2014 – A Traveler’s Review

I won’t lie- my annual end of the year wrap-up (see 2012 and 2013 here) is one of my favorite posts of the year.

And like 2013, 2014 was a big ‘un. In 2014 I took a four-month, round-the-world trip in which I bopped all over Europe, did a Yoga Teacher Training in India, trekked the Himalayas for ten days and returned to Southeast Asia for diving, partying and street food. After my trip I spent the summer in Michigan and settled down in Denver in October.

While I’m thrilled to finally be stationary I’m grateful that I got to travel as much as I did in 2014- I visited no less than 11 countries, 19 cities and six states, and slept in 47 beds, one tent, one floor and three couches.

Despite a few rough moments, 2014 was the best year of my life so I wanted to look back on all my shenanigans and adventures. And yes, there were many.


January was frigid. I spent January cooped up inside my parents’ house in Michigan blogging and freelancing, venturing out only for yoga class. Which ultimately was fine- I needed to save up for my world-trip!

One lowlight was getting my hand stuck to a door (briefly) when it was 20 below. Oh, Michigan.


In February I lost my well-paying job with Answers.com. In the end this was a blessing in disguise as I decided to leave my laptop at home and just travel again, free from stressful deadlines.

Best friend Alyssa in tow, I spent a few sunny days in NYC and then jetted off to Europe. We couchsurfed with a house full of Spaniards in London and rented a canalside house with Edna and company for Ventian carnivale. Both adventures involved lots of red wine and little sleep, as you might imagine.



I kicked off March in a pretty grandiose way; skiing in Switzerland. Ever since I was a wee tot in a ski harness I’ve dreamed of skiing the Alps, so I was thrilled to check it off the bucket list. And plus, I got to stay for free at a close family friend’s Swiss chalet- bonus!


Before leaving Switzerland I squeezed in paragliding in Interlaken and tobogganing in Grindelwald and Gstaad. (Which by the way is ridiculously fun- can we please bring all-mountain tobogganing to America?)

But truthfully my solo travel in Switzerland was my least favorite part of my European adventures- I was bored, lonely and paying way too much for everything.


After Switzerland I flew to London. My three weeks in London were a dream. My days went as such: wake up and have at least three cups of instant coffee with my lovely host, Amanda, wander out for eggs and soldiers, meet up with my little brother in Regent’s Park, explore food market in trendy neighborhood and/or enjoy picnic with pinot noir and pâté. Ad infinitum. (Well, I wish.)

DY Necklace

During my time in the U.K. I also popped up to the north of England for a week to visit friends, had Sunday roast in York and road-tripped to Wales, where I drunkenly attempted to swim in the glacially cold Welsh Sea- fail.

Next I Ryanair’d it south for a press trip in Madrid. Amanda, Julika, Jessica and I bunked up in an adorable rental apartment, ate Spanish ham, partied at Kapital and basically all became best friends. The four of us still talk daily and are now plotting our next “Sisterhood of the Traveling… Blogs” adventure.



April was split between Paris and India. Could two destinations be any more different?


In Paris I revisited all of my favorite people and haunts. It was lovely; I enjoyed balmy spring weather, charcuterie-laden picnics, reading seshes in the Place des Vosges and cider on the Seine. And the Parisian guy-friend I was staying with made me speak French the entire time which was great for my French skills!

From Paris I departed for Delhi to meet up with my good friend McCall. After a six-hour, backroads taxi ride we arrived in Rishikesh, our hair caked with dust, grime and god knows what else. (Driving in Northern India? Not fun at all.)

In Rishikesh we began our monthlong Yoga Teacher Training. As I’ve written, the training was tough; I abstained from just about everything and was surrounded by cow shit, flies and dahl, all of which wore on me quite quickly. But we spent the training with a wonderful group of international students and I got in the shape of my life, so overall it was such a worthwhile experience.



In May I graduated from Yoga School barefoot and bindi’d (no seriously) and the next day embarked on a ten-day Himalayan trek.


Hiking the Indian Himalaya was one of the travel highlights of my life. From singing Sanskrit songs with cute village kids to waking up to the Himalayas in all their snowy glory, the experience was as special as it was physically and mentally grueling.


After the Himalayas McCall, Joe and I enjoyed a well-deserved luxury weekend in Delhi and a trip to the Taj Majal at sunrise.

After one last delicious Indian meal Joe and I flew to Bangkok in the middle of a coup and rounded out the month on my favorite Thai island- Koh Tao.


I spent the first ten days of June on Koh Tao, despite my best intentions to leave much sooner. What can I say? I heart that little island.


But at least I got a few things done. I completed my Advanced Open Water, braved night-diving and saw my first muay thai fight. I also met an incredible crew of people and enjoyed the legendary Koh Tao nightlife.

Before leaving the island I met up with my friend Dylan (whom I met through friends in the north of England, incidentally) and together we endured a 24-hour slow-boat and bus journey to Malaysia. Within hours of arriving I was head over heels for Penang: a city of street art, colonial mansions and sumptuous street food.


After Penang we dropped by the snoozeworthy Cameron Highlands, and spent almost a week in Malaysia’s capital city. In KL I enjoyed a pretty blissful schedule: wake up, go find amazing street food, see a site, then head to the hostel rooftop for beer, hookah and karaoke. Rinse and repeat.

After KL I traveled solo to Melaka. There I connected with a Chinese-Malay girl on Instagram who ended up showing me around Melaka for the next couple of days. As always, I enjoyed travel so much more with a local as my host.

And after Melaka? I booked it to my favorite country in Asia, Vietnam. All I did in Vietnam was eat crazy quantities of Vietnamese food (obviously) and live it up on the Halong Bay party cruise, where I met another incredible group of people.


And at the end of June I flew back home dirty, sunburnt, broke and exhausted, but with a huge smile on my face. (Well once I got over jet lag, of course.)


Despite my best intentions to relax after four months of travel, I bounced around the states quite a bit in July. I spent the fourth in Chicago and road-tripped to Hilton Head for a week of drinking games and beach time.

I returned to Michigan in time to turn 24, celebrating with loved ones and a huge strawberry cake at my cottage.


I also threw the worst house party in the history of time, which my friends and I still refer to as “The Comedy of Errors.”


In August I spent a lot of time with my family up at my cottage but headed to San Francisco to look for an apartment. While San Francisco apartment hunting turned out to be a bust, I got to spend a blissful Labor Day weekend at my friend’s ranch in Montana.



In September I buckled down on finding a job. I also ran a 5K with my dad, cut off a significant amount of my hair and learned to brew beer.

While I tried to carve out a solid routine at home, in September I started to get restless and sick of living at home. And honestly began fearing I’d end up spending the winter unemployed and hating my life.


In October I thankfully landed a job with sovrn, a kick-ass digital advertising company, so I bought some work clothes and relocated to Denver. Working a 9-5 was certainly an adjustment. I learned a few things; commuting sucks, paychecks are great and ping pong at the office is the best.

By the time Halloween rolled around I was so tired from work that I fell asleep at 9 p.m. Womp, womp.


In November I got into the swing of a 9-5 and really started to love life in Colorado. I quickly made a close-knit group of friends and signed on 22 accounts at work in my first month, the company record! And things got even better when my best friend Alyssa moved to Colorado to be my roomie.

I also enjoyed a super-fun Friendsgiving at my friends’ beautiful Victorian home. While I missed my family and grandfather’s 25-pound turkey, I was still counting my blessings to already have close friends to spend Thanksgiving with.

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In December I continued to work hard at sovrn but slipped up on the blogging front- I only posted four times in December! I also continued to have a busy social life and even squeezed in a skiing trip to Winter Park with one of my best friends from high school.

At the end of December I flew to Florida to spend the holidays with my family. I took my 15-year old sister to Universal Studios to see Harry Potter World, where I proceeded to nerd out and photograph everything. (Seriously though guys- Hogsmeade was amazing.)

In Florida I also clocked an ample amount of beach time and slept in numerous times- glorious.

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Thank you all for coming along for the ride in 2014. I’m so looking forward to seeing what the new year brings us so here’s to a 2015 filled with health, friends, family and adventure.

Your turn! Tell me the highlights/lowlights of your year!

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

24 thoughts on “2014 – A Traveler’s Review”

  1. Wow – what a year!

    Congratulations accomplishing a lifetime of travel in one year. You inspire us all to get off our butts.

  2. Wow, what an amazing 2014 you had, Ashley. I wish you a happy and healthy new Year and all the best for 2015.

    While my first seven months of 2014 weren’t really spectacular, the last five months were even more. In August I spend almost three weeks in Dubai and Beijing, meeting friends who live there, hiking a non restored section of the Great Wall and one of my highlights: attending a Chinese Wedding. In October I returned to Beijing to spent more with my friends and to head on a 5000 kilometres long journey along the Silk Road of China across the country from East to West. And in November and December my boyfriend and I finally managed to travel together again after a lot of solo travelling. We spent time in Bangkok and travelled across Vietnam from to South. Let’s see what 2015 brings.

  3. Papa Lou and I just read your windup, he on his IPad and me on mine.
    Aren’t you proud of your grandparents?
    We stand amazed at your traveling life and love reading about it and
    Then commenting about it!
    May your new year be as good or better than last.

    We love you and talk about you often.



  4. What a year you’ve had! Those days in London really were the best! The pic of the White Horse makes me SUPER nostalgic. I hope our sisterhood of traveling blogs plan works out as we really need some more travel time together in 2015 :)

  5. You did more in one year than some will do in a lifetime. Happy New Year! Still such a shame we didn’t cross paths while in India, but I’ll be in USA July/Aug so maybe then!? If you’re back in Michigan :)

  6. What an amazing year you’ve had. I’m so happy I stumbled across your blog earlier this year. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your travel stories and I’m so excited to see what 2015 brings your way :)

  7. What a year. I love all the extreme’s- Paris to India, Koh Tao to Denver. As a fellow beer brewing gal, Denver is the right spot :)

    2014 saw the beginning of our RTW Trip and the end of two years of gruelling saving. It has single handedly been one of the best, most wonderful years of my life. Not only because we traveled all over Europe, Turkey, and Morocco but because I realised the strength of my own will. I saved up 25K before we left. I feel more proud of my self than when I graduated college. Still we are only half way through our trip so we’ll see what SE Asia, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan bring.

    Thanks for being such an inspiration.

  8. What an amazing year! I love these roundup posts :)

    Some of my highlights this year were visiting the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, attending the Sasquatch music festival at home in Washington State, adding five new stamps to my passport, and moving to Colombia at the end of the year. So stoked for 2015!

    Can’t wait to see what the new year has in store for you! Cheers to a fabulous 2014 :)

  9. I loved this post, Ashley! It’s so fun to see everywhere you’ve been the past year. What an amazing year of travel! I’m eager to hear more about Vietnam! Also, I’ll have to go back through your London posts since I’m going there in a couple weeks. Thanks for a great wrap up of 2014!

  10. So happy for you, Ashley! Sounds like you had an amazing year and have set yourself up for a great 2015 in Colorado. I’m ready to read some posts about what I should do when I go there!!

  11. That’s wonderful about 2014 being your best year ever and as they say, “there’s nowhere but up” :)

    You certainly had a myriad of geographical experiences! Glad to hear that you’re loving your new life in Denver.

    Highlight was my amazing trip to Peru/ lowlight-not sticking with some goals of mine (well, at all really) :)

  12. What an amazing year of highs and lows! I loved reading this post. I’ve only just recently found your blog so it was like a big recap rolled up in one to get me caught up!

    Hiking in the Himalyas has always been a dream of mine too. Bhutan is very high on my bucket list. The only reason I haven’t gone yet is because of the poor cell and internet coverage out there. I can’t be out of touch if I leave my little boy for any length of time and I’m sure as heck not going to take him to Bhutan at his age!

    Well done for being so courageous!


  13. Wow, seriously, what an incredible year! I pretty much want to do everything you did last year – the yoga training and himalaya trip sounds so perfect. Just found your blog and I’m stoked – really looking forward to seeing what adventures you get up to next!


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