As 2013 comes to an end I am looking back at a year in travel and how much I have enjoyed discovering new and repeat favorite destinations to share with you.
I made a resolution at the beginning of the year to make 2013 the year of happy, and I think it really was. I’m know that there were days when I wasn’t smiling or really feeling great, but they seem such a blur to me now, which says a lot about the overall 12 months.
This year I got to make a few wishes come true, and some that I had never even considered – such as being able to talk family travel on CBS’ The Couch and speaking at TBEX about diversity in travel writing while also experiencing a bucket list destination (Dublin) with my husband.
I celebrated my fifth anniversary in blogging and Girl Gone Travel celebrated its first year since re-branding from NYCity Mama, In the process we were featured/mentioned in The New York Times, Mashable, Orlando Sentinel (in Spanish!), and San Francisco Gate, just to name a few.
I was honored with an exclusive opportunity to represent the Bordeaux region of France. I was later informed that the feedback and reception from my readers and followers during this trip exceeded expectations and blew everyone away, something for which I can’t thank you all enough.
My experience in the Bordeaux region was greatly influenced by the people I met there. During my visit the wineries were slow, meaning harvesting had been delayed a month due to poor weather and wine makers had nothing but time to give. Because of this, I got to sit and chat with a very many of them. Lunches would be hours long and time to socialize provided insights beyond the scope of wine making. I was able to share in culture nuances and traditions that warmed me up to all those I encountered. I made friends who email me still, and whom I look forward to seeing again. This is such a gift from any traveler, but most especially for a travel blogger, because the truth is what makes the destination are the people in it, and people of Bergerac, Bordeaux, and Saint Emilion were so warm and giving of both their friendship and their time that I can confidently say it is a must-see destination when in France, not just for wine.
My time in the Bordeaux region showed me a more lay back beauty often not seen in Paris, both in ambiance and in the people.
Another beautiful surprise was in getting to see what an amazing traveler and citizen of the world my teen is growing up to be. During our Mediterranean adventure with Carnival Cruise Lines, I got to witness a traveler who is kind, patient, considerate, flexible, adventurous, and curious about the world. The pride from that and the bonding while on that trip changed me as a mother and our relationship. This is a true testament to the value and reward of traveling with your kids. It isn’t always easy and some people will judge you and make it even harder for you – it can be a rough start, so matter how great of a parent you are, and how great your kid is at home. But don’t give up. And if you haven’t started, I hope we can continue to inspire you with reasons for why you should. The experience I had with my teen this summer is an example of the beauty that can come about when you get your kids out there early.My time traveling with my son along the Mediterranean was one that not only changed us, but bonded us more than we could have ever expected. He is a beautiful traveler.
Our desire to road trip along the Pacific West Coast finally came true after years of discussion and two years of savings and we were able to gift our middle son with the birthday of a lifetime: a visit with his beloved uncles followed by a trip to Disneyland. Once we set the final details in motion, we had the opportunity to partner with G Adventures. This was such a great opportunity for us because it allowed us to show that family travel can be as adventurous and as exciting as any other kind of travel. To have the support of a brand who is the leader in adventure travel further validated what we do as a traveling family. I was proud of this and happy to promote them and their family adventure packages. GMC and OnStar were our vehicle sponsor, and they have been a brand that has supported us and our crazy adventurous from the start. This year further solidified my belief that it’s not about working with tons of brands, but really developing relationships with those brands that you believe in, truly, as a consumer, but also brands that believe in you and sincerely support your work and your message. It’s an incredible feeling.
This year I put into practice the art of saying no, and giving priority to partnerships and brands that I believe in and support, but who also believe in and have supported me and my message.
This was the year of national parks for us. We visited Yosemite, Redwoods, and after being honored with an award from the Latino Heritage Fund, I along with my chosen team got to discover Olympic National Park. It was a rough year for the national parks, I am hoping that our stories motivate you to consider them as vacation destinations.
We self-funded and were awarded opportunities to show our support, appreciation, and love for our national parks and promoted diversity in the same.
I returned to Mexico to discover new places, such as Mexico City, which I absolutely loved, and Mazatlan. Mexico City is one of those places the really meant a lot for me to visit because I wanted to show people that it isn’t the dangerous place that the media is fixated on promoting. That travelers should be cautious remains true, no matter what large city you are visiting in the world. Mexico City really captivated me, and I absolutely loved the people there.
Mexico City was exciting, full of energy and wonderful people, food, and views. It easily became one of my favorite cities of 2013.
The foodie destination that surprised me the most this year was Richmond, VA. The passion, talent, culinary creativity and community there is not getting enough praise and recognition as far as I am concerned. But it also represents a trend in the United States, where true culinary artists are forgoing the fame, status, and money of the big cities in pursuit of freedom of a dream to serve good, healthy, locally sourced, naturally inspired food.
The moments that I have been closer to home have been incredible too. I am still getting used to my living in New Jersey, even after two years here already (!!!) and opening up myself for to experiences here, though I can’t help the frequent ventures in Manhattan – I mean, it’s only 35 minutes by train and it’s still my hometown. But I think as far as local destinations go, the Catskill Mountains hve been calling to me more and more. The Emerson Resort has become a favorite retreat for us and the frequent visits has allowed us to find favorites eateries like the Phoenicia Diner, Ricciardella’s, Hickory BBQ, and The Alternative Baker have been awesome food finds.
We spent more and more time enjoying the things that being home has to offer, like hiking trips in the Catskill Mountains.
I started writing for Expedia’s Viewfinder blog this year. As a freelancer who frequently writes for many publications, I have to say that I have never really worked with such a warm and welcoming group of people, not to mention how crazy talented and creative they all are. From the our lead content director and editor to fellow writers, it’s been quite the experience and I am incredibly grateful and so, so happy to be welcomed to the team.
Of all the travel surprises I had this year, I think the biggest surprise of them all was how happy I was when I wasn’t traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I still love what I do very much, but being home with my family and friends became something I really looked forward to in between my trips, this year more than ever. My children are getting older and I love seeing the ways in which they are changing and growing. My husband’s adjustment and support for my career was something he finally shared with the world in Our Strangelove: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Blog and I was able to also get personal on my growth as a writer and how I had to learn to balance it all with my role as a mother and wife in Who’s With The Kids?
We continued to prove to the world that family travel can be adventurous, fun, and really, really cool.
This was one of my busiest year in travel, and one where my wanderlust redirected itself to home and family.
This year I found my wanderlust directing me more towards home then the other way around. I think it means I have grown and really learned to balance my work with my home life – a constant work in progress – and really taken the time to truly appreciate what I have instead of being distracted by what I don’t. That feeling reflected itself not just in travel/home, but also in work. I said “no” more this year, not because I was so swamped but because I am leaving myself open to opportunities that are truly a good fit. I am not longer crippled by the fear that saying “no” will lead me to a void of nothingness forever. It may lead to less income one month or two, but also to a happier me. Which, of course, was my resolution to begin with.
Looking back, I am feeling so fortunate to have done so much and so appreciative of the very many people who believed in me, who read me, who support me, and shared my work, and who have helped to make this year a great one.
I am kicking 2014 in a fun way! Come see me speak at the New Media Expo in Las Vegas, January 4-6, 2014!. Also, we are actively working on our dream to renew our wedding vows in Scotland in December of 2014. We are so excited for what’s to come! We hope you will join us on this fun ride.