My ABCs of 2016: A very McVagabond year!

A very McVagabond Year: My ABCs of 2016

Goodbye, 2016! It’s the end of another year! I’m another year older, maybe not much wiser, and so ready for 2017.

2016 was a good year for me. We started travelling full time, I started meeting amazing fellow travel bloggers. I learned a lot about myself, about Ryan and the world around me. I learned about what I need and want in life, and also what I need from other people. We’ve had some of the most amazing experiences, and we’ve had some of the worst. I’ve definitely grown up quite a bit, but I also feel like I’ve grown my sense of wonder and amazement quite a bit. The world is a hard place to be in sometimes, but it’s also gloriously beautiful.

So back in October I happened upon this post from Adventures in Aussieland. She recounts the ABC’s of her travel life, which I loved reading. It’s a fun way to get to know someone a bit more. I thought as it’s the end of the year it would be fun and easy to do something similar! Let’s go!

A very McVagabond Year: My ABCs of 2016

A: Age You Went on Your First International Trip:

I went on my first foreign trip when I was 13 or 14. I was involved with the People to People Student Ambassador Program, which is sadly now defunct. We travelled all over England, Wales, and Ireland.

B: Best foreign beer you’re had and where:

My all-time favorite beer that I’ll travel any length of time or distance for is Innis and Gunn from Edinburgh, Scotland. I couldn’t pick a favorite specific beer of theirs, because all of them are so good. SO GOOD. I’m drooling slightly just thinking about them now.

A very McVagabond Year: My ABCs of 2016
Innis and Gunn!

I also really liked Zaganu, which we had in Bucharest and Brasov, Romania. And we went to a little Slovakian craft beer room while we were in Bratislava, and they also had some killer beers (but I unfortunately didn’t write a single one down).

C: Cuisine (favorite):

Thai cuisine! I haven’t ever been to Thailand, but we would eat Thai for once a week while we lived in Seattle.

If I had to pick based on travels, I’d say probably Hungarian. I love paprika and I could eat goulash every day. But I also love German cuisine! We’ve had some really good food all over Europe and the USA in 2016, and I’m hoping 2017 will allow us to recreate our favorites.

D: Destinations! Most favorite and least favorite of 2016:

It’s hard to pick a favorite destination, only because I love most places so, so much! But if I had to pick one right now, I would say that my favorite destination is Zagreb (I can’t say Edinburgh all the time, otherwise you’d think I hated everywhere that isn’t Scotland). We just had such a good time in Zagreb, and the city just felt immediately like home. I loved everything about the city, from the people to the history, to the food and drink! I am telling everyone I know not to miss this destination in Croatia; don’t let the glittery gems of the Adriatic coast keep you from venturing inland.

Fall in love with Zagreb, Croatia in 13 easy steps!
The main square in Zagreb, empty in the early morning.

My least favorite destination was probably Dubrovnik. We were there for far too long and ended up spending WAY more money than originally anticipated, which blew our budget for the entire month. Plus our lodging situation wasn’t ideal for working. But even saying that, Dubrovnik was gorgeous and I would never tell someone NOT to go there.

One week in Dubrovnik, Croatia: the highlights
Dubrovnik rooftops.

E: Experience that made you saw WOW:

Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time. We went to Paris for our third wedding anniversary back in September and seeing the Eiffel Tower in person was just incredible. There are some experiences that you can build up in your head and they fall flat. There are others that are just so much better than you could ever imagine. For me, this moment falls in the latter category.

Paris - Classic Eiffel Tower
My first view of the Eiffel Tower, just perfect!

F: Favorite mode of transport:

I gotta go with trains. There’s something so classic and timeless about travelling via trains around Europe.

A very McVagabond Year: My ABCs of 2016
Waiting for our train in Italy.
A very McVagabond Year: My ABCs of 2016
There’s something impossibly romantic about train travel.

G: Greatest feeling with travelling:

Realizing that I’m much stronger and more self-sufficient than I ever thought. We can go to a grocery store in Berlin and find all of the required ingredients to make a Christmas bread wreath. We’ve learned enough Romanian to order a beer at a little hole in the wall where no one speaks English. I can figure out trains, planes and automobiles so that travelling is a bit easier. And I can do this all while being away from home while nursing my anxiety and feeling pretty overwhelmed.  It’s been really cool to realize I can accomplish way more than I give myself credit for!

H: Hottest place you’ve ever travelled:

Definitely Death Valley! We went in May of 2016, I was afraid we wouldn’t make it out since it was SO hot and our car was packed to the gills with all of belongings. It was pretty unbearable to be out of the car for more than a few minutes. Even though we were told we could camp there overnight (which I thought would be pretty awesome) we ended up finding a Holiday Inn in Nevada to crash at. One day we’ll go back and camp, but it won’t be in May, that’s for sure.

A very McVagabond Year: My ABCs of 2016
Death Valley National Park, in California. Hot, hot, hot!!

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced:

I have to admit, so far all of our Airbnbs have been incredible. We’ve gotten pretty lucky with all of our hosts, especially in Edinburgh, Brasov, Hawai’i and Zagreb. Airbnb will be forever the first place we look for lodging.

J: Journey that took the longest:

It took us a month to get from Seattle to Pittsburgh, but we planned it that way, with a ton of stops throughout the States.

Most of our travel schedule has been pretty intentional; I try to choose our next destinations based on what is closest. We haven’t travelled further abroad than Europe, so the longest flight we’ll have will be the nine hours from Spain back home in January. I’ve been hoarding our airline miles and managed to get us both first class tickets for next to nothing!

K: Keepsake from your travels:

We have been getting some random goodies here and there, and we’re collecting Christmas mugs at the moment (I’m not even sorry). I think the biggest keepsake we’re collecting right now are photos: I have a dream of having a gallery wall once we get back. I’ve been sloooooowly going through all of our photos (there are close to 10,000 from the last six months) trying to narrow down the choices to a more manageable amount before we pick our finalists.

L: Let-down sight, where and why:

I try really hard to find the silver lining in any bad situation, should they arise. That being said, we haven’t had any truly terrible experiences. I think the experience that was the biggest let-down was Bran Castle. It was only a let-down because we have seen some truly amazing castles in the UK. Plus it was Halloween, and we were packed in the castle like sardines. My suggestion: go to Bran Castle and enjoy it at any time of the year other than Halloween!

A very McVagabond Year: My ABCs of 2016
Bran Castle. Beautiful and imposing and impossibly crowded.

M: Moment you fell in love with travel:

I can’t be the only person who falls in love with travel in a new way all the time, can I? I mean there are so many different facets to travel! Almost every day while on a trip I’m pushed and pulled in new directions, causing me to see things in new ways, which leads me to fall in love all over again.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

Since we almost always stay in Airbnbs, I’m going to have to say the nicest place we’ve stayed was Home O’Nani in Captain Cook on Hawai’i Island.

It was this gorgeous, organic farm homestead. We had fresh juices and fruits every day, a gorgeous lanai to sit and drink our coffee on, and fresh goose and chicken eggs each morning. Plus the host was just fantastic and took us through the farm and told us all about how she farms. Not to mention the views were incredible!

O: Obsession – what do you take the most photos of while travelling:

Ryan’s obsession is doors. He takes photos of doors whenever he sees one that looks interesting or is a cool color. I take a ton of photos of trains, mostly for my dad, but also for myself.

P: Passport stamps – how many and from where:

We have been doing extensive US travel over the last three years since we got married. After changing my name I’ve spent 2016 rebuilding my passport stamp collection. I have two from France, one from Dublin and quite a few from entering and exiting Edinburgh, Scotland. I also have some from Croatia and Romania and a few from the USA.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve ever visited:

This is an easy one: the yellow superlambanana in Liverpool!

The Superlambanana in Liverpool. How fun is this?

R: Really frightening – what is a place that made you feel uneasy:

I’ve never truly been frightened in a new place, but I have felt a bit uneasy. We went to Bucharest in November 2016, and it was our first time being so far into Eastern Europe. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and it was very different from anything we had experienced. It ended up being our favorite places because we felt like we learned a lot about the greater world around us. We were no longer as sheltered as we had been.

S: Splurge – what is something you have no problem spending on while travelling:

2016 was the year of wine. Lots and lots of wine.

T: The most touristy thing you’ve done:

Probably either going to Bran Castle on Halloween, or taking a macaron picnic to the Eiffel Tower. It’s kind of a toss up.

U: Your most unforgettable travel memory:

There are too many memories in 2016 to count! I would have to say the first one that comes to mind though is our visits to Christmas markets in Vienna. These magical traditions came into our lives at a point where we needed all the happy and wonder we could get. And to say I’m obsessed with Christmas markets doesn’t cover my vast feelings on them!

How to enjoy Vienna at Christmastime!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

V: Visas – how many do you have and for where:

I’ve only ever had one: my student visa from when I was studying in Edinburgh during college.

W: What’s the best wine you’ve had while travelling and where:

Hand down, the Chianti in Florence. It’s so cheap and unbelievably delicious!

X: Where were the most eXcellent views:

The Isle of Skye, in Scotland. We spent a weekend here in fall of 2016 and it was amazing. No matter where you turned, the views were incredible. If I could, I’d live there and spend my days happily roaming over the land and tending to my little farm.

The Black Cuillin on the Isle of Skye create a backdrop like nowhere else.

Y: How many years spent travelling:

As of the end of 2016, my international travel tallies about 16 months (yes, I counted!) spread over the last 14 years. Even though I started travelling when I was pretty young thanks in large part to my parents and family members, I didn’t step foot outside the country again until college.

As for travel within the US, we’ve been intentionally travelling and exploring the country for about four years. We’ve taken two road trips cross country, covering both a northern route and a southern route, as well as city breaks to places like Chicago, San Diego, Portland (OR) and New York. We’ve gotten to Alaska and Hawai’i, and explored as much of the Pacific Northwest as we could on weekends!

Z: Zealous sports fan:

The most zealous sports fans I’ve encountered have been the Everton fans in Liverpool. It was such a cool experience going to a EPL game with Ryan for his birthday!

Everton FC in Liverpool
Everton FC.

But if you’re asking about Ryan and myself, we follow Seattle soccer (both the Sounders and the Reign). Ask us when we’re back in Pittsburgh and I’m sure we’ll be back to following our hometown boys: the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates (and probably the Riverhounds).

Well, that’s all she wrote for 2016!

I wish you all the most wonderful New Years, and I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings for you! Let me know what your favorite travel moments were in the comments: what did you love and hate, where was your favorite destination, what was a place that took your breath away? Did you have any moments that were hard for any reason? What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you this year? Tell me everything!

Happy New Years, and I’ll see you all in 2017! 

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  1. Well, that was a really interesting way to recount all things travel in the last year. I bet there are many world travelers who have a blast with this. As for me, I guess I haven’t been enough places fast enough to fill in the blanks…but, I’m sure we could creative an alternative version for slow travelers!

  2. What a fun way to finish off the year! I love traveling by train, too! I don’t like beer at all and most wines I’m allergic to. The hubby grew up around Seattle and we love going to visit his family in that area.

    1. I don’t know what I would do if I were allergic to wine! And it’s wonderful you get to visit Seattle! The PNW is my favorite area of the US.

  3. What a fun 2016. Who doesn’t love a train, right? I love how you turned some of your so/so experiences in to a positive experience. Dubrovnik, for example, you do understand that others may find it attractive. Happy travels in 2017! I love how you recapped your year of travel.

    1. Thanks, Sara! I always try to find the positive spin on things, even though sometimes it’s reeeeeeally hard. I wish you happy and safe travels in 2017 as well!

  4. Well having those ABCs of your 2016, you sure have spent 2016 productively. I have so many things to be thankful as well during this wonderful year. I have learnt so many things and this 2017, I surely don’t want to commit the same mistake twice.

    1. I’m so happy you had a productive and thoughtful 2016! It’s always nice to look back on the year and realize how far you’ve come and how much you learned.

  5. Hello from Zagreb

    I’m glad I found your blog.
    I enjoyed reading your ABCs of 2016 and I was especially thrilled to find out you enjoyed in Zagreb and loved Dubrovnik. We have much in common, e.g. we both like trains, the hottest place we have ever been to is the Death Valley, we collect our travel photos and passport stamps …

    Many happy travels in 2017!

    1. Hello, Milijana! I’m so jealous you’re enjoying Zagreb right now! It’s the most wonderful place! I hope you have a 2017 full of amazing memories and travels!

  6. Wow! That’s an incredible 2016. I agree about the beers of Edinburgh, indeed special. I also agree about the Italian trains. I travelled to 4 cities in Italy and train was one of the major modes of transport. Actually I just loved everything about Italy. I don’t think I was so awe-struck by Eiffel Tower, guess I had too much of an expectation!!! Wishing you a super travel filled 2017!

    1. I loved Italy! It was such a cool country. The trains just made it that much better. I could definitely go for a beer in an Edinburgh pub right now 🙂

  7. Hey Suz (from another Suz)! I really enjoyed this roundup. I totally adore Christmas markets as well. And Croatia is definitely on my radar. Thanks for the heads up about Dubrovnik!

    1. We lived in Seattle for a couple of years, and I LOVED it. We still have some really good friends living there and I’m hoping to get back and visit as often as possible. I just wish it weren’t so far away from our family, otherwise I’d settle down there in a heartbeat!

  8. This end of the year post was truly amazing. I’m so proud of what you and Ryan have accomplished in 2016!Cheers to 2017 and what it will bring!🎉

    1. Kristine are you trying to make me cry!?! I’m so glad to have a friend like you! You’re so supportive and thoughtful. I need to come and visit ASAP when we get home.

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