Year in Review: 2017

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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.

January

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

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

March

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

April

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

May

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!

June

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

July

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

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

September

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

October

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

November

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

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?


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