top 10 places in 2017

I'm embarrassed to admit that my passport expired 2 years ago and I haven't made any attempt to renew it. When it expired, I was about to leave on a yearlong US road trip so I didn't need it and since returning to the real world, my weekends and vacation time have been reserved for more local trips. I love traveling abroad, but don't forget that there's so much to explore in our own country too! Here's my top 10 places I visited in 2017.

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1. Ojai. Just north of LA near Santa Barbara, Ojai is the cutest hippie town just remote enough to allow a breath of fresh air while still fitting into a day trip. Apparently there are hot springs there, but every time I've gone I've gotten distracted/lost hiking through the hills and tasting the food so I still haven't found them. This photo is from a trip at the beginning of the year with my very first official LA friends, Leslie and Nina

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2. Zion. I've driven past Zion a few times in the past, but this year was the first time I went to explore. It's stunningly beautiful, and apparently the rest of the world has caught on because it was packed [word to the wise, don't ever go over the fourth of July weekend]. We spent a day hiking the Narrows, a river-wading hike that snakes between two high cliffs. 

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3. Chagrin Falls, Ohio. I went to Cleveland for the first time this year and stayed at a house on a lake just outside the city. My experience in the midwest has always been that the people are super sincere and hospitable, plus they love to eat. We spent the weekend fishing, paddle boarding, eating BBQ, and visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

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4. Stevenson, Washington on the Columbia River Gorge. My friends Mandee and Tony got married on the Washington side of the gorge this past fall, at a venue that overlooks the Columbia River and the hills surrounding it. A little-known gem in the area is the Carson Hot Springs Hotel, a rustic bathhouse that pumps mineral water directly to the tubs with the promise of a number of health benefits [pain, stress, indigestion, musculoskeletal disorders, and more]. I did a soak and a wrap with Mandee and her best friend Molly and we felt totally refreshed before the wedding. You also have to hike Wind Mountain if you go - it's a hard hike but the views of the gorge are worth it.

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5. Downtown Philadelphia. I love historic buildings, so much that the last 3 homes I've lived in have all been built before the 1930s. One of my favorite things about the east coast is how rich in history everything is, like you can be walking through a neighborhood and you'll see a plaque on a house that says that James Madison lived there. I got to explore Philadelphia this past weekend and although I was short on time, we squeezed in visits to the Liberty Bell and walked past Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. 

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6. Devil's Lake, Oregon. My friends Elise and Justin got married at a camp on a lake near the Oregon Coast a few months ago. Rather than a traditional ceremony, they hosted a full camp experience with all their family and friends for the weekend, where everyone stayed in camp cabins and participated in activities like kickball, water activities, lawn games, plus a wedding to top it off. It had all the perks of a destination wedding plus when do you ever get to go to adult summer camp.

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7. Lake Austin, Texas. A lot of people go to Austin for bachelorette parties but what made our trip unique is we stayed outside of the city at a house on a lake and spent most of our time on the water, with the exception of one night out on the town. The bride's vision of the weekend was that it would be split between booze cruising/going out and practicing yoga/sipping kombucha from a floatie while talking about life, love, and relationships. 

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8. Redwood Forest. I took a road trip home to Oregon this summer and we stopped at the Redwoods for a couple days on the way up. The Redwood Forest is one of those places that's so unbelievable that you couldn't make it up or recreate it if you tried - like no amusement park could ever capture the magic of trees that have been alive for hundreds of years.

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9. Channel Islands. I mentioned this in my last post, but definitely need to include them again because they were one of my favorite places to visit this year. I went to Santa Cruz Island this time, but need to go back to another island soon. The beauty in the Channel Islands is the isolation you feel by being an hour ferry ride off the coast and the way it makes you feel like you're a world away without having to get on a plane.

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10. Kaimana Beach, Honolulu. I went to Hawaii to cheer for my sister-in-law who was competing in a fit modeling competition, but I also got to visit my college roommate Cheryl. It's always good to have a local show you around, and she took me to a couple beaches where we got to catch up on life including her recent engagement to the hunky Brazilian architect, Alberto. ;)

2017 was full of adventures, but my New Year's resolution is to renew my passport. <3