Every year I like to do a summary of my travels and what I learned from each of my vacations. Not only do I learn something new on every vacation, I learn more about myself as well. I feel like travel is truly one of the best forms of education there is.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, travel was a bit different for me than in previous years. However, unlike 2020 when I only took road trips, I actually flew in a real live airplane in 2021, and not just once but a few times! Even though I normally take an international flight every year, all of my flights were domestic this year because of all of the restrictions and limitations on international flights.
When I went to Tampa, Florida in March, I hadn’t flown in more than a year when I went to the same area in Florida (St. Petersburg) in February 2020. This time I was vaccinated, which helped ease any hesitation I might have had about flying, and it was a quick direct flight of less than 2 hours. I learned it is possible to still travel and even fly without getting COVID. Sure, there was always the possibility I might have gotten sick but I didn’t, nor did my daughter. We made sure we wore a mask when indoors, washed our hands and used hand sanitizer before touching our face or eating, and kept our distance from others.
We had a fantastic time in Tampa and I was so glad I took the chance and went. One of the things I had always wanted to do is swim with manatees and we had the opportunity to do that, plus we saw peacocks and dolphins, relaxed in the sunshine, went to some beautiful parks, and spent the vast majority of our time outside enjoying the perfect weather. Travel to Tampa, Florida- Great Food, Water Views, Museums, and Culture.
In June, I spent a long weekend in the mountains of North Carolina, which I never wrote a blog post about. The trip’s purpose was to check out a college for my daughter and we really didn’t do much worth writing a post about. We stayed in an Airbnb in an old farm house where it was so utterly quiet it was almost surreal. From that trip, I learned it’s possible to have a nice little vacation and yet not do much of anything, well at least not anything worth writing in a blog post. I’m so used to writing blog posts about everywhere I go, it was a little strange not writing about this one (well, I guess technically I sort of am writing about it now).
The week after getting home from the mountains, I flew to Minnesota for a half marathon and racecation. I met up with a fellow blogger who goes by “The Travel Architect” and her husband, https://thetravelarchitect.wordpress.com/ and we had a tasty lunch together and chatted and laughed about mostly travel. After running a half marathon in Lake City, (Circle of Life Half Marathon, Lake City, Minnesota- 48th state) I drove to Duluth and discovered Minnesota is an even more beautiful state than I imagined it would be. The state parks in that area reminded me of when I went to Maine, with the jagged coast line and crystal clear water below the cliffs. Also, I learned “Minnesota nice” is real; the people were some of the nicest people I’ve come across. State and Local Parks Plus Daytrips From Duluth, Minnesota, Museums, Shopping, and More in Duluth, Minnesota, and Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota in a Minute Plus a Meetup!
I had just one day at home before I left for Atlanta for the Peachtree Road Race, the largest 10k in the world. Although I thought perhaps there was no way this race could live up to the hype, it actually did and was one of the most fun races I’ve ever run. I felt like I was flying on the course, despite the hills, which I normally don’t enjoy in a race and a smile was plastered on my face the entire 6.2 miles. There was such a fun vibe and the race was hands-down the best-organized large race I’ve run. I recommend it without hesitation. Even though I had been to Atlanta a few times before, I learned new parts of the city and learned that traffic there continues to get worse every year so don’t even think about driving, just take the MARTA. Rediscovering Abundance in Atlanta: Some of My Favorite Places in Atlanta, Georgia
After about a month at home, I flew to California with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop to spend almost a week backpacking in Yosemite National Park. None of us had ever attempted anything remotely like this before. We were with two fantastic female guides from https://lastingadventures.com/, a company I highly recommend, and we backpacked and slept under the stars with no tents. The hiking for hours on end while carrying heavy packs was difficult at times, especially for a couple of our girls, but everyone agreed in the end it was a life-changing trip and something we would all cherish.
Except for my multi-day hike to Machu Picchu when I only had a small daypack (not even as big as a small backpack) to carry and sherpas carried everything else, I had only done day backpacking prior to this. On this trip to Yosemite, I learned how much I love multi-day backpacking where I carry everything I need for the next few days on my back and I would love to do more of it. My First Time Backpacking and Sleeping Under the Stars in Yosemite National Park, California- Day One, My First Time Backpacking and Sleeping Under the Stars in Yosemite National Park, California- Days Two and Three, and My First Time Backpacking and Sleeping Under the Stars in Yosemite National Park, California- Days Four and Five.
In October I had my first solo vacation ever when I went to Des Moines, Iowa for a half marathon in my 49th state IMT Des Moines Half Marathon, Des Moines, Iowa- 49th state. The half marathon far exceeded my expectations and was definitely one of my favorite half marathons ever. Every single aspect of the race was well-organized seemingly from a runner’s perspective with tons of little touches that all added up to one heck of a race. What I learned about that vacation is that solo travel can be relaxing and enjoyable rather than scary and intimidating. I was glad I decided to go by myself rather than postpone it when someone could join me and I liked it so much I did it again the next month. WOW- Iowa! Des Moines, Iowa- It’s Not What You Might Think and My First Solo Vacation.
As you can gather by now, in November I flew to my next vacation for another racecation, this time in New Mexico. I actually haven’t posted anything about this trip yet other than the half marathon but I will sometime in the weeks ahead. The Albuquerque Half Marathon was my 50th state and I have to admit it was a bit of a letdown, especially after following in the rather large shoes of the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon. So many things went wrong before and during this race, like it wasn’t that well-organized, there were pretty much no extra touches along the course or after the race, and it seemed like the race director just did the bare minimum. Still, I had to remind myself that it was always about the journey for me. The whole reason why it took me 21 years to complete a half marathon in all 50 states was so I could spend some time in each state, rather than just check a box off and say I was there. For some people, that’s what they choose to do and I’m not judging anyone, but it wasn’t ever the way I wanted to do it.
My time in New Mexico was also a solo trip and it taught me that I can travel to a place I’ve never been before and rent a car and drive around to multiple cities by myself, relying solely on myself. When I was in Des Moines, I didn’t rent a car but I just walked everywhere or got a rideshare if it was too far to walk so things were easier logistically. While the places I went to in New Mexico weren’t “big” cities, there were multi-lane highways with multi-levels in places and I didn’t have anyone else to help me drive or figure out anything. There was never a time where I didn’t feel safe, even when I was hiking by myself and there wasn’t a soul around. I’ve learned to trust my gut and this trip taught me that this skill has worked well for me so far and I need to continue doing that.
Given that I barely traveled anywhere in 2020 and didn’t even leave the state last year (well, I was on the border of Tennessee when I went to Great Smoky Mountain National Park if you want to count that), I had an entirely different travel year this year. It was a bit hectic especially during the summer but it was one of the best years for me regarding travel.
What were some of your travel highlights? Anything you’d like to share? Anything you learned from your travels?