A Year in Review: 2018
Consider this a bit of a follow up to my last post (10 of the Most Unusual Accommodations I've Slept in Around the World in 2018) and hopefully a post I'll create annually... I was inspired by the fact 2018 was an epic year of travel and adventure for me while 2019 is starting out ROUGH. I mean, government shutdown anyone? Patriots are going to the Super Bowl, again. Oh, not to mention the fact I'm currently ON STRIKE. Perhaps rough is a bit of an understatement. The good news is, it can only get better from here and, in the meantime, I'll be reminiscing in 2018's greatness - Here are my 18 Highlights from 2018!
2018: A Year in Review
I started 2018 off with an absolutely epic trip to four sites in the National Park System in about five days as a #ChristaKrista trip. It was the trip that kicked off an absolutely epic year of travel and I wouldn't have had it any other way. We came, we saw, we conquered. Despite hitting New Mexico and Texas in a fairly short amount of time, I would do the entire trip over again. Sand as white as snow, indescribable winds, stunning cave formations, and hot springs on the borders of the United States and Mexico were just a few of the highlights.
Literally the trip of a lifetime when only 20 people per day are allowed at "The Wave" aka Coyote Buttes North in Arizona. Derek, Jeremy, and I ventured to Arizona over President's Day weekend and Derek got SO lucky - he was the first person to win a permit from the lottery system that day and just like that, it was our lucky day! We were able to explore the space-like rock formations and marvel at their beauty. From there we drove into Utah and explored two national parks - Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef. Despite a snowstorm in Bryce Canyon, the trip was fantastic.
Iceland – March
Ah, how sometimes things work out for the better. I was supposed to visit Iceland with a friend but the trip turned into a solo trip. I'm a firm believer in "everything happens for a reason." Due to the solo nature of the trip, I decided to book a night at the Five Million Star Hotel in Iceland (Bubble) and slept in a transparent bubble in the middle of the woods. With that came a tour of the Golden Circle via a Chevy Suburban. Normally the company does not accept solo travelers but I lucked out (and didn't even have to pay the new solo fee!!!) I loved getting another passport stamp despite the ever-changing Icelandic weather!
Yosemite National Park – May
It seems like trips to Yosemite never seem to disappoint. This one was particularly great because it was a reunion of the Trans-Cats! All six of us that backpacked the Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT) on Catalina Island last Thanksgiving (2017) reunited in Yosemite National Park! One of my favorite parts about Yosemite is bringing people there for the first time. We had the best time hiking, exploring, taking photos, and laughing (face masks...!) We got some incredible photos and plenty of memories!
Big Pine Lakes/Route 395 – June
I secured four permits for the infamous Big Pine Lakes and made a weekend of exploring my favorite stretch of road in California - Route 395. Christa, Jeremy, Derek, and I drove up Route 395 and stopped at Manzanar National Historic Site. We had driven by it so many times going up to the Eastern Sierras and we finally made the time to stop and learn about this incredible, eye-opening location. From Manzanar we filled up on Copper Top BBQ (YUM) and went to two natural hot springs in the area. We even stopped at Mono Lake before setting up camp for the night. Saturday morning we set out on the North Fork Trail up to the lakes. We set up camp around Lake Two (most picturesque area in the Sierras!) before setting out to hike the rest of the lakes. It was an exhausting "do nothing" day... The following day we made a stop at Alabama Hills before heading back to LA LA Land. I eagerly await the day I can do this trip all over again!
New Zealand – June
What happens when you wake up in the middle of the night and see an email from Scott's Cheap Flights for round trip airfare to New Zealand for a measly $400? You book the trip! What happens when you get back from New Zealand, immediately go to Sequoia National Park and then head to Peru and Florida? You don't have time to write a blog post about the trip. Rest assured, a post will be coming "from the archives" in June 2019! This trip to New Zealand was so spontaneous but so great. Christa, Derek, and I took a camper van around the South Island and explored the North Island for a bit as well. My favorite part? The yurt in Wanaka and breakfast at Florence's!!! Lots of driving and lots of exploring made for one of the best trips of 2018!
Sequoia National Park – June
What a whirlwind trip this was... I landed in Los Angeles at 11:50am on Friday, June 29th, showered, unpacked, repacked, and drove to Sequoia to help lead a trip with the 20s & 30s Section of the Sierra Club. The reasoning behind this trip making this list is because we saw some bear!!! A momma bear and two cubs made my highlight reel of 2018! Exploring the caves, hiking to Heather Lake, and hanging out with friends were also fabulous, despite my severe jet lag!
It's really hard to pick one trip as the standout trip of 2018 but this one is up there for sure. Peru was absolutely incredible. From cooking classes to trekking to Machu Picchu to climbing and zip lining with Natura Vive to ATV tours. As if that wasn't enough - Christa and I took our talents to Florida for a week while on our way back from Peru. Between melting at Biscayne National Park, driving through and getting rained on at Everglades National Park, marveling in wonder at Dry Tortugas National Park, and hearing "yes" at 1 Hotel South Beach, there's nothing else to say besides I was blown away by the month of July.
Labor Day Trip: Lassen Volcanic, Crater Lake, & Redwood National Parks – August/September
I was only back to work for a couple days/weeks before the next adventure (backpacking Little Jimmy Campground and a weekend in Big Sur and then our Labor Day trip). Unfortunately, I'm glossing over my Sierra Club trips in favor of National Parks with friends but that's ok... Lassen Volcanic is probably one of the most underrated parks in the NP system, jumping into Crater Lake is one of my favorite highlights, and the Redwoods that stood before me were toppling to say the least. As usual, it was another action packed trip for #ChristaKrista+Jeremy.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park – September
On a rather spontaneous trip back to Buffalo, I convinced my friend to go to Cuyahoga Valley National Park as it was only about three hours from Buffalo and I hadn't been yet. Although an urban park with an actual thruway running through it, the waterfalls, horses, Ledges area, and the company by my side made my 29th National Park one of my favorites.
Oak Flat Lookout – September
I stayed at Oak Flat Lookout with two friends when I first moved back to California and had been eagerly awaiting the day I could get another reservation for this unique accommodation in Southern California. I was finally able to snag a reservation back in March for two-nights in September. Since my Dad retired in June and wanted to take the train across the country, I booked him a ticket on the Amtrak so he could take the train as he wanted while also joining me at this old fire lookout. We had the best trip complete with sunsets, hot springs, campfires, and adventures. After all, "it's always an adventure..." This time around, the cattle in the middle of the road joined us on our adventure!
Virgin Islands National Park – September
I booked a trip to the Virgin Islands in the beginning of August with one goal in mind: visiting another National Park! It was a solo trip to a very popular honeymoon destination but that's didn't matter - I had the time of my life adventuring around the island of St. John and Virgin Islands National Park! I have to give a shout out to Susan and her Airbnb for making an exception to the minimum night rule and giving me an affordable place to while exploring. If you're in the area, be sure to check out The Longboard restaurant, I was there every night!!! If all goes well, my next blog post will be recapping this trip! Yet another trip I want to relive over and over again.
Petrified Forest & Saguaro – October
When you set out to visit Petrified Forest National park and then go to the magical land of Havasupai with two friends (Christa + Jeremy) but then there'a flash food warning and you realize you can't hang out in the magical land of Havasupai because it's located in a canyon that's susceptible to flash flooding... you come up with Plan B. Plan B included Petrified Forest National Park and then a whole lot of driving to also visit Saguaro National Park. I loved Petrified Forest, such a unique place with the petrified trees that I like to refer to as rocks... Saguaro was pretty neat too - much different from the first time I visited - because of the storms that were rolling in.
Monday Night Football – October
Once a Bills fan, always a Bills fan. Although this trip was a short one, I still made the trek for Monday Night Football in Buffalo versus the Patriots. Flying in Monday morning and out Tuesday afternoon was rough but I had to go to Joshua Tree National Park for WTC Graduation the weekend leading up to the game. It was great to pregame with my cousins who also flew in from California and go to the game with my brother and friends. Sure it was freezing, the #BillsMafia have a funny way of making you forget about the outside temperature!
Hot Springs NP, Memphis, & Mammoth Cave NP – November
This trip started when my friend from City Year was getting married in Memphis. I definitely did not want to miss her wedding but was also hesitant going to the wedding completely solo (our other friend Jeannie wasn't able to make it due to medical school, in Mexico). So, I decided to bookmark the wedding in between two national parks - Hot Springs and Mammoth Cave. I arrived in Memphis late Friday night and drove to Hot Springs to spend the majority of the day there. I then drove from Hot Springs to Memphis for the wedding (I really could have used a shower...) and then from the wedding to Nashville. The following day I drove the rest of the way from Nashville to Mammoth Cave where I explored the cave on two tours and did a short hike. I stayed the night in a nearby hotel (finally) before heading back to Memphis for my flight out on Veteran's Day. There was a lot of exploring and a lot of sleeping in a tiny rental car but it's adventures like these that make for the best memories.
Thanksgiving with Family – November
I was so excited to plan a trip for my mom and dad who visited me over Thanksgiving. We explored a lot of California from Joshua Tree National Park to Mammoth Lakes and the Sierras. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for us and even planned a hike with the Sierra Club to #OptOutside. I can't wait for them to visit again, hopefully soon!
Houston – December
My very best travel buddy, Christa, lives in Houston but is always venturing to California to join me on adventures. So, when her and her husband invited me to their annual Christmas Party, I knew I had to go. Although it was a quick weekend trip, it was action-packed! We started bicycling around Downtown Houston, went not-antique shopping, got coffee, enjoyed poke, and got ready for the Christmas Party. The party was a blast and the next day was even more fun as we started at The Rustic for brunch and then headed to the Bills Backers Bar in Houston to watch the game. The rest of the day was history and I still don't remember the flight back to LA...
Hawaii / American Samoa – December
I keep going back and forth for the clear winner of best trip of 2018. Between Hawaii/American Samoa and Peru/Florida, it's near impossible to pick only one. I dream about American Samoa at least once a week. I am going to attempt to recap this epic trip after I post my Virgin Islands National Park post. In the meantime, just know this is a trip I will never, ever forget. It's going to be hard to top this one. Between Oahu, spending my birthday with a Samoan chief, and seeing the beauty on an island somewhere in the South Pacific - I can't decide what was better. For anyone wanting a unique experience, go to American Samoa!!!
2018 was an epic year of travel, growth, and life lessons. I’m truly blessed to have had such difficulty picking “only” 18 trips to summarize 2018. Surprisingly, yes, there were more than 18 trips in 2018... What can I say, I get my best sleep on airplanes!
2019 Intentions: Well, if there's anything I learned in 2018 it's that traveling is exhausting and expensive. I'm always up for an adventure but my goals for 2019 include being more meaningful and even more present in my trips. I need to learn to say no and stop trying to please everyone. I need to be more diligent with updating my blog and sharing my adventures with others. I need to be better about sorting through my photos! I need to be better about being active & healthy! I need to read more!
Here's to hoping 2019 is even half as great as 2018! Cheers to 2019!
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