2016 was not quite what I expected but it was everything I needed it to be. Some of my plans were successfully executed while others went awry, but at the end of the day I had a fulfilling year that taught me I can honestly do anything I set my mind to – including quitting my full time job, exploring Caribbean destinations, and launching my travel blog. Yay!
This year, I took several different types of trips – long and short; single and multi-destination; cities and islands – and I enjoyed them all. In total, I visited eight countries (five of them new), explored 10 islands, and indulged in countless brand new experiences. It was definitely a great year for travel and here are some of my highlights!
My first trip of the year was very much unplanned and very much work related. Guyana was never a country I considered visiting because I’d heard so little about it, and to be honest, the little I heard wasn’t very flattering. Lucky for me, a last minute work assignment delivered me to this diverse and intriguing destination where I got to take in the bustling chaos of the city, the peaceful activities of the countryside and the vast simplicity of it’s sprawling interior. Guyana’s landscapes are so varied and so vibrant, that I couldn’t possibly see it all during such a short business trip. What I did see however, inspired me to add this country to my bucket list, and there are at least 4 reasons why you should include it on your bucket list as well. I can’t wait to plan my return!
Yes, I’m Trini, so technically this experience doesn’t count as a ‘trip’ but anyone who knows me, knows that I escape into an alternate reality during this most EPIC season. As such, I’m taking the liberty of counting Trinidad Carnival among my ‘travel’ highlights. This year, I made the journey from East to West for two blissful days, donning a brilliant red and yellow crown of feathers and a perfectly bedazzled bikini and paraded through the streets of the our capital city, Port of Spain. It was beautiful, invigorating, liberating, intoxicating, fantastic and FUN and I can’t wait to do it all over again in two months!!!
I did make it out of the Caribbean a couple times this year. The first occasion was an amazing trip to Chicago for a college friend’s wedding. While there I got to reunite with folks I hadn’t seen since graduation (a whole decade ago); hang out with one of my bestest friends in the whole world; had my first REAL baseball game experience; got seduced by the city’s beautiful flowers; walked Millennium Park twice just for the fun it; rode a Divvy bike into the city; sucked at bowling; and ate the most food I’ve eaten on any trip for the entire year. It was so much fun it made me fall in love with Chicago in a way I thought I could only love New York!
My love for Grenada brings me back to this beautiful island at least once a year. My 3 week stay in June allowed me to see and do much more than I’d ever done before and it opened my eyes to so many new experiences. I went river tubing down the Balthazar; hiking up the Seven Sisters Waterfalls and roading tripping around the island on three separate occasions. I discovered Hog Island, a deserted island paradise (every day but Sunday) and escaped to the solitude of Sandy Island while spending a weekend touring and diving in Carriacou. I did so much but I know there’s even more to see, so fingers crossed there’ll be another visit in 2017!
Cuba has been on my travel bucket list since I had enough sense to compile one. I consider it a privilege to have finally made this trip and, while it wasn’t the easiest travel experience I’ve ever had, it was certainly the most impactful one of 2016. It was interesting to observe their systems and way of life and I gained a deeper understanding of why Cubans develop such strong feelings toward their country – both positive or negative. I loved taking in the architecture, the vintage cars and all the history that come with them. It was intriguing to experience the unique vibe of Callejon de Hamel, one of my favorite spots in Havana; and stay at the most idyllic bed and breakfast. I thoroughly enjoyed sampling the delicious food available at every restaurant we dined at and I will forever cherish our brief escape from the Havana hustle to witness quiet, country living and tobacco farming in Viñales. Planning a trip to Cuba in 2017? Check out my travel guide!
We only had a day and a half in the Cayman Islands on our way back from Cuba but we made the most of it. A visit to Stingray City was necessary, however I’m not sure I’ll ever repeat that experience. The stingrays were magnificent and I was in awe at our ability to get so close to them, pet them and feed them, but it didn’t feel 100% right. Yes, the animals aren’t being harmed, but I’m not sure having scores of people picking them up and playing with with them, was helping them much either. I did thoroughly enjoy the snorkeling though! I’m new to snorkeling (much prefer diving) and this was the clearest water I’d ever snorkeled in. The clearest water with the most vibrant reefs! Sting rays, eels, and the most colorful fish I’d ever seen were in great abundance at both reefs and I definitely have to make an extended return trip to do some more snorkeling, and of course get in a dive or two!
It’s impossible to see all of Jamaica in one visit, but hey, that’s why I keep going back. This year, I got to touch Kingston, Montego Bay, Negril and Portland and each destination provided absolutely epic experiences. From bamboo rafting on the Rio Grande in Portland to snorkeling at Doctor’s Cave beach in Montego; snorkeling again off 7 Mile Beach in Negril, and even unexpectedly enjoying some delicious Greek food in Kingston. I don’t foresee a return in 2017 but whenever I do make it back there, I’ve still got a list of things I’m yet to see and do that’s a mile long!
My baby cousin started at the University of Pennsylvania last fall and, as promised, I made the trip to help her move in. It was an exciting but exhausting day of unpacking and organizing that left my aunt and me completely spent. However the next morning we treated ourselves to a self-guided walking tour of Philadelphia that started with an on-the-go breakfast of Federal Donuts and tea from Joe’s Coffee. We strolled along the Schuylkill River Trail, climbed the ‘Rocky Steps’ at the Museum of Art, and wandered down Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in the United States! It took us a while but we covered significant ground and had a really fun time doing it! Can’t wait to return and spend more time exploring Philly!
As soon as I got back to NYC from Philly I hopped on the PATH train and headed straight to New Jersey for a mini-reunion with my college roommates! We split our time between Midtown Manhattan and Hoboken. While in Manhattan we cruised the Hudson river, had dinner at Guy Fieri’s restaurant, Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar and laughed till we cried at the off-Broadway comedy, NEWSical the Musical. Then back in NJ we almost escaped from an escape room challenge, grabbed dinner and drinks from the food trucks at Pier 13 and even sampled pastries from the famous Carlo’s Bakery of Cake Boss! Can’t wait to see these ladies again in Minnesota in April for a very special occasion!
I took a couple extra weeks in New York because you can never have too much time in NYC in the summer! I had such an amazing time catching up with friends and roaming my old stomping ground. I even gave myself a few projects for the blog, including finding great, authentic Caribbean restaurants, thoroughly exploring Central Park, and identifying amazing subway stations that actually double as attractions. I’m very partial to New York in the summer because of all the activities taking place (so many of them FREE) but I’m contemplating making a return trip next year in December…it’s been a while since I’ve had a white Christmas…maybe I’m due for another one! Maybe…
Oh Martinique…this trip did not go according to plan. At all. But I did get a phenomenal dive experience out of it! Hurricane Matthew prevented my travel buddy from flying out of Jamaica so I was forced to make my first solo trip to a country where I did not speak the language. I didn’t do or see any of the wonderful things I had planned – except go diving with Alpha Plongee. And to be honest, that was enough to salvage the whole trip – click here to read all about it!
I am in love with Saint Lucia. Probably obsessed. Either way, this was by far my most picturesque destination of 2016 and I’m so happy I got to experience it with my mother! Brilliant blues and greens were everywhere and I was completely hypnotized by them. We didn’t have a lot of time but we were able to do quite a few of the must-do activities. While I’m not a big fan of organized tours, we enjoyed a lovely trip to Soufrière with Cosol Tours (read more on my pros and cons for this type of activity); I went diving with Dive Saint Lucia; took in the street party in Gros Islet and spent a lovely day hiking up to Fort Rodey and lounging on the beach at Pigeon Island.
I returned to Grenada earlier this month and had the immense pleasure of finally visiting Petite Martinique! Unfortunately our trip was cut short unexpectedly, but I did get to spend just enough time on this dot of an island for me to fall completely in love! Here are my first impressions of this tiny gem, as well as my travel guide for the few but precious things you can do if you’re ever able to visit. I definitely hope to return next year and get the full experience!
My 2016 travel itinerary was the most time I’ve ever spent exploring the Caribbean and I’m immensely happy that I made the decision to focus on this region this year. I have learned a lot about my Caribbean neighbors, as well as about myself, and while I do intend to leave the region a few times in 2017, I’m once again dedicating the majority of my travel experiences to this blessed archipelago I get to call ‘home.’
What are you travel plans for 2017? Do you have any Caribbean destinations in mind?