2015 was a very big year for me travel wise. By big I mean BIG and by BIG I mean HUGE. I made it to over 19 new countries this past year and revisited a few I’ve already had the pleasure of traveling through. I met hundreds of interesting, beautiful, unique souls from all different backgrounds, cultures, and countries making their own ways across foreign soil. I paid a few visits to some sketchy hospitals, worked at some out of control hostels, and even fell canvas to some new ink art, of which my mom was less than thrilled about as you can imagine. I tried crazy foods, participated in unforgettable local traditions, and witnessed fascinating sights that can hardly be put into words. However, a few places have truly captured my heart with their natural beauty, crazy personality, and individual charm. So without further ado and in no particular order, I give you my favorite 15 from 2015!
Being in Munich for the kickoff of this 2 week tradition was one of the best weekends of my traveling career, essentially of my life. It was here, fully dressed for the occasion in my Dirndl, I learned that being surrounded by good friends, plenty of beer, delicious food that will blow your tastebuds off, and roaring German music is truly the life.
Oh India, where do I begin? This is a country that needs at least a couple months to even scratch the surface of it’s true self. The consensus seems to be visitors either fall in love and never leave or… they get enough, appreciate the experience, and vow never to return. Personally, during my visit I had one of the most eye-opening and influential trips of inner and outer realization [not drug induced]. I truly had to practice being more patient and minimalistic there than any other part of my trip; and for that I am positively humbled and grateful.
In Ubud, Bali I found a new love for yoga and meditation. On Lombok I discovered my love for cycling and discovering secret beaches. In the Gilis I learned just how hard Australians party [shoutout to all my crazy aussies!]. I’d have to give Indo the award for Best All-around. No matter what you’re in the mood for – hiking volcanos, diving, partying, or centering yourself – it can be found in the islands of Indonesia.
To continue with the award ceremony, Borneo gets my vote for the Outdoorsmans Dream. I love that it’s still off the grid enough that you need to actually work to get around rather than succumb to a tourist flow. Check out more here!
It’s hard to say this one region is higher or lower on the list than the rest of Italy because my time in Rome, Florence, and Cinque Terre was fabulous. But I think seeing my sister so happy and enjoying every second of the precious time she had there just made the trip that little bit more special.
I’m not ashamed to admit I fell hard for this area of Romania. I suppose I should be embarrassed of how my love affair with vampires [not the Twilight kind… the oldschool Dracula kind] blossomed while spending a couple weeks here; but frankly, why not get in the spirit? The spooky castles along with the quaint gothic towns make for a far under-appreciated summer/fall travel destination. Paired with one of the most exhilarating roads to drive in the world (check out my post on the Transfăgărășan Highway), this Eastern European region had definitely done more than catch my eye.
This modest freshwater getaway was my home for over 2 weeks, primarily due to the fact that it completely drew me in and made it nearly impossible to leave. Its charm and tranquil air are reviving to the worn-out backpacker and many tend to find themselves staying past their check-out date. I give Lake Ohrid the award for Best Find.
I consider Stockholm a second home after spending the most of the winter of 2014 in Stockholm. I made some great friends, learned my way around, and even picked up some of the language. However, the big question I got asked at least once a day was, “Why would you come here in the winter?” Well, it was convenient timing if I’m being honest, but it’s also made me come to a great realization: If I can fall in love with a city in it’s lowest, darkest, coldest time of year, then it’s gotta be true love. I returned in the summer of 2015 for the traditional midsummer celebrations with some of my good friends, and I can safely say… my hypothesis was correct. Midsummer with my favorite Swedes made me feel like I was home and belonged. The appreciation and love for summer and life is so evident during this celebration. It reminds me to fully relish every day and every breath.
Check out the video here!
I love the art, architecture, and history that makes up Vienna but I’m a sucker for smaller towns and nature. Salzburg, nestled near the snowcapped mountains, and Hallstatt, a tiny town adorning a lake amidst more mountains, both provide a great fix for that!
Check out the video here!
It feels a bit weird even for me to add hitchhiking to a favorite part of 2015. You’re almost always sweaty, smelly, and tired – never knowing who you’ll meet next and being a bit on your guard. But my experience doing it through the Balkans taught me so much. There are some weirdos in this world, but there are some really cool and kind people too. I like to believe that people are inherently good, and I’ve built up most of this proof from hitchhiking. It’s hard work and requires plenty of patience, but you always get a new friend or at least a new story from it. Read some of mine here!
Full Moon on Koh Phangan, Thailand
Last but certainly not least… the party island of Koh Phangan. Through all the negative feedback I’ve gotten about this island being trashy and an absolute $%!#hole, I admittedly loved it and can safely say it has plenty more to offer. I worked at a local hostel and had the pleasure of being there on its slow days. Don’t get me wrong, you can party when the moon is in every other part of its cycle and if I’m still handing out awards, I’d say it gets the Best Party Spot of 2015. But there’s much more than alcoholic buckets, neon facepaint, and beach/jungle raves. From diving and scootering to private beaches, to Thai boxing and tasty street markets, life around epic raging thrives and deserves to be given a chance.