If 2017 can be defined, it can be defined as one of the most adventurous years of my life to date. While travel didn’t pick-up until March, all bets were off at that point. I thought it would be fun to re-cap our year of Adventure Travel in numbers and sharing a selection of some of my favorite photos and the stories behind them from the year.
2017 Travel in Numbers
Napa Valley, California
As my belated birthday trip, Ryan ‘surprised’ me with a trip to Napa Valley. It was a a soggy, chilly weekend, but perfect for a romantic getaway to celebrate my 33rd year. Ryan arranged a driver from Wine Tour Drivers to drive us around in our rental car to different vineyards so we could imbibe without worry and we ate ALL the delicious food Napa had to offer. The weather gave us a perfect excuse to use our cozy fireplace in our room at The Inn on First.
Yucca Valley, California
At the end of March, Ryan jet-off to Singapore for a business trip, so naturally I decided I needed to go somewhere the weekend he was gone. I found an amazing home on Airbnb in Yucca Valley, which gave me close access to Joshua Tree. The main purpose of this weekend getaway was to churn out content for my blog. I was a bit more successful with exploring Joshua Tree and experiencing the wild flower bloom on my way into work that Monday than I was churning out content.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Let’s just say that I fell slightly in love with Joshua Tree and the area when I stayed in Yucca. So much so that I convinced Ryan to take a weekend to camp in Joshua Tree in April. Though, it didn’t take much effort on my part to convince him. It was a ton of fun and we were able to finally break in our camping gear while experiencing the magic of JTree.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
For Memorial Day I was on a mission to fly somewhere to take advantage of our Southwest Companion Pass, but we didn’t want to have to fly too far to avoid taking a day off work. A weekend getaway in Santa Fe was a great option because the flight to Albuquerque is just over an hour and the drive up to Santa Fe is about the same. As fate would have it my best friend from college and writer of Her Money Moves was also visiting Santa Fe the same weekend. The weekend was the perfect blend of catching up with my bestie and experiencing the Southwestern charm of Santa Fe. A couple highlights were heading to Bandelier National Monument to explore the cave dwellings and watching sunset over the city from Hillside Park.
We headed back to Maui for the third time this year for a few days before flying over to Molokai. Our days on Maui were spent enjoying the amazing snorkeling the island has to offer and eating at some of our favorite places, such as Mala. I was super pumped to try out my new underwater housing for my Sony Alpha 6500 to snap some photos of turtles and my GoPro 5 to capture photos of us getting pounded by waves at Big Beach.
Molokai added island number 4 to the places we’ve been in Hawaii. We have a goal to visit all Hawaiian islands we are able to visit, plus have heard that Molokai is not like the other Hawaiian Islands in most ways. The rumors are true. Molokai is the last thing people would imagine when they think of Hawaii. It’s a rural, rugged island, and at times you feel like you are the only ones there. Hiking Halawa Valley was one of my favorite experiences of the island as well as spending time on the seemingly deserted beach on the west coast. We also thoroughly enjoyed the ice cream shop in town, which we visited 4 times in 3 days.
Tongatapu, Kingdom of Tonga
The Kingdom of Tonga is the most rugged place we have visited to date. The main objective for visiting was to experience a place that not many tourist visit, and to go snorkeling with humpback whales. More on that in a bit. In order to begin our journey in Tonga, we flew into Tongatapu to experience the most populated of the islands. Renting a car to get around made for a perfect way to explore the island at our own pace and allowed us to explore nooks and crannies that no one other visitors seemed to know about.
Eua, Kingdom of Tonga
‘Eua is the least visited island by tourists. There are no places to rent a car or restaurants to eat your meals and only a handful of accommodations to stay. Most accommodations will provide meals for a fee or you can bring your own food to cook. ‘Eua is known for it’s hiking and bird watching. While we passed on the bird watching, we took a guided hike to Fangatave Caves and had a beach to ourselves for the afternoon. Our mornings were filled with activity and our afternoons were filled with laying around, relaxing, and trying to stay cool.
Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga
Vava’u is located on a lagoon that is the birthing destination for Antarctic Humpback Whales. And this, my friends, is why we went to Tonga. It is still possible to snorkel with the whales, as long as you are with a licensed operator. We stayed on Treasure Island, a private island that is a 30 min boat ride from the main island of Neiafu. Our week was filled with snorkeling, relaxing, eating delicious food and getting to know fellow travelers, such as Jon Lawrie whom is currently conquering the highest mountain on each continent. The biggest highlight of the week was snorkeling with Humpback Whales and snapping the above photo, which was ultimately selected as a National Geographic Editor’s week 6 favorite in their 2017 Nature Photographer of the Year contest.
Ruta del Vino, Baja California, Mexico
Driving down to Mexico is pretty easy for us. We usually go down to Puerto Nuevo for some delicious lobster tacos or take in a Toros baseball game in Tijuana. We finally were able to make it to the Ruta del Vino, the wine route, to taste some delicious Baja wines. The road is home to hundreds of wineries that are open for tastings and some even have rooms to stay overnight. Don’t be surprised if you see us heading down here again in 2018.
With my family spread across the US, we have a fair amount of travel to do to visit family. Two of my siblings happen to live in the New York City area. I took the opportunity to visit their new homes when Ryan went to Denver for the weekend. While I was hoping for some cold fall weather, we mostly enjoyed nice 70 degree days. Aside from hanging out with my family, the highlight was going to the Apple Orchard and getting in some nice Fall activities.
I am fortunate enough to have a job that sometimes sends me to Tokyo, and I returned this year in November. While the main focus of my time in Japan was work, I arrived on a Saturday evening to have Sunday to explore and I also took advantage of my open evenings. One of my favorite things to do in Tokyo is to walk as much as possible to explore the neighborhoods. I always come across beautifully quiet moments when I do that. It also happened to be around the time when neighborhoods were lighting their holiday lights. My co-worker and I took the chance to watch the lighting of the Midtown Tokyo Christmas lights and geek out with long exposure on our cameras. Another favorite thing is to visit cat cafes, where you get to hand out with cats and drink coffee.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Another trip to visit family, this time for Thanksgiving. So you can imagine that we did some very Thanksgiving things, like eat and drink a lot and watch football. Including a visit to Tiger Stadium to watch LSU vs Texas A&M. We also enjoyed walking around the swamps of Baton Rouge trying to spot an alligator. Spoiler alert: we didn’t see any this trip.
This might be a close second for my favorite trip of 2017, first being Tonga. For one, it was my turn to surprise Ryan with a birthday trip and I was able to successfully keep the destination a secret for TWO MONTHS. He didn’t find out where we were going until we were basically there. Another reason why it is a close second favorite of 2017 is because of how beautiful the red rocks of the region are and we got to hike our hearts out. It doesn’t hurt that we stayed at the luxurious and conventionally located Enchantment Resort, which I would highly recommend if you want to splurge on your lodging. My only disappointment was that we didn’t have time to use the pool! Sedona is a special place and will definitely be a place we will consider returning.
Our last trip of the year was to our hometowns to visit our parents, family and friends for Christmas. We’ve been pretty lucky since moving out to San Diego with Christmas past being mild temperature-wise, but this time was a punch in the gut reminder of how horrible the winters can be there. One day the temperature was -1 degrees fahrenheit. My lips and nose became numb within minutes. Aside from the cold it was awesome catching up with friends and family that we could see. And I was especially grateful to be able to finally make it back to the Christkindle Market, a holiday tradition when we live in the Chicagoland area.
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Daina - Founder of headedanywhere.com
Daina is the sunset and ocean obsessed photographer and writer behind underwater and adventure photography blog, Headed Anywhere, featuring photography tips and hacks to simplify your busy life.
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