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As the year comes to a close, I recap our best travel experiences of 2018.
Last year, I wrote that 2017 was my best travel year to date. I really had no idea that 2018 could top 2017. Or that 2017 could top 2016. While I’d still list many of our trips from 2015, 2016, and 2017 as my best journeys, I feel like this past year was truly something special.
I find that at the beginning of a new year, I really have no idea where we’ll be headed for the most part. We had a couple of tropical destination trips all set for January and February because living in frigid Canada tends to make you flee to the south when you can. Don’t get me wrong, I love winter adventures, too! But, the beach really calls my name, especially when the sun disappears for a long while and the wind is particularly chilly.
In 2018, I checked two new Canadian provinces off my bucket list. We also found an incredibly cheap flight to New Zealand early in the year, booked it on a whim, and planned a two week road trip there for November. I embarked on my first solo trip to Europe, spending a few days in Copenhagen and a day trip to Sweden. I also checked a new item off my bucket list, which was breaking a bone. Who knew that this injury would lead to some life changing decisions? I’ll tell you all about that, too!
By the way, I haven’t managed to write in extensive detail about many of these travels yet. Look out for these articles throughout the beginning of 2019.
Let’s explore my best travel experiences of 2018 together. I hope that it provides you some inspiration for your travels in 2019.
A vacation at the Grand Palladium Riviera Maya resort in Mexico was exactly what we needed. It was a week away from the winter to a tropical locale, where our biggest cares in the world were deciding to relax at the beach or the pool. Unfortunately, it was a little too cold at the resort to swim, but it definitely beat the weather back at home.
One highlight of the resort was the wellness spa that incorporated an invigorating water circuit. I liked walking around the property at all hours of the day, though my favorite moment was waking up extra early for a brilliant sunrise one morning. The best part of this holiday was getting away from the everyday. We left the laptop at home and lived in the moment. Justin and I also worked quite a bit on making a video of the resort, so it wasn’t all just rest and relaxation! In case you might have missed it, here’s our video of the Grand Palladium Riviera Maya resort.
February: Caribbean Cruise
How lucky are we? I entered an online contest to win a cruise and to my complete shock, I won that vacation! My contest entry (which was as simple as filling out a form online) was chosen out of 22,000 entries. In February, we sailed around the Caribbean with Holistic Holiday at Sea on a 10 day vegan cruise. I am a huge fan of cruising and believe it’s the best way to take a relaxing holiday and see a bunch of places all at once. To top it all off, we ate delicious vegan meals three times a day and attended special events by lecturers and experts.
Justin and I sailed to several Caribbean islands, including St. Kitts, Barbados, St. Thomas, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. We were delighted by the service on the MSC Divina, and I will never grow tired of staring out to sea. Furthermore, we tried yoga nidra for the first time, had private personal training sessions at the gym, and spent lots of time at the beach to make up for the lack of beach time in Mexico.
At the end of March, I managed to have a week off work by only using one vacation day (it was the Easter long weekend). With a week off, I couldn’t resist booking a trip. Unfortunately, Justin didn’t have the time off work so I decided to take a trip by myself. After researching flights and prices to a few spots in North America, I found a cheap-ish flight to Copenhagen instead. Even though Copenhagen is a pretty expensive city, I located a cheaper pod hotel in the city center.
I walked all over Copenhagen and explored this beautiful city for three days. Highlights of my trip included a boat cruise around the city, admiring just about every colorful house, and eating at numerous vegan restaurants. On my fourth day, I took the train across the bridge to Malmo, Sweden. After visiting Malmo, I spent the rest of the day in nearby Lund.
In May, I had the opportunity to spend a long weekend in St. John’s, Newfoundland to test drive the new Ford EcoSport. With a group of bloggers and influencers, we sped around the Avalon Peninsula in our matching cars to various points of interest. I invited my sister, Robyn to come along for this adventure, and it was one of my best travel experiences of 2018.
We woke up bright and early one morning to observe the sunrise at Cape Spear, which is the first place in North America that the sun rises each day. From there, we went on a boat ride to view thousands of puffins and other seabirds on little islands off the coast. We explored small coastal villages, wandered around the brightly colored houses of Jellybean Row in St. John’s, and even got “screeched in”.
Newfoundland reminded me a lot of Ireland, a country that I truly fell in love with last year. Even though we only stayed in St. John’s for a short while and barely scratched the surface, it fueled my wanderlust to return to this spectacular province for a lengthier amount of time.
June: Germany, France, Switzerland
For the last couple of years, Justin and I have planned a trip to Europe during my birthday in June. This year was no exception. We returned to one of our favorite countries in the world, Germany! This time, we flew to Frankfurt first. Then, we took the train to Strasbourg, France for a couple of days. After that, we spent a week in Switzerland, traveling to Bern, Wengen, and Zurich by train (with small day trips to various Swiss mountain towns). After that, we spent a number of days in Tubingen and Heidelberg before heading back home to Canada.
I adored wandering around Strasbourg really early in the morning, watching the town wake up. The view from our hotel room in Bern was nothing short of stunning, and we immediately pictured ourselves moving to charming Bern. Then, we were completely amazed by the beautiful views from several tiny Swiss villages as we ascended up into the Alps. In Tübingen, our punting trip on the river was a highlight, and we loved walking all over Heidelberg (the Philosopher’s Walk, Old Town, and the street art were very cool discoveries).
It’s really difficult to sum up these experiences in only a few sentences, so you’ll have to check out our full blog posts – still in progress on this trip. Here’s what we have so far:
Winnipeg definitely surprised us in many ways. First, there were a lot of opportunities to explore the prairies and natural surroundings, not far from the city. We went on a bison safari, watching these gentle giants graze and wander in the countryside. The city itself had lots of vegan options, including the original Boon Burger (Canada’s first all vegan burger restaurant, which has since expanded into Ontario). We relaxed at the Nordic spa, Thermea, ate at a historic marketplace, and learned about the city on a river boat cruise.
If we hadn’t gone to Winnipeg, my life would be drastically different. When we were in Winnipeg, I broke my ankle while walking through the doorway of a building (sorry, the story isn’t that dramatic!). As it was my right ankle, I couldn’t drive and had to take over two months off work. Even though I had a walking boot, I was mostly confined to the apartment. As I had lots of time to spare (and I could only watch so much Netflix), I got my first taste of full time blogging life. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really travel, but I did lots of writing, social media work, and photo editing.
September: Finger Lakes, NY
Even though I was one leg down, I hobbled my way around the Finger Lakes as much as possible. For most of the time, I was at the Corning Museum of Glass for TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange). It was my fourth TBEX conference. They’re fabulous for networking with tourism boards and brands, meeting fellow travel bloggers, learning at the sessions, and taking day trips around the area. Originally, I was supposed to do yoga before I broke my ankle, but was promptly switched to a day long wine tour around Seneca Lake.
At TBEX, I had decided in my own mind that I was going to take the leap and pursue a full time travel blogging career. Travel blogging is my passion, and I felt that it’s worth the risk to go for my dreams. Now, just to make it a reality…
October: 1000 Islands
As soon as my ankle was healed enough to take off the walking boot and drive again, I took a day trip to the 1000 Islands region in Ontario. The main attraction was beyond the 1000 Islands to check out Pumpkinferno, an annual pumpkin lantern festival. I spent the day taking short hikes in the area to admire the fall colors. There’s a tower in the 1000 Islands that provides a panoramic view of the surrounding region that’s quite lovely.
November: New Zealand
Our trip to New Zealand together was one of our grandest adventures yet. It’s the farthest we’ve ever flown (Toronto to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Auckland, Auckland to Queenstown). We rented a car and drove from the South Island up to the North Island over the span of two weeks. New Zealand definitely lives up to the hype, and even exceeds it. We were in constant awe of the mountain scenery, the bright turquoise waters, and the bubbling geothermal areas.
Some of our favorite moments included a trip to Hobbiton, seeing the magical glowworm caves, taking a helicopter ride at Franz Josef Glacier, and sleeping in a yurt in Wanaka. Stay tuned for so many articles and stories from this brilliant country that I’m already dying to travel to again.
Justin and I concluded the year with a trip where we could act like kids again (okay, we act like kids most of the time anyway). We both hadn’t traveled to Orlando as adults to visit the theme parks, and it was always so high on our bucket list. Initially, we planned the trip over Justin’s birthday in September, but I couldn’t fly back then (and I couldn’t really walk either). Justin and I postponed the trip until December and had the chance to visit Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World.
We stayed at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, where we experienced a comfortable and enjoyable stay at this retro chic hotel. Justin and I were super excited to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. In preparation, we watched all eight of the Harry Potter movies in a row. I couldn’t get enough of wandering around this truly magical land. The rides at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure brought the movies to life. Each world and ride was such an immersive experience, like Springfield (Home of the Simpsons) and Skull Island: Reign of Kong.
I had such fond memories of visiting Disney as a kid, and it was equally as entertaining as an adult. Justin and I spent three days rediscovering the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. I’ll be delving into our days at every theme park in much more detail soon. We had an absolute blast in Orlando!
What’s Next? Full Time Blogging!
I’m thrilled to announce officially that I’m entering the world of full time travel blogging!
For my main job, I’ve always worked at a national television station here in Toronto. I was hired on as a video editor straight from my college internship in January 2007, and worked there as both a video editor and ingest operator for 12 years.
Decisions to Leave my Day Job
For the past 5.5 years, this travel blog has grown to become my second full time job. As you can imagine, I haven’t had the greatest work/life balance when working two full time jobs. It got to the point where my job in TV was the job with the paycheck and I looked forward to working on the blog after work. This often meant writing between 12am and 4am, after working an 11am-11pm shift at work that also included over an hour of commuting back and forth. Many of my days off were also spent working on the blog. I felt like that was fine because the travel blog was my passion, but…shouldn’t your job be your passion, too?
And when you’re a travel blogger, you need to travel! I have managed to travel a lot for someone with a full time job. At the same time, I’ve had to turn down many opportunities because I simply lack the vacation time at work.
Some of you might think that I am crazy. I am leaving a stable job where I was set up for life. I had an amazing salary, full benefits, a pension, stock options, and other perks. But, I wasn’t living life to the fullest there. I had to work long hours, many weekends, many holidays, and I’ve missed out on a lot of moments with my friends and family. There’s so much that I want to do that I can’t because I work shifts that don’t have the same days off week after week.
Even though Justin and I worked together, we hardly ever worked the same hours . We were never able to commute to work together, and we barely saw each other at work. I will see him so much more now than I ever did before as I’ll be able to work around his schedule more easily.
A New Career: Travel Blogger & Content Creator
After thinking about my situation for a very long time, I realized that I needed to put 100% of my time and effort into my true passion. I will have a much better work/life balance being able to work from home (and a bit on the road), spend more time with Justin and my friends, and be my own boss. It won’t be easy and it is a huge risk. I have faith in myself to take this massive leap and I know that I can do this!
Thank you so much to Justin for being my #1 support. When I told him that I was thinking about quitting my job to become a full time travel blogger, he didn’t doubt or question it for a second. He has always encouraged me to go for my dreams. Furthermore, he works really hard to create amazing videos for our blog, and he’s my number one travel partner. To Justin: thank you for always supporting me, agreeing to go on these crazy travel adventures, and believing in me.
To my work family: I am going to miss you guys SO MUCH! We’ve spent countless hours together and had so many laughs. I can’t even count the amount of times at work that I’ve laughed so hard that I’ve been in tears over the silliest things. Bye for now, but you’d better believe that I’ll be showing up at next year’s work Christmas party or any other events…as Justin’s date, of course.
I worked my last shift on December 29th and bid farewell to the place where I spent the most time away from home. Even though I didn’t regret my decision, it’s the people that I will miss the most. I managed to not cry (it was tough holding back the tears as I kept hugging and saying bye to everyone), but I know that I made the right choice for myself.
Here’s to 2019! Here’s to traveling more and choosing our dreams. From all of our best travel experiences of 2018, I’m even more ecstatic for taking on this new challenge of being a full time travel blogger. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for what the future holds as I am right now. Bring on 2019!