I’m a little late with this post but better late than never, right!? 😉 So something I love to do at the end of the year is to reflect on the past year. What I did, what I didn’t do, and what I can improve. This year, since we traveled SO much, I also took a moment to reflect on my best travel moments of 2017.
2017 was actually such a HUGE year for me and for Pete. We explored 7 countries together – Mexico, China, Thailand, the Czech Republic, Puerto Rico, Honduras, and Indonesia. That’s the most travel I’ve ever done in one year.
It’s also my 1-year blogiversary! That’s right! It’s been 1 year since I started Maps&Muses. And I have learned so much about the blogging world in that time. Holy crap guys, there’s SO much to it than I ever thought (and I actually used to work with bloggers 🙈).
2017 was a year of discovery for me. I absorbed as much information as I could about this career path. I doubted myself MANY times. Watching all my friends take more traditional routes like getting promoted, buying houses, getting married, and thinking about having kids totally confused me, more than once.
But it’s because of my best travel moments of 2017 that I know what I’m doing is possible and I’m on the right path. So here they are, my top 8!
My Best Travel Moments of 2017:
1. Pete’s First Trip Outside the USA + 2 Cruises with my Future In-laws to Mexico and Honduras:
We started off the year with a bang! Pete turned 30 on January 25th and we headed off on a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico with my future in-laws. This cruise was extra special because it was Pete’s first time outside of the USA!
It was really exciting to be with him for such a huge moment in his life. Watching him experience a new country was something I had been looking forward to seeing since we first started dating and I found out he had never traveled abroad.
I had also never gone on a trip with my in-laws before. And I got to travel with them twice! In June we went on another cruise to Roatan, Honduras (my first time in Honduras too). Both cruises were full of new experiences for me.
I’ve been on a few cruises with my family when I was younger and my parents like to have the whole trip planned out. We would always buy excursions in each country (like exploring really cool caves in Mexico) which were always absolutely amazing but didn’t leave much time to explore the local side of the country we’re visiting.
Pete’s parents are completely different. We docked at the ports in Roatan and Cozumel with no plans. We either found a local driver, away from the cruise ships or rented a car and explored the city on our own.
I had been to Cozumel twice before but I had never experienced it like this. I also loved getting close to my future in-laws on both of these trips.
Read the Post Here: 5 Days Aboard a Norwegian Cozumel Cruise
Shop My Caribbean Cruise Style Must-Haves:
2. Traveling to Asia for the First Time:
In February we finally set off on a trip that I had been planning for a year. A little background for ya: When Pete and I started dating and I found out he had never been outside of the country, I told him to get a passport ASAP because if he was dating me, we’d be doing some exploring.
I let him pick any place in the world he wanted to go for his first trip and we’d make it happen (we didn’t have Mexico planned at this point). His top travel location was Thailand so I spent almost a whole year planning out the perfect trip for us.
Thailand was also my first trip to Asia, the first trip I planned all on my own, and my first trip without a group of friends or a tour guide. And I wanted Pete to have an amazing time so he would fall in love with travel. So I was definitely a bit nervous! Our trip ended up going really smooth.
Better than smooth. Our 2 weeks in Thailand were an absolute dream come true. We explored 5 different cities, ate scorpions in Bangkok, snorkeled in crystal clear water in the Phi Phi Islands, played with elephants in Chiang Mai, went to the famous Full Moon Party, and visited more gorgeous temples than we can count, all on a budget.
This is where Pete really fell in love with traveling. And I totally fell head over heels for the Asian culture, a culture that Pete has always loved since he was a kid.
3. Spending the Day with Rescue Elephants in Chiang Mai:
One of my absolute favorite days of 2017 was spending an entire day playing with sweet rescue elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand. All the elephants are rescued from tourist riding camps and given a home where they can just enjoy the rest of their lives. We fed them bananas, played with them in the mud, and bathed them in the river.
Elephants are such sweet, caring animals. Just looking into their eyes you can see all the emotion behind them. They were so gentle with us and so full of life. This is definitely a day I will never forget and something I’m so happy I was able to experience in Thailand.
Read the Post Here: A Life-Changing Elephant Experience in Chiang Mai
Shop My Elephant Day Style Most-Haves:
4. Snorkeling Through the Phi Phi Islands on Valentine’s Day:
Definitely the best Valentines I have ever had and will probably ever have happened last year. And it wasn’t planned either because we are probably the least romantic people ever (we BOTH forgot our anniversary this year until a week after!)
We chose the dates for our Thailand trip based on the cheapest tickets. February 14th ended up being the only full day we would be in Phuket so it was literally the only day we could do the Phi Phi Islands tour we had planned. It ended up being a beautiful coincidence.
We spent the most romantic day of the year on a boat exploring one of the most stunning places we have ever been. We snorkeled in crystal clear waters with colorful tropical fish. We fed crab-eating monkeys by hand. We explored undeveloped, tiny islands. We ate delicious and spicy Thai food.
The weather was perfect. Our tour guide was hilarious and so accommodating. It’s easy to see why it was the best Valentine’s Day ever.
Read the Post Here: Phi Phi Islands on a Budget: Snorkeling Day
5. Visiting the John Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic:
Next up on my best travel moments of 2017 was visiting the John Lennon wall in Prague, Czech Republic. I’m a huge Beatles fan and just love everything their music represents – peace, love, freedom.
Before 1989, when the Czech Republic was still communist, Beatles songs were forbidden because of these messages. To protest, young activists risked prison and started filling this wall with paintings of Lennon, lyrics from Beatles songs, and their own feelings and dreams. And people still do to this day even though the country is not communist anymore.
While I was there, a street performer sang “All You Need is Love” and as I read all the positive messages on the wall, my heart was filled with gratitude that I was able to be born in a free nation.
I know the impacts of a Communist regime because my grandparents had to flee their home in Cuba to escape from Fidel Castro back when my dad was only 4 years old. They left everything they knew and had. If it wasn’t for their sacrifice, I wouldn’t be here today.
Peace, love, and freedom are messages that are still so important today, especially after the year we had. It was a great reminder to be kinder to everyone I come across and to be grateful for where I was born.
Read the Post Here: The Ultimate Prague Travel Guide: Prague on a Budget
Shop My Prague Style Must-Haves:
6. Spending a Month in Bali, Indonesia on a Digital Nomad Retreat:
Another travel highlight from last year was spending the whole month of November in Bali, Indonesia with PACK. It was our longest time out of the country and our first digital nomad retreat. It was also my first sponsored trip with the blog!
We met some amazing people who all work online and have a passion for traveling. We also learned SO much more than I expected that will forever change my blog and business.
Meeting people who are doing what I want to do with my life, really made my dreams feel more real and attainable than anything else. I had been really doubting myself and this career path for a while. So having PACK reach out to me and offer me and my baby blog a sponsored trip and then being surrounded by so many creative people and watching how they work really put my doubts to rest.
Plus, we explored as much of beautiful Bali as we possibly could! We played with wild monkeys, explored waterfalls, scootered around in crazy Bali traffic, relaxed on beautiful beaches, awed at breathtaking views, ate as much yummy vegan food as we could, and fell in love with the Balinese people and their culture.
Read the Post Here: Digital Nomad Retreats: One Month in Bali with PACK
Shop my Bali Style Must-Haves:
7. Experiencing my First Earthquake & Volcano Eruption:
While we were in Bali there was an active volcano, Mount Agung. They weren’t sure whether it would erupt or not while we were there but they told us to be precautious. We were staying in Ubud which was far enough from the volcano that we weren’t worried about being affected. And that was mostly the case.
Our first week in Bali, while I was still in bed, there was a small tremor caused by Mount Agung. Pete had just gotten off the bed so I thought the bed was moving because of that.
But he had already left to the bathroom and the bed continued shaking. As soon as I realized that what I was feeling was an earthquake, it had stopped. The funny thing is, Pete didn’t feel anything at all! And that’s the very exciting story of my first earthquake. 😂 LOL
Then during our last week in Bali, Agung decided it was time to erupt. The airport closed for a few days and the news made a huge deal about how tourists were trapped there for days. Our parents were worried. I had people I hadn’t talked to in years contacting me on Facebook asking if I was okay.
They made it sound like the whole island was falling apart when in reality, most tourists weren’t affected. There were a few tourists that did get stuck in Bali a few days more than they wanted, but it really wasn’t much more than that.
Our flight home did get canceled because of Agung, but we were able to leave on an earlier flight. So, other than that inconvenience, we weren’t affected at all.
The real people who were affected by this natural disaster were the locals who live near the volcano. They had to evacuate their homes and head to a camp to live while their homes were being ravaged by the volcano. The last time Agung erupted they were stuck in the camps for an entire year! Imagine that.
That’s who the news should have been reporting about. The people whose daily lives were completely changed for who knows how long because of Mount Agung.
Living in a place that was heavily televised on the news and knowing that everything they were saying was extremely dramatized and only focused on the tourists (the people who were least affected), really makes me question what the news says now.
8. Getting Engaged in Puerto Rico:
My absolute favorite travel memory (and my favorite memory in general from last year) was getting engaged to the most amazing man in Puerto Rico in May.
On a beautiful little beach, Pete hid the ring in his shoe, got down on one knee, and asked me to be his forever. Since he walked into my life 2 years ago, nothing has been the same. He encouraged me to start this blog and helps me as much as he can.
We’ve now traveled so many places together, and we’ve both grown and learned a lot from each other. He loves me for me 100%, the good and the bad. And when things get tough (because life definitely isn’t perfect) we work through them, we talk it out.
I’ve never been in such an honest, loving, and supportive relationship in my life. He’s the man behind the camera, my best friend, my favorite person, my giant, my travel partner, my business partner, and my future husband (even though we haven’t started any of the wedding planning, help! )
Puerto Rico was also an amazing trip and a place everyone should visit!
Read the Post Here: 7 Amazing Adventures in Puerto Rico You Won’t Want to Miss!
My best travel moments of 2017 were so amazing it’s going to be REAL tough to top that this year! But all these travel moments definitely taught us a lot and we grew both with the blog and in our relationship. I think we’re always going to look back on last year as a turning point for both.
It’s so crazy to me how much life changes so quickly and how the smallest circumstances can make such a difference in your life. I promise you that 2014 Michelle, who was single AF and quit a job she hated to go on a 15-day tour of Europe, would have never guessed that this would be her life in just a few short years.
I hope this inspires you to take advantage of every single second of every day we’re given on this beautiful earth. Explore, adventure, travel, and do the things you absolutely LOVE in your life. Let’s make 2018 a year full of even more adventures, lessons, and growth. 💜
What were your best travel moments of 2017? Let me know below!