Now that 2018 is underway I decided to put together my 2018 travel wishlist. I don’t expect that I’ll be able to make all of these trips this year but I think it’s good to have a running list of places that I would like to visit.
My first trip of the new year will be a long weekend in Washington D.C. over MLK weekend. I really enjoyed my recent trip two years ago and decided to go back since there are some things I didn’t get to see the last time I was there. There are also quite a few sights that I visited last time that I’d like to see again this time. I’m also looking forward to eating at Thai-Xing once again and getting gluten free cupcakes from Baked & Wired. I’ll be staying at the Kimpton Mason & Rook for the first time and looking forward to exploring that neighborhood a little bit more.
Seeing the northern lights has been high on my bucket list for quite some time now. I really wanted visit Iceland back in 2017 because I read that it was a good year to see the northern lights due to solar activity but unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards. I also read that solar activity is expected to decline over then next 10 years leading to fewer opportunities to see the northern lights so I made it a priority to travel to Iceland this year. Tickets are booked for February and the itinerary is finalized and I just have to not get too hyped about it while I wait for the date to arrive.
France and Italy
Every year for the past 10 years the maternal unit and I have traveled internationally together. We will be mid trip and she’ll ask “Jas where are we going next year”. It’s a lot of pressure but I’ve never backed down from the challenge. On our first trip she visited me in Paris and then we made our way to Barcelona and Rome. This year, for the 10th anniversary of our travels together I’d like to go back to France and Italy with her but this time to see the lavender fields in Provence and possibly making our way to Cinque Terre in Italy. I plan to start working on the itinerary soon and am looking forward to the trip.
There’s a possibility that I may have to travel in early spring to Krakow for a business trip.
I’ve been Krakow before but that was nearly 15 years ago and I’m sure a lot has changed since then. I’d like to incorporate a stopover somewhere else in Europe during this trip and I’m leaning towards Paris but more realistically it may end up in Munich or Frankfurt. We shall see what happens.
Portugal was at the top of my list of places to visit a few years back but the maternal unit and I ended up going to Tanzania instead. While I have no regrets about that decision, Portugal is still very high on my list of places I wish to visit in the short term. I’ve been hearing a lot more buzz about Portugal lately so I think it makes sense to scope the place out for future clients. I’ve also seen some amazing photos of Portugal and that’s something that I always look for when considering a travel destination. Realistically though I’m not sure if this is a trip that I’ll be able to make in 2018 but I’m keeping it on my wishlist because who knows what can happen when you dream big.
If someone would have told me two years ago that I would fall in love with safaris I wouldn’t believe them. However, my first safari in Tanzania was so amazing that a fire has been ignited inside of me that I would love to be able to experience a safari once a year. Botswana is on my list because of it’s unique terrains, including the desert, woodlands and the Okavango delta and is know for its large elephant herds. One other thing that makes Botswana a unique place for a safari is the country’s conservation philosophy which emphasizes low-volume, high-revenue tourism which leads to significant benefits for the local communities. I probably shouldn’t even include Botswana in this list because it’s such a pipe dream but I figured why not. If it doesn’t happen this year I can reprioritize it and add it to the list again another year.
For a very long time I’ve listened to people tell about how great Austin is however, I wasn't having any of it. At the time my priority was international trips because I could fly to Europe for the same price of some domestic air tickets. This year my priorities changed and the stars aligned so I finally decided to go. I told my travel buddy CY about my plans and and is the case lately she decided to join in on the fun. Once we arrived at the airport I whizzed through security in no time flat because I have TSA Pre Check but CY unfortunately does not (between you and me that’s going to have to change if we’re going to continue traveling together). Our flight was on Delta and when we got to the gate they asked for volunteers to be bumped to the next flight and I dutifully volunteered myself and CY as tributes for $800 each in return. Unfortunately, once they started boarding they no longer needed the extra seats so we were both out of the $800 that we had already spent in our heads on future travel plans.
The flight from Newark to Austin was fairly short but I was kind of bummed that the WiFi on the flight didn’t work and we ended up forking over $10 to pay for DirectTV. We arrived in Austin and since both CY and I were #teamcarryon that day we were able to exit the airport pretty quickly and hail a Lyft to the Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt. Kimpton hotels are one of my preferred properties when traveling domestically. I love the design aesthetic of their hotels without feeling too stuffy and pretentious and the Van Zandt was no exception. The check in process was fairly smooth and before we knew it we headed up to our lake view room. If there was one thing I would change about the room it would be that you almost need to be a bodybuilder to be able to open and close the bathroom door. But other than that everything else was pleasant. Despite it being a little too cool to swim in the outdoor pool we did take advantage of hanging out on the pool deck to catch the sunset and enjoy some cocktails by the fire.
The highlight of my Austin trip was definitely getting to hang out with my friend and Austin native Sarah. Sarah and I met another lifetime ago when we were both living in Paris and bonded over artisanal cocktails (before they were even a thing), good wine, and enjoying being expats in a beautiful city. Thanks to her, CY and I really got the inside scoop on some great places to check out while in Austin. Without her inside knowledge we would have never tried the delicious tacos at the Quickie Pickie, an East Austin institution and she came in clutch when I suggested that we grab a quick drink at a random bar near our hotel on Rainey Street. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with Rainey Street but Sarah knew that it wasn’t quite my style so we ended up at Ah Sing Den instead for some delicious cocktails on their outdoor patio area.
In addition to hanging out with Sarah, here's a list of my top five Austin highlights:
Laguna Gloria - Contemporary Austin
Laguna Gloria is an outdoor sculpture park that offers mix of nature, art and history all in one. There’s also a beautiful villa on the grounds which you can walk around, explore and photograph. We visited on our first day in Austin and it was the perfect remedy to being cooped up on a plane for almost four hours. It didn’t hurt that we had perfect weather that day.
SPUN Ice cream
At SPUN they make your ice cream fresh and made to order using seasonal and locally grown ingredients. The best part of the process is watching them turn the ingredients into ice cream using liquid nitrogen.
After a little shopping at some of the quaint shops on E. 11th St. in East Austin such as Olive and Take Heart, Blue Dahlia was the perfect quaint little bistro to stop and have some lunch. What made their menu even more enticing is that they offered a gluten free option for all of their tartines which was a huge win for me.
Tillery Street Plant Co.
One thing I noticed while in Austin is that almost every place we went to had an array of cacti and or succulents on display as decoration and I think the Tillery Street Plant Co. is to blame. It was such a treat to visit as they had a wide selection of plants for sale and the layout almost made it feel like you are in a secret garden. It’s so nice that I didn’t mind that CY spent over an hour picking out two new succulents to bring home.
Hotel San Jose
Everyone knows that a visit to Austin isn’t complete without a stroll down South Congress. But when you need a break from all the shopping and sightseeing Hotel San José has the perfect court yard/pool area to pop into to rest and grab a cold drink or cocktail.
I couldn't think of a better way to end my travels for the year than catching up with a great friend that I don’t get to see often and aren’t in touch as often as I should be. She truly made my trip to Austin special and I’ll definitely be back to see her and her beautiful family and check out the list of places I didn't get to visit. In the meantime Austin, can you please work on some mass transit options because I spent way too much money on Lyft rides.