Working in travel, it’s hard differentiating between work trips from vacations as you’re always looking for the next story angle or Instagram shot. Either way, I got to explore a bit more of the world and check a few new places off my list, some luxuriously, some modestly, but always with adventure in mind.
Germany (Munich) – Before this year, my only actual experience with Germany was being detained in the Frankfurt airport for having a one-way ticket home from the Middle East. Not the greatest first impression. Compound that with the fact that my conservative Grandparents drilled into my brain since birth that supporting the German economy as a Jew was wrong (even 50+ years later) and I’ve never had much interest in vacationing there. Finally deciding to ignore their preaching (honestly surprised it took so long considering I rarely listen to anyone), I made the inaugural trek to Munich and holy heck, I should have done it sooner. Oktoberfest was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Quite frankly, it’s nothing like what you picture. An alcoholic-induced carnival full of raucous camaraderie, rowdy singing, and more beer than you can possibly consume, Bavarian culture is incredible with a never-ending fill of games and rides, welcoming people and an ambiance that’s straight out of the movies. Just don’t even try asking for water, they’ll look at you like you have three heads (and it’ll cost more than the beer).
There’s a lot to see in Budapest and trying to cram it all into two days was a challenge to say the least. Going full-on tourist, we boarded a bright red double decker bus to take a headphone tour of the city. Known for their bathhouses, castles, and bridges, there’s a lot of culture to take in across both sides of the river. The newly opened music-themed Aria Hotel was amazing and we were completely spoiled by their daily wine and cheese happy hours and ridiculous free made-to-order brunches.
Czech Republic (Prague)
Prague quickly became one of my favorite cities in Europe because it had the flair of France, yet felt insanely more livable. Instead of racing from attraction to attraction to check them off a list (guilty of this more often than not), we explored at our leisure, getting a feel for the different neighborhoods via the local restaurant and pub scene. The John Lennon Wall was a huge highlight and we met tons of fellow travelers taking photos and adding their own quotes to the masterpiece. We also went inside the clock tower for an interesting history tour of Town Square and got some ridiculous photos from the top of the castle.
A Fresh Perspective on Italy
Having been to Rome before and not been a fan other than the food (it’s way too touristy and feels like every American on study abroad is crammed into Campo di Fiore), I’m glad I gave Italy a second chance seeing how much everyone else adores it. Portofino and Santa Margarita were amazing and just like the postcards you see. Colorful mansions dot the cliffside and there are endless cobblestone streets and alleys to wander — gelato in-hand. It was a relaxing change of pace for someone who doesn’t typically like “beach and chill” trips.
Montana came with a lot of firsts for me. First time on a private jet. First time at a private ski resort (where the Kardashians aren’t even allowed). With more animals than people and a name that translates to “mountains,” it’s no surprise that I fell hard for the pristine vastness, it’s a nature lover’s dream. Oh yeah, and meeting Warren Miller wasn’t bad either.
My obsession with Utah knows no bounds. First, it was with Moab. Gorgeous, scenic Moab. We did a few of the famous hikes at Arches, but I need to go back for Fiery Furnace, a naturally formed labyrinth you need either a guide or a video to work your way out as there are no trails, signs, or cairns. Later in the year, I went to Zion for work. In my head I pictured a small mountain town — wrong. St. George is three massive highway exits. The area surprised me at every turn; from its exceptional restaurants including authentic Hawaiian poke (super random) to my first float spa and awesome outdoor pursuits where I got to try canyoneering and rock climbing amongst the gorgeous red sandstone cliffs.
Sticking with the theme of Western states with amazing scenery, Sun Valley was another epic slice of Americana. As the first destination ski resort in the entire U.S., it exudes an aura of old world charm (despite its recent renovation) and old money. It was the most patriotic way I could’ve spent the 4th of July – at the rodeo and watching an Olympic ice show.
Some New Colorado Adventures
Telluride lives up to the hype and doing the via ferrata was one of the coolest adventures I’ve had to date. One of just four “iron routes” in the U.S. (they’re technically illegal to build), it’s a way to scale a mountain without any technical climbing know-how. I finally made it to Maroon Bells and the Continental Divide. The pics were as amazing as expected, but I’ve seen better trails (it was pretty touristy).
I tried ski biking in Snowmass/Aspen in the winter and had my first mountain biking lesson in the summer (which I surprisingly didn’t hate, despite not really liking city biking). And I climbed my first 14er! Check that off the list. Even after two years, Colorado continually pushes me out of my comfort zone and surprise me. There are still so many corners of the state left to explore and a lot to be excited about in 2016.