So…2018 was cray. Which, frankly, is a pattern I’ve noticed almost every year since I began my annual tradition of reflecting on and writing about the year that was. This time around was another biggie: not only did I achieve the millennial dream of quitting my 9-5 job and being able to focus on Globe Guide full-time (yay!) but I also moved, explored nine countries on three continents, and logged more than 100 days on the road. Which I’m pretty sure is a lot, considering I happened to have two full-time jobs during most of it. Oh, and Globe Guide also turned FIVE which in blog years feels more like 55. Thank god for naps and wine, amirite? Here’s a look back at 18 of the most epic adventures I had in 2018, and I hope these inspire you to tackle a few next year!
1) Exploring India by train
My year started off SO AMAZING, thanks to an opportunity to cross off a place at the top of my bucket list: India. I spent nearly two weeks there with a fab group of influencers from around the globe, and we explored the state of Rajasthan from the comfort of a luxury train. It was the perfect introduction to the country for an India-newbie like me, since the all-inclusive trip meant everything was taken care of from meals to our daily tours, and we were somewhat sheltered from the chaos of things like traffic that the country is notorious for. And yes, I totally ugly cried when I saw the Taj Mahal for the first time because it was so amazeballs. #SorryNotSorry.
2) Glamping on an island in Mexico
So you may have figured out by now that I’m not exactly the camping type. But glamping? Yup, that’s something I can get behind, especially when it’s on a secluded beach in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. The setup at Camp Cecil includes gorgeous private tents equipped with chandeliers, tours like kayaking or snorkeling with sea lions, meals, and a nightly happy hour. But my fave part of all was hopping on a SUP at the end of each day with a cocktail in hand, and paddling around while watching the sunset.
3) Running a half marathon while half cut
Sure I exercise pretty much every single day, but ask me to run for more than 10 minutes and omg noooooo way that sounds so boring. But when there’s wine involved that’s a game changer, which is how I ended up running my first half-marathon in British Columbia, Canada. The Half Corked Marathon takes place every year in the Okanagan, and sees hundreds of participants dress up in crazy costumes while running between vineyards, making nearly 20 different stops to sample wine by the time they reach the finish line. Basically the entire point is to drink copious amounts of vino, and has very little to do with actually running. In fact, at the beginning of the ‘race’ the announcer reminds everyone: “if you come in first, you’ve actually lost.” The weather was perfect, the drinks were flowing and the company was fabulous, making this one of my fave weekends of the year!
4) Scampering down a mountain in Croatia to get to a deserted beach
Sometimes I get weird ideas, like spending half an hour scampering down a brush-filled mountain in my bikini to get to a gorgeous, deserted Croatian beach. In 35 degree weather. Instead of simply relaxing on the other beautiful, popular beach that was legit a two minute walk from my hotel room. Totes worth it for these views tho:
5) Paying off police officers in Bosnia
I mayyyyy have had to bribe a couple of police officers while doing a road trip through Bosnia, to get out of a “traffic ticket.” Still not totally sure what happened there, but you can read all about it here (and check out my tips for what to do if the same thing happens to you. Hint: keeping small bills on hand wins the day!)
6) Whiskey tasting in Tennessee
So I kinda have this obsession with Jack Daniel’s, which is pretty much the entire reason I travelled to Tennessee. Yup, this little blonde girl from Canada flew all the way from the Great White North with a cowboy hat and boots taking up half a suitcase, with one sole goal in mind: to drink allll the whiskey. So, I spent the majority of my time in the state sippin’ JD, touring their monster headquarters, and sampling Tennessee’s finest blends at family-run distilleries including the one responsible for ending prohibition. Oh, and also raised a glass at Mr. Daniel’s gravesite. Cheers to man, the myth, the legend!
7) Learning how to surf in Mexico
Being a prairie girl, the closest I’ve ever gotten to a surfboard was when I hopped on one in an indoor water park in a strip mall near Montreal. #Random. So I was nervous and excited to do a real surf lesson for first time in Mexico, at Cerritos Beach which just so happens to be a world-class surf location. And I TOTALLY ROCKED IT! I’m comin’ for ya, Kelly Slater…
8) Driving the scenic Oregon Coast
I spent a week at the end of summer driving the entire Oregon Coast with one of my besties, where we ate endless bowls of clam chowder, took an exhilarating dune buggy ride through gigantic sand dunes near Florence, relaxed on windswept beaches and stopped at just about every scenic lookout point along the way. Oh, and every Target and outlet mall. As you do.
9) Snowmobiling in Revelstoke, Canada
Umm guys…why did no one ever tell me that snowmobiling is so fun?! I hopped on one in Revelstoke, Canada this winter and took it for a rip through the Monashee Mountains. Not only was the untouched scenery that we had to ourselves totally mind blowing, but I also learned that plowing through powdery snow drifts higher than your head at top speed is a super effective stress reliever. Sorry, yoga.
10) Road trippin’ around the Balkans
One of my best trips of the year was a two-week jaunt through the Balkans, which is one of my fave areas in the world because it’s way more affordable than western Europe but still has great architecture, beaches and landscapes. It started off great thanks to a first-class upgrade on the flight over (thanks Air Transat!), and my trusty little rental car zipped me around Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia without incident (save for that whole bribing-policemen-thing…see #5). Highlights included walking around the towering walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia, watching the sunset over the Bay of Kotor, seeing the charming old town in Mostar, Bosnia, and…
11) …Soaking in the incredible views in Plitvice National Park, Croatia
If I had to choose my absolute, favourite part of my Balkans road trip, it would be the day spent exploring Plitvice National Park in Croatia. 16 pristine lakes cascade into one another forming countless aquamarine pools, and an endless stream of crystal clear waterfalls pour out of the hillsides. So yeah, it’s Instagram heaven. Well worth the trip, my friends!
12) Sleeping in a recording studio near Nashville
I got to channel my inner Carrie Underwood when I visited Franklin, Tennessee, which is just outside Nashville. Dark Horse Recording has hosted the likes of Tim McGraw and Keith Urban for recording sessions, and some stars choose to stay in the property’s luxe guesthouse…which just so happens to also be listed on Airbnb. Coolest rental EVER, especially since it includes an opportunity to tour the studio. And guess who got to stay in it? Me!
13) Seeing a wild tiger in India
When I saw that our India trip itinerary included a tiger safari, I was a bit skeptical about it being worth the early wake up call. Over the years, I’ve met multiple travel writers who insinuated the whole thing was a bit of a scam, as the likelihood of actually seeing a tiger was slim to nil. Well jokes on them, because no more than five minutes after driving through the gates of Ranthambore National Park we saw a female tiger laying in the long grass. It was INSANE to see such a beautiful, powerful animal that close, and I tried to avoid calculating how many seconds it would take for her to bound over to our open-air vehicle and snack on one of us should she choose.
We eventually drove away to explore more of the park and see animals like monkeys, crocodiles and deer, and when we returned a couple hours later were delighted to find our feline friend in the same spot. As if on cue, she finally woke up and decided to go for what I can only assume was a mid-morning jog, and our convoy tracked her through the thick brush for almost twenty thrilling minutes, marvelling at how graceful yet powerful she was.
14) Going backstage at the Grand Ole Opry
OK so I’m not really a country fan save for Shania Twain and early Taylor Swift (is anyone else still super annoyed that Tay-Tay sold out and went mainstream?), but when I went to Nashville a trip to the Grand Ole Opry was at the top of my list. Mostly because I used to watch the TV show Nashville, so who says prime time viewing doesn’t teach you anything? The show itself was cute, but the real goosebumps moment was when we got to take a VIP tour backstage while the musicians were performing. I almost cried thinking about how lucky I was to be standing on the exact stage that legendary country stars like have performed on, never mind during a live show.
15) Freezing my a#$ off in Chicago
I headed to Chicago in October, and found out firsthand how it earned the nickname “Windy City.” It was cold AF…and keep in mind this is coming from a Canadian. I made the terrible life choice of booking an architectural boat tour, which is usually a must-do in Chicago unless of course the temperature is -100 degrees which I’m pretty sure it was that day. I probably shoulda been tipped off when the guide basically begged everyone to get off the boat for a full refund before we set sail. Longest 90 minutes of my life, but miraculously I disembarked with all of my fingers and toes intact.
16) Speeding down the world’s steepest zipline
I jumped on the opportunity to escape the winter cold and head to the Caribbean island of St Maarten for a week in December, and it was PERFECTION from the beautiful weather to the free-flowing cocktails and great company. Our crew got a chance to explore the whole island (did you know it’s part of both France and the Netherlands?), including a trip to Rainforest Adventures at Rockland Estate which is home to the world’s steepest zipline.
Now, I have a rule on press trips where I basically refuse to do any brewery tours, segway tours or ziplines (because OMG once you’ve done one you’ve done them all), but when I found out this particular park has the most freakin’ epic views of St Maarten and the surrounding islands I decided to give it a go. And OMG WAS IT EVER FUN!!! The zipline drops more than a thousand feet in elevation across 2800 feet of cable, but it wasn’t even the least bit scary. There’s also a canopy tour with even more breathtaking views, and a tube park! You’ll def want to spend a few hours at Rainforest Adventures if you find yourself in St Maarten.
17) Swimming with whale sharks and sea lions in Baja California Sur
What, you haven’t swam with a whale shark before? 😉 OK so this would normally be a HUGE bucket list item for me, except for the fact that I was lucky enough to have already done it a couple years ago in Holbox, Mexico. Still, I was psyched to get the chance to swim with these gentle giants near La Paz, on the same day our group also snorkelled with playful sea lions in Isla Espiritu Santo. If you love adventure and animals, Baja California Sur is the spot to be!
18) Having a royal weekend in Victoria
The last time I visited the city of Victoria on Canada’s west coast about 12 years ago, I left with the impression that it was a sleepy town solely populated by retirees. Boy, how times have changed. I enjoyed the ultimate girls weekend there this fall, when my friend and I wined and dined at the iconic Fairmont Empress hotel right on the waterfront, went wine touring in a Tesla, soaked in the scenery during a seaplane ride over the harbour, relaxed at a spa, and discovered a gin that just so happens to be royal purple. I came back home feeling like a princess, and falling totally in love with Victoria.
Globe Guide’s 2018 stats:
Countries explored: 9- USA, Canada, India, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Mexico, St Maarten, Anguilla
Travel days: 112
Number of flights: 36
Favourite destination: Croatia is amayyyyyzing, but I’ve gotta go with India on this one, particularly the desert city of Jaisalmer. Because camels.
Biggest fail: That freezing Chicago architectural boat tour. I think I still have PTSD.
Bucket list accomplishments: 3- see Plitvice National Park, explore Dubrovnik and travel to India.
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