Welcome to the roller coaster ride of my year in travel — and life. 2012 was full of not only travel bucket list adventures, but also several struggles and personal growth. In fact, it was one of my toughest years to date. Let’s take a look back and breath in the positive, breathe out the negative, learn from the mistakes, and most importantly: move forward!
Local tourism: Tampa Bay’s Mardi Gras and the Dalí Museum
As I currently live minutes away from downtown, I took part of the Gasparilla Parade (Tampa Bay’s Mardi Gras) on January 2012. “The Invasion” celebrates the legend of José Gaspar (better known as Gasparilla). Rumor has it that the Spanish pirate captain invaded Florida’s west coast between the late 18th – early 19th century. No evidence of such “attack” or even the capt. himself appears in writing until late 20th century though, which makes his existence dubious. But who cares? It is still a heck of a party!
Also, I finally went to the new Dalí Museum in nearby St. Petersburg. It was an amazing experience see the works of my favorite painter, in addition to having some random fun by the Tree of Wishes in the courtyard!
My first travel conference: The NY Times Travel Show
In March 2012, I went to the New York Times Travel Show for the first time. For being my very first travel conference period, I feel it was a success! I later contacted some of the media agents I connected with throughout the weekend — and even got some comped trips later in the year. The networking that ensued forced me to think about my brand, how I market myself, and where I want LatinAbroad to be. Professional and personal lessons.
Also, I finally got to meet some fellow travel bloggers! Including some of my “idols” 😀
Life after studying abroad: My post-travel depression
Around April, my life after studying abroad was starting to get to me. More often than not, I was quite sad, unable (or unwilling?) to accept my new life. This post-travel depression hit me hard. I started to fight a lot with my new beau. In fact, it was one of those fights that helped me see that I really had to improve my day by day.
While I still struggle from time to time, I keep reminding myself that my long-term goals will allow me to travel for the rest of my life! I just have a wee-bit left to get done stateside 😉
American work culture and illness: More struggles ahead
In May, even more hurdles were put on my path. I struggled with the difficult American work culture and a new illness: RSI/carpal tunnel. Due to not having health insurance, I have still not been officially diagnosed, but the pain in my hands and dainty fingers doesn’t lie. I found a way to move forward by buying voice recognition software and learning to relax. A journey, not a destination…
June: More domestic tourism, TBEX and my 1st Blogiversary
I define domestic tourism as traveling to states or provinces of the country you are living in. This summer, I saw more of America by visiting the number 1 beach in the USA and going to the West for the 1st time. Where to? Keystone, Colorado for TBEX!
While TBEX was my 2nd travel conference, it was my 1st (official) travel blogger trip. I got to meet even more of my travel blogging idols and long-time online friends face-to-face. Among them, the legendary Lola DiMarco, Jodi Ettenburg, Michael Tieso, and Stephanie Yoder. Furthermore, I got my first translation deals! They are still on the works (none have gone live), but I know 2013 will bless me in that department 😀 As a TBEX 1st timer, this meant a lot to me.
You know what else happened in June? It was LatinAbroad’s 1st anniversary! I can’t believe my baby travel blog is over a year old already. Thanks to YOU for all the support! This will keep going for years and years, I assure you 😉 I love it too much.
Puerto Rico gringo invasion — and partial media trip!
In July, I had the great opportunity to go on a partial media trip to my island, Puerto Rico. With my gringo in tow, we visited my family and other quirky attractions in the island. The highlights?
The sensual Hotel OK and Motel Villa Arco Iris:
Going down the tallest zip line in the world:
Small plane ride over the ocean from mainland Puerto Rico to Vieques:
Laid-back Vieques Island beaches:
…and my gringo trying to drive!
A Russian restaurant, the Olympics, and a patriot’s dilemma
The end of the summer brought an unexpected local outing. I got to travel through food and visit an authentic Russian restaurant in Florida. I drank some Soviet-era vodka and ate some interesting Eastern European food.
Additionally, I got into some arguments around the Olympics due to my strong Puerto Rican patriotism and ignorant Americans’ inability to understand it.
A new travel cooking series — and financial anorexia
October brought with it some exciting new plans — and some old struggles. Hostel Cooking recipes debuted thanks to my good friend Josh Snore; while the Black Dog showed its ugly face again. I even accepted I suffer from financial anorexia. However, I pulled through — and they won’t beat me!
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico: My 2nd trip to the Yucatán Peninsula
In November, I had another great opportunity to go on a partial media trip to check out 2 of the boutique Xperience Hotels. This time, I would be heading to Mexico for the 2nd time to check out the laid-back beach town of Playa Del Carmen! I was beyond excited, as I could not see many attractions my 1st time around.
I sampled Mayan cuisine, went rappelling and tubing in a cenote, visited the lesser-known Ek Balam Mayan ruins, and even got a 70-minute beach massage for only USD $18! Oh, and sure thing, la gente esta muy LOCAAA in Playa Del Carmen nightlife (and I absolutely loved it).
Christmas in Texas — and MY FIRST SNOWFALL!
Last month, my partner surprised me with tickets to go see his family in Texas for Christmas. It was a pretty laid-back trip, but with some great highlights!
Right out of the airport, I was taken to sample some good ol’ Texan barbecue. Omg.
The Downtown Frisco musical light show and surrounding homes brought out the kid in me. I squealed like a little girl, I was so happy! 😀
The next day it was all about the spanking-new Perot Museum of Science was so much fun — but extremely crowded. I recommend you be the first through the door and have fun at the bottom floors first, as they are the most interactive. My favorite sections were the oil drilling and minerals, in addition to the human anatomy floor. There, you could see the many wonders of the human body via some excellent experiments and quirky gadgets. It was so unreal — perfect for kids, by the way.
Then, it was Max Donuts. And family banquets. Just SO. MUCH. FOOD.
But nothing, I mean NOTHING this year could top this one off:
MY VERY FIRST SNOWFALL!
That’s right: up until Christmas 2012, I’d never seen snow fall from the sky. Ever. And yes, it snowed right on Christmas Day! It was so so perfect, I even teared up a little, especially as my partner stepped outside in order to kiss me under the snow 🙂
Indeed, happiness is an understatement here. So of course, I had to shoot not one, but 2 videos. It was freezing cold, but I was so overjoyed I couldn’t even feel it!
New Year’s in Tampa Bay
In comparison to other years, the last few hours of 2012 were very laid-back. However, I spent them among friends and, most importantly, the man I love. 2012 taught me that I could love again, even though travel and a broken heart had stripped hope.
And so, with a kiss and embrace, we said goodbye to 2012 — all while watching a good ol’ firework show over Tampa Bay:
2012 resolutions: Moving back to Egypt, Arabic degree, Oceania — FAIL
Last, but definitely not least, are my failed 2012 resolutions. Last year, I wanted to not only improve my Arabic and even earn a Master of Professional Studies degree, but also move back to Egypt. Plan A didn’t happen, as the federal government stopped funding that program and the situation in Egypt deteriorated (so did my job prospects).
What about Plan B, to become a flight attendant and fly all over the world, or even Plan C, which involved me moving to Australia and traveling all over Oceania? Well…
I started to take my finances so seriously that I set a plan to get rid of all my debt (about $50,000 of it) in 3 years or less. I just wanted to be free, be free of all Western world strengths and the flawed American work culture.
I decided I want to be a full-time nomadic translator, travel writer by 30.
And, most importantly: DEBT-FREE by then!
It might not be a perfect plan, but it didn’t matter in my head — it still ruled out Plan B. Then, I got a promotion in Florida and decided to stay put longer, as the new salary and benefits were in line with my new financial & other important long-term goals. There went Plan C…
But was my toughest year yet ruined because of all these changes? As you could see throughout this post, definitely not. Yes, I struggled. Yes, I didn’t travel as much as I wanted to.
But I grew. I learned a lot.
(AND I SAW SNOW. AND LOVE)
So: Cheers to 2013! I’m ready to learn, to be amazed, and to be blessed once more. Shall this post be a reminder of John Lennon’s words:
I agree with you about the debt goal. I finally got out of debt this year and I am now 30. At least if you want to not work and bum around you can choose to. Its a refreshing feeling. Debt will really suck the life out of you.
Good on ya for working toward that goal.
congratulations Casey! And I know: I can’t wait until THAT day when I’m able to be FREE, taste freedom, do and work as I please… Or just bum around the world! As you say 🙂
What a year!! I am sure 2013 will be one for the books! 🙂
I still don’t have many travel plans for 2013, but I’m hoping it surprises me — just like 2012 did! Thanks for commenting
You had a great year indeed.. Nice photo..
You are so sexy and I can’t believe how do you maintain your physically fit body without sacrificing delicious food! Anyway, I am very excited and looking forward to read interesting stories for your next travel trip this year.
hahaha. Um, thanks? *blushes* 😛
I’m pretty active when I’m traveling, so that probably helps. Also, I’ve gotten my body used to portion control, which allows you to eat many delicious foods, but in limited quantities. This way, your stomach cannot even handle big meals, even if you want to stuff your face 😉 haha.
My advice to you is to try to eat small meals every 3 hours in order to kickstart your metabolism, while never going hungry. It’s great, because you’re pretty much eating all the time, but without the bad consequences 😉
Wow wow wow what an incredible year it has been for you! So many ups and downs, but the ups were just incredible!!! I love that pic of you kissing your love with the fireworks in the background.
thanks Andi! *Hugs*
I want those donuts… 🙂
they are SO good!
What a great year of adventures and experiences for you, Maria! I remembered my first snowfall in college too and coming from a fellow island girl – it is magical. Looking forward to see where 2013 takes you. Best wishes for the coming new year!
fellow island girl? Oi! Which island are you from? 🙂
Wow! What a great year. Glad you tackled all your hurdles, and had some truly great moments throughout the year. It had to be amazing experience to see your first snowfall. Can’t wait to see what 2013 sends your way!
we shall see, Stephen! no big travel plans as of yet for 2013…so can’t wait to see what opportunities come my way.
Much success in 2013!
What a list for this past year. It seems like this is an exciting time in your life and you have a lot going for you. Don’t dwell on the past 2012 shortcomings, but look forward to your new year! Gracias para comparitendo tus viajes, Boricua
¡Muchísimas gracias Andy! It’s definitely an exciting time in my life and I try not to dwell on past shortcomings, but rather learn from them in order to move forward.
Hopefully 2013 is better than ever and you guys stick around to see it all happen 😉 ciao!
Happy New Year and all the best for 2013! Glad you got to see snow – those of us who are used to it don’t seem to have the same appreciation for a snowfall! 😉
thanks, Lisa! Much success in 2013 for you and your family as well.
Frankly put – you had an amazing year from where I sit – lots of travel, a loved one, and GREAT TEXAS FOOD!! (ha ha!) Thanks so much for linking up with us – I hope you will continue to do so! Your posts are inspiring!!
Thanks for the kind words Becca! Texas food was definitely delicious 😀 I will try to keep linking up. With so many things in the to-do list, sometimes I forget haha. See you this week?
What a year you’ve had!
As I read about your first conferences and your first blogiversary, I hope I’ll be able to write about my own soon as well!
keep me updated, Sofie! Perhaps we’ll meet up at one of them this year?
What an awesome year you had after all!
I know there were some rough times but you are smart, beautiful and strong and things will work out. We just have to wait and see 😉
I loved looking at all your accomplishments and I can’t wait to see where you go next.
Aprecio mucho tu amistad y gracias por todo.
Have a great 2012 and happy travels 😉
aww, thanks for the kind words as always, Karla! *hugs* ¡Aquí para apoyarte siempre! 🙂 Feliz Año Nuevo
What a jam packed year!? Well done on all you have accomplished and look forward to all the adventures you keep us posted with through the year! Good luck with all your goals for 2013!!!
thank you so much, Ash! Same to you 🙂
Looks like a full year Maria! Congrats on your first snow too. Growing up with it, I can’t imagine what that would be like.
thanks Matthew! Yeah, even I couldn’t anticipate how excited I would be when seeing my first snowfall… I was like a giddy little girl, it was ridiculous! Haha 🙂
Getting a sponsored hotel room basically in a love shack is priceless! lol That highlight alone would be all most people would need for an exciting 2012! Not sure how your going to top that in 2013 but will keep an eye out! hahaha
hahahaha oh yeah? XD Well, I guess my year was ridiculously exciting then! 😉