Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I think that, in 2014, I managed to transform Mark Twain’s encouraging words into actions. This was the year that I finally, finally, let go of my safety blanket that I had been so carefully holding onto, and jumped out into the real world.

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I have always been an adventurous person. Skydiving, bungee cording, rock climbing, surfing, ect ect, have been on my bucket list since I was twelve. I’ve always wanted to get out and see the world, and explore, and before 2014, I did all of these things. But 2014 was special, I managed to throw myself so completely out of my comfort zone that I’m still shocked with myself. When I think about the past year, I think, did I really do that? Was that my real actual life? And I smile and think yes, yes it was.

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I’m supremely proud of myself for everything that I have accomplished in 2014. And, I’m thrilled with what 2015 has in store. I’m planning on doing things that I never thought I would be able to do, thanks to a few wonderful lessons learned in the past year. So, without further ado, here is my so-called “year in review” if you will and my preview of 2015.

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You might remember that the first part of this year, from the beginning of January to the beginning of June, I was saving up money for my three-week backpacking trip to Europe. You can read about that HERE. I was pinching pennies in every sense of the word, but I still had some pretty amazing experiences along the way.

I worked New Years Eve at my second job. The wedding venue had a NYE party and I volunteered to work. It ended up being a blast, I worked with all my favorite people, and then went home. My Mom visited me in Florida the first week of January, and I had such a wonderful time with her. We walked around St. Augustine, enjoying Nights of Lights, which is the annual light festival in St. Augustine that is truly spectacular.

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Once my Mom left, my friend and I headed two hours west of St. Augustine to Orlando. I went to Harry Potter world for the first time! It was absolutely magical. I am a book fanatic and I am in love with everything Harry Potter. Getting to actually walk through Hogsmead, drink butter beer, and buy a wand and a pygmy puff, were amazing experiences.

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I loved Harry Potter world so much that when my friend came to visit me in March (this is the wonderful thing about living in Florida, all of your friends visit when it is deathly cold up north) we went to Harry Potter world again. This time I bought an owl!

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And since we were already in Orlando, I had to take my friend to a place that she had never been before…Disney World!

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I am a Disney fanatic, I absolutely love everything about Disney. One of my biggest regrets is not taking part in their internship program while I was in college. Oh well. But my friend and I had fun, despite the spring break crowds.

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In April my Mom visited again, and we went to Disney, again. I’m such a brat. But, it is very cheap for Florida residents to go to the theme parks, which provided me with cheap mini-vacations while I was trying to save up money.

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In April I also visited Crystal River, Florida and swam with manatees. You can read more about my manatee diving experience HERE. It was fun getting to swim with these gentle giants.

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In June I headed back up north to spend the summer with my Mom in order to save on rent. We took a family cruise to Bermuda, which you can read about HERE.   Bermuda beaches are some of the most beautifully colored beaches in the world, and the little towns are filled with charm.

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June also served as my introduction to camping and music festivals. I haven’t been camping since I was five, so the whole experience of roughing it was new to me. I am not a girlie girl by any means (I never wear make-up and could care less what I look like in clothes) but I hated, despised, absolutely loathed camping. We were in huge fields, with thousands of cars and tents surrounding us. Talk about no privacy whatsoever. I heard our neighbors arguing at four in the morning as I was trying to sleep. I waited in line for the bathroom for 25 minutes…25 minutes! I was not a happy camper.

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But, I did enjoy the music festival, Firefly. Hearing dozens of my favorite bands in one day was heaven. The food prices and heat, and lack of proper shoe ware was not, but the music made everything worth it.

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If I go back to Firefly I will be much better prepared (ie staying in a hotel, wearing walking sandals/sneakers, bringing empty water bottles and snacks into the festival, ect).

And then July-October, as you all know, was Europe.

I visited Vienna Austria.

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Prague, Czech Republic

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Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Went on a road trip in Serbia

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Visited Milan Italy

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Venice, Italy

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Nice, France

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Monte Carlo, Monaco

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Toured Switzerland with my Swiss friend.

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Lived in Rome, Italy for two months.

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Visited Vatican City multiple times

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Visited Tivoli on a day trip.

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Visited Florence, Italy

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Visited Naples Italy

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Met up with my best friend from college in Bruges, Belgium

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Toured Brussels, Belgium

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I visited 11 countries in 2014, 8 of which I had never visited, a personal record. I spent four months this year traveling. Just writing that makes my heart sing. I learned so much while traveling, and changed in so many ways. I learned how to plan trips, communicate with people who speak different languages, handle travel mishaps, travel lightly, travel cheaply, meet new people, navigate foreign transportation, and so much more.

I walked away this year being more self-confident than I have been in my entire life. I am no longer scared to talk to strangers, or strike up a random conversation with someone. I know that I can rely on myself when things go ary, or something doesn’t work out according to plan; I have become very adaptable.

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So, 2014 was awesome. I’m not exactly sure how 2015 will top it. But I’m going to try.

I’ve made a few tentative travel plans, although no plane tickets have been purchased (yet). I’m still mapping out a few things and looking at finances and dates and the like. But I have a pretty good idea of what the next year will look like.

Because I am substituting this year, and looking for a full time teaching job (since I came back from Europe in the middle of the school year, I haven’t yet been able to find a position), I need to stick with school breaks. I do not want to miss an opportunity to make money, or compromise my chance of finding a job.

During the first few months of the year I plan on taking three small trips. The first, to Orlando, again, to see the newly opened Diagon Alley with two friends who adore Harry Potter as much as I do. The second trip will be a drive over to Tampa, Florida, and the third trip will be to Fort Lauderdale. The trips to Tampa and Fort Lauderdale are to look at potencial relocation areas. I adore St. Augustine, and I still may end up living here forever, but part of me wants to experience life in a bigger city with more young people and more things to do. So these trips, although recreational, do serve a purpose.

In March, during Spring break, I contemplated taking a trip to Nicaragua or Costa Rica or Puerto Rico. I found a really cheap flight but I think I will take spring break and return home to northern Virginia to spend some time with my family.

My friend invited me to spend a week with her and her family in Oregon at a ranch/spa resort in May. I’m considering breaking my school breaks only rule and meeting her in Oregon. I’ve only ever been off the east coast to visit New Orleans and Arizona, so I’m dying to see more of the beautiful west coast of the US.

This summer I will take another big trip. Although I would love to spend several months in Europe, and I already plotted a trip that would consist to visits to 15 countries, I decided to hold off. I don’t want to rush through Europe, and, I don’t have the money for that kind of thing. But, I know that I want to start traveling to other parts of the world, not only Europe; which means I may have to take a break from my beloved continent for awhile. Knowing these facts, I narrowed it down to my top places: Paris, London, Scotland, and Ireland, maybe a short trip to Iceland if I’m lucky and figure out cheap flights through the Icelandic air stopover program, which I’ll write more about if it becomes a reality. I think that if I see these countries and places I will be okay with setting Europe aside for a year or two and venturing out into other parts of the world. This trip will be about a month long and I’ll let you all know more once I figure out the details.

Practice for Ireland: Shamrock Fest 2013.
Practice for Ireland: Shamrock Fest 2013.

As a teacher, I get two weeks off during winter break. One of those weeks will be spent with my family, during the holidays. But the other week will be in Hawaii celebrating my best friend’s college graduation (this is her second degree, woo hoo!). I’ve been to Hawaii before and I can’t wait to go back and explore more of this beautiful state.

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So 2015 is looking like its going to be a great year. I have personal goals for 2015 as well as travel goals.   Some being: get a real teaching job, start saving more money for retirement, volunteer with another organization (in 2014 I worked with SAFE animal shelter), be healthier (better eating choices, staying active), learn another language (probably Spanish since I already have a basic grasp of the language), re-learn the saxophone (I played in high school and a bit in college but I really need to practice), write in my blog/personal practice writing at least once per week, and try and be more forgiving of people.

There you have it, the 2014 round up and 2015 preview. One last thing, thank you all so much for reading The Heart of a Traveler. It means the world to me that people are interested enough to come here, and read about what is going on in my life and my travels. Please, if you have any questions about the places that I’ve been, or anything else at all, please don’t hesitate to email me at theheartofatraveler@yahoo.com or write a comment on this page.  Happy new year everyone!

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