2022, over and out! Every January I document the previous year month by month — here’s my year in review for 2022! Bundle up, it’s a wild ride (and super wordy… that’s just my style).
Another year has flown by! And boy did I pack this one in with tons and tons of travel (I traveled for roughly ⅓ of the year). No wonder why I’m so utterly exhausted! After 2 years of the world feeling mostly off-limits and difficult to access, I took advantage of this new found freedom.
I finally visited a new country (Colombia!), a few old favorites (Portugal!, Italy!), and got in my groove of solo travel again. I visited my parents in their new home in North Carolina, watched my sister get married in NY, and spent a few weeks in Europe with my husband on his sabbatical. Fewer canceled trips, actual hugs with my friends and family, and tons more time living life sans mask.
Looking back, it was a great year, and I’m so grateful for all the experiences 2022 brought me.
This is my TENTH year in review post on this blog, and it’s wild to me that I’ve been documenting my life and travels online for that long. I LOVE looking back at my life so these very personal and reflective posts are so special to my heart.
2022 by the Numbers
- Countries Traveled To: 8 (USA, Mexico x2, Colombia, Italy, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Canada)
- States Visited: 7 (California, Arizona, New York, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Nevada x2)
- Days On The Road: 124
- Days Traveling Solo: 29
- Beds Slept In: too many to count, haha
- Flights Taken: 38
- Books Read: 39
- Duolingo Streak: 226 days
After taking a huge hit financially from my blog the last few years (travel was at a halt because of Covid), income levels are finally rising again and 2022 was my most profitable year yet! Pretty damn proud of myself for not giving up and never losing hope despite all the struggles in 2020 and 2021. A Passion and A Passport is my side-hustle baby, and there’s no way I’d give it up even after a few stressful years.
Let’s go — my 2022 year in review, coming right up!
We spent New Years Day at our favorite place in our area – Pacifica! I love to start off the year on a high note, so we took Kona on a short hike in the sunshine (boy do I love living in CA) and got in our steps.
The new year started off kinda rocky – I got a false positive Covid test so had to quarantine at home for 5 days. Not the worst thing in the world since I got to work from home for a week, but definitely unexpected (I had zero symptoms) and kinda stressful.
It wasn’t all bad – I did a bunch of puzzles, perfected a Levain cookie recipe (OMG super droolworthy), and spent tons of time cuddling Kona, the perfect WFH companion.
As soon as my quarantine requirements were up, we flew to Phoenix for a long weekend. Why?! For Noah to run his second marathon in just two months, and guess what – he PR’ed – again! Always so motivated by his determination (although nothing will ever get me to want to run for enjoyment…).
We also met up with a few cousins of mine who I hadn’t seen in forever, thoroughly explored the ASU campus (I swear, we walked around it tons), loved Papago Park and hiked to “the hole in the rock”, explored downtown Tempe and Old Town Scottsdale, and saw a whole bunch of fun murals!
It was a short weekend, but definitely nice to be in hot and sunny weather in January!
That very same weekend, my sister, Ali, and her bf Kevin got engaged in North Carolina! So special and exciting for them! So thrilled my sister found her person.
I make it my business to travel on my birthday every year, so when we found a great deal on flights, I knew we’d be heading back to CDMX for my 35th birthday! We loved this city last time we visited (back in 2018), so couldn’t wait to return (and of course eat all the things, because that’s what you do in Mexico City, haha). And that we did – we ate at 3 of the best restaurants in the city: Quintonil, Pujol, and our new favorite Sud 777.
Besides all the eating, we also went on a few Luis Barragán architecture tours — I was blown away; the houses he designed are absolutely spectacular and oh so unique and mesmerizing. Tons of color and impressive architectural elements.
We revisited a few CDMX favorites, like Casa Azul, Parque Espana, and churros at El Moro, and checked out a few new-to-us spots, like the stunning Palacio Postal, the super instagrammable Casa Olympia for drinks, and wandering the leafy streets of San Angel.
But my favorite thing we did all week? Waking up before dawn to float above the pyramids in a hot air balloon at sunrise on my birthday! We lucked out with the most perfect weather and saw Teotithuacan from above – such a magical morning and a birthday experience I’ll remember forever.
Plus, we somehow got upgraded to first class on the way back home to San Francisco! No complaints there!
We had a few weeks of GLORIOUS 70 degree weather, so I tried to really soak it all up! Still completely in awe of where I live, and feel so, so, grateful for year-round sun and beach time.
We went hiking at Devil’s Slide (one of my favorite easy trails in Pacifica), walked atop the cliffs at Point Pillar Bluffs in Half Moon Bay, saw a spectacular sunset at Fort Funston (along with dozens of cute pups), and even went tide pooling at Mavericks! Still cannot believe just how many tiny hermit crabs, sea anemone, and starfish I found! So fun!
I also spent an afternoon hiking above Gray Whale Cove and then frolicking on the beach afterwards. We got soaked in the waves but it was so worth it. Totally felt like a little kid — I was so giddy! Find all my favorite hikes in Half Moon Bay here!
Next up – a long weekend of celebrations in NY! My sister’s engagement, brother-in-law’s birthday, their dating anniversary, and my birthday!
The weekend was filled with lots of movie nights and singalongs cuddling in the snuggle room, and spending a day out east in Greenport, listening to live music and watching dancing dogs at a brewery, sipping some sparkling rose at a gorgeous winery, and eating the smallest lobster roll known to man (true story, haha).
I got to see a lot of family/friends including my hysterical 97-year old grandma – love that little lady so much! Later on in the month Ali asked me to be her maid of honor (of course I said yes!).
The rest of February was a blur as we were navigating through some family things and trying to help as much as we could. <3
We saw Harry Potter on Broadway (which was great but unfortunately way too long), and visited my SIL and niece/nephew in Nevada City for a weekend (got to spend time with my in-laws too).
The horrific war between Ukraine and Russia caused gas prices to rise to over $6(!!!) in parts of the Bay – definitely not a good time for a long road trip!
MONTEREY AND CARMEL
We snuck in a little beachy weekend trip to Monterey and Carmel, which we always forget is only 1 ½ hours south of us! We did a short coastal walk to Calla Lily Valley (something that’s been on my California bucket list for years), watched Kona play in the sand at Garrapata Beach, I hiked around Point Lobos and saw the most stunning turquoise waters and even a few cute harbor seals, walked around the storybook village of Carmel-By-The-Sea (my favorite!), and enjoyed a few pastries from the best cafes.
I also randomly discovered the super-decked out Butterfly House (whoa!), and we took a super-long walk in Pacific Grove on the waterfront. To say we love this little area is a huge understatement… OH! We also had such a fun night at the coastal-chic Inn at Spanish Bay (along the 17 Mile Drive), watching the sunset while listening to the bagpiper and sipping drinks!
We absolutely love this area and I can see us making plenty of day trips here as the year continues (especially to see the pink ice plants bloom in summer!)
And then we were off to Colombia – our first big adventure of 2022 and first new country in almost 3 years!
Besides spending SO much time in airports (our flight from Medellin to Cartagena was delayed 25 hours, yes TWENTY FIVE hours, and then we spent a 7-hour layover at the airport in Panama), we thoroughly enjoyed Colombia. Such a diverse and misunderstood country.
First stop in Colombia – Medellin! We checked out so many hip coffee bars while wandering around the trendy neighborhood of El Poblado, tried a crazy amount of exotic fruits on a market tour (ohhh we both loved lulos and granadillas and uchuvas), and had delicious rooftop cocktails complete with views of the whole city.
Learning about the history and transformation of the Comuna 13 neighborhood was super powerful, and I’m glad we got to dive deep into the complex history. Of course we used the iconic escalators of the neighborhood, checked out the trippy Casa Neon, and took photos with all the fun murals in the area.
Ohhh – I loved this colorful little town so much! It kinda reminded me a tad of Guanajuato and Bacalar mixed into one (ok fine, just a little bit…). Guatape’s got its own unique charm, and we spent our two days there taking long walks along the lake and wandering the town so many times (finding new houses to photograph every few steps)!
We trekked up the Guatape Rock (El Penol) for insane views of the lakes, and then got stuck in a wild Colombian thunderstorm on the way down! The steps were completely flooded and of course we got soaked… when in Colombia! Finding the empanada lady everyone raves about was another highlight (yes, more food!).
Our last few days of our Colombia itinerary were spent in Cartagena – a port city I’d recently heard so much about. I don’t think we were prepared for the intense heat and humidity, and we ended up utterly exhausted from dripping all weekend but we loved the colonial city of Cartagena.
So much charm on the cobblestone streets, and you betcha I took loads of photos of the colorful houses and doors draped with the prettiest pink bougainvillea.
We spent a morning at the fort, checked out the street art in Getsemani, sipped rooftop cocktails at sunset, relaxed at our gorgeous hotel pools, walked the city walls, and overall reveled in laid-back Caribbean life. I would totally come back here for a week or so.
Cartagena surprised me with its foodie scene – we had a few too many latte frios, limonada de cocos, and pisco sours, indulged in cheesy street arepas and pandebonos, ate way too much exotic fruit, and had our best two meals of the trip at Carmen Cartagena and Alma (in the stunning Casa San Agustin). I even wrote an entire post on my favorite restaurants in Cartagena!
Once we got back from our whirlwind of a trip to Colombia, we had a few relaxing weekends full of Indian buffets, rotating sushi meals, and playing mini golf at Urban Putt (never heard of it? Be sure to check out my post on hidden gems in San Francisco).
We spent a lot of April planning our big summer Europe trip, with me constantly changing destinations and finally making a decision on where we’d go (spoiler — we spent the summer basking in the sun in Italy and the French Riviera with a mini side trip to Amsterdam).
After canceling our trip to Nashville last September (Covid cases were spiking like crazy), I was so excited to finally make it to Tennessee – a brand new state for me!
We went to Nashville for Noah to run the half marathon, and surprise, surprise, he PRed again – 1:55!
Went to allll the murals so I could create my Nashville photo spots post (my fav were the candy hearts), stayed at the most instagrammable hotel in all of Nashville — the Graduate, decorated with all things Dolly Parton, and of course ate a whole lot of hot chicken, biscuits, grits, and even hush puppies (with the best meal of our trip at Husk; run, don’t walk).
Our Nashville itinerary included checking out the Country Music Hall of Fame (fun to learn about the evolution of country music), exploring a bunch of trendy neighborhoods, and listening to lots of live music at Tootsies and other spots on South Broadway.
One main highlight – seeing a few friends we hadn’t seen since before the pandemic (heyaaa Jay and Carol)! Plus, back at home, Kona went SWIMMING (those videos our friend sent us were a true 2022 highlight for us!).
May ended up being a semi-quiet month for us. We drove up to Nevada City again and spent the weekend with my favorite niece and nephew, baking, playing at the park, and hanging out.
LAS VEGAS for Lovers and Friends Fest
After falling in love with Usher’s residency back in August 2021, we somehow scored tickets to the highly anticipated Lovers and Friends Fest. Which meant, back to Vegas we went for our very first festival! The entire show was a total 90s throwback, and I loved every second of it (besides almost passing out from the intense heat and lack of available water…).
There was a surprise guest appearance by Snoop Dog, and great performances by tons of my favorite artists (including Neyo, TLC, Frankie J, Juvenile, Mario, 112, Pretty Ricky, The Dream, etc). Ohhhh my high school years…
But the end was a completely different story – there was a wild and super scary stampede (talks of a gunshot). I literally almost got trampled. Thank god Noah picked me up and we ran for our lives, then walked a few miles down Las Vegas Boulevard back to our hotel. Meaning we never got to see Usher after all 😩, but we were too hyped on adrenaline and nerves to fully process the events at the time. A truly horrifying moment.
Besides the festival, we splashed around at our first ever Vegas pool party! So much fun in the cabana with a semi-private pool for Em’s 40th! We also had fresh pasta in Eataly, a delicious dinner at Best Friend, and drinks at Chandelier Bar (like always, haha).
Other foodie stand outs were the insane cake shake, spiked dole whip at the Cosmo pool, Secret Pizza, and Eggslut (we can’t NOT go). Thankfully we burned off some of our indulgences by walking/dancing over 25 miles over the course of the 2 days (that’s ~62k steps in 2 days!).
Covid finally caught up to us in May, after TWO years of avoiding it! Noah tested positive and felt like shit, most likely getting it from either the festival or wild pool party in Vegas. Could’ve predicted that! I somehow didn’t get it from him…!
Unfortunately we had to cancel a whole bunch of fun weekend plans, including a dinner experience we had booked FOUR months earlier. Ugh, go away Covid! I made pierogi that weekend (which took freaking 6 hours), watched a whole bunch of trashy TV, and got to work on a few blog posts. He thankfully started feeling better a few days later and tested negative (!!!) shortly after.
And then Monkeypox became a thing and we had our first case in California — WTF. And the school shooting in Texas. And the baby formula shortage. Ugh!
We finished up the month with a little day trip up north to Sonoma, and I totally forgot how much I love it up here! Pretending we were in Tuscany for the day, sipping our wines looking out at the views was the perfect way to welcome summer.
Lots of celebrations at home this month! We started with a delicious steak dinner at Mastro’s in SF for Noah’s birthday and then celebrated our TEN year anniversary with a fancy dinner at RH a week later.
But the best news?! The requirement for negative Covid tests to return back to the US went away!!! Just in time for our big summer trip. I also hit 5 million impressions on Mediavine, which was such a victory after my traffic took a complete nose dive in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID.
But there was some seriously depressing news as well. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade; just proving once again how much our country is moving backwards. What a horrific day for women’s rights. Seriously America, WTF?!
WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA
As soon as my school year was over, I finally made it to North Carolina where my parents moved last year! We hung out at the pool, walked in the lazy river, explored downtown Wilmington, got famous ice cream at Kilwins, walked along the waterfront, and saw carnivorous plants in the wild (which I found utterly fascinating).
We took day trips to SouthPort (the cutest town where tons of cheesy romances were filmed) and New Bern (home of Pepsi Cola and the Tyron Palace). It was so nice to relax a bit and spend lots of quality time with my parents and see their new home (I freaking love it and am so glad they’re having the best time in retirement). Such a great move for them.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
I drove down to Charleston for a few days with my parents, a city I’ve been wanting to check out for so long! Before Charleston, we stopped in Myrtle Beach on the way, and checked out the colorful Broadway on the Beach and strolled on the beach boardwalk for a bit.
It was absolutely sweltering in the South, but worth it for the Charleston charm.
Besides literally dripping in the scorching heat and getting stung by a massive bee, we had a great time. We indulged in shrimp and grits, biscuits, sweet tea, and other Lowcountry favorites. We explored all the typical Charleston favorites, like the Battery at sunset, the Pineapple fountain, Charleston City Market, and walked down King Street and all the pretty little alleyways.
We saw tons of gorgeous homes in the South Broad neighborhood (including of course Rainbow Row and all the pretty doors on Tradd Street). We learned about the enslaved Gullah people at The Boone Plantation, and admired all the Spanish moss on famous oak avenue. We took a harbor boat tour to escape the heat, and saw Fort Sumter from afar. I really need to write an entire post on our weekend in Charleston – it’s such a charming little city!
It was so sad saying goodbye to my parents — so grateful for the full week of uninterrupted quality time with them!
Finally, after planning for months and months, we were off on our 3-week European adventure! And our first stop? Venice!
We didn’t particularly fall in love with Venice, but still had a great time (despite Noah’s bag getting lost on the way and ending up in GHANA!). Highlights included indulging in take away boxed pasta, authentic Italian pizza in bed, and creamy gelato overlooking the canals. We wandered around such charming (yet busy) streets and alleyways, walked up the Campanile Tower for amazing views over Venice, and admired all the Italian architecture and views.
But my favorite part of Venice – heading over to Burano for a morning, which I fell head over heels for the second we arrived! It looked like we stepped into a rainbow of color, with every single house painted so bright and cheery! I was in heaven! Touristy but such a locals spot as well. Highly recommend wandering around for a morning/afternoon.
Next up on our European rendezvous – Cinque Terre! We had the most amazing 3 days in Cinque Terre, watching the sunset all 4 nights and eating as much trofie al pesto as we could get our hands on (plus spritz’s and lemon sodas and local wine and allll the gelatos).
We watched sunset on the rocks with a pizza picnic in Riomaggiore, learned how to make authentic pesto in Manarola, hiked to spectacular viewpoints in Vernazza, wandered tiny Corniglia with focaccia in hand, and spent a day at the beach under iconic umbrellas in Monterosso. Each town was so colorful and similar yet different in their own way.
I saw all 5 towns from the water on a local’s boat (hello Palao!), and swam in the crystal clear Mediterranean water. Times like this I cannot believe life is real.
I desperately loved these tiny towns on the Italian coastline, and miss our time there so badly! Minus all the hills and stairs — got almost 20k steps every day!
One of the best parts?! Noah got his bag back — after going all the way to Venice and back for the day! Quite the 15 hour journey/adventure, but well worth it! I had myself a solo day!
We then made our way over to France, with Noah’s bag in tow (thankfully)! We explored so many charming villages and tiny alleyways, including L’isle-Sur-La-Sorgue, Moustiers, Roussillon, Gordes, Valensole, Fontaine de Vaucluse, Aix-en-Provence, and Saignon. Market days were insane! The countryside wasn’t our favorite, but I think that’s because we’re just coastal people!
Highlights included running through the lavender fields (at both sunrise and sunset) — we were visiting at peak bloom, how could we not?! Bucket list check!
Renting a paddle boat at Verdon Gorge was another favorite – I swear the scene was straight outta a movie (and the water looked just like Gatorade!). Another bucket list check!
We finally made our way to the coast, spending time in Marseilles and Cassis, including a day out on the water checking out the limestone cliffs of the Calanques, admiring all the fancy yachts, and seeing the riviera from above via insane viewpoints.
To say we LOVED our time in the Côte d’Azur is a massive understatement. We split our time in Cannes and Nice, taking lots of day trips from each. Our days were filled with bougie lunches at beach clubs, renting umbrellas for afternoon swims, exploring the old town of Cannes, popping over to Antibes for a solo morning, and spending a day on a private boat ride with friends and getting pizza and mojitos delivered by boat! Such a unique experience.
In Nice, we took the train over to Menton (to eat all the lemon things), Monaco (where we checked out the F1 racetrack and iconic casino), Villefrance-Sur-Mer (my favorite little seaside town to date!), and Villa Ephrussi (with its pink ornate building and gorgeous gardens). We also walked tons along the water, explored the main squares, and got tons and tons of gelato and spritz! The best few days.
Amsterdam was our last official stop on our European summer! Our original flight from Nice got canceled so we ended up with an extra half day in Amsterdam, which was a nice surprise.
We spent a full day and a half eating pancakes, takeaway frites, loaded baked potatoes, stroopwafels, cheese samples, famous chocolate cookies (seriously rivaling our favorite in NYC), and an authentic Dutch dinner. We wandered around the picturesque canals and admired all the architecture, relaxed at the Damrak, smelled the tulips at the flower market, and took an impromptu canal ride.
But my favorite afternoon in Amsterdam? Visiting the Anne Frank House, and stepping foot in the secret annex where the Frank family hid out during the war (honestly one of the most impactful experiences of my life to date). Highly recommend adding a visit to your Amsterdam itinerary, even if you’ve only got a day or so!
After 4 days at home, yes FOUR, (and watching two good friends get married – heya Bella and Grant!), I flew back to Europe to start my 2-week solo trip to Portugal! First stop — Lisbon!
Throughout my few days in Lisbon, I snacked on about a dozen egg tarts at various pastelerias, took photos on the insta-famous pink street, burned off all those pastries walking uphill to all the miradouros, and wandered around the charming neighborhoods of Alfama and Barrio Alto.
I spent an entire day feeding my gluttonous self — with a trendy breakfast, pasteis de nata baking class, fudgy chocolate cake (the best!), and a food and wine tour!
I took a day trip to beachy Cascais (with a stop at the LX factory and in Belem beforehand), and fulfilled all my fairytale dreams during a long day trip to Sintra, exploring Peña Palace (twice), Quinta de Regalia, Montserrat Palace, and Sintra Town. Finally get what all the fuss is about!
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Porto. All of 10 minutes to be exact. Didn’t hurt that I was staying in the cutest apartment, and stumbled upon the prettiest viewpoint (hardly mentioned anywhere!) on my first afternoon. I loved the city and its local vibe, maybe even more so than Lisbon, shh!
During my 3 days in Porto, I learned all about Port on a wine and cave tour (tawny was my clear favorite), stumbled upon a whole bunch of viewpoints, watched the sunset every night across the river, checked out as many beautiful blue tiles in Porto as I possibly could, indulged in a famous Porto hot dog and francesinha, wandered the city on a photo walk with a local photographer, and just wandered the tiny streets.
I also managed to finally make it over to Costa Nova and Aveiro — two spots that have been on my Portugal bucket list for quite some time! I wandered around town, stopping at every single colorful striped house (haha), trying some local treats, and of course taking a boat ride on the famous Aveiro river. So much fun!
I swear, I had the best few days of my life down by the beaches in southern Portugal. I could not believe all the views — each one more amazing than the last! Easily one of the most scenic landscapes I’ve seen in my life… missing southern Portugal already!
One of my favorite days was hiking along the coast (on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail), admiring all the wild rock formations from above and ending the day with sunset petiscos overlooking the gorgeous Marinha de Praia.
I spent another day wandering a different section of the coast, checking out all the beaches on the Lagos Peninsula and treating myself to a fancy meal of grilled octopus with a sunset view.
I spent my Algarve mornings on speedboats and catamarans, exploring both Ponta de Piedade and Benagil Cave, hanging at the beaches searching for seashells, and eating as much seafood as I could.
I also loved my afternoon in Albufeira — wandering the picturesque beaches, exploring the whitewashed Old Town, all while taking tons of photos of course. Being by the beach and on Portuguese boats for almost a straight week was so up my alley.
Back to work it was… summer break was over! I started another school year literally the day after I landed home from Portugal. It was kinda hectic and I was downright exhausted, but I pushed through!
We then celebrated a few birthdays — had a 30th bday outdoor movie night for a friend which was so fun, and drove over to Nevada City to celebrate my niece turning 6 the day after! We also saw Thomas Rhett in concert, a show that was canceled in (the non-existent) Summer 2020.
We always love heading down the coast, so we decided to spend Labor Day Weekend in Santa Barbara! First, we made a quick pit stop in Solvang, the cutest little Dutch town (although it was way too hot to actually enjoy it).
Once in Santa Barbara, we spent the weekend on busy State Street, indulging in $10 coffee drinks (delish), tiki drinks in the Funk Zone, and so much good food (tried a whole bunch of new-to-us restaurants, like Secret Bao and Flor de Maiz). We walked along the beaches, watched sunsets from the pier, and ate delicious tri-tip sandwiches off the side of the road at Cold Spring Tavern.
Major highlight of the weekend was spontaneously seeing two of our good friends who we hadn’t seen in almost a year! We love ya Lena and Bassam + co! And staying at the oldest and most beautiful Motel 6 in the country; no joke, it kinda felt like a cute boutique hotel.
Besides the scorching hot weather (it was in the 100s almost the whole time…), we had such a great weekend. As we always do in SB! We even ran into Andy Buckley (from the office!) at the Kimpton!
Time for some bridal festivities – Ali’s Bridal Shower and Bachelorette Party in NY! After planning for months (and months), we finally got to celebrate my sister for the weekend! And what a huge success it was!
First up — the bachelorette party! We had a delicious boozy brunch with a perfect view of the water, indulging in so much good food and taking tons of fun pics. An afternoon pampering ourselves at Sojo Spa was next (!!!). I couldn’t believe how huge the place was — 4 levels of saunas, hot tubs, foot massages, ice rooms, a freaking sand pit, and even an infinity pool overlooking the Manhattan skyline!
We stayed in our robes the entire day (what a dream!), sipped on berry smoothies, and hopped around between all the saunas and pools. What a perfect day of relaxation and celebrating my sister with such a great group of girls! I swear, my sister has the bestest of friends.
Next day was the bridal shower — full of fun shower games, a delicious buffet meal, and the most adorable custom sugar cookies around! It was so nice to see tons of family and meet a whole bunch of my sister’s friends! Next stop, the wedding in December!
While at home, we saw Dave Matthews Band in concert (such a good show), spent a day in Sonoma wine tasting with new friends at MaCrostie Vineyards (oh so gorgeous!), and I got into Mediavine Pro, which means I get to keep more of my ad revenue!
Beginning of the month was pretty low-key, which was a-okay by me after such a busy summer and start to fall. I saw Moulin Rouge on Broadway – so fun and one of the best shows I’ve seen so far!
We went all out and attempted to do as many fall things as we could! Went apple picking in Morgan Hill, took fun photos at the pumpkin patches, ate warm apple pie and sipped on fresh cider, spent a day at Great America on the roller coasters (for their festive fall event), and hung out with friends at Oktoberfest!
I also signed up with an online coach/trainer, and am so proud of myself for getting my butt in gear and finally working on my health/nutrition. After gaining a few Covid pounds, I definitely didn’t feel like my best self so decided it was finally time to take action. Almost back to my pre-Covid weight after a few short months → so proud of myself!
Also – Noah accepted and started a new job at an amazing company — such a great opportunity for him and I’m thrilled he’s so ecstatic about it!
LAS VEGAS for USHER!
After the catastrophe of Lovers and Friends back in May, I knew we needed to go back to Vegas to see Usher again (just like we did last year!). While we both admit his show was infinitely times better the first time around, it’s never not fun seeing Usher in Vegas.
We spent the weekend checking out new fancy cocktail bars, eating at our fave foodie spots (if you haven’t had stone crabs at Joes, go now), and spending time with one of our fave friends we hadn’t seen in a while! We also re-explored a bunch of hotels on the strip we hadn’t been to in forever, and I got some cute pics for my Las Vegas photo spots post! Coming soon!
HOPE VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
Continuing our season of fall fun, we drove over to Hope Valley with hopes of seeing all the fall colors famous in this area! There ended up being a snowstorm a week prior, meaning all the gorgeous aspens at the hotel were gone, but we still had an amazing time staying at the woodsy chic Wylder Hotel.
We literally stayed in a real-life log cabin, wood-burning fire stove and all (which was an experience in and of itself to light). So chill and relaxing and just so fun hanging in the log cabin with Kona – he did so great and was such a great little adventure buddy!
Although we visited at the very tail end of fall foliage, we managed to find some pretty yellow aspens closer to Tahoe, and went on a bunch of chilly walks by the lake and through the trees.
Again, our November was pretty chill, exploring closer to home and taking some time to relax. One weekend we went down to the redwoods in Los Gatos and checked out all the fall colors, while we ventured over to Santa Cruz another weekend for a gorgeous (yet very windy) coastal hike (which honestly kinda reminded me of the Algarve in Portugal!). We also snuck into SF for a day, and then both got our Covid bi-valent boosters a few days later which we were especially happy about!
BANFF NATIONAL PARK
After visiting Banff THREE times (even once in winter), it was time to finally show Noah around! We walked on a frozen Lake Louise, roasted marshmallows over the fire with views of the mountains, and had high tea with a perfect view of the frozen lake and glacier. A true winter wonderland!
It was so fun finally staying at all the hotels I’ve gawked at for years (Fairmont Lake Louise, Fairmont Banff Springs, and Emerald Lake Lodge). We watched a gorgeous sunset with the mountain peaks reflecting in the one wet spot of Emerald Lake → one of our favorite experiences of the trip.
We took the gondola up for spectacular views of all the mountain peaks, and had a delicious lunch at Sky Bistro. On our last day we checked out the Banff Christmas markets, hung out at the outdoor hot tub, and of course indulged in a beavertail, 3-course fondue dinner, and lots of hot chocolate/hot cider!
We relaxed SO much, which is not like us at all. We spent time reading by the fire in our cabin, eating dessert in bed, sipping Christmas blend tea, and eating our tiny finger sandwiches while watching the fluffiest snow fall with views of the mountains. So peaceful and relaxing.
To say we lucked out with the weather is a massive understatement — lots of blue skies and then fresh SNOW (and thankfully made it safely out of a wild snowstorm back to Calgary). Such a great winter trip, and I hope we can revisit sometime in the future together.
Before an exceptionally busy December, we saw Adam Sandler live at the CHASE Center in SF and it was one of the most hilarious shows we’ve ever seen. Always forget how much I enjoy seeing my favorite people on stage!
ALI AND KEVIN’S WEDDING WEEKEND!
We headed back to NY for an extended long weekend – this time for my sister’s wedding! I swear, she was the most stunning bride.
The bridal party started getting ready at 5am in the bridal suite, and despite the early wake up call, we all had a blast getting our hair and makeup done and busting out in random dance parties. We’ve got the photos to prove it!
Ali and Kevin planned such a gorgeous wedding, complete with fried Oreos, a mini Hank statue on the wedding cake, and the sweetest, most heartwarming ceremony. And thankfully, despite all my nerves, I totally crushed my maid of honor speech!
Overall, such an amazing weekend spending so much quality time with my family (immediate and extended) at both the wedding and before/after. <3 And plus, we got upgraded to DeltaOne on our flight home which was a nice surprise after a weekend of non stop partying!
Just 4 days after getting home from NY, I was off to Mexico for winter break! Like most solo trips these days, it always takes a lot of effort and motivation for me to get on that plane. But once I get there and get back into my groove, I end up having the best time. That’s EXACTLY what happened with Mexico.
I fell in love with the Yucatan Peninsula, and I ended up staying for a full 2 weeks instead of only 1, haha! I packed in a whole bunch of epic spots, including Merida, Valladolid, Chichen Itza, Izamal, Rio Lagartos, Bacalar, and Tulum! Busy but somehow kinda relaxing too!
Merida was my first stop on my solo trip around the Yucatan Peninsula. And I loved it – spent my days wandering the colorful streets around Plaza Grande and the chic Paseo Montejo, tried my first (but not last) marquesita, and stayed at an all-pink hotel (and obviously took way too many photos of it).
I indulged in authentic market foods (like cochinita pibil salbutes and carnita tacos) from stands I would have never found myself on a Mérida local food tour (plus agua frescas, sweet corn helado, and so much al pastor).
Joining a cenote tour last minute was one of the most magical mornings of my life. Floating in the middle of the turquoise Cenote, looking up at the sky, with only the other 2 people on my tour plus our guide, is something I’ll never forget. Most cenotes are crazy crowded, so when it was just us, that made the experience all that more special. Plus the lunch we shared in a local Mayan’s house alongside her family was spectacular, and I can easily say her salbutes were the best I had all trip.
After a low-key few days in Merida, I headed over to Valladolid where I did oh so much! I learned all about the Mayans at both Chichen Itza and Ek Balam (both super impressive and wildly different experiences), gawked at flamingos and crocodiles during our boat ride on Rio Lagartos, marveled at the all-pink lake at Las Coloradas, cooled off at yet another cenote, and explored the yellow town of Izamal. Despite crazy long days, I met the best people and had the best time. <3
In Valladolid itself, I spent lots of time in the main square, going shopping, people-watching, and loving the churros rellenos. I ended my time in Valladolid with a visit to Instagram-worthy Cenote Suytun, another bucket list check for me!
Bacalar is a place I had never even heard of until I was in Valladolid, haha. And my trip down to Bacalar was super spontaneous. My flight home from Cancun was canceled, so instead of dealing with the holiday airline messes, I decided to extend my stay in Mexico for a week (could be way worse, right?).
It was my first time showing up to a place having done very minimal research — which was all kinds of exhilarating, stressful, and fun. I took the long 6-hour bus ride down to Bacalar and met up with a friend I recently met in Valladolid; we had such a great time together and can’t wait to meet up elsewhere in the world in 2023!
Bacalar was hardly touristy and despite some unexpected rain, we loved the tiny town. The main highlights were heading out on a boat to see the 7 colors of the lagoon (ain’t called the Maldives of Mexico for nothing!), floating down Los Rapidos (too much fun), spending an afternoon relaxing at a beach club, and surprisingly having so much good food. Highly recommend heading down to Bacalar if you’re interested in experiencing a lesser-known, yet just as beautiful part of Mexico.
I ended my extra-long stay in Mexico with a trip to Tulum, a place I’d been wanting to explore for a while despite the wild over-tourism.
I spent my last two days in Mexico exploring Tulum Pueblo, relaxing at the beach with some fish tacos, wandering around the Tulum Ruins, walking up and down the hotel strip, and staring at that turquoise blue sea for far too long on crazy long beach walks.
Despite staying next to a nightclub that blasted music until 4am and dealing with overpriced taxis, it was way better than I expected (although definitely overrated and overpriced). Would I go back? Not anytime soon, but regardless, it was a great end to my unexpected 2 weeks in Mexico!
I got home from Mexico at 9pm on New Year’s Eve… just in time to kiss my husband at midnight! While we didn’t have much time to ring in the new year, we celebrated with some champagne, peanut butter cheesecake, and couch snuggles with Kona. Didn’t wanna miss saying goodbye to 2022 without my little family by my side. <3
Phew – that’s my 2022! Happy New Year, and here’s to a productive, fun-filled 2023!