2016 has been a whirlwind of a year. In fact, it would be quite fitting to nickname 2016 “The Year of Kelly’s Visa” because we were tied up in sorting that out from January until the beautiful thing arrived in early November. However, as much as that silly piece of paper held us up for so long, we were able to accomplish so much throughout the year.
There was a ton of back and forth for the first half of the year, followed by a summer of big changes that went by in the blink of an eye. Then, the last four months have been jam packed with settling into our new life and trying to save money while still trying to travel. We also challenged ourselves to go Around the UK in 80 Weekends starting in October – three months in, we still have lots of planning and traveling to get to!
Because it feels like we are constantly going, it’s hard to keep track of where we have been and what we have done, so we’re taking a step back to recap it all. Here’s a summary of all that went on for us in 2016 – it’s long, and detailed, but it’s also pretty cool to see it all together like this!
Note – Since this is a recap of what the two of us did throughout the year, we tried to select photos that actually had us in them – if you’d prefer to see the beautiful scenery, click through to the specific posts for plenty more photos!
Where did we go?
Back and Forth Between the UK & America
Kelly spent the first five months of this year back and forth between the UK and America. Literally, it was America, UK, America, UK, Switzerland, UK, Germany, America, and then finally back to the UK for good! It was hard for both of us being apart from each other for long periods of time, but it also gave us an excuse to get Sean over to the US for a weekend. Plus, Kelly had the chance to do a lot of wine tasting, catch up on American sports, and see old friends!
Steamboat Springs, Colorado, USA
In the middle of all of the back and forth, we spent a week skiing in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It was incredible! We both skied, as opposed to the usual Kelly skiing and Sean snowboarding, and had such a great week in the mountains. Steamboat Springs is absolutely beautiful, and we hope we get the chance to ski there again!
Skiing in the Alps is very different from skiing in the Rockies; fortunately, we did both this year. Again, in the middle of all of the back and forth between the US and UK, we took a ski trip. This one was smaller, with friends and family, and a total blast! Kelly’s brother and his wife met us out there and we brought our friends Hope and Sara along. The six of us skied, après skied, and fondued our way through an incredible weekend in our favorite ski village.
Our Easter trip to Berlin marked the start of our football travels for the year. The trip involved sightseeing, major hangovers, and an epic win for England. We traveled with Sean’s parents and his two cousins and it will definitely remain one of our top football trips for quite awhile, if not forever. Berlin is an absolutely incredible city, and we hope to return in 2017 (Kelly’s brother and sister-in-law live there now, so we have no excuse not to!).
The day after we got engaged, instead of spending the weekend celebrating together, Kelly flew off to Dublin with Hope for their annual weekend out in Dublin. She swapped celebratory champagne for celebratory Guinness and spent a weekend hopping from pub to pub, singing along to live music along the way.
Euro2016 – France
Our biggest football trip of the year was to Euro 2016 in France. While we could not take off two full weeks to spend in France with the rest of the family, we made it out to 2/3 of England’s group games – one in Marseille and one in Paris. Our conclusion: we’re so excited to return to Paris one day (and spend more time wandering around Le Marais), but do not feel the need to ever return to Marseille. Well, unless for the sole purpose of wine tasting in Provence – but, even then, there are better places to base ourselves!
Ah, the one where Sean left Kelly behind for a week of fun in the sun with the boys. Sean traveled to Barbados in July with some of his oldest friends to attend a wedding. The week consisted of drinking on the beach, drinking on a boat, and drinking in a bar. They did some other stuff as well, but that all pales in comparison. Oh – and Barbados is beautiful, by the way.
Bratislava, Slovakia & Vienna, Austria
Our last football trip of the year was to a game against Slovakia in Trnava, Slovakia. Due to it’s close proximity, we chose to stay in Bratislava for the weekend and explore the old town in our spare time. Bratislava is an absolutely lovely city that can easily be explored in a day or two. We had just a day and a half to get around as much as we could, and we did almost everything we set our sights on.
Our departing flight left from Vienna, so we spent our last day in town there. The weather was extremely unpredictable, sunny at times and then pouring rain in the next moment. To try and stay as dry as possible, we chose to do the Vienna Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour. The two routes we chose took us around – and out of – Vienna, to most of the major sights. It was a great way of seeing the city quickly!
This year, we chose Bruges for our Christmas market/Kelly’s birthday trip (last year we went wine tasting and Christmas market hopping in Alsace). We swapped wine for beer and our rental car for our feet as we walked all around Bruges. Bruges is incredibly walkable; by the end of the trip, we had pretty much determined that you can get anywhere within a ten minute walk. Between our first evening of just wandering, our self-guided walking tour on day two, and our horse-drawn carriage ride that evening, we probably saw each sight 2-3 times. However, the beautiful thing about Bruges is that it didn’t even matter; the city is so beautiful, and it was wonderful to see places at different times of the day, in different lighting, and with different information being explained. Plus, we made sure to keep trying different beers to keep things interesting!
Around the UK
This year brought some incredible UK adventures. Throughout the year, we attended many London pop-ups (pop-ups are something that London is really good at). Then, summer in London hit, and we really ramped things up. We embraced the Great British Summer and took a trip to the Henley Royal Regatta, spent an evening spent watching tennis at Wimbledon, and participated in a wine blending masterclass pop-up right near our house!
Then we challenged ourselves to see more of the UK. Here’s a quick recap of where we’ve been so far:
- A relaxing country weekend in the Cotswolds, marking our first dog-friendly trip
- Visiting friends for the day in Cambridge, where we went punting down the River Cam
- Three incredible days on the Isle of Wight with Giorgio
- A quick wedding planning weekend in Reading, which included a day trip to Oxford (not wedding related)
- Christmas spent in the Northeast – valuable family time & some dog-friendly adventures
We also continued to explore the city that we call home. It constantly amazes us how much London has to offer, and the fact that we only get to experience a tiny portion of it. Some of our favorite London memories from 2016 are:
- A sunset river cruise on the Thames with Sean’s company
- Trying as many different cocktails as possible at Steam & Rye (the presentation is phenomenal)
- Indulging in dim sum afternoon tea at the Millenium Knightsbridge
- Watching the Bonfire Night fireworks across all of London from a 23rd floor balcony in The City
- Learning more about UK history while on the Westminster & Churchill War Rooms walking tour
- Attending Traverse’s Corinthia Mingle and meeting other travel bloggers
What did we do?
Became part of an incredible community
This one is obvious, but we started a blog this year! Yes, the very blog that you are reading right now. After starting an Instagram account in February, A Pair of Passports (the blog) was created in April and launched in June. Since then, we have also developed a relatively active presence on Twitter and Facebook, as well as launched a bi-weekly newsletter.
Oh, and we became vloggers, too.
After toying around with different types of content, we decided to give video a try. We purchased a GoPro (after letting it sit on our wish list for quite some time) and started filming our adventures. While you will not see us daily vlogging anytime soon, we do love sharing little portions of our trips with you. Keep up with our videos by subscribing to our YouTube channel!
Took some big life steps
To say this year was a big year for us would be a massive understatement. In May, we got engaged during a lovely, candle-lit picnic on our living room floor at the end of a rainy, gray day in London. We kicked off our engagement with a trip with Sean’s family to France for the Euros, with a massively romantic weekend in Paris along the way.
While we spent the summer just loving being engaged, we also spent it planning our wedding. Yes, in August we got married (quick turnaround, huh?) with just our immediate family by our sides. However, we did not dare take the marriage step without first getting a dog! Kelly’s dog Giorgio moved over from the U.S. for a new life of travel and pubs in the UK – he’s loving it so far! Married life & dog ownership life are definitely our biggest adventures so far – and we cannot wait to have more adventures as our little threesome.
Ticked off a couple of “firsts”
The number of “firsts” which happen in a year is a good indication of how adventurous you have been – after all, you don’t want to do the same thing over and over again! We ticket off plenty this year, including some new destinations visited, but these are a few of our favorites:
- Sean’s first American baseball game
- Kelly’s first international football tournament
- Our first sponsored hotel stay (major blogger win)
- Our first travel vlog
- Giorgio’s first time on the beach
- Our first wedding (see “What’s next?” to find out why we say first)
- Kelly’s first time trying pease pudding
Drank too much wine
Well, you might think it’s too much – we don’t think it’s enough! While we drank plenty of wine at home, we enjoyed the wine we drank abroad even more. Our travels afforded us the opportunity to taste wine in the US, Slovakia, and even in our very own England! Here are some of our wine reviews from this year of travel:
- Wine Tasting in Northern Virginia – Bluemont & Casanel
- Wine Tasting in Northern Virginia – Stone Tower & Willowcroft
- Tasting the National Collection of Wine in Slovakia
We also rounded up some incredible wine-related things around the world. Check out these wine-loving Instagrammers for major WINEderlust. And – if you’re planning a wine-tasting trip soon – here are 18 unique wine regions around the world that you NEED to visit!
Challenged ourselves to do something different
We are different from many travel blogging couples in the sense that we do not travel full-time. This means that the travel we do is often on weekends and more expensive than we would like. So we cannot travel as much as we want to.
Instead of abandoning our desire to travel frequently, we decided to do a different type of travel – local travel! We are (very) slowly making our way around the UK on weekend trips and day trips. So far, this journey has taken us to the Isle of Wight, Hadrian’s Wall, the Cotswolds, and around new (to us) parts of London. We cannot wait to continue going Around the UK in 80 Weekends – 2017 already has some big plans!
What did we learn?
International sporting events can get dangerous
There were some pretty scary moments during our trips to Euro2016 – fan violence, police violence, gang violence, all sorts of things we were not expecting. We understand that these things happen when large groups are gathered together. It’s nice to think it’s avoidable, but sometimes you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, this does not mean that you should avoid attending really cool sporting events if you have the opportunity – it will likely be an incredible experience! Before you go, read our safety tips for attending international sporting events and just remember to be aware.
Traveling with a dog is a totally different type of travel
One of the benefits of traveling around the UK is that we can take our furry friend, Giorgio, with us. Our dog-friendly travels have been so incredible, but they are also a lot of work. It does not stop at finding a dog-friendly hotel and way of getting there. Each and every aspect needs to be planned out. If a dog is not welcome at a tourist attraction or restaurant, where can you leave your dog? Does your hotel have dog sitting or allow you to leave your dog in your room alone? Is there a dog-friendly alternative you could do instead?
We spend a lot more time planning the little aspects of our dog-friendly trips, like where to eat. The most important thing we learned? Doggy travel = muddy travel. Always pack your wellies – and shampoo for the dog!
What did we enjoy the most?
It’s hard to place one travel memory higher than another, but there are certain trips and experiences that really stand out in our minds. For example, we use our wine tasting tour in Tuscany as an example of our favorite travel memory so often, even though we’ve had a ton of incredible experiences since then (it was June 2015, after all!). There are certain things that just always pop into our heads at the right time!
2016’s “favorite” travel memories are…
Unlimited wine tasting in Bratislava
We try to try local wine in every destination that we visit, even if that does not involve a full tasting. When planning our weekend in Bratislava, we immediately looked up wine bars…and instead stumbled upon the Slovak National Collection of Wine. This experience is a museum and tasting room, where you have the opportunity to try up to 70 wines! We got lucky and paid to taste 8, but they were in the process of switching over to the new collection and had to get rid of a bunch of bottles. Way more than 8 tasters came our way!
Drinks under the Matterhorn in Zermatt
During our March trip to Zermatt, we skied in a bit early and had drinks under the Matterhorn. One of our favorite things about skiing in Zermatt in March/April is that, with the sun out, it can be incredible warm. We unzipped our jackets, plopped down on some loungers on the balcony which faces the matterhorn, and soaked up the sun while enjoying our drinks. Oh – and we got a pretty epic selfie with all of us in it! It’s a ski memory that will definitely remain with us for quite some time.
We are still trying to find a balance between working as much as we need to and traveling as much as we want to. And budgeting for it, as well. The desire to travel is just starting to take up more and more space in our heads! At the moment, we do not have too many 2017 travel plans yet, but are in the process of finalizing at least a few trips – skiing with friends, a combined football/warm weather trip, and our honeymoon!
We also expect 2017 to bring us plenty of UK travels. It’s so fun to explore everything that England has to offer, and we love being able to take Giorgio along. We’re also pretty sure he enjoys running around beaches and national parks and leaving his mark in every location we visit 😉 Currently, a day trip to Holy Island next time we are up North is at the top of our list!
While our real wedding took place in 2016, our big wedding will be in July 2017. We are so excited to gather our family and friends at beautiful Shiplake College to celebrate our love for each other…and party!
Beyond that, it seems like 2017 is gearing up to be a year of figuring out exactly where we want to be and what we want to be doing. We are hoping to fix up our house a bit, start cooking more, and get on top of our finances. Oh, and we really want to read more. It’s random, but we both took an hour to read in bed the other night and it was so relaxing.
Consistency is the goal. We’d like to get into a pattern of posting and take some of our series/plans a bit further (are you enjoying Finding the Romance so far?). We have a couple of hard goals in terms of MUVs, followers, etc., but above all just want to continue growing A Pair of Passports. Hopefully 2017 will bring us a couple of new partnerships, new blogger friends, and plenty of new ideas!
It would also be great to share more about the thing we love most – traveling together! If you are in need of a guest post or two on couples travel, romance travel, or relationships in general, please do not hesitate to contact us. Kelly loves writing about all that mushy stuff!
Oh, and our other goal for 2017 is to actually post this recap before the year is over!
Stay tuned for our 2017 (somewhat tentative) Travel Plans post, coming soon. And to keep up with all of our 2017 adventures, make sure you subscribe to Passport Stamps & follow us on social media!
Lastly, we want to thank YOU! Literally anyone who is reading this (congrats for making it this far into the post, by the way). Thank you for all of your support so far with regards to A Pair of Passports. Thank you for pushing us to pursue our dreams, to see the world, and to love life as much as possible. We are so fortunate have to an incredible support system – family, friends, followers, fellow bloggers.
We had SUCH a great 2016 and are ready to tackle 2017!