2016 was a hard year both personally and on a universal scale. So rough that I have sequestered myself away under lock and key, counting down the last couple of days in this cursed year. But instead of sitting here, bemoaning all the ways the past was a mess, I will reminisce about all of my most treasured travel moments that I was #blessed (<—ironic usage) enough to experience in 2016.
In chronological order (since any other way would be too difficult) here are my Top 10 Travel Moments of 2016:
1/ RETURNING TO RISE UP Rise Up Surf, Nicaragua
Waking up to the familiar, soothing sounds of crashing waves right outside my room at Rise Up Surf, and the joy I felt upon realizing where I was was uncontainable. After a year of missing my happy place , I had finally returned! After a quick dip in the ocean and catching up with an old friend, I meditated on the private beach. Breathing in the sea air, I could barely believe my luck to have the opportunity to return to a spot that I loved so much. I wasn’t seeing it with new eyes but with loving eyes.
2/ DANCING ON A SANDBAR AT SUNSET Apostentillo, Nicaragua
After cruising around the Isla Juan Venado Mangrove Forest in boats and jumping off of towering trees, we pulled up to a sandbar as sun began to set. The Nicaraguan sunset that evening reminded me of Lisa Frank artwork – bright, neon pink and burning into the sky. Clutching a huge cup of jungle juice, I blasted Bieber on my phone and danced like an tween in my bathing suit with an amazing group of new friends.
3/ GETTING A MUD MASSAGE Cartagena, Colombia
I remember how in disbelief I was when we climbed into El Totumo Volcano and instead of sinking down into the dense sludge, we floated on the surface. We emerged, had the majority of the mud squeegeed from our bodies then tottered to the nearby lagoon for the mud to be washed off of us like babies by the women of the little village as the sun set. Most of life’s most memorable moments happens in sync with the sun’s ascent and descent…
4/ SALSA-ING THE NIGHT AWAY Cartagena, Colombia
Our last night in Cartagena, we decided to discover what the city’s famed nightlife was all about. We had planned on going to the infamous party at Media Luna Hostel but took one look at the line and made our way through the party that spilled into the streets to Tasca Maria, a local bar with killer music and $1 beers. I remember sweating buckets (like a lady!) while getting a salsa lesson from a champeta instructor from the cultural centre who conveniently happened to be there.
5/ FEASTING ON A PRIVATE ISLAND Islas del Rosario, Colombia
The day after Kelly and I arrived at Playa Manglares, we took a boat trip with a couple who was also staying at the B&B to explore Islas del Rosario. We ended up on a private island for lunch after a morning of snorkelling (us) and dolphin watching at the aquarium (them). We got to watch as our guides hauled in fresh lobsters, grilled them with garlic, sea salt, cracked pepper, and served the crustaceans with a splash of lime juice at a little table that was set up my the water with a cooler full of cerveza.
6/ HAGGLING IN THE SOUKS Marrakech, Morocco
Despite how overwhelming the souks of Marrakech are, I loved exploring their endless nooks and crannies. I got lost more often than not but found so many treasures that I value so much more because I haggled like a PRO for them. The market owners would enthral us with interesting facts and stories about their wares, sharing mint tea and their love for their country and culture. Almost got bartered for 3,000 camels and a shoe shop but that’s a story for another day….
7/ GLAMPING IN THE DESERT Merzouga, Morocco
I will never forget how Kam Kam Dunes looked when we arrived, single-file, on camels through the desert. Intricately patterned lanterns glittered in the darkness, guiding our carpet-covered path into the camp as the sky started to fill with stars. We were welcomed with the customary glass of mint tea as we marvelled at the expansive tents, complete with a hot shower and indoor plumbing! We spent the night dancing to traditional Berber music, eating tangine and brochettes. It was the night I learned that I suck at drumming and singing, both simultaneously and separately.
8/ A DAY OF LUXURY Marrakech, Morocco
After our abbreviated trip into the desert (see: 20 hours driving over 3 days), Kelly and I decided to treat ourselves to an indulgent hammam experience at the Royal Mansour . This is the place the sultan would house heads of state (think Michelle Obama and the Queen!!) so to say it was luxurious is a massive understatement. I couldn’t believe the sheer opulence of the hotel and spa, from the reception area to the heated marble rooms where we got our hammam treatment.
9/ BREAKFAST AT A HIPSTER CREPE CAFE London, UK
On my way back from Morocco, I got to visit my BFF in London and to immerse myself in her world. I’m not sure if the theme song for this interlude should be Part of your World from the Little Mermaid or Aladdin’s A Whole New World….I had nothing planned for London except to spend time with her, meet her friends, and devour a crepe that she made for me at the hipster crepe café that she works at. So good!
10/ DISCOVERING BOTTOMLESS BRUNCH London, UK
Janelle took me to an All-You-Can-Drink Brunch in a whimsical Victorian town house called Dead Dolls House. Isn’t that an amazing concept?! Really just an excuse to get drunk midday. We got to revel in some much needed bonding time over avocado toast and JUGS of mimosas and Bloody Mary’s. My idea of a perfect afternoon. I felt like I was in an ethnically diverse BBC mini-series.