Favorite Travel Experiences 2017

2017 was an eventful year, filled with lots of adventure. So much adventure, that it was difficult to decide my favorite experiences of the year. I really want to shout, all of it, but there were some great highlights, so in no particular order, here are my favorite travel experiences of 2017.

Snorkeling Granito de Oro Island, Panama

Snorkeling around Granito de Oro Island was a fantastic experience. Being my first time ever snorkeling, I was grateful for Liza from Uncruise, who patiently instructed me and the other novice snorkelers.

We saw colorful fish, a sand shark, and one of favorite moments of the year, watching a hawksbill turtle swim to the surface.

Read More At: Snorkeling Granito de Oro Island-Panama 

Guesting on a Travel Podcast 

I have a bit of a podcast addiction. I love podcasts and podcasters. They are my life-lines during my long, cubicle filled, days, so I was ecstatic when one of my favorite podcasts, Travel Stories, asked if I’d like to be a guest on the show. I still have a hard time believing that this actually happened.

It was a wonderful experience. I had a great time chatting with Travel Stories host, Hayden Lee, during recording, and for a long time after we were finished recording. He is a cool, fascinating guy, with a calming, hypnotic voice. Right now he is motorcycling around Europe, so I recommend checking out the podcast to hear all about his latest travel experiences.

Read More At : Guesting on a Travel Podcast 

Paragliding in Cape Town

Paragliding was on our bucket list for a while, and the experience did not disappoint.

We went with Cape Town Tandem Paragliding, and we are now hooked. It was such a relaxing, peaceful, and eye pleasing experience. I look forward to paragliding in our future travels.

Making New Friends

Being an introvert, I was nervous about the prospect of having to spend a week trapped on a boat with strangers, during our Uncruise. Not only was there nothing to be worried about, all of the crew and fellow guests were amazing, interesting,travel enthusiasts. We disembarked with lots of new friends, that thanks to social media, we’re able to remain in contact with.

I think making new friends is one of my favorite parts of traveling.

Sunset on Table Mountain

After postponing paragliding, due to the wind, we scrambled to find something to do on Friday night in Cape Town. We decided to go Table Mountain to watch the sunset, and it was amazing!

Absolutely breathtaking.

Cruising through the Panama Canal

Cruising through the Panama Canal is on a lot of people’s bucket list. I feel eternally grateful that we were able to check it off of ours.

We were in sheer awe of the massiveness of the structure and the intricacies of the operation.

  I highly recommend cruising through the Panama Canal.

Read More At: Cruising Through the Panama Canal with Uncruise 

South Africa Wine Tour

Not just one of the best wine tours, but one of the best tours we’ve ever been on. We went on a wine tour while staying in Cape Town, with Wine Flies.

Mark, our guide, was awesome. We got to visit five beautiful wineries, each with its own, unique vibe.

A lot of food was included, from cheese, to our yummy braai lunch, to a chocolate and wine pairing.

It was a marvelous day.

Wild Life, Wild Life, and More Wild Life

From helmet lizards and sloths in Costa Rica, Elephants and zebras in Botswana, and penguins in South Africa, this was a spectacular year for this wildlife loving girl.

Read More At:

Morning on Coiba Island-Panama 

Exploring Curu Wildlife Refuge- Costa Rica 

Manuel Antonio National Park-Costa Rica 

Chobe National Park-Botswana 

A Private Dinner on a Boat in Africa

After our sunset cruise commenced, we found out that we were the only people to book dinner after the cruise, so we ended up having a private, lantern lite, delicious dinner, on a boat, on the Zambezi River in Africa.

It was a dining experience we will never forget.

Read More At: Zambezi Sunset and Dinner Cruise – Zimbabwe 

Creating an audio tour for VoiceMap

Like being asked to guest on a podcast, I was equally surprised when I was contacted by the app VoiceMap and asked if I would be interested in creating a Philadelphia audio tour.

It was an excellent travel writing experience and I felt very accomplished, and was very proud to represent my home city, after completing my audio tour, Art and Controversy in Philadelphia 

Clearly this traveler was having the best day ever. He even dressed up like Rocky to run up the “Rocky Steps”

The project was made even better, when I got to meet Gary and Ian from VoiceMap when I visited Cape Town. There are a lot of great audio tours on VoiceMap, so definitely check them out.

Read More At: Creating an Audio Tour for VoiceMap

Kayaking Around Isla Tortuga 

All of the kayaking that we did during our Uncruise to Panama/Costa Rica was impressive, but kayaking around the rock formations near Isla Tortuga was my favorite.

The sky was perfect, the water clear and blue, and the scenery was stunning.

Read More At: Kayaking Isla Tortuga – Costa Rica 

Good Friday Procession in Casco Viejo, Panama City

Because of how our Uncruise was scheduled, we spent the day in Panama City on Good Friday. We discovered that on Good Friday, the thing to do is to walk a particular route, and visit all of the historic churches in Casco Viejo. We picked up a map, and decided to join in.

The churches were beautiful and it was a lovely, moving, experience.

It was my favorite unplanned activity of our travel year.

Read More At: Good Friday Procession-Casco Viejo-Panama 

The Penguin Experience at Two Oceans Aquarium

I was going to lump this in with wildlife, but Shannon insisted that Hopper the Rescue Penguin get his due, and I agree.

At the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa, you can spend an hour with rescue penguins in the penguin enclosure (the proceeds go towards penguin conservation).

They don’t guarantee that the penguins will want to interact with you, but we barely sat down, when Hopper waddled over to us and jumped up on our laps.

 He loves attention and he hung out with us the whole time, letting us pet his head and scratch his belly.

He was the coolest. We were overjoyed by the experience.

We were fortunate to be able to take two trips of a lifetime during 2017 and we knocked quite a few things off our travel bucket list. We can’t wait to see what travel experiences 2018 brings.

If you’re looking for a fun travel community to join, check out WeekendWanderlust 



  1. Amy

    December 28, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    What an amazing year! Great work Sarah; I didn’t know you wrote an audio tour! When do we find out what you’re up to in 2018? 🙂

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      December 28, 2017 at 7:55 pm

      Thanks. It was an amazing year. I always feel like our schedule is up in the air. I never believe we are going on a trip until we are taking off on the plane. Hopefully 2018 will be Florida, Alaska, and Finger Lakes, New York

  2. Brian - EatWorkTravel

    December 30, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    It’s such a treat when you end up getting a private experience because of being the only one to book! Paragliding looks amazing, we were supposed to do it in Queenstown but it got canceled twice due to weather and we didn’t get to do it. It’s on our list to try in 2018. Happy New Year!

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      December 31, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      Here’s hoping you get to go paragliding in 2018. The weather in Cape Town was crazy the week we were there with lots of wind. We were lucky to get a small window when everything was perfect. Happy New Year to you too!

  3. Picturing The Life I Will Create: 2018 Goals - Jessica A. Walsh

    December 31, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    […] my brother Doug who travel all over who have inspired me and made travel feel more accessible. (Just read my friend Sarah’s post on her favorite 2017 travel experiences and you’ll see ….) Secondly, my friend Glenn died this month and I was reminded once more of just how short life […]

  4. Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net)

    December 31, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    What a great year, Sarah! How did you like snorkeling? It’s one of our favorite activities, and getting to see a turtle is very exciting! We’d love to sail the Panama Canal – a definite line item on our bucket list. Here’s to 2018! We hope it’s even better! Thanks for sharing on #WeekendWanderlust.

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      December 31, 2017 at 9:46 pm

      Snorkeling was amazing! I can’t wait to go again sometime in the future. I liked going with a group, because people could spot something you may have looked over. Happy New Year and I hope you have fantastic travels in 2018!

  5. Rhonda Albom

    January 1, 2018 at 8:01 am

    What a fabulous year you had. I wish I could have spent more time (like you did) in Central America. I would have loved to see a hawksbill turtle while snorkelling.

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      January 1, 2018 at 5:50 pm

      We’re hoping to spend more time in Central America in the future. There are still some countries we need hit up. Central America is great. I love the weather, nature, and how relaxed everyone is.

  6. Anf Braybrooke

    January 1, 2018 at 9:19 am

    What a fantastic year! Wine, Snorkelling, Table Mountain… what more could you want? I’d love to do pretty much everything on this list (I hadn’t actually thought about sailing the Panama Canal before, but maybe it is one of the bucket list?). Have a fantastic 2018!

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      January 1, 2018 at 5:52 pm

      Definitely make time for the Panama Canal, though I’d recommend doing it on a smaller ship as you really get a sense of the enormity. A lot of people on our ship weren’t super excited about going through the canal before we started, but everyone admitted at the end that it was an amazing experience. A fantastic 2018 to you as well.

  7. Victoria Marie Lees

    January 1, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    This is awesome, Sarah! I think I’ve said this before…I want to come on your next adventure. I’ve shared this post online. More power to you in 2018. Let me know where we’re going and I’ll carry your bags, do your laundry, do the shopping, pour the wine… You name it, I’ll do it!

    1. obligatorytraveler@gmail.com

      January 1, 2018 at 5:57 pm

      Thanks so much Vicki! We’re in the process now of working out all of the details for our trip to Alaska in July. Laundry is going to be a must as we’re doing a cruise, then spending a little over a week exploring on our own. I’d love to have someone do it for me, LOL.

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