If you ask me about 2017, all I can answer is “WOW! What. A. Year”.
2017 was probably the most intense year of my life: it was a year of falling down and getting back up, of self-discovery and lessons learnt.
I am not where I thought I’d be if you asked me one year ago, but you know what? I like where I am right now and I love how the events of the past year have led me to grow as a person.
Every year I compile a list of the best and the worst travel moments of the year and it helps me reflect on what’s been and where I want to go from here. This year it’ll be a little more personal, that’s why I called it “life moments”.
If you are curious about the previous years, here you can stalk my life a little bit:
My Travel Moments of 2016: The Best and The Worst
My Travel Moments of 2015: The Best and The Worst
My 2014 Travel Moments
Let’s start from the best moments, shall we?
Or if you are a little sadist and just wanna know about the bad stuff, you can skip the happy moments.
1| Flying Over the Himalayas
• oh, be still my heart • • These past few days I’ve been soo busy. Clients, deadlines, the heat, and a couple of breakdowns that came from all this. This morning I was scrolling through my photos and I found this one of the big giants of the Himalayas. I remembered my heart go still when I caught the first glimpse of Mount Everest from the window of my mountain flight in Nepal, and I realized something. • That it’s so easy to forget that our daily little problems are so SMALL. That in the grand scheme of things, they don’t matter at all. That, no matter how busy you are, you have to remember to breathe. To go for a walk in the park. To walk on the beach, to feel the sand on your toes. To reconnect with nature. And everything just feels instantly easier. #HTM2017 #BuddhaAir
You know those rare magical moments of pure, unadulterated happiness, when for a minute everything seems just perfect the way it is? When you get the realization that no matter what happens, you’re going to be just fine? Yeah, they are rare, but when they happen they are so special that you will never forget them.
I had one of such moments last May in Nepal, while flying over the clouds in a tiny, scary little airplane. We were flying over the Himalayas, and I remember my heart going still when I caught the first glimpse of Mount Everest.
Small, that’s how I felt. In front of this wonderful display of nature I felt tiny and unimportant, and yet so wonderfully free.
2| Roadtripping the Hamptons
I loooove road trips: there’s something really special about that sense of freedom you got when it’s just you and a friend, a car, blasting music, and the open road. In August I got to explore the Hamptons with my friend Tianna and we had a blast.
One of my favorite travel quotes says “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – and it’s so, so true.
We stopped for an all-American homemade breakfast and we stopped at a few wineries to sip wine and pretend for a second that we are fancy adults (hello wine and cheese! You are my favorite food combination ever!).
We spent the night at a cute AirBnB (by the way, you can get $30 off your AirBnB stay by clicking here!), and then we drove up to Montauk, which is an absolutely adorbale village – we shopped, took uncountable Instagram photos with the lighthouse and pretty much everything else we could find (sorry Tianna!), and laughed a lot.
3| Shooting in Venice Beach at Sunrise
Oh, I miss Los Angeles. This year I went back after four years – definitely too long! Over the years, I’ve explored lots of what LA has to offer, but everytime I go back I realize how much I still need to see. This year, I got to celebrate my birthday in a special way: I partnered up with Travelshoot for a sunrise photoshoot in Venice, and it was awesome.
The mist, the sound of the waves, the chilly air of the early morning: the landscape took my breath away, and I walked away with stunning photographs that I deeply cherish.
4| Being Invited For Lunch In a Tent By Refugees in Belgrade
Last year I welcomed the New Year in one of the most beautiful way possible. I went to Belgrade to volunteer at an unofficial refugee camp where hundreds of teenagers and young men from Afghanistan and Pakistan were living in conditions that you couldn’t even imagine.
I thought that I was gonna give them something, but I ended up taking so much from them back home with me. It was such a learning experience, witnessing with my own eyes what the traditional media doesn’t show us.
One day L. and I brought three teenagers out for lunch, eager to hear their stories, and then the next day they invited us for lunch in one of their tents, and they wouldn’t hear a “no” as an answer. It was so moving, sitting in a tent with them with -14° outside, seeing that no matter their temporary life conditions, they wanted to be as hospitable as their culture is know for.
Some of these guys have now made it, and were able to start a new life in European countries, but many of them are still there in the cold, waiting for something to happen. There are thousands of them in Greece, in Belgrade, in all of the Balkans. Please let’s not forget about them.
5| Living The Simple Life in Holbox
Holbox was the best discovery! Still a hidden gem, you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s a true island paradise: the best things to do in Holbox are relaxing on a water hammock, admiring the sunset, and enjoying the stunning scenery while soaking up the sun on a sandbank in the middle of the ocean… or flying a drone like I did with my friend Raphael (Journey Wonders) – check out his Instagram for great drone shots!
The time spent in Holbox made me realize I’m missing the simple life that I usually associate with Asia. Walking barefoot, eating healthy, drinking juice and reaing a book on the beach – and that’s probably what I’m going to do in less than a month. Stay tuned 😉
6| Instagramming My Way Through New York
• have some fire. be unstoppable. be a force of nature • ✨✨ • I had to get up at 5,30 am to be able to get photos at the Brooklyn Bridge without the crowds 🙄, but it was definitely worth it, don’t you think? And you know how much I hate to get up early! 📷 by @tiannagratta • When was the last time you woke up super early to take photos or see the sunrise?
Ok, it wasn’t officially my first time in New York as I had visited at 16 but… it kinda was, and I loved it! I’m definitely a city girl at heart, and although I love escaping to the nature once in a while, the lights, the noise, the crowds are what makes my heart beat.
In New York I went to the 9/11 Memorial, went to Broadway for a play, got lost a million times, and I also took some of my most popular Instagram photos ever. It’s difficult to beat the sunrise on the Brooklyn Bridge or the skyline from Top of the Rocks!
READ ALSO: The Perfect 4 Days in New York Itinerary
7| Spending Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca
Experiencing Dia de los Muertos (or “day of the dead”) in Oaxaca was one of the highlights of my 3-month long Mexico trip. I loved to see how death is celebrated with bands playing in the cemeteries, parades and getting dressed up. It’s so beautiful to see families reunite, bringing candles and laughing with a bottle of tequila in front of the tombstones of their dears.
8| Breathing Barcelona With The Best Friends I Could Ask For
What would life be like without friends? How would we go through the lows of our life if we didn’t have someone to sustain us?
I can proudly say that I have some amazing friends, and I’m so grateful for having them in my life. They are the kind of people who would listen to my crying rants at 2am, and would go for a walk in the middle of the night with a bottle of sangria just because.
I am particularly grateful for two amazing human beings who came and stayed with me for the last month I was in Barcelona, and helped me create some new amazing memories in the city. We worked, we explored, we drank and we talked. Jub (Tiki Touring Kiwi) and Tianna (The Passport Chronicles) are both fellow travel bloggers and if you don’t know them, well you should definitely start following them!
9| Unexpectedly Discovering Bucharest
It happens every year: every year I go somewhere with low expectations and I happen be blown away by such place. This year it happened with Bucharest, Romania. I spent 6 days in the city climbing buildings, partying, and discovering this still off-the-beaten-path destination : discover why you should head to Bucharest, best things to do in Bucharest, and discover all about the city nightlife.
10| Finding a Community in Merida
Many of you probably don’t realize that the life of a travel blogger can be a little lonely… not that I blame you! Those Instagram posts and stories can be deceiving, only showing the best of our lives. What they don’t show – because it would be extremely boring for you – is the uncountable hours spent working in front of a laptop. Mostly solo.
I loved hanging out with Nathan (Foodie Flashpacker), Emily (Emily Luxton Travels), Nate (Travel Lemming) and Tommo and Megsy (Food Fun Travel). In the 20 days I was in Merida, we truly created somewhat of a community and a routine, which involved working (ehmmm…a little), dancing Reggaeaton, going on road trips, drinking and eating (allllll the time).
11| Singing + Riding a Vintage Convertible in Havana
The cheapest flight I could find from Mexico to Italy right before Christmas had a 14-hour layover in Havana, Cuba… well, perfect, no? My friend Emily was there, so we spent the day together having mojitos, bad food, daiquiris at Hemingway’s favorite place, and then we rented a classic convertible car from the 50’s with a driver and drove all around the city.
I have highly embarrassing videos of Emily and I singing – if we can consider that singing… – Havana-na-na-na, half of my heart is in Havana-na-na-na at full volume while driving down the Malecòn. But I actually like you and want you to come back here, so instead you’ll get this lovely photo instead of our screeching voices. You’re welcome!
12| Falling in Love With Andalusia
• It’s your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. • [Rumi] • 📷 by @tiannagratta Hat: @bershkacollection, pants: @springfieldmw, top: @hm, sandals: @clarksshoes • The Alcazar gardens in Sevilla are so cute! Andalusia really conquered me – the people, the buildings, the history, the food… If you’re heading to Spain, make sure not to stop just in Barcelona and Madrid. The south is definitely worth at leeeast a week-long trip.
I must admit that in the year I spent in Barcelona I got a little lazy and didn’t explore much of Spain, so when Tianna (yep, same friend, isn’t she just the best?) came to visit we headed to Andalusia, in the south of Spain. OMG, Andalusia is so beautiful! I fell in love with it right away, with the architecture in Sevilla and Granada, the friendliness of the locals, our dinners of tapas and sangria. We had a blast and I can0’t wait to go back and explore more of this region.
And now let’s get to the worst moments of 2017. To be honest, I didn’t have bad travel moments, except for the two days spent with food poisoning in Puerto Vallarta (it was bound to happen at some point). But, 2017 was a very tough year on a personal level. It was ugly, but there were so many lessons to be learnt.
13| The Breakup
Life doesn’t always go as expected, does it? The most unpredicted things happen and sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes… well… it sucks. As in, it sucks so much that you believe that you will never be happy again.
To make a long story short, you might remember that two years ago I followed my heart – and a boy – to Barcelona. And I was happy there. Life was easy, I was blissfully in love, and I thought I knew what was coming next. I honestly thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with L.
And then one night, after one stupid fight over some stupid burnt chicken, he told me he wasn’t happy and moved out. And that was it.
All of a sudden I was on my own, in our apartment that reminded me of him every second. The worst part was that my friends were his friends, and so I had no close friends to bring me ice cream and vodka.
Lesson learnt: no matter where you end up in the world and the circumstances that brought you there, create your own life and your own circle of friends. Independence is so, so important.
14| Feeling Lost and Dealing With Anxiety
•“I’m beautiful to the one person who matters.” “Yes. Hector’s mouth is going to drop open when he sees you.” “Thank you, but I meant me. I’m beautiful to me.”• [R. Carson] • Last week I revisited Downtown Los Angeles after almost 7 years, and oh wow, it changed a lot. What used to be a rundown, sketchy part of town, it’s now full of hipster cafès, fancy eatieries, and boho-chic shops. After a quick stop at the Flower Market when I got these roses 🌹🌹🌹 for $3 (!), I went on to find the cutest corners in DTLA, but it wasn’t barely enough time. I’ll be back soon!
What followed were months that are still a little blurry. I was feeling as lost as I’ve ever been, with no clear idea of what to do. I had made plans based on a city, and a person, and now that the possibilities were endless, I was paralyzed. What did I want from my life? Where did I want to be?
I experienced anxiety and panic attacks, and I felt so empty and void of emotions. I went out for walks in the middle of the night because the cold air was making me feel alive. It was the worst few months of my life, and I’m not ashamed of admitting it.
But some point during this journey I realized I had a choice. I realized that HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE. That it lays within us. I could keep wallowing in my self-pity, spending my days being as unproductive as I could be, and going for 6-kilometer walks around the city because I was too restless to stay at home (well…I guess this at least is good exercise!), or I needed to realize that at one point I was going to be ok. That everything was going to go into place once again, at some point.
And it did. I spent the following months traveling, meeting some wonderful people, and rediscovering my worth. Ask me how I feel now, and I ill answer: just fine, and eager to see what 2018 will bring.
Lesson learnt: Embrace your dark days. Do something with them. If you are going through a tough time, hang in there and catch your life with both hands. Create a new life for yourself from the ashes. Cause you’re amazing, and you’ve got this.
15| Having Trouble With a Travel Companion
Imagine you meet someone, and you have a blast togetehr, and decide to go on a trip together. Amazing, right? Unfortunately it doesn’t always go that well.
This year I traveled with a very close friend, but things didn’t go as well as anticipated. Actually, it was so disastrous at some point that I can only laugh about it now. Not that it was anybody’s fault! Simply, our personalities clashed and we had different travel styles and expectations.
It wasn’t always bad, but we got to the point where we really couldn’t stand each other anymore. We should have cut the trip short before it got that bad, but we were stuck together for a few professional commitments. Our friendship sadly suffered from this.
Lesson learnt: not all friends will be the right travel companions. And that’s ok! Before committing to a long trip together, try and travel together for a few days and see how that goes.
And there you go! Quite the year, uh?