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Travels in 2013: The Year of the Selfie

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This December I face a new challenge–how to sum up a year that brought more change than I ever could have imagined or predicted.  In 2013, I ended my 10-year career as a classroom teacher.   2014 will be the first year I measure from January to January, not September to June as I have for my entire life.  How can I possibly write a year-in-review post for a year like 2013, the year that literally changed the way I view time?

Here’s how–I can turn to the Oxford English Dictionary.  Because that’s what any good travel nerd would do, right?  Right.

The OED named ‘selfie’ the official international word of the year for 2013.  In the wake of this designation, publications far and wide criticized this seemingly-vain phenomenon while people far and wide continued to point their camera phones at themselves and make duck faces.  And I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m one of those people (minus the duck face, of course).

I am unapologetic about my selfie habit, and here’s why: I take selfies not because I think I’m beautiful (I’m not, as I will prove more than a dozen times below), but because I often find myself in beautiful locations and I want to capture a moment of my own joy in said beautiful location.  Thus, my selfies are often (nay, only) taken in places that I love.  So I wondered–what would my year-in-selfie-review look like?  Did I even have one selfie per month that I could share as a way to highlight my 2013 travels?

No, I do not have one selfie per month.  I have many selfies per month.

Thus, inspired by the good people at Oxford I bring to you my Suitcase Scholar Selfie-Year-in-Review.  I’m confident that the good people at Oxford would be horrified by this.  But whatever. (Incidentally, ‘whatever’ was the word of the year in 1987.)  (I’m making that up.)

January

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Selfie Location: New York City’s Central Park, on an unusually warm January Day.  I was in town for the New York Times Travel Show over a holiday weekend, and spent part of Sunday afternoon traipsing about the park in the sunshine.  I think the temps were in the mid 50s that weekend and darn it, I was going to enjoy the outdoors.

Other January Destination Highlights: The last day of the month was my first day in Miami, a trip that was to change my life entirely.  But more on that when I get to Feburary.

February

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Selfie Location: Vizcaya Estate and Gardens, Miami Florida.  In mid-January, I was offered a last-minute chance to travel to Miami in early February to interview for what seemed to be my dream job (spoiler alert: I was offered the job and took the job and yes, it is my dream job).  The interview process lasted five days and left zero time for exploring Miami.  Which is why I scheduled an early flight in and a late flight out and spent the few hours after and before my flights exploring.

Other February Destination Highlights: I only made this one trip during the month of February (and used up all of my personal days in doing so) but I feel I made the most out of it–heck, I got a whole new life!  And I also really enjoyed my time in Miami.  I could not have been happier driving around town, windows down, sun on my face (in February!), listening to the sounds of the streets and enjoying the smell of grilled meat and garlic wafting out of countless restaurants.   Oh, and the plantains.  I love me some plantains.

March

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Selfie Location: The balcony of my room in New Orleans on Easter Sunday.  Note the beads.  Need I say more?

April

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Selfie Location: Still in New Orleans, as this trip spanned the end of March and the beginning of April.  And anyway, New Orleans remains my favorite city.  Posting two selfies is totally fair.  This one was taken at some dive bar on Bourbon Street.  I typically avoid Bourbon Street like the plague that it is, but apparently that afternoon, I really wanted an overly strong, bright green, sickly-sweet banana-tasting beverage.  It was really gross.  But look how happy I am!

May:

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Selfie Location: The deck of a ferry taking me from Toronto proper to Centre Island for a fabulous evening of food and networking during the 2013 TBEX North America Conference.  While it wasn’t the magical experience I hoped it would be, I did really enjoy Toronto, and it was great getting to meet many of my travel blogger friends in real life, many for the first time.

Other May Destination Highlights: Back in May, I considered this month to be very busy, travel wise (just wait, past-me…just you wait.)  I took not one but three trips–a long weekend on The Breakaway, the new Norwegian Cruise Line Ship, another long weekend with my mother in her favorite place–Walt Disney World–and my week in Canada, split between Niagara Falls, Sudbury Ontario, and Toronto proper.  I also worked more than full time.  I was very, very tired this month.  Very.

June

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Selfie Location:  Across the street from my fabulous boutique hotel in Old Quebec City.  I loved Quebec City.  I was only there for three full days, but I could spend three weeks wandering around with just my camera, that’s how beautiful it is.  And the food was pretty amazing too.  Plus the old walled city is entirely walkable–that is, if you don’t mind walking up steps and/or steep hills.  Fortunately I do not mind one little bit.  Not even in cowboy boots.

Other June Destination Highlights: If you know me at all, you know I love a good road trip.  Well, I got my road time in during the month of June.  Due to unexpected work obligations, I ended up driving home from Quebec only to continue driving south to Raleigh, North Carolina for a few days of training.  Nine hundred and forty miles in two days with very little prior notice?  Bring it!

July

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Selfie Location: The cafe at Canyon Ranch Resort and Spa in Lenox, Massachusetts.  This was a trip-of-a-lifetime for me.  I always wanted to spend a week at Canyon Ranch, and felt that July was the perfect time to do so–I wanted to take some time to work on my mind, body, and spirit before launching into the next stage of my life.  I am unbelievably, stupidly, smack-me-in-the-face grateful to have been given the opportunity to do just that.

Other July Destination Highlights:  I did a lot of ‘on my way’ things this month.  On my way home from Raleigh at the beginning of the month, I took a 66 mile detour just to have dinner and drinks and spend one night in one of my favorite towns–Charlottesville, Virginia.  The next day I got up early and drove the (very) long way home, through Shenandoah National Park along Skyline Drive.  On the 4th of July.  With patriotic country music playing on my rental car satellite radio.  I may have cried a bit from joy.

Another on-my-way highlight was a side trip into the mountains of Western Massachusetts on my way home from Canyon Ranch.  I drove god-knows-how-many miles out of my way to check out MassMoCa, a world-class modern art museum and arts center in the heart of the Berkshire mountains.  I then accidentally drove along a scenic byway which was pretty awesome in and of itself–the Mohawk Trail.  I highly recommend it.

August

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Selfie Location: This shadow-selfie was taken in the Stockyards district of Fort Worth, Texas.  It was my first (but definitely not my last) trip to the lone star state, and I waned to do all things Texas.  So I bought some boots, went saloon hopping, and ate a steak.  It was a good time.

Other August Destination Highlights: That trip to Texas was the first leg of my first travel junket–the first of many, many travel junkets to come.  This mostly-work-related junket involved a long weekend in the Dallas Fort Worth area, a flight to Boston and one day in Central Massachusetts, a flight to Chicago and a bus to Rockford for the best darn travel writing conference I’ve ever attended, and then simply because I could, a long weekend in Chicago proper, spent being a tourist, visiting with friends, and eating.  Oh the eating…

September

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Selfie Location: Gulf State Park Beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama, Pebble Beach in Monterey, California, and Virginia Beach, Virginia.   Yes, I posted three selfies this month.  But that’s because I completed a beach trifecta this month–I spent time on each of the three coasts–Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf–within the span of three weeks.  I did not do this on purpose (because had it been on purpose, I’d have tried to fit in at least a brief visit to one of the Great Lakes–though I was on a Lake Michigan beach in August, so that almost counts.)

Other September Destination Highlights: Do I need more than that?  Because I also spent two days in Napa.  And my solo PCH drive (of which the Pebble Beach selfie is a part) was pretty epic.  Oh and did I mention the shrimp I had in Gulf Shores that made my top three best things I’ve ever eaten list?  This past September may well have been the best month of my life so far.

October

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Selfie Location: Halfway between heaven and earth on the Chimney Rock hike at Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico.  I’ve blathered on about how awesome this was at great length, so I won’t go on about it again (even though I may want to.  Really one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been.  No question.)

Other October Destination Highlights: My first trip to New Mexico took me first to Albuquerque, then north to Santa Fe, (then even more north to Ghost Ranch).  The food in Albuquerque and in Santa Fe (so, I suppose ‘the food in New Mexico’) is unlike any other food in the world.  That is, it is better.  I’d fly most of the way across the country again just to have sopapillas at Sadie’s.  (Though I guess that’s not saying much, as I fly most of the way across the country all the time now.)

November

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Selfie Location: The cove beach at Occidental Grand Xcaret in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  Ah yes, the sausage legs selfie.  But I mean come on, how could I not take this photo?  I was in town to check out the Dia de los Muertos festivities at Xcaret Park, and managed to squeeze in a little time in the sunshine.  And what a time it was.  I started pricing my return trip while I was still there.  I will be back, Mexico.

Other November Destination Highlights: In case starting the month in Mexico wasn’t good enough, I also spent a night in Chicago post-work (getting a little too drunk in an Irish pub in the North End with an ironworker who was there betting on horses) and made a quick visit to Disneyland on my way home from work in LA.  By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I had a lot to be thankful for.

December

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Selfie Location: My new favorite bar, Roosevelt’s at 7 in McAllen, Texas.  Note that it is an outdoor bar, complete with umbrellas (there are also palm trees in the parking lot, you just can’t see them due to poor lighting).  Note that it is also December.  Remember how I told you that this year brought more change than any previous year?  Yeah.  This was after my second Saturday in a row working in a little border town in south Texas.  And I’m working every Saturday in January in that same little border town.  And I’m completely psyched about it.

Other December Destination Highlights:  I have no idea how the above photo is the only selfie I have for the entire month of December.  Perhaps it was because I spent so much time taking photos of the rental car I loved…

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…the rental car that I ‘had to’ drive five hundred miles round trip from San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley and back.  The rental car that I was so sad to give back and I hope to see again some day soon.  But seriously, folks–I’ve always wanted to see San Antonio at Christmas time.  And this month I got to do that–quite unexpectedly, due to the ice storm in Dallas.  But I also got to drive a Camaro really, REALLY fast through south Texas.  If that’s not also a highlight, I don’t know what is.

So there you have it, folks–my selfie-year-in-review.  I hope you enjoyed this me-filled post.  I most certainly enjoyed crafting it.  I have to say–going through a year’s worth of iPhone photos is kind of an awesome way to celebrate the New Year.  I’ve never felt so grateful; I’ve never felt this blessed.  And if 2014 brings even half the joy that 2013 brought, I’m more than happy about my past–I’m so very much looking forward to my future.

Happy New Year, everyone!  May it be filled with that which brings you joy.  And when you feeling particularly joyful, go ahead and take a selfie.  It’s ok.  I certainly won’t judge you.

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