I started 2012 (and also Incurably Stir Crazy, which is nearing its one-year anniversary) with a mission. I wanted to spend this year seeing new places, chasing new experiences and packing as much life into 366 days as possible. Looking back on the year, I’d say things went pretty much according to plan. I hope it is just one of many adventure-filled years to come. Below is a list of some of the highlights, as a way to remember, and to be honest, a chance to share some of the stuff I’ve slacked on posting. But that’s what new year’s resolutions are for, right?
1. Skiing the Swiss Alps
Ok, so Christmas 2011 doesn’t exactly fall into 2012, but its close enough. Plus pictures from this trip have not been documented besides in my header photo. Although I’ve been skiing since I was five, this was my first opportunity to take on anything bigger than the mountains of Vermont. While a week prior to the trip we were planning on changing it from a skiing vacation to a hiking vacation thanks to lack of snow, mother nature took care of us just fine. Davos, Switzerland got pounded with snow to the point of avalanche warnings and my siblings and I got our first taste of real powder skiing. This week of family bonding and fantastic skiing won’t soon be forgotten, but hopefully soon repeated.
2. Exploring my own backyard
My final semester of college made any substantial amount of traveling difficult, but it did give me an opportunity to visit some local places that I had always meant to get to before. This included several trips to nearby Allegheny National Forest in winter, spring and summer, and my first visit to Griffis Sculpture Park, which I’ve been driving past my whole life. Not being able to go elsewhere made me appreciate how much there is still to see within day-tripping distance of my own home. I’ve got several new local destinations slated for the new year already.
3. Sloth-seeing in Costa Rica
As a part of our master plan to travel, my boyfriend Chris and I decided to get our TEFL Certification. We also decided if we we’re going to do it, we might as well take the course somewhere we wanted to go anyways. So, the next thing we know, we are in Costa Rica for a month. While the course itself required a lot of focus and hard work, we had downtime on the weekends which we used to explore the country outside of San Jose. We visited beaches and volcanoes, repelled down waterfalls and swam beneath them, but visiting the Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary was certainly the most unique experience. While at first I only wanted to go for sloth-loving Chris’ benefit, I ended up being just as infatuated with these slow, yet adorable marvels. Seeing them this up-close and personal is probably not something I will ever be able to do again in this lifetime.
4. Hiking the Tatras in Slovakia
When teaching English as a foreign language took Chris and I to the naturally beautiful country of Slovakia, we were excited to enjoy some time in the mountains. However, we had no idea just what a hiking jackpot we had hit. You can find trails in just about any part of the country you find yourself, but the compact, yet dramatically rugged High Tatras are ideal for any trekker. In the first month we took our biggest hike called Siroke Sedlo while the weather was still fairly mild, and I returned to the town of Ždiar two more times to try out other nearby options. (See A Return to Ždiar: A Quest for the Elusive Polish Lakes and Late Season Surprise in Slovak Paradise.) While the snow may make some hikes impossible at this time of year, I hope to return to try out all of the winter sports the Slovakian mountains have to offer.
5. Visiting the cities of Eastern Europe
Paris, London, Rome, Vienna – they are all undeniably amazing cities. However, venture east of the old Iron Curtain and you will find metropolises with a whole different flavor. Through my teaching travels I was fortunate enough to pay visits to Prague, Bratislava, Lviv, Kosice and briefly Budapest. The mood of these cities are an entirely due to unique influences in the not-s0-distant past. While places like Vienna and Bratislava are only 60 km apart, thanks to the mid-century division of the continent, their recent histories are entirely different. Not only can you detect and hear about the Soviet influence in these Eastern destinations, but you will also find, with the exception of Prague, they are much less touristy than their Western European counterparts. Not only did I love visiting each of them, but I also feel I have a much more balanced idea of Europe as a whole since seeing them.