Our Best Travel Moments Of 2021

It seems we won’t have any usual year anytime soon, so here’s a summary of another unusual one – that actually turned out better than we expected.

Okay, it turned out worse, too, in many ways. Like we hoped that COVID restrictions will ease by the summer, but surely by the end of this year the latest. Instead, summer travel was more complicated than last year. Restrictions are kept and are getting stricter again. But we don’t focus on the cancelled Christmas markets, because we’re in our own bubble falling in love with our new home in Canada, taking rainforest walks and finding a new waterfall each weekend. 

Because the most significant event for us this year was certainly moving to British Columbia! And right after that, the province had the most devastating floods in the past 30 years… A dream come true? Well, I’ll get back to that in a minute.

First, let’s see numbers – and how useless they are

Whyte Lake Trail, West Vancouver, BC, Canada

Rainforest walk in West Vancouver

The number of countries we visited, of course. It’s 7 – Hungary, Austria, Serbia, North Macedonia, Spain, Greece and Canada. Strictly speaking, only one was new to us: North Macedonia.

The funny thing? Canada was on the list of visited countries, because we’ve been to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. We haven’t seen anything else, and moving to British Columbia was also our first time in this giant province.

Teide National Park, Tenerife, Spain

Spain is kind of the same. We’ve been to Barcelona earlier, but this year we spent three weeks in Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, and it’s like a different world. Spain, but not mainland Spain.

Visiting Greece also meant another new island in the Mediterranean: Crete. We had less time in the Balkans than what we wished for, but we spent a great two weeks in North Macedonia, and got a taste of Southern Serbia. We did countless local trips, so it’s no surprise that we travelled the most in Hungary (in the first half of the year) and in British Columbia (in the second half).

The year of fulfilled dreams: moving to British Columbia

Lindeman Lake, BC, Canada

Fall colors at Lindeman Lake, BC

It’s too easy to say it was a dream come true, and not even fully accurate. Ever since we had a chance to live in California for a year, we were yearning to return – to California, to the West Coast, to North America. But also, we were yearning to explore many places in the world – and more than simply traveling. We started dreaming about spending months or even a few years in different countries, to experience them on levels that are not possible on a few weeks long road trip. I guess, the fancy term here is slow travel.

Cypress Mountain, BC, Canada

Cypress Mountain after the first November snow

So we were researching opportunities that would suit us as a family with a small kid in the midst of a pandemic. One of our options was applying to jobs that would give us long term visas to stay in North America. This was the way that worked: Csaba got a job opportunity in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia. It was not his first application, and he’s been applying to positions for years. Not every day, but from time to time we searched for opportunities, evaluated them, and applied for them. And we’re so grateful we didn’t give up!

If a dream becomes real, you need to embrace reality

Rice Lake, BC, Canada

Hiking to Rice Lake from North Vancouver

On the other hand, the transition was harder than we expected. We had a settled life in Budapest for years, and we had to start many things from zero here. We have a toddler who can’t magically disappear while both of us jump headfirst into the zillion tasks of settling down. And COVID makes it extremely hard to build new relationships.

But the hardest part is behind us by now. We have a life here – with challenges, but also with magical experiences and new impulses every other day! We’re in love with Vancouver, the ocean, the mountains. (Not with the rain.) Where we live is a paradise for nature lovers, and we’re falling for it even more on each hike.

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Vancouver harbor after sunset

Cypress Mountain, BC, Canada

Views from Cypress Mountain

Green Lake, Whistler, BC, Canada

Walk on the Valley Trail in Whistler in December

No, it’s not the same as it was in California. This is a different place, and we are also different people. It is a dream come true, but it’s not all rainbows and unicorns (though we did see some spectacular rainbows during this rainy fall).

Our favorite destination this year: Tenerife

Yet our favorite destination in 2021 is of another kind. Tenerife spoils its visitors with the most perfect climate we can imagine (not too cold, but not too hot either), and such diverse landscapes and parks that we haven’t expected from a relatively small island. Especially not from one that we imagined mainly as a resort island (it’s not!).

Benijo Beach, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Those three weeks we spent in Tenerife were the best three weeks of 2021. It was one of those rare trips without any issues or unpleasant surprises. (Okay, those came before and after the trip… 😛 But our time there was perfect – just what we needed then.) It was full of wow moments. Full of fun family moments on the beach, incredible hikes and scenic drives. Sunshine, flowers, cacti and the countless shades of green and blue.

It also happened at the very best time: at the end of a long winter with the same grey days when we really needed something to be excited about. In the midst of the most strict local and travel restrictions, the reason we chose Tenerife was that it was one of the few places open to European tourists (with certain conditions) and had a direct flight connection with Budapest. And oh, this island made us feel alive again! We got so excited that we know we’ll return to the Canary Islands again, and we hope that our second time there will be much longer than a few weeks.

Teide National Park, Tenerife, Spain

Read all the articles we wrote about Tenerife:

A surprisingly underrated country: North Macedonia

Gradishte beach, Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia

We’ve been planning a Balkan road trip since ages. Though we are far from a proper one, we spent two weeks in North Macedonia this June, and also visited some places in Southern Serbia on the way.

What tempted us to North Macedonia of all countries in the Balkan? Two things – one is Lake Ohrid. The other is that this country is quite unknown and barely visited by foreign tourists. There are few of these gems left in Europe, and North Macedonia spoiled us with amazing landscapes, an interesting mix of cultures, friendly locals – and yes, Lake Ohrid, too, which lives up to its fame, and no, it’s still not crowded.

So all we could say is: visit this country before it gets flooded with visitors – like parts of Albania, Bosnia or Montenegro.

Lake Kozjak, Jasen Nature Reserve, North Macedonia

Read all the articles we wrote about North Macedonia:

The eternal love: Greece

Falassarna Beach, Crete, Greece

The island of Crete was another place that we visited on a whim, because I spotted a very cheap air ticket in the middle of summer. We knew we’d love it (it’s a Greek island!), and so we did. It was so hot that we spent most of our time on the beaches – magical beaches! Even when we did a few short hikes, the destination was a beach – and those beaches are the best!

We’d love to return to Crete for hiking picturesque and challenging gorge trails and seeing more of its cultural treasures, but this time, we didn’t mind just enjoying the beaches. Turning two years old in August, Tomi was also at an age when he truly knew how to have fun in the water. While we usually don’t plan our travels around particularly kid-friendly activities (since kids find everything exciting if you let them explore on their own way), this beach holiday was just what we needed as a family. It was a holiday: relaxing and beautiful.

Read all the articles we wrote about Crete:

The bittersweet goodbye: Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

We’ve been preparing to move to Canada (and been waiting for all the papers to get approved) the whole summer. It also meant that we spent most of the summer saying goodbye to Hungary. We visited many places that we love, and we even explored some new ones. It’s not that we would never return – on the contrary: we surely will. Our family lives there. It’s our home –  and it always will be. But it will be different. And it won’t happen soon either.

We especially enjoyed spending time in the Balaton Uplands in July. This region is one of our favorites in Hungary – it has beaches, food, wine, scenic hikes, castles and castle ruins, and it looks and feels like Tuscany. 🙂

Read the articles we wrote about Hungary this year:

Our plans for 2022

Pitt-Addington Marsh, BC, Canada

Winter views from Pitt-Addington Marsh, BC

Those times when we had our air tickets half a year before a carefully planned trip are long gone. We have a (long-long) list of places we’d once love to visit, and if we can make any of it happen any time, we’ll jump on the opportunity. That’s our plan. And traveling locally.

Because living here feels a bit like traveling, anyway. We have a settled life, yes, but most places near and far are new to us, and we’re so excited to take trips! We hope that by the time the summer season comes, we could even do some longer road trips in British Columbia and Alberta. We don’t dare dreaming of exploring Canada thoroughly anytime soon. We’d love to, but it’s giant! (And let’s face it, many areas are best to visit in the summer. 😛 )

Cypress Mountain, BC, Canada

Pine forest on Cypress Mountain, West Vancouver

Though I really tried not to use the word slow travel too much in this article (because it became such a cliché), our travels have gotten truly slower since Tomi was born. You can’t do a jam-packed one and a half week road trip including three countries with a toddler – not in a way that anyone would enjoy. Sometimes we wish we could see a bit more, but we’re mainly grateful that it turned out this way.

We’re finally at peace with the fact that we might not visit many countries ever, maybe not even 40 in 40 years – but then what? Those that we visit, we want to explore deeply and meaningfully. We don’t travel to collect “new places”, we travel to make memories. And we got back with amazing, heartwarming memories (and an unmanageable amount of pictures) from every trip we’ve taken with our son so far.

Trail to Steelhead Falls, BC, Canada

Rainforest walk in British Columbia

Does that mean we gave up on our dream list? No. But we don’t look at it like something we should complete (not possible, anyway), rather a list from where we can pick anything and turn it into something wonderful. And for 2022 we prioritize the places that are (relatively) close to us since we moved to British Columbia, so our dream list looks something like this: Banff, Yoho, Jasper and Kootenay National Parks, Northern Rockies in BC, Alaska, the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii. We know we can’t visit all of them, but we’ll surely make unforgettable memories at some of these places.

How was your 2021? Any plans for 2022?

200+ Travel Tips For Hungary

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It takes effort and careful planning to get the most out of your vacation days each year. We help you with complete travel itineraries, based on our own experiences. See them here! Give travel experiences as a gift with Tinggly.
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By Beata Urmos

Bea is the co-founder of Our Wanders. She’s the writer and the trip organizer, and she’d love to help you plan your own amazing trips! She likes hiking, good novels and chocolate, as well. Her motto is: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” (John A. Shedd)

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