This past year has been a real whirlwind, having left my home in Australia at the end of 2015 for a 14 month trip around all of the United States and Europe, I have literally been on the go for the entirety of 2016, living out of suitcase and calling hotel rooms home. But it has all been worth it to get to visit some of the most beautiful places, meet some of the best people, and of course eaten some of the most delicious food. The experiences that I got the chance to have this past year have been incredible, from paragliding over the Swiss Alps and taking a helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon, to skinny dipping in Greece and learning traditional Scottish dances in the Highlands, and I can’t forget that one time I actually got to see a New York Fashion Week runway show. 2016 has been a never ending adventure that has been absolutely incredible from start to finish, and although it is sad to think that it has come to an end, I am thrilled to already be planning my next trips for 2017 that will hopefully be able to live up to all the magical experiences that I had this year! But first it’s time to look back on and share with you what my favourite experiences of 2016 were, and believe me this was no easy list to compose, I had such an amazing year it was hard to decide which adventures would make the final cut. So without further ado here are my top 16 moments of 2016!
16. Spending my besties 21st in Dubrovnik
For a few months of my trip I was lucky enough to be joined by my best friend, and even luckier when we realised that we would be together when she celebrated her 21st birthday. We spent the day eating our way around Dubrovnik and ending the night with a few too many tequila shots. Although we didn’t do anything too special it was such a lovely day filled with a ton of laughing and delicious treats.
15. Visiting the little town of Tybee Island
There are some places that instantly take your breath away, and standing on the white sandy beach on Tybee Island did just that. Wanting to escape the city for the day I headed to Tybee Island with plans to just lye on the beach all day, but this small island on the edge of Georgia was too cute not too explore. While eating an ice cream or two I walked the boardwalk, strolled through the shops, and wandered the length of the beach taking in all of the charm of Tybee Island until my hair was golden and my skin was red.
14. My first time in Canada
I have always wanted to visit the Great White North and finally on my six month trip around North America I got the chance to visit Quebec City. Although I had originally planned to visit a lot more of Canada, things got in the way and little by little I had to cut out most of my Canadian trip, though I was determined to still fit in one city. Quebec, although part of French Canada, gave me my first taste of Canadian hospitality and gave me just a glimpse of how incredibly beautiful this huge country is. I can not wait to see more of Canada and have more amazing adventures here in 2017.
13. Learning to push boundaries in Turkey
Turkey was a real highlight of my 2016 trip, having only visite Istanbul before I was eager to see what else this country had to offer. Though my time in Turkey turned out to be more than just seeing incredible landscapes. During my two weeks here I got to try things that I never would have without a little push, things like tubing through a rushing river, a very enlightening experience in the way that made me realise how horrible I am at it, flying through the sky in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, climbing through holes and up dangerously steep ladders to get to the roof of a monastery, and hiking through a ginormous canyon.
12. A day in Lake Como
My short but sweet visit to Lake Como in early November was enchanting, and the first time I got to experience a perfect autumn day. Growing up in Australia we don’t really get typical autumns, no beautiful oranges and reds through the flora, no falling leaves, but Northern Italy encapsulates that perfect fall season. My day in Como and Bellagio I finally got to play in and throw around freshly fallen leaves, see the contrast of the green grass with the warm coloured trees, and tuck into a delicious warm soup.
11. My first solo travel destination: Boston
Way back in February I began my official solo travel in one of the loveliest cities in the States, Boston. It was a little scary leaving my sister in New York and jumping on the bus alone, but after that first night by myself I started to get into a groove and become accustomed to solo life. Having already visited Boston a few years previous, it was nice to have some familiarity, but was still exciting to get to re-explore the city and find new little places that I had not seen the first time. Boston will always hold a little piece of my heart because of this reason.
10. Going into a food coma in Zurich
Zurich would have to be one of my favourite cities in Europe, but I think the food scene here is the main reason why I fell so hard for it. Being a new vegan when I arrived into Zurich I was surprised to find so many vegetarian and vegan options, I’m not talking about one or two restaurants, there are at least 15 just in the central downtown area, and upon discovering this I went a little bit crazy during my three days here trying to eat at as many places as I could. I ate and drank so many delicious treats on my short visit there, but I think my favourite restaurant would have to be Tibits. You can read more about my other favourites here.
9. Taking things slow and appreciating the charm of Hallstatt
The little town of Hallstatt, Austria was another of those Instagram pictures that I saw and became determined to visit. Everything about this town is adorable, from its picturesque scenery to its friendly locals. Sitting out on my balcony overlooking the lake below was a nice relaxing break from the on going sightseeing and travelling that I had done constantly during the months before. My time in Hallstatt was such a peaceful and content time that I have really come to cherish.
8. Finding the beauty of Slovenia
One country that really surprised me was Slovenia, I’m not really sure what I was expecting it to be like, but it turned out to be one of the most beautiful countries that I have ever been to. Covered in mountains and hills, everywhere you look here you’ll see vibrant, fresh, and lush green nature. The real highlight for me was my drive from the capital Ljubljana to Lake Bled, that even though I was on a highway, wove through some of the most refreshing scenery that I have ever seen. I’m so excited to head back there (hopefully soon) to discover more of this stunning country.
7. When fate made it snow in Prague
I am a big believer in fate and my year long trip has really proven how much fate plays a part in our lives, but there was one such occasion at the start of December that really sealed my faith in fate. While eating at my favourite restaurant in Prague, Clear Head, I absentmindedly checked my weather app to find that it was meant to be snowing for the next few hours. Having only just sat down at our table, and being a massive snow lover, I was constantly looking out the window for the first few flutterings. Though the night went on, dinner then dessert came and went, and still no sign of snow, so we headed back to the hotel to escape the cold. A short time later I realised I had left my hat at the restaurant, so we ventured back out and as we were walking my friend felt something fall on her nose, so we glanced up and at that exact moment a light snow began to fall. It was one of the most magical moments of my life, and if I hadn’t left my hat I never would have gone back outside and so I might never have known that it had indeed snowed that night in Prague.
6. A Christmas miracle in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
I don’t think that a town has touched me quite as much as Rothenburg has. This small town on the edge of Bavaria, Germany, with its cobbled stoned streets, colourful half timbered houses, and many, many Christmas shops, stole my heart quicker than you can say “Happy Holidays.” My first day here it was obvious that I had woken up in a fairytale, the sun was shining, the church bells were ringing, and I was half expecting little birds to come and help me get dressed. With a skip in my step I ventured out from sunrise to sunset exploring every nook and cranny of the town and its surrounding valleys, taking it all in and trying to memorise every detail about it. I’m so glad that I stumbled upon that Instagram picture of Rothenburg’s Little Square and made room for it in my itinerary, otherwise I never would have seen how magical it is.
5. Walking over 30kms in one day in Paris
A little piece of my heart will always be left in Paris and with each visit a little more is left behind, but I think my trip to the city of lights in July was one that took the biggest chunk. One of my best friends came from England to meet me, and being her first time to Paris I undertook the role of tour guide and showed her all of the important sites all over the city. When we got back to the hotel, with sore feet and aching legs, we discovered that we had walked over 30km (!!!) no wonder we were in pain! Though the day after that initial tour was one of my favourite days of 2016. A picnic brunch under the Eiffel Tower including macaroons and champagne, followed by a walk through my favourite part of Paris, Montmartre, was the perfect Parisian day.
4. Finding paradise in Tulum
I’ve never really been a summer or tropical person, but when I arrived in Mexico for the first time and dipped my feet in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea I fell in love with Tulum. I have always loved the ocean, but there is something about the Mediterranean that is absolutely magical, it is definitely my favourite sea, and Tulum was just the embodiment of heaven. Staying right on the beach, our door literally opening up onto the sand, with the sound of the waves waking me up in the morning, and being able to see the stars more clearly than I have ever seen them before gave me a true appreciation for a vacation that only involves lying on the beach and soaking up the sun.
3. Experiencing the South in Charleston
When I first added the South to my United States itinerary, I thought that it would be Savannah that I would love the best, but Charleston, South Carolina, was the city that truly captured my heart. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely adored Savannah, but there was just something so charming about Charleston, with its colourful buildings, beautiful churches, horse drawn carriages, and carefully landscaped exteriors, Charleston has preserved itself so well that it was like taking a step back in time. Although I unfortunately only had one day here, it quickly became one of my favourite places in America, and America is a massive country with a lot of incredible cities, so that is high praise. I cannot wait to get back to Charleston and spend some more time there experiencing the Southern lifestyle.
2. Roadtripping Cornwall
Road tripping the U.K. has always been something that is high on my lists of things to do, and I finally got a little snippet of what it would be like when my best friend and I decided, almost spontaneously to cut our days in London short and head down south to see what all the Cornwall fuss is all about. Our short three days on the road took us literally all around the coast of Cornwall stopping anywhere we liked, which lead us to some of the most incredible scenic views that England has to offer, eating peanut butter sandwiches all day everyday, and cranking tunes to sing along to until our voices got croaky.
1. Walking in a winter wonderland
It was only fitting to have New York as my number one moment considering it is my absolute favourite city in the whole entire world, but a day that I will never forget was the chilly day in late February when Central Park turned into a magical land blanketed in the whitest of snow. This is an experience that I have dreamed about since I was a little girl, and to finally get the chance to see it was truly overwhelming. I love winter, I love snow, and I love New York so this afternoon was the epitome of all of my childhood fantasies. It left me speechless and for a moment immobile as I stood looking in awe at what was the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen. New York you truly outdid yourself that day.