Year in Photos: 2017

Year in Photos 2017
Posted by on December 16, 2017

Year in Photos: 2017

I know I say this every year, but y’all, what a year 2017 was. Three or four months of road-tripping across two different countries. Awesome professional projects, some new and some old. A fair bit of hiking (though never enough!). Last-minute birthday trip to Siberia. And so much on the horizon for 2018.

As with similar posts for 2015 and 2016, I want to take a minute to look back on the year that was and think a bit about highlights, lowlights, memorable moments, and what’s to come. I’ve chosen below not necessarily my favorite photo from a given month, but the one that most captures at a glance the tone or activity of that moment in time. Some positive, some reflective, some defining. (If you’re just looking for pretty pictures I took this year, you can also see those on my Instagram or Facebook Page as I put together my Top 10 for the year.)

Before the photos, however, a few stats from 2017. Travels in 10 countries (3 of those new to me – Belarus, Latvia, and Russia),  59,078 miles flown on 12 airlines, something like 15,328 photos taken (of which only 3,777 made it into the archive and an even smaller sliver of that have seen the light of the web). That’s all less than the year before, surprisingly, though I feel like I’ve been busier in 2017 than ever before.

Oh right, and one more thing. Since I obviously did an awful job of updating this site in 2017 (which may or may not change next year), I’ve left links below to various other places I’ve published this year. Give ’em a read if you like, as a few elucidate on what I’ve been up to in the past year in more detail than this post will, others a from previous years’ experiences that I finally got around to pitching somewhere.

Ruins of a Catholic Mission in Texas' Rio Grande Valley.

Jan – Researching Texas

I started off 2017 picking back up on a Lonely Planet guidebook research that I’d stopped just before Christmas – Texas. My responsibility was the Rio Grande Valley and Texas Gulf Coast, so a few days into the new year I packed up a rental car and headed off across the state towards the border. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Texas, but mostly the east and center, so this really was a new experience and a culture quite unlike the rest of the state – it was a nice reminder that even places that are familiar can sometimes surprise us.

Inside the Bishop's Palace in Galveston Texas.

Feb – …Still Researching Texas

This was a long project, especially when accounting for write-up, so it took up most of my February as well. This month was more about the Gulf Coast, a long drive up from South Padre Island to Galveston and Beaumont, and while it’s a region of the state I’m far more familiar with it was interesting in its own way to see the area during snow bird season instead of mid-summer. I also earned like 100,000 Hilton points these two months, so there’s that as well.

Photo of the Week: Keren Camel Market in Eritrea; GoMad Nomad, 20 February 2017

What It’s Like In: Texas’ Rio Grande Valley; GoMad Nomad, 22 February 2017

Goat-carcass polo and sheep-bone marbles: Central Asia’s traditional sports; Lonely Planet, 22 February 2017


Photo Shoot on the Museum Island in Berlin.

Mar – Conferring in Berlin

Before settling back into a routine in Bishkek, there was the small matter of the world’s largest international tourism exhibition in Berlin. We went to the exhibition hall every day and so exploration was mostly limited to evenings and a few bonus days before, but despite being quite busy it was nice to get to check out a new city during the in-betweens. Afterwards, it was finally time to get back to Bishkek and focus on a new project (which, incidentally, is still ongoing nearly a year later).

Finding Four Sisters: secret valleys of the Sichuan Himalaya; Lonely Planet, 1 March 2017


A cemetery in the Jumgal region of Kyrgyzstan.

Apr – Making Maps

Maps! Any hiker who has been to Kyrgyzstan knows that a lot of the trekking maps are out of date – some of them not updated since the 70’s or before – so I’ve been working on a side project for much of the year in helping prepare new trekking maps for much of the country. They’re finally just about ready, and I’m super stoked to see the result of something so many people have put quite a lot of effort into over the past year. I also managed a quick trip to the Jumgal region of Naryn in April; fast, but fun, and it gives me a spark to get back and explore the area a bit better.

Slowing down in Sichuan’s most charming old towns; Lonely Planet, 12 April 2017


Reflections on the South Shore of Issyk-Kol Lake in Kyrgyzstan.

May – Kyrgyzstan Photo Shoots

Again, a month of movement. May started with a quick visit to Astana (in Kazakhstan), continued with a mini-trip through Issyk-Kol to do a little photo shoot on the lake (see above) and then take the GPS and data for a few hikes for that trail mapping project, and then ended up with another fast visit to the US for my little sister’s high school graduation. I’ve basically been on the road since May, or at least it feels that way, so if I can’t find the energy to run off on a trip the next few weeks… this is why.

Introducing: Boz-Uchuk Lakes Trek in Kyrgyzstan; GoMad Nomad, 1 May 2017

Best of China 1st Ed. (Sichuan); Lonely Planet, May 2017

Discover China 4th Ed. (Sichuan); Lonely Planet, May 2017


Roadtripping in Kyrgyzstan outside of Kojomkol.

June – Road Trip: Kyrgyzstan

Roaaaaad triiiiiiiiip! I *did* manage a pretty cool trip starting in June though. Out of Bishkek, down through Talas and Suu-Samyr, back around to Sary-Chelek and Jalalabad, and then onwards in July. There were so many bits of Kyrgyzstan that have been on m list for years now, and this summer was finally the chance to get out and visit a bunch of them. Updating a guidebook for the country is, perhaps, the perfect excuse to do it; though it does mean the pace of travel stays a bit faster than might otherwise be desirable. June was a great start to the trip, though, and a really good experience in what it still one of my favorite countries anywhere in the world.

China 15th Ed. (Sichuan); Lonely Planet, June 2017

Escape from Xi’An: Hiking Huashan; Lonely Planet, 8 June 2017

Ask GoMad Nomad: What to do on a layover in Athens, Greece; GoMad Nomad, 22 June 2017

Get off the beaten track in Kyrgyzstan; Lonely Planet, 29 June 2017


CBT Yurt Camp at Tulpar Kol lake in Kyrgyzstan's Alay Valley.

July – Road Trip: Kyrgyzstan

The road trip continues. From Jalalabad, I continued on to Osh and the Alay Valley before swinging back through Jalalabad city and across the mountains to Kazarman and Naryn. I *still* haven’t managed a visit to Saimaluu-Tash, perhaps the last major attraction in Kyrgyzstan that eludes me, but spent quite a lot of quality time exploring Naryn oblast – something I’ve never spent much time doing before. These whole two months were pretty fast-moving as I was trying to get that guidebook wrapped up in time, but it really was nice to have a chance to spend several months on the ground in rural Kyrgyzstan after having dipped quicky in and out so many times before.

Hiking up the Ala-Kol north pass in the Tien Shan mountains near Karakol in Kyrgyzstan.

August – Into the Tien Shan!

It took a bit to finish up that guidebook submission – there’s a lot to talk about in Kyrgyzstan, after all – but early August saw it wrapped up. And then, finally, the hiking! It started with some little day stuff out of Jyrgalan, continued with a four-day horse trek in the Alay region, and wrapped with six days of amazing mountains from Boz-Uchuk to Jeti-Oguz right across Ak-Suu district to the south of Karakol. Even better was the company – a bunch of awesome travel bloggers, whose adventures in Kyrgyzstan I’ve gotten to read about over the last few months: Global Gallivanting, the Crowded Planet, Pimp My Trip, XPat Matt, Tim Leffel, Greg Snell, and Jeff Bartlett. An epic month full of excellent people and a couple of adventures – I couldn’t have asked for any better end to the summer.

Discover Kyrgyzstan Blogger Campaign; Travel Concept Solution, 9 Aug 2017

Everything you need to know: Hiking the Issyk-Kol Trail Network; Wanderlust UK, 24 Aug 2017


The Gates of Minsk illuminated at night in Belarus.

September – On Vacation

Still travel – and much of it still in Kyrgyzstan – but a lot less goal-oriented and a lot more fun. It wasn’t really all vacation – much of the Kyrgyzstan stuff was to get photos or do write-ups of areas I still needed for those maps, for example – but it was tons of time in the mountains and then a quick visit to two new countries: Belarus and Latvia. One highlight was getting the chance to go *again* to Kol-Suu lake, for the second time this summer. Still thinking a winter trip up there needs to happen this year as well!

Clifftop monasteries of Meteora, Greece.

October – Gallivanting in Greece

Well, ok, gallivanting may not be the word exactly. I did have some responsibilities in Greece, but I also got to spend time showing some folks around really cool places – Athens, Delphi, and Meteora (my first visit, and wow!). I’ve been to Greece a few times before, of course, but it had been long enough and I’ve spent so little time in Europe this year that it felt almost like a mini-vacation to go back. Well, and of course the fact that I took a mini-vacation on the way to Athens… 🤔

The Cities Book 2nd Ed. (Ashgabat, Asmara, Bukhara); Lonely Planet, Oct 2017


Bishkek's central Ala-Too Square illuminated at night.

November – Catching Up in Kyrgyzstan

November was mostly about Bishkek – hanging out, catching up on work, visiting new cafes and bars and restaurants. There was fun stuff too – Son-Kol in winter, a weekend in Siberia, and lots of opera and ballet.  After such a busy summer that took so long to wind down, though, I often wanted very little more than hanging out drinking coffee and reading or getting work done. Life can’t always be some grand adventure, after all.

This Kyrgyzstan city is using local culture to welcome travellers; Lonely Planet News, 7 Nov 2017

New tours connect travellers with local culture at the gateway to Kyrgyzstan’s mountains; Lonely Planet News, 29 Nov 2017

Tasting at Bayou Rum Distillery in Lacassine, Louisiana.

December – Louisiana Roots

December, mostly, was about home – Louisiana. Flying back for two friends’ wedding in Alexandria, heading down to Lake Charles to eat a ton of Cajun food (for research!) and take a little road trip (really, research!), then back to stay with the family through Christmas. Not to fear though – I’m leaving again on the 27th to head to Moscow for NYE!

Kyrgyzstan scoring a goal against Kazakhstan in the final match of kok boru at World Nomad Games 2016 in Issyk-Kol.

Looking Forward: 2018

So, that was my 2017. Already tentatively planned for 2018 are Russia in Jan, Russia in Feb, France in March, a high likelihood of Tibet in April/May, Russia in June for the WORLD CUP (!!!),  of course a bit of camping and hiking in Kyrgyzstan over the summer for July and August, and then the 2018 World Nomad Games at the start of September. As always, come with me on social media to follow along in real-time (or way-behind-time, as the state of internet may dictate).





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2 Responses to Year in Photos: 2017

  1. Nick @

    Wow what an exciting year! Very jealous. Isn’t the Meteora just something else? It’s a trek to the monasteries but well worth it.

    • Stephen

      That trekking was one of the best parts; coming around the back of the hill and seeing Grand Meteora for the first time is a really cool moment, and there’s something cool about following that staircase back down that monks have used for centuries to access the area.

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