At the beginning of 2016, I wrote a post sharing my travel and personal goals for 2016. It was a pretty ambitious list and, if I’m being honest with myself, I wasn’t even sure how much of it, if any, I’d be able to complete.
Last January, it had been my second month of travel blogging. I was in my final year of university and I hadn’t been outside of Canada or the U.S. since I was two years old.
Why would you start a travel blog then?? I know many of you are probably wondering.
Well, when I was a young child, I was always fascinated by the idea of exploring exotic, far-flung lands. I would dream of traversing dense tropical rainforests (which I did in Borneo this year!) or trekking across harsh mountain ranges. By high school, I had altered this dream into something a bit more realistic: I had planned to go on a big European adventure after I graduated university.
As the time to graduation approached, however, my plans were still as vague as ever and I thought that starting a travel blog would be a good way to keep myself accountable as well as a place to chronicle all my future adventures.
Starting a travel blog has been one of the best things I’ve done. Not only has 2016 been my best travel year yet, this travel blog has brought about some amazing opportunities and incredible friendships.
Now, let’s take some time to reflect on my 2016 goals and see how well I did!
TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE GOALS
1. BACKPACK EUROPE
This is something I’ve wanted to do since my early high school days: to backpack across the different European countries; to see the iconic tourist attractions for myself; and then to get lost exploring the lesser-known parts of towns and cities. I don’t want a whirlwind tour of “everything”, but instead, I want to travel slower and immerse myself in a few cultures for a longer period of time. Right now, I plan to spend most of my time in France, Italy, Croatia and Greece. I hope to explore each one of these countries more in depth!
Check! Over a span of three months, I managed to travel across 14 European countries. There were weeks of slower travel and weeks of faster travel, and I’ve discovered that I really do like slower travel more. When you’re in a fixed place for a longer period of time, this allows you to take in the culture around you a lot more and you get to know a place and the people much better.
I spent two weeks in France exploring and practicing my French; three weeks in Italy eating glorious amounts of food; and I was in Croatia for a week — taking two 4-hour overnight buses in a row, getting very little sleep, and overall not travelling as slow as I would have liked. I didn’t make it to Greece during this trip but I did hit up Iceland for two weeks with my sister! I also spent varying amounts of time in another ten countries. Sometimes it was a few days to a week (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, and the United Kingdon) and sometimes I was just hopping across the border for a short day-trip (I visited Lichtenstein, Sweden, and Switzerland but didn’t sleep overnight in any of these countries.).
2. HIKE TROLLTUNGA, NORWAY
Yes, in a way this is part of the Backpack Europe item, but I had to give it it’s own number because it’s so high on my list of things to do. Trolltunga, or Troll’s Tongue in English, is a narrow ledge of rock that projects out from the mountainside, 700 m above Lake Ringdalsvatnet. After some research, it turns out that it’s an 8-10 hour hike up to Trolltunga and back. I can imagine it’s going to be quite tiring, but the thought of it excites me so much. I love going on long hikes and being close to nature, and I can’t wait to explore the awe-inspiring fjords of Norway!
I actually didn’t end up making it to Norway on my big European adventure.
Am I disappointed? Not really. Plans change and priorities change.
The hiking season for Trolltunga is mid-June to mid-September as snow covers the mountains the rest of the year and makes it unsafe to hike. And instead of going to Europe in the summer like I had originally intended, I ended up not going until mid-September. Then I travelled to Hungary, Austria, Germany, Lichtenstein, and Italy with a friend I had recently on an Indonesia trip. I had so much fun and I wouldn’t change any of this at all.
I LOVE the water. However, I haven’t had much chance to experience things from below the surface of the water before. I’d love to be able to swim with fish, turtles, and other marine life.
Yes! I was able to snorkel for the first time in Wakatobi, Indonesia this past August and I loved it so much! The underwater world there was indescribably beautiful. I had the chance to swim with fish of every colour of the rainbow, try duck diving to get closer to the coral reef, and, because I’m me, I also got to drink a few litres of salt water before getting the hang of snorkelling. I still loved the entire experience, though!
To scuba dive is the next thing on my list!
When I was a kid, I was always terrified of heights. I was even scared of going on those staircases with the spaces between steps because I was afraid I would somehow fall through! Luckily, I’ve become less afraid of heights as I’ve grown older. In fact, now I absolutely love the excitement and rush of adrenaline when riding a roller coaster. Zip-lining seems like it would be another incredible and exhilarating experience to have.
I did this one too! In July, I went ziplining in Elora, Ontario and it turns out zip-lining really isn’t all that scary. There’s no “drop” so you don’t get that stomach-in-your-throat sensation. I had a blast!
Ditto, another adrenaline-pumping activity to conquer my fear of heights!
I didn’t manage to go skydiving in 2016 but I’d definitely still love to — perhaps in 2017!
6. EXPLORE MORE LOCALLY
Travelling the world is great, but most people forget that there is so much to discover right in their hometown as well. Exploring more of the Hamilton area in the next few months before I graduate university is definitely one of my priorities right now. There are so many waterfalls I still haven’t seen, trails I haven’t hiked, there’s even a museum right on campus that I haven’t been to yet!
Yes, yes, yes! I passed this challenge with flying colours! Not only did I explore much more of Hamilton in my last few months living there, I also discovered some of the hidden gems of Toronto, visited Niagara Falls a few more times, and ventured further around Ontario as well.
7. RUN A 10K RACE
I used to hate running. I absolutely loathed it and any other form of activity in which I sweat. Thankfully, now that I’ve grown up a bit, I have no problem with getting sweaty. I ran my first 5K race in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon four years ago. I still don’t run regularly, as I prefer hiking as a form of exercise, but I think signing up and training for a race would be a good way to start running more often.
Fail. Maybe. Half-fail?
I didn’t even try to sign up for a 10k race but I have run on my own for distances over 10k. That kind of counts for something, right? It wasn’t at a competitive speed but I did make some personal records.
8. PRACTICE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PHOTOGRAPHY
This year I want to take more close-ups of nature, photos of urban environments, as well as people shots. I want to learn what makes a good photo and techniques to improve my photography. I’m currently only using my iPhone 4S camera for taking photos. While I’ve received very positive feedback on them on Instagram, I also want to invest in a good camera to take even better photos and learn more about photography.
Half-check. I definitely experimented a lot more with photography in 2016 on a 2-week trip to Indonesia and 3-month trip to Europe. I learned more about composition, tricks to take advantage of lighting, and random tricks such as shooting from a low angle for a different perspective of the world.
However, I didn’t buy a new camera. After four years of using an iPhone 4S, I ended up upgrading to an iPhone 6S and used that as my sole camera on both trips. I still don’t know anything about aperature or shutter speed — will carry this photography goal into 2017!
9. BECOME MORE CONFIDENT IN MY FRENCH
I’m going to try to watch part of a French movie, TV show, or YouTube video, or listen to a couple of French songs every day to continue working on my French listening and understanding. The speaking aspect is the tricky part. I’ve never been confident in my French-speaking abilities because I tend to speak it with an English accent. I’ve always felt self-conscious and would care way too much what others think. This has led to minimal speaking, and thus even less practice with the language. When I backpack Europe and visit France, I’m going to speak French every chance I get!
Check! I definitely consumed more French language media in 2016 than in any year prior. I also think that this past year has been the most confident in French I have ever felt. Of course, I still get self-conscious at times and there are definitely things I can work on.
I ended up speaking even more French than I imagined during my time in France. I became friends with two exchange students studying in France and we travelled together through France and Italy for almost a week. And because one of them didn’t speak English, we ended up communicating mostly in French!
10. CONTINUE WRITING ABOUT MY ADVENTURES
I’ve been immensely enjoying writing about my adventures and travels so far this first month of blogging. In this coming year, I plan to continue writing about my experiences and creating content to spark your wanderlust. I hope to inspire and encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and experience new things.
Well, here I am, writing up this post so that’s a final check!
I spent the first half of the year writing up posts of some of my past trips, I worked on a collaboration post on how travel can help you to overcome shyness, I came out with a guide on fun ways to learn French at home, as well as a few travel gear reviews.
As I travelled more, I also wrote posts about my local Canadian adventures and American adventures. After an incredible 2-weeks in the country that stole my heart, I then came out with seven posts about wonderful Indonesia.
Over the months, I’ve been changing and developing my writing skills and my posts have been getting longer and (hopefully, you’ll think so too) more in-depth. There were months when I was consistent and came out with one or more posts a week, but there were also months when I was travelling, and I didn’t come out with a single post all month. Oops.
I’m going to modify this goal for 2017 and try to have a more consistent posting schedule — more details to come in my goals for 2017 post!
So, how did I do overall?
Pretty good if I do say so myself. I achieved 6 out of 10 goals and it’s a maybe on another 2. It’s not the end of the world that I didn’t make it to the Trolltunga hike or try skydiving this year. They shifted lower on my priorities anyways. Considering that I wasn’t really sure I would even complete one of these goals, I’m so proud of the year I’ve had!
How did you do for your 2016 goals?
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