2016 Reflections: 12 Inspiring Travel Bloggers 12 Amazing Tales

12 Inspiring Traveler Bloggers share their defining Travel moments of 2016 and exciting Plans for 2017

The curtains are finally drawn on 2016. And boy what a year full of surprises we had! From Britons voting for Brexit to Trump winning the US Elections to Modi’s daring Demonitisation act, 2016 will be remembered as a year of unexpected changes. While the intelligentsia and common man are reflecting on macro and micro impact of 2016, all I can say is 2016 was an amazing year for my wanderlust. I explored the unchartered territories and met some incredible travelers. I bumped into people who were separated by more than six degrees but united by a common passion. Not only I connected with them on a personal level but even gained priceless pearls of wisdom. Without further ado, let's hear from the 12 inspiring travel bloggers themselves.

1. Shane Dallas:

Shane 'The Travel Camel' Dallas is an avid adventurer who inspires people to take the road less traveled. He is probably the modern day incarnation of Ibn Battuta. Born in Australia but traveled to the most obscure places of the world, he truly defines what offbeat travel is. Also, he is a wonderful person who won’t think twice before answering even your silliest query.

What was the most defining travel moment for you in 2016?

On my birthday in September, I visited my 100th country - Iran. I never ever dreamed that I will achieve this number and sitting on that plane taking the short flight from Dubai to Shiraz felt like a dream, it didn't feel quite real. It took a few days after arriving for me to fully comprehend that I was in my 100th country.

What are you most excited for in 2017?

I'm starting to lead tours, and am very excited to show other travelers my favourite parts of the world. My Tajikistan Tour is already sold out, and I'm currently planning another tour to Iran. I'm also considering other places, such as safaris in East Africa.

Any travel tip you would like to share?

Slow travel is better travel. Not only is it cheaper but also it allows you more time to immerse within a destination and learn more about the people and places you visit. Slow travel allows a deeper travel experience.

Your best travel photo of 2016

A difficult one to chose, but if I restrict my choice to photos taken in 2016, the one I'm most proud of is this dusk photo taken at the Jame Mosque in Esfahan, Iran. It's one of the best sunset places in Esfahan. The spotlights caused a lot of lens flare, so I had to return two nights later to try different camera positions to minimize the flare. This photo is the result.

Jame Mosque in Esfahan, Iran

You can follow Shane’s adventures at thetravelcamel.com

2. Mike Shubic

If I were to define Mike, I would say ‘SMOOTH OPERATOR’. He is a one-man-Army with a spectacular body of work. What impressed me the most about him was his unflinching discipline towards his work. He is highly focused and passionate. Unlike many of us, he doesn’t procrastinate.

What was the most defining travel moment for you in 2016?

My most defining moment of travel this year might have been when a few travel bloggers and I veered off the path into the bowels of a very poor community in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. If you are from the West and think you’ve seen “poor” before and have never been to a 3rd world country, you’ve probably never seen anything like what I witnessed.

There were boys playing in a filthy canal with about 10” of water flowing through, scavenging for anything of value. Makeshift homes looked like they could fall down at the next gust of wind. Poverty was evident everywhere we looked. Once the boys in the water noticed us, their eyes lit up. They were very excited to see what was clearly four people of western decent that they don’t come across very often. We asked if we could take their pictures and they actually began posing for us. It was adorable!

As we strolled the alleyways, we ran into more kids who enthusiastically greeted us. Several adults appeared to find out what all the hoopla was about. Everyone we came across was so friendly, so eager to interact with us. We were not afraid or felt threatened in any way. At that moment I realized that despite their living conditions, and plight in life, these people were happy. If these people are happy with absolutely nothing, what right do I have to ever be sad or depressed, I thought. 

What are you most excited for in 2017?

Visiting a continent I’ve never been to before. I’m heading to Africa for a few weeks for an epic 3000k-road trip, where I’ll be visiting 4-5 southern African countries, staying at safari camps and visiting the great Victoria Falls. I will be doing this trip with a traditional travel journalist from South Africa who is telling me not to worry about being in the middle of nowhere, crossing boarders with armed soldiers who may not look favorably upon Caucasians and all the things that can bite, infect or kill me in an instant.

Any travel tip you would like to share?

Travel invariably frustrates us all with canceled or delayed flights or lost reservations, you name it. One thing I have tried to do is embrace whatever comes, as it is all part of the experience and often leads to the fascinating stories. 

Your best travel photo of 2016

I have some pretty amazing photos from my travels this past year, but one of my favorites is this aerial shot from Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia.

Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia

You can follow Mike’s adventures at MikesRoadTrip.com

3. Ajay Sood

Sometimes you meet a person and instantly connect with them. Ajay is that kind of a person. An incredible photographer who won’t think twice before sharing his photography tips with novices. After all the best in the class is never insecure about competition.

What was the most defining travel moment for you in 2016?

I am a travel photographer first and a travel writer later. I was invited to Stockholm by TBEX as a speaker on architectural photography. While waiting for my pre-BEX transport, my camera gear was stolen. It was not just one camera it was my entire camera kit worth US$12,000. In short, whatever gear I had carried to cover the European architecture was gone.

Europe can be expensive for any electronics purchase. But I had little choice. After checking around with a Stockholm-resident friend, I bought a Fujifilm X-T10 with an 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS. And, for the next two weeks, I was shooting with this new toy.

I normally tell my workshop participants that your camera gear does not matter, but your eye does. Till then, I hadn't had an opportunity to actually practice what I preached. This unfortunate theft actually made me shoot an entire 2-week trip with a gear I had never used before. So, I had no clue about its controls, its on-field response and its results. But shooting with this alien gear, I actually discovered what I used to profess - your camera gear does not matter. As its proof, all I can say is that the images I shot with this hitherto unknown piece of equipment have been welcomed and accepted by various magazines I regularly contribute to.

Which trip are you most excited for in 2017?

I am most excited about a trip to a speck on the map called Reunion Island. This island is about 225 km southwest of Mauritius. It is an island that formed as a result of multiple volcanic eruptions in the ocean and is a French colony today. What excites me is the claim of this island to give you a glimpse of all four seasons in a one-hour drive from the beachhead to the top of a 3,000-metre mountain. Additionally, I am promised a helicopter ride over the live volcanoes here.

Any travel tip you would like to share?

Instead of losing money in the conversion from your Dollars/Euros to the local currency, draw the local currency from the ATM. This way, you can draw what you need and not lose extra money in conversions. While most ATMs will charge you a fee for using a foreign debit card, there are always 1-2 banks that do not charge this fee. In finding out which are those banks, locals may not be of help; but if you ask around on online travel forums, you'll easily get that information.

Your best travel photo of 2016

My best photo is yet to be clicked. But, till then, this one would have to do.

State Historical Museum, Moscow

You can follow Ajay’s adventures at travelure.in

4. Melvin Boecher

Melvin is the perfect personification of his brand ‘Travel Dudes’. Being bitten by the travel bug at the age of four, he went on to create ‘Travel Dudes’, a community ‘By Travelers, For Travelers’. Germans are known for their impeccable timing and humility and Melvin is a living testimony of the same.

What was the most defining travel moment for you in 2016?

I've been working a lot in the recent years, which included many exciting trips for Travel Dudes. But in 2016, I had a proper 3-week holiday, which I spent with my family in Portugal. As a travel professional everyone thinks that you are on holiday all the time. And it's good that people see it that way, as others should not see the work behind it. This kind of work is a lot of fun, but can also be exhausting. So even travel professionals need a proper holiday from time to time.

What are you most excited for in 2017?

Right now I have no idea or any plans. That's what I'm excited about. My travel plans are mostly spontaneous. I am thinking of a 3-4 weeks trip, which might take me to Africa, Asia or South America. First South Africa was on my mind, but then Indonesia got added and why not add a different continent with South America & maybe visit Brazil or Nicaragua? We'll see what happens. Maybe I'll stick to Europe, which would be just as good.

Any travel tip you would like to share?

It's good to be prepared for a trip, but do not book everything in advance. Just pre-book one or two nights and then be as spontaneous and flexible as you can to see what comes next. Get lost in the new destination, absorb the local culture and wander around. Walk more than usual. Trust me you will have experiences, which you will never forget...and I can assure you 95% would be positive.

Your best travel photo of 2016

I have clicked a lot of good pictures in 2016 but the photo from Cuba is my favorite. I didn't know that my lens was dirty, but I think dirt gave that extra special touch to this photo.

Streets of Cuba shot by Melvin

You can follow Melvin’s adventures at traveldudes.org

5. Neelima Vallangi

There are very few writers whose eloquent writing can make you book your travel without searching for more details. Neelima is one. Her stories have a soul, which is hard to find unless you experience it yourself. I have not met her physically but the discussions we had virtually have been really insightful and inspiring.

What was the most defining travel moment for you in 2016?

Visiting the eastern most point of India, Kahoo, in Arunachal Pradesh was the defining moment of 2016 for me because that moment embodied everything that drew me travel in first place. My idea of travel was never about pretty places or a relaxing vacation. I have always been drawn to the unknown and unexpected, and Kahoo was exactly that. Kibithu is commonly known as the eastern most post of India but further ahead is this little village, on the edge of China from where I could see the Chinese villages, clearly visible to naked eyes.

No one in their right mind would visit this god forsaken place because there is nothing technically here to see as such except for buried frontier stories, but the immeasurable high of exploring the farthest corners of India was what took me that far. It was a defining moment because even though I might have strayed a bit in 2015 to foreign lands, I was instantly reminded then that what my heart truly desires is nowhere outside the borders of my country. 

Which trip are you most excited for in 2017?

I have made no plans for 2017 yet but keeping my epiphanies from 2016 in mind, I would be exploring the farthest corners and buried treasures of India more than anything else.”

Any travel tip you would like to share?

“Despite the craze for picture perfect Instagrammable vacations, I would implore people to look beyond their digital devices and social media updates to spend some time indulging in the cultural and social landscape of the place they're visiting. Go beyond the superficial to let travel be the transformative and educational experience it is known to be, rather than just seeing the pretty sights and coming back with little or worse, wrong understanding of the country.”

Your best travel photo of 2016

Sunset at Hampi shot by Neelima

You can follow Neelima’s adventures at travelwithneelima.com

6. Scott & Megan

If you ever want to know how does a made-for-each-other travel couple looks like, you just have to meet Scott and Megan. Scott gave a fantastic talk on Hyper-lapse Video at TBEX Manila, which unfortunately I missed. But every cloud has a silver lining and that missed session became my reason to interact with them.

What was the most defining travel moment for you in 2016?

For us, the most defining moment was when I proposed in Oahu, Hawaii and knew I was going to be able to spend the rest of my life traveling with my best friend. I’d been scheming about the proposal for two years and had this really fun hyper-lapse video planned to remember the journey and it just turned out great. Ironically the work we put into the proposal video has opened some doors for the next year.

Which trip are you most excited for in 2017?

The thing we are most excited about in 2017 is being able to visit a different continent. For the last four years we lived and worked in S. Korea for a year, used the savings to travel for a year and repeat. This will be the first time we don’t have to go back to a country to work and save up money. We plan on going to South America, which means I can finally use that minor in Spanish!

Any travel tip you would like to share?

Our advice is to realize you will never see it all. There’s a tendency to cram every possible thing into the trip. We recommend just choosing a couple must do’s and enjoying what else comes to you. Finally whether you are traveling solo or with a friend, travel can be exhausting, frustrating, and flat out boring at times. A sense of humor will get you through most of it.

Your best travel photo of 2016

Kula Lampur by Scott & Megan

You can follow Scott & Megan’s adventures at boboandchichi.com

7. Edin Rudin

Edin provides life goal to people looking how to live out of suitcases and carry everything from a screwdriver to a cutting board. She is an International full-time house sitter who loves cigars, good food and the company of good people. Besides being a charming traveler, Eden is a social media and online branding strategist with a passion for Facebook. Again, a very humble and accessible person.

What was the most defining travel moment for you in 2016?

The most defining travel moment for me in 2016 was a 3-hour taxi ride we had in Morocco. We had been in Morocco for less than 24 hours and on the last leg of our 6-hour travel journey we were packed into an old Mercedes Benz, used as a taxi, with the driver and 2 other passengers, one of whom spoke some English. For 3 hours, non-stop, they talked in Arabic. And Arabic is a boisterous language it was a bit overwhelming. The reason that a simple event became so defining is that not only was it the first time, in a long time, we were diving into a completely new culture and totally unknown to us country, but every travel experience from that one forward would be new to us in 2016.

Which trip are you most excited for in 2017?

In 2017 I am most excited about applying for residency to Portugal. A country fell in love with this past summer during an extended stay.

Any travel tip you would like to share?

Travel tip would be to understand and fully research the entry requirements to a country before you put it in your plans. And read the information from not only government websites but travel blogs with recent experience. The government site will tell you the details but the recent travel blogs will tell you the real details of what happens.

Your best travel photo in 2016

The best travel photo for me of 2016, a sunset on the beach of Lagos, it reminds me of the start of new adventures that took place in 2016.

A sunset on the beach of Lagos by EdenYou can follow Edin’s adventures at thesocialgarden.net

8. Tim Leffel

A soft-spoken storehouse of knowledge, Tim is an award-winning writer who has been blogging continuously since 2003 with his Cheapest Destinations blog. What impressed me the most about Tim was the real life solutions he offered for practical problems. I thoroughly enjoyed his talk on Accomplishing Great Things: Productivity Tips and Trick for Bloggers

 What was the most defining travel moment for you in 2016?

The defining moment for me was sitting on a private beach on our own beach on a private island in Fiji with my wife as we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary and thinking...we're pretty darn lucky to be able to do this.

Which trip are you most excited for in 2017?

I'm taking a trip to India and Nepal at some point to research the upcoming 5th edition of The World's Cheapest Destinations. I haven't been to either in a very long time, so I'm looking forward to returning and getting lots of great photos. I'll be hitting a few countries in the Balkans too tough to decide which I'll add. I haven't been to any of them, so that will be a completely fresh experience, with some adventure activities built in.

Any travel tip you would like to share?

Slow down! There are way too many frantic travelers bouncing from place to place like pinballs, snapping their selfies and then scrambling to the next place. It's hard to get the essence of a country and its people that way plus you spend twice as much money as you need to on transportation. Leave some empty space in the schedule and don't plan everything in advance. The magic happens in the spaces in between.

Your best travel photo of 2016

The picture taken in Fiji is my best photo of 2016. It was pure bliss and incredibly beautiful. #NoFilterNeeded

Fiji Island by Tim You can follow Tim’s adventures at timleffel.com

9. Nisha Jha

I have a special bond with Nisha. She was the judge when I first won an award for travel writing in 2015. From being complete strangers we finally met in 2016 in a foreign land. She is a warm person who is very passionate about traveling. The love of travel comes first for Nisha than anything else.

What was the most defining travel moment for you in 2016?

I would say the most defining moment in 2016 was facing the super typhoon named Lawin in Ilocos, Philippines. Till then, I had only heard about typhoons, watched on TV how destructive they could be. Experiencing it first-hand taught me that life is full of surprises and you can happily face it if you are surrounded by people with positive vibes. 

What are you most excited for in 2017?

Oh I am excited about more travels! On a serious note, would like to do some more slow travels, more voluntourism and meaningful travels instead of rushing from one place to another. I would also like to visit few new countries.

Any travel tip you would like to share?

Travel with an open mind, it teaches you a lot of things. 

Your best travel photo of 2016

There are many, can’t choose just one. So a sunset from 2016.You can follow Nisha’s adventures at lemonicks.com

10. Nina Ragusa

The first time I met Nina was during our Corregidor tour in the Philippines. A girl with an infectious smile and cute hairdo was moving around with her GoPro. It was later I found out more about her. She is an inspiring woman who dared to make a difficult dream come true.

What was the most defining travel moment for you in 2016?

My defining moment of 2016 was actually towards the very end of the year. Just recently, December 6th to be precise, I finished a whole year living and working in Australia. It was actually a really rough year because all I did was work. That’s it! This was a defining moment for me because I worked really hard and saved a bunch of cash to really pursue my dreams and make 2017 the best year yet. I have lots planned for my travels and my blog and it was all because I toughed it out working 40, 50, sometimes 70+ hours a week and not spend a dime on fun! Now, I get to reward myself MASSIVELY in 2017.

Which trip are you most excited for in 2017?

2017 is going to be an epic year. I already have the first quarter of the year booked out as well as a few other trips scattered throughout the year. My hard work has already paid off as I have some exciting partnerships to announce, I’m touching the ground on three continents, and I’m even going to one of my best friend’s wedding in Iceland! To choose one thing I’m excited for is literally impossible. I’m excited for all of 2017 because everything I’ve been working on for years is finally coming into place in 2017. So I’m ready for it! Definitely follow along and see what I get up to!

Any travel tip you would like to share?

I don’t really have any particular tips to share with other travelers, but I guess the one thing I would want to say to everyone in general is, work for it. Don’t just dream it, don’t just hope for it, don’t just pray for it. Whatever “it” is, you need to work for it. Nothing will be handed to you, get out there and make it happen. It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, but it will be so worth it.

Your best travel photo of 2016

This is probably one of my favorite pictures of all time. I’m in the Philippines on a gorgeous island eating a feast. This style of eating in the Philippines is called a boodle fight. You eat with your hands on a big table, no utensils or plates. I love everything from the beautiful local woman serving to the epic backdrop of the crystal blue waters.

Boodle fight meal at Philippines by Nina

You can follow Nina’s adventures at Where in the World is Nina?

11. Richa Gupta

There are very few people who are straightforward, don’t compromise on their principles and stay true to their core values. Richa is that person. A very clear-headed girl who knows what she wants. I haven't met her in the offline world but I truly admire her passion for traveling and storytelling.

What was the most defining travel moment for you in 2016?

When I spent a month in Japan, the culture took me by surprise. There are so many unique things about Japanese culture and mannerisms that a month seemed too short to experience even a tiny speck. Fortunately, I had wonderful hosts everywhere I stayed and they were too sweet to show me around their local spots. Once, I was even a part of a private music fest, organised & attended by a group of 30-40 friends (only), somewhere in the mountains amidst a little clearing by a waterfall. There were loads of performances, fire shows, food stall, beer, crazy music, and dance. Everything was organised and performed by friends only -  no outsiders or hired helpers. That night, I saw an alternative side of the Japanese and it was very very cool!

What are you most excited for in 2017?

I am keen on learning some basic Spanish and traveling through South America towards end of 2017! Particularly, Chile and Argentina.

Any travel tip you would like to share?

Travel light. Seriously.

Your best travel photo of 2016

Tough choice, but this one.

You can follow Richa’s adventures at travelsandstories.com.

 12. Deepika Gumaste

Strangers are friends you haven’t met. This saying perfectly fits Deepika. A beautiful person who took the plunge to follow her heart. Her stories are unique and have a journalistic flavor to them. What I like most about her is that she is in her own league and not at all insecure about other's success. Isn’t that the way everyone should be?

What was the most defining travel moment for you in 2016?

2016 has been a defining year in terms of travel and therefore it is difficult to pinpoint at anything. I managed to take an independent trip, finally took that Ladakh trip on a bike and had an accident in the Himalayan valleys (a scar I will proudly carry like a badge from the trip), went in search of a story to the Living Root Bridges which got published in The Caravan Magazine. I went to Sri Lanka (Come on, who goes there, when we can go to Maldives?) and was pleasantly surprised. I had gone to Sri Lanka with no expectations and returned back with one of the best travel lessons- "You will be floored when you expect nothing!" All in all, 2016 is the year, I can say actually began the journey for me 🙂

What are you most excited for in 2017?

I am excited that there are no plans made for 2017. This means I am ready to take those surprises and drive the curves thrown at me by life.

Any travel tip you would like to share?

Don't plan. None of my 2016 travels was planned (except for the Ladakh trip, really!). May be the trick lies in not planning. Isn't that an adventure?

Your best travel photo of 2016

Plenty though, difficult to zero down on one. Yet, I think this is the one. It's not as professional as I expect it to be. The storm and the serenity together, Ladakh

You can follow Deepika’s adventures at feetonthemap.com

These were the 12 inspiring travel bloggers I met in 2016. There are lot more people worth mentioning like Shivya, Anton, Bill, Pooja, Maria, Salonee, Stephen, Georg and Takashi who have been inspiring millions of people through their passion for traveling. I am truly blessed to have known them.

Have you come across any such inspiring travelers? Would love to know your feedback.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 🙂

May 2017 be the best year of our lives!

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