My Best Travel Moments of 2014

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What makes a perfect travel moment?

For me, it’s not always about seeing an iconic sight or taking a memorable journey — it’s how I feel in one small moment, whether it lasted a few minutes or a few hours. It’s a moment when the rest of the world floats away and I’m perfectly present.

Here are my favorite travel moments from 2014.

Kate in the Finnish Sauna

Late-Night Sauna and Skinny Dipping in Finland

I was in rural central Finland for the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival and scored an invite to a sauna party for the musicians at a cabin a few miles from town.

Now, the sauna ritual may as well be religion in Finland. You sauna year-round, even in the bitter cold. You (usually) go in naked and single-sex. You send time soaking up the heat, possibly whipping yourself with birch branches if you so desire, then you go swimming, still naked, in the nearest lake (Finland is covered in lakes and saunas are built on the shores).

Let’s just say that this was a great way to get to know all the female musicians at the festival, but the best part was walking naked into the lake underneath a pale pinky-blue sky just after midnight. The lake was so much warmer than I thought it would be, and gliding through those still waters felt incredibly peaceful.

View from Sigiriya

Ascending to the Top of Sigiriya

I knew I had to climb it. When you see a giant rock sticking out of the countryside like that, it begs to be climbed.

Of all the wonderful moments in Sri Lanka, what makes this one stand out? Well, it was visiting a place I had wanted to visit for so long. It was being in the final stretch of achieving my goal of 101 World Heritage Sites. It was having such a beautiful view. It was completing a physical challenge. And it was turning around to see dozens of my friends in every direction.

That moment, being at the top and looking over the landscape, was one of the biggest highlights of my time in Sri Lanka.

Amazing Scallops

Relaxing in Portmagee after Skellig Michael

Now, you’d think that I would mention Skellig Michael instead for this one. Visiting (and climbing) Skellig Michael was one of the undeniable highlights of my year.

So why was my favorite moment afterward?

It was a rough journey — 90 minutes each way on a very choppy sea. It was a simple but slow, cautious climb to the top. It was cold, despite being June (you’ve got to love Ireland). There were no toilets on the island. It was a physically and mentally exhausting day.

So to get back to civilization and check into The Moorings, such a warm and welcoming guesthouse, was the perfect coda to the adventure. It was at that point that I was able to process the day and appreciate it as a whole. I sat back and enjoyed a plate of buttery scallops pulled out of the sea about 20 feet away, and talked and laughed about the crazy world of tourism with the kind owner.

Kate at the White House

Visiting the White House

I loved seeing the White House all decked out for Christmas. But this was more than that — just getting invited to appear at the White House as part of the first Travel Bloggers Summit, focusing on study abroad, was an incredible honor and an opportunity that I don’t intend to waste.

I’m really excited about how the day went and I can’t wait to tell you all more about it! Definitely a career highlight for me.

Kate on Lake Bled

Rowing Across Lake Bled

I was hanging out at the unspeakably beautiful Lake Bled in Slovenia with my bud Peter, and once we rowed to the little island in the lake, we realized that teenagers were actually swimming all the way from the beach to the island. It wasn’t that far.

Now, that was all the encouragement Peter needed. He threw off his clothes and swam back as I rowed alongside him, laughing. With me rowing and him swimming, we were quite the photogenic subject for the many Chinese tourists crossing the lake in wooden boats.

Bergen Norway

The First Stroll Through Bergen

I arrived in Bergen late at night with far more bags than usual, with no time to do anything but head to my hotel and go to sleep. The next morning, however, I got up and walked down to Bergen’s historic center, capped off by the colorful Bryggen.

My heart swelled with joy. What was it about Bergen that made me so happy, seemingly for no reason? Well, perhaps it was that after more than a year of not prioritizing my own needs, I had finally planned a special trip just for me. It was exactly the kind of destination I loved — a small Scandinavian city with a lot of character — and my itinerary was open enough to explore it however I pleased.

I need to visit more places like Bergen.

Kate Flyboarding in Malta

Flyboarding in Malta

Definitely the coolest adventure activity I did this year! I was a bit apprehensive, not least because it was still April and definitely not summer weather, even in the Mediterranean, but I suited up, strapped on the apparatus, and jumped into the water.

It took about 10 minutes to get the hang of it, but before long, I was flying like Iron Man! Such a cool feeling! And because the water is pulled up directly from the ocean, I could technically do it for as long as I liked! I definitely took advantage of that.

Boracay Sunset

The Best Sunset of My Life in Boracay

There are no doubts in the world: this was the single best sunset I have ever seen. I’ve never seen so many colors in the sky at once. Boracay is famous for its sunsets — so much that I thought it was better than Koh Lanta, my previous favorite sunset destination.

I enjoyed it while sitting on White Beach, my toes buried in the warm, soft sand. The only thing that would have made it better would be if I had my favorite drink from my favorite Boracay bar, Nigi Nigi Nu Noos: a frothy Boracay colada made with Boracay coconut rum, pineapple, and tequila.

Kate and a Reader

Getting Recognized by Readers

These days, I’m getting recognized by readers about once a month or so. Often while in transit at airports and train stations; sometimes on the street. Not gonna lie — I love it. For now, at least. I always love spending time with readers; it’s even better when they come over and say hi.

And as much as I know my core readership backwards and forwards — women, 25-34, American, college-educated — I love finding readers that fall outside the norm. Like when I was out for a walk in Tooting Bec, London, and ran into a male reader from Eritrea!

Firefighter Kate in Helsinki

Taking Over a Helsinki Fire Station

Story time. Nearly four years ago, I met a Finnish firefighter named Sami in Kuala Lumpur. We had quite the interesting night, stayed in touch on Facebook, and when he heard I was coming to town, he invited me to the fire station.

Well, Dylan was there too, and after seeing Helsinki’s terrific food markets, he wanted to cook. So Dylan ended up cooking dinner for the firemen (a dish that he ironically set on fire, which he feared would trigger an automatic response from the firemen!) while the rest of us explored the station and goofed off with the fire equipment.

Sami and his fellow firefighters were such a chill group of guys (not to mention handsome) and I got to fulfill my lifelong dream of hanging out in the firefighters’ locker room…

Zagreb World Cup

Rocking Out at the World Cup in Zagreb

On a few instances of my life, I’ve been lucky enough to watch World Cup games live in the country of one of the teams playing. The latest? Croatia vs. Cameroon, live from Zagreb. My friends and I knew we had to join in the festivities in Zagreb’s main square, where we promptly secured a table and a bottle of wine.

And it was amazing. Croatia won, 4-0, and the whole square erupted with each goal. I loved being swept up in the joy of the locals, and it was a springboard to an adventurous night out in the city.

If you ever have a chance to see a World Cup game on a big screen in its home country, go!

Kate in New York

Running Amok Early in New York City

My photographer friends are no strangers to arising at absurdly early hours. Me? Not really my thing, even though the light is amazing and the whole place feels different.

But between jet lag and circumstance, I found myself wandering Manhattan early on a cold, clear Saturday morning. And while New York may never sleep, it definitely snoozes a tad. I loved running around on the empty streets, twirling around on the still-lit Christmas lights, and grabbing some freshly made bagels and mimosas to start the day.

What was your favorite travel moment of the year?


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48 thoughts on “My Best Travel Moments of 2014”

  1. Very cliche but my best travel moment this year was seeing the kids so excited about visiting disneyland in Hong Kong. We had an awesome day & my 7 yr old daughter told us she was ‘born for that day’!
    What a year you have had Kate, well done I have enjoyed watching you this year. Hope you make it down under in 2015! Take care.

  2. Sounds and looks like you had a great travel year! We traveled much more than usual this year, and spent over a month altogether in Colorado alone, and loved it!

  3. That’s such a great collection of moments, Kate – and such a lovely variety between those big moments and the smaller ones. Also: flyboarding looks amazing. Why have I never heard of this before now?!

    My top moment of the year has to be holding my new goddaughter for the first time. Incredibly special!

    Travel-wise, though, I think it was probably over Easter on the Isle of Man. I was just going for a seaside stroll along the cliff-tops, and suddenly happened upon The Chasms: a cliff site that I knew nothing about, with 50-ft splitts in the rock that went all the way down to the sea below. Terrifying and exhilarating!

  4. I’ll be doing a post similar to this closer to the end of the month, but I don’t really know how I’m going to pick the highlights! So many fabulous things happened and I visited a lot of new places for the first time…it’ll be fun to recap everything!

  5. Ah, such an adventurous year and so inspiring! My favorite travel moment was probably rock climbing in New Mexico. It was an exhausting day, but the view was beautiful once we reached the top of the cliff.

  6. That sunset in Boracay makes me so jealous every time I see it. I’ve gotta get there. Great post. It looks like you’ve had some fun moments this past year. Um, and if I see you on the street/airport/in public anywhere, I’m most definitely grabbing you for a similar picture.

  7. Very cool list. The White House is sure to be top of your list for a few years I would think. Heading to Sri Lanka in 9 days and so looking forward to visiting Sigiriya.

  8. It’s great to read your favorite travel moments, Kate. I love when you are just whisked away and are solely in the present. For me, this has been happening a lot while I’m teaching here in Spain, but as for travel, it happened when I was exploring Granada and looking at the Alhambra from the Mirador San Nicolás as well as meeting up with my former study abroad host mom in Granada.

  9. Great adventures! Hard to,pick a best travel moment but I’m going to say attending the ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Seeing the surviving veterans was emotional and amazing.

  10. I learned about flyboarding this year! I don’t think I’d be any good at it though ha.

    Fave travel moment… probably seeing a turtle underwater at Great Barrier, or a luxury stay at a 5 star retreat in Franz Josef.

  11. You look like you are having a blast. And your outfit for the White House was perfect. And yes, that was a huge honor. I am so happy for you because what woman wouldn’t love that?

    I totally don’t know how you did the naked sauna, I still debate if I’ll do that when I go to the Hot Springs in Japan someday. I’ve never been naked in front of people. I’m glad you had an awesome year. =) Here brings on 2015.

  12. I always enjoy looking back on roundups and remembering all the awesome places bloggers have been! Definitely looking forward to the worst moments as well .

  13. First, I LOVE your dress in the photo from Lake Bled. That color is absolutely beautiful on you!

    I love reading about other’s favorite travel moments. I can definitely see why the White House ended up on your list – that’s an incredible honor! And that sunset….stunning!

    I don’t really have a favorite travel moment, mostly because I didn’t really travel this year…so we’ll go with the day I spent with my best friend in Maryland.

  14. Let me second the Lake Bled experience. It is one of the world’s prettiest spots. My experience of it was almost mystical. My adult son and I returned to Munich from a road trip to Transylvania about 15 years ago. We stopped in Ptuj, a beautiful medieval city and then proceeded to Bled, which was totally socked in. We hired a small boat with a German couple and went to the island in the fog. We were well aware that the island is a pre-Christian holy place and the atmosphere made us feel that we were characters from The Mists of Avalon. Compared to that my swim to the island 5 years later, which was with a few other members of a Slovenian language class on a much sunnier day (when I was forty years past being a teenager) was an anticlimax. The last word on Slovenia came from my son, who said the he never realized that a country could be so cute.

  15. You look gorgeous in that dress at the White House, but then you always do. 🙂

    You’ve had a full interesting year Kate and achieved so much. 2014 is a year you’ll never forget in a hurry I reckon. Brilliant!

    What was my favourite travel moment of the year? I’d say pretty much all of it LOL!
    My blog is just a little over one year old and what a door-opener it became. I was in the VIP section as “press” at the Berlin Video Music Awards. I went to Berlin Fashion Week for the first time and got my first press card. I was also invited on my first press trip. To France. And I was the only blogger too!

    I took my husband and son to Thailand and Indonesia. I hadn’t been to Asia since I last went to Vietnam in 2007, and they hadn’t been to Asia at all (if you don’t count Turkey LOL!), and to cap it all. I organised it all by myself.
    I mean, hurrah n’ all that!

  16. I’d say my top two highlights were similar to a couple of yours: watching the World Cup in nations that were playing (we hit three! Uruguay, Argentina and France – hopefully we didn’t jinx them!) and also hiking up Sigiriya. What a dream!

  17. My favorite “travel” moment of this year was finding this blog which has inspired me to start saving serious money to do the traveling I’ve desired for so long. I’m in a situation very similar to yours when you began this blog (from what I can tell), 26, working 9-5 in an office where I make good money but don’t necessarily feel fulfilled. There’s so much more out there and I thank you for not only showing me some of the beautiful destinations but also that I don’t have to wait on someone else to get their ish together to go with me. So money is being set aside and I WILL be solo traveling in 2015. Time to get some stamps in this blank passport of mine!

  18. Sigiraya is definitely a highlight from my travels! This year my favourite moment would be reaching the peak of Mt Kinabalu. Doing it in one day meant I was the only one at the summit (with my guide), a surreal moment.

  19. Skinny dipping is the best.

    After spending a good portion of the summer on nudist beaches in Portugal and Spain I am totally converted. I think it is really good to see how much people’s bodies really do vary and how comfortable people are. It actually really helped me with my own body image stuff that lurks under the surface.

    It sounds like my mom’s worst nightmare- Went to Europe and became a nudist ;P
    Love it as usual. Looks like some awesome highlights.

  20. You had me at Finnihs firemen! That must have been a fun adventure! 🙂 My favorite travel moment from this past year happened over Thanksgiving. I bought a super cheap plane ticket from BOS to Sao Miguel Island (Azores) and ended up meeting an incredible group of new friends that I bonded with and had a blast exploring the island for 5 days. Meeting people is definitely the highlight of traveling for me.

  21. ‘Twas an absolute pleasure to have accompanied you for two of your best travel moment. That Finland trip was certainly full of surprises!

  22. It’s funny how the most memorable moments are rarely the most popular sights, but rather the simple things, like an amazing sunset or a personal challenge you’ve overcome. For me, it was willing myself up Dead Woman’s Pass in Peru despite being cardio-challenged and having 40% less oxygen.

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