2021 Travel Favorites (And Least Favorites)

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It’s December and I’ve finished my travels for the year 2021. Which means it’s time for my yearly “travel favorites” post! In this post I recap my favorite (and least favorite) travel antics from the year that was… and encourage all my blogger friends to write their own and send them to me!

Note: I’ve added a link up widget! Scroll to the bottom of this post to add your own post.

I say “yearly” but after I started this series in 2018 and 2019, I actually didn’t write this post in 2020. I was too sad about the pandemic, the lack of travel, and the uncertainty of the future.

Over the past year, I’ve adjusted, like we all have, to travel in this new pandemic-life. As restrictions have loosened (then tightened… then loosened… then tightened), I’ve learned how to go with the flow, stay alert, and balance my love of travel and desire to reunite with loved ones with trying to not be a Covid d*ck. (I’m trademarking that phrase).

2021 Travels… Where Did I Actually Go?

I really didn’t travel as much this year as I’ve done in past years (looking at you, 2017, when I visited 17 countries!… or you, 2019, when I hiked Everest Base Camp… or even you, 2020, when I visited India and Sri Lanka pre-pandemic).

However, my travels felt more essential and meaningful this year. In May, I reunited with my college bestie at her new house in Cleveland. In June and July, I flew to Florida and saw my grandma for the first time in over a year. In August, I flew to Atlanta for a long-awaited life-changing surgery. In September and October I flew to England to reunite with my boyfriend for the first time in 370 days… my only international travel of the year. Also in October, I attended a college roomie’s wedding in Toledo, Ohio. In between it all, I’ve made a small effort to explore my home state of Michigan.

I took less flights than usual this year, but appreciated the ones I did take!

2021 Travel Favorites

….And least favorites. Let’s get into the adventures of 2021!

Favorite Travel Moment

This has to go to my arrival at London’s Heathrow Airport in September, when I saw Dan’s (masked) face in person for the first time in 370 days!! Thanks to border closures on the US side, and my inability to fly to the UK until September (due to health, surgery, and work reasons), we spent over a year apart. That first hug at Heathrow was just amazing.

Dan and I in Cornwall during my trip to England!

Favorite New Place

I only realized this when writing this blog post… but the only place I visited in 2021 that was new to me was Oxford, England. Yep, after all the time I’ve spent living in and visiting England, I’d never been to Oxford before! Dan and I spent a day here during my trip in September.

We went to a great pizza place (The White Rabbit if you’re ever there) and met up with my good friend Bethan, who drove over from Cardiff. I hadn’t seen her for ages due to the pandemic – she even had a baby during that time so I got to meet her daughter, too! Overall, I didn’t get much of an impression of Oxford other than I loved seeing my friend and eating pizza, lol!

Oxford was beautiful! But I would love to go back and get a better feel of the city.

Favorite Place I Returned To

This one is a little harder since, like I mentioned, almost everywhere I traveled in 2021 was a place I was returning to! However my pick is going to have to be Cornwall. Dan and I spent 5 days road tripping Cornwall during my visit… ever since I first visited in 2013, Cornwall has been my happy place (especially St. Ives).

I wanted to pick a place for a road trip that I knew really well and could enjoy the moment without getting stressy about “seeing it all.” We stayed in Penzance and St. Ives and had a wonderful time checking out cute shops, hiking my beloved southwest coastal path, eating great food, tidepooling on the beaches, and even swimming in the geothermal Jubilee Pool. (I have quite a few blog posts in the works so stay tuned!!!)

Early morning coffee in St Ives, Cornwall – my favorite place I returned to in 2021.

Worst Travel Moment

Just last week, I went to Holland, Michigan with my parents for a post-Thanksgiving overnight trip. Friday went great. We did some Black Friday boutique shopping at small businesses, visited a Christmas market, saw our first movie in a theater since 2019, and had an amazing gluten free deep dish pizza for dinner.

Then… I woke up at 3am in my hotel room that night feeling very nauseous. Cue sitting in the bathroom being sick and delirious for the next 7 hours! We had to cut our trip short and drive home the next day because both my parents were also sick (thank goodness we had a hotel suite with two bathrooms… that wouldn’t have been pretty!!).

Turns out, some stomach flu virus made the rounds at our Thanksgiving gathering because other family members were sick that weekend, too. Kinda freaky how fast a virus can spread… isn’t it?

Well, I don’t have a lot of photos of my brief time in Holland, but here is some Michigan maple syrup I picked up at their Christmas market!

Scariest Travel Moment

Flying across the country for a life changing surgery isn’t exactly a typical travel experience. But my trip to the Center for Endometriosis Care in Atlanta, Georgia was the best and most important thing I did this year. It was also the scariest. Undergoing a major operation far away from home took a lot of courage – and I’ll forever remember the feeling of mild terror as my surgeon held my hand as the anesthesia took over – but I’m so glad I did it.

Dr. Arrington (my specialist endometriosis surgeon) and I prior to my big surgery in Atlanta in August!

Best Accommodation

When in Penzance, Dan and I stayed at the Artist Residence. I’ve been eyeing this boutique hotel brand for a few years and it was an exciting splurge to stay here. I was a little disappointed as the rooms with clawfoot bathtubs weren’t in our budget… but lo and behold when we checked in to the hotel they gave us a free upgrade to one such room!!

copper tub at Artist Residence
Our gorgeous tub at Artist Residence in Penzance.

Worst Accommodation

Winner of worst accommodation of the year sadly goes to the Sea Turtle Inn in Vero Beach, Florida. I flew down to Florida to visit my grandma for the first time since the pandemic, and coincided my visit with when my parents would be there during their big southern U.S. road trip. We rented this apartment, which my dad and I had actually stayed in previously in January 2020 and really liked.

But we got a different unit this time and it was awful. My parents’ bedroom was stunning. My bedroom, on the other hand, was this white prison cell with a fold out sofa bed with no blanket or duvet that, when folded out, you couldn’t open the doors to the room. AKA if you had to use the bathroom in the night, you had to fold up the whole bed just to get the (inward opening) doors open and escape. It was basically a trap so I spent the trip sleeping on the couch in the living room.

I’ve definitely stayed in far worse places (helloooo, backpacking) but for the high price and the expectations based on how it was advertised, this place was shockingly bad.

This isn’t what you’d expect of a $300 room, right?

Best Meal

This one is SUPER hard to pick because I’ve eaten some amazing food this year. But the meal I keep thinking about is a brunch that Dan and I had at Utter Waffle in London. This little out-of-the-way restaurant is 100% gluten free and specializes in waffles – with a twist. I had the eggs and soldiers marmite-stuffed waffle and Dan had a fried chicken skewered waffle creation with bloody mary relish. I’m seriously drooling even as I write this!!

Because this category was hardest to pick by far, here are a few runners up for best meal:

Most delicious meal at Utter Waffle in London!

Worst Meal

I’ve gotta give this one to the airplane food I had on Delta on my international flight home from London. Not only did they make it extremely difficult to order my meal (their website was glitching so I had to call and wait on hold for ages), but the “margarita pizza” was the most sickly, melted-rubber looking thing I’ve ever seen. It was made on a cauliflower base with dairy free cheese so basically none of it was legit pizza.

Luckily, the other in-flight meals were pretty good so this situation was more comical than I’m-starving-how-dare-they-feed-me-this-crap-on-an-eight-hour-flight! Despite this monstrosity of a “pizza”, I still have deep love for Delta! Now, that’s saying something!

Delta, why????

Favorite Landscape

I’m just obsessed with Cornwall, y’all. It’s all beautiful, but I especially loved a short hike Dan and I did to Pedn Vounder beach and Adam’s Rock. It felt kind of other-worldly to be clambering up a giant grassy rock out in the ocean, with waves crashing far below us. I’m just forever astounded by the beauty of this part of the world.

Clambering up on Adam’s Rock, looking toward Pedn Vounder and Porthminster beaches in Cornwall. Just beautiful!

Most Emotional Travel Moment

Without a doubt, the most emotional travel moment of 2021 was waking up from my surgery in ICU at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. Again, this isn’t your typical travel experience but travel is travel, and this was a major trip I took this year. As I was groggily waking up, I overheard the nurse say they removed my appendix and I immediately felt overwhelming relief that yes, they had found more endometriosis, it wasn’t all in my head, and maybe I would finally get some relief now (spoiler: I have! I’ll save that for another blog post).

Recovering from surgery at the hospital in Atlanta. Don’t I look glam? Lol.

2021 certainly hasn’t been a year of blockbuster travel for me. Most of my travel revolved around reuniting with friends and family, and visiting places I already knew well. It’s not as glamorous, but there’s a time and place for travel of this sort, and 2021 was certainly that!

Another contributing reason (other than the obvious pandemic) that my travels were less far flung this year, was that I focused a bit more on my career. I completed my first year at my current occupational therapist job, and I’m pretty sure I doubled my freelance writing income from last year. I also worked on the blog a ton and managed to get accepted to Mediavine ad network, a major milestone for the blog! I don’t think I could have accomplished all this if I had been traveling at the pace of previous years.

Saying that, I’m seriously hoping for 2022 to be full of more travels – to new places and bucket list experiences. If all goes according to plan it’s going a be a banner year for travel (and life in general). Of course, Miss Rona willing, that is! I’ll share more details in my 2022 travel plans blog post, so stay tuned!

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

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12 Responses

  1. Oh!! I love this post idea! I’ll have to work on a post to link up with you!

    I’m amazed that you were able to fly across the country to get the surgery you needed, and I’m so so so so glad that it worked out. I feel like I’ll be following in your footsteps to some degree. My doctor on Friday told me he has no idea how to help me. Separately he told me that I need to follow up with my OBGYN for some things on my MRIs (yay), but no idea about my hip. Sigh.

    That sucks that you all got sick post Thanksgiving! What a rough time for all of you!! Definitely glad you had two bathrooms!

    Love all the photos from your trip and being reunited with Dan. I imagine that felt all kinds of ways!! I would love to visit Oxford or Cornwall just based on these photos! I love that you stayed in a room with a clawfoot tub, though it seems like that the metal would be so cold??

    1. Ooh yes please do! I would love to read more about your travels from this year.
      Ugh I’m sorry… but honestly, I now think it is actually a sign of a good doctor when they can acknowledge their limitations. Some doctors know they can’t help you, but still waste your time and money with testing/surgeries/etc that are ineffective. All because their ego is too big to defer to someone else. Now you can move on to finding the right doctor for you!
      And yes Oxford and Cornwall were beautiful! I’m looking forward to sitting down and writing a batch of blog posts all about Cornwall. Things have just been soo hectic lately! And re: the tub – it warms up super fast with the hot water so it was perfect!

  2. Oxford is stunning,I have only visited it as a day trip too. Oh that stomach bug sounds awful,it must be something you all ate.Flying back home after surgery must have been scary too. We explored locally with the kids,went with them abroad too,but just day trip(living in Europe has a lot of perks) and I got to visit my best friend in.Germany.my sort of review post is due in January so then I might link it back to you. Have a great Christmas!

    1. Yes it is really beautiful! I really want to go back again though and do more exploring. And yes please do link it back in January!! By the way, I have tried to comment on your blog a few times. But I’m having issues with that wordpress login and can’t get in. I need to sort that out but I think it’s a whole password reset thing. Ugh I am so not technologically inclined at all lol!

  3. Aw, so nice to recount – can’t wait to hear more about your SW England travels! That photo of your and your surgeon is so nice… so glad you got that surgery and he looks like a kind man.

  4. Sounds like you’ve had a fab year! I’m so glad you managed to get your surgery and hope you’ve felt the benefits! Love hearing about your and Dan’s long distance relationship, you two are real troopers! Although after 2 years of being stuck in a house with my other half, I think I could do with a bit of long distance haha!

    1. Lol!! I’m sure we’d feel the same in the opposite situation lol! Hope you are doing well. Any plans for your longterm trip in 2022? (If I was remembering right you were planning one just before the pandemic, same as us, and had to delay)

  5. Wow! What a year. When my husband and I were long distance dating, the longest we ever went without seeing each other was 6 months. I can’t even imagine how hard it was to go a *whole* year+ apart from Dan! And I’m so glad you found the courage to get your surgery done. If there’s anything I’ve learned since this panorama began is that health is the real wealth. xoxo

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Oh hey! I’m Sarah, the writer behind Endless Distances. When I’m not here, spilling all my gluten free travel and wellness travel tips, you can… find me on the floor at parties petting the dog.

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