The Year in Travel: 2011 in Review

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I've already illustrated this past year with 12 travel photos from 12 months, but that doesn't really elaborate on any of the specifics of the amazing year I had. I was lucky to be able to travel a lot in 2011, and here are all the details:

By the Numbers

Miles traveled: Roughly 41,000, which includes a trip to Hawaii, a jaunt to Vancouver, a visit to New Zealand, and a 6,500-mile U.S. road trip

Number of flights: About 20, including connections and short domestic flights in NZ

Number of trains: 2 (the Amtrak Cascades between Vancouver and Seattle, and the TranzAlpine between Christchurch and Greymouth)

Countries visited: 3 (the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand)

U.S. states visited: 18

Glaciers hiked on: 1 (Franz Josef in New Zealand)

Natural wonders seen: At least 4 (the Grand Canyon, Doubtful Sound, the Meramec Caverns, and the Rocky Mountains)

National parks visited: 9 (U.S.: Pearl Harbor, Pecos NHP, Grand Canyon NP, Arches NP, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial; NZ: Arthur's Pass NP, Westland NP, Mount Aspiring NP, Fiordland NP)

Visits to Chicago: 3 (Once each in the spring, summer, and fall)

Rare animals seen in the wild: 2 (Hector's dolphins and takahe birds in NZ)

Number of times woken up by an earthquake: 1 (a 5.3 in Christchurch, NZ)

Types of accommodation used: 5 (hotel, motel, hostel, staying with friends, and CouchSurfing)

Travel bloggers met: Many! Including and in Queenstown, and in Chicago, in Findlay, in Pittsburgh, and countless at TBEX in June (including , , , ,ย , , , , , , , , , , , and many more)

Best of the Best

(Some of these were inspired by the “Best of Travel 2011” meme, which I was nominated to participate in by Jeremy of Budget Travel Adventures.)

Best domestic destination: Utah — I fell in love with this state and its amazing landscapes. (Though Hawaii is a close second!)

Best international destination: New Zealand, of course! It was great to return after 3 years and cross more things off my NZ bucket list.

Best Ohio destination: Yellow Springs, an almost-hippie-enclave in southwest Ohio.

Best street performer watched: A classical guitarist on Cuba Street in Wellington, NZ.

Best beach visited: Hawaii certainly has some amazing beaches; I can't pick a favorite!

Best sunset: At Paraparaumu Beach on New Zealand's Kapiti Coast.

Best sandwich eaten: A yummy turkey/avacado/cream cheese/cranberry one in Sedona, Arizona.

Best short hike: I visited Arches National Park on a ridiculously hot August day, and wasn't at all in the mood for hiking. That being said, though, the hike out to “the Windows” section was well worth the sweat.

Best view: It's impossible to choose. But looking out over Lake Hawea on New Zealand's South Island sure did take my breath away.

Best overall experience: I had some great ones in New Zealand this past spring, but I think I have to go with taking a hot air balloon over Monument Valley.

Achieving Goals

Bucket list items crossed off: 19

Travel goals met: All of them! I traveled so much more this year than I anticipated.

Site goals met: 4 out of 6. Last year, I set a few specific goals:

  • To reach 500 fans.
  • To surpass 2,000 followers.
  • To have at least 300 RSS subscribers.
  • To earn more from advertising.
  • To sell some of my photos.
  • To “win” the 1,000-1,000 challenge (1,000 visitors per day and $1,000 per month).

I smashed the first 4 goals, and almost met the last one as of this month. It'll be time to set some new goals soon for 2012!

Biggest Lessons Learned

I learned a lot of things this year from traveling.

  • I learned that you don't have to travel far from home to have amazing adventures.
  • I learned that the people you meet while traveling are what really make a trip special.
  • And I learned that it IS possible to travel with a sibling for 3 weeks without killing each other.

But if I had to cite the most important thing I learned this year in relation to travel, it would have to be that if you want something badly enough, you will find a way to get it. If you really want to make travel a part of your life, you can find a way to do it, no matter what your lifestyle entails. Don't make excuses or buy into anyone else's definition of travel or “the right way” to do it. Stay true to yourself and go after your travel dreams. This is your life, and you are the only one who can make it into what you want it to be.

What sorts of places did you travel to in 2011? What's the main thing you learned from your adventures?

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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