It’s been a busy travel year for me, the busiest, in fact, since I spent a semester abroad in Chile in college. A lot of the travel was for friends’ weddings; apparently, I’ve reached that point in life when everyone I know is getting married, but there were also several fun and work trips mixed in. Here’s a look at the highlights of my year.
January was all about work, which is good, because much of the rest of the year did not focus as much on work as it should have. As a graduate student, I have a tremendous amount of guilt when I’m away from the lab since I always feel like I should be working. January was a good month to work off some of that guilt during the coldest days of the harsh winter so that I could properly enjoy the rest of my year.
At the beginning of the month, I went to San Francisco for a scientific conference. It was a wonderful respite from the frigid Chicago weather, and I also learned a ton, which was a bonus. Since it was my first time in California (exempting the day trip I took to Los Angeles from Denver to retrieve my passport from the Chilean embassy before my semester abroad – a story for another day) I stayed for a couple of extra days at the end of the conference so I could explore San Francisco. I fell in love with the city, especially the excellent vegetarian food, and wouldn’t mind going back for another visit.
The end of February brought another break from the cold with a trip to balmy Houston to visit a friend. We ate our way through the vegetarian offerings in the city and enjoyed the warm weather in Hermann Park.
March saw me taking a trip to visit friends in Washington DC. I’ve been to Washington DC many times now, but I always enjoy walking around the city and exploring areas I haven’t gotten to before. This time, I spent a morning working in a coffee shop near Chinatown, then took the afternoon off to see a play at Ford’s Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
I spent the rest of the weekend sitting on the couch and watching The Big Bang Theory with my friends. The Cherry Blossom Festival was supposed to start that weekend, but bad weather meant there were no blossoms to be seen.
I wasn’t too disappointed about the lack of cherry blossoms in Washington DC because I went to Japan in the middle of April, right at the end of cherry blossom season. I got my fill of cherry blossoms, temples, gardens, and history while visiting a friend for a week.
May was another month of work after my trip to Japan, and at the end of the month, I went to Colorado for Memorial Day weekend to see my family. The highlight of that trip was eating freshly picked apples and pears off the trees in my parents’ backyard.
At the beginning of June, I went to San Francisco again for a friend’s wedding. The wedding was in Santa Cruz, so I enjoyed a nice drive down Highway 1.
Since the weather was much nicer than it was during my trip in February, I took a day to go see the redwood trees at Muir Woods National Monument. They were spectacular, and I enjoyed a nice hike before coming back to Chicago.
I took another trip back to Colorado in the middle of the month for the wedding of one of my college roommates. It was a beautiful outdoor wedding in the mountains, and I enjoyed the opportunity to soak up some sunshine.
I started off the month with a Dave Matthews Band concert in downtown Chicago on the Fourth of July. I then celebrated Independence Day with a friend in Wisconsin, where we watched girly movies and took a day trip to New Glarus for some beer tasting.
My uncle came to visit from India in the middle of July, and I played tour guide for him for a couple of days, showing him around Chicago. I always enjoy having people come to visit so I can show them my favorite parts of the city.
At the end of the month, I went to Seattle for the wedding of my other college roommate. I spent the weekend after the wedding visiting other friends, hiking and falling in love with the Pacific Northwest.
I took a photography class in August, shortly after acquiring my first DSLR. It was a lot of fun to learn how to use my camera and go on photo shoots around Chicago.
I also re-visited some of my favorite brunch places in the city.
September was a very heavy travel month. I started off the month with a trip to Colorado for Labor Day weekend. I spent the weekend relaxing and eating my mom’s excellent cooking while enjoying the last of the apples from the apple tree.
The next weekend saw me driving up to Minneapolis for a college friend’s wedding. I was born in Minneapolis, and having only been there once before in my adult life, I was eager to explore the places that my parents always talk about. I had a great weekend there, learning more about the history of the Midwestern U.S.
Next up was a trip to Washington DC and New York City at the end of the month. I did an in depth tour of the monuments in Washington DC with my friend and went to the top of the Washington Monument for the first time. Then, I took a bus up to New York City for the highlight of the month: getting to see Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi give a speech at Madison Square Garden.
The speech was an incredible experience, because for the first time that I can remember, despite all the problems besetting India, there was an atmosphere of excitement and hope for the country’s future. It’s inspiring and empowering to be in an environment like that, and it makes me excited to return to India to see the country’s progress over the next few years.
Another friend of mine got married in October in Chicago, and the wedding celebration included brunch on the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower. The view of Chicago from the Hancock Tower is incredible, and this time, I got to enjoy it leisurely instead of being pushed around by the crowds in the observatory.
October was a great time to enjoy the fall colors in Chicago too. I took an afternoon to go on a photo shoot around campus to capture some of the beautiful foliage.
At the end of the month, I went to New Jersey for another wedding and paid my first ever visit to Philadelphia. I took a walking tour of some of the nation’s most important historical sites, including Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
I worked frantically during the month of November, realizing that I had spent quite a lot of time traveling during the year. Fortunately, it was a fairly productive month, enabling me to enjoy my plans for December.
At the end of the month, I went to Colorado to spend Thanksgiving weekend with my family, relaxing and eating good food.
Almost as soon as I returned to Chicago, I left again to go to another scientific conference. In Hawai’i. This may be the one of the only perks of being a graduate student, but I sure enjoyed it. I spent a couple of days on the Big Island before the conference, camping and visiting Mauna Kea and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
The conference was on the North Shore of Oahu, so I spent a week there. It was a great conference, and I learned a lot, in addition to enjoying the beautiful location.
After the conference, I spent a weekend on Kaua’i, but unfortunately, the great weather did not hold out. It rained so much that we couldn’t hike the Na Pali Coast as originally planned, but we ended up doing another great hike instead.
After a few days in Chicago, I headed home to Colorado for the holidays, where I will spend the rest of 2014.
What a great year it’s been! I’m looking forward to what 2015 will bring. Many thanks and happy holidays to everyone who has been following along!
What were your highlights of 2014?