2017 was quite an exhausting year. The drama from the White House seemed never-ending, the nation was shaken by multiple senseless tragedies, and our president called Nazis very fine people. On a personal level, I lost my job in October while I was fighting off a nasty infection. I started graduate school in December and moved back to Ventura. I feel my time in the San Francisco Bay is truly at an end and I've finally "escaped."
I visited two new countries (Croatia and Hungary), four new states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wisconsin), one United States territory (Puerto Rico). quite a few new cities, and visited a bunch of friends. The last time I totaled it, I had taken over twenty flights and went through at least sixteen airports. Here are the thirteen best moments from those travels; they're not in any particular order.
Walking through Plitvice Lakes National Park
You'll see from the rest of this list, I like waterfalls. They feature frequently in my travels. When we were planning our trip to Croatia, we knew we were going to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park. With its cerulean blue waters and countless waterfalls, the park is unbelievably beautiful and a must-do on any trip to Croatia. It's one of the best laid out parks I've ever been through; the wooden walkways take you straight through the waterfalls. I don't think a park like this could exist in the United States; too many stupid people here would jump into the water or fall in.
Camping at McCloud Falls
Not just one waterfall, but three waterfalls. While these are not the highest waterfalls, they are quite picturesque and easily accessible. We almost didn't make it to McCloud Falls because there were fires in the Shasta wilderness causing poor air quality and the temperatures were soaring above 115 degrees. Thankfully, my friend Nan is unstoppable when she has her mind set on an adventure and decided we should go anyway. It turned out to be one of the best weekends of the year.
Hiking Mt. Shasta
This was my birthday trip. I've been obsessed with hiking Mt. Shasta for years, and I finally had the chance to hike the Bunny Flats trail. While I still haven't made it to the top, that will take a bit more planning and training, it was a great hike and partially fulfilled a dream of mine.
Meeting My Boyfriend's Extended Family
We took a road trip through New England and upstate New York this fall to see the foliage and to visit my boyfriend's grandparents, aunt, and uncle. Driving through western Massachusetts and the Adirondacks is particularly lovely at that time of year. His family was delightful and welcoming, and his grandmother made the best meatballs marinara I've ever had. Meeting new people and enjoying their company is one of the best things about travel.
Soaking in Szechenyi Baths in Budapest
It is no secret I hated Hungary. One place I did enjoy in Budapest was the resplendent Szechenyi Baths. Despite the busyness of the baths (they were quite crowded), Szechenyi was relaxing and a lot of fun, especially with a quite pregnant friend who was probably ridiculously exhausted after our ten-day visit to Croatia.
Exploring the Villages and Towns of the Istrian Peninsula
Istria is a scenic, slow-paced region of Croatia. The hills and valleys are dotted with vineyards and woods. In between the woods and vineyards, are the medieval fortified villages. The two that stood out for me were Motovun and Groznjan. Groznjan is only accessible by a gravel road, but it's worth the slow drive up. I loved seeing all the artist's wares and brightly painted doors and shutters, plus an amazing puli dog. Motovun is more known for its truffles and restaurants. It was in Motovun that I ate the best gnocchi ever at Mondo Konoba.
Waterfall Hike in Puerto Rico
Thinking about Puerto Rico breaks my heart. The way the people, who are United States citizens, have been treated by the U.S. government is disgusting and tragic. Please consider donating to help the territory recover from the hurricane. Check out this article for more information.
This was another waterfall moment. I went on a day tour with Rocaliza Adventure Tours. We hiked up the middle of a waterfall, ziplined down through the rainforest, and had a delicious lunch at a family farm. The food was some of the best I had in Puerto Rico and it had been over ten years since I had ziplined. What a blast!
Hanging Out with Friends in Seattle
Oh, Seattle. You brought me one of my worst travel moments of 2017, but you also brought me some of the best. Seattle is a place I could live. I want to live there. The city is hip, the surrounding scenery is gorgeous, and the food scene rocks. But the best part of Seattle? My friends. I got to do brunch and lunch with my friend Scott, who also took me to Gas Works Park. I explored Pike's Place Market and ate parking lot cheeseburgers with Angie and Joe. Exploring a new city with friends is the best way to see a city.
The Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit
Screw the Space Needle; it's not worth the ticket price. Skip it and spend the extra time at the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit next door. It's one of the coolest art exhibits I've ever been to. Spectacular colorful glass sculptures hanging from the ceiling, nestled in with the plants, floating in the water features. They also have a glass blowing demonstration. Way better than taking a claustrophobic elevator 500 feet in the air.
Visiting Mackinac Island with My Mom
I had a super fun visit with my mom this summer and one of my favorite parts was taking a road trip to St. Ignacius and riding the ferry to Mackinac Island. Mackinac Island is adorable and the surrounding scenery of Lake Huron is beautiful. I loved walking around the island and exploring the fort and shops.
Taking a Food Tour in Old San Juan
I can't believe I had never been on a food tour until I went on one in Old San Juan with Spoon Food Tours. Our guide was incredibly informative, the food delicious, and it was a fun way to spend an afternoon. I learned so much from our guide and enjoyed talking to him after the tour about the future of sustainable agriculture in Puerto Rico.
Eating My Way through Croatia
Food in Croatia is so fucking delicious. The mushrooms are intensely earthy, the onions deeply sweet, the bread is crusty and soft, and the meat and seafood artfully prepared. I ate so many good meals there (the benefits of traveling with chefs). The most memorable meals were the roast meats at Roca Estate, gnocchi in truffle sauce at Mondo Konoba, and strawberry gelato in Zagreb. I look forward to many return visits (my friends live there) and eating more in Croatia.
Relaxing in the Adirondacks
No, I don't mean in Adirondack chairs, I mean the actual Adirondack Mountains of New York. On our New England/New York trip, we stayed a couple nights at the aforementioned grandparent's cabin on Raquette Lake. We relaxed, played Apples to Apples, and hiked in the woods, glorious in its golden fall foliage.
So there you have it: my thirteen best travel experiences of 2017. Look forward in the future to the worst travel experiences of 2017.