Goodbye 2016: What We Learned and Loved This Year

As 2016 draws to a close, we are reminded not only of the struggles and losses of the past year, but the joys and successes as well. There were moments that made us question ourselves and our roles in the universe at large, but there were also times that made us laugh harder and appreciate each other more. I do not believe in forecasting, worrying about those things out of our control and making ourselves miserable. Instead, I choose to encourage everyone to live each and every moment to its fullest and tell your loved ones what they mean to you every chance you get. 2016 may have tossed us around, but it also opened our eyes and brought us plenty of joy. Here is what we learned and loved this year.

goodbye 2016-Kids Are A Trip

1. Seeing the world both near and far away

This year we learned not only explore the beauty in our back yard, but to go out of our comfort zone and see what life is like in undeveloped parts of the world.

In June, I traveled with my two older boys to the Dominican Republic with now defunct Fathom Cruise lines. We spent four days in Puerto Plata getting to know the locals. We taught English at a local school and worked in a cacao factory.

I still struggle to put into words what that experience meant to us. We learned not only about ourselves, but about the importance of family and what little you need in life to be happy.

Our youngest son stayed at home with dad and when I asked him what he wanted for a souvenir, he asked me to go and buy a souvenir for a child in the Dominican Republic and give it to them.

Which is exactly what we did. There were two little boys sitting outside the cacao factory (where their mother worked) and we bought them chocolate bars (a real treat according to their mother). The smiles on their faces tell the story. I wish they were still offering the Fathom journey, because it was valuable for so many reasons.

Goodbye 2016 Memories of the Dominican Republic-Kids Are A Trip
So maybe only one of them was smiling…

 2. Making new friends and valuing the old ones

I went through a phase after the birth of my first child when I was sure I would never make a new friend again. Boy how things have changed.

This year I have been blessed beyond words to have met so many people from all over the world that I count as friends. I have an amazing group of “old” friends as well, and I love how we encourage one another and won’t stand for any drama or nonsense.

This past year we made memories, shared many laughs, and even shed a few tears. All of these people bring something special to my life and I love them all.

Goodbye 2016: Travelocity Gnational Gnomads-Kids Are A Trip
Some of the newest friends from the Gnational Gnomads crew.
Photo credit: Mike Howard

3. Reinforcing the importance of family

As our kids get older, they want more freedom, which is great, but it is equally important to spend time together. My husband says it is ironic that as a family travel writer I travel 90% of the time without my family, and it’s true!

I hate that part, so I make a concerted effort to find moments for togetherness (insert my teenager’s eye rolls here).

Whether it’s family movie or game night or just dinner where we all sit at the table, we need to have something that is “our time”. I will continue to work on this in 2017, hoping it is making a difference.

Goodbye 2016: Picnic in Central Park-Kids Are A Trip
Family is everything!

4. Realizing life can change in the blink of an eye

I haven’t written about this, because every time I think about it I start crying. A couple of months ago, when I was in Mexico, I barely escaped death.

I was in a convoy of passenger vans headed out for a fun day of exploring, chatting with the other passengers, when all of the sudden our van lurched to the right and dirt and shrapnel started raining down on my side of the vehicle.

Our driver slowed down and when we looked behind us, we could see that the car that had been traveling about 10 feet behind us had been slammed into head-on by a truck that came from the other side of the highway.

It was clear at that moment there was no way the driver had survived the crash. It wasn’t until later we learned that both the driver and passenger of the car lost their lives, and the child and adult in the back seat were taken to the hospital in critical condition.

The driver of the truck that crossed the divided highway was drunk at 8:30 in the morning. Things could have gone differently. I am so thankful for our driver. His quick thinking and alert driving saved our lives. I wake up every morning thankful I am alive.

5. Facing our fears

We had many moments this year where we came face to face with things that made us uncomfortable. For our youngest son it was climbing to new heights on a ropes course adventure and riding a horse for the first time.

For our middle son it was surviving the New Year’s Eve size crowd in Times Square after Alicia Keys decided to have a “pop up” concert. He had to stuff his claustrophobia and muster through the madness.

For our oldest it was trying a ride at Holiday World, only to find out it ruined his equilibrium for the rest of the day. My biggest fear had to do with roller coaster rides as well and I found myself suffering through many this year all in the name of “fun”. At least my kids were happy.

Goodbye 2016 Ropes Course Challenge Facing Fears-Kids Are A Trip
Carpe diem!

6. Seeing the Chicago Cubs win the World Series!

I don’t think I would be a true Cubs fan if I didn’t include this in our favorites of 2016. I was lucky enough to see the Cubs at spring training this year, and watched the final game from my hotel in Cancun (which was not the same as watching it with my family). It was a wild ride, and we loved it!

Goodbye 2016 Chicago Cubs Win-Kids Are A Trip
Love our Cubs!

7. Finding beauty everywhere

In our busy lives, we often overlook the beauty around us. This past year I really tried to point out to my kids the beauty that can be found in nature. We made time to unplug. We had fun playing in the snow, hiking through the forest, and making sandcastles at the beach. I also tried to catch as many sunrises and sunsets as possible. They can be truly spectacular, and they’re always different. For 2017, we plan on more of the same. Not just finding beauty in nature, but in the world we live in and the people that surround you. It’s there, you just have to look a little harder.

Goodbye 2016 Make time for sunrises-Kids Are A Trip
Make time for those sunrises.


  1. This is such a heartfelt post, Kristen. I’ve experienced some of the same things this past year. My kids are in the process of moving out and planning their own adventures, which leaves my husband alone and out of my travels. This year I’m saying no to trips without him and planning more for the two of us. Have a great 2017! I hope our paths cross sometime this year. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen you.

  2. What a year you have had. I love how you have and continue to roll with life. Enjoy 2017 and I hope to see you again in real life in 2016. Your posts are inspiring and they also offer great travel tips.

  3. Yay, Cubbies! I never thought I’d see it, but I was so happy for the team when they won! My parents no longer live in Chicago, but they were happy, too.

  4. Wow what a memorable year! So many amazing experiences and great lessons learned. I love posts like this that reflect back on the year that was! Here’s to an even better 2017!!

  5. this is such a beautiful post. You did some amazing things this year. I love how you bought chocolate for the children and captured their joy on camera. I think your facing fears part is so important! We have to challenge ourselves and it’s great to do that.

  6. Some truly inspirational stuff there. Well done. Be proud. Love them Cubbies too! 🙂

  7. You look like you had some great memories this year with your family. I’d have to say my favorite memory this year is getting to spend more time with my kids. There wasn’t anything particular but just getting all of these memories i will never forget.

  8. oh-my-gosh…. that must have been terrifying for you in Mexico. Wow. You are right in appreciating every moment and not knowing what will come next. So sorry you had to experience that… hugs to you! Here’s to 2017…

  9. The part about the near miss in Mexico stopped my heart. I am so grateful that you had a quick thinking driver. You must be destined for great things!

  10. This is such a wonderful post. I love how you broke down the year into categories. I may have to do a similar method in my journal!

  11. Awe it made me smile to hear that your son wanted to give his present to a boy in need! It’s great you have them chocolate. My favorite moment of 2016 was quitting my biggest vice and starting healthy hobbys such as guitar and blogging (: !!!

  12. It sounds like you learned a lot of great lessons this year! I really learned to value my family as well. Insightful post!

  13. Wonderful to reflect on what the year has taught us. That is really scary what happened in Mexico though. My heart breaks for the lives lost, but glad you guys are okay.

  14. Love this post! Thanks for sharing both the good and bad. I hope you have many wonderful adventures with your family in 2017. I have always treasured our family vacation time and think it is such a special way to grow together and make memories that will last a life time.

  15. Wow! You’ve had quite a year! So many experiences and challenges … and the near-miss with the truck. Yikes! My favorite memory of 2016 was being together with my family at Walt Disney World. I love my family so much. Happy new year!!

  16. Disney World does provide some of the best memories. Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2017!

  17. Thank you! I think it’s always important to look at both sides of the coin. Family vacations are truly something we treasure. Happy 2017 to you!

  18. Oh Amanda, it was the worst. All of us that were there that day will never look at things the same way again. I hope 2016 was kind to you and I wish you a wonderful 2017.

  19. Thanks Samantha. I feel every year we learn something new! Happy New Year to you!

  20. I love that you were able to quit your biggest vice and start two new hobbies! Both my kids started guitar but I couldn’t get it to stick. Would love for them to pick it up again. I hope 2017 means you more happiness and continued success.

  21. Thanks Cynthia. I love that you have a journal. I barely have time to keep up with my emails! : ) Happy New Year to you!

  22. Oh boy Terri I hope that’s what it means. Things could have gone so differently. I’m just thankful every day to be here. May 2017 be an amazing year for you!

  23. Thanks so much Karen. It does really put everything in perspective. Wishing you a wonderful 2017 as well. Cheers!

  24. I hear you. Every moment we spend with our kids is important. Happy 2017 to you!

  25. Thanks. Those Cubbies sure were fun to watch…happy 2017 to you!

  26. Thank you Angela. We are so fortunate. We need to reminder ourselves of this each and every day. Wishing you a wonderful 2017, may you conquer many mountains!

  27. Thank you Angela. Here’s hoping that 2017 comes close. It was a pretty great year. Wishing you a wonderful new year!

  28. Yay Cubbies is right. It was such an experience for us all and one we will re-live over and over again in our hearts and minds. : )

  29. Thank you Sara. That means a lot coming from you. I hope our paths cross again in 2017. I would love to see you again!

  30. Wow! You are definitely going through some changes, but I hope you and your husband can find some new adventures. Wishing you a wonderful 2017 and I do hope to see you in the new year!

  31. What a year. I admit I resonate with #4. My friend has been in ICU for 3 weeks after being hit by a DUI hit and run. Life can change in the blink of an eye.
    My favorite memory of 2016 was Hawaii, and doing the manta ray snorkel at night. Seeing the majesty of these creatures extremely close was amazing

  32. I do think a lot of times we don’t realize that what’s around us in the moment is so beautiful, and we seek to travel to amazing destinations to find beauty but it’s right there all around us. This is a heartfelt and beautiful post. I loved 2016, but cheers to more opportunities and happiness in 2017! xx Adaleta Avdic

  33. You are so right about the blink of an eye. So glad that you and your family are ok. My goal is to find away to spend more time with my family together. Hope you have a happy new year and may 2017 be filled with health and happiness.

  34. Amazing life lessons from a year that just passed by. Love that you’ve looked so deeply at the key events and made such lovely observations for future!

  35. Oh Di, I am so sorry to hear about your friend. Sending many prayers your way. And on a side note, I bet the manta rays were amazing!

  36. So true Adaleta! Beauty is right beside us, we just need to look. Happy New Year to you!

  37. Wishing you a beautiful 2017 as well. I hope you find that time you are seeking.

  38. Thank you! Happy 2017 to you!

  39. It looks like you had a wonderful year! You had some incredible adventures and love from friends & family. I hope you had a great New Years!

  40. Thank you! I hope you have a wonderful 2017 as well.

  41. Thank yo Silvia. I hope you have a wonderful 2017!

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