When I woke up on New Year’s Day 2015, I had no idea the kind of year that awaited me. I suppose this is always true, but what I thought would be another ordinary year turned into a bigger adventure than I ever could have expected.
I traveled more than I ever have before, and loved most minutes of it. (Let’s be honest, travel is never perfect from start to finish, but it’s always worth it).
My Travel Highlights from 2015
A joint birthday getaway to Tilghman Island, MD. This was the kind of travel I expected to be doing in 2015 – easy, weekend trips close to home. I love exploring the East Coast, and this was an excellent trip to kick off the year. Tom and I have birthdays within three weeks of each other, so we like to take a trip most years to celebrate. We have a love affair with the Chesapeake Bay (it’s where we got married) so this was a great trip for us.
Highlight: Having dinner in the empty restaurant because it was below zero degrees out the weekend we chose to go. Some people would consider this a fail, but it was actually really intimate and we had excellent service and great food!
A warm-weather getaway to Punta Cana, DR. Going to a beach during winter is one of life’s greatest pleasures. This trip was super simple, we didn’t do much but eat and sit beachside, which was just what we needed.
Highlight: Getting a room upgrade with direct ocean access. Go big or go home!
A river hike to a huge waterfall in Brotas, Brazil. This was our first adventure after the big move to Brazil, and thus one of the most memorable. We took a private hike out with just a guide and two friendly dogs to Cachoeira Santa Maria in a town about two hours from where we were living. You pretty much walked through a river the entire hike, but I only busted my butt one time!
Highlight: While the waterfall itself was stunning, we actually had the most fun afterward hanging out with the owners of the pousada that organized the hike. They were having a churrasco (barbecue) for themselves and invited us to join. It was our first, but certainly not last, taste of how hospitable Brazilians really are.
Exploring Brazil’s biggest city. We were lucky to live within driving distance of São Paulo and ended up loving the city. A trip to Sampa meant air conditioning, more food variety and some of the comforts of home.
Highlight: For our first trip to SP, the highlight was definitely visiting Parque Ibirapuera with Ashton. The park was beautiful and being able to spend time with our dog, outdoors, in a new country was completely surreal at the time.
Taking the road less traveled to Brazil’s wine country. A lot of our Brazilian friends thought it was totally crazy that we went to Bento Goncalves to see Brazil’s wine region, but as wine lovers it was a must for us. While not incredibly easy to get to, it was a gorgeous place to visit and the food and drink was incredible.
Highlight: Like many of our travels in Brazil, the highlight from this trip was the people we met. The first night, we were struggling to order our dinner in Portuguese when the restaurant’s owner came over and used a translate app to introduce herself and help us choose a fabulous meal. Her husband, the chef, made us a complimentary dessert pizza as a welcome. We ended up eating at her other restaurant later in the trip and couldn’t believe how excited she and her husband were when we showed up. Those moments of naked humanity really stood out, and made me eager to show tourists in DC the same kind of hospitality.
Island hopping in Paraty, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. This trip was far and away our most memorable of the year, maybe because we thought we might die before we got there, but also because it was so picturesque. We had perfect weather the entire time, unusual for that time of year, and were able to relax and connect as a couple in a way we never had before.
Highlight: Too many to count! But if I had to choose, it would be hiring a fishing boat to take us around Saco do Mamangua, Brazil’s only tropical fjord. We took Ashton with us, and he was quite the little trooper on the boat! Halfway through the ride, our captain docked at a deserted beach that was the true definition of paradise. There are days that I wish we’d just stayed there and set up camp for good.
All of the street art. Brazil’s street art was incredible. Everywhere we went, we sought it out. Excuse Ashton’s crazy hair below, the place we took him for grooming in Brazil refused to cut him short because they said it was “too cold”, meaning below 75 degrees.
Highlight: Beco da Batman in São Paulo, a famous alley covered entirely in street art.
A long, working weekend in Rio de Janeiro. Ah, Rio, one of my favorites. It’s a bummer we only made it to the Marvelous City once while living in Brazil, but we made the most out of the short time we had.
Highlight: We met up with a friend of a friend who accompanied us on a hike up Morro da Urca, the smaller “mountain” next to Pao de Acucar. After the hike, we walked to a nearby bar in the fishing neighborhood or Urca to have a beer and a snack, like the locals do.
Exploring Buenos, Aires with my brother. My brother met us for a week of fun in Argentina, starting with several days in the beautiful city of Argentina. We walked all over viewing the architecture, Recoleta Cemetery, eating Argentine delicacies and of course, drinking lots of Malbec.
Highlight: In the midst of my biggest travel fail of the year (missing our flight to Mendoza and entire day in wine country), the highlight of Buenos Aires may have been visiting San Telmo market while we waited for our delayed flight. The market is simply huge, and a slice of Argentine life I’m so glad we got to witness.
One glorious day (and two nights) in Mendoza. I have such bittersweet feelings about our trip to Mendoza. It was one of my favorite travel experiences of the year, by far, but I can’t help but lament the day we lost and the fact that we didn’t get to spend as much time near the Andes mountains as I would have hoped. But the time we did have was incredible from start to finish, and the wine made me oh so happy. I must return to Mendoza at some point in my life, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Highlight: Aside from peeping those awesome mountains, the highlight of this trip was definitely spending it with my brother, who is the whole reason I’m such a wine lover in the first place. After four months away from home, having a family member experience such an amazing adventure with us was the best thing I could have asked for – I just wish the whole family could have joined us!
Getting back to our own little wine country in Virginia. As soon as we got back to DC, we made two trips out to Virginia’s wine country. I feel so fortunate to live so close to such a scenic place, and love watching as the industry develops and improves each year.
Highlight: Spending an Evening in Paradise at Paradise Springs Winery with Tom’s brother and sister-in-law. I was slightly bummed that we’d missed out on summer in DC, so catching this late summer night listening to live music and catching up with family was the perfect way to settle back into life at home.
Reuniting with my family in Oklahoma. As much as I love exotic trips to foreign countries, there’s no place like home. Our first trip back to Oklahoma after our time in Brazil was so special. I’m glad we’re able to go home as often as we do.
Highlight: Going to an Oklahoma Sooner football game with my dad and brother. Boomer Sooner!
A perfect Fall getaway in Urbanna, VA. We had to reschedule this trip, which was originally planned for the summer while we were in Brazil. Although the weather was a bit cooler, it didn’t stop us from slurping oysters outside with a water view, wine tasting on the Chesapeake Wine Trail or exploring the historical town on foot.
Highlight: This was a tie between the epic diner breakfast we had Sunday morning and the silly round of mini golf we played afterward. The trip reminded me that as long as I’ve got my travel partner with me, we can have fun always anywhere.
A low-key cabin weekend in the Shenandoah Valley. For the second year in a row, we holed up in a little cabin in the mountains with Tom’s brother and sister-in-law (that’s such a mouthful, their names are Ryan and Jen). I look forward to doing this for years to come.
Highlight: So much laughter. These trips are all about quality time with family, dogs included, playing games and laughing. The scenery didn’t hurt either.
What a year! I know for some this amount of travel seems insane. For others, it’s nothing. For us, it was perfect. This year will likely include only domestic travel, and I’m okay with that. Once you’ve been somewhere, you have the memories forever. I will cherish 2015 as the year of change, adventure and unexpected good fortune, for new friends made and even the weight I gained eating all the delicious local delicacies and drinking fabulous wine. Thank you all for following along on our continuing journey!