2015: A Year of Wanderlust
5 Continents – Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America
19 Countries – Anguilla, Cambodia, England, Ethiopia, Finland, Haiti, Italy, Kenya, Laos, The Netherlands, Rwanda, Singapore, Sint Maarten, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, USA, and Vietnam
10 US States – California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Texas, Utah, Virginia
70 flights, countless rental cars, buses, trains, motorcycle taxis, lyfts and ubers.
31 Domestic flights; 39 International; 114,494 miles (184,260 km); 4.6 times around the earth
273 hours and 04 minutes in the air which is equivalent to 11.4 days or 1.6 weeks
I took 18 flights on Mondays and 20 flights in the month of November
2015 has definitely been another great year of exploration for me. This year I reached two milestones in my journey towards visiting all of the countries in the world. I traveled to my 50th and 60th countries and I visited five continents in a single year – I actually achieved this feat in two and a half months. I visited many different geographic regions including North America, South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, East Africa, Southeast Asia and Western Europe. Looking back, I pretty much started and ended the year in Africa – my first trip of the year was to Ethiopia and my last was spending Christmas in Uganda with my family.
While my travel has been plentiful this year and I have added some new favorites to my travel list, I have realized that my travel will need to slow down a bit. During the last four months of the year I took 49 flights between 17 countries and five continents and several cities in the US. This year I did a few road trips, including between Detroit and Chicago, too many times between DC and Detroit and one road trip from DC to NYC. I moved out of my apartment in DC and traded it in for a storage unit and a few suitcases to live out of.
I had many firsts this year as I visited 11 new countries and also went to the Sundance Film Festival. As I go into 2016 and think about my life and my travel goals there are only a few. Firstly, this year I hope to find a home, and by home I mean a place that I will call my base for several years to come. Secondly, I would like to visit ten new countries, so far on my list is Guadeloupe, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Indonesia, and Cuba.
This year was also the launch of my business, Jet Black, which marks a new chapter in my life. For years I have been looking for an idea that would allow me to use my passion for travel and fuse it with my desire to support economic development in countries in the African diaspora and thus my baby was born. Through Jet Black, I aim to work with individuals, governments and brands to promote tourism to the African Diaspora. I consider it to be activism through tourism as increasing tourism creates long term sustainable economic development.
Best Travel Moments of 2015
While I did a lot of traveling this year, there were a few highlights (in chronological order):
A Drinking House in Ethiopia
In January I traveled to Ethiopia for work. We traveled north of Addis Ababa to Debra Brahan to interview farmers. One evening, our local consultant took us to a local drinking house. The location was inconspicuous from the outside and in a way from the inside as well. We tasted several different local liquors (read: made in someone’s backyard). To say the alcohol was strong would be a gentle way of explaining its effect. I was the only woman in the bar as women generally are not found in there drinking places. The experience was really unique and I look forward to seeking out another drinking house when I return to Ethiopia.
Witnessing the Growth of the Black Lives Matters Movement
Unless you live under a rock, you have seen that race relations in the US seem to be deteriorating. Following multiple tragic murders of black people in the US at the hands of police officers and other would-be vigilantes, the #BlackLivesMatters movement was born. This movement has led to nationwide protests, the creation of art and music, and a way for voices of the oppressed to be heard. In January I attended one of the very large marches in Washington DC. I also fell in love with a Black Lives Matters Art piece in Detroit.
Sundance Film Festival
Since I lived outside of the US for most of my 20s, I never had the opportunity to experience many events that happen domestically including many films and music festivals. This year thanks to some great friends that connected me with other great friends, I was able to experience the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The experience was perfect! I was able to mingle with people in the film industry, watch some great movies and explore the beautiful Park City and nearby Salt Lake City. The added bonus is I was able to express directly to Viola Davis how much I appreciate her existence as a model for woman that look like me since we are often hidden from mainstream media.
I went snowboarding for the first time. It was painful, thrilling and fun. I would definitely do it again.
For my friend Elton’s birthday he and his birthday twin Derek rented three RVs and filled them with some of their closest friends. The result was three days of nonstop laughter, frolicking and posing. Camp Conrad broke the internet and cemented lifelong friendships.
Country #50 – Haiti
When looking for my 50th country to visit I wanted to pick a country that would result in a notable vacation. Haiti was more than I ever imagined. I truly fell in love with the country. As the western hemisphere’s first black republic, yet poorest country, I have always been intrigued by Haiti and she did not disappoint. In fact, I visited the country twice this year, with the second trip be the inaugural Jet Black trip.
Learning to Shoot a Gun
As part of my birthday celebration, my cousin and I went to a gun range in Maryland. Prior to this trip I had never held a gun in my hand. I was extreme nervous about the whole situation but in the end I did very very well. Never would have guessed that I am a sharpshooter.
$218 Non Stop Flight to Abu Dubai
Some of you may remember the madness that ensued late night Christmas Eve/Early Christmas Day last year when an Eitihad glitch fare led to everyone and their mother heading to UAE throughout 2015. Me and several of my friends snagged the tickets and headed out for Memorial Day. My super cheap trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai with friends was the exact amount of fun I needed before undergoing major surgery. We laughed, we brunched, we roasted in the sun, we frolicked in the desert and we played dress up. One of the highlights was definitely the famed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
My First Family Reunion
I only have 18 family members living in the US and this year we all decided to get together in Metro Detroit for a family reunion. I drove from DC and was glad I did not miss it. Maybe one day we will actually do a huge reunion in Uganda.
I had such a great time in my first ever Muay Thai class. It was truly a unique experience.
Read more about it here.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Laos is an absolutely magical place and although I have not written about it in full yet, it is on my forthcoming list of places to visit in 2016. The food, the mountains, the people, the culture, the Mekong, everything was perfect!
Angkor Wat was easily one of the most amazing places that I have ever visited. I was traveling solo while visiting and it was the first time while on a solo trip that I wished I had someone to share it with. I will definitely be returning.
Partying in Singapore
I spent 12 hours in Singapore, just to party.
Swimming with Fish in the Phi Phi Islands
The Phi Phi Islands of Thailand was a great location for snorkeling. The waters are clear and the fish are colorful. I was grateful to my friend for bringing the underwater kit for his phone so we could get these cool pictures.
Love at first sight. One of my favorite cities in the world.
Husky Ride in Finland
Finland was something out of a dream. The best part of the trip was definitely the husky ride!
Country #60 – Rwanda
I had not planned on visiting Rwanda this year but the universe pushed me to visit the beautiful east African nation. I am looking forward to exploring more of the country next year.
Kissing Giraffes in Nairobi
Though I was nervous about our first kiss, hanging out with giraffes at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi was definitely one of the coolest things that I did all year.
Christmas in Uganda
It had been two and a half years since I was last in Uganda. It was nice to spend two weeks with family over the holidays.
Did you travel much in 2015? What was your favorite destination of the year.