The smoldering carcass of 2016 is still visible in my rear view mirror but I've got both hands on the steering wheel and a foot jammed down hard on the gas pedal.
We're headed full speed into 2017, no regrets.
That being said, I feel like a quick look back at the ash heap behind us isn't entirely unwarranted. Sure, I'm glad it's over, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the ride! So here's a quick run down on some of my travel stats for 2016:
Continents Visited: 4 (North America, Europe, Asia, Africa)
New Countries Visited: 6 (France, Morocco, Malta, Italy, Ukraine, Georgia)
Total Countries Visited: 11 (repeats: USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Hungary)
New US States Visited: 3 (Kentucky, Mississippi, New Hampshire)
Total States Visited: 13 (repeats: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Louisiana, Florida, Texas)
Miles Flown: 60,617
Circumnavigations of the Globe: 2.43
Longest Flight of the Year: Chicago - Helsinki at 4,429 miles
Shortest Flight of the Year: Casablanca - Marrakech at 122 miles
Top Five Airport (outside of Chicago): Berlin (5), Casablanca (4), Helsinki (4), Paris (4), and Kiev (4)
Top Five Airlines: Southwest Airlines (7), American (6), United (6), and a tie for third between AirBerlin, Ukraine International, and Royal Air Maroc (4)
New Airlines Flown: 4 (Ukraine International, Brussels Airlines, Air Malta, Royal Air Maroc)
Looking back on all that information, I see some bright spots and some stuff that makes me think.
I'm pretty happy with the number of new countries I visited this year - six is a pretty solid number for someone that works full time. I'm reasonably happy with hitting three new US states, though I was hoping to have gotten a few more under my belt to be honest. The plan in New Hampshire was to spend time traveling through Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts as well, though a bout of illness kept me confined to my original state sadly.
I'm surprised that Southwest came in as my top airline for the year. This was pretty much my first full year without any sort of airline loyalty in the mix whatsoever, so American's fall from the top spot was expected. Still, I hadn't even flown on Southwest prior to 2015 and a year and a half later it's topping my list. Pretty impressive climb, though I'll admit Southwest has consistently delivered a solid trip for me. So in the end, not really too shocking. Southwest isn't on the agenda at all for next year at the moment though, so it's reign appears to be short lived.
The amount of flying I did this year is also significantly smaller than I usually do. I've broken 100K miles flown every year since I started traveling, and in most years came closer to 200K. To come in around 60K is reflective of my more fine-tuned approach to traveling this year (leaner, more efficient) as well as my choosen travel destinations. I didn't cross the Pacific even once, which is a first for me in ten years of travel! Having all of my trips localized in Europe or areas immediately accessible from Europe (Georgia, Morocco) really kept the distance down this year. As I'll go over a little further down, the travel I have booked from now until early July actually takes me above this year's total miles flown!
While I might not have gone as far as I usually do, the miles were still packed with fun, food, and friends.
What's Happening in 2017
2017 promises to be quite an interesting year for me. There's a lot of exciting travel coming up as well as a lot of big changes for a portion of the year.
In January I'll be heading to the historic, tropical island of Zanzibar off the coast of eastern Africa via the tiny Middle Eastern nation of Qatar. In February I'll stop off for a long layover in Washington, D.C. (where I hope to secure tickets to the newly opened National Museum of African American History & Culture) before continuing onward to Senegal, Egypt, and Portugal. A few months back at home will end when I head off to Armenia and the United Arab Emirates via Paris in May. Finally, I'll round out the first half of 2017 with a jaunt back through Europe to Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Austria in the first week of July.
That's 62K miles of travel to 10 new countries (only the UAE is a repeat, and it's only being repeated due to the cost of flights out of Armenia) by mid-July. Quite an increased pace over my travel in 2016!
And why is that? Welp. I'm going to be taking a mini-travel hiatus for the remainder of the year. That's right, no travel from mid-July till the end of December. Let me give you a minute to pick yourself up off of the floor.....
Yes, apparently it's happening. Definitely with a lot of reluctance on my part, but I agreed to it in the end. You're probably asking yourself "why?" Well, my fiance recently started a new job which allowed us to re-evaluate some of our finances. After a bit of discussion he noted that if we budgeted correctly and both made some sacrifices, we could go completely debt-free by the end of the year. The sacrifice I would have to make? Cut my travel budget in half.
If you know me at all, that's a bit like asking me to cut off one leg and one arm. Yeah, I'll live, but life definitely won't be the same! Still, I realize that I can sometimes get a bit tunnel visioned when it comes to travel and I forget there are other things in life that need my attention. My focus on getting healthy the last few months of this year (LINK) has really helped me to center my life and bring a little balance to things. Trading six months at home without travel, as painful as it will be, is worth getting rid of every debt we have and in the long run is a good travel decision because it will free up additional funds for airfare or hotels that would have otherwise gone toward student loans or credit cards.
I'll grumble, but I can humble.
So there you have it - 2016 & 2017 in a nut shell. Here's to more good food, good flights, and good friends in the year ahead!
Do you have travel plans for the upcoming year? Let me know where you're headed!