2016 Travel Highlights & Tips
2016 was an interesting year. In terms of travel, I made it to five countries total (six if you count the US, but I'm not sure if that counts, haha) because I was working while traveling this summer.
Taking a spontaneous day trip to Slovakia one day was exciting, and I was thrilled to get to Iceland for the first time - a longtime member of my bucket list!
Because I was working in Europe, I made it back to Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany for my job. I maxed out my vacation time with my job back home and returned less than 12 hours before going back to work on a Monday morning.
Other 2016 destinations included going to the Grand Canyon for the first time - finally! - as well as the Bavaria region in Germany, and seeing more of the city center/old town in Salzburg.
Here's an updated 2016 travel map of all the countries I have been to:
With this yearly travel recap, I wanted to make sure I added in some tips and advice for some of the locations.
I got a lot of questions about Europe when I was there this summer (especially through Snapchat and email!) so I feel like this is the best post to add some general advice in regards to the destinations!
Flagstaff and Grand Canyon, AZ
In February 2016 I finally made it to the Grand Canyon! I had lived in the state of Arizona for almost two years at this point, and my plans to see it months earlier had fallen through.
Since my best friend was living in Flagstaff at the time, it was the perfect opportunity to drive up to see her for the weekend and take a day trip to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Something I wasn't expecting - the altitude at the Grand Canyon! I knew there would be higher altitude in Flagstaff (it's in the mountains) but not at the GC, which I learned is at about 7,000 feet.
Flagstaff reminded me of a mix of Montana and Colorado with its forest, cool weather (it gets seasons unlike dry/sunny/hot Phoenix), snow on the ground, and has a little bit of a hippie vibe.
If you're headed to Flagstaff, pack your clothes according to the season! While Phoenix and Tucson are hot year-round (with "chilly" winters at 50-60 degrees), Flagstaff experiences all four seasons, including snow!
Watch the VLOG: Grand Canyon Road Trip!
My third visit to this wonderful city kicked off my work + travel job! I feel like the third time around I was starting to get to know the city better and I would definitely return again.
Vienna is the capital of Austria, though keep in mind it is still quite small for a city. That doesn't mean it's not worth a visit, as I'd for sure recommend it! It's very safe, has great food and nice cafes, and is absolutely gorgeous.
Only 1.5 hour by train each way, Bratislava is an easy day trip from Vienna. It's also part of the Schengen zone so you don't need to go through customs!
I didn't have my passport on me (totally forgot) and they didn't check, but I would still recommend having yours juuuust in case they check on the train.
While Bratislava makes for a great day trip, I could have definitely spent another day or two wandering the city and checking out the cute cafes.
Watch the VLOG: Delayed Flights, Lost Bag, Slovakia Day Trip!
Prague, Czech Republic
This trip marked my third visit to Prague! I really like Prague. I don't know many people who aren't a fan, actually!
There is plenty to do and see in Prague. My students all agreed that Prague was their favorite city of the trip!
Also, the Czech Republic isn't on the euro so the cost of everything is pretty cheap, even in the city center. Think beer or wine for the equivalent of $0.30-0.50 or so.
Makes for an affordable trip, especially if you are traveling to more expensive parts of Europe like the UK or Scandinavia.
Berlin is the coolest city in Europe! I love it. We had a laugh when our tour guide was making jokes about certain neighborhoods where you'll see the stereotypical hipster using an Apple computer, wearing trendy glasses in cafes, and pretending not to notice you.
With tons of history to learn from, vibrant nightlife, and all the art and cafes, you can never get bored in Berlin.
Whenever I leave Berlin, I always wish I could stay longer.
Watch the VLOG: Traveling Prague & Berlin!
Munich, Germany and Bavaria
At the end of the conference I was working at, we had an optional extension for the students to Bavaria and Salzburg.
We went up the Zugspitze mountain and took a cable car to the very top. There was snow, even in July, and our students from the Caribbean were thrilled as it was the first time some of them had seen snow! They were taking pictures of their breath in the cold air, haha.
Bavaria is SUCH a beautiful part of Germany and even driving through the mountainside is a treat. It's also home to Neuschwanstein Castle (the "Disney" castle), which is a must-see as well.
Watch the VLOG: Munich, Germany & Newschwanstein Castle!
This was my second visit to Salzburg and I actually got to see the city center/old town!
I was on a "high" of travel happiness here, and there is plenty to see when walking around.
Watch the VLOG: On Location at "The Sound of Music" Gardens!
Iceland has been a longtime destination on my travel list, and despite having only two days here because I had to go back to work on Monday, it was worth the trip!
A few Iceland tips:
Day trips are easy from the BSÍ terminal, or they all pickup from hotels around the city.
Reykjavik is small so it's easy and very walkable and very very safe.
Consider weather - summer is sunlight all day and winter is dark almost all day.
Consider renting a car for longer trips and drive around the country!
Watch the VLOG: Traveling Iceland!
San Diego, CA
In September, after my last day working at my old job, I drove out to San Diego to visit friends and find a place to live.
Only a few weeks later I was packing up the house in Arizona to hit the road and move to what is currently my dream city.
I am basically obsessed with living here. I really love San Diego so far (except for the high cost of living..)!
Watch the VLOG: I Quit My Job and Moved To California
Less than two weeks after my move to California, I flew out to Chicago for a few days to visit some family! It was nice to have the flexibility in my schedule to be able to travel, too.
Watch the VLOG: Chicago Travel Vlog!
Being back where I used to live for Thanksgiving, only six weeks or so after moving to California, felt like your first visit home after going away to college, or when you return home after traveling internationally for the first time.
It felt a little surreal and like I hadn't left, since nothing had changed. And it was only six weeks! Still, it was nice to get a break for the holidays in a familiar place.
I can't believe how much happened in 2016! I've truly enjoyed getting to know YOU - GSE readers through email, Instagram, and the like...it's pretty awesome to hear your travel wins, feedback, and talk travel.
Thank YOU for your support! I hope I'm able to bring valuable content in 2017 as we crush our travel goals together!
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