Welcome, 2018! I’m so excited to see you.
Really. I mean it.
As I’ve reflected on 2017, it seems that it was a year of change, heartbreak, love, disappointment, discomfort, laughter, and new beginnings. It’s been awhile since I’ve been this excited to usher in a new year, and it’s already off to a solid start. But, for me, with the beginning of a new year comes reflection on the past one: what was good, what was bad, what would I have changed, if at all possible, and what did I learn.
All in all, I spent about seven months traveling nationally and internationally in 2017, and as I move forward into 2018, I’m reflecting on what I loved and didn’t enjoy so much by sharing my top travel experiences of 2017. Some of these I’ve written about before, while others I kept to myself as I struggled through re-centering, finding my place, and readjusting to post-backpacker life while simultaneously starting my own business.
Needing a little inspiration as you start thinking about your travel adventures for 2018? Take a look, read about my experiences, and find a place that speaks to you!
San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
After nearly five months solo on the road, living out of a backpack, moving from hostel to hostel, meeting new people and then saying goodbye a few days later, I ended my latest solo backpacking trip in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico with two of my closest childhood best friends. One lives down there with her husband and baby boy, who was three-months-old at the time, and the other flew from Oakland to meet us. I’d visited Cabo before, a few times, for vacations and weddings, but this time was very different.
To be in one place, in a home, with people that are like family to me was something I didn’t realize I’d missed until I had it back in my life. A week on the beach with my two girlfriends, surrounded by beauty, love, laughter, incredible sunrises, and my self-claimed nephew was the perfect ending before going back to the “reality” of the US.
Oh, and did I mention this is where we spent the week? Not too shabby…
Antigua is the first place I visited in Guatemala, and I immediately fell in love when I arrived. The old Spanish architecture, cobblestone streets, stunning volcano backdrop, close-knit expat community, and buzzing energy makes Antigua hard not love. While Guatemala itself didn’t turn out to be the experience I’d expected (ummmm can we talk about letting go of expectations, 2017?), Antigua surprised and delighted me with its charm, friendliness, and beauty.
Mazunte, Mexico was one of three short-lived beach experiences in 2017, so needless to say I was delighted to find this quiet little hippie oasis. Located about an hour bus ride south of Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca State on the Pacific side of Mexico, Maxunte it’s also a Pueblo Magico (big fan of magic over here), and you can feel it in the air the moment you arrive.
A massive storm had rolled through just days before I arrived and I was nervous the beaches wouldn’t be picture-perfect by the time I got there. Lucky for me, the weather was lovely, and the beaches were clean enough for a girl to work on her tan. Plus, I was some incredible sunsets. A community full of yoga, healthy, local food, small-town charm, and friendly locals makes Mazunte a must-visit.
Oaxaca City, Mexico
Oaxaca and Oaxaca City have been on my list of places to visit for years now. After visiting for nearly a week, I now understand why people rave about it. While it is a city, there’s a small town charm to it that reminded me a lot of San Cristobal de las Casas. Walking in and out of quaint little shops along the bright and colorful streets lined with Spanish architecture, busy marketplaces, incredible views, all while eating some of the best food in Mexico made for a beautiful week. Oh, and did I mention it’s cheap?
Don’t forget to taste the mezcal, eat some mole, and visit the Hierve el Agua while you’re there.
Mexico City, Mexico
Yet another place I’ve wanted to visit for years, Mexico’s capital is a sprawling mix of skyscrapers, museums, cafes, giant parks, street vendors, art, food, culture, and music. Not only that, there are a ton of great day trips to smaller towns outside of the city if you need a change of pace or scenery. My five days spent in Mexico City were jam-packed from beginning to end, and I still have a list of places to go and things to do the next time I visit.
For those traveling on a budget, be sure to stay here. And for art-lovers and museum fans, don’t you dare miss the Frida Kahlo museum (buy your tickets in advance to save time waiting in line), the infamous Palacio Nacional, and massively awesome National Museum of Anthropology (give yourself at least half a day for this one).
San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
Talk about surprise and delight, San Cristobal de las Casas in Chapas, Mexico wasn’t even on my radar until other backpackers just couldn’t stop talking about it. With limited time (and money) available, I made an itinerary change while in Guatemala and chose to make my way towards this Pueblo Magico.
To this day, San Cristobal is one of my favorite places in Mexico. It’s not what you expect when you think of Mexico; there are no beaches, no resorts, and very few margaritas. The weather tends to be a bit cooler since you’re up in the mountains, but with its old colonial buildings, delicious and crazy cheap food, friendly expat and healing community, and rowdy night scene (if that’s your thing), San Cristobal turned out to be an incredible ten days.
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua
This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of my favorite places in the world, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua. But it’s not just the volcano-painted background, friendly locals and expats, calming energy or healing workshops that made this my top travel experience of the year. What struck me, and will stay with me forever, was my two months at InanItah, an eco-community tucked away on the side of one of the volcanoes.
I often find myself thinking back to the experiences and conversations I had at this special community, remembering how connected and grounded I felt, how grateful and thankful I was for each day, and how much love I felt for the beauty and people around me. Those two months taught me more about myself and listening to what I need more than any experience I’ve ever had – even my yoga teacher training. I now firmly believe that the world would be a much softer, gentler, more compassionate place if more people opened themselves up to similar experiences of community living.
Looking for a travel guide to Ometepe? I wrote one just for you!
As you reflect on 2017 and move forward into this new year, what were your favorite experiences? Leave a comment and let me know!
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