It’s the last day of 2013! What an amazing, exciting and rewarding year I’ve had and I can’t wait to see what awaits in the coming year. Until then, here is a list of my thirteen best moments of 2013 in no particular order! Enjoy and have a happy new year!
13. Behind the scenes at Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, California.
As a child you dream of being an oceanographer, a Sea World employee (until you watch Blackfish) swimming with the dolphins or in a job surrounding yourself with wildlife for your 9 – 5. The Aquarium by the Bay in San Francisco makes you feel like Jacques Cousteau for the day, offering behind the scenes tours with visitor participation. I got to spend the morning learning about the conservation projects at the aquarium, taking a tour of what goes on behind the scenes and then we got to fill up our buckets an feed the sharks!
The tour was educational and entertaining. The staff answered all of our questions and shared with us an amazing amount of facts about the aquarium and the marine life in the Bay Area. It was a highlight from my California trip this year, making me feel like a kid again, as I giddily threw chum into the water. I watched in wonder as Leopard Sharks and Sturgeon moved their sleek, shiny bodies, gliding to the surface, their meals floating on top of the water and quickly disappearing with them to the darkness below. Plan your next visit to the Aquarium by the Bay!
12. Tour de France, 100th Anniversary in Nice, France
I love all things French and this year I had the opportunity to visit friends who were vacationing in Nice AND see the Tour de France as they rolled through and I could not pass it up. There is something magical about being along the Mediterranean in the summertime, it’s just perfect. The breeze, the water, the food, the people, everything seems so stylish, so relaxed, so… cool.
What made Nice even cooler was that we were in town for the 100th Tour de France. I had my first taste of competitive cycling and it was delicious. The crowds are passionate, the athletes are tenacious and the stages are fast paced making for action packed viewing.
11. Climb every mountain
I didn’t realize it but apparently I enjoy the outdoors more than I thought and in 2013 I found out I’m a closet hiker. I had the chance to explore some phenomenal landscapes this year and felt like I was on top of the world. Here are a couple of my higher altitude stops throughout the year.
10. Anne of Green Gables for a day
My sister and I were obsessed with Anne of Green Gables when we were little so I was thrilled to be able to spend a week in Prince Edward Island taking in all the sights and sounds of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s inspiration. This won’t be my last time on the island, I’m sure.
9. My first real road trip
I got to take my freckled journey on the open road this summer and drove 5,000 miles over four weeks up through New England, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, Canada and back down again. I was solo on this trip and was proud of the distance I traveled, just me and my little car. I devoured delicious cuisine, met friendly locals and experienced several adventures to store in the memory bank.
8. Just a Short Run
I’ve loved a good run ever since I signed up for a Rock n Roll Marathon in San Diego, California and I’ve been running long distance races every year since. I got to participate in my second Team in Training event this time right in my own backyard in Pittsburgh. Just a Short Run half marathon was right in a park not far from my parents house and this time I got to run in celebration of my dad’s remission and not in honor of his leukemia. My plan is to participate in another TNT event in 2014. Go Team!
7. Helping the Midwifery and Women’s Health Care Community
I was invited to participate on two different boards this year, The American Association of Birth Centers Foundation and The Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers. Both organizations are doing amazing things for birth for women and their families in America. My previous job enabled me to be closely involved in the birth center so I feel privileged to still be a part of promoting birth centers and providing safe alternatives to out of hospital delivery options for moms in the US and not to mention honored that my expertise may be helpful!
6. Feeding and bathing the elephants
This was such a memorable moment that in 2014 I plan on going back for a week to volunteer. Elephant Nature Park takes in domesticated elephants and provides a sanctuary for them to live out their days. Located outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand, the park was the highlight of my last trip and I am beyond excited to spend several days with these amazing animals!
I could post about 1,000 pictures of adorable elephants but I’ll spare you the boring obsession I have with these animals. OK, maybe just one more…
I headed to Thailand at the beginning of the year in 2013 and it was my first time to the continent. I spent almost a month there and it was so fabulous that I’m going back again this time exploring a few other countries in addition to Thailand. I’m so interested in the culture, religion, architecture and cuisine and I’m thrilled to be able to go explore.
4. Celebrating milestones with my family
It has been so rewarding to be able to be around for some of 2013’s memorable moments of my family members. My mother retired, my sister got engaged, my brother’s milestone birthdays, the last Synan graduated high school and the list goes on. It is such a gift to be present in their lives.
3. Heading back to Ireland with my Aunt, then going again!
I was sixteen when I had my first flight on a plane and my first trip out of the country. It was a trip to Ireland with my Aunt and one of those vacations that will forever be engrained in my memory as one of the best trips of my life. It is a vacation that shaped who I am today and I was so happy to share in that moment another time with my Aunt and two friends. We had a summer whirlwind tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland and I don’t think that little island will be the same. We had such a phenomenal time we’ll be planning another trip for sure!
I had the good fortune of being able to go back this year in the fall for a week in Dublin to attend a TBEX conference which is the perfect segue way to my #2 moment…
2. Attending my first writing conference, as a WRITER
I got to live my dream in 2013 by pulling my writing off the back burner and placing it in the forefront of my attention. I transitioned in my job in a way that enables me to write and work remotely which has been a huge asset for me, giving me the opportunity to work, write and see the world. I attended both the North American and European TBEX conferences (Travel Blog Exchange) in Toronto and Dublin. It was a great platform to share ideas, get motivated, network and mingle with other people trying to do the same thing and see how the industry really operates. I have a feeling this won’t be my last one.
1. Overall Happiness
I couldn’t escape the cheesiness and I think, scratch that, I know I’ll regret I wrote this later but it’s true. This year came with far more rewards than challenges and after all the changes that I’ve made since 2012 I was over the moon with 2013 so keep that good karma coming!