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!
There’s no rainbow without some…SNOW! 😉 My very first snowfall in Frisco, Texas
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!
“The Invasion”! (Christopher Hollis for Wdwic Pictures)
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!
By the courtyard and Tree of of Wishes of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida (Matthew Paulson, Flickr)
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” 😀
NY travel Show Expedia party with travel bloggers @CaptainandClark @MidlifeRoadTrip @live_for_travel
Top: Woman travel session (with legendary @JourneyWoman, Evelyn!). Bottom: Asia section with lovely dancers from Sri Lanka (left) and Thai display (right)
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!
Me at Siesta Key beach FL: Number 1 in the USA
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.
Me (bottom) surrounded by some big names and travel bloggers! Guess who?
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.
Champagne and a view: Couldn’t ask for a better ride! (Photo: Jennifer Huber)
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:
Hotel OK suite: Complete with stripper pole, heart-shaped Jacuzzi, and the mandatory ceiling mirrors over the bed and hot tub!
Our romantic suite at Motel Villa Arco Iris. And yup, that’s a ceiling mirror over the bed — and over the Jacuzzi as well!
Going down the tallest zip line in the world:
Small plane ride over the ocean from mainland Puerto Rico to Vieques:
Gorgeous views of mainland Puerto Rico! This flight was courtesy of Vieques Air Link
Laid-back Vieques Island beaches:
Entrance to hidden gem Garcia Beach in Vieques, Puerto Rico
…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.
I ate the Eastern European lobster pierogi. It was an interesting cream sauce with caramelized onions, plus the perioges seemed to have been stuffed with crab too
Additionally, I got into some arguments around the Olympics due to my strong Puerto Rican patriotism and ignorant Americans’ inability to understand it.
Who would have thought this moment would cause so much commotion — in a negative way!?
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!
Never thought you could cook Moroccan chicken with couscous in a hostel, did you? Get the recipe here!
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).
Cenote rappelling! Don’t I look excited?!
Our group tubing in a cenote. Of course, I’m the one posing pretty haha
Ek Balam “Jaguar” Temple: Mayan carvings
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.
Texan brisket and sausage
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.
Max Donuts and other delicacies
Southern veal sausage: spicy, juicy, delicious
Southern brisket right out of the oven
Just look at that sexy Texan bacon cheeseburger
Midwestern food in Texas
Southern biscuits: garlic, cheese, herbs, and a lot of butter!
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 🙂
It started to snow! It started to snow!
This is what extreme happiness looks like. Very 1st snowfall in my life, I even teared up!
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.
A great start to 2013 <3
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:
A motto to remember
How was your year in travel (and life) in 2012? Share your milestones!