Whew! What a year.

2016 was rough in terms of the global political climate (hello Brexit, Trump presidency, ISIS, and Aleppo) and celebrity deaths (RIP Harambe and literally every single one of my childhood heroes), but on a personal level, it was actually pretty okay.

Well not just okay; it was actually pretty amazing.

I turned 23 this year and was able to achieve the INSANE goal of paying off my student debt. It’s so crazy for me to be #DebtFreeAt23 when I FOR SURE thought I was going to be #DirtPoorAt24 and #BarelyAliveAt25. Paying off this debt opened up a whole new world for me, one which will allow me to travel more freely. I didn’t make it out of Murica this year, but I still had some crazy adventures.

States visited: Texas, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, DC, Virginia, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee

Countries visited: USA

Here’s my 2016 in review:

Visited Mount Rushmore in the DEAD of winter.

bachelorette party without drinking

With my sister at Mount Rushmore.

My older sister and eternal travel buddy got married in May, so for her bachelorette party in March, I took her to see Mount Rushmore and the surrounding sites. Since my sister doesn’t drink, typical bachelorette destinations like NOLA or Vegas were out of the question, and a heavy “day activity” place was the perfect fit.

Quick tip: Mount Rushmore is the perfect place for a dry bachelorette party. 

No one else wanted to brave the cold.

We spent a long weekend giggling, freezing, and having a blast. Did I mention we basically had the place to ourselves? Yeah, that’s because normal people don’t go to South Dakota in the winter.

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Crashed DC and chilled on the Speaker’s Balcony.

Speaker's Balcony Photo Op

View from the Speaker’s Balcony on the Capitol.

It seems like all of my friends moved to DC after college, including my amazing roommate, so while my sister was on her honeymoon, I took a #TreatYoSelf trip so I wouldn’t feel left out. I was hosted by my amazing college roommate and her girlfriend, along with their charming puppy Roheryn.

As a museum junkie, DC quickly became one of my favorite cities, especially since I didn’t have to pay for most of them. I also stopped by the White House to have Brunch with Barack (not really).

White House Garden View

Up close and personal at the White House.

I also got a private tour of the Capitol from my best friend from high school, who works for a senator. She even took me on the Speaker’s Balcony which belonged to Paul Ryan at the time, so you know I had to keep my eyes open for him. I may not agree with some of his politics, but those baby blues though.

Went on a 12 hour road trip with my dad.

My sister and I have a running joke that whenever we try to talk to our father (affectionately referred to as #PappaKamm) he always manages to sneak “Well, you know it’s actually a physics problem” into the conversation and spend the next 10 minutes talking about concepts from the class I nearly failed in high school.

So spending 12 hours (each way!) alone in the car with my dad as we drove from Houston to southern Missouri for our family reunion made me a little nervous.

What would we talk about?

Family Road Trip

Highlights of the daddy / daughter road trip.

I was nervous for nothing because as it turns out, traveling with my dad is great! His road trip style matches mine perfectly. We both only stop to eat/get gas/stretch when absolutely necessary and combine all three whenever we can.

We did visit University of Arkansas on the way up so I could call them Hogs, and then spent the rest of the weekend goofing off with our cousins, watching the Olympics, and seeing just how fast jet skis can actually go.

I would say the only downside of the trip was dad listening to Rush Limbaugh at full blast because he’s kind of deaf and me having to resist the urge to fling myself onto the interstate.

Found my inner Hufflepuff at Harry Potter World.

Harry Potter Photo Op

Castles and cold drinks.

Pottermore sorted me into Slytherin, but I’m choosing not to live that truth and instead am settling into being a delightfully average Hufflepuff. I had been to Universal Studios once before in 2009, but Harry Potter World was just being built.

The anguish of being able to SEE Hogwarts, without being allowed to go inside was too real. So obviously I had to go back.

Lunch at Publix

A Florida landmark.

My great friend from college invited me to visit her hometown of Sarasota, Florida. Her dad flies for Southwest and graciously sent me a Buddy Pass, which was my first time flying standby. It wasn’t too bad and further cemented that Southwest is my favorite airline (this post isn’t sponsored, I just really love them).

My dog of 12 1/2 years actually died while I was away, so I am really grateful that the weekend was filled with so much laughter, “tanning,” and roller coasters.

Went on my first solo trip to Memphis.

There was a mix up with the Buddy Passes, so at the last minute, I booked a solo trip to Memphis in early November. I had flown and spent all day exploring alone, but I always had someone to come chat to at night.

Sun Studios Piano

“Playing” at Sun Studios.

But what kind of travel blogger would I be if I hadn’t traveled solo? So I went for it. And it was amazing!

Memphis has lots to do during the day (like Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum) and a vibrant nightlife as well (hello, Beale Street). It was easy to get around with Uber and Lyft and I felt SO proud of myself for finally taking a solo trip.

Mississippi River View

The Mighty Mississippi

I did have kind of an awkward solo dinner at Gus’ Fried Chicken because I think my waiter felt bad for me, when he was really just making me even more uncomfortable. Like sir, can you please just leave me alone and let me read this ketchup bottle in peace kthanks.

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I also may have booked way too many trips for 2017.

Now that I’m out of debt, my money goes straight to the bank ( well, okay, some of it goes to Uncle Sam and some goes to Fidelity because I’m out here trying to retire early, but you get what I mean.) Because of this, I’ve made the brave (stupid?) choice to travel travel traaaavel next year.

Here’s where I’m headed:

January:

Boston to surprise friends from college.

DC for the Inauguration and to see friends from college.

February:

Austin for my brother’s trooper graduation.

May:

Costa Rica with my best friend from high school.

South Hadley, Massachusetts for my Mount Holyoke Reunion.

September/October

Germany, Holland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland for my very own #EuroTrip.

Where are you headed in 2017? 

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2016 in review

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