10 Things I Learned From 10 Cities in 2017

In 2014, I made my first New Years Resolution – to travel to five cities I’ve never visited before, and to fly solo on at least one of these trips. Since 2014, I’ve visited over 35 new cities and 10 countries, with more than a handful of these being solo adventures. There’s something about traveling that makes me feel like I’m not just living— but that I am truly alive. I’ve pushed further beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone than I could have ever imagined, which has given me a sense of confidence that has trickled down to every aspect of my life.

Each year, I reflect on my trips and the pearls of wisdom they have brought me. This has become my favorite post to write, for it forces me to mull over the moments that have been marinating in my mind as the months have gone by.

  1. Savannah, GA. | I’m my Mother’s Daughter

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This year I realized that I am one bob haircut away from turning into my mother. We’re two ENFJ’s in a pod, who have walked through fire to live a life of sunshine. Savannah was the first time my mom and I traveled together— no Tammy, no Grammy, just us. On the first weekend of January, my sister attends a theater conference in Upstate New York. My mom and I seized this window of opportunity to do something we’ve never done before: go on an adventure. The combination of a short flight, open containers, and River Street made Savannah the perfect destination.

My Mom has not been bitten by the travel bug as I have, however, we have both been plagued with a different beast: anxiety. Sharing my love of travel with my Mom goes so much further than showing her some of my favorite destinations. I am deeply indebted to travel for allowing me to realize that I can tame my own anxious mind. Our weekend in Savannah was spent going with the flow of what River Street had to offer. Not everything in life needs a plan— which sounds blasphemous when you’re as type A as we are. We didn’t have an itinerary telling us to take syringe jello shots at the dueling piano bar… those things just happen.

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2. Boston, MA. | Embrace change

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I don’t feel completely ready to say goodbye to 2017. My baby sister is a senior in high school, and will be going off to Emerson College in the fall. I’m not completely sure how that’s even possible, because I feel like I graduated high school 20 minutes ago. Going away to college is the experience that transitions you into adulthood. It’s the years that you’ll build relationships that will bring you into your next phase of life.

We visited Boston this summer, and it was such an obvious fit for my sister’s college experience. This trip allowed me to face reality. The truth is that I’ll never be ready to let my sister go (ammi right parents?!), but I have faith in Boston, and the happiness this city will bring my sister. 

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3. Montréal, QC  | Fly solo (and do some pull ups)

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Sometimes you gotta go, where nobody knows your name. ☝🏻🎶 Montréal is my first Canadian adventure, eh, and certainly did not lack in poutine, friendliness, and maple syrup. Once you travel by yourself, it becomes something that you crave. I love to immerse myself in a new location, and flying solo forces you to dive in differently. One of my favorite things to do is take classes at different gyms, so I can learn from different trainers, and trainees wherever I am! On this trip, I visited Studio Epix for their HIIT morning workout. This was the first class that pushed me to try pull ups… and life has never been the same.

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4. Austin, TX | Be Genuinely Curious

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A professor once told me that the key to being a good listener is in being genuinely curious. That was a tip that has always stuck with me, and has been brought to life during my time in Austin. This year on my solo adventures, I grew quite fond of hostel life. During my time at the Firehouse Hostel, I went on daily adventures with interesting others, traveling from as far as Australia. It wasn’t hard to be genuinely curious about the paths that my new traveling posse have taken, that led us to the same place, at the same time. It makes me think of all the people we cross paths with on a daily basis, that we may be inspired by if it were for just a little bit of curiosity. We’re not cats, after all…

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5. Pilanesberg, South Africa | Life extends beyond ourselves

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This year I took the trip of my dreams, and went on safari in South Africa. Being smack dab in the middle of the animal kingdom was a consistent reminder that the universe does not revolve around us. We humans get caught up in our own lives, and don’t often sit and ponder about the lioness that is hunting to feed her cubs. This trip was a refreshing culture shock, that allowed me to disconnect from the human world. Albert Einstein once said, look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albie, you weren’t kidding buddy.

[Read more: Lessons learned on an African Safari]

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6. Cape Town, South Africa | Don’t talk about it, be about it.

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Many of our dreams are reserved for laters and tomorrows. I prefer to-do lists to bucket lists, because as much as I’m a dreamer, I’m also a doer. South Africa was a destination that I always considered a “someday” trip. One of those majestic places that I’ll visit “one day.” Until my best friend said- I’m going, you coming?

We should all dream big, but don’t be afraid to jump up and make things happen. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have travel buddies with travel dreams similar to your own! This trip will hold a special place in my heart, with each moment affirming my love for planet Earth.

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7. Atlanta, GA | You can always count on Waffle House

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This year, two of my trips were rooted in the nuptial love of my college friends. In September, my prom date, his girlfriend and I traveled as sister wives to Atlanta, where we celebrated the wedding of my cat’s namesake, (human) Jordan. Did we lose you, yet?

There a couple of things in life you can depend on. You can depend on the New Yorkers to be the loudest ones in the room.  You can depend on your best friends to travel as far as it takes to watch you walk down the aisle. You can depend on your road trip buddies to keep you belly laughing the whole drive. You can depend on Turbulence by Steve Aoki and Laidback Luke to get you pumped up. And, most importantly, you can depend on Waffle House to make sure you will fall asleep with a full belly.

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8. New Orleans, LA| Don’t jump in the Mississippi

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New Orleans was the scene for another nuptial adventure, that was fueled by Hurricanes and sleep deprivation. But oh, I’m sorry… I thought we were here to party.

This trip wins the award for most fun had in 2017. It has been four years since my friends and I graduated college, so this celebration also served as an epic reunion. There is nothing quite like a New Orleans hotel doubling as your old dorm. Our strong bonds was made stronger with the topsy turvy times that Bourbon Street introduced us to. If you look deep down to the bottom of the Mississippi, you may find some memories that were meant to be forgotten. But, take it from the itchy skin of my friends… you may not want to take that plunge.

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9. Miami, FL | If they don’t tell you how much, it’s probably $300

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South Beach has officially made its way to the top of the leaderboard on my list of cities visited. This year, I visited on my own in February, and as a birthday celebration for one of my best friends in November. We are a crew who would not snub our noses to the likes of a happy hour, and are a group of gals who don’t back down from a challenge.

On one South Beach Saturday night… we got got. If the hot waiter looks too good to be true, he probably is trying to sell you something. Heed our advice and ask how much, and how big, one Coronita is before ordering four of them. But, my friends, if you do order four of them… you don’t stop until the last one is empty. Remember, your body can do this, don’t let your mind stop you!

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10. Denver, CO |  Get high

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I get by with a little help from my friends, and I get high with a little help from my friends. Denver was one of the last cities I visited this year. It was one of those Google Flights cheap rate induced decisions that I’ll never regret. The Rocky Mountains were calling my name, and I was like, u up?

We visited Estes Park on the last day the road to highest peak of the mountains was open for the season. In less than an hour, we were in a completely different climate. There was a ridiculous sense of tranquility that came with the altitude. I felt like an astronaut that was exploring a totally different planet (ok, maybe that was the edibles talking).

My faith is something that I often struggle with, but I always seem to find answers in nature. This year, I have been coping with the reality of the progression of time. My sister is growing up and going off to college. My grandparents are aging and have been ailing. We’re born, we grow up, we do some things between A to Z, and then life ends. Depressing way to end such an uplifting blog, huh?

Sometimes I feel stupidly optimistic, clinging to silver linings. But, my mindset so often comes from considering darkness, forcing me to exude light. I believe that the role I play in this world is dictated by my ability to be present, be appreciative, and be mindful. Sometimes it takes standing at the highest peak of a mountain to remember that you’re braver than you think. Take this time as we begin the new year to really reflect on the world and your place in it. Try to give more than you take, feel as much as you think, and smile at as many humans as you cross paths with.

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10 Lessons Learned from 10 Cities: 2016

10 Lessons Learned from 10 Cities: 2015

Out There Brocial

In researching the social media behaviors of millennials, Lauren discovered that the need for positive online role models was just as important (if not, more!) for young men as it is for young women. She teamed up with four inspiring fellas, that embody the collective spirit of what it means to be a Millennial Male in today’s digital society. Follow Colby, Wes, Eric & George on their adventures out of their comfort zones and into the world. #outtherebrocial

Colby Jennings

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Eric Washington

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Wes Mantooth

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George Costi 

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“Here in the utter stillness, High on a lonely cliff-ledge, Where the air is trembling with lightning, I have given the wind my pledge.” -Everett Ruess

We caught up with our West Coast Brocialite to learn more about what has inspired his life of adventure…

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I was born in central Maine.  I wanted to be a fighter pilot for most of my childhood (too much Top Gun), but noticed that my writing stood out in fourth grade, and discovered a taste for adventure in my mid-twenties; now I’m here.  I’ve been a teacher, a laborer, and just about everything else, and I’m always looking for bigger, better, and more.

Over the past year, Wes has established himself as a prominent travel blogger on the platform Niume.

My aims have returned firmly to the ground.  I am at home amongst the dirt and the rocks, and have no problem viewing the clouds from the safety of mountain tops.  I’ve come to realize that wilderness is my life’s passion.

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Wes’ passion is evident in both his writing and his travels. He talks to us about his favorite destinations, and adventures that have been brewing in his mind…

I’m eager to go backcountry in Utah in search of unmarked Anasazi ruins.  I want to get into some terra incognita, maybe out onto the Kaiparowits Plateau. Baja California is one of my favorite locations. I’ve had a series of incredible experiences down there, and it’s all been well outside of my comfort zone.

Speaking of comfort zones…

A comfort zone to me is routines and easy choices.  Knowing how most days will go, and being happy with this.  I got fired from a job I hated in 2013, and decided to turn a friend’s upcoming wedding in Honduras into a jump off point for a month long solo backpacking trip all the way to the Panama Canal, with little more than a skateboard and some faded high school Spanish.  One of the best decisions I ever made.

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Wes’ journeys outside of his comfort are truly feats to be celebrated. We asked Wes what accomplishments he is most proud of…

Completing a move to San Diego, and feeling like I’ve “made it”.  The latter is a long way from the former, to be sure.  I talked about leaving Maine for years, but it ended up taking longer than I expected.  When I look at everything I’ve been able to do in the past two years, I can see that the post-grad school doldrums were just a quiet preamble to the successes of today.

We can see the importance of setting goals and giving 100% until you reach them in the way that Wes lives his life. Wes talks to us about a current goal he is working towards…

I’m currently in the process of upgrading to a more advanced camera.  Although I’m proud of the work I’ve done with my point-and-shoot, it’s time to take things to the next level and challenge myself.

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Wes signs off with some words of wisdom (or we’d like to call it- Wesdom)…

Find pockets of space and time, and flee your mobile devices and obligations for somewhere not a lot of people go, somewhere that might have you asking for directions.  Wander, get dirty, and enjoy it even if you don’t get there.

Look out for more by Wes on outtheresocial.com

The world out there belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams! We’ve been speaking with inspiring others who have been personifying the spirit of adventure. 

Today we’re speaking with 27 year old Casey Hekker, who has been spending 2016 exploring country to country with Remote Year. You may recognize her from her 30 day South American Alpaca challenge on her blog, “Where the Hekk Am I?” 

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Casey takes us back to her roots, and tells us where her love of travel began…

While I’m lucky enough to call New York City my home, you won’t find me there for too long at a time. I grew up in Connecticut, went to college in North Carolina, studied abroad a few times, lived in Paris for a year and then decided to “settle down” in NYC.  Now, my address changes every month.

When I was growing up, I loved to watch The Travel Channel and wanted to figure out how to become Samantha Brown when I grew up. She was a host for a few travel shows that took viewers around the globe and got me hooked on travel from an early age. Samantha’s shows took me to hotels in Italy, restaurants in Argentina, hikes in Asia, beaches in Australia and just about everywhere else in between.  I went to Europe for the first time to visit my brother in Italy when I was in high school and from that point on, my family made it a point to have us love to travel, and to be good travelers.

I chose to go to Elon University and it was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made. There is such a strong focus on community involvement and study abroad and I took advantage of everything that was offered to me. I was lucky enough to study abroad three times and had amazing experiences at Elon, both in and out of the US. I studied in Western Australia, Barcelona and South Africa, learning as much as about other cultures as I learned about myself during my four years at Elon.

In the Spring of my senior year, an amazing opportunity was presented to me and it was an offer that was too good to refuse. Two months after I got my diploma, I packed up a suitcase and moved to Paris, France where I worked as an au pair for a wonderful French family. They set me up with my own petit apartment in the center of the city and I spent the year caring for four girls in the heart of Paris. I couldn’t have had a better situation, but after the year was up I had to find a “real job” and moved to NYC. I spent my first two years working for Fox Cable Networks and National Geographic in ad sales, and then switched to my current company, an AdTech startup based in NYC.  My life in NYC was nearly perfect – great job, great coworkers, great apartment, great friends, family nearby, but I still had the travel bug and applied for Remote Year, not really thinking anything about it.

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Traveling opens your eyes to new experiences, allowing you to evolve as a human being. Casey tells us about how her life has changed since her travels… 

I don’t exactly have my own travel show on The Travel Channel (yet), but I feel like I’m living my own reality show.  I’m on Remote Year and I get to keep my full time job while traveling the world.  I just lived in South America for four months, spending one month in a different city with a group of 70 people who started as strangers and are now some of my best friends.  We lived in Cordoba, Argentina, Buenos Aires, Argentina, La Paz, Bolivia and Cusco, Peru and are now on our second continent.  I’m now in London, England and then will be moving to Prague, Czech Republic, Belgrade, Serbia, and Split Croatia.  In November, we’ll be onto continent number three, consisting of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to round out our year of travel.  I’m having the most incredible experiences and feel like the luckiest person on earth to get to do this, keeping a blog to save the memories and pictures.

Casey brings us in (and out!) or her comfort zone… 

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I can be found in my comfort zone when I’m sitting on my porch at home in Ocean Grove, NJ. My family has been going to this little beach town for my whole life, and it’s the type of place that washes your worries away. It’s tucked away by the beach at the Jersey Shore and is the best escape. It’s easy to get “Grove lag” as my Grandma likes to call it. We can sit on the porch drinking wine for hours, watching the world go by and it feels like the safest place on earth. With such an amazing place to be, it’s hard to ever leave. I have my family, lifetime best friends and the ocean right by my side.  Each time I go back, I’m reminded of how truly lucky I am to have such a magical place to return to. When I graduated from college, I left for Paris from OG and as sad as it was to say goodbye to my support system, I knew that my Grandma would be waiting for me on the porch when I got home a year later.

Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. We are so proud of friends like Casey, who have been following their heart, actualizing their potential, and inspiring others along the way. We asked her what she is most proud of… 

I applied for Remote Year after a friend of mine told me that this program was made for me. I applied, not realistically thinking that anything would happen, but what the heck, I had nothing to lose except for the $50 application fee.  I applied, interviewed, and got accepted last fall and was faced with a big challenge of how to convince my company to be on board with me working my full time while traveling the world for a year.  I put together a document that outlined all of the aspects of Remote Year and how I would be committed to make it a complete success for the year.  My job is my number one priority, and by gaining my boss’ approval, I was able to show my dedication to my company.  I have been working there for two years and have made amazing connections with my coworkers and they knew that my work ethic would continue without being in the office.  It showed how much trust they had in me and has made me want to work even harder to keep showing them how much I appreciate their support for me on my year abroad.

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Most travelers can agree that their bucket list is ever-growing! We asked Casey what locations have made their way to her “must see” list… 

My bucket list continues to grow every day, and I still can’t believe that I’ve gotten to check so many of them off at my age.  I’ve traveled to over 25 countries, but the list always continues.  If you had asked me this question a few years ago, the answer would have been Cape Town, South Africa but now that I’ve been there, my answer now is Patagonia, Argentina.  I unfortunately did not have enough time to plan a trip there during my time in South America, but it will be one of the first places I go after my year of travel is over.  A few of my friends went and the pictures were so incredible, I’m sure the pictures didn’t even do the real views any justice.  I’m not typically a camper, but I would love to get out my comfort zone and do a trek there to see all of the mountains and lakes that add to the picture perfect landscapes.  Once I have a bit more time (and money) that will be the trip of a lifetime.  It would be even better if I could make it over to Antartica while I’m there to check off Continent #7 off the bucket list 🙂

Asking a traveler to pick their favorite city is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child! We asked Casey this tough question, and she’s given us insight on destinations we can add to our list, as well as one’s to look out for… 

I would have to say that my favorite city in the world to visit is Cape Town, South Africa.  Cape Town is one of the most beautiful, unique and interesting cities I’ve ever been to.  In college, I spent one month there for a study abroad program, spending two weeks in Cape Town, one week on a safari and the last week in Johannesburg.  There is so much culture and life in that country and the recent history was interesting, as well as heartbreaking to learn about.  You can be in a city, swim in the ocean, and go for a hike all in one day, not to mention eat some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had.  I went back last year for two weeks to visit my little sister who was studying abroad there, and already can’t wait to go back for a third time.  One city, I hate to say “the worst” but a city that I don’t plan on returning to is La Paz, Bolivia.  I spent the month of May there as part of Remote Year and it was a little too far out of my comfort zone.  My group was pre-warned that it would be a different type of city, especially coming from Argentina which feels much more European than South American.  The first week was an adventure there – trying to breath in the highest altitude capital city in the world (~12k feet above sea level) and figuring out what to eat to avoid getting sick.  The views of the city are incredibly beautiful and the city is interesting, however, it’s not a very livable city.  The country of Bolivia outside of La Paz is beautiful and my experiences were great, minus a small hiccup of breaking my collarbone while mountain biking on Death Road.  That was a big challenge for the rest of the month which added to my hardships there.  I would not write it off for future travelers wanting to pass through for a night or two while going to the Salt Flats or Lake Titicaca but it was a tough month for me.

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If you’ve been following Casey’s adventures, you would agree that they’ve been the epitome of #goals. To accomplish such great things, you have to set goals- then be prepared to crush them! We asked Casey what goals she’s been working on… 

I started a (anonymous) dating blog when I was living in NYC and decided to bring it around the world with me. I love dating, talking about dating, best dates, worst dates and everything in between. I started writing down some of my funniest stories and people seem to enjoy reading about them. Now that I’m traveling for the year, I’ve been going on dates in different cities around the world.  I set up my profiles on dating apps and have been going on dates in each of the cities I’ve been to in the past few months.  My recaps never mention the names of my dates, and are written as more of a “woe me” than a mean post about a guy (unless he really deserved it…).  I’m never sure how many people actually read it but it’s become a fun and funny hobby to have, as well as a great way to meet the locals in each spot!  My goal is to create some kind of book by the end of the year to sum up all of my travel and dating around the world experiences.  I think it would be a great memory to have, and in the world of online dating, there’s definitely an audience for it! www.Chekkmeout.com for the stories that will make you happy you’re only just living vicariously through me and not sitting in on the actual dating disasters.

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Casey leaves us with some words of wisdom before jet setting off to a new continent… 

When I was home visiting my family in the US last week, my dad got me a framed picture for my bedroom of a train car in Portugal that included the phrase “I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met” which could not be more spot on for how I live my life.  I’m excited for every adventure and never turn down any opportunity that comes my way.  I’ve been presented with the most incredible experience of a lifetime and have to pinch myself every day making sure it’s still real.

To read more about Casey’s adventures, check out her blog- Where the Hekk Am I?