2017 was a crazy busy year filled with ups and downs and everything in between. I (Victoria) am going to tell you (probably way too much) about all of them! We end 2016 with me getting my Copper IUD taken out and feeling way better than I did all year. Read the post about my 11 month IUD ordeal here.
After being sick all last year, 2017 was going to be the year for lots of travel! Any wording highlighted in green links to a relevant blog post we wrote this year in case you want to read more about a city or location! This post is super long because there is a lot to tell so if you make it to the end I really commend you for your efforts! Ready to see how 2017 went?
In January we decided to head to NYC for the New York Times Travel Show. We had never done a conference prior to that and after a sweet friend coaching us for a month, we rocked it [or so we thought!!]. We met a ton of new people and made a ton of new connections.
One of the connections we made at the travel show was with Via Rail Canada. Via Rail liked us so much they asked us to take the train in Canada with them within 2 weeks of the show ending. We told them that was too short of notice and we agreed upon riding the rails with them a little under a month later.
The trip started in Halifax and ended in Vancouver and was amazing! Even though we are Floridians, winter in Canada wasn’t bad at all and we had oh so much fun! This post about things to know before taking the train across Canada has ended up being our best performing post on our website ever! On Google search rankings it even beats out National Geographic and the Via Rail website itself! In blogger terms, that is really good!
We went from Halifax to Montreal then down to Toronto and took a day trip to Niagara Falls for Terrence’s first time visiting the falls. Then we headed for 3 straight days on the train from Toronto to Jasper and spent an amazing time exploring Jasper in winter.
We also did the coldest photoshoot of our lives on the Icefield’s Parkway. I was wearing ski pants and ski boots, ear warmers, hand wamers, gloves, and a shirt in the photo below. The wind was so strong and the weather so cold that I literally got sick and had to lay down in the car for 30 minutes to recover before running back out. It was insane cold but we have never seen a view so epic!
After Jasper, we headed to Vancouver for the first time. It snowed in Vancouver and the entire city flipped out and shut down. There was no ice and probably a millimeter of snow and the whole city made a huge deal out of it. We mused that even Florida could handle snow better than Vancouver did. We also told this to various friends from Vancouver over the course of the year and they always laughed and agreed. The train across Canada was a highlight of the year and we talk about it on a weekly basis! 10/10 highly recommend.
We got back from the train across Canada in the beginning of March and had a week or two at home before taking an 8-day cruise with Carnival. This was our second cruise with Carnival and it was super fun! We have been on a 5,6,7, and 8-day cruise and we liked the 8-day cruise length the best! We headed to St. Kitts, St. Marten, Turks and Caicos, and Puerto Rico. We ate a lot of delicious food and enjoyed playing basketball and mini golf every day.
April was a month where we didn’t go anywhere or do anything. I was actually able to get on a consistent exercise schedule and we got to catch up on a lot of work. I guess you could call April the calm before the storm that we didn’t know was coming. Upon further reflection, I also think that April was a month of rest that we took for granted *insert laughing emoji here*
In May we headed down to South America for the first time and spent a month in Peru! We started off in Lima for a week and then headed down to Ica and Paracas. During our drive down, we got pulled over by “dirty” Peruvian cops. They told us that the fine for talking on the phone and driving was 400 sols. I was driving and they pulled Terrence out of the car (?!) for what we assume as an intimidation tactic. Neither of us spoke the language so we had to use Google translate. We told them we didn’t have 400 sols we only had 150 and they told us to put them in this envelope and to hand it to them and that would be our “warning fine.”
We were so scared and didn’t know what was going to happen. We later spoke to many local Peruvians and they told us yes we had indeed gotten scammed. In reality, we would have to pay the fine online and it wasn’t nearly 400 sols and if we paid within 30 days it was reduced to a super cheap price. This is one of the downsides of traveling to other countries because had this have happened in our own country well……it wouldn’t have been good for the police department because I don’t play!
Anway, we make it to Ica and head out to their amazing sand dunes [yes Peru has sand dunes!] and we photographed there for 3 days straight. Our legs have never been so tired and we walked and walked for miles. It was such an epic sight to behold!
After that, we headed to Paracas and relaxed there for 3 days at an amazing luxury hotel and photoshooted all around Paracas National Park. We also got to see penguins and flamingos! We were supposed to head 10 hours away up to the north of Peru but we were too tired and didn’t feel like driving so we went back to Lima and chilled for another week.
My mother and sister met us in Lima and we traveled Peru together for a week. We went to Machu Picchu and didn’t love it. Not going to lie. It was okay to visit once but we probably wouldn’t go back again. We even have a whole blog post about why that we still haven’t published. In short, it felt like a major scam and money grabbing scheme and just wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been.
When we told people we were taking the train to Machu Picchu instead of trekking the Inca Trail, we were met with backlash. People told us it was the only way to see Machu Picchu and we just had to do it. This actually made us, or maybe just me, feel a little bad! Eventually, we decided to own it. We aren’t trekkers and neither Terrence or I have been “tent camping” in our lives. My idea of camping is staying in an RV and that is totally okay. So what if we took the train and then the bus to Machu Picchu? That doesn’t make us any less of a traveler than anyone else. This was an important realization.
After Machu Picchu, we went to spend 3 days in the Sacred Valley. We ended up meeting up with a local Peruvian Airbnb owner and he told us about another set of ruins so remote they don’t exist on Google search. You need a local to tell you explicit directions on how to get there. The cliff dwellings are actually much larger than Machu Picchu and it was a much more enjoyable experience because we were literally alone on the top of a mountain with ancient dwellings. So cool!
We had planned to go to the headwaters of the Amazon but were too tired. We actually changed our flight and flew home early and it was a fantastic decision.
After our trip to Peru, we spent a month at home before leaving mid-way through July for a trip with Terrence’s family in Arizona. We did an Arizona road trip from Las Vegas all the way to Sedona and it was quite fun! For me personally, this was the last enjoyable trip for a while. Continue reading to see what I mean!
After Terrence’s family left to go back home, we left from Las Vegas and headed straight to Nunavut which is a territory in Arctic Canada [basically look at a map and its a high up as you can go in North America]. From Las Vegas we had to fly to Edmonton and switch planes and fly to Winnipeg for the night. I was so excited for the trip that I couldn’t fall asleep and only got 2 hours of sleep before waking up at 5 am and flying 4 flights to Nunavut. This was a bad move and did me in for the entire trip.
Nunavut was a stunningly beautiful and vast destination. It was beyond the Arctic Circle but had a more diverse landscape than we had imagined. We spent days boating on the Arctic Ocean and I spent days sleeping while boating on the Arctic Ocean. It was terrible. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I would wake up for epic views or stops but the journey of driving the boat for an hour to a location is when I slept. I also had too much caffeine in a locally made tea and it caused me to throw up overboard and feel so sick. Our guides had to stop the boat for 45 minutes on a granite island while I rested and flushed the caffeine out of my system.
The most unexpected and epic part of Nunavut was all the icebergs floating around! We actually got to walk on them, photoshoot on them, eat on them, and even dock our boat on them! Our guides showed us how to pick out which pieces of ice were safe and even dropped me off on one while Terrence took pictures from the boat!
Terrence also celebrated his 29th birthday in Nunavut which sounds fun but was way more boring than it seems. I was able to sneak a few gifts along for the trip but he didn’t even have the internet to message his family back home and we didn’t get to have a special meal or do anything to make the day memorable. Lesson learned is to not go on any press trips during birthdays.
As Nunavut came to a close, I got sick from lack of sleep. I bought some super potent cough drops for an egregious price in Nunavut and tried to survive. I had four flights down to Winnipeg and then overnight in Winnipeg and then fly from Winnipeg to Toronto to our next destination which was another press trip in Newfoundland!
We arrive in Newfoundland and now I am full on sick but am on a press trip so I feel I have to be professional. After all, we didn’t get flown out here for me to be sick! So, of course, I pushed myself. Had I taken a hit of one day and chalked it up as a loss to recover things would have been better and I would have recovered faster. Of course, I didn’t and I remained extremely sick for the rest of the trip.
Newfoundland was pretty but it wasn’t as accessible as we would have liked. We prefer landscapes where you can drive your car to “the epic thing” or walk to it with minimal effort. Gros Morne National Park had a ton to do but it all involved 18km hikes and I wasn’t feeling good enough to do that and even on a normal day we don’t do that kind of thing! We also wanted to see a moose since Gros Morne has the highest population of moose in the world. Of course, we didn’t see a single moose. We said we would settle for a road kill moose and we didn’t even see that!
After only 8-days at home for the last three back-to-back trips [you can call us dumb it’s fine] we headed off to Alaska for two weeks followed by Oregon for two weeks. Alaska is a place I had been twice before and my mom came with us because it was her dream to go back. We spent 2 weeks road tripping around Alaska and we did actually see one single moose, which was a miracle.
Although Alaska is beautiful, we didn’t love it. Like Newfoundland, it wasn’t as accessible as we prefer. We are not trekkers or hikers. We like to drive the car, hop out, take photos, get back in and go along our way. We don’t want to do an 8-mile hike to the top of a mountain somewhere. Give us a cable car or a road and we are good #realtalk. Alaska was a lot of that and not a lot of accessible places for photos. We still got some great stuff but it wouldn’t be on the top of our most epic places for travel and photography.
While in Alaska, I felt travel burnout terribly. All I wanted to do was stay inside at our Airbnb and sleep or be on my computer. Of course, I couldn’t, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want to and it really took a toll on me. I never forgot how lucky I was to be living the life I do, but it really sucked. I would be standing on an epic beach in Alaska surrounded by glaciers and mountains trying not to cry and feel tired and exhausted and wishing I was anywhere but where I was. After doing three back-to-back trips and going home for 8 days only to leave again, I wasn’t feeling it.
During our 4 weeks in Alaska and Oregon, we never stayed somewhere longer than 3 nights at a time and most stays were 2 nights and sometimes even one. This really takes a toll on your body too!
We leave Alaska and say goodbye to my mom and head to Oregon for our return trip because we just love traveling to Oregon! I was still super burnt out but it was a little better than Alaska because it was a place I wanted to visit and had thought out going there for a whole year.
We road tripped around Oregon for 2 weeks and visited places we hadn’t seen before. We created this list of 10 hidden Oregon locations and exactly how to find them because we want to share them with the world. Sadly, we were in Oregon while fires were ravaging the state. We were only 10 miles away from the worst of them and we didn’t see the real sun for over a week. There was ash that covered the car and the sun was a sickly pink color.
While we were in Oregon, we stayed at this remote boutique hotel where there were only 5 cabins. It was stunning and had a lot of mediation stuff around. We loved it so much that we immediately did a photoshoot that lasted like 2 hours long. It all went downhill from there! We started getting creepy vibes and the owner just kept popping up randomly. You couldn’t hear him coming and he would appear out of nowhere. Everything was old and vintage and and just seemed like a horror movie waiting to happen. We were happy to get out of there after just 1 night because we were sure we would have been hexed or inducted into the coven had we spent two nights.
Oregon was also the trip where I wanted to give up photoshooting for the Follow Me Away photo series. I chalk it up to being sick and cold and tired of shoots in Alaska, Nunavut, and Newfoundland. It just wasn’t enjoyable anymore and that sucked. After a particular photoshoot, I told Terrence I was done. Of course, I wasn’t done, but we talked until 3am. We decided that a balance had to happen so that I could enjoy the location and not just be an object in a scene freezing my butt off the whole time. After that, everything changed for the better and Terrence really made an effort for me to enjoy the locations and cut down our shooting time to be shorter.
Our favorite places to visit were Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor and a remote area outside of Eugene where you can find a lot of remote waterfalls and stunning roads.
While we were in Oregon, Hurricane Irma was developing. We were to take a direct hit in Tampa for a cat 4 hurricane with a 10 foot storm surge. My mom’s house is on the water and a 10 foot storm surge would have devastated us. Terrence and I cut our trip short and flew home on the last flight into Tampa before the Hurricane. United also lost our luggage and we didn’t get it back for 5 days because the airport was shut down. Long story short, a miracle happened and the hurricane went not more than 20 miles inland and we didn’t get a storm surge at all! The wind was only 80-90mph and there was no damage to our home. We were out of power for 5 days which sucked but it was totally worth it for our homes being safe and sound!
We had two weeks at home before our next trip. During those two weeks we edured the hurricane and went to Universal for Halloween Horror Nights so it wasn’t really as relaxing as it should have been.
October is the month that saved us, and certainly me. After only 2 weeks at home it was time to board a plane for Ireland because we were going to speak at a blogger conference and then tour Ireland for 4 days on a group press trip. If we could have canceled this trip we could have after the last few months. We did not want to go to Ireland but of course we had to as we had been scheduled to speak for 8 months.
10 days of craziness and being around bloggers and going on a group press trip was the last thing we needed or wanted to do, and it ended up being the best thing that could have ever happened to us.
After hating travel for months, Ireland rejuvenated us, and especially me. I fell in love with travel once again! Meeting up with like-minded people and friends I had talked to every day for the past year and a half online in person for the first time was crazy and amazing.
Our four day press trip around county Mayo in Ireland was so incredibly tiring but so much fun. We had an amazing group of people and we all really got along well. It was the most incredible trip of the year and what it did for me emotionally was unexpected yet much needed.
We spend a week at home and then quickly jaunt out to California for Terrence’s cousin’s wedding. It was a tiring but nice weekend of family. Our long summer and fall of travel finally came to a close.
Of course, now that I am magically rejuvenated by the most tiring trip of my life, I once again LOVE travel! It is my 25th birthday and I decide that my mom, sister, Terrence and me should go to Paris to celebrate [I know, Ironic right?] Paris is my favorite city so why not? With less than 2 weeks notice, we leave on Oct 31 and spend my 25h birthday in Paris.
I said Ireland was the best trip of the year and perhaps it was for how it made me love travel again, but Paris was truly the most enjoyable trip of the year. I didn’t do a single press agreement and paid for everything out of pocket. We stayed at the same Airbnb right by the Eiffel Tower for an entire week and didn’t move from place to place. My sister and I spent $20 on French pastries every night and went to a different shop each day. Everyone got along and it was just purely wonderful and fun! I got to eat Raclette for my birthday and we went to all the famous sights. It was fantastic and I’m so glad we made the decision to go.
After my mom and sister left, Terrence and I went on our very first river cruise on the Seine in France. It was a super interesting and fun experience. We loved biking in all the different towns and I loved the hot tub on the roof. We cruised with Amawaterways and it was a relaxing and deliciously tasty experience. We ate French cheese every day!
After that we went to Austria for a Press trip. Sadly, it had snowed early so the pretty green fields were all covered in snow. Of course, our bad luck came back and the mountains were covered in fog the whole time. We were able to do and see some fun things in Vorarlberg so it wasn’t a total loss by any means but we would love to go back in the future when there is no chance of snow!
We arrived back in town in time for Thanksgiving and so wrapped up our year of crazy travel.
December was a month of staying home for us which was much needed after the year we had! Although it was busy preparing for the holidays, we were happy we didn’t have to travel to a single place! We learned a lot of important lessons this year and will be putting many into practice in 2018!
The high points:
Taking the train across Canada, collaborating with so many brands, speaking at the conference and meeting so many incredible people, my 25th birthday trip to Paris, most of Oregon.
The low points:
The entire summer of too many trips, doing too much without enough time to rest, being sick in Nunavut and Newfoundland, wanting to stop doing Follow Me Away, getting pulled over in Peru, travel burnout.
Our 2017 takeaways are to do more slow travel. No more going to a place for over a month and not staying anywhere longer than 2 nights. That won’t cut it in 2018! We also have greatly improved balancing Follow Me Away project shooting and personal time.
We have some big plans for 2018 and we have no idea where it will lead, but we are excited to see where it goes! If you made it this far, thank you for reading and Happy New Year!