Cat in Cusco, Peru

My Top Moments of 2014

A cat in Cusco, Peru

This is a picture of a cat. Because I like it.


Tomorrow is the last day of 2014 and I’m excited for the fresh start a new year brings.

It’s not that 2014 was a bad year. But I spent most of it feeling off track. Maybe because I knew the return home was inevitable. Maybe because I was traveling to places that weren’t necessarily places I dreamed of going. Maybe because I took on things I should never have taken on. I was rarely in the moment. I was rarely emotionally in the place I was physically. I shut down. A lot.

It was a sloppy year.

I’m hoping 2015 brings be back from this funk.

But let’s not focus on the boring or the bad. I mean, it was a pretty decent year. I traveled to Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Spain, Greece. I watched one of my best friends get married. I went to a speakeasy party. I accepted a full-time job that I love. I did a lot of really cool shit.

So I want to take a moment to reflect on the some of my best moments from 2014…


From My Life List

I made a good dent in my life list this year, knocking off a few of the bigger (and biggest) items. I’ll be home for most of 2015 and I’m kind of excited to focus on some of the more mundane items. It may not be the most exciting of years ahead, but hopefully it will be just as rich.


Bacon Chase 5K

Run a 5K
In June, after completely neglecting my training, I ran my first 5K in a pretty decent time. Proving that you don’t always have to work hard to achieve something…


Signature Room at the top of the Hancock Tower

Go to the Top of the John Hancock Tower
Before leaving town, again, some girlfriends and I went to the Top of the Hancock Tower. Or, at least the Signature Room, because why pay admission when you can get a cocktail instead!


Competing in the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest

Compete at the Nathan’s Famous July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest
This year I completed one of the most awesome things on my life list (and, quite possibly, one of the most awesome things of my life): I competed onstage at the Nathan’s Famous July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest.


Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge

Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
I mean, who doesn’t have walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on their life list???


See Machu Picchu
Never mind that my life list originally listed “Hike the Inca Trail.” I am not a hiker. And sometimes it’s the destination that matters, not the journey. So I took a train to see Machu Picchu. And it was glorious.


Baby-sitters Club Books

Read Every Baby-Sitters Club Book
This is still very much a work in progress (there are approximately a million of these books, you know). But I started making a dent in my goal to read every Baby-Sitters Club book in order. Now that I have a box of almost all of them, and am back in Chicago, maybe I’ll finish them all in 2015.



Things I did or somethin’.


My 33rd birthday at a Columbian restaurant.

My Birthday
Face it: my birthday is always a highlight of my year. Even if it was so cold and snowy that half my friends bailed. Even if the Colombian restaurant didn’t really have salsa dancing. The day I turned 33 was still a good day.


Medieval Times

Heather’s Birthday at Medieval Times
It’s totally an adult thing to go to Medieval Times for your birthday. Totally. (I mean, they do serve ridiculously priced alcohol…)


Women in Travel Summit

Women in Travel Summit
In March I attended the first Women in Travel Summit in Chicago. It a good conference for females in the travel industry, bloggers, or just any girls interested in traveling.


TBEX Athens

TBEX Athens
Another travel blogging conference. But TBEX is always a good time. And I always leave pumped for what’s to come. And I get to see some of my best friends who I only get to see at TBEX.


Heather and Jeremy's Wedding

Heather and Jeremy’s Wedding
Two of my best friends got married. And it was an amazing day.



Food, glorious food. If you know me, you probably know that I live to eat. My life pretty much revolves around what the next meal will be. Here are some of the best…and most interesting…things I ate in 2015. (I didn’t mean to make this section so long…I swear…)

Pork Belly Pancake at Little Goat Diner

Pork Belly Pancake at Little Goat Diner

I didn’t make it to many of the awesome Chicago restaurants this year (that needs to change in 2015), but I did have brunch at Little Goat Diner. And the scallion pancake topped with pork belly was pretty amazing.


Walking Tacos from Taco in a Bag

Taco in a Bag at Taco in a Bag
Pat and Tim, two friends from competitive eating, won a space at a food court on Food Network’s Food Court Wars. So they opened shop at a suburban mall. Taco in a Bag has crazy combinations of walking tacos and was definitely worth the drive out to the burbs.


Hamburger from David Burke's Primehouse

Steak Burger at David Burke’s Primehouse
Some day I will be able to afford a ridiculously expensive steak from David Burke’s Primehouse. But, for now, I’ll have to settle for the delicious and well-priced hamburger. Unfortunately, my favorite bartender is leaving on January 1, so I will no longer be having any more monthly stops to gorge on my favorite cocktails. I’ll miss those nights greatly.


Rattlesnake sausage at Hot Doug's

Rattlesnake Hot Dog at Hot Doug’s
In 2014, Chicago lost a legend when Hot Doug’s, an iconic sausage shop, shuttered it’s doors forever. Luckily I managed to squeeze in there for a rattlesnake sausage topped with duck confit.


Brisket from Green Street Smoked Meats in Chicago, IL

Brisket Plate at Green Street Smoked Meats
The brisket from Green Street Smoked Meats was so melt in your mouth. And the broccoli salad wasn’t so bad itself.


Pastrami sandwich from Eleven City Diner

Pastrami Sandwich at Eleven City Diner
Matzoh ball soup, pastrami on rye, and a chocolate milkshake. I could probably eat at Eleven City Diner every day.


Shroom Burger at Shake Shack

‘Shroom Burger at Shake Shack
I may have waited for entirely too long in line for Shake Shack in New York. And then I may have ordered too much food. But it was all worth it. And now there is one in Chicago. I need to get there soon to order too much food.


Guinea Pig in Cusco, Peru

Guinea Pig in Cusco, Peru
A must-try in Peru, guinea pig is the weirdest thing I ate this year, if not in my life.


Pastel de Jaibas in Santiago, Chile

Pastel de Jaibas in Santiago, Chile
The food in Chile was some of my favorite in South America so far. You really can’t go wrong in a country where you’re never that far from an ocean. One the the Santiago specialties, Pastel de Jaibas is a creamy, cheesy, crab casserole that is so comforting on an overcast day.


Gyro in Athens, Greece

Gyro in Athens, Greece
All of the food in Greece is hearty and amazingly tasty. From well-prepared vegetables to meat on a stick. But the pork gyro topped with onions of a slice of warm puffy bread was a highlight.


Travel Experiences

I traveled to five countries in 2014: Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Spain, and Greece. Here are some of my best moments in travel.


Trekking Colca Canyon in Peru

Trekking Colca Canyon in Peru
The three day trek of Peru’s Colca Canyon was one of the most physically challenging things I’ve ever put myself through. But I made it to the top…eventually…


The Amazon Pampas in Bolivia

The Amazon Pampas in Bolivia
Visiting the Bolivian Amazon and exploring some of the most amazing nature I’ve ever seen, was a certainly a highlight of my year. The pampas, with a relaxing boat ride, tiny monkeys, and pink dolphins, was the best part.


Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia
Salt hotels, perspective shots, giant cacti, red lakes, and pink flamingos: the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni was an epic journey.


SPACE in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

SPACE in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
I really just love anywhere where I can see all the stars.


Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile

Street Art in Valparaiso, Chile
Valparaiso, Chile, is a walking city. Every corner is filled with some of the best street art in the world. Plus you can take a rickety old elevator, or a slide, to get around.


So, I suppose, 2014 wasn’t too bad after all. I at least ate pretty well. Still, as the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, I’m looking forward to the symbolic change, to something new, to hopefully, finally, feeling my stride again.

See you next year.


My Top Moments of 2014
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How was your 2014? What were your favorite moments or travel experiences? What was the best thing you ate? Did you knock anything off your life list?

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

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