In 2014 I traveled solo for the first time, and decided that traveling the world was all I wanted to do. In 2015 I cut ties with anything holding me back, said f*ck it, worked my ass off, and made it to 10 countries in just one year.
But counting countries was definitely not what my goal was. My goal was to really experience new things, and push myself to conquer challenges I would have never expected myself to even think about attempting.
In 2015 I changed my own life, and it was largely because travel made me do it. So if you’re looking for some real life proof that travel can change your whole world, check out these 15 firsts I experienced this past year from traveling, and go get that plane ticket!
After traveling one full revolution to three continents solo in 2014, I vowed that the only thing I wanted to be writing about was travel. I applied for countless jobs, gigs, and opportunities on pretty much any freelance website there is, and finally, I got hired to write my first paid travel article for GeoChic Magazine in February of 2015.
GeoChic Magazine thankfully liked my first two articles about places I had already been, and while discussing a pitch for another article, they mentioned they would be doing their next editorial on Cuba. Excitedly, I replied back that I could give several recommendations since my family is Cuban and mentioned how happy I was that the embargo finally lifted. GeoChic Magazine replied back with an offer to send me to Cuba for two weeks, all expenses paid, to write a double-editorial.
My whole life I was told I’d never be able to go to Cuba where my family is from. When the embargo was lifted, visas were still hard to get, but I just barely qualified for a “family visit visa” since I still have second cousins living there. On April 1st 2015, I was one of the first U.S. Citizens to legally get a visa to go to Cuba.
Since we hadn’t been allowed to travel to Cuba before 2015, I was never able to meet my family members that still live in the town of Santiago de Las Vegas, where my grandparents grew up. When the embargo lifted and I could finally go to Cuba, I not only followed my grandmother’s hidden written journal of her life growing up in that very town, but met family who had only ever seen me in photos.
Curiosity got the best of me when I asked a pilot friend what exactly he did when he flew to the Bahamas every week. He offered to take me on a tour of his life as a private pilot, where MUCH to my surprise, he put me in the co-pilot seat and taught me the controls. We flew to 8 Bahamas islands in 24 hours.
I went to Iceland on a whim in July of 2015 by myself, with no plans other than to see as many waterfalls as possible. Since I couldn’t afford the expensive tours, I rented a car for the first time, and drove myself in four different directions, seeing everything a tour offered, plus secret locations given to me by locals.
I had always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon, but always considered it to be “too far”. In September I had travel plans fall through, and decided to finally bite the bullet and road trip myself to Arizona and Utah. Half way through I went to rent a board from Lake Powell Paddleboards, thinking I’d just go out for the day, but when the owner suggested paddling my camping gear across the lake to the deserted Antelope Island to camp on it, I suddenly grew a pair of titanium balls, and followed through.
My mom used to be a flight attendant in her 20’s, she’s traveled the world, and still loves to do so. When I fell in love with travel, she was my number one supporter, and still is my main encouragement for my crazy ideas to this day. I’ve always wanted to take her traveling to show my gratitude and appreciation, and in November of 2015 I was able to take her with me Puerto Rico, where she got to see the town she used to live in when she worked for the airlines, as well as the bioluminescent bays. She even hiked to not one but TWO waterfalls with me!
As an aspiring travel writer, I kept submitting to major publications for months, when suddenly, on the day I left for Iceland in July 2015, I got an email from The Huffington Post, inviting me to join their blogger community. My first article was called “Why You’re Never Really Alone When You Travel Solo”, and it did Ok, but it was the next article that also got me invited to write for Matador Network.
While in Iceland, I experienced several judgmental slurs and stares from other tourists because I was traveling by myself. I got so upset and irritated that the way I looked made people stereotype me as someone “looking for a man”, that I had a few glasses of wine, and wrote how I really felt about the stigmas of being a solo female traveler. It was called, “Yes, I’m Pretty, and I’m Traveling Alone”, and it went viral as I was flying home to Florida to see my grandfather for the last time on August 2nd 2015.
Taking a huge risk, and knowingly writing something that I knew I’d get a lot of heat for ended up being a huge catalyst for my career as a travel blogger, and to this day I will never stop fighting to show it’s not just acceptable, but awesome for a woman to travel on her own.
After causing quite a stir around the world with my ballsy Huffington Post article, I was interviewed on Inside Edition on what it’s like to be a solo female traveler. I even got to go hiking and jump off a cliff with the camera crew!
One thing that traveling solo taught me in 2015 is that anything is possible, and it’s never too late to do something I’ve always dreamed of. So in November, I teamed up with Safari Surf School in Nosara, Costa Rica, and learned how to surf during a week of lessons. I stood up on my first try, and graduated to a short board in just two days.
I’m not quite at the level where they’re sending me on free trips yet, but GoPro did reach out to me because they liked my photos on Instagram. They invited me to join the GoPro family, and sent me an awesome welcome kit of the latest Hero 4, then featured my photo on their Instagram account which received over 200k likes.
For me, it’s hard to realize that my work is actually getting recognized sometimes. I don’t make a lot of money, yet I remain optimistic, and stay focused on my writing in the hopes of one day being a successful travel blogger. In November of 2015 I was named one of the Top Travel Bloggers of 2015 on a list that was published in The Huffington Post, Matador Network, and MSN.
Before I started traveling, I was heavily focused on having a relationship. It made me date the wrong people for the wrong reasons, but traveling made me realize that I have time, and that I don’t have to settle. I still haven’t found the perfect guy to travel the world with, but I’m not worried about it, because just like traveling, I know it’s going to happen.
Well…technically I was the one moving, but for the first time in 2015, I climbed mountains both physically and metaphorically. Metaphorically, I did the impossible. I turned a passion that many have into a career that even more want. I became a full time travel blogger, something that’s not easy to do, and very rare to succeed at.
Physically, I accidentally ended up climbing Angel’s Landing in Zion National park, which required chains to get up to the highest point (was not aware of that). But that was nothing compared to my last minute trip to Peru in December of 2015, where I hiked the Inca Trail for 4 days, covering over 26 miles, and climbing three summits, the highest of which was 14k feet above sea level.