2017 was one hell of a year. I wandered through three continents and nine countries. I learned how to identify the world’s best olive oil, how to cook some bangin’ homemade Vietnamese food, and how to ride a motorbike in Southeast Asia like a complete badass. Oh, and I packed up my beloved life in Spain and moved across the globe to Vietnam, with no set plans and a single suitcase in tow. Reminiscing about the past year, these special moments and memories were what defined 2017 for me.
1. New Year’s Eve 2017 on a vineyard overlooking a German Village
The year began in a tiny rural village called Geisenheim, in the heart of German wine country. As my German best friend explained, every New Year’s Eve, people from the village go out to the vineyards overlooking the town. When the clock strikes 12, the whole town sets off fireworks – a showcase of lights stretching out over the vineyard down to the village, as far as the eye can see. Then of course…comes the wine!
2. Picnicked on a Cliff Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Ibiza, Spain
Speaking of wine…you say you want to go to Ibiza and party in the hot summer sunshine? Well, I went to Ibiza in the heart of winter and discovered a more unpaved side of the island. Feasting on Manchego cheese, jamón and fine red wine on a secluded cliff overlooking the transparent Mediterranean was an image I’ll never lose. (Full story here.)
3. Spent a Sunday in a Local Gypsy Jazz Bar in Paris, France
I wandered into a very questionable Parisian neighborhood far from the city center, to hunt down the most authentic, hideaway gypsy jazz bar I could find. And by golly, I found it! On a Sunday afternoon, La Chope des Puces didn’t look like much from the outside… but when I stepped foot indoors I was transported to a Django Reinhardt jazz scene straight out of the 1930’s. After four hours of clinking glasses, thumping bass and bouncing guitars, I left the speakeasy-like bar to find that it was already dark outside…and I was back in 2017.
4. Discovered the 6th hidden town of Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre’s tourist-packed alleys didn’t do it for me, so I dug deeper… and found the magical Italian town of Lerici. Colorful houses untouched by tourism, a sunset on the castle walls, hundreds of fishing boats floating into the horizon, and some downright delizioso pasta… some might even call it paradise. (Full story here.)
5. Wandered to the top of a Fishing Village to Get a Breathtaking View of Dublin, Ireland
I took a train from Dublin to Howth, a tiny fishing village about 20 minutes from the capital. And up I went… to discover a sweeping panorama of bright green fields, a sparkling city in the distance and brisk saltwater winds. The best part? I got to share it all with two of my best friends since middle school! Top o’ the mountain to ya’!
6. Celebrated San Juan on a beach in Cabo de Gata, Spain
Every June 23rd, Spaniards flock to the beach for the noche de San Juan, a festival that celebrates the summer solstice with nightlong bonfires, beer, BBQ and baile. I hopped in a camper van with my Spanish friends and set out for Andalucia’s pristine natural park Cabo de Gata. With bonfires stretching out for as long as the coastline itself and the sounds of Spanish guitar and singing bouncing from one group of friends to the next, it was one of those magical nights that you couldn’t help but to think “man, this is the pura vida”. (Full story here.)
7. Got Lost in an Underground Grunge Bar in Prague, Czech Republic
Hidden under the depths of Prague, lies Vzorkovna. Within 5 minutes of entering, I got lost in a maze of swinging chairs chained to the ceiling, jail bars, a tree house and a real-life a horse-sized dog. Yes…I said a dog the size of HORSE. It was one of the weirdest, wackiest, most frightening and coolest bars I’ve ever been to. (Full story here.)
8. Formed an Unlikely Friendship with a 75-year-old Olive Oil Monger in Granada, Spain
“It’s liquid gold,” Francisco said to me as we sat in his taberna with a sampling of olive oils between us. Ever read the classic Tuesdays with Morrie? Well, the friendship that Francisco and I formed turned into “Los Miercoles con Francisco”. Every Wednesday, I’d go to his “espacio gastronomico” as he calls it, and we’d lose track of time talking about Spanish food, how it was in the old days, and share stories from around the world. He blessed me with hours full of wisdom…and the best damn olive oil this world has ever seen. Te agradezco, Francisco!. (Full story here.)
9. Attended a Wedding as a Bridesmaid in an Andalucian Village
A gorgeous celebration tucked away in a casa rural in the Spanish village of Jimena de la Frontera, my final week in Spain couldn’t have been a more magical one. Ohhhh, love is such a beautiful thing! (Full story here)
10. Time traveled to the ’70s in Woodstock, New York
I hopped in a time machine (aka my mom’s car) and road tripped back to the ’70s. A tiny town stuck in the hippie era, an old hippie dressed me up in her clothes…and that old hippy was my Guacamomma! It was like peering into a window of a different era and seeing a little town happily lost in the past. (Full story here.)
11. Learned How to Ride a Motorbike in Da Nang, Vietnam
I’ll never forget stepping foot into Saigon for the first time, my whirlwind of an introduction to Vietnam. Bikes swarming everywhere, the sound of honks echoing through the air…” how the hell am I gonna learn to ride one of these things??” I thought. Well, the only way to get over your fear is to do it, and Vietnam gave me no choice. So, upon my arrival to Da Nang, I gathered up all my courage and rode my first motorbike, weaving in and out of traffic somehow managing to dodge cars, trucks and pedestrians in a city where traffic laws don’t exist. And I made it out with all of my limbs attached! Three months of commuting back and forth from work, neighboring towns and beach inlets, it’s safe to say I’m now a seasoned pro. Thoughts on me joining Hell’s Angels in 2018??? (Full story here.)
12. Joined a Sacred Hindu Ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I was nearly brought to tears when I stepped foot into the Hindu temple, greeted by the echoing sounds of drums, chants and horns. The leader then walked over to me and blessed me for joining them, by giving me a dot on my forehead. The world can really be a beautiful place. (Full story here.)
Adios 2017. I can only imagine what 2018 has in store!