2018 was a packed year of travel – I spent over 3 months out of the United States, visiting 5 countries across North America, Europe, and Asia. Most of my travel was solo, and I learned that there is no better company than me, myself, and I. And for the journeys I was lucky enough to share with friends and family, I was reminded of how lucky I am to have these potatoes in my life.
- Las Vegas, Nevada, United States – There is probably not a lot I can say about Vegas that has not already been said about Vegas. The city of lights/the city of sin always promises a good time and is my favorite place to reunite with friends who’ve scattered from the Bay Area since graduation. The biggest downside to Vegas is that the Strip can seem quite fake, and the idea of “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” can make some people act like jerks. I dealt with a fair share of racist and sexist comments from complete strangers, but hey, you can’t let other people ruin your good time.
Highlights: Hexx Kitchen + Bar for some of the best chicken and waffles I’ve ever had – and I’m from Georgia.
- Banff, Alberta, Canada – Gorgeous hikes and scenic views characterize this breathtaking national park in Canada. I’ve never felt so small and insignificant in the face of nature. This was also the first intense family trip I’d taken since high school, and hours pent up in a car together made me both want to punch and scream at my parents (which I did) and to tell them how much I appreciate them for raising me to be the adult I am today (which I also did after the screaming). It was also freezing even in June and taught me a bit about how to properly prepare for a winter hike. Don’t worry if you look like a bulky penguin, and definitely bring lots of layers.
Highlights: Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse Trail for breathtaking views of Lake Louise culminating in a cozy teahouse at the peak serving homemade bread and hot soup.
- Camino de Santiago, Spain – 25 days, 600km, 1 pilgrimage across Spain. This extended hike was the pinnacle of my 2018 and took me across the wide Meseta of central Spain all the way to the breezy coast. I honestly don’t believe in life-changing experiences, but the Camino shifted my perspective of the world at least a few degrees. Even a few months out, I’m still digesting my experience – sometimes, it feels like a dream.
Highlights: Walking out of my hostel at 6am, I stumbled upon a rave, complete with EDM and lights, happening in a warehouse in this tiny little town in rural Spain. There was a donkey tethered right outside.
- Madrid, Spain – Madrid’s regal history living alongside hip and trendy modern neighborhoods and a bustling night scene welcomed me back to civilization after weeks of hiking. After wandering through tiny, 5 house towns with a greater population of cats than people, I found big city life to be almost overwhelming. Meeting up with a friend from home helped me feel more settled, and I had a crazy time experiencing the infamous Spanish nightlife. It’s also been a bucket list item to see Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights in person ever since learning about it in high school, and it was as expected it was even wilder than in the textbook.
Highlights: OK Hostel was an exceptionally clean, welcoming, and friendly hostel in a perfect location. Sometimes when you travel you just want your own space, your own little nook to spread out in, and OK Hostel’s bed and living arrangements were perfect.
- Barcelona, Spain – A fun, young city filled with cute cafes, gorgeous architecture, and brilliantly sunny beaches. I spent 5 days exploring shops of handmade art, sipping Sangria, and admiring the whimsical works of Gaudi. I got a haircut and almost got a tattoo (the 2 week maintenance period turned me off). I went on a haphazard bike ride and ran over a few pedestrians. I fumed at the slow culture of late lunches and drawn out siestas then found myself eating late and napping through the heat. There is no doubt a part of me that will always love Barcelona.
Highlights: Cerveseria Catalana served up the most fantastic tapas I had to pleasure of tasting in Barcelona.
- Lisbon, Portugal – If Barcelona is the cool and popular city, Lisbon is its quirkier, off-beat younger sibling. The hilly streets and pastel houses (along with the knock-off Golden Gate Bridge) reminded me eerily of San Francisco, but I was charmed by its kitschy feel and “doing my own thing” attitude. And instead of being catcalled, I got targeted with whispers of “psst, hashish? cocaine?” which honestly is a refreshing departure from the usual heckling.
Highlights: Pasteis de Belem is the place to go for Pastels de Nata. Of course its super touristy, but it’s definitely not overrated. Go and eat 1, 20, or 20 million and live a life of no regrets.
Where was your favorite place to travel in 2018? Just writing this post took me on such a throwback. And in the interest of keeping things relatively short and sweet, stay tuned for part 2!