‘Twas the night before Christmas and not a creature was stirring, not one except a big ol’ blogger looking back on his year of travel. I feel blessed after such a wonderful year. From a road trip to Arizona, my first adventure of the year, to trips back home to the Midwest, and many points elsewhere – Hawaii, Seattle, Las Vegas, Austin, England, and more – I have a great year of memories. Looking back on it – from this time last year when I was planning my road trip to Arizona, to where I am now, happy and healthy at home in Colorado – I can truly appreciate all of the experiences and, more importantly, the people I met.
As I said, the year started out with a road trip down to Arizona. The state has a lot of interesting sites beyond the Grand Canyon, the only place I had previously stopped, and so I decided to head down and experience a little of it. From the historic and quirky in the old mining town of Jerome, down to where the Wild West still lives in Tombstone, I had a fantastic time. Probably none more so, though, than a brief stop in Tucson for some hiking in Saguaro National Park.
Growing up in Minnesota I had never before seen a cactus like the ones in Saguaro. My grandparents always had some little ones in pots around the house, but never did I imagine the big ones down in Arizona could grow to two or three times my height. And even more astonishing, they felt almost-human; it was as though the Saguaro cactus had its very own personality. I was transfixed by their magic and immediately fell in love with them and the park.
Shortly after my time in Arizona, which also included a drive back through New Mexico, I was off to what is now my new and very deep love, Hawaii. I was honored to be hosted on two trips to the islands, one to Molokai and the other to Maui, where I made some new friends – Bears and Beans and the Traveling Canucks. Both trips were simply, in a word, changing. I found something new in myself in each island, which also reinvigorated my love of travel.
No two Hawaiian Islands are the same, so when planning a trip it is important to know exactly what type of experience you wish to have so you select the right destination. On Molokai, I learned more about respect and family, the importance of history and nature, and connecting back to what is important. The atmosphere on Maui was different, lighter. I enjoyed it just as much as Molokai, which was also a lot of fun, but with a different feeling that is difficult to distinguish between with so few words. Both trips opened not just my eyes, though, but also my heart, and have me chomping at the bit to return to explore more of Hawaii early this next year.
Back from my trips to Hawaii and in need of a summer getaway after the Travel Blog Exchange Conference here in Colorado, where I was able to catch up with more friends – Catch Carri, earthXplorer, D Travels ‘Round, Traveling Anna, and many more – I zipped off for a quick weekend to Seattle. My parents lived there before I was born, but I had never been. So with a tightly planned itinerary so I could do Seattle in a day, I set off and packed in as much as I could followed up with a next day trip to see the amazing King Tut exhibition before its U.S. tour is done. I was impressed with the city, which to me truly felt like a West Coast Denver, and am excited to return someday to explore more of it and all of the great outdoor possibilities nearby.
The same would be true for Austin, Texas. I traveled there this fall to stay with Travaasa, an outstanding resort and the only place I’ll ever want to stay in Austin, and am excited to return in the future and experience more of a city I have heard so much about. My time there was largely spent at Travaasa, so I know there is a lot out there which I missed. But, without a doubt, there will be a return journey, one which will be longer and at least partially spent out exploring the city.
In the fall I also enjoyed time back in Minnesota, where I grew up, and neighboring Wisconsin. It’s always fun for me to go home and see the family, which I sadly was not able to do enough this year. The impetus for my trips back wasn’t always good, either, since one was for my grandmother’s funeral in the spring; she and my grandfather have always been a strong influence on me and my desire to travel, setting off to destinations around the world in their retirement. As a child I learned from this and the important to get out and explore the as much of the world as possible, learning about and experiencing so many amazing things.
Other trips back home were most definitely for fun, like the one to Wisconsin in the fall to see my University of Minnesota football team get crushed by the Badgers. Alright, so the game wasn’t all that fun, but the time spent with my brother, my friend, and his family was great, as was a small amount of time I had to see more of my family on the back end of the trip. So even though my team, which really isn’t all that good to start, got smoked, the trip was more than worth it and quite a lot of fun. The same could be said, too, for another trip I took in the fall, this one to Las Vegas.
Weeks before their game in Madison, Minnesota’s football team was playing UNLV. We made plans long ago to head out to Sin City and watch them play. The game, as though it foreshadowed the one in Wisconsin, wasn’t all that good, but the time I had with my brother and friend more than made up for it. We had a fantastic weekend in Las Vegas, a place that now feels like a third or fourth home to me, since I’ve been so often; it’s definitely a favorite destination for our annual guy’s weekend away, and one that will likely see us continue to return. I was also able to, however briefly, catch up with Gray from Vegas Solo and Solo Friendly while in town, which was a rare treat since I haven’t seen her for a few years. Thankfully our travel plans overlapped by a day, so we could grab dinner together.
At the end of the summer, right before Las Vegas, I made a long overdue trip to London, England to see a friend who had visited me three times in Denver before I made one trip across the pond. Now, with my first trip out of the way, I’m already planning my return journey. The first one was so much fun, exploring so many of London’s sites, going to some local judo clubs right before the Paralympics, and, most importantly, spending time with my friend, I know I have to return and do it all over again. And I’m quite excited to do so, to see many more interesting attractions in and around London, to experience life in England, and, once again, most importantly to see my friend. I can only hope, with very little doubt, that it’ll come together as wonderfully as the first trip.
And so, as another year comes to an end, I look back on all of these wonderful memories and realize I have a lot of be thankful for; I’ve experienced so many wonderful things and met so many amazing people, I’m now even more excited for what the future holds. Bringing that up makes me wonder where I should go this next year. I have a few plans in place, which I’ll discuss in a story next week, but I want to do know if you have any ideas; are there any destinations you’d like to read about? If so, please share them with me! I’m always looking for great suggestions for my travels, especially now as I’m getting everything set for what will surely be another wonderful year.
Merry Christmas and the very best to you and yours in the New Year!