12 Memorable Moments from 2012

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I know I already gave you a taste of my 2012 in photos (and with copious links) last week. But this week I wanted to sit down and look back at my most memorable moments of the past year (most of them travel-related). It was tough to narrow it down to just 12, but here's what I came up with:

12. Visiting Rila Monastery in Bulgaria

Ever since reading “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova nearly 7 years ago, I've been obsessed with the idea of visiting Eastern Europe. And, when I finally decided that this year would be the year, I put Rila Monastery at the top of my list.

This Orthodox monastery up in Bulgaria's Rila Mountains is not the easiest to get to (in fact, it involved the single worst 3-hour bus ride of my entire life), but as soon as I walked beneath the first painted archway and into the monastery's big courtyard, it was all worth it.

The bright frescoes, bearded monks, and calm atmosphere were 10 times better in person than in any novel.

>> Read the post about my visit to Rila.

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria

11. Travel blogging madness in Colorado

I've been to quite a few conferences over the years (blogging and otherwise), but this summer's TBEX travel blogging conference in Keystone, Colorado, really was a step above all the rest. Not only did I share a kick-ass condo with some of my favorite bloggers for the long weekend, but TBEX and BlogWorld really pulled out all the stops.

We had a gourmet soiree at the top of a mountain (chocolate buffet and gondola ride included), a dude ranch-themed party thrown for us by Expedia (mechanical bull and cowboy hats included), and plenty of opportunities to network and hang out at the Keystone conference center.

I don't remember a time I laughed so much with people I have so much in common with than during that weekend.


10. Overlooking Half Dome at Yosemite National Park

In May I spent a week in San Francisco, and somehow convinced my friend and her roommate to go with me to Yosemite for a day. Yes, that means more than 6 hours total of driving to/from SF in order to spend about 8 hours at the park. But you know what? I would do it all over again.

My absolute favorite moment came late in the afternoon, after we had already explored the valley floor and driven another hour to get up to Glacier Point. As we walked to the edge of the viewpoint and the iconic Half Dome came into view, it's safe to say I was rendered speechless.

>> See photos from Yosemite NP.

Half Dome

9. Walking the walls in Dubrovnik

I had a love-hate relationship with the Balkans this summer. I loved the pretty landscapes and the people I saw them with. But I hated the oppressive heat. The sticky temperatures were all but forgotten once we got to Dubrovnik, Croatia, however.

In the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” I had only one mission: to walk the medieval city walls. These walls have protected Dubrovnik for centuries, and walking the length of them affords some of the best views I've seen in Europe. Totally worth sweating my face off for.

>> Read about walking the walls in Dubrovnik.


8. Visiting the 9/11 Memorial in NYC

I took my third trip to New York City this fall with my mom and sister. Along with seeing a Broadway play, taking a food tour, and going up the Empire State Building, we also visited the 9/11 Memorial.

We took a walking tour of the site with volunteers from the Tribute Center as our guides. The serene site is beautiful no matter how you visit it, but having guides who were in the buildings on September 11, 2001, share their stories with us made the experience extra impactful.

9/11 Memorial

7. Nearly dying on a mountain in Iceland

I didn't title this post my “best” or “favorite” moments from 2012 mostly because travel doesn't always have to be positive to be memorable. And let me tell you that pondering what broken legs would feel like while stuck up on a mountain is far from being a positive experience. It was actually pretty terrifying, especially once our jeep went over a small cliff, nose-diving into a snow bank and messing up the steering.

I will never, ever forget that day, or how glad I was to make it back to Reykjavik in one piece!

>> Read my post about this harrowing experience.

Iceland Rovers

6. Exploring Budapest solo

This year was full of solo travel for me — including a 2-month backpacking trip around Europe. My first stop on that trip was Budapest, Hungary, which I spent 2 days exploring on my own. Since Budapest was my first “real” introduction to solo travel in Europe, it really sticks out in my mind.

>> See some photos from Budapest.


5. Hiking on a glacier in Alaska

In August, my sister and I flew to Anchorage for a long weekend along with about a dozen other bloggers to take part in some adventurous activities in Alaska. The most epic of these was definitely hiking on the Matanuska Glacier.

We had warm weather, sunny skies, and an awesome guide to help us safely across the ice. I've seen glaciers up close before (and even hiked on one in New Zealand), but this experience was truly amazing — I've never seen ice formations like that up close before!

>> Read the post about this glacier hike.

Matanuska Glacier

4. Seeing President Obama speak in Ohio

This one isn't really travel-related, but in September my choice of attending a large state university in Ohio finally paid off — the President stopped at Kent State on his campaign trail, and I managed to score a ticket to see him speak.

I'm not an especially political person, but it's not every day you get to see the President of the United States speak live and in person! His speech was lively and impassioned, and the energy in the room was electric.

Obama at Kent State

3. Exploring Scotland with Haggis Adventures

Towards the end of my time in Europe, I went on a 5-day tour of the Scottish Highlands with Haggis Adventures. I was expecting the gorgeous scenery and friendliness of Scotland, but what I wasn't expecting was how amazing those 5 days would be.

This tour was, hands down, one of the best I have ever been on. We had a great guide, decent weather, and a small-ish group of travelers from all over the world that were up for just about anything, from ceilidh dancing to tartan toga night.

It was during this tour that I realized just how much I love traveling and that I didn't want to stop.

Haggis Adventures

2. Stepping inside Hagia Sofia for the first time

If you haven't been to this basilica-turned-mosque-turned-museum in Istanbul, then you may not understand why it ranks so highly on my list. But believe me when I tell you that walking into this exquisite work of architecture may actually bring you to tears. Literally.

I stayed inside for hours, alternating between wanting to cry because it was so beautiful and smiling like a maniac because I was finally there.

Hagia Sofia, Istanbul

1. Going to the London Summer Olympics

Even though it was tough choosing the 12 moments to highlight on this list, my #1 was never in question. Being in London for the Summer Olympics was simply amazing. And to actually be able to score tickets to see some Olympics gymnastics — my favorite sport! — live on Day 2 of the Games? It was a dream come true.

>> Read about my Olympics experience.

London 2012 Olympics

So there you have it. My top 12 memorable moments from the past year. Stay tuned next week, when I'll share with you some of my travel goals/dreams for 2013!

Do any of my 2012 memories surprise you?



"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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29 Comments on “12 Memorable Moments from 2012

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  1. The Yosemite view is really, really breathless. By the way, you did a hell of a lot in 2012, seriously, being reading your blog for some time now and I know both time and money are limited for you, where do you find them both to do so much?

      2012 certainly was a great year! As for the time and money, I had quite a bit of time off this year since I’m still at university, and we get quite a few long breaks. And they money in 2012 mostly came from this blog! Everything I make from my blog goes into a special savings account, and then that’s what I use to travel! ๐Ÿ™‚

    That was fantastic journey, I envy you the most for watching London Olympics I really want to experience being in a crowd.

      It was an amazing experience – I’m so glad I got the chance to make it happen!

    Wow, what an amazing year! I regret not going inside the Hagia Sofia now, I didn’t want to wait in the line since I only had a few hours on a layover but it looks like it was worth it! I also remember seeing Yosemite for the first time and your picture sent chills down my spine…I think it’s one of those views that never gets old. I didn’t see it from your vantage point but looking down the valley coming up from the south, amazing.

      Ah well you’ll just have to get yourself back to Istanbul, won’t you? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    A memorable year indeed! It must’ve been so fun to be at the Olympics ๐Ÿ™‚

      The Olympics were definitely the highlight of my year!

    Your year sounds amazing! Love the look of hiking the glacier, and seeing Obama speak and actually all of them. The only thing I’ve done is walk the walls of Dubrovnik so you’ve definitely given me some inspiration. Have a wonderful 2013!

      Maybe you can add some of these to your own 2013 wish list!

    Your 2012 sounded like it was amazing!!! I’m not gonna lie, I’m rather jealous of a lot of these ventures! Especially watching Olympic gymnastics in London – I’m an ex-gymnast who has always wanted to see that, and once when I was little even dreamed of competing in the Olympics. Croatia looks gorgeous from the hundreds of photos and posts I’ve seen about it, as does Yosemite, and the rest of the fascinating places you went to! Except for maybe Ohio haha ๐Ÿ™‚

      Well if you ever get the opportunity to see the Olympics, I would highly recommend it! Such an amazing experience; I’ll certainly never forget it!

    Ah, Keystone!

    This post makes me want to get to Yosemite. We haven’t been!

      Keystone was SO much fun!

      And you guys absolutely NEED to go to Yosemite. You’d love it!

    That looked like a great years worth of travel. I look forward to what 2013 brings to you. Happy travels.

      Thanks, Steve! I hope you’ll stay tuned to see what I get up to next year!

    Looks like a good solid year of traveling right there, good stuff! Too bad about your truck going over a cliff, I almost rolled mine down a cliff last summer so I can imagine… When I go to Iceland I’ll be doing one of those 4×4 tours too so hopefully I bring some some luck with me… and Dubrovnik looks great, just as I remember it ๐Ÿ™‚ I wish you all the best in 2013 and good luck topping your 2012 itinerary, that’ll be tough to beat! Cheers! -Jeremy

      This definitely will be very hard to top in 2013 – but I’m going to do my best! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Have a great time in Iceland! Just watch out for those cliffs…

    I had the feelings you describe about Hagia Sofia when I was in The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
    But Gaudi’s creation is recent. When you are in Hagia Sofia instead, you’re inside a building that has been there almost untouched since AD 537. C’mon, you’re walking in the same place where Justinian walked 1,500 years ago! How huge is that!!!
    Only one rule was tought to Byzantine artists: “Represent the spirit of God”.
    I’m very keen on Byzantine history and I can’t believe I’ve never gone to Istanbul (yet).
    When I’ll first be in the church it will be a moment I have waited years for.

      Oh man, you will LOVE Istanbul then! I hope you make it there soon!

    2012 has been quite the year for you! I’m impressed by all the things you did, saw, and experienced this year. I will definitely take a leaf out of your book, and start solo traveling in 2013!

      Do it! Solo travel might seem a bit scary at first, but I promise it’s worth it!

    Sounds like such a fun year for you, Amanda! I’m really hoping to make it to TBEX (Canada) in the coming summer; will you be going?

      It was a great year! And yes, I am planning to be at TBEX Toronto in June. Though who knows how my plans might change between now and then!

    It’s safe to say I’m envious of pretty much all of those experiences. Hiking on the glacier especially would have been amazing. Was there a particular company you did the hike with? Can’t wait to see what you have lined up for 2013.

      We did the hike with Mica Guides and they were fantastic. You can technically hike out on that particular glacier without a guide or gear, but I would definitely recommend a guided hike!

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