Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite travel memories of 2013

Last year was the first year I did a recap of my favorite travel memories so I thought I would continue with that tradition this year. I feel so blessed that I have been able to see so much of the world. My husband and I don't really buy each other Christmas gifts. We always prefer to save that money and use it to have experiences rather than things. These are my favorite experiences of 2013.

1. Virtually no crowds greeted us in Iceland
 As much as I love to travel and see popular tourist attractions, I also hate crowds. Iceland gave us the best of both worlds. We were able to see popular travel destinations, but since so few people travel to this remote country, crowds were virtually nonexistent. I talk more about the lack of crowds in my Thoughts from Places video.

2. The Blue Lagoon
By far Iceland's most touristed destination, I worried that it would be little more than a tourist trap and nothing else. Turns out it was a wonderful experience. Despite being in Iceland near the summer solstice, it was unseasonably cold while we were there and relaxing in the milky blue geothermal waters was the warmest I felt the entire seven days were were in Iceland.

3. ALA and the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet in Chicago
Attending the Newbery/Caldecott banquet was a highlight of my life. Not THE highlight of my life,  but definitely A highlight. And being able to celebrate that evening with so many Nerdy Book Club friends made it even more special. 

4. The Comedy Museum AKA Art Institute of Chicago
My husband and I traveled to New York and Chicago with our friends from Germany this summer. I am here to tell you we never had so much fun at an art museum as we did at the Art Institute of Chicago, which our friend Matthias nicknamed The Comedy Museum due to the ridiculousness of some of the art we saw in the modern art wing. One of our favorites was the one above where my husband and Matthias are saying, "Wo ist das Bild?" (Where is the picture?)

5. NCTE/ALAN in Boston 
OK, so I didn't actually get to see any of Boston while I was at NCTE, but I did get to meet and hang out with some iconic authors: Judy Blume, Jack Gantos, and Laurie Halse Anderson just to name a few. Plus this is the first year I attended convention as a staff member AND was able to present at a session with some amazing teachers and one of my favorite authors (pictured above: Jen Vincent, Kellee Moye, Audrey Vernick, and me). So yeah, this was definitely a favorite travel memory. 

6. Getting to see Van Gogh's Starry Night for the first time 
Back in 2004 when my husband and I lived in Germany, we took a trip to Amsterdam. I thought for sure my favorite painting, Starry Night would be at The Van Gogh Musem since it's his most famous painting. Turns out it wasn't. And that was the beginning of an almost ten-year-long journey to see this painting that finally culminated this summer in New York.

7. 9/11 Memorial
It was really difficult to keep it together during my time exploring the 9/11 Memorial. I think I was in a perpetual state of tears the entire time. The emotion just overwhelms you.

8. Social media allowing for spontaneous meet ups with old friends
One of my favorite things about social media is that it allows me to meet new people and also keep in touch with my friends that I otherwise would have lost touch with. Because I was posting on Facebook and Twitter during our trip to NYC, I was able to meet up with two old friends that I wouldn't have been able to otherwise. They saw my FB and Twitter posts and immediately asked if we could get together. I hadn't seen my friend Jerry since high school and it was so wonderful to be able to spend the afternoon with him and his fiance. It's crazy to see how far we both have come since our high school days. :)

9. Big House Tour - AKA Michigan Stadium

OK, so maybe this isn't technically travel since we live 15 minutes from the Big House, but it's something we did with our friends from Germany so we're going to count it as a travel memory. Germans don't really care that much for American football so this tour was completely selfish on my husband's part, but he at least wanted to take them somewhere cool and to him, cool equated to the biggest capacity sports stadium in the country.

10. Skating in Millennium Park
Last December my husband and I took an impromptu trip to Chicago with some friends to visit the German Christmas market. This year we decided to make it a tradition and go again. This time my friend Kirsten and I remembered to bring our ice skates and we were rewarded with a free jaunt around the Millennium Park ice rink. Heck, even the rink at Campus Martius in Detroit makes you pay to skate even if you bring your own. We were thrilled to discover that all we had to do in Chicago was strap on our skates and glide on by the endless line of people.

What were your favorite travel memories of 2013?

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