My 2017 Year in Review

Me, Fanni, and Johanna in Luxor, Egypt

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Wow, wow, wow. When I first sat down to write this post, I looked at my 2016 Year in Review and my 2017 Mid-Year Check-in for inspiration. Just reading about all the things I’d done and places I’d visited by the time August rolled around was enough to make my head spin. Like, who do I think I am, Carmen San Diego? I went to 13 countries this year. THIRTEEN. That is actually absurd. This does not include the time I spent in the U.S., for a grand total of 14 countries. I spent this year being a “yes” gal, and now that I’m looking back at the year, I can honestly say that I probably will be saying “no” a little more often in 2018. It has been an amazing whirlwind, but I’m actually a tad burned out. I know that sounds a bit bratty, but hey, I try to be honest about the good and the bad of the travel lifestyle. At the end of 2016, I set some goals for my 2017 travels:

1. Travel in the Middle East and North Africa

I visited Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, and Lebanon. Not too shabby. Still on the list: Oman, Morocco (again), and Tunisia. 

2. Encouraging more Muslims to travel

I co-founded a Facebook group called Muslimahs Who Travel in August, and we’re already 400+ members strong! I’m so inspired by all these amazing traveling Muslim women.

3. Traveling with Intrepid Travel

I went to Egypt and Jordan with Intrepid Travel and I can’t recommend it enough! 

4. Traveling to learn

To me, all travel is learning in some form. But in terms of “official” learning, not only did I participate in the Pueblo Español Spanish Immersion Program in Southern Spain, but I also had the opportunity to spend a month immersing myself in Arabic at Ahlan Cairo. I highly, highly recommend both for those interested in studying either Spanish or Arabic. 

5. Traveling to give back

While this is something I didn’t succeed at in 2017, it is a high priority for 2018.   I accomplished 4/5, which was pretty solid. Volunteer work with refugees is part of my 2018 plan. I never thought I’d spend so much of 2017 on the road, but I’m so glad I did. It was filled with unexpected adventures and friendships, and it was a year of many firsts.

  • I made, for the first time, actual blogger friends: people that push and inspire me to chase bigger dreams, and remind me that there are a bunch of us in the crazy dream-chasing boat together.
  • I spent a week on a sailboat, pretty much disconnected from the world.
  • I found a home away from home in Egypt, a country I’ve always had a complicated relationship with.
  • I went to countries I’d never considered visiting before (like Estonia and Latvia) and also fulfilled lifelong bucket list items, like visiting Petra and The Valley of the Kings.
  • I went camping THREE times. To clarify, I’d never been camping before this year.  And so much more. I am so beyond incredibly thankful and humbled. Despite the ups and downs, I always look at life in awe, and am so grateful that I get to live this life. Alhamdullilah. Your dreams are worth the risk, you guys. And with every passing month, I’m reminded that leaving that job back in 2015 was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And now, without further ado, keep reading to learn more about what I accomplished this year and what’s next in 2018!  

READ NEXT:  My 2016 Year in Review + What's New in 2017

Travel – My Year in Numbers:

Countries Visited: 13

In 2016, I visited eight countries, which I thought was a lot. Then came 2017, and I apparently decided I was Ibn Battuta or something and went to 13. That was really fun and really exhausting, especially considering six were countries I hadn’t been to before. I definitely plan to tone it down in 2018. January: Italy February: Egypt and Jordan March: Spain April: Spain May: Estonia, Romania, and Latvia June: California July: California August: Greece and Lebanon September: Mexico October: Ireland and Sudan November: Egypt December: California

Days on the Road: 241

8 months in total. Wow.

Flights Taken: 40

BUT I did finally figure out how to use travel points for flights and lounge access! Hint, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is worth its weight in gold. Also, lowering my carbon footprint is definitely another goal for 2018.

Accommodations Stayed In: 48

Shoutout to Airbnb and for making sure I wasn’t homeless.

Long Distance Trains Ridden: 14

Still my favorite mode of transport.

Long Distance Busses Ridden: 12

Surprisingly less than last year.

Cars Rented: 1

Yeah so driving in foreign countries is really hard.

Boats Ridden: 7

Let me just clarify that these were all sailboats or motorboats. I’m a ballin on a budget kinda gal.

Cooking Classes Taken: 3

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

Food Tours: 3

This one in Greece was definitely my favorite.

Sponsored Trips: 9

This is a bit of a humble brag because last year I went on my very first sponsored trip, and this year I went on 9! This includes anything that was at least overnight or longer.

Ireland's Ancient East Foodie Road Trip
Ireland’s Ancient East Foodie Road Trip

Blogging – My Year in Numbers:

Blog Posts Written on Passport & Plates: 24

24 including this post, which is less than half of last year. I was a maniac last year, obviously.

Sponsored Blog Posts: 17

More sponsored trips means more sponsored posts. One of many answers to “how do you make money blogging?”

Freelance Blog Posts: 6

Catch me on  The Journal and The Huffington Post.

Cairo Nile cruise with Geckos Adventures
Cairo Nile cruise with Geckos Adventures

What’s Next in 2018?

This time last year, I had my first three months of 2017 planned out. This year, I have no idea. I plan on visiting San Francisco and New York in January, but so far, that’s the only solid thing I have planned. I have my eye on a couple of countries in South America, Europe and the Middle East but no real dates or plans yet. However, just because I don’t know where I’m going doesn’t mean that I don’t have some 2018 travel goals. Some are a continuation of last year’s goals (but manifested in different ways) and some are new. Here goes.  

1. Continue to counter Islamophobia through travel

I like to think that the more I travel and the more other Muslims travel, we slowly put a small dent in conquering Islamophobia. I’m not sure if we’re making much of an impact, but I remain optimistic. I’ve been seeing more Muslim travelers out there and seeing more people travel to Muslim-majority countries, despite how the media portrays us. That’s really exciting. Traveling in the Middle East and North Africa in 2017 has only fueled my desire to visit more countries in the region. Where I’ll end up is still TBD, but my goal is to incite wanderlust for the places people aren’t visiting. Because, guess what? Safety is not black and white. And just because one bad incident happens does not mean you should write off an entire country. The best way for people to experience culture and religion is to visit a country where these ideologies are lived out day-to-day. And ignore the media, please. Otherwise you’ll just freak out and stay home. Also, to my fellow Muslim women out there: join our awesome community of fierce female travelers here!

READ NEXT:  My 2018 Year in Review

2. Traveling to give back

This is a goal from 2017 that is back on my 2018 goals list because I don’t feel like I did enough. Yes, traveling with local tour companies rather than large corporations is always good (which I did), but what else can be done? The jury is still out on this one, so if someone knows of any legitimate volunteer organizations, please send them my way. Ideally, I’d like to use my language skills (English, Arabic, and Spanish) and / or teach hard skills (content creation and marketing). Holla at yo girl. P.S. Shout out to, an organization that allows you to book unique travel experiences with do-good organizations worldwide. Many of their partners are nonprofits and social enterprises that give back to the community, which is awesome. Be sure to check out when planning a trip to see how you can give back through travel.  

3. Slow(er) travel

I thought I was going to travel slowly in 2017, I really did. But with the exception of extended periods in Spain and Egypt, my trips were a whirlwind. My goal for this year is to visit fewer places and spend more time in them. Not that I’m opposed to the occasional weeklong trip here and there. But generally, much more relaxing.  

4. Travel to lesser-visited destinations

Here’s the thing. There’s a reason some destinations are visited over and over again by seemingly everyone. They’re built for tourism. They have great food. They have cool landmarks. The list goes on. But you know what else I’ve realized? Almost any country has these things. They’re just not necessarily on everyone’s radar (yet). I’m looking at you Iceland, circa 2013. So in 2018, I’m going to try to visit countries and cities that aren’t suffering from “overtourism.” Maybe I’ll visit Central Asia. Or West Africa. Or Central America. Or maybe I’ll visit the fourth most popular city in a country, instead of the top two. P.S. Overtourism is destroying entire cities. You can learn more about the concept and how it happens from this book.


What did I learn?

People are what make a place. I’ve always said that traveling is the best education in the world. But I’ve realized that travel on its own isn’t what educates people. People educate people. The people living in the places that we visit, the ones so eager to share their culture with travelers – they’re the ones that make you fall in love with a place. We’re all the same and we’re all different. We have different ideologies about a lot of things: food, religion, clothing, and cultural norms. But in the end, we all want health, happiness, and stability for ourselves and those around us. Simple as that. This year, I was able to, more than ever, connect with locals on my travels (and I’m not just talking about tour guides). Thanks to Facebook groups, travel apps, and friends of friends, I learned so much more about culture than I ever could have wished for. And I’m so thankful for all those people who are eager to share their culture, who are patient with questions, and who don’t make me feel like an outsider, despite being so.

Ahlan Cairo, Pastaweesy
My second family in Cairo

So yes, traveling is still the most magical education in the world. But without the people you meet along the way, those cool buildings and breathtaking nature spots don’t feel quite as magnificent. To everyone I met along this crazy journey, thank you. To everyone who reads my blog ramblings and my advice, thank you. To everyone who inspires and hustles and supports, thank you. May 2018 bring everyone friendship, love, inspiration, and adventure. Cheers to another year of chasing dreams, learning and adventure. Follow along on my 2018 adventures on Instagram or Facebook!

READ NEXT:  2017: The Mid-Year Check-In
Family in Egypt
Hanging with the fam after a day of dune buggies in Hurghada

Tell me: What were your favorite moments of 2017? What do you hope to accomplish in the new year (travel-related or otherwise)? Share in the comments below!

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