My 2018 Year in Review

Me at the Mena House Hotel in Giza - The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt

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Years in review are SO weird, aren’t they? I feel like I was busy living my best travel life early in the year, then suddenly BAM it was summer, then September and now here we are. So I guess it isn’t years in reviews that are weird so much as time in general. Psst: If you’re curious, click read my years in review from 2017, 2016, and 2015).

So, here we are. Another year of travels. I feel better about how much I traveled this year (less than in 2017) but I still could have done a bit better with the pacing. Some months I was all over the place and some (like the entire last quarter of the year), I was parked at home in Los Angeles, glued to my laptop. Balance is forever a work in progress, I suppose.

Anyway, let’s see if I met some of my goals I set for 2018, shall we? Here’s what I said I’d do in 2018:

1. Continue to counter Islamophobia through travel

I should probably set some sort of way to measure this, but in my sweeping overgeneralization, I’m finding that more people are traveling in the Middle East and more people are educating themselves about Islamophobia in general.

There’s been a rise in traveling Muslims and there’s even a new Muslim-friendly resort opening in the Dominican Republic in 2019! My Facebook group, Muslimahs Who Travel, saw quite an increase in numbers. We’re now over 700 members strong (fellow Muslim women out there: join our awesome community of fierce female travelers here)!

I’ve even seen a lot more Muslim travel bloggers taking the stage. It’s really exciting to see Muslims taking back their narrative from the mainstream media.

2. Traveling to give back

Eek, this has been on my goals list since 2017 and I’m disappointed to say I didn’t do much in this arena again this year. I always try to travel with companies that support local tour operators (like Intrepid Travel), but I know that’s not enough. I’m really against voluntourism, so I’m still trying to figure this one out. Maybe 2019 will be the year I put my language skills to good use and do some translation work at a refugee camp in Greece. Or maybe I need to change this goal so that I give back in other ways. We’ll see.

3. Slow(er) Travel

I think I did a fairly good job with this one, surprisingly. Although not every single one of my trips was slow, I made a point to spend somewhat extended periods in all the places I visited. I did take a few quick trips (less than a week) such as when I went to Vancouver and New Orleans, but besides those two, I’d say mission accomplished.

4. Travel to lesser-visited destinations

I’d say this was mixed in 2018. I did visit some popular destinations (especially here in North America). On the other hand, I did travel to both Oman and Qatar, which are definitely not typical tourist destinations. I also went to Turkey and Egypt. Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Pamukkale are popular cities in Turkey, but I also had the opportunity to visit smaller cities like Kas and Beypazari. In Egypt, I visited a couple of new cities I hadn’t been to before (Ain El-Sokhna and Komombo) and lived in some new neighborhoods while I was based in Cairo. I’d say I did a good job with this goal as well!

I accomplished 3 out of 4 of my goals, which was pretty solid. I’m still thinking about how I’d like to give back though. It might be something I do on the blog or on social media. No matter what it is, I want it to be impactful.

I really wanted to slow down in 2018, and I did just that. A lot of my travel was crammed between March and August; so ideally in 2019 I’d like to be a bit more balanced (which is really more of a life goal, rather than a travel one).


2018 was filled with unexpected adventures and friendships, and it was a year of many firsts.

  • This year I did two group tours, which I never thought I’d do before. I went with two different companies and am now firm in my decision that Intrepid Travel is kind of the best.
  • I went on two press trips – one to San Francisco and one to Qatar. I subsequently turned down another four, because I’m being pickier about which destinations I work with.
  • I flew business class for the first time (thanks Qatar Airways) and it’s as glorious as I thought it would be.
  • I took full advantage of my lounge pass, which is easily one of my best travel purchases, ever.
  • I went wild camping for 3 days in a row in Oman and learned that not having a bathroom handy is a hard no for me.
  • I met a few of my favorite travel bloggers in real life and they were as awesome as I thought they’d be. Check them out on Instagram: Glo from The Blog Abroad, Lia from Practical Wanderlust, and Damon and Jo from Shut Up and Go.

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.


I have some big blog goals for 2019 and I’m SO excited and inspired to kick ass next year. And at the end of every year, I’m reminded that leaving that job back in 2015 was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I never thought entrepreneurship would be my path in life, but I couldn’t be more thrilled by how life has worked out. And now, without further ado, keep reading to learn more about what I accomplished this year and what’s next in 2019!


Travel – My Year in Numbers:

Countries Visited: 5 (6 if I count U.S travel)

I wasn’t kidding when I said I slowed down in 2018. In 2017, I went to 13 countries, which was absolute insanity. I made a plan to tone it down in 2018 and I’m so thankful I did.

January: San Francisco and New York City

February: California

March: New Orleans and Qatar

April: Qatar, Oman, and Vancouver (Canada)

May: Egypt

June: Egypt

July: Egypt and Turkey

August: Egypt

September – December: California

Days on the Road: 145

Far less than last year’s 241 but still spent nearly 5 months traveling. Crazy!

Flights Taken: 18

Woo, less than half compared to last year’s 40 so not too shabby. It was a lot less in my head, though. The travel points I got from my Chase Sapphire Reserve are pretty sweet and my priority pass lounge access is worth its weight in gold. If you travel even just a few times a year, definitely check it out!

Accommodations Stayed In: 30

Shout out to my friends and family, Airbnb and for making sure I was never homeless.

Trains Ridden: 4

Forever my favorite mode of transport.

Long Distance Buses Ridden: 14

Technically, all private minibusses. I was more bougie this year apparently.

Cars Rented: 0

Thank goodness. Driving in foreign countries gives me anxiety.

Boats Ridden: 16

2 feluccas, 1 brunch cruise, 1 dhow boat, 1 sailboat, 1 sea safari and a whole lot of ferries/boat taxis. Variety is the spice of life y’all. I love travel by water.

Cooking Classes Taken: 0


Food Tours Taken: 1

Vancouver has a surprisingly impressive foodie scene. Read more about it in my Vancouver itinerary.

Sponsored Trips: 5

Wooo! I’m always grateful to go on these but I anticipate that next year it won’t be as many, due to changes in my business strategy. We’ll see.

Blogging – My Year in Numbers:

Blog Posts Written on Passport & Plates: 11

12 if you include this post but half compared to last year. Oops. I didn’t plan on not writing as much this year but my goal is at least two per month in 2019!

Sponsored Blog Posts: 8

Mostly from sponsored trips, really. Either way, I definitely plan on including more travel stories and musings in next year’s editorial calendar!

Freelance Blog Posts: 12

This probably why I didn’t write as much on my own site in retrospect. Catch me on Intrepid Travel and Go Banking Rates.

What’s Next in 2019?

Like last year, I have no clue where I’m traveling to in 2019. I plan on visiting New York in January for a travel conference, but so far, that’s the only solid thing I have planned.

I’m actually feeling a tad overwhelmed trying to decide where I want to go next year (yes, I’m fully aware that this is a nice problem to have). I’m eyeing countries in Africa, Central Asia, and Central and South America, which isn’t exactly strategic. We’ll see how the year plays itself out in terms of projects and plans.

However, just because I don’t know where I’m going doesn’t mean that I don’t have some 2019 travel goals. Some are a continuation of last year’s goals (but manifested in different ways) and some are new. Here goes.


1. Travel less

Correction: Spend fewer days on the road. I traveled to 5 different countries this year, which felt really reasonable but I don’t foresee myself having a home base outside of Los Angeles next year. I spent three months in Egypt this summer, which was a lot. The years before I spent extended periods in Madrid and Valencia. No plans for that in 2019 but you never know.


2. Travel somewhere different

I’m eyeing a lot of places and I’m aware that my goals are lofty. I’d love to visit Tunisia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar and South Africa. I went to Morocco years ago but I only visited some of the major cities so I’d love to go back and visit in tandem with Tunisia. If I manage to visit one or two of these countries in 2019, I’d be happy. Outside of Africa, I’ve had my eye on Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Georgia. And on my side of the world, Colombia or Cuba would be amazing. The decision paralysis is real!

3. Travel more responsibly

Over tourism is a real issue and is hurting the locals of entire cities and countries such as Venice, Bali, the Greek Islands, and Iceland. This is partially why I’m choosing lesser-visited destinations. Spreading the tourism love not only makes you a more responsible traveler, but it also helps challenge your own personal misconceptions about certain regions of the world.

Even when traveling in popular destinations, little things such as eating at local restaurants, buying goods from vendors, not using single-use plastic products and more can make a huge difference. This post offers some great tips on being a more responsible traveler.

Besides choosing lesser-visited destinations, I’d like to take fewer flights and use more public transportation.


What did I learn from my 2018 travels?

You can’t plan for magic.

I know that sounds incredibly cheesy and cryptic so let me explain what I mean.

For a few years, I used to refuse to revisit destinations, especially ones where I had amazing experiences because I was worried they would no longer be “magical.”

You know that magic that comes from your first trip somewhere? The trip is utter perfection. You make amazing friends. The food is the best. You skip through the streets of a new city without a care in the world and the air seems to be tinted with just a hint of magic.

Then, you go back to that place, for that same feeling. Things are different. Your favorite coffee shop isn’t there. Neither is the musician on the main street who played into the wee hours of the night. And suddenly, the city you loved so much became a little less magical.

It took me years to figure out that this magic comes from NOT setting expectations. It comes from just showing up to a place without attempting to predict what will happen and experiencing it with a fresh slate, even if you’ve been there before. No matter how hard you try, you can’t plan for spontaneity or bliss. It just happens.

Nowadays, when I revisit destinations, I use it as an opportunity to create new experiences, meet new people, and appreciate that the magic of travel comes in all forms and always when I least expect it.

I spent far less time on the road this year and some of my trips were much more structured than my usual travel style. I met new people and revisited old friends. And while I didn’t fall in love with each and every place this year, I’ve realized that so much of what makes travel special is the experiences and the people.

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 when I travel, despite being a guest in their country.


To everyone I’ve met along this crazy journey so far, 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 2019 bring everyone friendship, love, inspiration, and adventure. Cheers to another year of chasing dreams, learning and adventure. Follow along on my 2019 adventures on Instagram or Facebook!

Tell me: What were your favorite moments of 2018? What do you hope to accomplish in the new year (travel-related or otherwise)? Share in the comments below!

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