Halfway through January and I am still trying to process where last year went. It feels like it was the beginning of 2013 only yesterday, and wow, what I wouldn’t give for a total ‘do over.’ I started the year off great, set a number of goals – and achieved pretty much none of them.
Unfortunately, I also put blogging on the back burner in favor of increased freelance work and trying to figure out where I really wanted to go with my blogs and websites. I spent a chunk of the year depressed and pretty discouraged, and a host of technology and health problems compounded what already felt like an insurmountable mountain. Somehow, I landed myself in the emergency room of a Taiwan hospital early on in the year, spent half the year battling a herniated disc and sciatica, caught Dengue Fever, and due to complications from sciatica, took a nasty fall in Italy which resulted in a concussion, sprained ankle, stress fracture, and a floating bone fragment in my shin I’m still suffering pain from.
In spite of what seemed like a miserably down year, in retrospect, there were a few silver linings. While I spent the majority of 2013 at my apartment in Belize and very little time at home in the Netherlands, I still managed to hit a record number of countries last year. Despite only being out of Belize for a total of 4.5 months, I managed to visit 32 other countries! While most of these are countries I’ve visited multiple times, I did explore some new places and managed to devour some unforgettable food last year.
2014 has already started off strong with some pretty exciting projects I can’t wait to share, and I have more clarity than I’ve had in four years of traveling and living abroad! So, while I’d like to completely erase last year, it set me up for a great 2014. I’d be remiss in not reflecting on the positive elements.
I rang in 2013 with friends in Belize, and spent a chunk of the year at my place there catching up on my freelance work, while trying to build contacts and get new story angles. I even had the privilege of visiting two countries on behalf of Belize! On the downside, my iPhone 4s was stolen out of my purse at a club, and with it, well over 1,000 photos on a photo app that were not saved or downloaded yet anywhere else. I lost months worth of work – lesson learned. (My phone was full and not syncing correctly with the cloud or my laptop so I was going to get it looked at two days later when I got to the US.)
Alongside my best friend and colleague, Dorian Nunez – owner/editor of Ambergris Today, we traveled to Guatemala City to represent Belize at a crisis management in media conference. It was only a few days, but what an honor to be sent as an official representative of the country.
While technically my “official” home these days, I did not spend a lot of time in Holland, but managed to miss the coldest winter months and had a few nice weeks here and there – including a number of days in Rotterdam for the TBU Travel Blogging Conference.
Although I moved from Taiwan in 2012, it still feels like home. I squeezed in two trips last year – spending my birthday and just after Christmas with one of my dearest friends and favorite chefs. Hailing from Spain, and working at some of the top restaurants in the world — including elBulli – Daniel is one of the most imaginative and creative people I’ve ever had the honor to know.
No matter where I travel, I can’t stay away from Japan. Every time I visit, even if just for a couple days, I fall more in love with the country — the landscape, the people, and, obviously, the cuisine. With all my health problems, I only managed to visit Japan twice in 2013. I spent Christmas Day at Tokyo Disney – a very special place for me and on a very special day – it was exactly four years ago I visited Japan and Tokyo Disney for the first time.
In conjunction with an “unmentionable” birthday last year, I wanted to run away and do something quite different. That translated into the trip back to Asia and scuba diving in Palau – a destination I have longed to visit for several years. I was only able to stay a few days, but it was absolutely worth it and I can’t wait to go back and do more diving!
Hong Kong was included in both my 2013 Asia trips. From Hong Kong Disneyland to hitting all my favorite food places, Hong Kong is a place I will never tire of. Said goodbye to 2013 in Hong Kong last year watching the fireworks from my very impressive harbor view room.
Taking part again in the very successful #BlogVille project headed up by the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board, I headed back to Italy in May for a week. Sadly, it was here that my new GoPro decided not to return home with me and was lost in the rapids while river rafting. And like my phone, there were a number of photos I had not downloaded yet, because we had been so busy on the days leading up to the rafting trip. I’m an idiot, trust me, I know.
On the positive side, I got to attend one of my most cherished travel moments to date – sitting in on a class at the Gelato University near Bologna. Emilia Romagna has become such a beloved region for me that I went back again later in the year – in conjunction with a pretty massive road trip!
I’d been anxious to see the Baltic States and a last-minute cheap deal through Ryanair resulted in a long weekend in Riga, Latvia. I managed to explore the markets, take a cooking class, dine at the top restaurant in town, and still see the historical side of the city.
A week in Toronto for the TBEX Travel Blogging conference left me longing to come back soon. From divine ethnic food areas to Ontario’s Niagara wine country, I wish I had just a few more days to explore the region’s culinary scene.
My poor mother feels as though she’s nothing more than my taxi service and sadly, my very limited time in the US during 2013 was mostly that. I connect in Los Angeles for nearly every long haul trip and I normally try to spend a month or two, but last year it was primarily one or two days in California each trip.
Many of my Belizean friends visit the cruise port area of Mahahual, Mexico for some fun in the sun. Charter a private boat, stop in the village of Xcalak for Mexican beers, switch to a taxi and next thing you know, we arrive in Mahahual and pretty much have the entire beach to ourselves.
As Fall arrived, it was time to head to Dublin for the European TBEX Travel Blogging Conference. It was here that I finally got my blast of clarity and decided I was not going to stop blogging after all. What 5 TBEX Conferences Finally Taught Me
23 Country Road Trip and Cruise in Croatia
I’m still in disbelief we did this, but in conjunction with my culinary travel blog, the team of Our Tasty Travels managed to do a culinary-themed 23 country road trip in Europe. We left home in the Netherlands and traveled to Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, San Marino, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, France, Luxembourg, and Belgium.
The idea behind pulling this madness off was the invite to a culinary education cruise in Croatia to learn about the food in the Kvarner region. Rather than flying, we opted to drive and turn it into an adventure – forcing ourselves to stop and learn something about the local cuisine and wine/beer/liquor in the region. The end result – a car full of more than 50 bottles of wine, 30 beers, and a ridiculous amount of food, coffee, sweets, and local liqueurs.
And what was my favorite spot out of all those spots? A new country for me – Montenegro. I was absolutely captivated by the diverse landscape as we ventured from the coast to mountainous lakes and fall leaves.
My last country of the year was a pretty big milestone for me. It was my first visit to Honduras and marked my 60th country visited overall. Like Guatemala, I went with my best friend Dorian, and as a representative of Belize. We were in Honduras to cover Tropic Air’s – Belize’s National Airline – inaugural flight between Belize City and Roatan. We only had four days and were whisked all around the island – from snorkeling a ship wreck to getting covered in mud in a dune buggy and then ziplining through the jungle. Our short visit was nothing short of magical. I can’t wait to get back there again!
Even writing this post, I am still humbled by the amount of territory I covered in 2013. Here’s to 2014 and what this year’s travel calendar holds! But for now, it’s time to play massive catch up and edit photos and blog about all the impressive destinations I just highlighted! Best wishes to you and yours for an adventurous and exciting year ahead!