Kicking Off 2018
I started 2018 the same way I start every year, celebrating with family and friends in Mexico. I was scheduled to fly away to New York two days after returning from the white sand beaches of Cancun. Due to an untimely snowstorm, I canceled my trip and spent all of January exploring my hometown, Chicago.
The Most Magical Place on Earth
Come February 2018, I was ready to jet off to somewhere warm. On a whim, I planned a last minute trip to Disney World for Valentine’s Day weekend. I hadn’t been since my 4th birthday and I was dying to see what I was missing. Mother nature had other plans for me, yet again. Yet again, my flight was canceled because of a blizzard… I quickly rebooked for two weeks later and spent the last weekend of my 23rd year exploring Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studio. I felt like a kid again.
Empire State of Mind
In March of 2018, I felt I was overdue for a visit to my second home, New York. A quick weekend visit was exactly what the doctor ordered. I met up with my cousin from Russia and we spent three days shopping, eating good food, and exploring Manhattan. It is crazy that I still manage to see something new every single time I go to New York (even after over 20 trips).
A ‘Bliss’-ful Trip
After a few months at home, I started to get stir crazy. Luckily, my mom was invited on an inaugural sailing of the Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Cruise Line’s new ocean liner. We flew to LA in May 2018 and spent two nights aboard the beautiful ship. We enjoyed some delicious dining, magnificent Broadway productions, and even got to enjoy some sun.
Viva la Mexico
The day after I returned from the Norwegian Bliss, I flew South of the border to Mexico and spent a few days at the RIU Palace Las Americas in Cancun. This was the only RIU property in Cancun I had yet to visit and I was excited to compare it to the RIU Palace Peninsula which I had frequented before. The adults-only property was nice, but not my favorite from the chain.
At the end of June, my mom and I flew to Cabo San Lucas for the RIU Awards. We stayed at the marvelous RIU Palace Cabo San Lucas, where we enjoyed three days of endless fun. RIU provided amazing accommodations, spectacular events, and even allowed us to give back to the local community. We visited a children’s center where we donated supplies to children and helped paint a mural. Additionally, we spent an afternoon on a boat swimming around the Cabo shore, marveling at the beautiful Arch of Cabo San Lucas.
A Chicago Summer
Chicago is a city that comes alive in the summer. I spent most of the summer enjoying everything the city had to offer. To keep it interesting, I tried new restaurants and visited old favorites, spent days exploring the city, and really got to know my beautiful hometown. I finally tried Au Cheval and went to two art exhibitions: 29 Rooms and The Happy Place.
The Mother Land
Since I could remember, I dreamed about visiting the place that my parents came from. Both my parents immigrated to Chicago from Lviv, Ukraine. I grew up speaking Russian and eating Russian food. This summer, my dream came true. I took a ten-day trip to Ukraine and Russia. Though I had to endure some pretty rough layovers, this was the trip of a lifetime.
My family and I spent three days visiting the places my parents (and grandparents) grew up, got married, and started their life together. I got to go inside my dad’s building he grew up in, the school he attended, and even stand in his former classroom. My mom showed me important places from her childhood, where my grandparents worked, and we even had dinner in her best friends apartment. We also visited Moscow and saw what I came to know as the most beautiful city in Europe. I already cannot wait to go back and experience it all, all over again.
In September 2018, Hurricane Florence derailed my plans to visit Savannah, Georgia. I was in Charleston, South Carolina at the time, and watched as a city prepared for disaster. Thankfully, they were spared of the worst of that hurricane. I visited Boone Hall Plantation, ate a South Carolina Peach, and experienced some real Southern heat.
The following month I visited a friend who lives in North Carolina. I got to see the more local side of Raleigh, Durham, and all of the cities that surrounded the area. The scenery was beautiful and the barbeque was to die for.
New Jersey and New York (again)
My mom really was my biggest travel buddy this year. In late November, we flew out to New Jersey for a family friend’s wedding at the Pleasantdale Chateau. I had never seen such a beautiful wedding before. We made a girl’s weekend out of the trip and spent a few days in Manhattan too. Not only did we catch up with family during this trip we also managed to go to a Ranger’s game and visit a few tourist destinations as well. I’m so glad my mom loves New York as much as I do… it means we can have many of these girl’s weekends in our future.
Facing my Fears
A few days after New York, I flew off to the Dominican Republic for the first time in 4 years. While this was a business trip, I did get a chance to face some of my fears! I snorkeled with fish in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, came super close to a snake, and even flew through the jungle on zip-lines. I even got to swim in a cave (Hoyo Azul).
State Number 23
Mid-December consisted of a trip to Arizona, where my friend’s grandparents have a home. This was state number 23/50 for me! I spent a day in Scottsdale and Phoenix, visiting the Desert Botanic Gardens and Hole in a Rock. We also spent a day in Sedona, where I hiked Cathedral Rock (hello fear of heights!) and went up to Chapel of the Holy Cross to see a magnificent view of the Red Rocks.
Closing out the Year
To close out the year, I headed back to the place where I started the year: Mexico! I stayed in a recently developed area of Cancun: Playa Mujeres. For the last seven days of 2018, I relaxed on the beach, read a few books, and bathed in the sun. I couldn’t picture a better way to close out the year.
Achieving My Goals
Every year I make it a goal to visit 3 new countries, 3 new states, and 3 new cities. In 2018, I achieved two out of three of these goals. I visited three new cities: Charleston, Raleigh, and Phoenix, and hit up three new states: South Carolina, North Carolina, and Arizona. I made it to two new countries: Ukraine and Russia. Truthfully, I think its ok I didn’t make it to three, because the two I did visit were so important to me. Hopefully, I can make up for it in 2019!
To sum it up, in 2018, I took some big risks: zip-lining, hiking mountains, and swimming in caves! I faced fears I never thought I would. I experienced so many cultures and places this year, and I cannot wait to see what 2019 holds for me!
Cheers to the New Year!