I’m not going to sugarcoat it: this year was tough. You likely wouldn’t know it from my stories or my feeds as I tend toward a sunny, glass-half-full disposition (and have a particular persona to maintain), but this year was harder than most. With the news a perpetual beat down of WTF did he do now, it’s easy to feel helpless with the sad state of the world as we continue to take three steps backward as a society. Learning to shake off what I cannot control and roll with it is not exactly in my type A personality, but it is what it is.

For all the hardships, 2017 brought a lot of personal growth. There was a huge learning curve in running my blog and my brand like a business instead of a side hustle. I’ve been freelancing full-time since May and finally feel like I’m striking a healthy balance between gigs, pitching, and trips. I stress less about when the next campaign will come and no longer feel like it’s sink or swim. I’ve partnered with some incredible brands and only see the rollercoaster accelerating from here.

The travel also picked up immensely. Previously, I’d only done one stint of six weeks of back-to-back trips. This year, with my follower growth and massively improved photography skills, I’ve been blessed with more opportunities than I can count. I’ve consistently been doing seven or eight weeks of trips at a time, which is both exciting and exhausting. I checked a number of new experiences off my bucket list from hiking part of Everest Basecamp and the W Circuit to dog sledding and hot air ballooning.

I visited six countries bringing my total count to 35 and 10 or so states (none new). I revisited some of my favorite cities (San Francisco, Chicago, Ruidoso) and fell in love with new places after getting a fresh, local perspective on their neighborhood gems (Seattle, Phoenix, Boise, Atlanta, Santa Fe).

Here are some of the highlights:

Mexico – I’d been to Cancun plenty of times in the past, but being invited to the Top Chef finale party where it was filmed was pretty cool (although I’m still pretty salty I have yet to be invited any of the events in Denver). I basically spent the week at a honeymoon resort solo and finally got to see what all the hype was about with Tulum.

Patagonia – Hands down my favorite trip of the year, Patagonia is incredible. Hotel Las Torres treated us like royalty with all-inclusive everything from gourmet food prepared fresh from their garden to guided tours to private sections of the park and horseback hikes. Santiago had some amazing street art, and Buenos Aires was vibrant and buzzing.

The Dominican Republic – I’d wanted to go to the DR for a while now, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to see parts of the country beyond touristic Punta Cana. I met some amazing influencers and we enjoyed photographing the colorful, old cities and eating our way around the island.

Banff – The Canadian Rockies should be a road trip on everyone’s list. One of the most accessible natural areas on the planet, the turquoise waters and snow capped peaks are truly as brilliant as they look in pictures. Surprisingly affordable, my girlfriends and I each spent less than 1k for a weeklong getaway during the height of summer and Canada 150. We were able to hit five national parks in four days and make some seriously epic memories.

Nepal – After bugging everyone I know to vote to send on what I believed to be a dream trip to Nepal, I gotta say, I was pretty underwhelmed by the country. Kathmandu was highly polluted (most people wear masks) and chaotic (I’ve heard it compared to India). One of their major tourist attractions is a temple with a crematorium attached, which I was not mentally prepared for at all (especially being Jewish). Trust me when I say it’s a sight (and a smell) I can never unsee. The Everest Basecamp trek was beautiful, but the area was incredibly developed and it’s essentially a hike from village to village. I’ve never seen a single picture of the bustling guesthouses, bars, or shops so I was truly caught off-guard by the experience.

Taiwan – I loved Taipei because it was easy to navigate and each neighborhood had a wealth of incredible food, night markets, and shops. The same cannot be said for the rest of the island. Very little English is spoken and my phone changed my maps and web pages to Mandarin, which it’s never done in any other country. That was an interesting challenge. That being said, there are some beautiful landscapes so if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure destination with both mountains and water; it’s a good one to consider before it blows up.

Kansas – As one of my major clients, I spent a lot of time in Kansas this year. I road tripped around just about the entire state to find incredible nature scenes and landscapes you’d never believe were in Middle America. I attended my first Renaissance Fair and MLS soccer game, which were both experiences I never thought I would enjoy and ended up loving (because really, what’s not to like about elaborate costumes and giant turkey legs?). It just goes to show not to judge a book by its cover because you can have amazing adventures in the most unexpected places.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – Having never been in a hot air balloon, the folks in Albuquerque graciously took me up for a ride that lasted over two hours. I learned all about competitive ballooning and got to see the sky light up with colors and shapes. The Balloon Fiesta is the most photographed event in the world and truly a magical sight that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Looking back, I can’t even believe some of these trips were this year; they feel like ages ago. Nevertheless, I’m excited about 2018 and dare I say hopeful for what the future holds. Stay tuned.

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