Christmas is over, and New Year (or Hogmanay, if you’re in Scotland) is fast approaching. It’s that time of year when seemingly everyone is exclaiming about the swift passage of time, and looking back fondly and thankfully over the past twelve months.
I’m no different – I really can’t believe that 2016 is just around the corner! – and so I’m taking stock with a look at the year in review on Stories My Suitcase Could Tell. From the Take 12 Trips challenge to Green Card hurdles, urban adventures in New York to rural escapes in New England, it’s been a whirlwind of a year!
I started off the year with grand plans to do lots of international travel, but due to circumstances outside my control, they were all scrapped… until the surprise arrival of my Green Card, that is! Naturally I was desperate to cross a border, and so set off for Canada at the first opportunity.
But overall, I’m grateful for being forced to stay in one place – it helped me get settled into a new chapter of life, and also encouraged me to see more of my adopted home. Those who know me well know that I was anxious at the thought of not travelling for 12 months, but I needn’t have worried!
Over the past 12 months, I’ve written 64 blog posts (and celebrated a big blog birthday); visited one new country, nine cities, and seven US states; stopped by countless museums, national parks, and local hotspots; and even heard some of my writing heroes dole out advice right here in New York City.
I’ve made new friends, returned again and again to my favourite New York haunts, and slowly adjusted to this new life as a Scot in the States. With all that in mind, here (in no particular order) are 15 of my favourite travel moments – both local and global – of 2015.
1. Getting back into global travel with a long weekend in Montreal.
There was an unmistakable thrill about proffering my passport at the airport in Montreal, seeing as crossing into Canada in October marked my first foreign adventure of the year, after the arrival of that elusive Green Card. French was everywhere – on menus, in conversations, ringing out loud on subway announcements – and I was in my absolute element at being in an unfamiliar environment.
2. Visiting family in Maine.
I loved everything about Maine on my two visits there this year. The lobster rolls at Mabel’s in Kennebunk. The view (and smell) of the Atlantic Ocean – in Kennebunk, in Portland, in Acadia National Park. The red cliffs of Mount Desert Island. The quiet calm of Grand Lake Stream. I’m seriously thinking of making a summer trip to Maine an annual event, and I don’t think it would be much of a stretch to say it’s my favourite US state so far.
3. Winter indulgence in Cape May.
Being by the ocean has been something of a theme on my travels this year: now that I no longer live on an island, I love any excuse to don my wellies and wade into water, like I did in Cape May at the start of December, while indulging in all the luxurious comforts of the gorgeous Peter Shields Inn. I’m already looking forward to organising a return trip for next year…
4. A day of seaside fun at Coney Island.
When New York gets hot and humid in July, the answer is to head for the seaside. And so one sweltering Saturday, my brother, husband, and I hopped on the subway to Coney Island and acted like excitable kids on the rollercoasters, ate corn dogs and ice cream on the boardwalk, and got a little nervous on the 100-year-old rusty Wonder Wheel. (When an engineer is concerned about the structure of the ride, you know it’s time to feel nervous!)
5. Discovering City Island in the Bronx with my parents.
My parents are equally as obsessed with travel as I am (the travel bug runs in the family), so one afternoon in October, my Mum, Dad, and I made our way out to one of New York City’s hidden gems, and we all adored it. This little island is more akin to New England than New York, and was the perfect escape from the city (within the city). The homes here were – dare I say that most over-used word in travel writing? – absolutely charming.
6. Hanging out in Washington DC with one of my best friends.
One of my best friends from university is a fellow politics junkie (we studied International Relations together at St Andrews), so heading down to visit her in her new home of Washington, DC, epicentre of American politics, was always going to be brilliant.
We took in the national monuments, cycled past embassies and picturesque row houses, and just generally had a lot of fun catching up on each other’s lives. In fact, DC is one of the few places I’ve visited that I could seriously see myself living in – and you can’t get much higher praise than that!
7. Eating all the food in Chicago (twice).
My brother-in-law happens to be engaged to a good friend of mine who is an incredibly talented chef based in Chicago. By default, any visit to Chicago means eating copious amounts of delicious food, from pastries to pasta and everything in between. And after all, designing a holiday around food is never a bad thing – just look at Anthony Bourdain.
8. Meeting other travel bloggers for the very first time at WITS in Boston.
It was on a press trip to central Massachusetts with five other travel bloggers when I realised I was not ‘weird’: there are other people – bloggers – who take multiple photos of their food before they eat it too! Meeting other like-minded women in Boston at the Women in Travel Summit was a truly wonderful, welcoming experience, and hands-down a highlight of my year so far. As I wrote at the time, “it was inspiring, supportive, and oh-so-much fun.”
9. Welcoming the arrival of Spring with a day of cycling at Duke Farms, New Jersey.
Our afternoon at Duke Farms was, on the face of it, nothing more than a small day trip one sunny spring day – but it’s a day that’s stayed with me all year. There was something about cycling through these beautiful gardens after the snow had finally melted that made me feel ridiculously happy and carefree. Duke Farms comes highly recommended from me as day trip from NYC!
10. Travelling virtually each month at Travel Massive.
Travel Massive has been one of my favourite things about moving to NYC. Each month a group of travel fans gather together at an event themed around a certain destination, like the Alps or the Caribbean. The The Big Apple is a notoriously difficult place to make friends, but thanks to these monthly travel parties I’ve made some truly lovely friends who share my obsession with travel. These girls have helped make 2015 a great one!
11. Admiring the sunset from a New York Harbour Cruise
This beautiful sunset cruise of New York Harbour – taking in the Brooklyn Bridge, Downtown Manhattan, and the Statue of Liberty – was quite an emotional one, bringing back old memories and reminding me of the journey that brought me to New York in the first place.
12. Boating on the Lake in Central Park.
This classic New York tourist activity is one that I’ve wanted to try out for years, and I finally got the chance on an unseasonably warm autumn day in October. Not only is the rowing good fun, but the view of the city from a whole new vantage worth is worth the effort alone. And even if you don’t go boating, you can watch the boats glide around the Lake from the picturesque Bethesda Terrace or Bow Bridge (something another dear friend and I did one lazy summer afternoon while she was visiting from England).
13. Watching Gaelic superstar Julie Fowlis perform in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Listening to the soul-stirring vocals of Julie Fowlis would be a moving experience anywhere in the world, but as an islander abroad, hearing traditional tunes and beautiful Gaelic songs almost moved me to tears. (My interview with her also inspired me to write one of the year’s most popular blog posts, An Expat’s View on the Importance of Language).
14. Getting up, close, and personal with Lady Liberty
This is one experience that everyone visiting (or living in) New York needs to do at least once. There’s the view of the city from the boat; the detailed history of the statue at the museum; and the experience of going inside the statue and seeing how it’s held together (in all honesty, it looks rather precarious, but it has lasted 129 years so they must have done something right!).
15. Getting married!
While it’s not *technically* a travel memory, getting married is an adventure in itself, and I couldn’t have a highlight reel of my year without a wee mention of our big day in my favourite part of New York City, the West Village. Plus, with guests from around the world, Scottish touches everywhere from the favours to the bouquet, and a map-themed art piece, even our wedding couldn’t escape the travel theme!
There are of course far too many wonderful memories, travel and otherwise, to fit into one blog post. My family and friends (old and new), made this year a great one – and thanks to all of you out there who continue to come back to my wee corner of the internet for these suitcase stories. Happy New Year when it comes, and see you in 2016!