2017 has been a doozy! We started off the year on a road trip in Texas and we had a twist ending by finishing up the year back in the U.S! There have been travel triumphs and trials all throughout this year with memories made all along the way. With over 1/4 of the year spent abroad this round up is going to be a massive one filled with everything from weekend trips to long-term travel and everything in between!
MY YEAR IN NUMBERS:
MILES TRAVELED [46,509] – This is just under 3k miles from being able to travel around the equator of the earth twice! Another great year of travel is in the books! This is flight, walking and road miles.
DAYS SPENT TRAVELING  – We spent just under six months traveling. (It would’ve been over six months if I hadn’t had emergency surgery cutting our trip short, but such is life.)
BEDS SLEPT IN  – Hostels, hotels, tiny houses, resorts, guest houses, friends + family and more. We saw it all and it had some really great and unique experiences.
FLIGHTS TAKEN  – This is a number that we try to keep as small as possible because of the environmental impacts of flying. We prefer to road trip or take buses when possible.
STATES VISITED  – Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas
COUNTRIES VISITED  – Cambodia, Iceland, Laos and Thailand
MY FAVORITE TRAVEL MOMENTS:
TAKING AN EPIC MOTHER/DAUGHTER TRIP IN ICELAND
My mom and I found an incredible deal to visit Iceland for about a week together in the winter and it was amazing! This was my mom’s first time abroad without being on a tour, so it was so much fun watching her explore freely. We did all kinds of fun things like hike on glaciers, stand on beaches, search for street art, feel the mist of waterfalls and soak in the Blue Lagoon. We road tripped across Southern Iceland and found all kinds of fun, interesting things to see and explore along the way.
BIRTHDAY TRIP WITH MATT + BFFS
Stacey and I love to celebrate our birthdays together because they’re back to back. So, this year we met up in Nashville and stayed with one of my best friends there. We drank beer + cocktails, ate good food, hit up museums and even did an awesome city scavenger hunt. It was a blast. The highlight for this plant-lover was the Greenhouse Bar. Plus, I love getting to spend time with some of my favorite people.
HITTING THE TRAILS IN ARKANSAS WITH MATT
Matt and I are huge fans of hiking and the outdoors, so getting down to the Ozarks in Arkansas is a must for us. This year we had less adventures there because we were saving money for the big trip. However, we got down several times and explored some cool, new places. My favorite new spots were Paige Falls and Artist Point Falls. Plus, I always love getting to Hawksbill Crag – one of the most iconic hikes in Arkansas – for a beautiful sunrise.
A TRIP TO ASHEVILLE TO CATCH UP WITH FRIENDS + FAMILY
Matt and I drove to Asheville and spent a long weekend there catching up with all our dear friends and seeing his parents. We ate loads of good food, drank good beer, saw some amazing street art and just made memories with people we love. I always love getting the opportunity to see some of my dearest friends. Of course, being the mountain-lovers that we are, we spent a sunrise up on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was pure magic.
FATHER/DAUGHTER HIKING TRIP TO ARKANSAS
My dad and I take an annual hiking trip and this year we went to the highest point in Arkansas for our trip. Mount Magazine State Park is beautiful and we did one extremely long trail that we hated and one short trail that we loved for sunset. We learned that just because a trail is the longest in an area doesn’t mean it’s the most scenic. Luckily, we still saw an amazing sunset on a smaller hike and accomplished the main goal of the trip, quality time together in nature.
EXPLORING NEW AMAZING, NATURAL SITES IN MY HOME-STATE
Just before taking off on the big trip, my dad and I went on a spontaneous father/daughter trip to explore the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Southeast Missouri. I’d not explored much of this region, but we spent the full day hiking, exploring old mills, wading in the rivers and gazing into the beautiful waters of the many springs. I’m very much looking forward to exploring more of this area in the near future.
MOTHER/DAUGHTER TRIP TO ASHEVILLE
This was another somewhat spontaneous trip. Glamping Hub hooked me up with this adorable tiny house to stay in, so my mom and I made an adventure of it. We explored Asheville, saw some amazing live music and spent a day chasing waterfalls and shopping in Highlands.
EXPERIENCING TOTALITY – ONE OF THE MOST UNIQUE MOMENTS OF MY LIFE
This was another spontaneous trip. We decided about 2 days before the eclipse that since it was less than 2 hours away we should go. We met my aunt and uncle up in Fulton, Missouri to experience totality. I’ve never been more grateful for the opportunity to experience a natural phenomenon. I knew it was going to be unique, but I didn’t realized just how moved by totality I was going to be. My parents, aunt uncle and I all stood in the park as the moon cast its shadow. The confused cicadas started their night song, the temperature dropped, an eerie darkness fell and the fellow eclipse-viewers applauded and gasped. Tears ran down my cheek and my heart swelled. Needless to say I’ve already got totality 2024 penciled in.
FEEDING MY INNER-ANTHROPOLOGIST IN AYUTTHAYA
I totally nerded out in Ayutthaya. I loved really exploring these temples and archaeological sites. We were able to crawl into a tomb to view these gorgeous old murals and just soak up all of the history and the spiritual past here. It was an amazing stop and I highly recommend it to anyone staying in Bangkok.
Bangkok is a city that we ended up spending a lot of time in. We started off and ended our trip here. In our time there we took a cooking class, ate street food, visited temples, explored city parks and even got Western fixes in the shopping malls. It ended up being a place that we felt quite at home. We all at once dove into the culture and let ourselves give into parts of homesickness. It was a great place to explore.
FALLING IN LOVE WITH KANCHANABURI
In 2015 I spent two weeks in Kanchanaburi Province volunteering at a zoo. However, what I didn’t realize was that it’s one of the coolest towns. I totally missed out on my last stay because this area is absolutely stunning. There are mountains, waterfalls, temples and so much more in this stunning area. Kanchanaburi is a must for any of my future trips to Thailand.
DOI INTHANON NATIONAL PARK
This Thai National Park contains the highest peak in all of Thailand and we got to stand on top of it. In addition to that we were able to explore the forest, check out the beautiful pagodas and waterfalls. This national park totally blew me away with all the varied natural beauty. Plus, we saw vipers – yes, vipers – and had coffee fresh from a park-based plantation. How cool is that?
REALLY GETTING TO KNOW LUANG PRABANG
Luang Prabang was my favorite city from my last trip to Southeast Asia. So it was an easy choice to spend three weeks of my arm healing here. We made some wonderful friends, ate delicious food, meditated and explored. It was just a perfect stay in what is still one of my very favorite cities I’ve been to in Southeast Asia. It was so amazing to show Matt one of my favorite places. Plus, being here as long as we were, I got to see (and eat) loads of new things.
A SURPRISE 5-STAR BREAKFAST PICNIC AT KUANG SI FALLS
Matt and I had the pleasure of visiting Kuang Si Falls bright and early in the morning. We actually got there before the park even opened, but they let us in early. We had the whole park to ourselves for 30 minutes and then for the next hour the only people we met were the lovely couple pictured to the left. These two were on a luxury tour of three Southeast Asian countries and their hotel fixed them an insanely beautiful gourmet breakfast for them to have a picnic in front of this stunning waterfall. And guess what? They invited us to join them because they had so much food. It was such a sweet act of generosity and kindness. It was one of the highlights of our trip.
SEEING EVEN MORE IN THE ANGKOR COMPLEX
Angkor Wat is an amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site. There’s a reason why this is one of the top sites to see in the entire region, not just Cambodia. I’m really excited to write about the Angkor Complex again soon because even though I spent three days exploring the area last time I was here, I got to see EVEN MORE this time. Each new trip brings a unique experience, especially seeing it with someone who has never seen it before. Just amazing.
BEACH-LIVING WITH MY HUSBAND IN PARADISE (A.K.A KOH CHANG)
This is another destination that I’m super-excited to write about. This was Matt’s belated birthday gift because his place in Chiang Mai wasn’t what we had expected. So, we booked a week in a resort on the island of Koh Chang. It was a nice mix of beach living (which is totally Matt’s thing), work days for me and still getting some exploration time. It was wonderful. Like a vacation from this vacation.
2017’S FIVE MOST POPULAR POSTS ON FOR THE LOVE OF WANDERLUST
Asheville is place that I hold very near + dear to my heart. It’s one of the places that feels most like “home” to me. It’s a magical city with an amazing art scene, delicious beer + food, beautiful architecture and the mountains… oh, the mountains. After two trips to Asheville this summer, I finally sat down and compiled my top 10 favorite things to do in Asheville, North Carolina. It has hands-down been the most popular post of 2017.
This post is the ultimate quick guide to backpacking Southeast Asia. If you’re headed off to this part of the world, this post is full of quick, easily digestible little tips that will make your journey even easier.
This post was a bit more personal. I have totally fallen in love with the Ozarks. This love came late in life for me, considering I was born in Arkansas and raised in Missouri. However, when Matt and I moved back to the region in 2015, I found myself falling in love with this amazing region.
Reykjavik is a must-see in Iceland, of course. In February, my mom and I spent a little over a week together in Iceland and totally fell in love with exploring this gorgeous city. So this post is all about my favorite things I discovered in this gorgeous city.
I was actually a little surprised that this post was in the top 5 of the year because the Blue Lagoon is literally the top stop in Iceland. However, I told a little about our experience and gave a little guide full of tips that ended up being quite popular!
MY THREE FAVORITE POSTS FROM 2017
My favorite posts aren’t always the most popular. They’re often more personal or from an activity or a place I visited and completely fell in love with. So, here are my top 3 favorites from 2017.
I LOVED taking this cooking class with The Market Experience. Matt and I had so much fun participating in this class – it was one of my favorite activities of our 1.5 months in Thailand this year. I typically am all about just diving into the temples and stuff, but this was a new experience in Thailand for me. Plus, it was unique because it took place in the Flower Market which was just magical. It was just a super fun experience.
This is one of my favorites because I explored a really magical part of Missouri that I had been wanting to visit for while. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways is an area loaded with natural springs, history and caves that culminate in the perfect destination for outdoor-lovers. Getting to share the beauty of my hometown is what makes this post one of my favorites.
This post was one of my favorites, not because it’s an upbeat topic, but it’s a hard lesson that I learned the hard hard way. I myself have taken part in different forms of animal tourism because I love animals, not realizing the pain and suffering these animals were subjected to for my own amusement. I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistakes I did thinking they’re doing something because they love animals. This post was hard to write, because admitting your faults can be hard, but it’s a piece I’m proud of.
WHAT WERE THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR YEAR? WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2018?
I’M VERY MUCH LOOKING FORWARD THE ADVENTURES THAT 2018 WILL BRING.
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