2013: Yet Another Travel-Filled Year In Review

I can’t believe the year has flown by so fast, but it’s time once again for my end-of-year travel recap post (see 2011 and 2012). And I must say that, having visited sixteen countries this year alone (plus loads of cities within each), 2013 may have been the best year for travel yet.

Once again, I began the year in California, home from Spain for two weeks to celebrate Christmas with friends and family. I then returned to my beloved Madrid, where I would live for another six months. At the end of January, I took a fabulous trip to the Spanish island of Menorca for just €15 round-trip, which proved absolutely beautiful, particularly because the island was almost empty in the off-season, allowing us to crawl coastal cliffs and explore abandoned buildings with no one around.

Menorca, Spain sunset

We ended the third day in Menorca with one of the best sunsets I’ve ever witnessed, preceded by a full double rainbow. Perfection.

Life continued in Madrid with lots of adventures and outings with friends I now miss. I also got to return to Sevilla for a work trip, rediscovering all of the things that made me fall in love with the city when I lived there the previous year.

Spanish countryside

The Spanish countryside, somewhere between Sevilla and Madrid, on my train ride home.

Though really just a brief day trip, I kicked off March with a hike in the mountains above Madrid, in Parque Natural de Peñalara, where we found ourselves up to our knees in powdery snow and hardly a soul around (which I kept finding myself reminiscing about while in Mammoth Mountain, California just now!). Later, with a big group of friends, I went to Valencia to celebrate their popular Fallas festival (which I had also attended in 2010). Then, spring break rolled around, and I met my mom in Rome before embarking on a week-long adventure that also included Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast.

Atrani, Italy

Overlooking Atrani, on the Amalfi Coast

April meant back to Sevilla for the city’s most wonderful time of the year, Feria de Abril, which, for my third time, was a blast. And that was my only trip out of Madrid, but getting to explore Spain’s capital further, especially as the weather began improving, was plenty of adventure for me!

Feria de Abril de Sevilla 2013

At Feria 2013 with two of my good friends from living in Sevilla the previous year, Sara and Javi.

Given a long weekend in the beginning of May (Spain loves its public holidays), two of my friends and I took off to discover three of the Spain’s 17 comunidad autónomas that I hadn’t yet seen (I’ve now seen all but one, Murcia!): Aragón, Navarra, and La Rioja, specifically visiting Zaragoza, Huesca, Pamplona, and Logroño, all of which were beautiful and had amazing food. A week later, I went to the island of Mallorca, where I had also spent my 21st birthday three years before, and once again had a fabulous time. I also got to return to Sevilla again for work. Getting wined and dined in one of the most beautiful cities in the world is pretty darn sweet.

Zaragoza, Aragón, Spain

Zaragoza, Spain

June, sadly, was my last full month of living in Madrid. I had a chance to visit Geneva, Switzerland, as my sister was working there over the summer, including a detour to Mount Salève, France, right across the border. Toward the end of the month, I took a day trip to Manzanares and La Pedriza for a hike in Madrid’s outskirts. And, finally, I ended the month by launching my incredible 35-day Balkan trip! First stops: Zagreb, Croatia and Ljubljana and Bled, Slovenia.

World Cup qualifier, Geneva, Switzerland

My sister and I cheering on Switzerland in a Switzerland-Cyprus World Cup qualifying match in Geneva

Best travel month of my life? Quite possibly, as I spent it in eleven countries. From Slovenia, we made our way down the Croatian coast to Plitvice, Split, Hvar, and Dubrovnik (passing through Bosnia briefly on the way from Split to Dubrovnik). We proceeded to Kotor, Montenegro, then caught a flight to Belgrade, Serbia and another flight to Athens, Greece, which led us to ten days in Greece, also including Santorini, Ios, Naxos, Meteora, and Thessaloniki. Next came Skopje and Ohrid, Macedonia, from which I took a quick detour to Pogradec, Albania. I then arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria, and from Sofia I took buses to Koprivshtitsa and Plovdiv. From Bulgaria, I headed to the utterly charming country of Romania, where we saw Bucharest, Brasov, Sinaia, Sibiu, Sighisoara, and Cluj-Napoca. We rounded up our trip with a few days in Budapest, Hungary. What a month!

Hvar, Croatia

Just a little sunset swim in the Adriatic Sea off the Croatian island of Hvar.

Finishing that trip, I headed back to Madrid for a few days, then again to Sevilla for one last work trip. Then I met my family in Pisa, Italy, and we stayed for a week in Lake Como. Afterwards, I returned to Madrid to bid farewell to the city I was lucky enough to call home for two years before going home to California.

Pisa, Italy

Leaning Towers of Pisa

I spent a month enjoying California before taking off on my next adventure, although I did start September with a day trip with my mom up the coast to Santa Barbara and Solvang, California. At the end of September, I took off to start my new life in Australia, but first I had the opportunity to extend my layover in Honolulu, Hawaiito three days (for free!). Then, I arrived in Sydney, Australia, my new home, to begin my working holiday adventure there!

Oahu, Hawaii

Pit stop in Hawaii!

Adjusting to life in gigantic Australia was strange after living in compact Europe, where it was a cinch to fly off to another country for the weekend, so my traveling died down a bit, and I spent most of the month getting to know Sydney. I did make one day trip to the Blue Mountains, a few hours out of Sydney, for some fresh air and stunning scenery.

Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia

The Blue Mountains, near Sydney

November marked the first month in as long as I can remember that I remained within one metropolitan area, but that did give me plenty of time to continue getting to know Sydney, including some of its beautiful beaches.

Maroubra Beach, Sydney, Australia

Maroubra Beach, Sydney

In December, I made my farthest venture from Sydney within Australia when I spent a weekend in Newcastle, a beach town a few hours north of the city. I’m currently finishing the month at home in California, an all too short, one-week trip (including two days in Mammoth), but I’m elated I got to spend Christmas with my family. In a few days, back to Sydney I go!

Family Christmas, California

Christmas in California with my siblings and cousins

2013, you blew my mind. Here’s to all the possibilities that lie ahead in 2014!

8 Responses

  1. 16 countries in a year?! That’s pretty amazing. I would love to make that happen next year.

  2. this poor Spaniard has only left Spain to travel to the Italian city of Milan, Philadelphia and New York in the USA…..and….and France…..because the bus was forced to cross the south of France on the way to Italy (at that time i didn’t have balls to get on a plane)

    my three travels outside Spain are a tiny minority, a shame, if compared to your trips! 🙂

    • Kirstie says:

      Well, hey, that’s a pretty good start! I think because I knew I was in Europe for a limited time I made sure to see as much of it as possible, whereas if you think you have your whole life to see it, you put it off. I’m the same way with the U.S. – plenty of foreigners have seen more of my country than I have!

  3. Dios, what a year!!! I think, apart from Spain, I did seven, including an unexpected stop the other say in Romania when my plane was grounded. Australia sounds like a grew adventure – enjoy, chiki!

    • Kirstie says:

      I know! It’s too bad you didn’t get more of a stay in Romania beyond a grounded plane, because I know you loved it (as did I!). I’m sure there will be lots of new adventures for both of us in 2014!

  4. Jen says:

    Holy Mother of (Travel)God. I was exhausted just hearing about your travel in review. Good for you! I look forward to reading more about your adventures. I currently write a lifestyle blog about my life living abroad and started writing for Wanderlust and Lipstick in the expat arena. http://drinking-the-whole-bottle.blogspot.com/ Came to you by way of Expat Blog Challenge on FB.

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