Some people call my tendency of waiting until the last minute to do things “procrastination,” but I like to call it “performing well under pressure” because I still get my stuff done no matter what. Every New Year (2016 included), I always tell myself that I will work on getting rid of this procrastination trait that skipped several generations in my family and unloaded itself on me. I’ve been doing better, but combine my professional level procrastination with the fact that everyone struggles to adjust to a new year and that leaves me doing the usual end of year reflections a little late.
So here I am on January 5, 2016, thinking about what a wonderful year 2015 was. I visited four new countries, crossed off some places from my dream destinations list, went on my first longterm solo trip, and turned 25-years-old! It has been a busy year and for the sake of reflecting on all the awesomeness that was 2015 and also for the sake of being a good travel blogger, I’m rounding up my favorite travel moments from the year right here. Enjoy the trip down memory lane with me
1. Desert camping in Dubai on New Year’s Eve
Camping in the desert was definitely not how I expected to ring in 2015 in Dubai, but it was the best and most unique way I’ve ever started a new year. Fireworks, hookah, delicious lamb skewers that still make my mouth water, an impromptu game of musical chairs with grown adults, and the most beautifully starlit sky I’ve ever seen… That New Year’s Eve/Day was better than expected.
2. Visiting a mosque for the first time
After so much traveling around Europe, I was tired of seeing cathedrals with the Virgin Mary and Jesus. I was ready to see how people of a different religious faith built their places of worship, and visiting the Shiekh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi left me in awe. I will seriously never get over the perfect symmetry of the hundreds of arches and columns inside.
3. Visiting the Sachsenhousen Concentration Camp outside Berlin
Visiting the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was a very somber experience but an absolutely necessary one. World War II history has always fascinated me, and there is definitely a lot of that in Berlin, but nothing can compare to visiting a place where all the horrors I had read about actually happened. It’s important to never forget this dark part of world history.
4. Road trip to Lisbon
My trip to Lisbon was unfortunately a short one, but it was worth it just to try their pasteis de Belém, a custardy tart that the city is famous for. Lisbon was a gorgeous and fun city but eating those pastries was definitely the highlight of my trip. So sweet, soft and delicious! I’m in love and would go back to Lisbon in a heartbeat just for that pastry <3 <3 <3
5. Road trip to the north of Spain
For all the time that I spent living and studying in Spain, I had always stuck to Andalusia, the southernmost region of the country. Last year I was determined to see another part of Spain and decided to go to the extreme opposite end of the country. It was so different from what I was used to in the south, and I absolutely loved it. If I were ever to move back to Spain I would highly consider moving to the north.
6. Holy Week in Seville
Before ever moving to Seville, I had heard all about the Holy Week celebrations the city has and how intense they are. Last year I finally got to see it for myself, and people were definitely not exaggerating about the intensity. Holy Week can be a strange experience for a newbie like me, but it was definitely fascinating. Whether you’re a religious person or not, it’s easy to appreciate the artistry of the statues and how they parade down the street.
7. Taking a Spanish cooking class
One of my biggest regrets from my first year of living in Spain was that I didn’t learn how to cook any Spanish dishes. I went home for the summer and couldn’t do anything to satisfy my tapas cravings. Since I was not about to make that same mistake twice, I fixed the error of my ways in 2015 by taking a crash course in Spanish cooking. I learned how to make some of my favorite dishes, and now all I gotta do is trying making them at home.
8. Watching the sunset in Santorini
The sunsets in Santorini are unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. The vivid colors lighting up the sky over the ocean and giving a golden hue to the white-washed buildings is incredible. It’s something that everyone needs to see at least once in their life. Words honestly don’t do it justice and pictures barely do it either, but this photo post is my attempt at documenting one of the most serene and beautiful moments of my life.
9. Swimming in a natural hot spring near an active volcano in Greece
I had to jump off one of these boats into the super cold water and swim my way over to the natural spring. The difference between the warm and cold water was huge, and the natural spring kinda smelled weird from all the sulfur, but I loved sitting in the water and giving myself a mud bath with all the red clay there. The whole thing just made me really cool and super adventurous haha.
10. Day trip through Tuscany
Wine, delicious Italian food and a landscape to die for, that’s pretty much the best way to sum up my experience on a day trip through Tuscany. I had dreamt of that particular region of Italy for so many years and it did not disappoint in any way shape or form.
11. Skinny dipping in Cinque Terre
Sorry guys, but there is no photographic evidence of my skinny dipping experience. Only this lovely photo of the beach in Monterrosso, Italy where it happened. Cinque Terre was the last place I visited on my monthlong trip around Greece and Italy this summer. Skinny dipping there was one of the most liberating feelings of my life and also a kind of poetic/crazy fun way to end the even more liberating experience that was my first longterm solo trip.
12. Finally visiting Madrid and Barcelona
After two years of living in Spain, I couldn’t possibly go home, look people in the eyes, and tell them with a straight face that I had never visited Madrid or Barcelona. Just wouldn’t make sense. So I made the obligatory trips to Spain’s most popular cities, and now I can officially have an informed opinion on which city I like better in this epic rivalry. And in my humble opinion… Madrid wins all day, every day!
13. Family vacation in New Orleans
My parents are incredibly hard working people, but like typical Americans, they don’t vacation nearly as much as they should. This year we changed that by taking our first family vacation in several years. Besides the fact that I fell in love with New Orleans, it was also so much fun getting to spend that time with my family away from the usual daily stresses of life. I will definitely be forcing them to take more vacations even if they’re small ones.
14. Visiting the former slave plantations outside of New Orleans
People often visit the old slave plantations because they have gorgeous homes with classic Southern architecture and even more beautiful gardens in the surrounding areas. I was not one of those people. Of course the “Big House” on every plantation I visited was impressive, I did not separate them from what they once stood for. Visiting the plantations outside of New Orleans (like my visit to the concentration camp near Berlin) was a somber experience but a necessary one. As much as Americans try to sweep the centuries of slavery under the rug, it is an important part of our history whose effects can honestly still be seen today.
15. Moving back home to the United States!
After two absolutely incredible years of living in Spain, I finally decided that it was time to move back home. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made and a truly bittersweet one. Still, I can say that moving back to south Florida with my family was the best way to close out my 2015.
Now here’s to hoping that 2016 will be even better!