This year was an interesting one from a travel perspective. I traveled somewhere almost every single month and I don’t think I have ever flown so often in a single year. So I’m proud of that!
For me, 2015 was the year where I pushed myself to travel more often. I feel I achieved that goal even with a life in Chicago. I know many travel bloggers travel full-time, I would like that to happen eventually, but now my focus is here in the States. Saving money, traveling on the weekends with the occasional extended trip, and enjoying what comes my way.
So with that, I want to reflect on my travels in 2015. I did a lot of spontaneous trips and went to many new states this year and many new countries. Very proud of that. It took a lot of effort planning and it wasn’t all pretty. But here we are in December and I look back on all of it with a smile.
January & February
Northern Minnesota and Thunder Bay, Canada
I first went to the great state of Minnesota for my first time and had a blast. I rented a cabin up in Tofte, Minnesota, which is about 4 hours north of Minneapolis. It’s actually in the Superior National Forest Park and sits right on Lake Superior. It’s beautiful in the winter, and yes very cold. Nearby there is a little mountain for skiing and about 2 hours north lies the city of Thunder Bay, Canada. You can read about what it’s like to experience freezing arctic temperatures, and unspoiled scenery here.
Just another short trip to good old north Texas. Not much to write here but it was great being in my home state.
Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania
A spur of the moment long weekend trip. I love these types of trips and luckily Chicago isn’t that far from Washington D.C. I never been in the D.C. area and it was a chance to see a few states, and our nation’s capital. In short Washington D.C. is gorgeous but perhaps a little stale. It’s also expensive which sucks some of the fun out but at least the museums are free.
We got tired of walking around museums so we also decided to take a trip up to Hancock, Maryland, a city that sits only a mile between the states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. As a geography nerd, this was a cool experience and a very scenic drive through Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and only a bit of Pennsylvania. Read more about my time in our nation’s capital.
New York, New York
I hadn’t been to New York since 2007, and it was great to come back older now. For the first time I was able to enjoy the nightlife, walk around the city and see things that I wanted. The hotel was amazing, the food was amazing, and it was nice to tour around slowly and experience the city; whatever came up. Also Brooklyn is exactly the way I thought it would be, I’ll just leave it for your interpretation but there was a great market with stunning views of Manhattan! Read more about my time in New York.
June & July
Turkey, Greece, Belgium
My big trip this year was to Europe, on a cruise! From Chicago we flew into Istanbul, Turkey and boarded a 11 night cruise to other ports in Turkey and Greece. First off western Turkey has incredible scenery but what really makes Turkey is the history. If you’re a history buff, you’ll love this cruise, especially at ports like Ephesus! In the summer the weather is perfect if not just a little hot. Ports like Bodrum are great for sipping on some Turkish tea or coffee with a dip in the blue waters. Istanbul is a must, with beautiful architecture, incredible food, unique drinks, and a surprisingly modern city. Plus the people are generally pretty welcoming and Europe is pretty cheap now from a monetary perspective. Read more on Turkey.
Greece is best explored on a cruise in many ways since there are so many islands to see. Our cruise traveled to all the famous ports including Rhodes, Santorini, Athens, Mykonos, and Crete. I ended up loving all of them, for different reasons of course, but they all provided something to do and experience. One of the highlights for me is simply the food in Greece. It’s as good as you would think Greek food would be in your mind. Also I think the lifestyle and the relaxing attitude in Greece makes for an enjoyable trip. Also a couple of ouzos and gyros help. Read more on Greece.
Belgium was a short stopover for a day and it was great to see the city of Brussels, a city I had missed last year when I went to Bruges, Belgium. I mostly remember it be so warm and a very small city. To be honest there isn’t much to do but it does have the beer, great food and beautiful architecture. Oh and see Manneken Pis.
San Francisco, California
A year of firsts for me, right after my trip I decided to head off to California to see a really close friend. San Francisco is a really gorgeous city and I can see why people love it. It’s just so expensive; like hotels and food. But the weather is usually great and there is so much to do around the area like visiting the redwoods or just a general walk around the city.
My time in San Francisco was perfect but I probably had the best time in Napa Valley. It’s hard to believe a place is so beautiful and throw in wine and French food; I’m going to have a good time! Read more about my time in San Francisco.
Back to Texas to spend my time with my family and watch some Texas Football. I love going to Austin and happy that I keep going back every year. This year I discovered new restaurants such as Sway, a Thai/Texas fusion establishment that has damn good ice tea and wonderful fried rice. A must try for newcomers to the Austin scene. My Texas Longhorns ending up losing to Oklahoma State, but it was still a great experience; I love coming back to my alma mater \m/.
Starved Rock, Illinois
Not all travel needs is long distance. Sometimes there are great attractions in your backyard. I rented a car, went with a friend and head west to the countryside of Illinois. About an hour and half outside Chicago there is this geological anomaly called Starved Rock.
Now I don’t know if you know anything about Illinois, but here is a crash course. It’s pretty flat. So to see caves, hills, valleys, little canyons mixed with a beautiful backdrop of changing leaves. It was an enjoyable experience.
Again back to Austin to spend time with my family for Thanksgiving. Not much sightseeing or exploring done this time but we did go out to a local winery. I can’t recommend this enough! Look up Duchman Vineyards and make an afternoon of wine tasting out in the Hill Country of Texas.
I finally end me year in my hometown, Dallas! I went for Christmas to see my family before I embark on my big trip to South America in January. Crazy weather, including summer heat in the 80’s to tornado’s and snow, all in four days. Coming back my flight was cancelled due to terrible weather in Chicago, the same system that caused weird weather in Dallas, but luckily I was able to get out the next day. Just part of living in Chicago.
Reflecting on 2015…
This year had some ups and downs. Mostly ups. I mean I traveled to so many wonderful places and more importantly, had fun while doing it. And I will continue to pursue that. I separated from my 2 year boyfriend, something that wasn’t so pleasant. But I also learned a lot about myself through that process. I’m not perfect and I don’t have everything figured out but I know at least the basics of what I represent and who I am. Sometimes it works out with others, sometimes it doesn’t. That goes for travel and really anything in life.
I will look back fondly on 2015, but I also will leave it behind. Here is to a New Year and a new start for more adventures, more reflection on my purpose here, and a chance to move on.
images by: shawnvoyage