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The 2017 round-up: An epic year of travel firsts!

2017 was definitely a year of firsts for me. My first time visiting South America, my first time seeing the northern lights, my first time taking an overnight bus, and even my first time trying to properly see Berlin, where I live.

My travel destinations of 2017 were pretty diverse: I started the year early in Iceland, and flew to Brazil only a few weeks later. I spent Spring in Austria, and the Summer in Italy. The end of the year was really busy at work, but I’m still managing to take a long Christmas holiday and spend two weeks in Berlin and Munich to recharge. While I didn’t see as many new countries as last year, I’m happy with having so many different experiences, even if the absolute number isn’t as high 😉

Here’s how the year unfolded - where I went, where you can read more about each location, and a few hints on what 2018 has in store 😄

Barcelona, Spain - February

Kicking off the year in Spain was a great idea – it gave me a chance to escape the dreary Berlin winter and meet up with some friends traveling from the United States in one go. Possibly the best part about going to Barcelona in the Winter is the smaller crowd-sizes and a more relaxed vibe.

2017 travel destinations

For example, popular locations like the Park Guell or the Sagrada Familia are less crowded than they are in the warmer months. Of course, winter in Barcelona isn’t always sunny, but if you’re lucky you’ll see the sun peak through the crowds at a special moment.

2017 travel destinations

Around this time, I was also featured in the ONA Camera Bags blog, including the camera gear that I travel with in this post. That was really awesome as it’s the first time my photography has been featured elsewhere, and encouraged me to really focus even more on photography in 2017.

2017 travel destinations

READ MORE - 15 photos to inspire you to visit Barcelona

Iceland - February

Just a few weeks later, and it was time to head to Iceland. For my boyfriend’s 30th birthday, I bought him a ten-day roadtrip around Iceland. Geared up with waterproof boots and massive parkas, we were ready to take on the elements and hoping for a glimpse of the northern lights.

2017 travel destinations

Iceland did not disappoint - especially done by car, it’s hard not to want to take photos constantly out the window owing to the sheer beauty of this country. And what’s more, we saw the northern lights not once, but four times during our trip. Admittedly, Iceland is having some trouble managing the sheer number of tourists, but since we also traveled to some more remote areas of the country, we got a chance to experience a little bit of Iceland for ourselves.

2017 travel destinations

Iceland was easily the travel highlight of year. I can’t wait to go back in the Summer and see a different side to the terrain.

2017 travel destinations

READ MORE -
* Iceland photography tips
* Iceland travel guide: 10-day itinerary and travel tips
* Practical tips for visiting Iceland in Winter

São Paulo & Rio de Janiero, Brazil - March

Not long after landing in Berlin from Iceland, I departed again for a totally different experience: Brazil. My company has a branch in Brazil, and I was there on business – but still managed to spend two weekends exploring two of Brazil’s major cities: São Paulo and Rio de Janiero.

2017 travel destinations

It was a totally different experience from my typical trips around Europe. You really get used to getting by in English, using public transit, and generally assuming that you’re very safe in most parts of the city – whereas Brazil is practically the opposite. English is sparse, Uber is preferred to taxis or busses, and everyone will tell you to watch your back so your phone or wallet doesn’t get snatched.

2017 travel destinations

What I learned is that a little street smarts goes a long way, and you don’t have to be stressed out about safety all the time if you exercise some common sense judgement. Moreover, Brazil is a gorgeous country with extremely kind and warm people. It was definitely an adventure and I’m sure I’ll go back!

2017 travel destinations

READ MORE - 12 things that surprised me about Brazil

Salzkammergut, Austria - April

Back from the humid, tropical climate of Brazil, I spent a few weeks in Berlin before departing for the Easter holidays to Austria. My boyfriend is from Austria, and this is the second year I’ve spent Easter with his family. This year, we tacked on a trip around the Salzkammergut, also known as the Austrian Lake District.

2017 travel destinations

The most famous city in this area is called Hallstatt. We went to a number of other villages (which I still need to write about why am I so lazy) and stayed at serveral different lakes in the region.

2017 travel destinations

Spring in Austria is beautiful - and a bit warmer, since Austria is further South than Germany. When I’m feeling that winter sadness in Berlin, Austria is just the place to give me hope that something green is around the corner 😭

2017 travel destinations

READ MORE - Things to do in Hallstatt, Austria

Berlin, Germany - April

Spring in Berlin starts a bit later than in a lot of places, but I love being here for the change of seasons. Over the course of roughly two weeks, the city explodes with flowers and greenery, plunging us headfirst into Spring.

Cherry blossoms in Berlin are still blooming when it’s otherwise still cold and rainy. Last year, I missed the cherry blossom season since I spent it in Japan, so this year I went to the two most famous areas of the city for seeing the trees in full bloom.

2017 travel destinations

READ MORE - Where to find cherry blossoms in Berlin

Milan & Lake Como, Italy - June

Fast forward to June. Every year I try to take a trip around my birthday, and this year I went to one of my favorite countries in the world - Italy. Yes, I’m that basic, but it’s probably one of the few places I could see myself living long-term besides Berlin so I love visiting and scoping out my retirement villa future home.

2017 travel destinations

We started in Milan, which honestly I wouldn’t do again if I had the choice - the traffic and associated stress of driving next to Italians (#sorrynotsorry) to get out of the city didn’t start us out on the right foot. Driving straight from the Milan airport to Lake Como would’ve been a better choice!

2017 travel destinations

Regardless, Lake Como was way better than I was expecting – honestly a lot of the writing about Lake Como online paints it as a posh spot for people loaded with cash.

That’s not to say that Como is easy to do on a budget, but it’s not significantly more expensive than a lot of other parts of Europe. And the almost-constant sunshine coupled with views of this beautiful lake - I would absolutely recommend a trip here to anyone!

2017 travel destinations

READ MORE - A 3-day Lake Como travel itinerary

Berlin, Germany - July

This summer I tried to do more in Berlin itself, including some parts of the city that only tourists are typically drawn to. As happens to a lot of people, living in a city for a certain amount of time means you can get caught up in daily life and forget about all the amazing things you can do in your own backyard.

2017 travel destinations

This included everything from museums to natural parks and monuments, as well as a few less conventional activities like touring abandoned buildings and a spy station outside Berlin.

2017 travel destinations

READ MORE - Berlin’s best photography locations

Prague, Czech Republic - August

2017 was a year of roadtrips. We roadtripped Iceland, Austria, Italy (twice!) and also – Prague! Just three hours away from Berlin, Prague is a really convenient weekender. Back when I first moved to Germany, Prague was my first trip outside the country and as such, I barely remembered anything about it – so it was like going for the first time!

2017 travel destinations

Saxon Switzerland, Germany - August

On our way back from Prague, we also stopped in Saxon Switzerland. This is a national park in Saxony, one of the states of Germany, where you can stand on the edges of sandstone mountains. This is the river Elbe, which winds through the Czech Republic and Germany and empties into the North Sea.

2017 travel destinations

READ MORE - What you need to know to visit Saxon Switzerland

2017 travel destinations

Venice & Lake Garda, Italy - September

One of my favorite secrets for elongating the Summer is to spend September in Italy. Last year we went to Tuscany, and this year it was Venice and Lake Garda. It was my first time ever visiting Venice, and it was even prettier than I had expected. Easily the most photogenic city I’ve visited this year!

2017 travel destinations

READ MORE - 5 travel hacks for visiting Venice

2017 travel destinations

Berlin & Munich, Germany - December

And here we are at the end! My sister is visiting from the United States for two weeks in Germany, in both Berlin and a few days in Munich. So far, we’ve been to a bunch of historical sights, drank some beer, ate a pretzel, and did some homestyle German cooking.

2017 travel destinations

We also visited some Christmas markets of course – what Christmas in Germany is complete without them?

2017 travel destinations

We’re ringing in the New Years in Berlin – cheers!

And what’s in store for 2018?

We’ve got a few places in our plans for the new year, the biggest of which is New Zealand! Most of the other trips will be arranged around this, but I can’t wait to go back to this gorgeous country.

What are your plans for the new year?

Share them in the comments and let me know!

About the author

Hi there! I'm Monica, an American expat living in Germany for nearly four years and using every opportunity to explore the world from my homebase in Berlin. My goal is to capture my memories in photos and posts that show how easy it is to start from scratch and travel the world by working abroad.

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