Looking Back: My Top Travel Memories of the Decade

by madelineraeaway
Douro Valley, Portugal

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the 2010s are almost over. THIS DECADE is almost over. Which, as a baby born in 1990, that also means that I’ll be saying goodbye to my twenties this year. 

This decade has been filled with growth. With huge changes. With tough lessons. Heartbreak. And so many happy memories. I’ve always loved to travel, but I feel like it has become such a huge part of who I am in this past decade. These experiences have contributed in massive ways to who I identify as an individual. And for that reason, I am so grateful for the opportunity to choose this life path, and for all the people who I’ve crossed paths with along the way who have made these memories that much more special.

I began this as a “Top 10” list – and quickly realized it was impossible to narrow the past ten years of travel to just ten memories. So bare with me, because this list has gotten a bit long (and is in no particular order).

I hope you enjoy taking this (super nostalgic) walk down memory lane with me...

It's Been FUn.

Channeling my Inner Maria von Trapp in Salzburg

In 2015, my sister and I visited Salzburg, Austria and were able to live out our mutual childhood fantasy of pretending we were part of the Von Trapp family. The Sound of Music was our favourite movie as kids (we were completely obsessed), so the fact that we were able to experience this together was so special. Stories from the three days we spent in Austria frequently get brought up in conversation when we’re together, which just reaffirms the fact that this was a major highlight of our decade.

Trip Highlights: Going on a bike tour through the Austrian alps to all The Sound of Music filming locations with Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour. This is an absolute bucket list MUST for any movie fanatics. We also watched a Sound of Music marionette show at the Salzburg Marionette Theatre which was so incredibly impressive, and a must-do. 

Cruising Around Milos, Greece by Boat with Oneiro

Cruising around Milos by boat with Oneiro was EASILY my favourite day in Greece. It was one of those very special “pinch me” type of moments that are a reminder of why I travel. 

The day was filled with sailing around to beaches only accessible by water, eating tons of Greek food onboard (with lots of homemade wine and ouzo), snorkelling in caves, and dancing around the bow of the boat to Greek music with the owners, Elias and Vassilis.

I wrote all about this experience in my 4-Day Guide to Milos. And you can also check out some of the highlights in the Instagram post below.

Bachelorette in The Music CitY

Nashville is forever reserved as one of my favourite girls trips – ever. It was just one of those best friend trips that resulted in stories that we will continue to reminisce about for the rest of our lives. We may live in different parts of the world, but every time this group is together, Nashville memories always make their way into the conversation.

From dancing at rooftop bars to country music into the early hours of the morning, to having pool parties at our AirBnb, and pedalling around the city belting our favourite songs, this weekend was one of the best of the decade. And is a trip every group of girlfriends needs to take in their lifetime.

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you can't spin with us 🙅🏻#kizistomrs

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Visiting Normandy on the ANniversary of D-Day

Visiting the beaches and Normandy region on the 72nd anniversary with my brother was a surreal experience. We did a full-day “Canada” tour with Normandy Sightseeing Tours and learned so much about this historical battle. 

Doing this tour at any time of the year is super special, but there was something just a little bit extra special about joining on this particular day. Throughout the day, we encountered WWII war veterans that fought at Normandy, and came back every year to visit the memorial sites of their friends. We even chatted with one gentleman who looked at us and said: “See that spot over there? That’s where my parachute landed when I jumped from the plane.” INSTANT GOOSEBUMPS.

Another surreal memory of this day was visiting the “La Maison des Canadiens” which overlooked Juno Beach and was liberated by the Canadian troops. While we stood in front of the house, our guide explaining the significance, the owners of the home invited us in for a visit. The home has stayed within the family since WWII, and they explained that they gathered there every year to host a small celebration. My guide, a true Normandy historian fanatic, was giddy when they invited us in and exclaimed “This has never happened before!” 

Spending Christmas in Aruba with my Family

This Christmas tradition is something that started when I was VERY young. In fact, I first visited Aruba when I was three years old and have often considered it my “home away from home.”

While I have visited more than once this past decade, and there isn’t one particular memory that sticks out, I felt like it deserved a spot on this list, because our Aruba Christmas tradition is one of my favourite family traditions. And even though the fact that we’re now living in different cities, and have different schedules, has prevented us from all heading “home” to Aruba for the holidays these past few years, this perfect Caribbean island has such a special place in my heart.

Living Like a Local in Amsterdam

I first spent three days in Amsterdam in 2015 and it wasn’t enough. I knew I would be back. That’s why when Sebastian had the opportunity to work in The Netherlands in 2018, I jumped on the opportunity to spent a week in a more “local” Amsterdam suburb.

While he worked, I treated myself to solo brunches, sipped coffee in cozy coffeeshops, and wandered around Amsterdam’s more “local” neighbourhoods. 

Highlight of the Week: My food tour with Hungry Birds. I have done a lot of food tours, and this was EASILY my favourite ever. If you’re wandering solo like me, looking for some guidance to exploring Amsterdam’s amazing food scene, and interested in making new friends, this was easily a highlight of the decade for me.

See Also: A Complete Amsterdam Itinerary: What to See, Eat, and Do in Amsterdam.

Taking an Ice Cold Dip in the Baltic Sea

My first visit to Scandinavia in December 2017 was a special one. It was my first time seeing Sebastian’s home, meeting his family, and getting a taste of Swedish traditions. Which, naturally, meant visiting a Scandinavian spa. We spent a night at Ystad Saltsjöbad and it was MAGICAL. The highlight of my trip was taking a dip in the freezing cold Baltic sea (in ture Nordic fashion).

I loved this experience so much, it seemed only fitting that Sebastian propose at another Scandinavia spa earlier this year, almost two years later.

Exploring Prague at Christmas

Prague is city that looks like it could be the set of a fairytale movie. Which means it is the perfect place to explore at Christmastime. The city quite literally lights up, the streets filled with markets, and holiday music playing around the clock. This also means that Prague is very busy at Christmas, which is exactly why we were determined to start our days early. 

My favourite Prague memory: Getting up early and heading to the iconic Charles Bridge for sunrise. During the day, this beautiful bridge is packed with tourists and merchants. At sunrise, it was a much different picture and we got to experience sunrise overlooking one of the most beautiful city skylines I’ve ever seen.

Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle

During 2015 and 2016, my little brother spent a year and a half living in Nuremberg, Germany. So, my sister and I set out on a little backpacking adventure to meet up with him and explore his new home. This led to some amazing memories: beer-hall-hopping in Munich, exploring the historical streets of small towns like Bamberg, and my favourite: visiting Neuschwanstein Castle.

We spent a night in Füssen so that we could be up bright and early to get a glimpse of this iconic castle and it was just that – iconic. Sure, this place is touristy, but it is so worth visiting. Also, make sure you take the tour inside to hear the stories of the famed King Ludwig II and see the marvellous interior (that was never actually finished).

Funny Side Story/Memory: We had also booked a paragliding trip, where you paraglide off the side of the alps and hover over the castle. Well, my brother forgot to bring sneakers and showed up only with Birkenstock sandals. He attempted to fasten them to his feet, convinced he would be fine to jump off the mountainside with sandals. Unfortunately (and thankfully for my mom who surely would have had a panic attack over the thought of three of her kids jumping off the side of a mountain), we were never able to test it out because it was too windy to paraglide that day. So, all we’re left with is this funny little travel memory.

Riding on the World's Most Scenic Train Ride

The Flam Railway in Norway has been coined the world’s most scenic train ride – and it lives up to the hype. 

My parents came to visit us in Sweden this last summer, and we took a little four day adventure up to Norway where we swam in fjords, hiked in the beautiful mountains, sailed through the narrowest fjord in the world, and rode the Flam Railway.

If you’re a nature-lover, visiting Norway in a must. You’re guaranteed to see some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever see in your life. You can read my full Norway guide here.

Stumbling Upon Greek MOuntain Villages

Naxos in an island that is often forgotten amongst some of its more popular Cyclades family members. But, it is such an amazing island that should be added to every Greek island itinerary.

During my favourite day on Naxos, we rented a car and ventured out on the winding cliff-side roads to explore the tiniest mountain villages on the island. We were greeted by the friendliest locals by being invited in for fresh orange juice in the morning (even though the restaurant was closed), were served the best local Greek food (the Naxos potatoes!!! and local cheese), and stumbled upon some of the prettiest sights. This more “authentic” Greek island experience is something you would have a hard time finding on touristy islands like Santorini, and it a day that I’m reminded of frequently as being so darn special.

See Also: My complete guide to Naxos, Greece.

A Family Long Weekend at Walt Disney World

You’re never too old to go to Disney… That’s what they say, right? Well, I can attest to this! 

When my little brother finished elementary school in 2014, my parents wanted to bring their “baby” to Walt Disney World one last time. I made a last minute decision to tag along and had a BLAST. Spending a long weekend exploring the parks that I enjoyed as a kid, with a unique perspective, was so much fun. And has left me with some pretty special family memories.

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The most magical place on earth! #disney

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Driving on the World's best Road

I visited the Douro Valley for the wine, but getting there was truly half the fun – and one of the most memorable parts of our time in the region. The N-222 road from Peso de Regua to Pinhao in Portugal has been coined the world’s best road, and it was super cool to take the drive. The views from the winding roads were stunning, with mountains on one side and water on the other. We made countless stops along the way to snap beautiful photos of the mountain-side villages and wineries scattered throughout the region. 

See Also: If you’re planning to make a visit to this region, I wrote all about the Douro Valley in this post. 

My First Nordic Dinner Experience

On my first trip to Copenhagen in December 2017, during my first time visiting Sebastian in Scandinavia, he booked a dinner reservation at one of Copenhagen’s most popular restaurants: 108.

In an effort to impress me, he said “we’ll take the full tasting menu” and we indulged in an authentic Nordic farm-to-table dinner experience. The three hour ten (ish?) course meal with wine pairing was easily the fanciest dinner I have ever had… and maybe ever will have. Because in that very effort to impress me, he neglected to look at the menu prices. Needless to say, the price tag was a bit shocking. But arguably worth it for an experience we’ll both never forget.

See Also: My complete guide to visiting Copenhagen.

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keeping it cozy in copenhagen 🇩🇰

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Meeting Sebastian in New Orleans

Last but CERTAINLY not least. In fact, it is my most significant travel memory of the last decade because it has completely changed my life in the best way.

Sebastian and I met while I was visiting New Orleans on a bachelorette party. We met in a bar on Frenchman Street, and instantly connected. For obvious reasons, that night and the subsequent day remain SO special to me. 

If you’re interested in reading the full story, I’ve wrote all about it in this blog post.

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Can we just go 🔙 to the weekend, please?

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AND SO many more memories...

I could seriously keep writing and writing… because this highlight reel really doesn’t do the past ten years justice (and only scratches the surface of all the trips I’ve taken). Nevertheless, it’s been super fun taking this trip down memory lane… and seeing how much my photography/editing skills have improved. I hope I’ve maybe inspired you you to take a leap, book a trip, or add a bit more adventure to your life.

And if you’re interested in seeing what I get up to in 2020, and over the next decade, don’t forget to subscribe to my mailing list and follow me on Instagram.

cheers to the next ten years!

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