2011: A Year In Review For cherylhoward.com.

2011 was a very good year. In fact, it was a rather life-changing year for me as I finally took action to make some of my wildest dreams a reality. Getting over my fears of change and the unknown, I took “the plunge“, quit my job, sold almost everything I owned and left behind family and friends in Toronto all to start new in Berlin.

It was the best move I ever made. I now live in one of the amazing cities in the world and am able to frequently indulge in my favorite pastime which is of course … travel!

Here is a recollection of my ΓΌber cool year.

1 – Montreal – In February, I escaped Toronto for a weekend getaway to Montreal. Here I experienced my first ever hostel stay and learned to be less of a princess when it comes to travel.

A Weekend Getaway to MontrealMontreal’s Winter Landscape

While dining alone at Garde Manger, I happened to meet three really cool people who invited me to a jazz bar called Piano Rouge with them. We had a fun evening drinking, chatting and enjoying the live music. This is when I came to realize that solo travel doesn’t necessarily have to be lonely.

Piano Rouge In MontrealPiano Rouge

2 – Havana – in March, I took off to Cuba for five days. Continuing with my “travel on the cheap” theme, I stayed with locals at a casa particular instead of a resort or hotel.

Trip highlights included watching live rumba music in a ghetto neighborhood, walking along the Malecon, getting lost in Old Havana and taking in the beauty of Plaza De San Francisco.

Walking Along The MaleconWalking Along The Malecon

Partying with other travellers at the casa particular was also awesome! One night, I met two girls from Germany who helped convince me to move to Berlin. Another night, I hung out with a Swede and a Czech couple in the backyard smoking a giant cohiba and drinking rum and cokes under the stars.

A Motorcycle Taxi RideSpeeding Through Havana Via Motorcycle Taxi

3 – Italy – returning to the country that made me fall in love with Europe, two glorious weeks were spent touring Milan, Lake Como, Verona and Cinque Terre in June.

In Milan, I ate horse meat for the first time and romanced myself with an opera performance at Teatro Alla Scala.

Music Along The Canal In MilanMusic Along Milan’s Canals

Hiking and swimming in Cinque Terre was nothing less than amazing as was taking the walk of love (with another girl no less) and stumbling upon streets decorated with flower petals in Riomaggiore.

Swimming In Cinque TerreSwimming in Cinque Terre

4 – Prague – feeling a little down, I spontaneously headed back to one of my favorite cities for a little travel therapy in July. Some girls indulge in retail therapy and I jump on a plane or a train!

I wandered about the city taking in the now familiar sights. I smiled as I walked across the Charles Bridge one night as seven months earlier it was during a similar walk that I decided to move to Europe. And here I was back in the city again, with the sudden realization … I really did it and my dreams had come true.

Prague From Above.Prague From Above

5 – Rostock and Dresden –  as I was taking a German intensive course throughout August, I didn’t go far and only took a couple of day trips organized by my school. We hit up Dresden and Rostock during their Hanse Sail festival.

Ferris Wheel in RostockRostock

6 – Barcelona – a birthday present to myself in September, this marked my first time in Spain where I managed to spend five days eating tapas, tasting wine, admiring the stained glass windows of the Sagrada Familia and checking out a quirky flea market.

Low points were getting robbed and having terrible roommates at my hostel.

Torre Agbar In BarcelonaBarcelona By Night

To be honest, Barcelona is one of my least favorite places. After hearing so many good things from so many people, I came away underwhelmed and disappointed. Since I’ll be returning to Spain next month to spend some time in Costa Brava, I’m going to spend a couple of more days there to see if the city grows on me.

7 – Budapest – no sooner than getting back from Spain, I took off to Budapest. A city that makes my heart swoon, it was no surprise that my second visit there was just as fabulous as my first.

Making friends with several people from my hostel and my cave diving expedition, there were some late nights out clubbing and chilling at ruin bars like Szimpla. It was especially fun meeting up with John and Andrea from Inspiring Travellers!

Szimpla in BudapestSzimpla, A Ruin Bar

Of course, I headed back to the Szechenyi Bathcruised along the Danube, tasted Hungarian wine at Buda castle and walked for hours on end (as usual) even coming across a little park with a love locks site.

Where I couldn’t wait to leave Barcelona, I didn’t want to leave Budapest.

Love Locks in BudapestLove Locks

8 – Cologne – meeting up with a college friend from my DeVry days, I took in more of Germany when I visited Cologne for 3 days. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to sleep in a real bed (since moving to Berlin, I’ve been sleeping on couches and futons).

Here I sipped good beer, indulged in German food, checked out the Dom, took a cable car over the Rhine and even got a tattoo! This is where my obsession for street art began as well.

The Dom In CologneLooking Up At The Dom

9 – Szczecin one morning in November, myself and a visiting friend from Toronto decided to make a day trip from Berlin to a Polish border town. We had fun walking through Szczecin taking photos by day and later at night.

An Autumn Day in Szczecin Poland Trams in Szczecin

11) Amsterdam – along came December and I headed to Amsterdam for a fun weekend away! I loved this city a lot and am thinking about even moving there someday.

Bikes In AmsterdamBikes In the Dam

I spent my weekend exploring some weird, offbeat and unusual sites like a cat sanctuary on a boat and the newly opened Tattoo museum where I got yet another tattoo! It’s addictive …

I was also surprised to discover so much street art in the city … seriously couldn’t stop taking photos.

Inks From Cologne And AmsterdamTattoos From Cologne and Amsterdam

12) Toronto – arriving “home” in Berlin from Amsterdam for a mere eight hours, I un-packed and re-packed for a trip “home” to Toronto where I spent two weeks visiting family/friends and hitting up some of my favorite haunts like Pizzeria Libretto and Brazen Head Irish Pub.  A special treat was attending Toronto’s annual fundraiser for The Daily Bread Food Bank, known as Hohoto.

And just where is home anyway? Toronto? Berlin? I don’t know. I’ll be writing about this soon as it’s an interesting question for expats and nomadic types.

What an amazing, perfect, lovely, super, awesome, cool (I could keep on going) …  year! 2012 is shaping to be another good one and dare I say, even better? Stay tuned to the blog for even more travel adventures!

Founder of cherylhoward.com. Canadian in Berlin. Frequent traveller now at 43 countries and counting.


  1. Pretty amazing year, Cheryl πŸ™‚ I’m glad you decided to take 2011 by the balls and really become who you wanted to be πŸ™‚ Life is one big, grand experience. NEVER sell yourself short. I think this is what you got out of the year that was 2011. GREAT read!

  2. @Casey – Thanks sooo much for your kind comments. There was a time when I was afraid of absolutely everything and it was a long journey to get where I am now. Pretty happy with how things turned out!

    I think your 2011 was pretty great too, especially getting married! πŸ˜‰ Looking forward 2012 being another good one for us both.

  3. @Ebe – Me too and for us both! Hope we get to meet IRL sometime at one Berlin event or another. πŸ™‚

  4. @Tristan – It was so great to finally meet you … after all those years of talking on the FB and Twitter. Hope you’ll make it to Berlin this spring too. =)

  5. Inspiring story and summary, Cheryl! I’m back “home” in Vancouver for a few weeks, and I’m on the slow wander through North America as the start of this year’s RTW. I’m encouraged by stories like yours and by many of those who’ve been or who are still out on the road. Thanks!

  6. Well I’m glad that you got lesson #1 down β€” in many circumstances, fear is a waste of time and energy πŸ™‚ I’ll make sure to keep you in the loop on the madness I hope to get into!

  7. @Henry – Thanks and glad to hear! Good luck on your RTW tour. Surely, it will be amazing and you’ll have similar post to write next year!

    One of these days, I get to blogging about why I moved to Berlin in the first place … these kind of posts are much more difficult for me to write … stay tuned?! Ha ha.

  8. @Casey – I agree. One of my goals this year is to be more personal with my posts and I hope to talk more about my personal journey. And nice! Looking forward to hearing about this madness. πŸ˜‰

  9. Charles Bridge, one of my favorite places on planet Earth. My first visit I was unimpressed by the city, but when I left I couldn’t stop thinking about Prague.

    Also, yes, the “home” question is always interesting — I’ve realized that I call Berlin home because I essentially picked it as my own spot. Or at least I like to think it was my own decision. Ha.

  10. @Claire – Agree. A walk along the Charles Bridge is pretty epic! I have a feeling, I’ll be taking this walk at least a few more times in my life. Well, as long as I live here in Berlin and Prague isn’t that far away.

    I hear a lot of people say they dislike Prague … I really think it’s best to hit before high season. The sheer amount of tourists almost destroys it really. Also think that people who like Western Europe aren’t as attracted to Eastern Europe where it’s a little more rough and gritty.

    I feel the same about Berlin too! It’s certainly an interesting issue to explore … I’d no idea what it would feel like to move here or what it would feel like when I went to visit Toronto for the first time. For me, Berlin is definitely my home for now.

  11. Congrats on overcoming your fear of change! As someone who has packed it all in for the expat life I can totally relate to your story. I too use travel as a pick-me-up, and sometimes I even buy the shoes too!
    Keep going in 2012!

  12. Thanks for the shout-out, lovely! You’ve had an awesome year and we’re so happy we could be a part of it – wishing you an even more fantastic 2012…perhaps we’ll see you again? Looking like Europe could be a go for us for a move – will keep you posted…

  13. @Nancie – Thank you so much. Travel and shoes? Both totally awesome “vices”. πŸ™‚

  14. @Andrea – No problem! I hope to see you again. Can’t wait to hear your news about Europe. πŸ™‚

  15. @Samuel – Thanks. Same to you.

    @Christy – Yes, Havana was a huge adventure. Thanks about the tattoo. It means a lot to me! πŸ™‚

  16. I’m seriously impressed that not only did you make a huge move to Berlin, but you also traveled a lot in 2011! Hope you enjoy Barcelona more this time around.
    P.S. Cool tattoo!

  17. @Laurel – Thanks! I have one day in Barcelona after Costa Brava next month … I hope to have one enjoyable night there where getting pick pocketed will not be part of the experience.

  18. What a great year, with some beautiful photos to back it up! 2011 was good to me as well, as we left our home at the beginning of the year to do the same! Hope 2012 is filled with just as many great adventures.

  19. What an awesome year Cheryl!

    I’ve recently just moved to Rotterdam from Australia to enjoy the expat life, and I hope I get to have a 2012 European year like that πŸ™‚

    All the best for your travels in 2012!

  20. @Tom – thanks for your comment! I hope that you enjoy the ex-pat life in Rotterdam as much as I love Berlin right now. All the best to you in 2012, may we both have good ones! =)

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