My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com
Alberta, British Columbia, Canada, Culture, Guatemala, Manitoba, Montana, Road Trips, Solo Female Travel

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

2016 was a wonderful year of traveling for me as I embarked on a number of exciting adventures, explored some really fascinating and beautiful places, ate lots of delicious foods and met some amazing and inspiring people along the way. My year was filled with plenty of amazing experiences and I had the opportunity to travel fairly often while still balancing my life at home and maintaining a full-time job. 

Some of my favourites adventures were: exploring the impressive Mayan Ruins of Tikal set among the dense jungle in northern Guatemala; hiking a variety of trails in Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia and Montana; road tripping across the Canadian Prairies from Manitoba to Alberta with my mother; relaxing in the tranquil setting at Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan; exploring interesting and beautiful traditional villages in Guatemala; camping in Manitoba and Alberta; hiking some challenging trails with incredible scenery; solo backpacking throughout Guatemala for two and a half weeks; spending a long weekend in Toronto by myself to celebrate my 25th birthday; wandering the charming cobblestone streets and admiring the colourful buildings and historic churches in Antigua, Guatemala and so much more. 

I am looking forward to the adventures and experiences that I will have in 2017 and hope that they are just as awesome as 2016. This is a reflection of my favourite memories and highlights from my travel adventures in 2016, my scariest and most uncomfortable moments and some goals for 2017. I really enjoyed writing this post and reliving these memories from this year. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures and feel inspired to go on your own! 

2016 Travel Statistics

I love statistics and have been keeping track of some of my own for this past year. Here are my travel stats for 2016! 

Canadian National Parks Visited: 4

I purchased a two-year Parks Canada pass at the beginning of the summer and definitely got my money’s worth this year! I visited Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba (three times), Banff National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta and Yoho National Park in British Columbia.

US National Parks Visited: 

I went to Glacier National Park in Montana to hike and explore in the summer.

Canadian Provinces Visited4

2016 was a fantastic year for exploring more of my home country of Canada and I ended up visiting four provinces including Saskatchewan, Manitoba (where I live), Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

States in the USA Visited: 1

I visited one state in the US this year – Montana.

Countries Visited: 2

Not counting my home country of Canada, I visited two other countries this year – The United States and Guatemala.

Hostels Stayed In: 

Over the course of the year, I stayed in seven different hostels in Toronto (Ontario, Canada), Antigua (Guatemala), San Marcos la Laguna (Guatemala), Flores (Guatemala), Santa Cruz la Laguna (Guatemala), Canmore (Alberta, Canada), and East Glacier Park (Montana, USA). All of the hostels were very unique and I met some friendly and fun people at most of them!

Book your next accommodation on Hostelworld to find a budget-friendly place to stay and save money on your travels.

Airbnbs Stayed In: 

I stayed at two super charming and beautiful bed and breakfasts in the homes of locals in Antigua, Guatemala and San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala.

Book your next accommodation on Airbnb (get a discount on your first stay when you sign-up using my link) for an authentic experience of staying with the locals at your destination!

Cities/Towns/Villages Visited: 16

I visited a variety of urban cities, small towns and traditional villages on my travels this year.

Number of Flights Taken: 10

I took flights to and from Winnipeg, Toronto, Guatemala City, El Salvador and Flores (Guatemala).

Number of Airports Visited: 5

I departed from, landed in or had a layover in five airports this year in Winnipeg, Toronto, San Salvador, Guatemala City and Flores (Guatemala).

Campgrounds Stayed In: 

I tented in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta and Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba this year.

My Best 2016 Adventures

I gained so many wonderful memories throughout my travels this year which I will cherish forever. Here are the places that I explored this past year and some of my favourite adventures (and some scary moments) there. Join me as I reflect on my adventures of 2016! 

Toronto, Ontario

I visited Toronto for four days at the end of April (on the weekend of my 25th birthday and I treated myself to a solo adventure) for my first time and had an amazing time exploring this bustling and vibrant Canadian city!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

City Hall and the Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto’s Downtown

I checked out the CN Tower and admired the amazing views of the sprawling city from the top; photographed the unique and colourful street art in Graffiti Alley and all over Queen West and Kensington Market; shopped for fresh fruits and vegetables at the St. Lawrence Market and small sidewalk markets in Chinatown and Kensington Market; wandered around the historic Distillery District; explored some of the various neighbourhoods of Toronto including Bloor Street West, the Financial District, Queen Street West, Chinatown, Cabbagetown, The Annex, and my favourite area of them all, Kensington Market. I also enjoyed checking out some of the pretty parks like High Park and Trinity-Bellwoods Park. I stayed at The Planet Traveler Hostel in the Kensington Market area and loved being so close to this diverse and vibrant neighbourhood. 

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

One of the many amazing works of art painted around Toronto’s Queen Street West and Kensington Market neighbourhoods!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Historic buildings along Queen Street West

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Graffiti Alley in Toronto

Although the weather wasn’t fantastic (it rained two of the four days and was very chilly the entire time) during my time there, I still had a great first visit to Toronto!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Colourful Victorian houses in Kensington Market

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Cute and unique shops in Kensington Market

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The Gooderham Building, a unique flatiron in Toronto

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Beautiful street art like this one can be found all over Toronto!

There are an endless amount of things to see and do in Toronto and I am looking forward to returning, hopefully next summer though when it’s a bit warmer and more enjoyable to be outside!

Read More: Hostel Review: The Planet Traveler in Toronto, Canada 

Read More: Exploring Toronto’s Kensington Market: A Travel Guide

Read More: Exploring Toronto’s Graffiti Alley: A Photo Essay

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Saskatoon was the second city that I traveled to in 2016 and I went there at the beginning of June for a four-day work training. When I first learned that I would be going to Saskatoon, I honestly didn’t feel too excited. Saskatchewan has a perception by many as being a flat and boring province and I wasn’t sure what to expect from Saskatoon. However, once I got there and actually experienced it, I was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful of a city Saskatoon was and it’s definitely a city that I will return to again in the future! 

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Beautiful views of downtown Saskatoon while walking the Meewasin River Trail

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

A bridge across the Saskatchewan River connecting the two sides of the city

Even though I had training to attend during the days, I made the most of my evenings and spent them exploring this wonderfully charming city. I loved strolling along Broadway Street while checking out the cute independent shops; relaxing in some small local parks; discovering colourful and beautiful street art; and walking the beautiful Meewasin Trail along the Saskatchewan River through gorgeous treed areas. I was also impressed by the abundance of restaurants offering quality vegetarian and gluten-free meals (I honestly wasn’t expecting this in such a small city) and there was a delicious Mexican restaurant in Saskatoon which I frequented more than once! 

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Beautiful street art in Saskatoon

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

River views from along the Meewasin Trail

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Street art in downtown Saskatoon

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Beautiful treed pathways at the University of Saskatchewan

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The Saskatchewan River

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The gorgeous Delta Bessborough Hotel

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

One of my favourite street art pieces in Saskatoon

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The beautiful Meewasin Trail in Saskatoon

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Peaceful residential streets

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

A funky VW van!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The beautiful Meewasin Trail along the river in Saskatoon

Saskatoon surprised me in a good way and it was a very peaceful and pleasant city to explore and visit for a few days. I look forward to returning there again, but next time as a tourist!

Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba

This past year, I decided to dedicate more time to exploring my home province of Manitoba. As a child, my family and I had camped and hiked in Riding Mountain National Park but I hadn’t been back there since I was young. In the summer, I decided to visit there again and I re-discovered my love for this gorgeous park, filled with such incredible natural beauty. Because the park was only a relatively short three-hour drive from my home, I camped there on three separate weekends during the summer and had an amazing time exploring the many unique hiking trails, walking around the charming town of Wasagaming, and eating some delicious food at some of the restaurants in town. 

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Gorgeous reflections along the Ominik Marsh Trail

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The Ominik Marsh Trail at Riding Mountain National Park

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Walking through the forest

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

A beautiful bridge along the Kinosao Trail

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Incredible scenery along the Boreal Trail

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Pretty forest bridge!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Colourful chairs at the ice cream shop in Wasagaming

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The sunsets were gorgeous on Clear Lake!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Beautiful reflections on Lake Kinosao

Banff National Park, Alberta

My mother and I took our first mother-daughter road trip together in late August and early September while visiting Banff, Yoho, Waterton and Glacier National Parks. After driving one and a half days from our home in Manitoba, we arrived in the charming mountain town of Banff. 

We stayed in a private room at a nice hostel called The Bear in Canmore for three days, which was just a twenty minute drive south of Banff. I really liked the town of Canmore and it was surrounded by the same gorgeous mountain scenery but had a more laid-back and relaxed atmosphere than the bustling Banff. There were also a great variety of restaurants in Canmore that I loved and they had great shops as well, many of which were locally owned and selling authentic souvenirs. We spent some time exploring both the towns of Canmore and Banff and checking out the shops.

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Looking down the main street (Banff Avenue) in Banff, Alberta

I enjoyed hiking along the beautiful Johnston Canyon and visiting Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, both of which were absolutely breathtaking. From Lake Louise, we hiked a very challenging but gorgeous 11 kilometre trail called the Plain of Six Glaciers which led to a rustic tea house way up in the mountains. We even witnessed an avalanche there, in the middle of summer, which was an amazing experience! That hike was probably the most difficult one that I have ever done and I felt so accomplished to have completed it, after more than two hours of steady uphill climbing. We also hiked the short and scenic Fenland Trail in the town of Banff and spotted a beautiful female elk up close and personal!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The views of Banff’s main street from a fantastic viewpoint in these lovely gardens

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The Lower Falls along Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The gorgeous Johnston Canyon in Banff

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The breathtakingly beautiful Moraine Lake in Banff!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Lake Louise in Banff National Park

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The rocky terrain as we hiked the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The gorgeous Lake Louise as viewed from the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Beautiful mountain views from the Rockpile Trail at Moraine Lake

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Colourful canoes along the shorelines of Moraine Lake

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Walking through the forest along Moraine Lake

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Hiking to this glacier along the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail near Lake Louise

Banff National Park was so gorgeous and I loved hiking there and exploring some incredibly beautiful glacial lakes. I am hoping to head back to Banff in the summer of 2017 and conquer some more challenging hikes.

Read More: Hiking the Plains of Six Glaciers Trail in Banff National Park

Read More: A Visit to the Beautiful Moraine Lake in Banff National Park

Read More: Hiking Johnston Canyon in Alberta’s Banff National Park

Yoho National Park, British Columbia

During one of the afternoons while I was in Banff, my mom and I took a half-day trip to Yoho National Park which was located just across the Alberta-British Columbia border near Lake Louise. We spent the morning checking out some of Yoho’s best attractions and natural wonders.

We drove down a narrow winding highway with breathtaking scenery along the way in order to arrive at Takakkaw Falls. These waterfalls were incredible as the powerful falls plunged off the edge of a vertical cliff and I read that they are the second highest waterfall in Canada! Next on the agenda was eating lunch at a rustic and charming restaurant in the village of Field called Truffle Pig’s Bistro. The Garden Massacre Salad was probably the most delicious salad I’ve ever eaten and it was such a unique local creation! Following that, we drove to Emerald Lake and hiked along the beautiful shoreline with incredible views of this vibrant turquoise coloured lake. And lastly, we made a quick stop on the way home to check out the Natural Bridge, which was a rock that had been eroded completely through by the powerful river so that it resembled a bridge.

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The impressive Takakkaw Falls in Yoho.

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

A peaceful place to enjoy the serene atmosphere at Yoho’s incredible Emerald Lake

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The unique natural phenomenon called Natural Bridge in Yoho

Yoho was amazing and it ended up being my favourite national park that I visited over the summer! The natural beauty there was just so breathtaking and it was on a totally different level than the scenery in Banff. I definitely plan to spend more time there next time I am in the area.

Related Post: A Day Trip to Yoho National Park in British Columbia, Canada: My Highlights and Travel Guide

Read More: Exploring the Natural Bridge in BC’s Yoho National Park

Read More: Visiting Emerald Lake in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park

Read More: Visiting Takakkaw Falls in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park

Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

After spending three days in Banff, we woke up early the next morning and drove four hours south to reach Waterton Lakes National Park, which was located along the border with Alberta and Montana in the USA.

We stayed for three days at Waterton while camping in a tent at the campground in the middle of the small, charming and peaceful town in the park. The natural landscapes were incredible and unique, as the Prairie grasslands met up with Rocky Mountains.

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The beautiful views along the scenic Red Rock Parkway in Waterton

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Mountain views along the challenging trail to Bertha Lake in Waterton

My mom and I climbed around and took photos inside the beautiful Red Rock Canyon; hiked to a variety of lakes including Crandell Lake, Bertha Lake (this was a really challenging trail with lots of steep switchbacks but the scenery was amazing) and Wall Lake (which involved crossing the border into British Columbia); checked out the breathtaking views from the top of the Bear Hump after a short but strenuous hike; and wandered around the quiet town of Waterton to check out some of the shops, marina, a pretty waterfall right in town and the gorgeous historic Prince of Wales Hotel. I loved Waterton and there were lots of amazing hikes there and stunning landscapes. 

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The gorgeous Red Rock Canyon in Waterton

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Exploring inside the Red Rock Canyon was so much fun!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Beautiful views along the hike to Crandell Lake

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The historic Prince of Wales Hotel atop a hill overlooking Waterton

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

I loved hiking through these lush forests in Waterton!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Cameron Falls located in the town of Waterton

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The incredible views overlooking Upper Waterton Lake and the town of Waterton from the top of Bear Hump

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The Lower Bertha Falls along the trail to Bertha Lake

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The pristine Bertha Lake was worth the strenuous hike!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Gorgeous views of Upper Waterton Lake from the Prince of Wales Hotel

Waterton Lakes was a really beautiful national park and I enjoyed our time there. On my next visit, I want to complete one of the most difficult but beautiful hikes in the park to Crypt Lake!

Read More: My Travel Guide to Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park: What to See and Where to Hike

Read More: Hiking the Bear’s Hump Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park

Read More: A Challenging but Rewarding Hike to Bertha Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park

Read More: Exploring the Red Rock Canyon in Waterton Lakes National Park

Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

The final stop along my mother and I’s road trip through the Rocky Mountains was Glacier National Park in Montana, where we spent three days in early September. 

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Beautiful views along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Views of the Jackson Glacier from along the Going-to-the-Sun Road

We stayed in a very historic hostel (that used to be a brothel!) in the charming village of East Glacier Park, just outside of the national park, which felt like we had stepped back in time! The town had one main street with a general store, some shops and a few restaurants and it was the type of place where everybody knew everybody. The signs were all original and retro-looking and it was a cool place to wander around. We found a super cute pottery shop inside this friendly local man’s home in the town and had a long chat with him about the history of the town and his life. It was so interesting to learn more from a local and we also bought some of his gorgeous pottery! 

We spent our days in Glacier National Park and made the most of our short time there, even though we had some poor weather (it was cold and raining a lot of the time). The landscapes and scenery in this park were absolutely stunning! We drove along the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road which wound its way along the narrow edge of a mountain providing incredible views of the deep valley and mountains on the opposite side. This road led up to Logan Pass, which is the highest elevation in the park that you can drive to at just over 6600 feet! We visited there on two separate days and hiked an amazing trail called the Highline Trail in very poor weather conditions. The trail led along the side of a mountain on a very narrow ledge with the Continental Divide on the opposite side. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy and rainy for us to see the spectacular scenery and it was a very uncomfortable hike, but we did get some pretty amazing photos there anyways!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The historic General Store in East Glacier Park, Montana

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

A small pottery shop in East Glacier Park

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Walking the Highline Trail along this narrow ledge!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Hiking through the clouds on edge of a steep cliffside!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Views from the Highline Trail

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Gorgeous views along the Highline Trail

We also hiked through an area of forest ravaged by forest fires a couple of years ago (which was pretty eerie and interesting) to see some beautiful waterfalls – St. Mary Falls, Baring Falls and Victoria Falls. We checked out the Running Eagle Falls from the Two Medicine park entrance as well. All of the waterfalls were very unique and pretty!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Walking in this forest that was ravaged by a fire was eerie

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Beautiful views from the Running Eagle Falls

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Running Eagle Falls in Glacier National Park

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Walking among charred trees in Glacier National Park

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Beautiful tall waterfall in Glacier

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Waterfalls in Glacier National Park

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Forest fire

Antigua, Guatemala

In early November, I left on my biggest solo adventure of the year which involved spending two and a half weeks exploring the beautiful country of Guatemala! I had been fascinated with this country for a few years before I finally worked up the courage to go there. Guatemala had everything that I was looking for in a country – beautiful nature and a diversity of incredible landscapes, interesting history, fascinating and unique traditional Mayan villages and towns to explore, bustling and vibrant local markets, gorgeous churches with such detailed architecture, colonial towns and cities with colourfully painted buildings and cobblestone streets, and more. 

Antigua was my first stop in Guatemala and I stayed there for three days at the beginning of my trip and then one final day at the end before heading back to the Guatemala City Airport and then home. Antigua is a popular tourist destination in Guatemala, but it didn’t feel overrun by tourism to me and I quickly fell in love with this charming, colourful, beautiful and friendly small city. 

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

A flower filled wagon in Antigua

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

One of the prettiest streets in Antigua – 5a Avenida!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Exploring the courtyard inside one of Antigua’s historic convents

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The gorgeous San Hermano Pedro Church

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

One of my favourite buildings in Antigua

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Gorgeous views overlooking Antigua from Cerro de la Cruz

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Colourful markets set up in front of the El Carmen Church on the weekends

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Gorgeous flowers growing on top of a building in Antigua

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The Arco de Santa Catalina, a famous landmark in Antigua

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The crumbling El Carmen Church in Antigua – One of my favourites!

While in Antigua, I loved simply wandering the cobblestone streets and photographing the colourful colonial buildings, exploring inside historic convents and colonial churches with such beautiful detailed architecture, hiking to Cerro de la Cruz and admiring the pretty views overlooking Antigua, visiting a lovely local macadamia nut farm in the countryside, and climbing Pacaya Volcano, an active volcano outside of Antigua. I had many amazing adventures in Antigua!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

The gorgeous Parque Central in Antigua

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Walking on hardened lava rocks at Pacaya Volcano near Antigua

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Yellow painted columns and arches in Antigua

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Colourful cobblestone streets

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Many of the walls and buildings in Antigua were overflowing with lush plants and flowers

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

One of my favourite photos that I took in Antigua!

I fell in love with Antigua almost immediately after arriving and easily could have spent weeks or longer there, just exploring and soaking up the atmosphere. It’s been my favourite colonial city that I have visited so far and I can’t wait to return again! 

Read More: A Visit to Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm near Antigua, Guatemala 

Read More: Climbing Pacaya Volcano near Antigua, Guatemala

Read More: Things I Love About Guatemala

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

The next area that I visited in Guatemala after Antigua was Lake Atitlan. This picturesque and gorgeous lake is often called the most beautiful in the world and it is ringed with a variety of unique and traditional Mayan villages, which are all worth exploring (I don’t have any photos to show you yet, as I haven’t even started editing them!).

I started off my eight days at the lake by staying for three days in the peaceful hippie village of San Marcos La Laguna. This was one of my favourite places on the lake and I loved the narrow pathways that replaced roads, the jungle vegetation everywhere, the incredible views of Volcan Atitlan and San Pedro from the docks (which was also a fantastic place to watch the sunrises and sunsets), the variety of vegetarian-friendly restaurants and cute cafes, the welcoming atmosphere and the tranquil vibe.

The next village I visited was San Pedro La Laguna, which was directly across the lake from San Marcos. It was very different from San Marcos and had more tourists and a more bustling, party-type of atmosphere. There were way more restaurant options in San Pedro, which I loved, but I didn’t fall in love with this town. Following San Pedro, I stayed for one night in the secluded and very authentic village of Santa Cruz La Laguna. The locals were so friendly and welcoming there and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. This ended up being my favourite village! The last village that I stayed in was Panajachel, which was the most touristy town on the lake and I didn’t like it at all. In addition to all of those, I took day trips to San Juan La Laguna where I bought lots of beautiful textiles and scarves and Santiago, which was known for its great markets.

Some of my favourite activities that I did around the lake included: watching the beautiful sunrises from San Marcos and Santa Cruz; visiting the nature reserve in San Marcos; wandering the beautiful treed pathways and streets; getting an amazing massage and facial in San Pedro; shopping for souvenirs in all of the villages; eating lots of amazing vegetarian and gluten-free meals at beautiful outdoor restaurants and more!

I loved the slow-paced life at Lake Atitlan and the incredibly breathtaking landscapes and it was the perfect place to relax and soak in the serene atmosphere. Lake Atitlan was definitely my favourite area that I visited in Guatemala! 

Flores, Guatemala

After spending eight days exploring the various villages around Lake Atitlan, I took a four and a half long shuttle back to Guatemala City and then a one hour flight from there to the small town of Flores which is located on a tiny island on Lake Peten Itza in the northern jungle-covered Peten region of Guatemala.  

I spent three days in Flores and enjoyed walking around this small island and town and photographing all of the colourful buildings; taking a boat across the lake to a neighbouring village and hiking to a beautiful viewpoint overlooking Flores, Lake Peten Itza and the jungle called El Mirador and relaxing at my beautiful hostel in Flores. But the most incredible experience that I had in Flores by far, was visiting the impressive Mayan Ruins of Tikal! These ruins were set deep in the thick jungle and the temples were massive. My favourite part about exploring them was sitting at the top of one temple overlooking the jungle canopy and listening to the terrifying sounds of howler monkeys. It was such an amazing and unique experience.

Exploring Manitoba

I also really enjoyed exploring more of Manitoba, my home province in Canada. I went on lots of photo walks around Winnipeg while checking out my favourite neighbourhoods; explored the Pinawa Dam and Suspension Bridge; camped and hiked at the gorgeous Riding Mountain National Park; tried new restaurants and more.

In other areas of my life, 2016 was also a fantastic year. I have enjoyed trying new recipes for vegetarian and gluten-free meals (Thai Red Curry has probably been my best discovery recently and I am addicted!); I continued my practice of setting aside a portion of each paycheck to go towards my growing travel fund; I maintained my health; and enjoyed spending time with family and friends as always. 

My Scariest/Most Uncomfortable Travel Moments of 2016

Traveling isn’t always as glamorous as it looks. I had a few scary and/or uncomfortable experiences during my travels this year and here are the stories. 

Getting Stranded on a Deserted Highway in Montana

This was definitely the scariest moment of my travels in 2016. My mother and I had spent all morning and some of the afternoon hiking and exploring in Glacier National Park. We were driving back to our hostel in East Glacier Park, located about an hour and a half outside of the national park on a winding, narrow and poorly maintained highway along the edge of a mountainside, when my mom pulled over to the side of the highway and asked me if I could drive, as she was feeling too sleepy. We both got out of the car and closed the doors at the same time, with the keys still in the ignition. I walked over to the driver’s side and pulled on the door handle but it was locked. Then my mom tried hers and it was locked as well. We were freaking out. All of the doors had locked automatically and we locked out of the car while it was still running. It was such a terrible realization and my heart was racing as I tried to think of what we could do. All of our belongings were locked in the car, including both of our cell phones, so we couldn’t even make a phone call for help and there we were probably half an hour from the nearest town in both directions. To add to that, we were parked on the edge of a cliff-side and it was super windy and uncomfortable.

The highway was completely dead and there were no cars in sight. We stood there for a few minutes, thinking of ideas when I suddenly saw a car approaching. I waved them down and it was an older couple from California. They borrowed us their cellphone but of course, there was no service and we couldn’t make a call or use the internet to even look up a number to call. Then the couple offered to drive us to East Glacier Park where we had been headed, but we didn’t feel comfortable abandoning our car while it was running with all of our belongings inside. So the couple left and we were alone once again. We then came to the conclusion that the only option we had, would be to break into our car. We found a large rock on the side of the highway and my mom threw it at the back passenger window, but it didn’t even make a dent. We felt so discouraged and helpless. Shortly after, another car came along and stopped. An older man was driving and we asked him if he would be able to break our window. He agreed. He took a few steps back from the car holding the large rock and then ran towards the car and throwing the rock at the window. We were so relieved when the rock smashed through the window and into the car! We thanked the man and he went on his way. At that point, we were able to unlock the back door and then the other doors by sticking our hand through the crumbling glass. We ended up finding a garbage bag and duct tape in the trunk of the car to tape over the window and then made our way to our hostel. 

I was so thankful that this happened close to the end of our trip so we didn’t have to drive around with a broken window the entire time. This moment definitely makes the top of my list for the scariest experience I had while traveling this year. 

Hiking Along the Edge of a Mountain in Undesirable Weather

This one is more uncomfortable than scary, but like my first story, it also happened in Montana. My mom and I had driven an hour and a half from where we had been staying in East Glacier Park to Logan Pass in Glacier National Park. Logan Pass is the highest elevation that you can drive to in this national park and it is reached by driving along a scenic and winding highway along the mountainsides with incredible views of the Continental Divide. As we gained elevation, the weather started to become worse and worse. We arrived at the parking lot of Logan Pass and we were in the clouds. It was completely white outside, with zero visibility as the clouds swirled around the area. It was lightly raining with snow pellets, the temperatures were below freezing and it was super windy, but we were determined to hike the Highline Trail. We were the only ones on the trail as we hiked on a narrow ledge along the side of a mountain. On one side of us was a vertical cliff wall and on the other was a steep drop-off to the Continental Divide. Typically this trail has gorgeous views of the deep valley and mountainous landscape but because the clouds were so low, we could barely see directly in front of us. It was a little unnerving walking along this deserted mountainside, in poor weather with thick clouds obstructing my views but we continued anyways. We weren’t expecting this kind of winter-like weather and even though we were wearing our warmest clothes (I had four layers including my rain jacket, mittens, a toque, thick hiking socks, leggings and hiking boots), it didn’t take long before I became very chilled and uncomfortable. The entire trail was quite long and we turned around long before the end to head back to Logan Pass. The hike back to the parking lot was the most uncomfortable as it was raining harder and was extremely windy. I was completely frozen from head to toe, my fingers were so numb and I couldn’t feel them at all, and my clothes were completely drenched. Needless to say, I pretty much speed walked back along the trail and was SO thankful to make it to the car and warm up. I felt chilled for the rest of the day but it was still an amazing experience. 

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Walking along this narrow mountain ledge

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

We couldn’t see anything with the clouds!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

Hiking here was an exhilarating experience!

Enduring an Intense Overnight Storm in a Tent in Alberta

Another scary experience on our Rocky Mountain road trip during the summer happened in Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park. My mother and I were camping in a small two-person tent in the Waterton townsite campground when a storm began to brew in the evening. 

We went to sleep and were awoken in the middle of the night by loud rumbling thunder, bright flashes of lightning and a crazy intense wind storm! The wind was howling and shaking our tent so much, that I actually thought our tent was going to get ripped out of the ground and completely toppled on top of us. It was a pretty scary experience in the moment and I couldn’t fall asleep until it was over. Thankfully, the wind started to die down and our tent remained strong. Phew! 

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

This was the intense storm that we got caught in while tenting in Waterton Lakes National Park!

Traveling in a Small Boat Packed Full of People on Rough Waters in Guatemala

My last scary travel experience from 2016 happened recently during my trip to Guatemala. On my last day at the beautiful Lake Atitlan, I decided to take a public boat shuttle from Panajachel to nearby Santa Cruz La Laguna to eat lunch at an amazing locally owned restaurant there.

I took a seat on one of the long benches inside the covered boat and the captain waited for more people to board before we left the docks. The boat started to fill up and soon enough, all of the benches were filled yet the captain kept cramming more people in there and they squished in wherever they could find a space. There were over twenty people for sure on the boat and it worried me. 

We started off on the lake. The lake waters were very choppy and rough and it looked like there was a storm coming. The waves were crashing up against the side of the small boat, making it rock back and forth. The captain had to drive at a snail’s pace because every time he tried to pick up speed, the boat rocked even more. It was very scary and there were times when I actually thought that we were going to tip over or that the boat would get flooded and we would sink. Nobody else on the boat looked too worried though! It was quite clear to me that there were way too many on board. Slowly but surely, we coasted our way across the lake to the village and arrived there safely. The boat ride should have taken 15 minutes at the most but with the rough water and our slow speed, it took us about 40 minutes to get across. Needless to say, I was so glad to get my feet on solid ground again!

Goals and Plans for 2017

I can’t wait to see what kind of adventures I will have in 2017! I am already in the process of planning my travels for the upcoming year and have lots of things I want to experiences and places I plan to explore. 

I am planning to visit Vancouver, Canada for my first time, head back to Toronto for a long weekend in the summer and do some hiking and exploring in Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta. I am also hoping to explore more of Mexico and head to the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca close to the end of the year. In addition to that, I want to spend more time discovering new places and adventures throughout my home province of Manitoba. Zip lining in the Pembina Valley is one thing that is definitely on my list of things to do! 

I hope you all have a wonderful 2017 and I want to personally thank every one of you who has visited my blog over this past year, commented on or shared my articles, or sent me emails for help with travel planning. I appreciate you all and it really means a lot to me that you have taken the time to read, share and comment on my content here. Thank you so much! 

You can follow my 2017 adventures on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Planning Your Next Adventure?

Here are some helpful links if you are currently planning your next travel adventure!

Compare prices and book your flights using Momondo. I love the user-friendly design and how easy it is to filter your flights. This is a great website for finding great flight deals! 

Use Hostelworld to book a private room or dorm bed at a budget-friendly hostel and browse through listings across the globe. Use Booking.com to find a huge inventory of independent hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, hostels and chain hotels around the world and for every budget. And if you’re looking for a more authentic and unique experience of staying in a local’s home at your destination, then book your stay using Airbnb (sign-up using my link and get a discount on your first stay). 

Pin It!

My 2016 Adventures: A Year in Review | brittanymthiessen.com

What kind of adventures did you have in 2016? What were your favourite and least favourite travel moments or experiences of the year? 

I would love to hear about them in the comments! Remember to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up-to-date with my current adventures and life. 

Thanks for reading! 

Iā€™m Brittany, a small town girl living simply in the Canadian prairies. I love exploring off the beaten path and discovering hidden gems both locally in Manitoba and beyond; traveling independently; photography; eating plant-based and gluten-free foods; browsing local markets; and learning about cultures and ethnic cuisines. My other loves include cuddling with my cats, playing board games, drinking kombucha and matcha tea, spending time in nature, studying maps, eating Mexican food, and making fresh fruit smoothies. On this website, I share my photography, in-depth travel guides, reflections on a variety of travel-related topics, reviews, and favourite simple and healthy recipes, while also documenting stories from my experiences, travel adventures, local wanderings and explorations. Follow along using the social media buttons below and read more about me here
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  • meanderbug

    Brittany – looks like a great year of travel. The nature shots at Banff are spectacular. And we are always fans of good street art. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you so much! The nature was incredibly stunning there and you’re right – you really can’t go wrong with street art. Thanks for commenting!

  • Tasha Jacqueline

    It looks like you had an incredible year. Great pictures. I particularly like the ones of Banff National Park, I’d love to go there!

    • Thanks Tasha for the compliment! Banff is SOO gorgeous. I would recommend it. It’s probably my favourite place that I’ve been in Canada so far šŸ™‚

  • You’ve travelled so much! Looks like you had such an amazing year! Definitely better than mine – I’ve only been to Cuba lol – But Im definitely planning more travels this year! Nice to find a fellow Canadian on here as well!

    • Thanks Krista! It was a really great year for sure. Cuba sounds like a really interesting place to explore with all of the old cars and colourful buildings! Where are you planning on going in 2017? It’s always nice to meet other Canadians šŸ™‚

      • I made a little post about it on my blog today šŸ˜Š Some places in Europe and somewhere else in march (this I’m not sure of yet)

  • Joseph

    Another amazing post.

    I have never been to SK or MB and could never really find those provinces (Sorry, I know you are from MB) appealing to spend time at considering the amazing huge country we live at.

    Anyway, I don’t see any Atlantic Provinces on the list. Have you been there before? Also where is Quebec (Let me know when you come to Montreal :)).

    For me, I did the 3 provinces of Mexico this year, Yucatan – Campeche – Q.Roo. I rented a car and drove over 2300 KM. Drove close to Guatemala border when I visited Calakmul and now wondering if I should do Tikal or not!

    • Thanks for reading, Joseph!

      Although they are lesser-visited by tourists, the Prairie provinces actually have a lot of great things to offer! Manitoba is the heart of our country and there is a huge variety of amazing things to see and do and beautiful places to spend time. I hope you get the chance to visit here someday and explore more of our country!

      I haven’t been to Atlantic Canada yet, but it’s definitely on my list. Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Cape Breton look absolutely beautiful. I haven’t been to Quebec yet either. Still have lots of places to explore in the future!

      Those three Mexican states are gorgeous! I loved backpacking there two years ago. Renting a car is a really great way to explore deeper and go places where the buses don’t take you. That’s so amazing that you got to visit Calakmul! That is the next ruins on my list, it looks so amazing and secluded there. Tikal is so GREAT! I would highly recommend it.