Hello, fellow 9-to-5 travelers! Happy almost-new year!
It’s been an overwhelming year for me. I started and finished my MBA program at Baker University, while working full time in a role that kept expanding. And I had to finally bite the bullet and get a surgical procedure I was dreading. If I could sum it all up in one word, it was exhausting.
So many hours were spent trying to finish a paper, research report, exam, or what have you. I had a bad reaction to the pain medications I was given post-surgery and threw up in my shower. I’m still not allowed not vigorously exercise since the recovery can be so intense.
And one thing that makes me laugh is that I spent so much time on the computer that my eyes gave up, and I had to get special computer glasses. Didn’t even know that was a thing, but they’ve been a godsend.
Did I mention that a lot of other students in my program were also juggling family responsibilities (kids, spouse, elderly parents, etc) while working full time and attending school? I hardly know how they do it. I was spent just managing myself.
All that being said, it was a rewarding year travel-wise. In spite of my insane schedule, I was still able to see and do quite a bit! In fact, the whole reason I’m posting this early is because on Christmas Day, I’ll be off to Costa Rica for ten days! I’ve never been to Central America, and I’m thrilled to start my explorations of the area with Costa Rica. I’ve heard nothing but good things. And considering how godawful the weather in the midwest is about to get, this trip couldn’t have come at a better time.
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Table of Contents
2018 in Review
So let’s break down how 2019 went.
For a little throwback, here’s what 2018 was like…
July 4-6: Visiting a friend in Nashville
July 14-15: Trip to Des Moines to see “Hamilton”
October 27-29: Visiting a friend in Boston
November 16-25: Vacation with my then-boyfriend to Italy
December 18-24: Catching up with friends in Orlando then a cruise to the Bahamas
2018 Overall Stats
Cities traveled to: 10
New cities visited: 8
New countries visited: 2
Number of Days Spent Traveling: 25
This was my first year post-study abroad, when the travel bug really bit and I had to figure out how to balance traveling and working a 9-to-5. It was a really fun year. I genuinely enjoyed every place I went to, and would return in a heartbeat. In fact, your girl will be back in Orlando in January! No cruise this time, but my Florida-based friends and I are serious need of catching up. Disney is a just a bonus.
With those stats in mind, let’s take a deep dive into what went down in 2019. Short answer: a lot.
2019 in Review
March 21-24: Road trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs had been on my list for awhile, and I’m so glad I was able to visit! My then-boyfriend and I had planned a celebratory trip of sorts, and we both left loving it. It’s a sweet little town with lots to do nearby. We toured caves, hiked a state park and went down Arkansas’ longest zipline. I’d love to make a return during fall. I imagine it’ll look gorgeous then.
April 18-21 (Easter weekend): Weekend trip to Chicago
Chicago and I go way back. It was our family’s go-to vacation spot when my brother and I were younger. To give you an idea of our ages, it meant going to Navy Pier was cool cause there was a McDonalds. Kids, am I right?
My dad and I went over the Easter weekend to start figuring out what our travel styles are like. At around this time, we were figuring out the details for Costa Rica, and I hadn’t traveled with my dad in awhile. So, Chicago was the testing grounds. Turns out, dad doesn’t mind what a type A planner I am. His whole mantra is now “Just bring a toothbrush. Maggie will handle the rest.”
July 3-6 (4th of July week): Holiday in Montreal
I finally solo traveled! Shoutout to Canada for being amazing while I tested the waters. I had the best time exploring Montreal and Quebec City at my own pace and on my own schedule. While I was initially very scared to be on my own (anxiety, man) I quickly started enjoying how freeing it was to do whatever I wanted when I wanted to. I’m so glad my first time solo traveling was such a positive experience. Who knows what would’ve happened if it sucked?
July 19-21: Weekend in Des Moines to catch a comedy show
Just google Taylor Tomlinson and you’ll see why my dad and I drove the 3 hours to see her show. She didn’t disappoint. I laughed til I cried.
Des Moines seems to keep dragging me back by hosting great shows. First “Hamilton” and now Taylor. Oh well, I don’t mind. I was able to check out more of Des Moines, fall in love even more, and eat at Zombie Burger again.
August 18-20: Brief stay in Glacier National Park
I think the last national park I visited was Crater Lake when I was 12. So clearly, a visit was long overdue. I did a brief stay in Glacier and loved it! I didn’t have a car, only had 48 hours and was going solo yet again. Despite the odds, I feel like I did and saw a lot of Glacier and am itching to go back and explore some more.
November 1-3: Family visit to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
Ste. Genevieve holds a very special place in my heart. My family and I would pack up every Easter and drive the 5 hours to visit my grandma. It’s a lovely old town that’s managed to preserve buildings that are hundreds of years old. It looks like you’re stepping into a different era. It was wonderful to return and relive the memories I had as a child.
December 25-January 6: Costa Rica
Oh man. I am so, so excited to be visiting Costa Rica in just a few more days! I’ve never been to Central America, and Costa Rica seems like a great place to start! My dad and I will be going all over; San Jose, La Fortuna, Monteverde and Manuel Antonio. Everything is booked and ready to go! I’m grinning just thinking about all the fun I’m gonna have.
This will also be the first time I’ve booked through an agency, and it’s something I wish I had done sooner. My first trip to Europe was a bit trial by fire, and I wish I had went through a third party so I had a bit of assistance in navigating Paris. Now, I feel like Europe and I are old friends. You could drop me into any European country and I feel like I’d get along okay.
So, with that experience in mind, I’m gonna let an agency help me through my first Central American experience. Once I’ve got my sea legs, it should be smooth sailing.
2019 Overall Stats
Cities traveled to: 8
New cities visited: 5
New countries visited: 0
Number of Days Spent Traveling: 21
After Costa Rica, I can add 1 more country, 4 more cities and an extra 7 days of travel in 2019. Not bad for a grad student, am I right? It’s more days on the road than 2018, and I didn’t have much of an excuse then!
Looking toward 2020, I have a few goals and ideas of what I’d like to accomplish, both travel and blog-wise. I’m gonna put this on the internet for all to see, so I’m forced to be somewhat accountable.
Goals for 2020
Goal 1: Explore more of the Americas
I’ve seen a lot of Europe, and loved it dearly, but I need to give North and South America some love, too! There’s so much in my own country that I haven’t seen, and Central and South America flights are much easier on me than an 8-hour flight to Europe.
Costa Rica is an awesome start. My mom and I are also planning a trip to Belize and Guatemala in February that I’m psyched for. And it’s looking like Peru in May is gonna happen after all. There may also be room for a winter destination as well.
TLDR: The Americas and also my wallet better get ready for 2020. I oughta get a second job while I’m thinking about it.
Goal 2: Gain more confidence in my driving abilities
I’ve wanted to take a road trip for a long time, and always pushed the idea back. Driving in new places just terrifies me. I’m worried I’ll get hopelessly lost and end up in Alaska when I meant to go to Arkansas. That sort of thing.
This fear, however unfounded it may be, has kept me from some truly awesome places that are just a day’s drive away. So 2020 is the year I drive more, and maybe work in a little road trip. Baby steps, folks.
Goal 3: Visit another National Park
Glacier was gracious enough to show me what I’ve been missing out on. I’m totally taking suggestions on this. Where should my next National Park adventure be? Yellowstone? Badlands? Grand Canyon? All of them?
The bonus here is that I’ll likely have to drive to get there. So we’re killing two goals/birds with one stone.
Goal 4: Post more stuff as it happens
This year was spent setting up the blog and making it live. If I recall correctly, everything went up in August. Meaning, I had already gone through 4 of my vacations in 2019, and didn’t write it up until well after the fact. Ideally, I’d like less than a month of time between me returning from my trip, and my write up about it going on the blog. Now that the site’s live and mostly built out, I’m hoping that’s achievable.
I think that wraps it all up! Hope you enjoyed waltzing down memory lane with me (I sure did). Cheers to 2020!
What places will you be visiting in 2020? Comment below!