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Year in review and my top 5 travel moments of 2013

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

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46 Comments

  • Reply
    Diana
    January 2, 2014 at 3:53 am

    Oneika! Well done hon, like you I’ve have been hesitating to do a list type year in review, but you are right, it does help you gain perspective. I’m gonna work on mine today. You have always been an inspiration to me! Congratulations on all your success and your engagement! xoxoxo

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 2, 2014 at 3:57 am

      Diana, you have been inspirational to ME! I have watched you grow into a writer and teacher! (I also read through your silent meditation post and am really impressed.) I’m in awe of all the writing commissions you have had this past year and so grateful to you for interviewing me for your article on CNN. I sincerely hope that our path cross, especially since we are both living in Asia at the moment! Cheers!!

  • Reply
    Mary
    January 2, 2014 at 3:59 am

    Wow! what a year! I’ve been a fan for a while and I can’t wait to see you on TV with your own travel show. I also can’t wait to see you and Liebling get married and have a baby. You are amazing. Thanks for sharing your life with us.

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 3, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks, Mary! I would love to be on TV, we’ll see what the future holds… And of course a family is in the cards for Leibling and I at some point!

  • Reply
    Colleen Brynn
    January 2, 2014 at 6:08 am

    Trips with mums are just so so special. My mum was never a “traveller” but we have taken numerous trips together. I think I may have been the one to push her to do so, and we have had lots of fun together on the road – from Montreal to Spain & England to Boston… the list will keep growing I’m sure. And I never said it before but meant to – huge congrats on your engagement! x

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 3, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      Thank you! It never hit me how lucky I’ve been to have a mom who is willing to get on a plane to see me on a regular basis until our trip to Rome together. Truly blessed.

  • Reply
    Erika
    January 2, 2014 at 6:27 am

    Wow, you really slipped your engagement right in there! WOW! CONGRATULATIONS! How amazing, exciting, and I am so happy for the both of you! Wonderful!

    And as for the recap of your year, isn’t it amazing how we can feel one way and then write it all down and be surprised at what we’ve done? Ah, that’s what I love about reflection. You really did get your travel on this year and those are also some amazing accomplishments you listed. You should definitely be proud! 🙂

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm

      Haha, I guess that was just me being a little sneaky. 🙂 I have been following your blog and amazed at how much you have grown it in such a short time, especially as a full-time grad student! You are amazing. Happy New Year Erika!

  • Reply
    Stefania
    January 2, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    You had some amazing travel moments in 2013. I love that shot of the Taj Mahal, I hope I can visit it too one day! You look so happy and stylish too! And of course congratulations for the engagement. I wish you all the best in 2014.

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 3, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Grazie mille, Stefania!

  • Reply
    Kyle
    January 2, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    I also felt like a failure in terms of not growing my blog this year, it just got to be too much and something had to give. But then I hear you saying that, and I think, well I still really enjoyed her blog, it didn’t seem stagnant to me at all! So the lesson here is that we are way harder on ourselves than other people are. I love seeing and reading your adventure and I miss you like woah!!!

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 3, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      Missing you like woah as well, Kyle! So cool that our blogs brought us together. Above and beyond the writing part, meeting people through blogging has been the greatest gift!

  • Reply
    Chanelle
    January 2, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    I loved your photos from the India trip and I also enjoyed your posts about not loving Egypt and travelling while black. They were very necessary and honest posts that you wrote with great care. You have been a huge inspiration for me this past year and I hope you continue to inspire young women of all colours,creeds and nationalities to travel in 2014.

    Huge congratulations on your engagement to Leibling.Your international love story certainly hooked us all in! I think your followers would love to hear the engagement story.

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 3, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed those posts! It’s really important to me to tackle some of the deeper issues surrounding travel!

  • Reply
    Polly
    January 2, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Congratulations on your engagement!

    I’d missed the post about traveling with your mother, so thank you for linking back to it. I definitely get my love of travel from my parents, but my mom in particular actively pursues any travel opportunity available to her. Our one and only trip abroad as a family was to Italy as well, so your post brought back some wonderful memories.

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 3, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Thanks Polly, so glad you enjoyed it.

  • Reply
    Lily
    January 2, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Congratulations on your engagement, Oneika!! It’s a blessing to meet someone who also loves to travel on top of everything else. Love the end of year review. Looking forward to your 2014 travels.

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 3, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Thanks, Lily! I have been following your achievements via Facebook and it is safe to say that you ROCKED 2013! I hope that we cross paths sometime soon.

  • Reply
    Jamila
    January 2, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    Congrats on your impending nuptials! You did just slip that in there, I WAS like “huh?” and “how did I miss that post?” Lol

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 3, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Haha! Had to save some intrigue for the end of the post! 🙂

  • Reply
    Pauline
    January 3, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Congratulations on your engagement!! On the “not growing the audience front”, I just recently (Dec.2013-ish) started following your blog, so I say you rocked that one as well!

  • Reply
    Kisha
    January 3, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    What a year 2013 was for you! Can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store! And again, congrats on your recent engagement!!! SO happy for your my friend.

  • Reply
    ElleX
    January 3, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Congratulations on your engagement, Oneika!! I love your blog and I wish you and your Love all the happiness in the world!!

  • Reply
    Oneika, our Favorite Traveller, Gets Engaged! - Beyond Black & White
    January 4, 2014 at 6:38 am

    […] White, Oneika the Traveller where she announces that her longtime boyfriend “Liebling” popped the questionover the holidays while vising his family in […]

  • Reply
    Oneika, our Favorite Traveller, Gets Engaged! | SheThrives Network
    January 4, 2014 at 6:39 am

    […] White, Oneika the Traveller where she announces that her longtime boyfriend “Liebling” popped the questionover the holidays while READ […]

  • Reply
    Nicole
    January 4, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Congrats on your engagement! You are one of my many inspirations for beginning solo travel. All the best to you and your fiance! 🙂

  • Reply
    Beth
    January 4, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    2013 sounds like it was a pretty great year for you after all! Congratulations on the engagement… does this mean you’ll finally be settling down in Germany for good once your HK contract is up? 😀

  • Reply
    Karen
    January 5, 2014 at 12:34 am

    Wegen Deiner Verlobung gratuliere ich Dir/Euch und wuensche Dir/Euch alles Gute und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!

  • Reply
    Pamela
    January 7, 2014 at 4:29 am

    I’ve followed you for years now and you have taken me around the world. I’ve never commented before but I just had to say Congrats to you and Liebling!! I nearly cried when I read that you were engaged (I mean, in my head, you’re my distant lil sister lol). I am wishing continued joy and happiness to the both of you. Peace and Blessings.

  • Reply
    Jessica
    January 8, 2014 at 6:05 am

    I have been following your blog ever since I returned from living in Hong Kong in 2009. I could relate to many of your posts as a Canadian that has also lived in HK and London, England. I am back living in Canada, but reading your blog always invokes my own great memories of living and travelling abroad.

    Thank you for sharing all your wonderful experiences, travel and personal.

    Congratulations on your engagement!

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    rhona
    January 9, 2014 at 3:56 am

    Omg! Oneika…I am soooo happy for you! This is wonderful. Liebling is the man. Congrats again.

  • Reply
    Lauren
    January 9, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Wow you’ve done so much this year! Your photos are so beautiful and crisp as well. I especially love the one of you at the Taj Mahal – I made it there this year too and found it overwhelmingly beautiful. Have a wonderful 2014!

  • Reply
    Lara
    January 10, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Congrats on your engagement..so happy for you.
    Have a wonderful 2014

  • Reply
    decoybetty
    January 12, 2014 at 2:27 am

    YEAH! Congratulations to you and Leibling 🙂 That is so great! I’m so happy for you both!

  • Reply
    Adeola @ TheManeCaptain
    January 14, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    I have been a fan of you for a while now and I follow you closely on FB, so i can remember a majority of those accomplishments. We really don’t know how much we’ve accomplished until we sit down to count our blessings and write down every achievements on a book. I remember my pastor even encouraged us to have a gratitude book to remind us about our daily achievements.
    I love the outfit you wore to Taj Mahal and I can’t wait to have similar reaction that you did. I had a similar reaction when I was on “The Peak” in Hong Kong. Travelling really is a blessing!
    And i figured out last year that Robert Brauns was Leibling (which means my love), lol I always thought they were two different people!
    I wish you greater accomplishments in 2014 and I hope to have you featured on my hair blog. your hairstyles always “almost” make me want to go get my hair loc’ed up!
    themanecaptain.blogspot.ca

  • Reply
    Ruann @ Solo Travel Uncut
    January 16, 2014 at 3:28 am

    You are an inspiration. I really love your approach to travel, as most of your best travel moments involve feeding the soul with maps and life lessons. Fighting!

  • Reply
    Adeola Adebayo
    January 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Congratulations! An amazing year review. You are an inspiration.

  • Reply
    sprite
    February 6, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Hi Oneika, congratulations on your engagement, wish you and Liebling love, joy, travel adventures and a long union!
    It just struck me that I have been reading your blog since 2009/10 and love that it (you really:)) has always remained authentic and entertaining. The blog has grown and changed a little (more focus on travel and less on miscellaneous stuff like fashion etc) but at it’s heart is still the essence of Oneika/Nikita.
    Wishing you and the blog a great 2014!

  • Reply
    Nancy
    February 12, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Oneika, I am a new reader to your blog, but I loved this article. It is so true, that sometimes the most difficult times teach us and change us the most.
    And it was fun to hear about your engagement! Congratulations!
    I look forward to reading more.

  • Reply
    Shikha (whywasteannualleave)
    February 16, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Congratulations on your engagement! What a year you’ve had – sounds like you had a huge number of accomplishments! And the visit to Italy with your Mom must have been really special too! Hope you continue to have many more great adventures. Here were my 2013 highlights! http://wp.me/p3Lian-a5

  • Reply
    Julie K.
    February 21, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Oh my, what a beautiful backdrop what an engagement proposal! The views are stunning! Although from what I remember the food was less than stellar — felt like frozen or microwaved food. But nothing could spoil such a special day for you, I guess:)

  • Reply
    Jo (The Blond)
    February 27, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Wow, so much has happened. I can’t believe you thought you hadn’t accomplished much. Congrats on your engagement!

  • Reply
    TravelDoIt
    April 4, 2014 at 8:20 am

    You been to some incredible places in 2013 and 2014 has barely begun.

    We’re big fans of Berlin and would love to return there again later this year if time permits.

  • Reply
    Jeff B
    May 3, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Oneika,

    I often feel the same way about not achieving all of my writing and social media goals. There is always more we could be doing and more success and features to achieve. I’m happy to see your reflection reminded you of the great progress that is still made over the course of the year.

    I came across your sight from another. This is my first day looking around. I’m liking what I’m seeing and the angle you are taking.

    My goal is to help people stay globally connected sustainably throughout their lifetime whether being at home raising a family, or preparing a year around the world venture. If this is of interest, please check out my site and write me. Perhaps there are some synergies that could aid us both in our pursuits.

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