As 2019 draws to a close it is time to take a moment to reflect with gratitude for those special memories of the past year. While of course there were plenty of difficult times and mountains to climb, as there always is throughout the journey of life, for me those hard times led to a newfound understanding and insight into myself. A bit of a silver lining. For if it wasn’t for those really hard times, I wouldn’t have personally grown and changed the things that I could and brought peace to the things I could not change.

I stepped out of my comfort zone plenty of times in 2019, taking more chances with travel and even with my day to day life. I got a part-time job, traveled on two small group trips without knowing a soul, I skied with my family, went on a three-generational hike around Mont Blanc and finally got my feet back onto solid ground (something I’d been searching for over the past two years). So all in all, I ring in the New Year being in a much happier, more peaceful place than last year when I was in the midst of a mid life confusion trying to figure out what the heck was the next step in the journey. While I haven’t figured out the entire road, at least I took the first step and for that I am most grateful.

Torrey Pines San Diego California

My daughter at Torrey Pines who just turned 13 has taught me so much.

That said, here are some of the wonderful travel memories in 2019 that I am extremely grateful for.

Tucson

I always love going to Tucson to see my family. My parents have lived there for almost 25 years and it is my second home. I love the mountains, the desert, the sunsets, and the hiking. But most of all, I love sharing these natural delights with my family. Late in January, I set off for a long weekend to Tucson and was happily enjoying my hikes until the very last day when my dad and I attempted to hike to the top of Mount Wrightson Tucson’s highest peak at 9,456 feet. We got really close to the top but couldn’t do the last 20 minutes as the summit was covered in snow and ice and without crampons, it would have been way too dangerous. The last time I made it to the top was well over 20 years ago so I was disappointed to not be able to complete the job.

On the way down, I caught a rock wrong and twisted my ankle tumbling to the ground. I knew it was not good. It hurt like hell and we had another hour left to hike. It swelled and swelled and I could barely walk. I wasn’t wearing my ankle-high hiking boots and learned a good lesson to never leave home without them. I ended up with a severe sprain and spent the next six weeks on the porch healing. For someone as active as me, it was pretty awful but a good reminder it could always be so much worse.

Some of my favorite Tucson posts I did in 2019 include Best Hikes in Tucson: Hiking the Ventana Canyon Trailhead to Maiden Pools, Tucson Travel Guide: How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Tucson, and On Top of Tucson’s Highest Peak: Hike to Mount Wrightson.

Ventana Trailhead, Tucson, Arizona

At the top of Ventana Trailhead overlooking Tucson and a view of Mount Wrightson far off in the horizon

Belize

In February, I did a solo trip to Belize meeting up with a small group tour through G Adventures. While I have traveled to many parts of Central America, including Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua, I honestly had no idea I’d fall so much in love with Belize. Belize is truly a magical place with so much to offer from lush jungle, a stunning barrier reef, a plethora of ancient Mayan ruins, a rich culture, and downright natural beauty that make it a haven for adventure junkies, nature lovers and those wanting to experience island life on one of its many cayes (islands). It was the perfect February get away from a long cold Minnesota winter.

Some of my favorite posts on Belize include:

Top Things to Do in Belize in a Week, A Travel Guide to “Go Slow” in Caye Caulker, and How Ecotourism is Helping Protect Endangered Howler Monkeys in Belize. 

Tour de Mont Blanc

Known as one of the greatest multi-day treks in the world, the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) is a circular tour of 105 miles/170 kilometers around the mighty Mont Blanc massif traversing three countries – Italy, Switzerland and France, over the course of 10-12 days. Passing through some of the most divine high alpine scenery on earth, the TMB is one of the most stunning multi-day treks of all and is a dream for many avid trekkers.

On July 4th, my father, 14-year-old son and I left for a ten-day intergenerational hiking trip to Mont Blanc, devising our own Tour de Mont Blanc to fit our needs. Armed with maps, internet resources, and guide books, we set off and had a magnificent time. We began our tour in gorgeous Courmayeur, Italy doing two amazing hikes, then continued on to Aosta Valley, Italy, Lac Champex in Switzerland and completed our trip with three stellar hikes in Chamonix, France. The trip was beyond amazing in so many ways.

I wrote many posts on our trip and here are a few of my favorites: The Power of Intergenerational Travel: Me, My Day and Son Hike Around Mount Blanc, A Taste of the Tour de Mont Blanc: A Hike in Val Ferret, Courmayeur, Aosta Valley, Italy: Hike to the Lovely Remote Lac Long, A Panoramic Hike Along the Grand Balcon Nord to the Mer de Glace in Chamonix, and Unforgettable Hikes along the Tour de Mont Blanc: Hike from Col des Montets to Lac Blanc.

Northern California

In August, we did a family trip to Northern California. We had a wonderful time visiting Muir Woods, Monterrey, Big Sur and all the different neighborhoods of San Francisco. I didn’t write much on this trip but did share one post: Exploring the Marin Headlands of San Francisco’s Bay Area. We loved the world-renown Monterrey Bay Aquarium, the magnificent giant redwoods at Muir Woods, the views in Tennessee Valley and the craggy coastline of Marin County and Big Sur. It was a wonderful time together.

Jordan

In October, I set off solo to meet up with Intrepid Travel on a week tour of Jordan. I have dreamed of going to Jordan for years and this ended up being an incredible, eye-opening trip. I simply loved it! We began in the capital of Amman, heading to the wild desert landscape of Wadi Rum where we spent the night at a Bedouin Camp. After Wadi Rum, we spend two incredible days exploring the magic of Petra before heading to the Dead Sea, the Red Sea and more. It was an extraordinary trip that I am still writing about today. It fed my wanderlust even more!

Here are the first couple of posts I wrote on Jordan. Stay tuned as more are coming soon! Highlights of an Extraordinary Week in the Magical Kingdom of Jordan, Arriving in Amman, Jordan: Jetlag, Culture Shock and Fascination, and My Night at a Bedouin Camp in Wadi Rum.

 

Tucson/San Diego

We ended the year by spending Christmas with my family in Tucson and San Diego. It was a very special year as my entire family was together for the holidays. I am truly grateful for my family! While we live miles apart, we are still very close and get to see each other often.

My Dad with his grandkids hiking in Sabino Canyon

It has been ten years since I opened my WordPress account and started my blog. I honestly had no idea at the time where I would go with it but here I am ten years later and still blogging. While I may not be writing as much as I did or have the time to read as many wonderful blogs as I did in the past, I still love my fantastic community of friends. 

A huge Thanks to all those who have continued to support and inspire me to keep writing. I am truly grateful for this amazing community! Happy New Year and wishing you the best in 2030. 

Torrey Pines at Sunset

Here’s to a wonderful 2020!

21 comments

  1. You’ve had quite a year, Nicole, and I’m happy I could see where the journeys have taken you. Blogging time really flies by, that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to seeing where you go in 2020 and may the year be filled with health and joy.

    janet

    1. Thank you Janet! I am grateful for your support! Wishing you a wonderful 2020 as well! When is the move? 🙂

      1. So exciting! I bet you can hardly wait! 🙂 Just in time for the glorious spring flowers.

    1. Isn’t it crazy how time flies? I am thinking I started following you soon after I began my blog. Wow, ten years! Best for 2020!

    1. Thanks Alison! It didn’t come without it challenges that is for sure. The last few years have been a bit tricky but overall I am so grateful for the year I did have. Lots of wonderful moments that made the harder ones easier. Wishing you a lovely 2020 as well. Do you and Don have any travel plans? I am so curious about what you are up to.

      1. We went to Montreal for 2 weeks in December for Christmas with family. On 8 Feb we fly to India – 4 weeks in Rishikesh and area, followed by nearly 3 weeks in Malaysia (yay! A new country!) Getting excited. What about you? Got any plans?

      2. I remember seeing your Montreal photos on FB and it looks so beautiful! Wow, India and Malaysia! You rock! Sounds wonderful as always. For me, not much for awhile. We decided to go to Costa Rica again for spring break as I seem to be a bit obsessed with it and found a nice flight. We are going to try another location that we haven’t been to. Then this summer a family European trip again with my mom, sister, her kids and my daughter. Then I signed up for the Mother-Daughter Peru trip in August. It will surely be busy! 🙂

  2. You had a great 2019 and WOW – 10 years of blogging! I think I’ll hit 6 this year, and I’m already fading …

    Your kids are really growing up; I feel like I’ve watched them change over these last 5-6 years. It’s wonderful that you are all still traveling as a family – the best thing ever!

    1. Thanks Lexi! It had its ups and downs but a lot of great travels to make the downs better! Yes it is hard to believe I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I definitely am not posting as much as I used to but can’t ever dream of stopping my blog as in a way, it is my personal journal of life’s journeys. I used to keep written diaries for years before starting the blog. Of course this isn’t as personal but it is still so fun to have this record of my travels and experiences as my kids grow up. It is hard to believe they are growing up so fast too! I have lots of special trips planned with them so I am quite pleased that we can share our love for travel together. What about you? Any exciting plans for the new year?

      1. I’m actually traveling with my husband for a change! Haha. We are going to Southeast Asia for about 2.5 weeks in February – should be fun! I’ve got a weeklong road trip in southern Texas coming up soon (with a friend) and then I’m going to do the 29029 event one more time (nuts) this summer in Idaho. I’m sure some other stuff will crop up also, but right now I’m keeping the rest of the year kind of open for some family stuff. Happy travels to you!

      2. That sounds amazing Lexi! I would love to visit SE Asia! I hope you share your trip with us! 🙂

  3. I share your optimistic perspective on the silver lining to be found in difficult times.
    Congratulations on ever journey outside of your comfort zone! Am happy to know that 2019 concluded peacefully and you are firmly positioned for the coming decade.

    I hope I have your good fortune to travel to Arizona in 2020. One of my favorite places on earth.Your posts give me so many ideas of new things to do there on my return. Sadly, we missed Belize as we opted to sail the North Pacific rather than the Gulf; I so enjoyed traveling there with you virtually. And I am looking forward to reading your Petra posts as that is a top destination for me. I very much enjoyed the pictures you shared with us along your way.

    1. Thanks Lisa! Good to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by. I always read your posts in anticipation! You have been to so many amazing places! 🙂

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