My 2016 Year in Review + What’s New in 2017

Click to read all I've accomplished this past year in my 2016 year in review and learn what's next in travel (and life) in 2017! | http://passportandplates.com

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. 

What a year it has been! Around this time a year ago, I sat down and wrote my 2015 Year in Review. It was the year that I quit my job, faced my first real winter, took my first solo trip and started Passport & Plates.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that 2016 would bring me a remote job, five weddings, eight countries, and countless friends. I’m in awe of the support that I’ve gotten from my friends, family, and audience. I could never have done any of this without you. I am humbled and I am grateful.

December is always one of my favorite months, because as I look back at all the things I’ve accomplished and adventures I’ve had, I’m reminded that chasing my dreams was not the foolish endeavor I worried it would be. Keep reading to learn more about what I accomplished this year and what’s next in 2017!

 


Travel – My Year in Numbers:

Countries Visited: 8 

Eight certainly feels like a lot but only three were countries I’d never visited before (Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Germany).  Not bad for my first year as a travel blogger! I also made a few domestic trips to places I hadn’t been to before. Since one of my travel goals is to visit somewhere new every year (both domestically and internationally), I’d say I did pretty well!

April: Puerto Rico

May: Costa Rica & Monterey, CA

June: Spain

July: England

August: Germany

September: Singapore, Thailand & Malaysia

October: Boston, MA & Conway, NH

November: New York, NY, Philadelphia, PA, Cleveland, OH, & Chicago, IL

 

Days on the Road: 131

Nearly 4.5 months on the road. Wowza.

Flights Taken: 27

Soooo maybe it’s time for me to figure out how to use travel points for upgrades?

Accommodations Stayed In: 38

I can sleep anywhere now. If you don’t already, book all your accommodation on Booking.com or on Airbnb.

Long Distance Trains Ridden: 4

The train NEVER gets old.

Long Distance Busses Ridden: 13

The bus…does get old.

Cars Rented: 5

The one benefit of being over 25? #AdultingIsOverrated

Boats Ridden: 7

Let me just clarify that these were all tiny boats. No cruises or fancy things for this girl. I wish I was a balla, I wish I was a little bit talla.

Cooking Classes Taken: 3

I’ve written about two of them here and here.

Sponsored Trips: 1

I went on my very first sponsored trip with Geckos Adventures! Check out the post here.

Weddings attended: 5

And no invites for weddings in 2017 yet!

 


Blogging – My Year in Numbers:

Blog Posts Written on Passport & Plates: 54

OMG.

Sponsored Blog Posts: 10 

Made a little money during my first year, holla!

Freelance Blog Posts: 3

Valencia expert, at your service.


What’s Next in 2017? 

I’ve thought long and hard about what I want my 2017 travel year to look like. As one of the few American Muslim travel bloggers out there, I know how important it is, now more than ever, for Muslims to travel the world. There are so many people who have never met a Muslim person in their lives, and there are even more people who refuse to travel to a Muslim-majority country, thanks to media scare tactics. I am only one person, but I’m doing my part in two ways.

 

1. Traveling in the Middle East and North Africa

Thanks to travel warnings and fear-inciting media, tourism in this entire region has suffered immensely. I’ve actually heard fellow travel bloggers say that they would “never visit that region.” While certain countries are actually unsafe, tourism in many of them are suffering simply due to instability from their neighbors. I’m confirmed to visit both Egypt and Jordan with Geckos Adventures this year, but I also hope to visit Oman, Morocco, Iran (yes, Iran) and maybe Lebanon. I’m doing this because the best way for people to experience culture and religion is to visit a country where these ideologies are lived out day-to-day. If I can encourage people to ignore the media for a second and plan a visit to the Middle East, I think many will be surprised to find that Muslims aren’t all terrorists (I feel ridiculous that I even have to write this).

 

2. Encouraging More Muslims to Travel

When I first started Passport & Plates, I did so because I was tired of seeing mainstream media bashing Muslims – especially Muslim women. We are stereotyped as second-class oppressed citizens who are forced to cover up and obey our husbands. Not only is this characteristically untrue, but it is also incredibly damaging to the Muslim women out there who are achieving great things. I’m still brainstorming the best ways to actually encourage more travel amongst Muslim millennials, but at the very least, more content to this regard is key.

 

Besides attempting to shatter stereotypes (lol no big deal, right?), I also have some other awesome travel plans in store!

 

3. Traveling with Geckos Adventures

I’ve been dying to announce this for awhile now but I’m excited to tell you all that I’ll be a brand ambassador for Geckos Adventures in 2017! Many of you know that I took my first group tour ever with them earlier this year. I’m a firm believer in their travel philosophy of ethical, local travel on a budget and I’m going to share all my adventures and learnings with you. If you’re considering a Geckos Adventures tour and have any questions at all, you can ask me.

 

4. Traveling to LEARN

It’s no secret that some of my favorite travel experiences are ones that allow me to interact with locals. In both 2015 and 2016, I had the opportunity to volunteer with Diverbo Pueblo Ingles as an English conversationalist. I literally just spent all day talking in exchange for room and board. Note: If you’re interested in spending a week in Spain speaking (not teaching) English in exchange for room and board I highly recommend you check them out.

Anyway, Diverbo recently launched the same program but in Spanish. Students are immersed in an all-Spanish environment for 8 days, 12 hours a day. No English allowed – just lots of conversations, activities, and more conversations. The program is meant to improve confidence and fluidity in Spanish without the classroom. I’ve witnessed just how impressive this program is in English for Spaniards so I’m incredibly excited (and a teeny bit scared) to be participating in Diverbo’s Pueblo Español this year! I wonder if my incredible coolness bumbly awkwardness will translate in Spanish too :p.

 

5. Traveling to Give Back

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I am a firm believer that politics and travel are intertwined – and there’s no such thing as being “neutral.” After the political and humanitarian devastation that wrought 2016, I want to find a way to give back in any way I can. I’m still in the process of finding the best place and company that will allow me to volunteer with refugees, so stay tuned. However, I recently discovered a travel company called Visit.org that allows you to book authentic travel experiences with do-good organizations! For example, let’s say I’m visiting Italy. I type in “Italy” into the search and Visit.org shows all the experience partners they have in Italy. Rather than spending your money at a large tour company, you can find unique tours and experiences run by nonprofits and social enterprises that give back to the community. How awesome is that? I encourage everyone traveling this year to check out Visit.org when planning a trip to see how you can give back through travel.

 

What did I learn?

Traveling is still the most magical education in the world.

Although I’ve had a few moments of travel burnout this year (I’m an introvert and desperately need some days of being a hermit to generally function), traveling is still the best education in the world. I travel to experience new things, to keep my mind and imagination fresh, and to learn about the world and its people. Every trip forces me to step out of my comfort zone and look at the world with new eyes. Every trip is more than its pretty landmarks and UNESCO sites. Every trip is a discovery and reminder that human beings are all just that – human beings – even if they wear different clothes, eat different foods or speak a different language.

I don’t want to be known for taking cool photos, or having a lot of Instagram followers or tackling every country in the world. I want to be known for being involved in the lives of friends and strangers alike. I want to create content that touches people and teaches them that the world is much more than our hometown, our state, or even our country. I may never know if I’m accomplishing these things, but I hope that in some way or another, I inspire people to get out there and live their dreams, whatever they are. And I hope, for all our sakes, that in chasing those dreams, we’re all reminded of how fortunate we are and how a little love and a little kindness can go a long way.

So now, with one week left in 2016, I’m reminded of just how great this year was for me. It may have been a global political nightmare, but on a personal level I’ve come a long way from my tearful meltdowns about the state of my life. I may always be in this perpetual state of the unknown, but I think that’s exactly where I’m meant to be.

Cheers to another year of adventure, learning, and growth. Follow along on my 2017 adventures on Instagram or Facebook!

Forever chasing waterfalls and dreams. Have you ever gone swimming under a waterfall? 💦🌊

A photo posted by Sally • Food & Travel Writer (@passportandplates) on

 

P.S For those of you who want to know, my first few months of travel look like this:

January: Italy // February: Egypt and Jordan // March: Spain +

 

Tell me: What were your favorite moments of 2016? What do you hope to accomplish in the new year (travel-related or otherwise)? Share in the comments below!

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  • This is so awesome! You’ve been to so many places, very jealous!

    Jaynie Shannon | Beauty & Lifestyle

    xx

  • Laura Nalin

    Looks like you’ve had a great year! I truly admire you for keeping track of every detail. I will try next year 🙂

  • TalesOfABackpacker

    Wow I am so in awe of you! I really admire everything you are doing to combat ignorance and bigotry in the world, while really enjoying what you do! Congratulations on a fabulous year, and good luck for the next!

    • Thank you so much, I appreciate your kind words! I honestly just hope to do a small part in a very large problem but I think if we all do our parts we can truly make a difference. Cheers to 2017!

  • Congratulations on an adventurous year and here’s to an even more adventurous 2017 Insha’Allah!!

    Let’s talk about your planned Middle East trips when you have a moment Insha’Allah! <3

    • Thanks Hala! And yessss let’s connect. Message me on Facebook :). I’d like to visit Oman, Iran and maybe Lebanon and it’s always nice to have a travel buddy!

  • Megan Claire

    Congrats on an amazing 2016!! And on what sounds like an exciting line up for 2017 too. Looking forward to following as you make your way through the Middle East and North Africa, and smash everyone’s stereotypes and misconceptions about each region. And massive congrats on your ambassadorship with Geckos Adventures – looking forward to hearing about your trip!

    Happy holidays XX

    • Thanks so much Megan! I’m really really excited for 2017 and hoping I can do my small part in smashing stereotypes. Cheers to a travel filled 2017 for the both of us and happy holidays! 🙂

  • Claire Summers

    It sounds like you had an amazing 2016! So much of what you have wrote really resinates with me, especially about visiting places that the media tells you is unsafe. I have seen posts on Iran and other Middle eastern countries and the beauty and history there is just incredible. Its so sad that fear keeps people away. I know there are many places I would like to see there and I would love to go one day. I’m in a similar place to where you were last year, I’ve just left my home country for a life on the road! I just hope my first year is as incredible as yours!

    • Thanks so much, Claire! I agree with you. I’ve seen lots of posts about these places and I know they aren’t what the media makes them out to be. Hopefully more people will visit and help showcase that the media leads with whatever bleeds as someone once wrote. Congratulations on taking the step to start an amazing adventure – I’m sure it will be spectacular :).

  • Stephanie Rose

    You had quite the year. I haven’t spent much time reflecting on my own travels this year, but I should do the same when I get a chance. I love your plans for 2017! Congrats on your ambassadorship.

    • I’m fortunate to have had a great one and reflecting makes me even more grateful! Thanks so much :). Here’s to a travel-filled 2017 for the both of us!

      • Stephanie Rose

        I keep coming back to this post. It is so inspirational.

  • Live Learn Venture

    Great job — it sounds like you had a wonderful year and there’s many adventures ahead. It’s amazing to look at how much we grow with careers, life, and everyday adventures.

    • Thanks so much! And agreed. I love looking at these year round-ups because it makes me even more appreciative of everything that’s happened. Cheers to a great 2017!

  • Brooke

    Sally-sounds like a great year! I’ve done a few programs with Diverbo too (the week long programs) but yet to do the Spanish one as a client instead of a volunteer. That should be fun!

    Also withlocals.com is a great site for connecting with local guides vs big tour companies. I haven’t tried visit.org yet but will give it a shot once I’m back at home!

    Good luck on your 2017

    • Thanks Brooke! I love the Diverbo volunteer program and have made many great friends that way. I’m excited and a tad nerviosa to be a student haha but I’m sure it’ll be fun too.
      Thanks for the heads up about with locals! I’ll definitely be checking them out on the road. Wishing you a wonderful 2017! 🙂

  • Eric Bravo

    I know! 2016 has just come and went. Congratulations with all of the success that you had this year, espicaly already having sponsored post! That’s awesome. Keep it up and can’t wait for what you have in store of us in 2017!

    • Crazy how fast it went, right? Thanks so much! Yes it has been a year of a lot of hard work and a lot of travel. I’ve been very fortunate and am excited for the year to come. Wishing you a wonderful 2017!

  • What a lovely wrap up to the year and it looks like you have big things planned for 2017. I share you belief that travel is an education and an exchange. I think it’s impossible to travel with an open heart and mind and remain prejudiced. The more I travel the more I see people are the same everywhere you go. Happy travels.

    • Thank you and yessss I’m really looking forward to my 2017 travel. And thank you for saying that. I’ve been disappointed hearing people say that they avoid entire regions of the world because of the media – I think one important thing about traveling is being openminded and experiencing cultures and places for yourself! Anyway wishing you a lovely and travel-filled 2017!

  • Paige Brown

    What an amazing 2016 indeed! What an amazing first year of blogging!! Congrats on becoming a brand ambassador! Also, I love what you wrote about being a Muslim traveler, and I just wanted to applaud you for being so open about it and being a positive light in moments of scare tactics. I hate that so much for you and your fellow-worshipers. Thanks for sharing and keep up the amazing work!

    • Thanks so much, Paige! Yeah it has been a crazy year that really surpassed by wildest dreams! And thank you. I think it’s really important to showcase that at the end of the day, all humans want the same thing and the world really isn’t as scary as people think it is. Wishing you a lovely and travel-filled 2017! 🙂

  • Congratulations Sally for all your achievements! You’re such an inspiration to new bloggers like us 🙂 Thank you for sharing your travel stories, tips, recommendations and all. We love your blog. More power to you and your blog 🙂

    • Thanks so much Joanna & Jeremiah! I really appreciate your support. And being new is such an exciting place to be. Wishing you a happy new year and a year filled with travels and blogging success!

  • So inspiring! Congrats on your great year. I just started my blog (literally two posts) and seeing stories like this make me so excited to continue to learn and grow from blogging. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you so much! I’m glad to hear I’m serving a bit of inspiration. Lots of hard work and learning. Wishing you a 2017 filed with blogging success and lots of adventures 🙂

  • It sounds like you had a fantastic year of travels, Sally! You are very inspiring and I am looking forward to following along your 2017 explorations.

    My favourite travel experience in 2016 was by far, solo backpacking in Guatemala for two and a half weeks. I had been wanting to go there for a couple of years and finally just decided to do it. It ended up being such an incredible adventure and I was constantly in awe of the natural beauty, rich culture, fascinating history and welcoming and friendly locals everywhere I went. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store!

    Keep up the awesome work on your blog!

    • Thanks so much, Brittany!
      And that sounds like an AMAZING adventure! I have been dying to explore more of Central America and I’m so impressed that you went to a lesser visited destination solo. Cheers to a 2017 filled with lots of travel and blogging adventures for the both of us. 🙂

  • Woah 5 weddings, 8 countries and a remote job? You’re doing awesome! A favourite time of mine in 2016 was attending a friends wedding in Hawaii. The start of 2017 sounds awesome for you, look forward to reading about your future adventures! All the best.

    • Haha serious attachment to my computer LOL but thank you!
      And a wedding in Hawaii sounds amazing. I bet it was so gorgeous!
      Thanks so much. Wishing you an adventure filled new year as well 🙂

  • You have been to so many amazing places! I wish I could travel that much! Hope this year brings you many more great adventures~

  • You’re so inspiring to me, Sally! How do you have time to get everything accomplished?? I’m taking a look at visit.org now and it looks so cool! I’ll definitely be checking out some of their tours this year. Also, congrats on becoming a GA ambassador!!!! So excited for you! You’re right, travel IS the best education!

    • Thanks Eva <3! And I'm SUCH a workaholic, it's really terrible haha. I'm trying to work more on balance this year to give my brain and computer a rest!
      And thanks so much! I'm really excited to be traveling with Geckos Adventures next month :). And yesss visit.org is awesome! They also have an ambassador / affiliate program that I'm sure you'd love. Can't wait to follow along with your 2017 travels!