While I’d be lying if I said this had been the best year ever, there have been some extreme highs, the biggest being back in the travel industry working for my old company, iExplore.com, and helping to relaunch their new site, TravelMindset.com. Aside from that, I got to check off 3 new countries and 3 new states on the bucketlist, getting me about halfway to my goal of 50 states and 50 countries before 50. Here’s what I thought about where I went this year.
Greece – Having been on my must-see list forever, I gotta say, Greece was severely underwhelming. While Santorini and Crete were just as beautiful as you’d imagine, Athens was littered with cigarettes and Mykonos was basically Cancun in disguise (do they really need all those t-shirts saying “f*ck Ibiza?”). My main gripe? I’m more of an active vacationer so having nothing to do but lay on the beach all day was not really my kind of trip. I was expecting more culture, water activities, and the like.
Turkey – Completely the opposite of Greece, Turkey surprised me the most. After being forewarned by numerous girlfriends that they treat women like sh*t, our experience couldn’t have been farther from that. A gigantic, magical place, Istanbul reminded me of San Francisco on the bay, complete with lighthouse and Chinatown across the water. And that food, oh my god, that food. It’s even better than Greek! I severely underestimated needing just two days there and while I rarely repeat locales, Turkey is definitely worth another visit. It quickly earned a spot on my list of all time favorite places, potentially even top 3.
Bosnia – My second experience visiting a war torn country, like Israel, Bosnia is far from the dark and depressing place the media makes it out to be. A charming, hilly European capital fallen on hard times, the downtown area isn’t big, but worth spending 1-2 days exploring. While I mainly went to see my Uncle and how the other side lives, it was interesting to see my once fairly Jewish family become pretty entrenched with new Muslim identities. Aside from that surprise, they were very active politically, which intrigued me that non-natives could become such pillars of the community.
Alabama – Although I didn’t make it to Birmingham, after spending a week in Florence for work, Alabama is about as exciting as you’d expect it to be. The Tennessee River is beautiful and if you’re looking to get off the grid, it’s a great spot to hide out for a few days (especially due to lack of of internet). The Florence restaurant scene is surprisingly modern with a few gems like Celeste, but seeing as the most interesting thing to do on a Saturday night was bowling…not really my kinda town.
Tennessee – I fell head over heels in love with Nashville this year. Somewhere I’ve wanted to go since I discovered my love of country music in college, it’s a city full of culture that goes much deeper than just that. Celebrity chefs are moving there in droves, and it’s truly somewhere I’d like to spend a lot more time. It didn’t hurt that I got to crash Jake Owen’s block party, either.
Hawaii – Never high on my bucketlist because I thought there were much cooler beaches without the 6 hour flight, I ended up taking a spontaneous trip to Hawaii after finding a $270 flight the week my undergrad, CU was playing my grad school, Depaul in a supremely random basketball tournament in Oahu the week of Christmas. Maui felt like too much of a honeymoon destination to go solo, but the adventure activities on the Big Island and Waikiki were incredible. The Manta Ray dive/snorkel in Kona is something everyone should experience in their life and I’m still sad about not getting to shark dive (cancelled twice due to weather). Here’s my full recap of the dos and don’ts in Hawaii.