Two thousand sixteen was the year I broke free. My dream began and now the path to take has been paved.
The year dawned under the Mayan skies of Yucatán. A brand new Nikon D5300 was waiting for me to take it on adventure. I never could’ve imagined where that first post would take me. Soon, 2016 became the most-travelled year of my life.
It was that one trip that changed it all; the last before the laser eye surgery that was one of the biggest changes in my life. The biggest change, however, was this blog. Today, my life is driven by one desire only, and one promise I made on that trip: to travel and write, and travel and write, until the end of my days, to my heart’s desire.
That is my dream, and slowly it’s becoming a reality each and every day.
I have learned so much. It may be a little cliché but, this blog has grown and with it so have I, in so many ways. Those who knew me long before this know it: I am not the same person I was before, and each of moment has made a difference. Here are 2016’s highlights!
YUCATÁN: LEARNING TO APPRECIATE MY ROOTS
This was the first adventure I wrote about on this blog, and it was also the first where I genuinely felt a longing for travel that didn’t stem from looking at instagram pictures or reading books. I don’t know what it was, but something changed in me on that trip that changed the way I travel, for the better.
I’d been to Yucatán several times before, but never quite like this: a craving to roam it and discover it over and over again. From Mérida and all the way to Campeche, adventure awaited. My favourite moment from this trip was undoubtedly visiting the caves of Loltún, followed by swimming in the cenotes of Cuzamá, one of the bucket list items I crossed off this year!
|EXPLORING THE INCREDIBLE CAVES OF LOLTUN||12 CHICHEN ITZA FACTS THAT WILL GET YOU ITCHING TO VISIT|
#photostories – yucatán
|WANDERING THE STREETS OF MÉRIDA|
JAPAN: FIRST FOODIE STEPS
Japan was a huge surprise. It’s always been one of those places that seem to be waiting in the very distant future, but the incredible opportunity to travel its lands presented itself in 2016. Soon, I was on the other side of the world. For the first time in many years, I bought a pocket dictionary under the anticipation of trying to speak in a new language (One of my favourite hobbies is learning new languages!), and now it was my turn to figure out where to wander and become my own (and the group’s) travel guide.
It’s impossible to choose what my favourite place in Japan was: whether it was bustling and crazy Tokyo, or modest Osaka, sober and reflective Kyoto, ancestral Nara, or eclectic Naoshima. I can’t choose an experience, because Japan is an experience in itself. It is so full of everything. But perhaps the most eye-opening one of all was experimenting the food, especially in the Tsukiji Fish Market, because although I’ve always been one to try new flavours, I’ve never been huge on trying the “weird” stuff. This time I did, and I loved every bit of it.
|DEER, TEMPLES AND CHERRY BLOSSOMS: A DAY TRIP TO NARA||4 TEMPLES, 1 CITY: DISCOVERING FOUR FACES OF SPIRITUALITY IN TOKYO|
#photostories – japan
ISTANBUL: FINDING THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
Istanbul is the place I feel most nostalgic writing about. It is incredibly saddening to read about everything that’s going on constantly in the news, because Istanbul is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been in, and Turkish people are amongst the kindest in the world. My family and I had the honour of visiting this wonderful country only a week before the bombing at the airport over the summer. Call it luck, good timing, whatever you may, it was my favourite place this year and I can only hope that one day tourists and travellers everywhere get the opportunity to visit it, because everyone should at least once.
I learned so much in Istanbul: language, food culture, religion and history… What made it all even more enriching was meeting Yunus, our local guide, because through him we were able to see all the faces of Istanbul. Its local tastes and secrets. A city rich in culture, once one of the greatest empires on Earth, and definitely the one with the most beautiful skyline in the world.
#photostories – istanbul
MALTA, GREECE AND ITALY: A SUMMER ADVENTURE
The mediterranean was what my summer was all about. From Istanbul, we hopped on Celebrity Cruises’ Equinox ship to reach our final destination: Italy. But we had plenty to visit before then.
Malta was our first stop and let me just say: WOW. Never had I ever heard of it before and I was left breathless. This tiny island is a whole country, perhaps one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Who would’ve thought that this rock in the middle of the ocean could hold a civilisation so rich in culture, art and history? Valletta, the capital, has my personal favourite alleys to wander in and some of the most interesting history I learned about in the summer.
Next up, the greek island of Mykonos. Known for its world-famous nightlife, that was the least of my concerns during my visit. I was too absorbed by the pristine blue waters and impecable white buildings. We rented a convertible to roam the island before settling down for a drink is Pasají to enjoy the beach and the ocean before the sunset and cruising away to the next destination. Now I understand why the ancient greeks believed in all those mythological creatures; I would too, living in that surreal paradise.
Last but definitely not least, Italy! Before we officially arrived in Rome, we visited a couple of spots along the italian coastline. We took a bus up to the town of Taormina to visit the ruins of the greek theater, hitched a ride along the gorgeous Amalfi Coast to Positano and all the way to Ercolano and Pompeii, roamed Positano under the scorching sun, took a hilarious tour through Ercolano and learned all about Mount Vesuvius, and ran through the ruins of Pompeii (time was running out!). Our first taste of Italy was everything we could’ve wished for.
#malta #greece #italy
#photostories – greece, italy
VENICE AND ROME: LA VITA É BELLA
Once I touched down in Italy for good, I was only a few days away from the first day of my first solo trip. But first, I got to explore quintessential Italy. On the way to Venice, the first stop was Siena. Its streets are coloured in its name and it houses some of the most beautiful spaces in the whole of Italy (top spot: the staircases behind the duomo).
Sienna: adj. from ‘terra di Siena’. A reddish shade of brown.
From Siena, the road led to San Gimignano. A stay at the beautiful Mormoraia vineyard gave us a taste of the unique italian agritourism, the beautiful countryside and the medieval city of San Gimignano, where we caught a bizarre music festival that ended up being one of my favourite moments of the whole trip!
And then, Venice. It was everything I had ever dreamed of and more. Nearly impossible to describe: mystical, surreal, secretive, labyrinthine. Every canal and every crevice has history, art and secrets. No colour you find is the same to another. I fell in love, and words aren’t enough to tell you about this place.
Suddenly it was time for Rome, where all roads lead. If there were only one thing I could say about Rome it’s this: I would choose it over Paris, London, Barcelona… In a heartbeat. Nowhere else in the world can you find the beauty of the three stages of Roman architecture emerging amongst the chaos in perfect harmony. It’s almost like it’s on purpose, like it was always planned to be this way. Add to the mix its history. Then the music, the food, the people and the art. It was the last step to my falling irreparably in love with Italy, and the perfect way to say goodbye to my family and make my way to the city I made my own: Florence.
FLORENCE: MY FIRST SOLO TRIP!
Firenze, the city where for the first time in my life, I was completely on my own. I love and miss it so much! It was the place where I learned to be comfortable with my own thoughts, and to trust myself. I had no itinerary, no plan, no list to go by. For a control freak like myself, that was one big step to take. With my camera and a little notebook, I wandered the streets from dawn to dusk for a week. It became the most important moment of my life: I know for a fact, if I hadn’t gone to Florence alone, I wouldn’t be who or where I am right now. And for that I am grateful.
Today, I don’t want to write more about Firenze because it deserves it’s own post, or several of them. But it is, and will remain to be, the epitome of me.
LAS VEGAS: OH BOY, WHAT A PARTY
Dear Vegas, it was lit. And it really was. I must admit I was worried to spend so much time in Las Vegas. Even if it wasn’t my first time in the city, this time I was actually there for travel. My main concern: what do you do in Las Vegas as a minor? Turns out, there’s a whole lot more to Vegas than the party scene (post on it coming soon!), and it was a blast. Check it out:
What better way to celebrate a well-travelled year than with a bunch of fireworks?
Before I sign off for the week, I want to thank you, my readers for this year of blogging, travel, reading and learning. May 2017 bring you all the travel you desire.