January 1, 2017 I was sitting on the runway at New York’s JFK Airport having a mental breakdown. After a year of being on the go followed by a December of non-stop travel where I was on a plane every 4-5 days, I was exhausted. I did not want to travel in 2017. In fact, I vowed not to travel the entire rest of the year.
Fast forward to December 2017 and it was one of my busiest travel years of my life. This year I visited 6 countries (Mexico, Monaco, Kenya, Tanzania, Canada and Australia) and 8 states. I traveled almost every single weekend and had two trips that were more than a week and a half long.
I crossed many things off my travel bucket list including my first solo international trip, skydiving, scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, Zanzibar, Napa Valley and gambling in Monte Carlo.
And boy, was it all 100% worth it! Take a look at my top 17 adventures of 2017.
- Hanging out of a helicopter over New York City
This wasn’t technically a travel experience since I live in New York BUT it was one of my highlights of the year. If you’re not too afraid of heights, definitely look into the FlyNYON experience. It’s now available in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York and is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
- Helping my mom cross the #1 thing off her bucket list
For as long as I can remember, my mom has wanted to go the Grand Prix of Monaco. In 2017, we made it happen! Seeing her smile during our week in Monaco was one of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve ever had. It’s inspired me to give EVERYONE the gift of travel!
- Spending an 8 hour layer in Qatar
Did you know there’s a spa in the Doha airport in Qatar? For a little over $40 USD, I spent my 8 hour layover in the pool, hot tub and luxury showers. Right in the middle of the airport above the terminal! You can also get massages, pedicures and facials.
- Emotional night at the RiSE Festival
I was not prepared for the emotions I would feel at the RiSE Festival outside of Las Vegas. Letting go of my fears and putting my hopes and dreams in the hands of the universe was an experience I couldn’t top.
- Being inside the Magic Kingdom without the crowds
One of the worst parts about Disney World is the crowds, amirite? Discovering that you can enter the Magic Kingdom before anyone else was one of the highlights of my year. It was well worth the expensive breakfast at Beauty and the Beast’s Be Our Guest restaurant to basically be alone inside the park!
- Scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef
I am terrified of the ocean! Open water is one of my biggest fears in life. Being able to overcome my fear to scuba dive for the first time was a highlight of the year. And to do it at the Great Barrier Reef? I mean, come on! You can’t top that.
- First solo international trip
It has always been on my bucket list to travel solo. I think it’s an experience that can really change a person. And I did feel it on my first solo international trip to Australia. I know it’s really cliche but I truly did learn so much about myself!
- Skydiving for the first time
I’ve always been curious about skydiving but never found the right place to do it. When I realized I had no plans for my 28th birthday in Australia, I thought why not!? Skydiving was one of the most invigorating experiences I’ve ever had. And doing it over the beach was just the icing on the cake. I can’t wait to do it again soon!
- Seeing the cherry blossoms in D.C.
It’s almost impossible to time a trip to D.C. to see the cherry blossoms. But finally seeing them in bloom after years of missing them was definitely a highlight!
- Kissing a giraffe at the Giraffe Center
If you have any interest in travel whatsoever, you probably have seen the photos from Giraffe Manor in Kenya (and are dying to go there). Well, unless you grow money on trees in your backyard, you probably can’t afford the $1500 a night price tag. But I discovered that you can go next door to the Giraffe Center and kiss one of the giraffes…for not even a quarter of the price!
- Sleeping in a swag in the Australian Outback
I’m not like super outdoorsy. I don’t really do bugs or dirt or camping. In fact I’ve never actually camped before! So sleeping on the ground under the stars in the Australian Outback was a once in a lifetime experience.
- Visiting friends from my travels
One of my absolute favorite thing about travel is the people you meet. Back in 2014 while backpacking around Europe I met Mackayla and Mel from Australia. After three years of saying I would visit them in their home country, I finally did it! We’ve only spent about 2 weeks in total together but it was like seeing childhood friends when I met up with them in Melbourne and Perth.
- Tailgating with 150 people at a Bills game
Bills Mafia!! Growing up in Rochester, New York, I’m a pretty crazy Buffalo Bills fan. This year I took 5 of my best girlfriends from across the country to a wild, 150 person tailgate at the Bills versus Tampa Bay Bucs game. Seeing them experience the wildness that is Bills Mafia was a hilarious highlight of the year.
- Living in luxury at Melia Zanzibar
The pavilion I stayed at in Zanzibar was one of the nicest hotel rooms I’ve ever experienced! Having room service on that balcony was a surreal moment in 2017.
- Discovering the power of credit card points
I signed up for my first “big girl” credit card in 2017. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card has basically changed my life when it comes to travel. I used the 100,000 sign up bonus points to pay for my flights and hotels to Kenya. I then had enough from the rest of my year of spending to pay for all of my internal flights in Australia!
- Visiting the south of the United States
I’ve seen so much of the world but have visited little of the U.S. It’s always been on my bucket list to experience the southern states. So I got my sister on board and planned a New Years Eve road trip through Tennessee!
- Knowing my next adventure is always around the corner.
CLICHE ALERT! But it’s true. I know that in 2018, just like in 2017, I can find travel anywhere. While I do plan to slow down (only a little!), I know that my next adventure could be down the street in New York or across the globe. I’ve ticked a ton of things off my bucket list but there’s always more to see. And I plan to use every long weekend, vacation day and holiday break to keep experiencing more of the world. Because that’s really why we travel, right? To meet new people who can teach us life lessons and experience new cultures that make us see the world in a new light.