20 adventures from 2016 that made me go “is this real life?”

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2016 travel blog highlights

Why is everyone whining that 2016 was the worst ever and it needs to end?

I mean, yeah I get it, bits of it sucked the big one. But also some great things happened! At least speaking from personal experience, 2016 was actually not a bad year for me. Now 2011, that was not a great year, but 2016? Well, it certainly didn’t suck.

And I’m betting it was a pretty good year for some of you guys too, if you really think about it.

I started musing about this today on my Instagram stories, which you should check out by the way, if you haven’t already. I was started to get a bit panicky, either from being back at home at my parents’ house in Virginia, which can bring forth all sorts of feelings and general unpleasantness in and of itself, but also because I was totally NOT ready for 2016 to be over yet.

I mean, hell, I’ve got so much left that I want to do, that I didn’t get around to finishing. Story of my friggin’ life, guys. Then I realized, I actually DID do a lot this year and I need to stop being negative and focus on being happy with what I accomplished and get excited for what’s next. I think this is a lesson we all need to hear over and over again, especially in this day and age of never being good enough/never doing enough/never being the best.

Can we make that not a thing for 2017? I’d be cool with that.

Anyways, in an effort to not dwell on what I didn’t do, I thought I’d go back and share 20 of my best experiences from 2016 that made me pinch myself and go “is this real life?” Because sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that, right?

2016 travel blog highlights

1. Visiting the winter wonderland that is Alberta, Canada

I finally went on a proper visit to our great white neighbor to the north – big beautiful CANADA – and it knocked my socks off.

Just kidding, my socks stayed on as one does not have bare feet in Canada in January. Not if you want to keep your toes.

I spent almost two weeks exploring magical Alberta, and all I could think about it when I can come back and do it again. And again. And again. I loved Canada.

Walking out on frozen Lake Louise at sunrise after sleeping at the Fairmont Chateau, is not something I’ll forget ever.

2016 travel blog highlights

2. Gone glamping in Wanaka under the stars

Last summer a friend of mine started up her own glamping business in Wanaka called Explore Life Camping, which I was so beyond stoked about. I love glamping (fancy camping) when traveling and was all too keen to check out her spot in Dublin Bay on the lake.

It was a beautiful hot summer day when I headed up to the site, sat reading by the lake as the sunset and went for walks all night under a full moon. It was so magical and made me fall in love with my home in Wanaka all over again.

2016 travel blog highlights

3. The most perfect powder day in Switzerland

I’ve been snowboarding now for about 2 years, and I still suck. Though I am getting better. I am a big bundle of fear on the mountain, something I’m determined to overcome one of these days.

Luckily for me, I was over in Switzerland in March this year and after a week of the shittiest weather ever, the gods listened and I ended up getting a meter bluebird powder day in the Alps around Interlaken. Can I get a HOLY CRAP?

It was one of my best day snowboarding to date. Feels like nothing can go wrong when the snow is that soft. And riding in front of the Eiger North Face? Talk about pinch me!

2016 travel blog highlights

4. Almost seeing the northern lights in Finland

Guys, I have literally been in places where you can see the Northern Lights multiple times and NOT SEEN THEM! What gives?

I was in Finnish Lapland in March for a week which is primo aurora territory and it was overcast every single night, except for this night when the Northern Lights teased me on the horizon for a few hours.

One day, one day. And oh, Finland was ridiculously awesome otherwise.

2016 travel blog highlights

5. Hiking the Kepler track in New Zealand 

If I had to pick a favorite multi-day hike in New Zealand, it would have to be the Kepler Track. Hands-down, my favorite.

I got a call last minute from a friend at DOC who was planning to come down for it, and I was all like, I’m totally coming too! A 60 kilometer walk over a mountain pass in Fiordland, it’s not for the faint of heart, though as a Great Walk, it’s not as challenging as most hikes in New Zealand either.

If you get to chose a hike in New Zealand, go for the Kepler if you can!

2016 travel blog highlights

6. Celebrating three years in New Zealand and two years in Wanaka

I can’t believe it, man does time fly. It seems like only yesterday I was announcing on here that I was moving down under, and boom, three years later and they haven’t kicked me out yet.

I celebrated by walking out to Rob Roy Glacier, a beautiful day walk in Wanaka, and it was the first walk I ever did when I moved there and it’s kinda one of the reasons I fell in love with Wanaka.

Here’s to another amazing three years in New Zealand…at least!

2016 travel blog highlights

7. Sleeping in a glass house under the Milky Way in Canterbury

Over the years, Canterbury has quickly become one of my favorite regions in New Zealand. It packs a punch. I keep going back and back because it’s so close to Wanaka, and with fun cities, big mountains and epic coastlines, I’m never bored.

But probably my favorite non-mountain Canterbury experience in 2016 was getting to sleep in a PurePod in Little River on the Banks Peninsula. A solid glass cabin in the middle of the wilderness, it’s such a special little spot!

2016 travel blog highlights

8. Overnight hiking on Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier is by far one of my favorite places on the South Island, and one of the only places where you can easily access and go on guided adventures on a glacier. Since I love being in the mountains but am not a mountaineer, this is one of my happy places.

This year I got the chance to try out the new Extreme Heli Hike on Fox with friends, and it was so much fun! We spent two days in the hills, first flying up to Chancellor Hut and doing the Half Dome trek, my first guided mountain climb before overnighting in the historic hut and then doing the ice hike the next day.

So cool!

2016 travel blog highlights

9. Meeting the 2016 kākāpō chicks

You guys know that I am a big bird nerd after moving to New Zealand, and my absolute favorites are the kākāpō. These native flightless nocturnal parrots are on the brink of extinction, but luckily with a lot of help from groups like Kākāpō Recovery, DOC, Forest and Bird and now Meridian Energy, they are slowly but surely coming back.

And 2016 was a bumper breeding season with lots of new chicks bringing up the population to 154 birds! And I was lucky enough to go and meet some of them down in Invercargill, not something I’ll likely soon forget. They just started naming all the new ones this year over on Facebook.

Aren’t they cute?

2016 travel blog highlights

10. Frolicking in Arrowtown in autumn

I always make a point to be in New Zealand for autumn, especially April when the leaves change. My absolute favorite time of year! If only we had pumpkin spice lattes.

I’m basic, sue me.

2016 travel blog highlights

11. Hanging out in the Maldives

Ok, pretty much the whole time I was there, I was like “IS THIS REAL LIFE?” “HOW IS THIS MY LIFE?”

Enough said.

2016 travel blog highlights

12. Tracking leopards in Sri Lanka

I’ve gotten so into wildlife photography and animal conservation lately, so I knew I had to go try and see leopards in Sri Lanka, especially as this was my second trip over.

I spent a few days on safari in Yala National Park tracking leopards and elephants based at Cinnamon Wild Yala, and it blew me away!

That is until I got dengue. FML times a million.

2016 travel blog highlights

13. Taking part in an AirNZ shoot at Mt. Hutt

So this one time, Air New Zealand asked me to be in one of their commercial videos snowboarding at Mt. Hutt and eating ice creams. Didn’t have to ask me twice!

2016 travel blog highlights

14. Working on my snowboarding all season at Treble Cone in Wanaka

I’ve been working my butt off the past few years trying to become a better snowboarder, and finally am getting there. I spent a lot of days up the hill in Wanaka at my local skifield, Treble Cone, earning my turns and trying not to faceplant off the chairlift.

Bit by bit, I’m getting there!

2016 travel blog highlights

15. FINALLY visiting the polar bears in Svalbard

I had been dying, DYING to go to Svalbard for about 10 years at least, and finally had the opportunity to go this year on an expedition ship with Eclipse Travel. Svalbard is a very remote group of glaciated islands north of Norway in the Arctic Circle, and we spent almost two weeks circumnavigating it this year. And tracking polar bears on the sea ice.

Cue all the tears.

2016 travel blog highlights

16. Roadtripping around the Lofoten Islands in Norway

Since I was already in Norway, I had to take the chance and head around the fjords in Northern Norway, especially to see the magical, mystical Lofoten Islands.

And holy crap were they just as amazing as you might have imagined!

2016 travel blog highlights

17. Finally getting to know Rotorua

This spring I spent some time getting to know more of my own backyard in New Zealand, with a four day trip up to Rotorua on the North Island. A geothermal wonderland, I skipped out on more of the touristic spots in favor of exploring more of the hidden forests and lakes.

And I am totally already planning a trip back.

2016 travel blog highlights

18. Eating my way through Dunedin

This spring I also spent time hanging out in nearby Dunedin, an amazing city by the sea on the South Island, which by the way, has the most amazing new foodie scene.

I haven’t written much about my time there yet, but stay tuned, I’ve got some exciting new projects coming up around it I can’t wait to share!

2016 travel blog highlights

19. Celebrating our Travel Bootcamps in Sydney and the Gold Coast

Hey remember that one time in May where I casually mentioned that I was co-launching my own travel conference? Yeah that happened. Twice!

My partners and I wanted to launch our own travel conference where taught the specific ins-and-outs of getting paid to travel and work in the writing, blogging and photography fields, no bullshit, straight facts.

Our first Travel Bootcamp was in Sydney in June and was a great success, and then we launched our second conference on the Gold Coast in November, also a great success. We have a lot of exciting, secret plans around this in the works, and have quietly just released tickets to our next Bootcamp in Melbourne on April 29th, so if you’re keen to learn how to get paid to travel like I do, sign up!

2016 travel blog highlights

20. Roadtripping to Fiordland in an Aston Martin

Finally, I had to go out with a bang in 2016 on my last week in New Zealand for the year before flying home to the US for the holidays, by road-tripping to Fiordland.

My friend Sarah came to visit, and I wanted to surprise by organizing a rental for us in an Aston Martin with Ignition Self Drive in Queenstown so we could road-trip in style to Milford Sound and live out our James Bond fantasies.

2016, what a year! What is my life? Holy shit!

How did your 2016 shape up? Share one awesome positive experience you had in the comments or a great place you traveled to this year and what you’re looking forward to for 2017!

2016 travel blog highlights

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87 Comments on “20 adventures from 2016 that made me go “is this real life?”

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  1. This is a great list. I’m teaching in Spain right now (actually living in your old apartment in Logrono!), and will be renewing for one more year before I leave for a year round the world trip. Life is good and your blog is still so insanely helpful!

  2. Great blog and you inspired me to visit Wellington this year and I can see why you stayed, what a twee little town. I myself am a bit of a traveler having visited Vegas, Rio, Hong Kong, Delhi, Toronto, Prague, Dubai, Santiago, Bangkok, and Dublin in 2016 and that’s all while having a boring normal life in DC. My one one challenge is coming home and then “is this my real life” sits in.. so I can relate to you..sort of. Regardless 2016 was exceptional for me and your joie de vie is wonderful to follow. and infectious..

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