This year. All I can say is whoa. There have been some serious highs, some serious lows, and a lot of WTF moments in between. The adventures have been more spontaneous, the moments heightened, and the reflections deeper. I’ve grown closer to some, and apart from others. I had my first major print byline, became the local expert for Google Trips and judged a live cook-off (some serious resume wins). Before time keeps flying by, here’s a quick recap of my yearly highlights.
New Zealand – Never has a country left me feeling so polarized. I wanted to love New Zealand so much I built the expectations up to be impossibly high. Basically my main issue was being that far away and having nothing feel foreign. Yes, the landscapes were ridiculous and it was a photographer’s dream, but to feel like I’m on an island version of Colorado was kinda just weird.
Croatia – Croatia on the other hand stole my heart. Sail Week was an incredible experience and one of the most affordable luxury trips you can take. Each coastal city dazzled and offered new waterfronts to explore with delicious cuisine, sumptuous backdrops and the perfect balance of active adventure and “boat and chill.” CNN called Croatia the “King of the Riviera’s,” and I can personally guarantee you this is a hot spot that’s poised to blow up.
New Mexico – I absolutely love work trips that send you to places you’d never think to go on your own and are blown away at every turn. New Mexico has become my new obsession, and Ruidoso in particular. A cross between a ski town (the second largest in the state behind the much more well-known Taos) and the Old West, it is a great stateside escape on a budget. My casita was amazing and cost a fraction of what a property that incredible would be anywhere else. It’s an easy 1-2 hour drive from Roswell or El Paso, and I can promise you this town has it all – great eats, cute boutiques, endless outdoors, and empty lift lines.
South Dakota – Another place that completely surprised me, I liked South Dakota so much I went back twice. Sure, Wall Drug and Mount Rushmore are kitschy Americana and the food is mediocre at best, but the Badlands and the Black Hills are absolutely amazing – and only a 5-6 hour drive from Denver! Yes, it is closer than Moab and there’s plenty of space for outdoor pursuits like camping, rock climbing and mountain biking. The best part? You can camp right next to a herd of wild bison (as a CU Buffalo alum, to see Ralphie and all her cousins in the wild was pretty much the best thing ever).
Texas – While I didn’t want every stereotype about Texas to be true, they pretty much were: big trucks, big hair and big personalities. It’s an interesting state that’s hard to categorize, but each city really has it’s own flavor. I only went to Austin (which would’ve been way more fun with a posse) and San Antonio (loved the River Walk, felt very Venetian) so I feel like I still need to see Dallas and Houston to really formulate an assessment.
New Adventures & Experiences:
Flying lesson – While I’m no Amelia Earhart just yet, my neighbor did graciously give me a mini flying lesson in his private plane. We cruised around the Front Range practicing turns and controlling the acceleration to reach different altitudes. It felt a bit like a video game and I hope to go on many more adventures with him next year.
Helicopter ride – Another experience that went way too fast, the 20-minute helicopter ride above Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills was an incredible way to see the sights and get some sick aerial shots. The cruiser looked like it was straight out of M.A.S.H. and we felt like complete badasses with our headsets on.
Zip lining – I hadn’t been zip lining in 10 years since I was in Costa Rica, and I’ve got to admit I forgot how fun it was. While the course at Ski Apache is one of the longest in the world, it’s simultaneously the quickest and most breathtaking five seconds of your life (unless you’re delayed due to weather like we were in which case the anticipation is crazy). It’s insane to think you’re flying above tree line at 65 mph.
Alinea – One of the top 10 dining experiences in the world, Alinea had been on my bucket list for 30+ years so I was super stoked I was finally able to acquire tickets (yes, it requires tickets that are priced like a theater production on a sliding scale based on day and time). Unlike most pre-fix meals where they skimp on portion size and you leave still feeling hungry, I was stuffed and thoroughly impressed (and still couldn’t really tell you what we ate since the courses were so avant garde). The experience was well worth the money if you’re into yolo dining – capped off by an edible balloon as the grand finale.
RV Road Trip – Having never traveled by RV before, I had no idea what to expect, but the closest thing I can compare it to is a cruise ship. The quarters were tight, but it was nice to have a mobile “home” on wheels with all your creature comforts to accompany you (and save a heck of a lot of money on hotels). It’s great that you can pretty much post up anywhere and made a random trip over Christmas break totally affordable. We got to bring the dogs to Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon and Carol made the driving seem like a breeze (although I personally can’t attest). We did have a bit of a comical error as the dump station was locked due to it being the holidays so we had nowhere to empty certain pumps if you get my drift… oh well, you live and you learn ☺
On to the next…
Our country has a bit of an ambiguous future (le sigh), but personally, 2017 is poised to be better than ever. I will be able to fly for free thanks to my best friend becoming a flight attendant so you never know where I may spontaneously end up next. I acquired over 35k Instagram followers in six months by doing some serious audience development, and with that was born a new social media consulting division of our company I’m excited to be heading up. Personally, I have some awesome new brand sponsorships I’m really excited about (Adidas Outdoor was the first big one) and I’m working on upping my photography game even more. I’ve been purchasing fun new toys like remote tripods and a GoPro dome to take sick underwater shots, and hopefully a drone will be next.