Reflections on the past year’s travels, personal highlights, and professional achievements.
I’m not the biggest fan of list posts, but sometimes itemizing things helps us to remember them, recognize their impact, and ultimately gain perspective. Such is the case with my travels in 2013. I was all ready to write about how I didn’t really travel a lot this year- until I sat down, made a list, and realized that I somehow made it to 17 countries, 6 of them (Denmark, India, Bosnia, Montenegro, Luxembourg, Egypt) completely new destinations ripe for exploring.
I was also going to lament 2013 not being a good year in terms of my writing. After all, blog posts have been far fewer than in previous years, contributions to other publications have been practically non-existent, and I have all but given up on using all-important social media tools like Twitter to promote this blog. While I have seen some travel blogger and writer friends flourish this year — winning writing contests, publishing books, and strengthing their brands overall– I’ve chastised myself for remaining relatively stagnant, not growing my audience, and not making as many moves creatively as I could have. Of course, a new job and a mid-year move to Hong Kong are partially responsible for my silence online. Still, I had the nagging feeling that I could have done more.
But then, once again, when I sat down and put pen to paper I realized that my accomplishments in the travel sphere, while fewer in number, aren’t negligible in the slightest. Not only did I continue to syndicate content on The Huffington Post, I was also quoted in an article on CNN.com. My 48 hours in Barcelona blog post was featured on National Geographic’s website and I appeared on Canadian national television to discuss the atmosphere in London in the run-up to the birth of the royal baby. If that weren’t enough, one of my pictures from Guatemala was used in an exhibition on sustainable travel at the Canadian Science and Technology Museum. On the travel side, my partnerships with a number of travel brands and tourism boards enhanced some of my independent travel experiences and I even had to turn down press trip invitations to places as far flung as South Africa due to scheduling conflicts.
In other words, this year Oneika the Traveller continued to receive recognition from major media outlets and I am excited to see what 2014 has in store. My cup overfloweth with blessings that are often unsolicited and wholly unexpected. For this I am grateful.
And, upon even further reflection, I realize that I have produced some solid writing this year on a variety of topics. I am proud of the writing I have done, which spans from the potentially uncomfortable Musings on race, travel, and travelling while black to lighter narratives like Hong Kong: A trip to the tailor.
At any rate, amongst all the country hopping, writing, and personal/ professional growth, there have been some notable travel highlights from this past year that I’d like to share below.
Chilling in the park in Copenhagen
My first trip to Copenhagen was marked by beautiful weather, beautiful company, and a beautiful non-existent itinerary. For the first time ever on a trip, the only thing planned was a place to stay. We spent an hour lying on the grass in the park, and darn if it wasn’t the most blissful hour I had had in a long time. For all the plotting of itineraries and hectic travel schedules I have endured in the past, this trip was indulgent in its lack of preparation… and I adored that. I was reminded once again that you don’t need to attack a destination at a frenetic pace to enjoy it.
Travelling to Italy with my mom
Reuniting with family is always a gorgeous thing, but meeting up with my mom in Italy was on another level. Walking through ancient ruins in Rome with the woman who gave me life was both precious and powerful. As we trampled through the sienna coloured earth to pose for our umpteenth photo outside the Colosseum, it hit me: my mom has come to visit me every year I’ve lived abroad. This realization spawned a post on why I am grateful to have a mom who travels.
A lesson in friendship in Egypt
My chance encounter with a kind soul named Fathi reminded me to check my prejudice at the door and be empathetic towards a country going through a tumultuous change. I didn’t love Egypt, but it is probably one of the most impactful trips I have ever taken. As I said in this post, sometimes the most memorable, transformative journeys are the ones that require the most hard work.
Visiting the Taj Mahal in India
I still don’t have words to describe the emotion I felt at travelling solo to Agra to see the Taj Mahal in person. I woke up before dawn, and walked the half hour from my hotel to the site. This allowed me to experience the Taj under the glow of the rising sun, which I contend is the best way to see it. I was euphoric, nearly reduced to tears — and that never happens to me. The Taj is probably one of the most stunning things I have ever seen on my travels. Go see it for yourself. Please.
Getting engaged in Berlin
Huh? What? Engaged, you say? Yes, it’s true. You see, I’ve been in Berlin for the holidays. Ten days ago Liebling got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Berlin TV Tower, 680 feet above solid ground. After travelling to 31 countries together we’ll soon be making a different kind of trip — down the aisle — and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
And so ends 2013. It brings me joy to chronicle my travel experiences in a way that both helps and inspires people to see the world (sometimes in a different way). In 2013 I may have written less, but I believe that I wrote more authentically (and on subjects that I really care about). I hope to do the same in 2014 and hope that you will continue to follow me on my journey.
What was your top travel moment of 2013? And where will 2014 bring you?