50 Best RaulersonGirlsTravel Photos of 2019 (Year in Review)

Heather at the Spanish Steps in Rome

This year has been full of ups and downs, but most of all, it has been an adventure. I started the year off by packing up what I could carry in an Osprey 65L backpack and headed out for the unknown. My first year as a digital nomad took me to 16 new countries (23 countries total), 386 cities, 63,721 miles traveled over 343 days (air 55,604 miles, bus 4,505 miles, train 1,895 miles, car 1,594 miles, boat 119 miles), wrote 67 blog posts, sold photos on stock and SmugMug, and led me to live the life that I was supposed to have. Wow! The total distance I have traveled this year is equivalent to circling the earth 2.6 times. Here are the best RaulersonGirlsTravel photos of 2019. Heather and her backpack

Heather at the Spanish Steps in Rome

Dublin, IrelandDublin Sunset

Dublin was one of the first few countries that I visited in January with my good friend, Rebecca from Rayner en Route. She is my travel partner in crime, and we hit quite a lot of countries together in the first month of my travels. I visited Ireland in 2018, but it wasn’t until this year that I correctly explored Dublin. Love this city!Colorful umbrella reflections in a puddle I even took a day trip with Gray Line Ireland to Northern Ireland to see Dunluce Castle, Giant’s Causeway, cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and walk into the Dark Hedges. Heather at the Giants CausewayDark Hedges

Nice, FranceCouple feeding seagulls in Nice, France

The South of France is the perfect place to visit in January. With the rest of Europe covered in snow, I was walking around Nice with a light jacket. France has always had a special place in my heart, and Nice just added to it. Originally only scheduled to stay a few days, I ended up extending my visit for a week. This allowed me to explore the area, including Monaco, Èze Village, and my favorite Saint Paul de Vence. St. Paul de Vence, France

Bratislava, SlovakiaHeather sitting on the stairs in Bratislava Castle

Bratislava, Slovakia surprised me with its charm and with the number of things to do and see here. Rebecca and I worked with the tourism board and experienced terrific museums, restaurants, tours, shops, churches, and restaurants. I want to go back and spend some more time exploring this enchanting city.Heather with Man in Sewer - Bratislava Statue

Vienna, AustriaHeather jumping in front of Schnonbrunn Palace

Vienna is an exceptional city to visit for a weekend, but even better if you can stay a little longer. Rebecca and I had so much fun taking photos at Schonbrunn Palace. I was also fortunate to meet up with another friend, Leigh, from Campfires and Concierges. We were able to explore the city for a day then go to the opera. You can’t beat spending time with wonderful friends in amazing places like these!

Chiang Mai, ThailandBaby Elephant Throwing Dirt on Back

My first venture into Asia was unexpected and truly eye-opening. I had no idea that I would end up living in Chiang Mai for a total of 4 months this year. I completely fell in love with the people, the food, and the laid back atmosphere where it seems that happiness is so easily found here. The cafes and working spaces were so convenient, which made it easy to get so much work done here. And every few days, I would take off to do some exploring. It could be anything like walking around neighborhoods, the old town, seeing the handmade crafts, chasing waterfalls, hanging out with elephants, or visiting over 65 temples there was never enough time to see everything. And I still have so many more stories to share with you. Hand-painted Umbrellas in Chiang Mai, ThailandTemple Bells in ThailandHeather Photographing the Unseen Hidden Cliff Temples in Thailand

Chiang Rai, ThailandWhite Palace in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Chiang Rai is a city north of Chiang Mai that is a convenient stop before taking trips to Myanmar or Laos. But, besides being a stopover town, it has some fantastic places to see here, including the Blue Temple, the Black House, and the White Temple. You can easily spend a day exploring these three places or stay for longer and explore more of the surrounding area.

Luang Prabang, LaosKuang Si Waterfall in Luang Prabang, Laos

Reaching Luang Prabang, Laos is an adventure in itself. I took a slow boat for two days along the Mekong River. You can see elephants bathing in the water, kids hawking home-made bracelets, small villages, and even crops burning on the side of mountains depending on what season you are traveling. Even with all of that excitement of the scenery, the boat ride is the most serene and peaceful ride I have had in a long time. I just kept leaning my head on my arms out the window and breathing in the air and watching it all as we floated on by. Once in Luang Prabang, the big highlight is the Kuang Si Waterfalls. These were astounding cause you could go in and swim in the lower falls. A fantastic experience to have, especially with all the little fish circling your feet. Squeal!Slow Boat from Thailand to Laos on the Mekong RiverKuang Si Lower Waterfalls in Laos

Milan, ItalyRoof of Milan Cathedral

I spent five weeks exploring Italy this summer. I had a general idea of where to go, but mostly I winged it and wandered through the cities without a real plan. This was a bit scary, as most people know I’m very organized. I was trying something different on this trip. Sometimes it didn’t work out, but overall it was a great trip. Milan, one of the fashion capitals of the world, was one of the Italian cities that overwhelmed me. Everything seemed over the top – in a good way, though. From the walking along the roof of the Cathedral, browsing the top of the line stores in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and feeling humbled at the Monumental Cemetary, Milan is a city that needs more than a couple of days to visit. Reflection of Rowers in a Shell in Milan

Venice, ItalyGondolier on Venice Canal

Venice was another Italian city that wasn’t what I expected. I spent more time avoiding the crowds by spending the day exploring the colorful houses on the Venetian Islands and waking up before the sun to capture shots of all the sites without the hundreds of people standing in front of them. It was sad to see all the flooding that happened, but I’m glad that I was able to see it before that. I do want to go back there to experience Carnival and buy a mask. It is hard to get gifts and souvenirs when you can’t add extra weight to your backpack. Gondolas in Venice, ItalyColorful Houses in Burano, ItalyColorful Houses in Mazzorbo, Italy

Florence, ItalySunset in Florence, Italy

Now, Florence was my favorite city in Italy! This is a city that I would feel right at home living in. I felt perfectly comfortable walking along the streets, saying Ciao! to the locals, the art and architecture, and the food! The food was Fabulous! (singing that). I made sure to try a different dish at every place I ate at and even took a cooking class. This is something that I’m starting to do in new countries, so; I can learn how to make local dishes when I’m back home. Cathedral of Santa Maria del FioreDavid Statue in Florence, Italy

Cinque Terre, ItalyManarola, Italy

If you are planning on taking a day trip from Florence, Cinque Terre should be on your must-see list. I spent a whole day going from Manarola, Monterosso, Riomaggiore, and Vernazza. It was so much fun swimming in the Mediterranean sea, taking a boat ride on that same sea, exploring the narrow streets with tall colorful buildings, walking in old churches that somehow makes you feel more holy just by being inside them, and of course, eating pasta. Vernazza, Italy

Tuscany, ItalyTuscan Countryside

What can you say about Tuscany that hasn’t already been written about, painted, or been in a movie except that to be here in person eclipses all of those and more! I scheduled a day tour through the Tuscan countryside exploring Siena (Palio di Siena happens twice a year, and I got to see one of the races), San Gimignano, Chianti, and even Pisa. I’ve never been a big wine drinker or knew too much about the industry. So, to have part of the tour give me a wine tasting, I was surprised to find that I enjoy a glass of Chianti. Wine Tasting in Tuscany, ItalyPalio di Siena - Horse Race in Siena, Italy

Rome, ItalyHeather at the Spanish Steps in Rome

Many of the cities in Italy are too crowded for Rome, and I was one of them. I’m glad to have visited and seen the majority of the main sites, but I prefer smaller and more local places. Having a friend that lives in Rome mentioned that I have to come and stay with her next time so, I can experience a different side of Rome is something to look forward to. I did visit the Arena, the Forum, the Spanish Steps, and of course, Trevi Fountain. I even tossed a coin and made a wish. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I made the wish on the wrong person. Let’s chalk that up to that I will return to Rome in the future!Colosseum in RomeHeather at Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

Vatican City, VaticanThe Vatican in Rome

Visiting the Vatican was unbelievable. I didn’t get to see the Pope, but the buildings that I went through were filled with some of the most beautiful artwork and paintings that I have ever seen. And nothing can compare to seeing the Sistine Chapel. Although a bit crowded, it is inspiring to be there in person.Sistine Chapel's Ceiling

Portmeirion, WalesPortmeirion, Wales

Portmeirion is a charming little village that looks like Alice in Wonderland, and Disney got together and created this colorful oasis in Wales. You can visit a castle, take a tram through the forest, eat delicious gourmet food at lovely restaurants, browse or shop in the small stores, or even stay on the property itself to enjoy the area without the day crowds. The gardens, flowers, and forest areas offer many photographic opportunities. I had a field day taking hundreds of photographs of this village.

North WalesRed dragon of Wales

Wales weather was a bit unpredictable the six weeks I spent housesitting over the summer. There were many raining and dreary days, so whenever the sun came out, I hopped on a bus to explore a different part of Wales. I visited castles, beach towns, and historic villages, but what I enjoyed the most was my ride on the Welsh Heritage Railway through the Snowdon mountain range. The weather was sporadically rainy, but that didn’t stop me from sitting on my very own open-air carriage on the train. I moved from one side to the other, taking pictures of everything I could see, including this little red dragon of Wales perched on the rock. My time in Wales couldn’t have happened at a better time. The peace among some stunning natural environments helped me get through a difficult time and bring me back to my happier self. Heather at the Great Orme, Wales

Edinburgh, ScotlandScottish countryside by the River Forth

Edinburgh, Scotland, has and still is one of my favorite places to travel to. Although this year, it was the place of confrontation that I desperately needed to get past what was done this summer. Even with that, I was determined to take back this city from the hurt and claim it for myself since I haven’t been able to do it for Rotterdam. Maybe someday I’ll reclaim that one. I was able to see new areas of Scotland (Dean Village, Dundee, and lots of Outlander filming locations) with some amazing girls, and we were all able to help each other to heal. Empowering each other as women is a powerful thing!Dean Village in Scotland

Strasbourg, FranceFlowers in Petite-France, Strasbourg

Celebrating my birthday abroad isn’t an unusual thing for me. And this year, I chose to spend it with my good friend, Michelle, and her family in Strasbourg. We had a blast exploring the city and walking around Petite-France. This city is so pretty. I would love to come back here and see it all decorated for Christmas.Reflections of Timber-framed Houses in Strasbourg

Riga, LatviaRundāle Palace in Latvia

Traveling to the Northern countries in Europe has always been on my bucket list, and Latvia was a great start to completing my list. I went here because I was coming to one of my many travel conferences I went to this year. Part of going to the conferences is that the host city sets up tours for you to experience their city to the fullest. I was able to visit Rundāle Palace, have a delicious lunch at the hotel Mazmežotnes Muiža, and make a flower garland headband at Abgunste Manor. Abgunste Manor is the place that spoke to my heart. They allow artists to stay here and create. And if you leave something completed with them, you can stay for free. I am definitely going back there to paint.Costumed Tour Guides in Rundāle Palace in Latvia

Riga is filled with light and dark experiences. I had my first experience with muggers trying to take my camera out of my backpack. Don’t worry; I got it back with no issues! Latvia is also the first country for me to experience the atrocities of World War 11. Walking through the Jewish Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum was eye-opening. And then following that up with visiting the Salaspils Concentration Camp Memorial was incredibly moving. Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust MuseumFlowers at Salaspils Concentration Camp Memorial in Latvia

Hoi An, VietnamHeather and Lyla in a Basket Boat in Vietnam

My last destination for 2019 had me in Hoi An, Vietnam. Asia is slowly creeping up on me to becoming my favorite place to stay for longer than a week’s visit. Hoi An is a fabulous destination filled with fantastic tailors that made me gorgeous custom-made dresses, great traditional dishes that I learned how to create, beautiful colored lanterns, and my favorite is that it was right by the water. One of the things I have come to realize this year is that I get energized and reinvigorated when I am by water. My short stay in Hoi An wasn’t nearly long enough, but it was enough to help me refocus on what my purpose is and my goals for why I am traveling this big amazing world. Lanterns lit on boats in Hoi An, Vietnam

What is in store for 2020?Heather at My Son Temples in Vietnam

One of my friends, Lyla, told me that 2020 is the Year of Transformation. I love that! Next year is going to be big for me. With all the information I have gathered recently, my goals include getting published in print. I am going to be submitting articles to be published in magazines, and I’m planning on writing a book on the crazy that happened this year. Don’t worry; I’m still going to be keeping up writing on my blog. I love that I can share my stories with you and let you experience parts of the world that you haven’t thought of visiting before. Although I do hope that I am inspiring you to get out and see some of this vast big world that we live in, I can’t wait to see how much I am going to be transformed and what I will be capturing for next year’s Best RaulersonGirlsTravel Photos of 2020. I hope that you stick with me on my journey. Let me know what you think. Comments are always appreciated on all my posts!

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Further Reading

If you would like to see the previous years in review, check out these posts:

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  • Andrea 24June2020 at 10:58 PM Reply

    I love the picture of you in Hoi An! That was also one of my favorite cities visited in Vietnam.
    I’m sure 2020 wasn’t what you expected, but I hope you can get back to traveling and adventuring again soon!

    • Heather 25June2020 at 9:16 AM Reply

      I loved Hoi An and would love to go back to Vietnam and explore some more. I’m sure 2020 isn’t what you expected as well. Here’s to hoping we both get back to traveling soon.

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