Each year I feel like I say, “This was the best year ever!!!” But hands down, 2017 takes the grand prize of Most Epic Year of My Life.
Not only did I reach my 7th Continent, 7th World Wonder, 7th Wonder of Nature, and 75th Country but…actually nevermind, that pretty much sums up my most epic year yet.
BUT! Don’t let me fool you! Traveling full time, especially to the adventurous, sometimes-dangerous destinations comes with a price! So while I’m going to love recapping my most epic travel wins this year, I will never forget those fails that come along with the price of travel!
Drumroll please! Here’s the countdown!
What had happened was…I was out of cash, and so were ALL of the ATMs in Puerto Iguazu. This was bad for two reasons; 1. Because I had been DYING to see Iguazu Falls for years, and 2. Because I was trying to sneakily get a visa for Brazil at the border there, and it required cash only.
I scrounged up enough of all of my spare money to get it exchanged and pay for the visa (which I successfully got in 24 hours as opposed to 6 weeks in the US), and accidentally ended up sneaking into Iguazu Falls. Later, I met a girl on the bus who let me Venmo her money, and she took it out at an ATM for me.
After basically sneaking into Brazil, I headed straight to Rio to see Christ the Redeemer, which completed my list of seeing all 7 New World Wonders!
For some reason TSA decided to take my little drone away at the airport as I was LEAVING Budapest. As in…I didn’t even use it while I was there, and they still took it anyway. They claimed they are illegal to have.
Luckily, one nice soul took it from the other guards, wrote an email on a piece of paper and gave it to me, which I later found out was the Lost and Found. A few weeks later (and several angry emails) I decided to fly back to Budapest and pick it up on my way to Iceland.
New Zealand is a win because of how epic it was, and a fail because of how expensive it was. I could go on for days about all the wins and fails of roadtripping around New Zealand, or I can just direct you to all of the blog posts. Let’s just say by the end of the trip I had slept in a rental car, and also a camper van that I had to use wrapping paper on to close the windows.
During one of my travel intermissions in Los Angeles (where I call home when I’m not abroad), I somehow ended up meeting a soap opera actor who convinced me he would be great to travel the world with. I’m not entirely sure why I believed a soap. opera. actor. But let’s just say he was a really good actor, and a terrible traveler.
Since I always travel solo, you can imagine how convincing this guy had to have been (also helped that he was ridiculously good looking), but after about two days in Portugal, I literally had to escape him! I won’t go into full juicy details, but just know that I said the word “Fail” more than I ever have in my life during that time period.
Turns out after you’ve been to about 70 countries and have started a career as a professional travel blogger, you kind of know what you’re talking about! I was beyond proud and humbled to speak at three travel conferences in 2017, all over the world!
The first was World Tourism Forum in Istanbul, the second was Women’s Travel Fest in New Orleans, and the third was Experience Bucharest in Romania!
Another half fail half win was when I suddenly got left in Zanzibar. What had happened was that the person who drove us to Tanzania from Malawi (then we took a ferry to Zanzibar) revealed that he had back pain that might need surgery, and was going to leave Zanzibar and drive back to South Africa the next day. I had no plans for Zanzibar, nor did I have my flight out of there yet. Plus, 3/4 of my stuff was in his truck in Tanzania!
But I won in the end…I ended up getting last minute collaborations through my Instagram with some 5 star resorts in Zanzibar, picked up my stuff that he left at a friend’s place afterwards, and picked a flight out that had a layover in a very important place (Vietnam, where my last of the 7 Wonders of Nature was).
Actually there were more fails: I was completely out of money because my debit card shut off again, and back on mainland Tanzania I checked into the sketchiest hotel on earth (you may remember from my IG stories that it looked like Saw or Hostel), and was constantly followed by people. It’s actually the second most scary travel moments of my life.
You’d think I’d be a pro traveler by now, but booking flights and making plans last minute sometimes results in a fail. Namely, forgetting to check if you need a visa or not. Since I suddenly had to book a flight out of Zanzibar, I forgot to check requirements for Vietnam, and spoiler alert: I needed one.
I was held at the Bangkok airport on my layover until I was able to contact the Vietnam embassy, and get the damn visa. I missed my connection, and ran around the airport trying to fulfill all the requirements before the next flight out…..maddee ittt.
This was one of the most random, last minute trips I’ve ever done, which makes it all the more epic. On my way from Zanzibar to Bali, I purposely stopped in Vietnam just to go see my last of the 7 Wonders of Nature: Halong Bay.
I somehow managed to book a last minute 2 night Halong Bay cruise, the day after a tsunami, and had perfect sunny weather the entire time!
At the beginning of 2017 I vowed to start doing Group Trips which I named #MyLifesATravelTRIBE, and am happy to report back that I completed four of them this year! The very first was in Iceland, with 8 other travelers, and we had an amazing time! The other group trips were in Bali (part of our Bali Blogger Bootcamp), Patagonia, and Antarctica!
If you’re interested in 2018 Group Trips, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or wait until I get that post up 🙂
I could probably make an entire list of wins and fails with just this trip, but as a whole, it was definitely one of my most epic travel wins in 2017! I was the first ever US ambassador for Put Foot Rally: a charity roadtrip across 6 countries in Southern Africa that also delivers brand new shoes to kids in need.
I had a sick camper truck (but still got to stay at a few fancy places), and saw all sorts of nature that I could have only dreamt about on Nat Geo! I may even be making it a group trip option for 2018!
I had to give this travel fail a special mention just because the story is so ridiculous. So we’re driving for hours through Namibia (ALL desert) and suddenly decide to stop and film some footage of me driving. Since we hadn’t seen another car in hours, we figured it would be find to position the drone outside of my driver’s window, in the middle of the road.
The drone pilot instructed me to get ready to wave at the drone, as he watched what it looked like from the remote in his lap. He then said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if of all times, a car came by right….” BAM. Safari jeep comes out of literally no where and smashes the DJI Mavic Pro mid-air. Luckily the driver or other car wasn’t harmed, and he wasn’t mad…just super confused…and we somehow got ahold of another drone in Namibia.
A big travel accomplishment for me was finally traveling solo in Morocco. Like most people, I had heard that it wasn’t safe, especially for solo female travelers. I came up with a plan to use all AirBnB’s so I could also have help from the hosts, and the trip turned out to be beyond amazing!
Since I had very limited service in Easter Island, I didn’t have enough time to look up the depth that the new GoPro Hero 6 can go to when I randomly decided to go scuba diving in Easter Island. I also decided to neglect the fact that this would be my deepest dive yet at 23 meters (but I HAD to see the underwater Moai!) and that was probably way too deep for a GoPro.
Well. It was, and it ended up getting water in my brand new Hero 6…which is the only camera I had to use the next week in Patagonia and Antarctica. Luckily though GoPro is awesome and loves me and sent me a new one…
Going to Easter Island never felt like it was possible until 2017…mostly because of how much it costs and because you only ever see it on Nat Geo. BUT, I decided it was what I wanted to spend my money on, and finally went! I met amazing people, including a local guy I may have fallen in love with, and saw every standing Moai on the island by driving myself around!
My new found manual driving skills weren’t that exciting anymore when a sudden turn on a dirt road en route to Torres del Paine left me hanging upside down by my seatbelt. To make matters worse, there were three other girls in the car (all wearing seatbelts and safe), and we flipped in the middle of nowhere.
This was by far the most terrifying moment of my life, mostly because I thought I had injured other people. I had the car rental insurance, but still ended up paying $3,500 (neither my regular or travel insurance could help since I wasn’t injured…), which is a small price to pay for being alive.
F I N A L L Y!!! The number one bucketlist destination of my life, Antarctica, has been achieved! As of last week (December 10-20), I have officially been to all 7 Continents, and to be completely honest, it was probably the greatest experience of my life! From running around onboard the expedition ship trying not to fall from the tilting of the Drake Passage, to stepping foot on this rare continent, and seeing wildlife galore, this trip takes the cake and blows everything else out of the water.
That being said, 2018 has A LOT to live up to, especially if I want to top the most epic year of my life!