Year in Review: 2017

Happy New Year!  Before jumping head-first into the new year, I always like to take one look back at the previous year, and dredge up some old travel memories! If you’ve been following along, you know 2017 was a pretty momentous year for me! Plans to leave my job and Chicago were in the works all year long, and it could have been a pretty boring year as I tried to save up money and vacation time, but I had a blast exploring the Midwest, knowing I wouldn’t be living there much longer.


I started 2017 in my favorite country, Mexico! I woke up in La Paz, and spent the next few days in Cabo San Lucas, after a sea kayaking and camping trip to Isla Espiritu Santo.

La Paz Malecon


February – more winter, more hibernation.  February is almost always a low-key month of staying in and hibernating, wishing spring would hurry up and arrive. It’s the shortest month but also the longest month for Midwesterners! I did make a trip down to Chinatown for Chinese New Year, and enjoyed the parade, despite the cold!

2.5.17 Chinese New Year - Chicago's Chinatown

And who doesn’t love dim sum? Mmm…I need to find sesame balls in Arizona! Any tips?

Chicago ChinatownDim Sum at Phoenix Restaurant


In March, I attended a work conference for the third year in a row. I brought my mom along, and since I knew this was probably my last business trip, I stayed an extra day to play tourist in New York. We had a few good meals, visited Top of the Rock and took an awesome food tour at Chelsea Market.

Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock


In April, I attended the Women in Travel Summit in Milwaukee. I hate to admit it after so many years in Chicago, but this was my first real trip to Milwaukee! I wanted to return all summer for a weekend visit, but sadly, I never did. Milwaukee is a cool town and has a lot going on. As part of the summit, I also joined the Milwaukee Taco & Tequila Tour with Milwaukee Food Tours.

Downtown Milwaukee


In May, I joined my first press trip! A handful of other bloggers and I converged on Marietta, Ohio to scope out the outdoor adventure opportunities in the area. This trip was perfect as I was set on exploring the Midwest this summer, and the Southeast corner of Ohio was not even on my radar, but I was really impressed with everything we did! Kayaking, hiking, biking plus lots of great food and two nights in a haunted, historic hotel!

Buckley Island with Marietta Adventure Company

Front Street

Back home in Chicago, I joined Chicago Detours for their Interior Architecture tour, and found some really cool buildings that I didn’t even know existed!

I also made a visit back to my hometown, the Quad Cities, and spent some time photographing the area where I grew up.

Centennial Bridge, Davenport, IA

I ended the month of May on a tour of Chicago with Big Bus Chicago.

Looking back, I did a lot of hometown sightseeing in May!


In June, I continued my Midwest exploration with a trip to Roseville, Minnesota. I have only been to the Twin Cities once, so long ago I barely remember it, so I was excited for this trip, which came about through networking at the Women in Travel Summit. I loved this area, and would absolutely consider living here and/or visiting again! Plenty of urban culture and outdoor recreation without the pesky traffic and expensive cost of big-city living!

At the end of June, I took another Midwest road trip, to Detroit. I have long wanted to visit Detroit, and although it was only a 1-night trip, I was duly impressed. Detroit is definitely undergoing a renaissance, and I wouldn’t be surprised if rumors of Amazon’s new HQ coming here are true! LinkedIn just opened a home office here, so I think good things are in store for Detroit!

Downtown Detroit, Campus Martius Park


In July, I went on another press trip, this time to Fort Wayne, Indiana. I’ve never really explored much of Indiana, so this was a fun weekend adventure. I took in a baseball game, some kayaking, hiking and a tour of the historic theater downtown.

July also began a string of good-byes as it was my last month in Chicago.


August was INSANE! This is the month I left my job, put all my things in storage and hit the road! I will forever miss my favorite apartment of all time!

Early in the month, I traveled to Switzerland for a couple of weeks of hiking through the Swiss Alps, following the Haute Route from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland. Looking back, I still can’t believe I was wandering around all these trails without a map!

On the way home from Switzerland, I had an overnight stopover in Reykjavik, just enough time to visit the Blue Lagoon and take a food tour.

Sun Voyager Sculpture in Reykjavik, Iceland

Julia & Julie at Culture HouseSkyr Tasting

Once I returned home from this adventure, I had a few days at my mom’s house to get organized before setting off on my road trip. My first stop was spending a few days in Olathe, Kansas, which I enjoyed so much more than rushing all the way to Colorado the first day like I usually do! I have time to slow down now, and enjoy some things along the way!

Lake Olathe

Career Break Month 1 Recap


I started September in Colorado and traveled to Salt Lake City and all over Oregon. I went to Bend, Klamath Falls, Crater Lake, Medford plus a rafting trip on the Rogue River. It was a jam-packed month, but I saw so many new places! I ended the month in Northern California at Lassen Volcanic National Park and Lake Tahoe.

Career Break Month 2 Recap


I started October in Page, Arizona which I think was my favorite camping spot of the trip, on a plateau above Lake Powell. I then spent some time in New Mexico, before arriving in Tucson mid-month.

Towards the end of October, I decided to rent an Airbnb house in Tucson for 1 month to give me a chance to slow down and get to know Tucson. (spoiler alert: I never left!)

Career Break Month 3 Recap


Most of November I spent in Tucson, playing tourist but also trying to have a bit of a routine, which I guess I missed when I was chaotically living out of my car for the previous couple of months! My mom came to visit, so we had an action-packed week of sightseeing, including a side trip to the old mining town of Bisbee.

By this time, I’d already signed a lease on an apartment in Tucson, so I knew I would spend the next 6 months here, but I was tired of the rickety house I was renting, so I hit the road again! I went back to New Mexico to see White Sands National Monument, then back to Northern Arizona for a few days in Prescott, followed by almost a week in Phoenix.

Just a few days after Thanksgiving, I hopped a plane in Phoenix and headed to Maui!

Career Break Month 4 Recap


December was all kinds of crazy! I started the month in Maui returning to Phoenix on a red-eye flight. 12 hours later, I had another red-eye to Chicago, where I spent 3 nights visiting friends and family, and loading the contents of my storage unit on a moving truck.

When I finally arrived back in Tucson, I was sick for 2 weeks. I knew all that flying and back-to-back red-eyes would not end well, but I didn’t expect to be sick for so long! As soon as I was feeling better, Bailey got sick on Christmas Eve, and I am still nursing her back to health with home-cooked meals of rice, chicken and sweet potatoes! So, I feel like my first month in Tucson was a bit of a bust, but I’m excited to start exploring again soon!

All told, it was a great year for travel!

You know I don’t do a recap without a bunch of numbers!

  • Flights: 11
  • Hotel/Cabin Nights: 75
  • Tent Nights: 23
  • Vacation Days Taken:  7.5
  • Countries Visited: 4 (Mexico, France, Switzerland, Iceland)

Unlike this time last year, when I was bursting with these secret plans, I have no idea what I’m doing this year beyond next week. My first trip of 2018 is a week in Belgium and I’m hoping to get up to Yosemite in February. I’m picking up some freelance writing and social media gigs, and that’s ramping up, but at some point, I will be looking to go back to a regular, corporate job. Since I don’t know how much time off I’ll have, or when, I’m just going to explore as much as I can now!

What was YOUR favorite travel moment of 2017?

Year in Review: 2016

Happy New Year!  Even though I already have my first passport stamp of 2017, I want to take one look back at what a fabulous travel year I had in 2016!  Everyone’s talking about how 2016 stunk, but the Cubs won the World Series, guys!

In 2016, I (quietly) celebrated 10 years at my company.  This meant a bonus week of Paid Time Off, along with a generous gift of American Airlines and Hyatt gift cards, all of which helped make this a banner travel year for me!  Thanks, CDW Corporation!


January is always a lay-low month for me.  Recovering from short work weeks, holidays and holiday travel, I usually stay close to home, hibernate and try to cut back on eating and spending.  Fun, huh?!

I did set out to put a dent in my resolution of visiting museums, with a trip to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, but as with most resolutions, this one faded away early in the new year.

Also, it was so cold, my dog had to wear a coat! (A very rare occasion)

JAN2016 - frigid below zero temps :(


February – more winter, more hibernation.  I was able to catch another night in the chef series at Kendall College.  Other than that, I doubt I left the house!  Can you blame me?!

Chicago River


In March, I took my only business trip of the year – a quick overnighter to New York.

At the end of the month, I set off on my first big solo international trip with two weeks in SouthEast Asia.  I started off in HongKong, then a few days in Chiang Mai, on to Bangkok, Siem Reap, Phuket and back to Hong Kong!

Angkor Wat


Although the first 10 days of April were spent in SouthEast Asia, I managed one other weekend getaway to Tom’s Lake in the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Tom's Lake Cabin - Hiawatha National Forest - Michigan

I also became a godmother to this cutie in April!

Harper Grace Christening


May always kicks off with this guy’s birthday.

Leigh and Emmit

At the end of the month, I finally made a trip to Southern Illinois for some hiking.

New tent!

Cache River Natural Area


June was uneventful, other than a trip to the Field Museum to see the Terra Cotta warriors exhibit.


In July, I returned to the UP to see some new spots I’d been hearing about for years, like the Porcupine Mountains and Pictured Rocks.  It was too hot, so I came home early and made plans to return in the fall!

Porcupine Mountains State Park / Lake of the Clouds

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore


August was the calm before the storm, travel-wise.  Work-wise, it was insane and I worked most weekends and nights this month.  Not exciting, but necessary!


September was the start of two very busy travel months!  First up, I headed to Mexico City for my birthday.

9/12 TuribusCondesa neighborhood

Mexico City

I returned home for two days, then it was a road trip to the UP (again!) for my first attempt at solo backpacking, in Pictured Rocks.

Starting the hike at Grand Sable

TwelveMile Beach Campground


The first weekend of October was spent at Mt Princeton Hot Springs in Colorado, allowing me to catch the fall colors that I’m usually too early for.

Cottonwood Pass

Two weeks later, I headed to North Carolina for a family weekend at the beach.

Full moon over Kure Beach


November was the best month of all time when the CUBS WON THE WORLD SERIES!  Seriously!  It wasn’t until after the parade that I finally stopped thinking it was all just a dream.  (For those not in the know, this is a really big deal – the Cubs have been the lovable losers of MLB for 108 years!!!)  Some of my favorite people came into town to celebrate, along with about 5 million other people, making this the 7th largest gathering in human history.

Chicago Cubs World Series Parade

Another big event in November was celebrating my niece’s first birthday!  Isn’t she the cutest?!

Aunt Leigh and Harper Grace


December was the usual rush of holiday parties and shopping, Christmas Eve with family followed by a Christmas day flight to Baja Mexico, where I closed out the year!

All told, it was a great  year for travel!

Here are a few of my stats.  I love stats, I’m such a nerd!

  • Flights: 16
  • Hotel/Cabin Nights: 29
  • Tent Nights: 15
  • Vacation Days Taken:  29.5 (wow!)
  • Countries Visited: 4
  • States Visited: 6 (not including my home state)

I’ve got some pretty cool plans in the works for 2017, including 15 days spent hiking the Haute Route in the Swiss Alps!  I predict fewer flights and more tent nights, but we’ll see how it all pans out!  And I might just get to a few more museums after failing at that goal last year 🙂

Year in Review: 2015

2015 was a great year, and I think 2016 will be even better.  Before I move on, one final glimpse in the rear-view mirror is in order.


As we started 2015, I was just back from the Galapagos Islands, meaning I had to stay home and rebuild my vacation time and savings accounts!  This taste of international travel (my first in almost 10 years) really stoked my wanderlust and made me vow to get at least 1 passport stamp every year from here on out.

I also decided to go with a fun New Year’s Resolution – try 1 new restaurant every week – I’m happy to say, thanks to a healthy dose of business travel, I met the challenge and since I pretty much stopped counting after 52, it’s probably fair to say I exceeded it.  And I didn’t end the year any heavier than when I started! (or lighter, but trying to stay positive!)

January was also the month I kicked off a big pro bono project with the Taproot Foundation.  The project lasted well into the summer, as we designed an Annual Report for North Lawndale Employment Network.


February was a pretty quiet, uneventful month – again, staying home to replenish the travel savings account for the year to come!


March was the start of a busy business travel quarter – for me, at least since my job normally involves zero travel.  I was asked to participate in a panel discussion for one of our vendors, so on St Patrick’s Day, I was off to San Francisco for 2 1/2 days.  I made sure to fly in as early as possible so I’d have some free time to wander the city and, of course, indulge in fish tacos, my West Coast go-to cuisine.

A week later, I was off to the East Coast version of the same conference, in New York.  I’d also planned an early flight to allow me to explore New York, but with snowstorms in Chicago, I was lucky to even make it out!  I arrived just in time to get ready for a business dinner, and flew out immediately after the conference the next day.  I think New York and I just aren’t meant to be!


April marks the 1 annual vendor trip that I’ve attend for the last 4 years.  This year, we were off to Orlando and Universal Studios. While it’s technically a working weekend, they do build a lot of fun in, including dinner at Emeril’s and tickets to Blue Man Group.  And I made sure to get some pool time in!


In May, a last minute opportunity came up to attend a conference in San Diego.  I jumped at the chance, and flew out early to have some free time, during which I fell in love with the laid back vibe of this coastal city.

May also marked 1 whole year since this little guy (my nephew) entered the world!

Emmett's First Birthday


June marks the official start of summer.  Summers in Chicago are super short, and we earn them with months of cold, dark weather, so I like to stay home and take advantage of them!  This means not much travel, but plenty of hometown fun, like taking the water taxi to do some lunch hour shopping on Michigan Avenue!


In July, I discovered Airbnb hosting (more on that later) and spent a few weekends out camping while I made a bundle renting out my apartment.  Fall is my favorite travel season, so it was a good way to pad that vacation account a little bit more!


The first week of August found me heading out to Colorado for a backpacking trip in the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness, north of Silverthorne.  Unfortunately, I woke up in Nebraska with the start of a head cold that only got worse, so the backpacking was not what I had hoped, and I even hiked out a day early.  But, hey, a bad day in the woods is still better than a day in the cube farm!  Despite being in a DayQuil haze the entire time, it was nice to catch up with some old friends and breathe the fresh (though very thin) Rocky Mountain Air.

Surprise Lake Camp

And any trip that includes my puppy is always a bonus!

Surprise Lake Camp

Since I bailed early on the backpacking, I had some extra time to explore some new areas I hadn’t previously visited, like Buena Vista and St Elmo Ghost Town, and my old favorite, Leadville.  And then I got to end the trip with some family time with my aunt in Evergreen!

Family pedicure in Evergreen - Donovan, me and Norie


September was big.  Huge!  For my 40th birthday, I had been planning (for almost two years) my big bucket list trip.  I spent 11 days whitewater rafting the Grand Canyon.  Somehow, it even exceeded two years’ of hyped up expectations.  It was truly magical!

Tuesday, 9/8Camp 3 - Lower Saddle

Wednesday 9/9Hike at Tanner

After a quick flight to Vegas, I was off to Zion National Park for a few days.  I fell in love with this area in 2008 and had been itching to get back here ever since.  The highlight of this was finally reaching the top of Angel’s Landing after I chickened out the previous time! The spa day at Flanigan’s was pretty good, too!

Flanigan’s Inn and the town of Springdale is seriously the kind of place I could visit every year, and I don’t say that about many places!

After a redeye flight from Vegas, I had just enough time for a nap before heading to FarmAid30 on the shore of Lake Michigan.  Who says you have to slow down at 40?!  Not me!


Once again, after a big bucket list trip, it’s time to stay home and replenish my vacation hours and money.  I stuck close to home this month, but did spend some time exploring Chicago – visiting Pullman one weekend, and Chicago Open House another.


In November, my niece arrived!

Then, at Thanksgiving, my mom and I spent a long weekend in Panama!  This was a great “warm up” for my spring trip to Asia – the heat and humidity were brutal, but it was still a fun trip!

Barefoot Panama City and Canal TourCasco Viejo


December was just the usual craziness of holiday parties, Christmas shopping and baking!  This was the first Christmas in several years that I spent at home instead of someplace tropical.  It was nice to spend it with family, but my wheels are already turning with next year’s destination!

All told, I had 14 flights in 2015- 6 R/T’s plus one helicopter and one Cessna (those were my favorite!)  I spent 20 nights in hotels.  I didn’t count nights in my tent, but other than the Grand Canyon, it wasn’t enough.

And with that, it’s on to 2016!  Happy New Year!