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Year in Review: Our Travels in 2016

Year in Review: Justin Plus Lauren's Travels in 2016

We had the opportunity to travel a LOT in 2016!

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. For part-time travelers who both hold down full time jobs at home, we managed to travel a lot this year. (Here are some tips about how we afford to travel so much, and here’s a feature about how Lauren travels so much on Business Insider.)

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I knew that I was able to travel more than in 2015, but I really had no idea how much until I started compiling this blog post. My only hope is to travel just as much, if not more, in 2017. I’m still amazed that I was able to visit places that I once only ever considered to be “dream destinations.”

This year, I traveled just as much without Justin as with him. While he loves travel, I’ve been bitten by the travel bug a little stronger than him. Even when Justin doesn’t want to go, he’s 100% supportive that I chase these dreams all over the world. When I’m not going places with Justin, I’m either traveling by myself or with my sister, Robyn. (She also takes care of our cats when the two of us are gone – thank you for being the continually relied upon cat-sitter!).

So, let’s break down the year that was….2016.


Year in Review: Justin Plus Lauren's Travels in 2016

On the coldest weekend of the year, we headed north. That’s right, we’re insane. We did the opposite of most Canadians who head south for the winter. However, we were greeted by a sparkling winter wonderland. Quiet sunrises. Freshly fallen snow gently resting on evergreen trees. At Northern Edge Algonquin, we embraced the solitude of the north.

Our cozy cabin in the woods had a fireplace for warmth. Our small group went snowshoeing through the forest and across the frozen lake. We spent the weekend with kind, nature-loving folks and ate delicious, chef-inspired meals. We raced between the sauna and laying back into snowbanks, wearing just our swimsuits. We learned, laughed, and created new friendships. The barren landscape was simply stunning. The night sky, uninhibited by light pollution, was a sea of stars. As it turns out, heading north wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. 


Year in Review: Justin Plus Lauren's Travels in 2016

In March, I traveled without Justin to volunteer in Kenya with Animal Experience International. I worked with a small group to monitor the endangered Rothschild giraffes on the 40,000 acre wildlife conservancy. Other projects included anti-poaching efforts like finding and removing wire snares from the property.

I have still yet to write about half of my adventures in Kenya, but they included: marveling at the animals and birds, going on a night safari, sleeping in a tree house, visiting the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi, dying from all the cuteness as I watched baby elephants tromp around at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Elephant Orphanage, and actually almost dying when a buffalo tried to kill us. You can check out an overview of my travels to the Great Rift Valley in my Kenya video diary.


Year in Review: Justin Plus Lauren's Travels in 2016

In April, I invited my sister to travel on board a Caribbean cruise with me. We were set to sail on the inaugural sailing of the Fathom Adonia…except, the ship didn’t sail. After a day in a half in Miami, we discovered that the cruise was not meant to be. We also knew that we didn’t want to fly back home to Toronto without any traveling at all.

At the last minute, we flagged down a travel agent (many passengers on the Fathom Cruise were travel media or travel agents) and asked if there were any other cruises we could book. Thankfully, we snagged a cabin on board the Carnival Sensation that was set to sail an hour later! We flew down to the port with only a half hour to spare and boarded the ship, not even knowing the ports.

The Carnival cruise was an interesting experience, to say the least. It was a five day Caribbean cruise. We missed one of our ports in Jamaica due to a passenger emergency. My sister got horribly ill on board. After three days at sea, we made it to the Cayman Islands and enjoyed a wonderful snorkeling trip. Even though this trip had many disastrous moments, we still had a great time and made lots of memories.

In order to maintain our original flights, we stayed overnight in Miami. We both completely fell in love with the city.

It wasn’t until later in the year that we got to sail to Dominican Republic on the Fathom Adonia, as originally planned. But, more on that in a bit.


Year in Review: Justin Plus Lauren's Travels in 2016

It really was a dream come true. I’ve had an old copy of Lonely Planet’s Iceland travel guide sitting on my bookshelf for years and years. 2016 was the year that I finally got to spend time in Iceland.

Justin and I rented a car and set out on the Ring Road, the main highway that runs around the perimeter of the country. We took two weeks to explore the entire country, from south to north, from the East Fjords to the Westfjords. Iceland is such a magical country. You’ve really just got to experience it for yourself.

We chased waterfalls, walked along black sand beaches, went whale watching, and discovered puffins living on massive bird cliffs. I spent my birthday staying in the cutest cottage with views of the mountains, watching the sun just barely go down at 1:00am (with the sky never fully growing dark).


Year in Review: Justin Plus Lauren's Travels in 2016

I was barely back from Iceland when I jetted off to Milwaukee. It was my first time in Wisconsin. I joined a small group of bloggers to experience the city with Visit Milwaukee. I had no idea Milwaukee was such a fun and amazing place! From exploring the great outdoors in multiple ways (think sailing, kayaking, hiking, biking, and more!) to drinking lots of beer, I really adored this city and can’t wait to return in 2017 for the Women in Travel Summit.

Oh, and Milwaukee is also a very vegan-friendly city. I ate so much delicious food there.


Year in Review: Justin Plus Lauren's Travels in 2016

I continued my quest to hike all 900km of the Bruce Trail throughout the summer and fall. I kept hiking through St. Catharines and Thorold, Ontario, including Short Hills Provincial Park. Another breakthrough moment for me? I hiked solo for the first time ever! I wrote all about overcoming my fears, hiking as a solo female.


Year in Review: Justin Plus Lauren's Travels in 2016

In August, I spent a few days in the Finger Lakes region of New York State along with my sister. I’m still in the process of writing all about this adventure. We visited one of my favorite museums in the world, the Corning Museum of Glass – and got to make our own blown glass creations. The two of us enjoyed craft brews on the Finger Lakes Beer Trail.

Things I haven’t written about yet: taking a sail plane ride in Elmira, standup paddleboarding on Keuka Lake, hiking the Finger Lakes National Forest, eating lots and lots of yummy vegan food, and more! Look out for those in the near future.


Year in Review: Justin Plus Lauren's Travels in 2016

In the month of September, I explored more of my province of Ontario. There’s just so much to see and do here, all within driving distance of home! In early September, I took a day trip with two lovely travel blogging ladies, Lindsay and Stephanie, to visit Beausoleil Island (part of Georgian Bay Islands National Park). We took a ferry to Beausoleil Island and hiked the northern portion of the island, taking a swimming break in the middle.

September is also Justin’s birthday month. For his special day, we went to St. Thomas, Ontario for a plant-based harvest dinner. We dined outdoors on the farm and ate many courses of local, amazing vegan meals.


Year in Review: Justin Plus Lauren's Travels in 2016

It wouldn’t be a year of travel without stepping foot in Quebec! Justin and I took a very brief jaunt to Montreal to see the Garden of Lights – the annual lantern festival. It’s been on my list for quite some time, and we finally had the opportunity to experience it. The Chinese and Japanese gardens at Montreal’s Botanical Garden are lit up with authentic Chinese lanterns. It’s really quite the spectacle, and you should check it out if you get the chance.

On this same trip, we both went to our very first cat cafe!



A photo posted by Lauren ✈ (@justinpluslauren) on

My sister and I finally got to board the Fathom Adonia in November. We sailed to the Dominican Republic and participated in volunteer activities on shore. We helped plant trees, worked at a chocolate cooperative, and helped the ladies at a small business make paper products. We had such an incredible time on this sailing – it was a cruise like no other. We really felt like we made a difference while volunteering on these projects in the Dominican Republic. I’ll be writing all about the cruise very soon. Stay tuned.



A photo posted by Lauren ✈ (@justinpluslauren) on

For our final trip of 2016, Justin and I traveled to Las Alamandas boutique resort in Mexico for one week. It’s a couple hours south of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Ocean.

The property is astonishingly beautiful, and very private. We had entire beaches to ourselves and they catered a special menu of vegan dishes. Las Alamandas is situated on a 1500-acre nature reserve. While eating breakfast and lunch, we watched the pelicans swoop over the waves, diving down to catch a fish every so often. Every night, we fell asleep listening to the waves crashing on the shore.

I’ll be writing more about our relaxing stay in Mexico very soon. Can’t wait to share all the details with you!

ALSO IN 2016…

Aside from traveling, 2016 was an eventful year for expanding this blog and my freelance writing/photography. We purchased a drone late last year, and finally got to use it throughout our time in Iceland and Mexico. We’re also making even better videos, investing in a new camera and equipment.

We were featured in several publications, both online and in print. I contributed my ideas for a feature in Toronto’s Metro News about summer travel in Ontario. My photos were featured in Lonely Planet, BBC Earth, and New Scientist. I contributed my thoughts about finding vegan food around the world to both CNN and Care2. I also wrote all about my harrowing buffalo scare for the Huffington Post. I’m hoping to expand my freelance writing even further in 2017.

AS FOR 2017…

Currently, we have nothing set in stone for 2017. We’re most likely going to experience Quebec’s Carnival and stay at the Ice Hotel in late January. In June, we’re thinking about traveling to Europe to visit Germany, Czech Republic, and Austria. And in November, I’ll be taking a California coastal cruise on board the Ruby Princess for a co-worker’s wedding.

I’m going to visit two travel blogging conferences in the spring: Women in Travel Summit in April (Milwaukee), and TBEX in May (Huntsville, Alabama).

Edit: I actually ended up going to TBEX twice – once in Huntsville, and once in Ireland!

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Joe Ankenbauer

Friday 30th of December 2016

You've been super busy! Definitely visited many amazing and incredible places! Here's to traveling in 2017!


Thursday 29th of December 2016

I'm really glad, guys, that you've travelled so much in 2016. I'm planning to travel to Mexico and focus more on local adventures in China in 2017. I'm heading to North Korea next month so I'm super excited about. Wishing you even more adventures in this New Year!!

Carmen's Luxury Travel

Wednesday 28th of December 2016

Wow, what an incredible year! Congrats! I really want to go to Iceland after reading your posts. Great drone footage, thanks for sharing :)


Monday 26th of December 2016

Sounds like a fantastic year!! You visited so many great spots. I would really love to visit Kenya sometime--it sounds like such a cool trip! We had a few similar destinations this year. We also went to Iceland and the Finger Lakes, and it was great to see you in Milwaukee! :) Hope you have fun if you make it to the Ice Hotel--I've been wanting to do that forever--looks amazing. Happy holidays and here's to a great 2017!


Monday 26th of December 2016

Seems like you had an amazing year full of travelling! I really loved the idea of volunteering in Kenya and the giraffes photo is so cute! Iceland looks gorgeous as well and it is on my list for this year! Hopefully I will have the chance to visit it or some of the other Scandi countries.

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