2017 Was My Best Year Yet

2017 brought me so much love and joy that I can’t believe how fortunate I am. I traveled to 36 cities in 12 countries, and checked quite a few accomplishments off my bucket list. I always get sentimental about the ending of such a great year. I try to reminisce on all the joy and milestones that the closing year brought. Here are my top moments from this past year.

I traveled to Walt Disney World with my best friend, and ran my first half marathon.

Running a half marathon was a very. big. deal. for me. I was always that kid in gym class that struggled with running the mile, so it took several months for me to train. My father has run dozens of full marathons, so it’s always something that I’ve aspired to accomplish. The most rewarding part of finishing this race was not the actual race, but celebrating the progress that I made with my fitness and endurance. It was only natural that I ran my first race in Walt Disney World, since I love it there so much! I consider myself somewhat of a Disney World expert, so if you’re ever planning a trip, be sure to check out my guide to planning your trip, or ask me for any advice!

I visited my cousins in Los Angeles, spent long-overdue time with family, and explored Malibu and LA.

A few summers ago, I spent a few weeks helping my cousins with their newborn baby while they first went back to work. This March, I flew out to LA to spend some long-overdue time with them and enjoy the area. I love LA so much, and was so grateful both for the opportunity to explore the area and to spend time with my cousins. They always spare no effort to give me the best experience when I come visit, and our adventures included fun activities like brunch in Malibu, driving out to wine country, and shopping and pilates in LA.

I headed back to The Happiest Place on Earth to surprise my sister with a trip to Disney World for her birthday.

For my sister’s 11th birthday, I surprised her with a trip to Disney World- her first trip since she was a toddler. Boy, did I have a blast planning this trip! We stayed at the Disney’s Dolphin Hotel and saw everything. I even somehow managed to get a breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest before the park opened, so we got to enjoy exploring the Magic Kingdom without any other guests in the park!

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I explored and fell in love with Copenhagen, a city I’ve been dreaming of for my whole life.

While most little girls dream of Paris, I dreamed of Copenhagen. I’m really not sure if it’s because of Walt Disney’s inspiration by Tivoli Gardens, or if it’s because I just knew what was good for me. I simply love Scandinavia, and I love everything about Denmark. I cannot stress enough how much I recommend exploring this beautiful city and spending time with the wonderful people in it.

I ventured into the capital of Scandinavia, and learned about the Nobel prize, dynamite, and Vikings.

I learned to be flexible and think on my feet in Stockholm. When we originally planned to see the city on a rooftop tour (that we found out was cancelled the day before), we quickly had to scramble to find something to do. Thankfully, Stockholm is full of extremely helpful people with a rich and interesting history. There is no limit to the ways you can explore Stockholm. My favorite part was trying reindeer and Swedish meatballs at an outdoor restaurant as we enjoyed views of the iconic main square. We ended our time in Stockholm by sailing through the archipelagos, which is an experience I believe everyone should have in their lifetime.

I enjoyed a truly unique culture in Estonia, and gained an appreciation for the diligence of its people to escape Russian oppression.

Tallinn, Estonia is the most picturesque city that I have had the pleasure of exploring. This city is entirely preserved and is both charming and clean. The country of Estonia is very young, as they have recently celebrated their independence from Russian rule. I loved learning about the history of Estonia and of the efforts these brave people took to gain their independence. Estonia is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever visited, with a culture that is a blend of Russian and Eastern European.

I fell in love with Finland, played in snow up to my waist, and rode a dog sled.

Though our time in Helsinki was short, it was jam-packed with fun and sites that would make Ana and Elsa feel at home. My favorite part of Helsinki was visiting the Ice Bar and riding a dog sled! We didn’t see the Northern Lights or visit a sauna, but I certainly have some plans for my next trip!

Helsinki in a Day

I explored Russia, and got a forbidden picture of the Amber Room.

I cannot say enough about my time in Russia, so I will leave you with this. YOU. MUST. VISIT. RUSSIA. End of story. It is the most beautiful country with so much art and so many palaces that you will run out of camera battery in only a few hours. It has always been my dream to see the Amber Room in person, so visiting Pushkin to see Catherine the Great’s Winter Palace was a must for me.

Although photography in the Amber Room is strictly forbidden, I had to break the rules. I was very pleased with the results of the photo that I captured, especially since I shot it from my hip. I was grateful that I thoroughly studied Russian history before my visit, because I felt that it enhanced my experience. I am so in love with the intriguing history and beautiful art of this country. I can’t say enough about how beautiful Russia is.

I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Germany, ordered a liter of beer on accident, and discovered the horrors of being in a city that doesn’t accept credit cards.

That’s right- I was caught with my pants down in a situation where I received a bill from a vendor that does not accept credit cards. Thankfully, there was a nice American couple next to us that let us venmo them for some Euro. It was this embarrassing moment that led to my discovery that most vendors in Frankfurt don’t accept credit cards. There were several instances where we’d walk into stores or bakeries and ask if they accepted credit cards only to be met with glares and condescending remarks such as “of course we don’t accept credit cards.” I guess we’ll know better for next time- but Frankfurt was still a good time!

Main Tower Frankfurt

Main River Frankfurt, Germany

I traveled to Houston for the final time, and said goodbye to long-distance relationships (for now)!

I am so grateful that Matt has finally moved to Nashville! I’ve enjoyed visiting him in Houston, but I am beyond grateful to be living in the same city again. Don’t get me wrong, Houston is a great place to visit, but it is certainly no Nashville. One of the biggest blessings that 2017 brought me was Matt’s willingness to trade Tex Mex for Nashville Hot Chicken. Silly me for thinking that was the end to long distance, because Matt will be in Charlotte this summer for his internship. While I’m grateful he got the internship of his dreams, I will miss him. We are staying positive by researching things to do in Charlotte this summer!

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I attended the Stanley Cup finals, supported my Nashville Predators, and reluctantly watched the hoisting of the cup by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

If you read my post about Nashville’s biggest party, you know that I participated in one of the city’s biggest weekends. Between CMA Festival and the Stanley Cup Finals, I had more than enough fun for a lifetime. I got to see some of country music’s greatest artists perform live, and witness a major tradition in hockey: the hoisting of the cup.  I firmly believe that the #1 thing you should experience in Nashville is a Nashville Predator’s hockey game. Even though the game didn’t turn out in our favor, it was a once in a lifetime experience to attend a Stanley Cup Final game with my dad.

I visited the capital of the Renaissance, and stood where Dante and Michaelangelo, and Galileo stood.

Florence has always been at the top of my bucket list. When I was in high school English class, I read an excerpt from My Name is Asher Lev that said “Florence is a gift.” And it certainly was a gift. I love Italy so much, but Florence especially has always interested me due to the number of authors, artists, and scientists that made their mark on the world there. Everyone is so friendly, and there is not a single view of the city that is disappointing. As you wander the streets, you run into squares with marble sculptures by some of the most famous artists in human history. It truly is unlike any place else in the world.

I fell in love with Monaco, saw the changing of the guard, and visited the Monte Carlo Casino.

Monaco is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Given the sheer amount of wealth in this micro state, the small country is extremely clean and safe. We enjoyed the food, sites, and culture of Monte Carlo.  I rarely put my camera down during my time in Monaco, and the photos that I took were postcard worthy.

I saw the Colosseum and had a Lizzie McGuire moment at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy.

I just love learning about the Roman Empire, and the Colosseum was the perfect place to do that. Though my time in Rome meant sweating through the 104 degree heat, I loved getting to know the Roman people and their history. Plus, what 90’s kid hasn’t always dreamed of making a wish in the Trevi Fountain?

Photos of Rome

I toured the smallest country in the world, and the religious epicenter for Catholicism.

Famous for the Sistine Chapel ceiling, The Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. Every last square foot of the Vatican museum is filled with beautiful sculptures and paintings. It’s a wonder that more people don’t visit! My favorite part of the Vatican City was St. Peter’s Basilica, which I believe is far more beautiful than the Sistine Chapel!

I fell in love with the Amalfi Coast, sampled fresh limoncello, and met local artists making everything from ceramics to leather goods.

You’ve all seen the Amalfi Coast whether that be on television or on Instagram. And yes- it is just as beautiful in person. Located just outside of Naples, the winding roads of the Amalfi Coast are something to be admired. I got to tour a limoncello factory, meet with locals eager to share their culture and craft, and dip my toes in the Mediterranean sea. Ready to plan your own trip? Read my complete guide to the Amalfi Coast to make your trip planning enjoyable and easy!

I walked the infamous streets of Pompeii to find the most interesting and tragic preservation of the Roman Empire.

If you do nothing else in Italy, you must experience Pompeii. I originally was indifferent about visiting, but I am so glad that I did. The amount of history that the walls of this city holds would take a lifetime to learn. As the world’s largest archeological site, Pompeii has taught us more about the Romans than any other place on earth. Not only this, but the city contains more preserved art than the entire Roman empire combined. There are so many interesting things that I learned during my tour, and I highly recommend that all travelers pay a visit.

I visited Spain for the first time, fell in love with the beautiful and quiet streets of Palma de Mallorca, and survived multiple strikes in Barcelona.

There is something to be said for major tourist cities. While I was in Barcelona, I experienced not only a taxi strike, but a TSA agent strike as well (while I was trying to catch an international flight!!!). Palma de Mallorca, on the other hand, was completely deserted and captured my heart. There is truly an advantage to visiting lesser known cities in Europe. Palma de Mallorca offers such a rich culture and a tranquil environment that is far more appealing to American travelers than typical European destinations.

I got engaged to the love of my life, best friend, and forever travel buddy.

One of the best parts of 2017 was saying yes to spending forever with my best friend. My mom and sister hid in the bushes at Opryland Hotel, where Matt got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I’ve never been the typical girl that’s dreamed about getting married for their entire life, but I truly feel so blessed to have Matt by my side. Not only have I found someone that fully supports and loves me for who I am, but I know that he will always be there for me no matter what country or climate that brings us to. I am so excited to marry Matt next year, and I am especially excited to plan our honeymoon!

I saw the great American eclipse in totality

Seeing the eclipse in my hometown this year was a once in a lifetime experience. My family and I attended Mayor Barry’s eclipse party in Nashville, and attended a Nashville Sounds game afterwards. I detailed all of our experiences here, so I’ll let my photos speak for themselves.

I visited my best friend in South Carolina, and got the full tour of Charleston.

Charleston has always been a city I’ve dreamed of, so when I planned my trip to see Ivy, she went all-out to give me the true experience. One of the hardest parts about graduating from Auburn was being apart from friends that I had grown so close to. Thankfully, one of the bright sides is that I have friends all over the world, and can make fun memories while we spend quality time together. Plus, visiting Charleston was beautiful, and I loved photographing such a historical and charming town.

Photos of Charleston

I visited my family in New Jersey, and spent Thanksgiving with another old friend and world traveler, who took me through New York City.

Every other year, I visit my family in New Jersey for Thanksgiving. This year, we were joined by one of my other best friends from Auburn, who now lives in New York. I spent black Friday in the city, and finally got to visit the 9/11 memorial. Visiting Ground Zero is something I’ve always wanted to experience, and it was heartbreaking to see the number of families mourning the loss of their loved ones from the attacks. We also visited a pop up Yankee Candle shop in Soho, and I was later serenaded on the subway by someone with bongo drums (which is probably the most New York thing that’s ever happened to me).

I am so grateful for the blessings and experiences that 2017 brought me, and I am looking forward to the memories that 2018 will bring. Was there a destination that you liked best from this year? Curious about where I’ll be venturing to next year? Be sure to comment your thoughts, and subscribe to my newsletter to receive exclusive content and updates from my blog!

 

Happy New Year, and I am looking forward to starting 2018 with you!

Danielle Guy