As always, I cannot believe that another year has simply flown by. I swear, time seems to go faster and faster each and every year. 2018 has been yet another whirlwind year awash with highs and lows. It hasn’t been the easiest year yet there have been plenty of wonderful adventures, special moments, time with family and those not so pleasant yet necessary life lessons.

For some reason, it always feels like a shock to jump into another new year and perhaps that is why I love to take a moment to reflect on the year that has passed and be filled with gratitude.


We welcomed in the New Year in San Diego after spending the holidays with my family in Tucson, Arizona. Over the years, San Diego has become a special place for our family and we enjoy spending time hiking, watching sunsets, building sand castles on the beach and taking in the perfect weather. Torrey Pines Reserve is always a must see as well. My favorite post of January: “Why I Will Always Love Torrey Pines” shares some of my favorite photos of this magical place.

We also drove to LA where we discovered another treasure, El Matador Beach in Malibu which is lovely especially if you arrive before the crowds.

In January, I spent time finishing up my posts on my November trip to Chile. Some of my favorite posts published in January include:

A Magical Hike in Chile’s Parque Andino Juncal

This post is about my absolutely stunning hike in the Chilean Andes to the foot of a massive glacier.

Parque Andino Juncal, Chile

Walking up the rocky glacier moreno

Exploring Chile’s Maipo Valley Wine Region

This post explores my visit to two of Chile’s beloved vineyards outside of Santiago where I got my first taste of Chile’s crown jewel, Carménère.

Viña El Principal, Maipo Valley, Chile


February was a busy month. On the home front, we continued our weekly ski outings with our kids (we are in a ski club that runs December through March and we ski all over Minnesota and Wisconsin every Saturday throughout winter).

The kids and I also met my dad for a long ski weekend at the Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff, Arizona. We had never skied there and since my parents live in Arizona we thought it would be worth checking out. Although it is nowhere as good as Colorado or Utah, the skiing was much better than we get in the Midwest and we had a wonderful time skiing with all three generations.

Later in the month, I had the honor of traveling to Kenya with LifeStraw as part of an international team to participate and document the “LifeStraw1million” campaign. It was a life-changing experience for me as I found myself doing what I love best, meeting people from around the world and doing good on the ground. Over the course of the week, our international team of 130 LifeStraw staff and volunteers were divided up into 15 team reaching 3-4 primary schools per day all in different parts of Western Kenya. By the end of the week, we met our goal and it was quite a rewarding experience.

My favorite post from the trip:

What a Week in Western Kenya with LifeStraw Taught Me: Water is Life


At the end of March, we went on a family vacation to Colorado where we skied the Colorado Rockies. It was a wonderful family trip and we truly enjoyed the togetherness. The highlight for me was when both of my kids left me in the dust down a black run. As I saw my son glide by me on his snowboard, I raced as fast as I could to get ahead of him and then did one massive wipe out. Thankfully I didn’t break anything except my pride.


May was a month at home enjoying the start of Spring in Minnesota and finishing up the school year for the kids. In May, I wrote a few posts on my own hometown:

My Epic Guide to Exploring Street Art in South Minneapolis

For this post, I literally drove all around the neighborhood snapping shots of as much street art as I could find. It was a ton of fun!

The Five Best Family Hikes Along Minnesota’s North Shore

The North Shore of Lake Superior is a place we treasure and visit often. I compiled a list of my favorite hikes to do with the kids.


The highlight of the year was by far our three week intergenerational trip to Europe. It was planned months in advance but as the trip neared my husband had to cancel at the last moment due to a bad back. Despite our disappointment there was a silver lining as my dad was able to join me and my children for a portion of the trip. Over the course of our trip, we visited London and Paris with my mom, sister and niece and then moved on to Germany where we met up with my son and dad, continuing on to the Austrian Alps. It was a very special time yet we sure missed my husband.

I wrote many posts on the trip as it was pretty inspiring. A few of my favorite posts include:

A Revisit to Neuschwanstein Castle

Looking out at the castle where it all began

A Panoramic Alpine Hike: Hiking the High Trail to Seefelder Spitze

Hike along the edge of the Alps

A Hike On Top of the World on Heilbronner Circular Trail in Dachstein Austria

Dachstein Krippenstein, Austria


Highlights of August included a visit to the North Shore of Lake Superior with my parents and a weekend sailing the Apostle Islands with our neighbors. A few of my top posts include: Superior Hiking Trail: Temperance River to Carlton PeakSuperior Hiking Trail: Hike to Leveaux Mountain,  and A Weekend Sailing in the Apostle Islands.


September meant back to school for the kids and readjusting to a new schedule with my two kids at different schools and start times. We spent most of our weekends at home. In October, me and the kids did a long weekend visit out to see my parents in Arizona which of course included a lot of hiking. I published two hiking posts Best Hikes in Tucson: Blackett’s Ridge Trail and The Best Hikes in Tucson’s Sabino Canyon.


Finally I began to get my groove with my schedule and began regular volunteer work with a local elementary school, weekly tutoring with a fifth grade girl from Western Africa and helping teach English as a Second Language with new immigrants to Minneapolis. It has kept me quite busy along with keeping up the blog and all the work involved with raising an active family.

At the end of the month, we spent Christmas with both sides of our families in Virginia which was wonderful. We just returned last night on New Year’s Eve and I am still glowing in the warmth and love of such special time together. I am forever grateful for our amazing, loving family. I just wish we all lived closer.

As I welcome in the new year, I want to thank each and every one of you for reading my blog. The friendships I’ve gained over the years have been amazing and I can’t believe that soon I will be completing my eighth year of blogging! It has truly been a life-changing experience and I look forward to welcoming 2019. Happy New Year!


    1. Yes it sure does Lulu. It seems to get busier and busier every year. That is why we need to take moments throughout the day to stop and reflect. Happy New Year!

  1. Awesome year in review and great photography. Love the places you visited and are so special to you and your family in many ways.

    1. Thanks Sue! Happy New Year to you both too! It was a busy year but a tough one. I’m looking forward to a fresh start and a new year!

  2. Happy New Year, Nicole! You’ve been a busy little bee, as always, and I’m sure you’ve got many plans up your sleeve for 2019 as well. Hope your husband’s back is on the mend and that you enjoy many more happy moments with family and friends in the coming year!

    1. Thanks Lexi! As you know the post was a rosier picture than the year actually was. It was a tough one. My husband is thankfully getting better. I’m glad we are on a new year, a fresh start. I’m looking forward to seeing what the new year brings. What about you? Any new plans? Happy New Year as always!!!!

      1. I know it was not the greatest year for you, but I’m glad things are looking up. I am off to Hawaii tomorrow (first time!) and Bhutan in April. That’s all I have on the books right now. Anything special on your agenda?

      2. Thanks Lexi! My husband is on the mend and for that I am so incredibly grateful! Wow, Hawaii and then Bhutan! I have always wanted to go trekking in Bhutan. That will be so amazing! For me, a long weekend in Tucson in a couple of weeks to visit my parents and escape winter, skiing in Colorado over Presidents Day with the kids and my dad and hoping to sneak in a trip for me as well which is still in the works. So far our winter has been mild but I know that awful bitter cold will come so I’m glad I have a lot planned. I think you hit it right by moving to Houston as no more cold long winters! 🙂 Happy New Year Lexi!

  3. I love reading these years in review. Gives me a chance to know people that little better. The work with lifestraw that you did was fantastic. It seems you made a lot of fabulous memories this year

    1. Thanks so much! Yes it was a year. It had lots of ups but also was tough on other more personal ends. My trip with LifeStraw was definitely a highlight but my time with family was even more special. Thanks so much for following and reading my blog. Happy New Year to you too! 🙂 Nicole

  4. Wow! I’m both very jealous and very exhausted after reading your recap post. 🙂 Isn’t it true that time seems to speed up as we get older? Good for you for finding so many opportunities over the past year to slow down and savor each moment, though. And good for you too for your volunteer work — especially in tutoring ESL. What a beautiful way to give back. May the new year bring you much happiness and many wonderful new adventures!

    1. Thanks so much! As always I put the good highlights in but in all honestly 2018 was very tough on a personal note. I’m really looking forward to a new year, a fresh start and seeing how it all unfolds and being grateful for the best of all, my family. AS for volunteering, it has been a nice rewarding experience. My goal this year is to start freelance writing! I’m nervous as heck to try to get customers but it is time for me to start earning my share. I’m going to be patient!

      1. I’m so sorry to read that 2018 was very tough on a personal note. I do hope you’re getting that fresh start already and that your new ventures will bring both satisfaction and pride. (If your goal is to start freelance writing, I can tell you already that you’re going to NAIL it!) My best to you, and my hopes that 2019 will be easier on your personal life. xoxo

      2. Oh thank you! Yes it has been tough but looking up. My hubby injured his back last April so the summer and fall was very very stressful and it was tough. Things are really looking up now and he is on the mend. For me, I decided that now that the kids are getting older is is time for me to start finding a career again. I still will blog but I thought getting into freelance writing especially for non-profits (I love that work!) and travel related companies would be really fun. I could do it from home too. I know it will take awhile to build up clients but I will be patient. Thanks for the well wishes! Happy New Year to you too and thanks for all the support!

    1. Thanks Janet! In all honesty, last year was very hard but I’m grateful that I have a wonderful supportive family. Looking forward to a new year! Happy New Year to you too Janet! 🙂

      1. Traveling that much can be difficult, that’s for sure. Hopefully 2019 will be a year where you have fun traveling, but still have time to relax.

      2. Yes that is true but I always view travel as an escape! 🙂 I am looking forward to the new year and all it has to bring. I’m going to try to get into freelance writing. That is my goal. I’m hoping to find some non-profit and travel related clients to work with. Now that my kids are getting older I have more time on my hands and have been volunteering a lot too but am looking to start getting back into a flexible career. 🙂

      3. I agree about the travel, but with the rest of life going on, it can still be difficult. Trust me, I’d love to travel more if I could, but I’m blessed to be able to go as often as I do.

      4. Thanks Janet! It will take some time to get started but I’m really excited. Time for a change!

  5. Wow you have done so much, must be amazing to look back and go through all of your trips and experiences. What a great year. Lets hope 2019 is even better, Happy New Year.

    1. Thank you so much Alison! I am really excited for the New Year and am jumping in with hope, laughter and optimism. I am hoping to start freelance writing! That is my goal for the year so even if I get one client I will be thrilled. What about you? What is up for you this year?


      1. I’m still writing for Intrepid Travel on a freelance basis, so I’ve got one more article due at the moment then I’ll see what they have for me in the future. On Feb 4 Don and I are off to Paris for 5 days, Rishikesh India for a month, and then 2 weeks in/around Kyoto. So excited about that.
        I wouldn’t think you’d have any trouble at all getting freelance work with your background and experience. I think your blog speaks for itself. Good luck!

      2. Wow Alison! How exciting! Paris will always have a special place for me within my heart. I loved living there when I was 21. India for a month! Wow!!! Yes, you have so much to be excited about. I am glad I finally made a decision to try something new. I’m looking forward to it and thanks for the encouragement. What would I do without my blogging tribe? )

  6. I can’t believe how busy your 2018 was, you did so much. If 2019 is half as good you will have an amazing year. Happy New Year from England.

  7. I remember enjoying all these posts from your year of adventures. Best wishes to you and your family for a good 2019, and good luck with your new writing venture!

    1. Thanks Amy! You too! I truly appreciate all your support over the years. We have a wonderful blogging community! Happy New Year!

  8. Whew Nicole – I’m exhausted just reading about your year LOL. Some beautiful moments in some amazing places. So nice to have so many moments of family togetherness. Here’s to more of the same as well as the new and different in the New Year.

    1. Thanks Tina! Yes it was quite the year. I’m looking forward to this year. Thanks for all your support!

  9. I agree that the year passed in a whirlwind. Thanks for sharing in all your amazing adventures and stunning photos Nicole. I wish you a fabulous year ahead with loads more exciting and fulfilling trips.

  10. Wow what a wonderful year – Chile, Kenya, a family trip to Europe, and so much more! I hope we are able to see each other in person again in 2019. All the best!

    1. Yes it was quite the year Brianne! I hope you come visit again! I’d love to see you. Happy New Year and looking forward to seeing what you are up to in 2019.

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