Life and Travel 2017 | Highlights of the Year Life and Travel 2017 | Highlights of the Year feature personal SHARE Jessica , January 19, 2018 / 130070 https%3A%2F%2Fapassionandapassport.com%2F2018%2F01%2Flife-and-travel-2017-highlights%2FLife+and+Travel+2017+%7C+Highlights+of+the+Year2018-01-19+17%3A06%3A30Jessicahttps%3A%2F%2Fapassionandapassport.com%2F%3Fp%3D13007 Wondering what crazy antics I got up to this year? 2017 was crazy busy, and this post proves how someone (me!) who works full time can visit a handful of countries and travel almost every month of the year! Every December, err January this year (Thailand got in the way of this), I like to reflect on the year and it’s highlights. Life happens so damn quickly it’s sometimes hard to appreciate what’s happening in the actual moment, so these year in reviews help me stay on top of that. And plus, how else will I remember all of these specific moments in years to come if I can’t even remember the simplest things? Hands up if you forgot what you had for breakfast yesterday morning! *hand shots up right away. Even if only 11 people and my mom read this, I love having these yearly roundups to entertain myself for years to come. 2017 was filled to the brim with so many exciting adventures: We bought a house! Finally made it to Asia TWICE! Saw more alpine-blue lakes than I ever could have imagined. Licked a glacier! Ate so many donuts! Went skydiving on my 30th birthday! Played and fed and bathed elephants! You can say it was a good year and then some. [Curious to know what I got up to in previous years? Check out my 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 yearly roundups. Embarrassing photos included.] January We rung in the New Year with a little weekend trip to Monterey, California, where we had plans to go whale watching, dig our toes into the sand, and eat everything (a common theme on our many trips). While we did visit Carmel Beach at sunset and indulged in a few new-to-us restaurant specialities, the whales were a no go. Because of a rough tide on New Years Day, our whale watching trip got cancelled, and my candy gummy whales (albeit delicious) were the only ocean animals we saw that weekend. Minus some otter – they were pretty cute! And about Monterey – I stilllll need to write a mini guide on that area of California… 2018 goal right there! A day or two later I was on the my first flight of the year >> to Southern California, LA and Santa Monica to be exact! Since I had previously checked off the main touristy spots in LA, I dug a little deeper and spent the week exploring art museums, eating tons of trendy food (huckleberry donuts included), photographing murals, and admiring the beautiful palm-tree ridden sunsets. I really found a new appreciation and love for Southern California during this long weekend in LA and Santa Monica, and can see myself taking more frequent trips here (especially since I got to see a new bestie I met in Europe in 2016). Next up: HAWAII for my 30th birthday! After spending Noah’s 30th in Cabo, I was given the choice of where I wanted to celebrate for a long weekend – so Hawaii it was! Since we had previously visited Maui and Kauai a few years back, I chose Oahu for our next Hawaiian adventure. And that it was! We hiked Diamond Head, ate tons of dole whip and malasadas (OMG drool), did the Pillbox Hike (which we failed miserably at), and had a sombering morning visiting Pearl Harbor. OH! And there was SKYDIVING! We basically volunteered to jump out of a plane over the ocean for no apparent reason other than for fun… yeah, we’re crazy. Skydiving was one of those things I was most scared of in life, and decided my 30th birthday was time to conquer that fear. The verdict? It was freakin’ awesome. Big thanks to my instructor who kept me laughing all the way up to 14,000 feet and who literally pushed me out the plane. I’m not really sure what frightened me so much- but now? I’d do it all the time – it was one of the best 67.2* seconds of my life (*not actual statistic). February February marked the month of my first trip to New York of 2017 to visit family for a long weekend. We went to a favorite restaurant for our all-you-can-eat sushi tradition, had pizza dinners, and just chilled, because, NY winter. OF COURSE the weekend I visited decided to be one of the coldest few days of the winter, and lets just say I’m glad I moved from NYC to California. We didn’t let that stop us from having a sisters day in the city, especially since chocolate chip cookies from Levain were involved (which we didn’t have for breakfast… I promise….). The day not only consisted of chunks of chocolate, but sicilian pepperoni pizza from Prince Street Pizza, kind of a thing over here in NY. My sister and I also made it to the absolutely gorgeous, relatively newly completed Freedom Tower and the brand-spankin’ new Oculus, which was super fun to photograph! If you haven’t been to NYC just yet, make sure to add these both to your NYC itinerary! The sun put on a spectacular show for us over the river in lower Manhattan, and we ended our tourist day in NYC at no other than amongst the bright lights of Times Square. Other highlights of my NY visit included a visit to my sweet, sweet 92 year old grandma (who hates selfies but loves snapchat), seeing some friends for meatballs, eating more NY pizza, and seeing a bunch of family. <3 Always fun to visit, but I can’t imagine moving back here, it’s way too cold for me now. March Travel-wise, March was a quiet month for us. >> Here’s a story for ya explaining why: Back in NY in February sitting at the kitchen table, my mom and I were casually perusing Redfin for potential houses for me and Noah to buy. We had been toying with the idea of waving money goodbye getting rid of rent, but with astronomical prices all over the San Francisco Bay Area, we never thought this little dream of ours would happen, like ever. My mom and I found the perfect listing online (albeit a condo, not house), and after a bit of deliberation, I had Noah check it out – he loved it, he brought me to look at it when I was back in SF, I loved it, we met with the broker, we looked at it again (and still loved it), almost lost it, heard there were multiple other offers, offered 30k more than asking, signed some paperwork, signed some more paperwork, and then bam – WE HAD BOUGHT A CONDO! In other words, we’re finally homeowners/condo-owners! (What’s the right term for that?) And while a condo honestly doesn’t seem all that impressive to most since all my friends back in NY are buying single family homes, just trust me – the shittiest little houses in the neighborhoods we were looking to buy in are all well over a million dollars. And actually, our condo wasn’t too short of a million (honestly, the housing market here is absolutely despicable and downright disgusting), and its pretty basic, but it’s beautiful and comes with a pool and hot tub (the complex does, a private pool would just be a joke here). We can now call the 3-bed, 2 bath, newly updated kitchen, hardwood floor condo our own. And no more rent (for the next 30 years or so it takes to pay off our mortgage). #facepalm April After all that chaos of moving and closing (at the speed of light), we were off on our first international trip of the year and my first trip ever to Asia! We spent just over 10 days in Japan, and really jam-packed our itinerary with so many sites and foods and everything imaginable it’s kinda all a blur now. However, a few highlights: playing with hedgehogs in Tokyo, eating sakura frosted donuts amongst the cherry blossoms (told you we’re a donut-obsessed family), indulging in so much ramen it’s kinda embarrassing, photographing all the details of the many, many temples, playing with deer in Nara and Miyajima Island, feeding monkeys and wandering up at bamboo in Arashiyama, feeling so lost while hopelessly attempting to navigate the public transportation options, and oh so much more. It was an overwhelming and over-stimulating trip to say the least. But one we’ll remember. All we know is that we want to go back ASAP. Oh, and we finally started unpacking once we returned home. :p May After our super crazy busy March and April, we desperately needed a bit of R and R. Thankfully, our weekend in Russian River, California (at the cutest little bed and breakfast) came at the perfect moment. A little us time. Some peace and quiet. A good book by the fire. And a whole lotta eating (cuz it’s what we do best). Tranquil. Cozy. Remote. Three words that most accurately described our weekend of relaxation. A good mix of time was spent on the coast searching for humpbacks and sharing lobster rolls (and of course picking out our next sailboat 😉 ), exploring tiny towns nearby (fresh cherry stands included), tastings at local vineyards, and plenty of added relaxation time, massages included. Can’t complain. June The second school ended for the year (remember, I’m a full time speech-language pathologist so I follow the school calendar), I was off to Montreal and Quebec City with one of my dearest friends! We had been planning this trip FOR MONTHS so it was nice to finally have it come into fruition. These two eastern Canadian cities surprised me in the best way possible, and we spent the week hoping around art museums, indulging in everything maple syrup (ice cream, lollipops, pure syrup on a stick, soda, etc), photographing historic doors on cobblestone streets, eating the absolute best of Montreal, waltzing around the Chateau Frontenac, and walking above waterfalls. Now I’ve got even more of Eastern Canada on my bucket list, including Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. Wish I hadn’t waited so long to explore my neighbor to the north! Thanks to super cheap tickets, I flew to Iceland straight from Montreal for yet another semi-solo trip, which has been at the top of my travel wish list for years. And guess what – all my super, super high expectations were thoroughly met, and then some! Never in a million years did I imagine what my eyes saw in those 7 days in Iceland. I based myself out of Reykjavik (the capital), and took day trips to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle, and Southern Iceland and the Glacier Lagoon. I saw more limestone cliffs, rushing waterfalls, icey cold glaciers, black sand beaches, volcanic craters, shooting geysers, and sweet, sweet Icelandic mini horses to last me a lifetime, but I have a feeling I’ll be back to Iceland sometime in the near future. I sure packed in a lot during my week in Iceland, and am so glad I convinced myself to tack that on to my Montreal/Quebec City trip. My old intern/now bestie came to visit for a short-but-sweet day and a half on her way to Italy, and we had too much fun taking silly silica mud selfies and giving the Icelandic horses some love! July After a few days back home in San Francisco, back to Canada it was – this time to the West Coast! The next two weeks were spent exploring British Columbia, and I was in absolute awe the whole time! How is it possible that these places exist just over a two hour flight from me!? Over those two weeks in British Columbia I kayaked on Lake Louise’s super clear crystal blue waters, took a helicopter ride over the Rocky Mountains, gazed up at waterfalls, chased the most dramatic purpley-orange sunsets, rode a massive truck with 5 foot tires out on Athabasca glacier, and took more photos of turquoise alpine lakes than I ever thought possible. I met the best bunch of new friends and will hopefully be seeing a few of them this year (everyone- come to CA!). Oh, and I also hiked the snow-walls and went zip-lining amongst the trees in Whistler! Basically, a winter wonderland in the middle of summer, where it’s super appropriate to drink hot chocolate and eat ice cream in the same seating. I wore shorts during a snowball fight and didn’t freeze to death- can’t beat that! The end of my Canadian rendezvous was spent in Vancouver for a few extra nights where I finally made it to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, hung out with the totem poles in Stanley Park, and ate everything in Gastown and Granville Public Market. During my week back in SF (between trips), I managed to squeeze in a day of touristy fun! We got hotdogs at Fisherman’s Wharf, took a bay cruise under the bridge, saw some sea lions, and ate our stomachs full in Japantown (ice cream face crepes and taiyaki ice cream included). Towards the end of July I hoped back on over to NYC for a few days before jetting off to Europe with my sister for 3 weeks! August What a busy busy month August was. Ali (my sister) and I took our first trip together sans parents! We traveled to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, and couldn’t have picked better destinations. Despite the heat strokes that we felt coming on each and every day, it was exciting to explore a new region! Spain was full of churros con chocolate, paella, big cities (Barcelona I’m looking at you), smaller-ish yet still touristy areas (hello Granada, Sevilla, and Valencia), sunny blue skies, the most charming cobblestone streets, ancient architecture, and so many photo ops. Our days in Lisbon consisted of admiring the tiles found on every street, taking the famous yellow trams around the Bairro Alto, seeing Sao Jorge Castle and Belem Tower, overindulging at the Time Out Market, and photographing every miradouro (designated viewpoint) we could find. And finally, Morocco, which was an absolute thrill to the senses in every way possible. We explored Fez’s must-sees in a day with our own private guide, and visited a tannery (ack the smells), an authentic pottery shop, more intricate and photogenic doors you can ever imagine, and took a short yet intriguing stoll through the Medina. Our whole time in Fez (and Morocco in general) was absolute culture shock, with it’s smells of leather, tagine, and spices, and having to cover up from head to toe. I convinced a bunch of our friends to take a day trip to Chefchaouen (the blue city), which was a definite highlight of our time in Morocco. The pictures don’t lie in this case – the city really is painted blue! I just wish we had a bit more time to explore (although we did get lost and almost didn’t make it back to our bus in time). Oh, and I also removed alllll my clothes and got scrubbed clean at a local Hamman with a few new girlfriends. That was an experience in and of itself to say the verrrrryyy least. The massage and mint tea afterwards was the perfect way to end the afternoon of naked bathing. After saying goodbye to all our new friends and my sister, I stayed in Lisbon for a few extra nights solo, exploring the cobblestoned streets and eating all the pasteis de nata I could get my hands on. I also managed to make it to Cascais, my new favorite beach town, take lots of strolls through the Alfama District (without getting majorly lost I must add), taking a must-needed day trip to Sintra, and taking a photo with Cristo Rei (inspired by Christ the Redeemer in Brazil). Oh, and those Golden Gate look-alike views were to die for. I definitely found a new favorite city in Lisbon. Literally 4 days after I returned home from Europe (which took over 12 hours), I was on a flight back to JFK for a friends wedding in NYC. We danced it up, ate all the mac and cheese grilled cheeses (yes, at the wedding), and then ate cake pops for breakfast the next morning. Noah was the best man, and we felt so honored to be at this wedding of his childhood best friend. Adam and Jen, we love ya and wouldn’t have missed your wedding for the world (literally, in my case)! <3 And within those 4 days? I started work again and saw a Lady Gaga concert – yea, I told you it was a busy month! September Shortly after work started up, I was off yet again, this time on a road trip with Noah up north! We ventured to Lassen Volcanic National Park and Burney Falls for Labor Day Weekend, and I couldn’t have been more excited to do some hiking (although I had to force the husband along). We saw bubbling mud pots and steaming vents (which expectedly smelled like rotten eggs), marveled at glistening blue and green lakes, and enjoyed the silence (somewhat) at one of the most spectacular cascades in the state, Burney Falls. And although Shasta Mountain was completely enclosed in smoke due to the horrible forest fires, we managed to find donuts with gelato inside – weekend made! It was nice to travel a bit with Noah, albeit only for a short weekend, after traveling solo and with friends/my sister the entire summer. Other highlights of September: Our first San Francisco bloggers meetup! Loved hanging with these girls and talking all things blogging! Not many people in my everyday world “get” this thing, so it’s nice to be able to b**ch about the industry with those who understand where I’m coming from! October This month was full of visitors – both sets of parents paid us a visit! Up first – my parents! We showed them our favorite spots around the peninsula (including Foster City canals, Redwood Shores lake, In-n-Out Burger, Tpumps for some Boba, Crepe Stop, etc). And of course we made a visit to the city, which was full of gorgeous hilly views, concrete slides, tiled steps, colorful murals, and ice cream sundaes from Ghirardelli. We also spent a day exploring the weird and quirky Berkeley, looking for the fish-shaped house, visiting the largest reptile store (in the world?!), smelling the roses at the Berkeley Rose Garden, and stuffing our faces with parmesan potato puffs and cheese board pizza. We had to adjust our plans quite a bit because of the horrendous fires in Napa (so sad), but thankfully managed to fill our days smoke-free. So glad my mom’s shoulder was feeling a bit better – she almost had to cancel her trip out here it hurt so badly! Next up – the inlaws! Since they visit a few times a year and have already explored the area and those surrounding it, we use this time to just relax and catch up. Love having them here, and can’t wait until they can visit even more regularly once they retire (and move to Florida) in a few months! A few other October notes worth sharing: I officially got tenure from work! Well, technically, I received it in August, but finally received my confirmation certificate. Feels good to know I can stay at this district as an SLP for like, ever, if I really wanted to. October was the month I finalllllly signed up for a gym (my first time EVER!) and bought a fitbit, and am proud to say I have been going consistently (in love with Zumba and cardio kickboxing has been killing me lately) and wearing my fitness tracker every day. On the way to a fitter and healthier me! We bought a second car! A beautiful chrome gray Mazda CX-5! Now the husband doesn’t need to bike/train/walk to work anymore. And plus, it’ll be super awesome for all the road trips I’m secretly planning! November The month started off with a radio show on one of San Francisco’s most popular talk shows, and although I was extremmmmly nervous at first, I’m so pleased with how the segment went! Definitely boosted up my confidence, and proved to myself that I really do know what I’m talking about when it comes to travel and blogging! Huge win for me! Listen here if you’d like! What do you know?! Back to NY AGAIN for my sweet, sweet grandpa’s 90th BIRTHDAY! Earlier in the month when my mom told me the family was making him a party to celebrate the occasion, I booked tickets to surprise him that very same night! And boy, was he and my grandma surprised to say the least! Their faces when they both saw me? Priceless! Again, it was a super chilly weekend in NY, but I got to see my sisters super cute new apartment, indulge in some buy one, get one free peppermint mochas (necessary with temps in the teens), and go couch shopping (I love home renos and design, so this was right up my alley). It’s always a plus to see my family in New York, but I don’t think I can handle the harsh winters anymore. Thinking my future visits to NY will be between the months of April to September! California has turned me into SUCH a wimp! Thanksgiving was pretty low-key, and I’m loving the traditions that we’re starting here in our new home city. Although it’s still tough being away from my immediate family for major holidays, the love and inclusivity we have from our SF family has blown us away. Thanks, guys! December Hawaii twice in one year? Don’t mind if I do! When Noah expressed interest in running his second marathon (this time in Honolulu), I was all up in that idea! I admire him to the stars and back for having so much strength and determination during marathon training, and seeing him cross that finish line (AGAIN, he ran the NYC Marathon last fall), was one of the best moments of my year. That, and the fact that the Honolulu Marathon meant we could spend another long weekend in Hawaii 😉 This trip was different – I didn’t plan out each day to the max, and we kinda just went with the flow and relaxed a bit. And you know what? It was freakin’ awesome. Since we had been to Honolulu earlier in the year for my birthday and did all the things then, I didn’t feel the pressure to get so much in this time. We sipped mai tais on the beach, ate at our favorite Honolulu restaurants, tried a few new ones, photographed some colorful murals, and just loved living the hawaiian life we so crave every day. The next and main highlight of this month was our precious precious time in Thailand – once we actually finally step foot in the country (after 37 hours of travel time!) If we’re being technical, we diiiiid manage to squeeze in an extra long layover in Taiwan, so 17 of those hours or so were spent running around (and let’s face it, eating EVERYTHING in) Taipei. Oh, the beef noodles, onion pancakes, mango shave ice, din tai fung, etc. IT WAS ALL SO GOOD. We also managed to see a few sites and push our butt up a mountain – all in all – a good day spent exploring a new-to-us city. Our two weeks in Thailand (full post coming soon-ish) were spent in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi/Ao Nang, and Koh Phi Phi. I couldn’t have planned a better itinerary and we’re still talking about how perfect each and every day was! I’ll be sure to share that with you eventually! Highlights include watching a traditional Muay Thai fight, sipping fresh coconut water and mango smoothies (all day, everyday), infinity pool hopping, feeding/bathing/playing with elephants (I still squeal thinking about this), marveling at all the fascinating Thai Temples, only getting into two arguments the entire trip (!!!), eating lots of mango sticky rice, curries and banana fritters, getting daily foot massages (at $5/hr it would be a shame not to), shell/sand dollar hunting, and island hopping via longtail boat. It was definitely one of my best trips to date, and will be tough to beat! UP NEXT: This is the first year I have ZERO plans set in stone when it comes to 2018 travel (not even a weekend trip anywhere). In past years I’d be royally freaking out. But you know what? I’m content. I’m okay. Travel will happen this year, possibly/most-likely not as much, but I’m really loving my California life. <3 // *THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. This means that if you make a booking after clicking on one of these links, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for the support and help keeping the site free of charge for everyone to enjoy!