Why is everyone complaining about 2016? I mean sure this year had its ups and downs – I lost my job, was homeless and had no visa for quite some time – but all in all this year turned out to be one of the best yet. Losing my job and starting over at Booking.com was most certainly the greatest thing that happened to me this year. On top of this huge feat, I went on some pretty cool adventures with some pretty awesome people too. Here are my top 16 pinch myself moments of 2016.
1. I moved to Amsterdam
On January 7, 2016 I hesitantly moved myself and two suitcases from Rhode Island to Amsterdam. Thinking this was the biggest mistake of my life, I assumed I would stay three months, maybe six. It’s officially been a year and I couldn’t pick a better place to call home.
I’ve gone to countless festivals, celebrated King’s Day, rang in Pride Day and have had a lot of my closest friends and family members come to see what Amsterdam is all about. Though I still may not understand Dutch, I understand why so many people love it here.
2. I survived a tuk tuk ride in Bangkok
100+ degrees, no traffic laws and a crazy Thai man are all I needed to have the time of my life. Tuk tuk rides in Bangkok are a definite must. Just hold on tight!
3. I swam with a giant jelly fish in Krabi
Once I realized this jelly fish was not going to end my life, I got as close as humanely possible to it. I think we can all agree I did a fantastic job, no?
4. I explored the graffiti in Berlin
I’ve spent a good amount of time in Berlin and for some reason, it’s sort of like Madrid to me. I like it, but I’ll never love it. One exception however, is the graffiti that paints Berlin’s streets. That my friends is epic. Some of the most talented graffiti artists in the world plaster their designs here. I spent an entire weekend wandering the streets myself, taking pictures and chasing some of my favorites.
5. I celebrated my friend Sophia’s wedding
It’s official. My middle school friend got married! I was lucky enough to head back to the states for a few weeks in June to celebrate with her and some of our other friends. The next morning I didn’t pinch myself and think how could my friend be married?, I pinched myself and wondered, was I the drunkest girl at the party?. Answer, yes. Sorry, Soph.
6. I drank a giant mojito on a hidden beach in Ibiza
Cala Saldeta was Spanish heaven. If I could bottle this day and do it over and over again, I would.
7. I shot and shot and shot a bubble gun at Gaasperpleasure
This summer was filled with countless festivals and concerts but one of the highlights was Gaasperpleasure. A smaller, more local festival where one of my favorite Dutch DJ’s, Miss Melera, headlined.
I got invited by one of the few, if not the only, Dutch friend I have, and went with him, his sister and her boyfriend. Double date? Yeah, probably. Turned out to be one of the highlights of my festival season. Especially after I copped this bubble gun.
8. I was crushed by waves at a surfing lesson in Biarritz
My cousin Kendra, her husband and two of my friends took surfing lessons in Biarritz, France. I’ve surfed before, but this day had an especially crazy undertow and my instructor had tighter buns than your average surfer. All was going well until two giant waves decided to meet smack dab in front of me and pummel me to the ground. I got a thumbs up from Buns and more than a chuckle from the others.
9. I drank a Michelin Star shot glass of heaven in Barcelona
I would go back to Jordi Artal’s dining room Cinc Sentits just to sip his famous trilayer shot glass of nostalgia. True heaven. You. Have. No. Idea. Who knew maple syrup, cream, cava and sea salt tastes better than a tall stack of fluffy pancakes on a Sunday morning?
10. I took a cooking class at the Mandranova olive farm in Sicily with my best friend
Not only did I get to watch the first olive harvest of the season, taste the olive oil and take a cooking class in Sicily with my best friend and her mom, but I got to eat everything we made and take home a cookbook with all the recipes. Yum.
11. I hopped in this classy ride outside the University of Glasgow
My impromptu trip to Glasgow hasn’t made it on the blog quite yet. My apologies. This was a short weekend getaway inspired by a few Belgian tripels, a half dozen bitterballen and two overly enthusiastic 25 year old Americans.
We pretty much blindly picked a place and hopped on a plane. I’m happy we did. Although I didn’t love the whiskey and I’m no Scotch drinker, the University of Glasgow had me at hello (sorry, Jerry).
12. I finished my second marathon in Amsterdam
After finishing the Boston Marathon two years ago, I was pretty certain I would never run a marathon again. I know what you’re thinking… that’s what they all say. You’re right.
Finishing my second marathon was a much stranger experience than my first. I was overwhelmed by emotion. This year was an emotional learning curve and I am so happy to have experienced all the ups and downs in the race and out. Though I would’ve liked if my knees had held in there just a little longer.
13. I admired the Northern Lights in Iceland
After missing my flight from Amsterdam to Reykjavik… yes, I know, I have a great track record with public transportation, but I promise this one was not my fault! – I saw the Northern Lights for the first time.
They were utterly spectacular and danced across the sky like no one was looking. No, I didn’t take a picture, I was too busy “ewing and awing” like a kid at a 4th of July fireworks display. So here’s a cool picture of me snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure instead. This is basically the same thing as the Northern Lights, but underwater.
14. I spent a week in a camper van in Iceland
Let me preface this one by saying I have never, ever, ever been camping! Not even glamping. Sure, a camper van may not count, but I did pee on the side of road, sleep in a sleeping bag, and brush my teeth with water from a water bottle.
Being the first real road trip I’ve taken, this one most certainly stands out. I can’t wait for more adventures like this.
15. I spent the holidays at home with my family
Out of all the places in the world, there is of course, no place like home. Two years ago I spent Christmas at one of my friend’s castles in Bordeaux, yes – castle! Though that was one of the best travel moment of my life, I vowed to never spend Christmas away from home again. Growing up Christmas was always my favorite holiday. I still love the first snowfall turned yellow, the grumpy old man outside the Stop & Shop ringing that utterly annoying bell for the Salvation Army and each and every time Mariah Carey All I Want For Christmas is You comes on in Target, or WalMart or TJMaxx or wherever you shop for your cheapest and most prized possessions.
16. I skied the perfect powder with perfect friends at Stowe
Living so far away, it can be hard to get together with my oldest friends. This year I vowed to make every effort I could. With the help of a few of my spreadsheet loving pals, we were able to get 17 of us up to Stowe, Vermont to ring in the New Year. Not only was this the perfect way to round out my list of top 16 pinch myself moments of 2016, but it was the perfect way to welcome all the pinch myself moments of 2017.