new places but I always get stuck on some favorites, and want to return until I feel like I truly know them. Winner for favorite place I returned to in 2019 goes to Quebec City! This was my fourth trip to Quebec City but was extra special as I went on a press trip and stayed in a nunnery cum wellness hotel. Some close runner ups are Chicago, NYC, London, Seattle, Bristol, and of course my old home of Plymouth, England!

Worst travel moment

I wrote a really long explanation of this but I’ll spare you my excuses. Basically I forgot to bring cash to Nepal… Nope. Actually it didn’t even occur to me. And it turns out you need cash to get a visa on arrival. I realized this mistake on the tarmac before a nine hour flight, which I spent absolutely miserable and convinced I would arrive in Nepal only to be immediately kicked out.

Long story short, I had to pick up the nerve to ask a random stranger in the New Delhi airport (during my layover) to lend me some cash. Good lord… Don’t worry, I PayPal’ed her back! But man, what a nerve wracking flight that was.

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Nepal day 10 🇳🇵 ⠀ ⠀ The first day of descent and honestly it was brutal. I injured my back just before coming to Nepal, so I’m lucky it held out as long as it did, but today it started spasming. It started during our early morning trek up Kala Patthar. After that, all I could do was keep putting one foot in front of the other.⠀ ⠀ But I’ve had much worse pain before and I know I will again. Just looking up at the Himalayan mountain skyline is a pretty good pain reliever tbh. As well as the 800mg ibuprofen I’ve bummed off @shibeaz ! In this group of incredible women we’ve all had our own personal and physical battles during this trek, and it’s not over just yet. @travel.her.way #brandambassador⠀ ⠀ 📷: @missmeghanyoung

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Scariest travel moment

If you tuned into Instagram you might be familiar with the debacle that was my (and Dan’s) attempt to climb England’s highest mountain… in March. We basically rocked up to Scaffel Pike with no experience, no navigation skills, not even a compass, no gloves, and I was even wearing jeans… with the plan to climb the mountain.

It was snowy and windy, you couldn’t see the trail at all, and we most certainly would have turned back… except we fell in with the only other group of hikers out. One guy knew what he was doing so we all kind of followed his lead… until we were lost on the side of a mountain, in a blizzard, with snow up past my thighs. It was crazy – way scarier and worse conditions than anything I encountered in the Himalayas – and I genuinely thought we’d have to get rescued by a helicopter at a few points.

Thank goodness we made it out okay, but lesson learned… mother nature is a BEAST.

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Lake District, you did me in. From unexpected summit snow storms, emergency buying new hiking boots, vertical scrambling ascents, to lying face down in the snow on a mountain ridge clinging onto a stranger as wind gusted ice at us…. honestly NOT what I expected from little old England. Important lesson learned: Mother Nature is a badass bitch and we will always be at her mercy. But even through it all we felt absolutely ALIVE, and so so so grateful. Quitting my job to experience this was the right decision. And I’m feeling more excited than ever for Everest Base Camp with @travel.her.way …..next week!! Maybe not “ready” per se, but you never are for the good stuff, right?! #travelherway

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Worst accommodation

To give you insight, my Everest Base Camp trekking group developed a saying that goes ‘at least it’s better than Pheriche.’ Lost your job? At least that’s better than Pheriche. Just broke your leg? At least you’re not in Pheriche. You get the point!

Now, for the most part the accommodation along the Everest Base Camp trek was lovely – two bed rooms and nicer than your average hostel. That is… until we reached Pheriche. This is the last stop of the trek before base camp and there is only one teahouse. That means ALL the trekkers who made it that far (and ALL their germs) in one tiny place. And this place has no heating (at the coldest point of the trek), no hot water/shower, classic squat toilets overflowing with you-know-what, seems to be slanting at an impossible angle, a cardboard door, oh and it might be the breeding ground for an upcoming influenza epidemic!

Don’t worry, I survived the night and I’m definitely being a bit facetious (after all, you need to suffer a little to feel like you deserve to reach base camp!). But it does help when I encounter obstacles in life to think ‘at least it’s better than Pheriche…’

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Nepal day 11 🇳🇵 ⠀ ⠀ Our second day of descent, we covered 20km of rocky, hilly Himalayan landscape. We walked down through the tree line into sunny skies from Pheriche-Namche Bazaar. ⠀ ⠀ I just felt so energised and grateful today – a decision I made when I woke up this morning. With only a few days left in Nepal I want to soak it up and appreciate my time here. Sure my body hurts like hell but it’s amazing how when you make a conscious decision to be happy how things change.⠀ ⠀ In other news 7/9 of us are really sick – luckily I’ve avoided the “khumbu cough” so far. They literally named this sickness after the valley we’ve been trekking through. I’m not sure why I haven’t got the bug yet, but we only have one more day to power through! @travel.her.way #brandambassador

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Best meal

Best meal goes to Ghostfish Brewing in Seattle. Yes, this is another story of me forcing Dan on a long, arduous, and sketchy journey for gluten free food. A train and a traipse through a construction site later, we found ourselves at the BEST 100% GF brewery. I had fish and chips and a flight of GF beer, that Dan reported is just as good, if not better, than normal beer!

Worst meal

No singular meal comes to mind but… eating gluten free in Nepal I did run into a small conundrum. There isn’t a great variety of gluten free dishes over there, which means I ate about 98798243 servings of Dal Baht. Don’t get me wrong. I actually really like Dal Baht. But on the 12th day of Dal Baht three times a day…. let’s just say I needed a little break!

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Nepal day 3 🇳🇵 ⠀ ⠀ Today I woke up at 4am to twittering birds. Jet lag? Maybe. We downed some weak coffee and at 8am set off to trek Pahkding – Namche Bazaar. AKA our highest elevation gain in one day on schedule. I expected it to be killer but I’m feeling good and so is the whole group! ⠀ ⠀ My favorite part of today’s trek was the suspension bridges, slung across high canyons with clear water. They’re laden in prayer flags and sway in a way that would be stomach churning if you looked down too long. ⠀ ⠀ In other news I’ve had my fifth Dahl Baht in a row, a naturally gluten free curry/rice/lentil mix. There’s a saying here “Dahl baht power 24 hour” and I’m feeling itttt. @travel.her.way

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Most emotional travel moment

There were plenty of emotional travel moments to pick among, but I’m going to choose something that definitely isn’t a traditional ‘vacation.’ My family suffered an extreme loss this year when my Grandpa Sir passed away in May.

On short notice my whole family flew down to Florida for the funeral. I spent nearly every year of my childhood with our yearly vacation in Florida at my grandparents’ condo. Of course I’ve traveled around the world extensively these past few years, but when I think of ‘vacation,’ I think of my grandparents’ white linoleum floors, the chocolate milk my grandma would place on the table, and Grandpa Sir teasing me about sharks or sunscreen or what not. So in some ways it was lovely to have the whole family together to celebrate his life in this place that’s so special to all of us… but it was obviously also heart wrenching.

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Long time no chat, Instagram. Life got overwhelming real fast, and I tend to shut down when that happens. Anyone else?⠀ ⠀ In the last month-ish I’ve been to 3 continents, 3 countries, and 7 states. A week after I returned to Michigan, my beloved grandfather passed away. My family has been grieving him, it’s been a really reflective time where I didn’t feel prepared to write about anything that wasn’t my grief, but also hardly had a second to sit down with those feelings and understand them.⠀ ⠀ My grandfather taught us all to never settle, he inspired my love of travel by taking me on a cruise through the Mediterranean at age 8 (I’ll never forget him encouraging me to down wine in Greece as a fourth grader – I thought I was so cool), he taught us all the value of good old fashioned hard work. He is truly missed but thanks to him I have the privilege of a pedestal from which to pursue my dreams. I hope not to waste that.⠀ ⠀ Looking forward to returning home from Tennessee tomorrow, getting into a summer routine, and actually NOT having any travel planned for the next few months. I need to be still. How have you all been lately?

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Favorite landscape

In a shocking move, my favorite landscape I experienced in 2019 is NOT in Nepal… I know right!! Definitely my favorite landscape goes to Panorama Ridge in British Columbia (don’t worry, Everest is a close runner up). When Dan and I trekked to Panorama ridge, we spent 10 hours on this 32km hike, literally hiking from civilization straight into the middle of nowhere: no cars, roads, planes, buildings, nothing in sight. The culmination of the hike is a steep rise to Panorama Ridge, which overlooks the miraculously glacial blue Garibaldi Lake. I’d never ever seen anything like that lake.

Favorite country

It’s always hard to sway me from England… the country I used to call home that definitely still has a piece of my heart. But actually this year, I have to say my favorite country was Nepal! It was my first time in Asia and being immersed in such a different culture felt a bit magical. Above and beyond, though, the people of Nepal are why I choose this as my favorite country.

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Nepal day 5 🇳🇵 ⠀ ⠀ A gorgeous day and our first view of Mount Everest. It’s wild to look at this peak in the distance and think of all it’s given and taken. I just hope I can make it to its base camp.⠀ ⠀ I felt strong during our hike today from Namche Bazaar – Tengboche. When we reached Tengboche I just wanted to take off my shoes and run around with the yaks and the fuzzy black dogs. Bad idea after trekking to 12,000+ feet elevation yeah but I think this altitude is just making me giddy. I’m laughing at the stupidest things. Constantly feel like I’ve drunk half a bottle of wine, especially in the evenings.⠀ ⠀ I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the joy of actually being outside in this beautiful landscape after having spent so long cooped up in a Michigan winter, and ferried from doctor to doctor before that. In an environment where I thought my chronic illnesses would be such barriers, I actually feel far from them for the first time in years. Whatever it is, I want more of it in my life after this is all over. @travel.her.way #brandambassador⠀

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2019 was a big year of travel for me… of course the decision to do Everest Base Camp pretty much confirmed that was going to be the case. But writing this, I’ve realized how many other travel opportunities came my way in between life and work.

It was a big year in my personal and career realms as well. I finally was able to get my healthcare degree from the UK transferred to the US… I took my board exams and I am now a registered therapist in the US! Such a big deal for me, and the major thing I wanted to accomplish this year.

Looking ahead to 2020 I am probably going to be traveling less, as I hopefully will start working as a therapist! However, there is already at least one major trip planned, to India and Sri Lanka no less! So stay tuned as I will publish a full 2020 travel plans blog post in the near future.

What were your travel favorites this year? Let me know… or better yet, write your own blog post and link it up!

Sarah xx

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