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    Inspire

    Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023

    A Year in Review

    Location: Planet Earth

    I absolutely love writing this blog post each year. Throughout the year I think about what experiences and places might make this list. And when it’s time to write – it’s a fun walk down memory lane as I reminisce about the previous year of travel. Maybe I can inspire you to travel to some of these places. I know for a fact several of my followers traveled to Malta this past year. Malta was last year’s winner of our favorite country! I hope it’s fun for you to read and enjoy the awards we bestow on our favorites and the best of the best (and a few duds too) from our year of travel; the Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023.

    The Grand Adventure Year Seven

    Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023

    I’m surprised that I am already talking about the “seventh annual” travel awards 2023! We are now well into our eighth year of travel as part of The Grand Adventure. What a remarkable ride it has been. Not sure exactly what year nine will bring…but it’s already open for discussion.

    2023

    We have had a wonderful year of travel; both long stays and short, independent travel and guided. The list includes; Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Bolivia, Barbados, Curacao, Grenada, Bonaire, Trinidad and Tobago, USA, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Philippines and Australia. The states included Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Georgia, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington DC.

    Birds of Australia

    So sit back and get ready….here are the winners! Our Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023. By the way see our First AnnualSecond AnnualThird Annual, Fourth Annual  Fifth Annual  and Sixth Annual awards by clicking on the links. Each one special in its own way.

    Destinations – 14 Countries and 8 USA States

    Favorite Country – Australia

    Australia – Our favorite country of 2023

    We spent the last two and a half months of 2023 in the amazing country of Australia. It’s our second visit to Australia since we started the Grand Adventure in 2016. The first time we spent three weeks. Oh but there is so very much to see in this amazing country and even two months didn’t cover it all. We loved Brisbane and spent four weeks in our Aussie Nest, the caravan we took more than 2400 miles. Also, Melbourne was incredible and then an entire month in Hobart enjoying the beauty of Tasmania. If you haven’t been to Australia…it’s time!

    Favorite City – Melbourne and Honorable Mention Hong Kong

    Beautiful Melbourne Australia
    Hong Kong

    Unlike most years, 2023 included several big cities. Not on purpose really, it just worked out that way. We loved Mexico City, La Paz Bolivia, Atlanta Georgia, Washington DC, New York City, Hong Kong, Brisbane and Melbourne. But, if we must – and we must – our choice for favorite is a tie. Beautiful Melbourne is a place I could go back and spend a few months. Astonishing Hong Kong was sparkling clean and HUGE, delicious and just a wonderful surprise.

    Cutest Town – Savannah Georgia and Honorable Mention Hobart Tasmania Australia

    Savannah Georgia USA
    Hobart Tasmania Australia

    Despite having traveled quite a lot around the US South, I had spent almost no time in Georgia. So this year we made it to both Atlanta and Savannah. Savannah is a fabulous town, historic and charming. We had great weather, ate great food, spent time with dear friends. It was worth the wait. On the other hand, Hobart on the island of Tasmania, Australia was such a wonderful surprise. With an incredible and diverse collection of things to do. We enjoyed both.

    Favorite Island – Panglao Philippines

    Panglao Philippines

    We arrived in Panglao Bohol with absolutely no expectations. I knew it wasn’t Maui. Or the island of Malta. But I was intrigued and curious. What we found was unexpected and fabulous. Nothing fancy..but ridiculously inexpensive, beautiful, friendly and sunny.

    Most Expensive Country – USA

    Snoqualmie Falls and Salish Lodge
    Snoqualmie Washington State USA

    Second year in a row that the USA is our pick for most expensive country. Granted we own a small house in the USA, so while in that part of the country we don’t need to pay for lodging. But groceries, dining out, excursions, flights and anything else to do with day to day life or domestic travel is more expensive than nearly anywhere else in the world.

    Least Expensive Country – Philippines

    Panglao Philippines

    It was frankly shocking how cheap the Philippines were. I mean an entire four course meal with drinks for 2 people was $20!! What? A manicure was $3! Our lodging with private swimming pool was $60 a night. Yep, hands down the Philippines is this year’s least expensive country.

    Accommodations – 11 Airbnbs, 15 hotels, one cruise ship, one Glamping tent and one motor-home

    Favorite Airbnb Hobart Tasmania, Australia – Honorable Mention Washington DC

    Airbnb Hobart Tasmania Australia
    Airbnb Capital Hill Washington DC USA

    The Airbnb in Hobart was such a lovely surprise. It’s a bigger house than we need, but we wanted something quaint and cozy for the holidays. We got that and a whole lot more in the historic Gatekeepers Lodge in Hobart for $170 per night. Although we never met our hosts, they left us delicious treats and were kind and generous. But the tiny basement studio Washington DC Airbnb in the beautiful Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington DC was also lovely. A perfectly appointed small space so well thought out. We loved it for our short visit at $150.

    Favorite Airbnb for service – Panglao Philippines and Roatan Honduras

    Airbnb Panglao Philippines
    Airbnb West End Roatan Honduras

    We rarely have complaints of any kind with our Airbnb choices, most are acceptable and usually better than expected. But once in a while we have an exceptional host that takes the customer service level up a notch. Of course those same hosts also know to give us the privacy we need. Our hosts in the bungalow in Panglao Philippines were so helpful with any questions, booking drivers and much more. Our host on the island of Roatan Honduras was also superb. We loved that big, beautiful third floor walk up and thanks to our host we had absolutely anything we needed and more.

    Most Expensive Airbnb – New York City.

    Airbnb Upper East Side Manhattan New York City USA

    The second year in a row New York takes this category. Everything is expensive in New York. At least the Airbnb we had this year was much more comfortable and bigger than the one we rented last year. We paid $320 per night. However, since we stayed there in April, New York City has passed a new law and Airbnb’s can no longer rent for less than 30 days. So, I’m not sure what that means for any future visits to NYC.

    Best Value Airbnb – Panglao Philippines

    Airbnb Panglao

    At only $60 a night our four week stay in Panglao was one of the least expensive, yet completely relaxing stays we have ever had. The private pool was wonderful, although rustic I had a nice running route, and we could walk or take a Tuk Tuk everywhere we needed to go. It was simple, with a very small kitchen but we made it work. We would visit here again in a minute.

    Best View Airbnb Roatan Honduras

    Airbnb West End Roatan Honduras

    The West End Roatan Airbnb was awesome. It involved ALOT of stairs, and since we didn’t have a car we also walked up and down a steep hill each day to town, but the hill and the stairs resulted in a lovely 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment with a beautiful deck and gorgeous view of the Caribbean for $140 per night.

    Favorite Hotel – Red Tree House, Mexico City and Honorable Mention Clarion Suites Gateway Melbourne

    Red Tree House Mexico City
    Upgraded to a full suite at the Clarion Gateway Melbourne

    Staying at the Red Tree House in Mexico City last March, was the first time we had ever returned to the same hotel again just because we loved it so much. The Red Tree House won our Favorite Hotel award in 2021, and our second stay was just as lovely. When in Mexico City it’s the only choice. Ask for a room that looks at the garden. But we also really loved the Clarion Suite Gateway in Melbourne – our suite was perfect and we could have stayed forever. The location is perfect for exploring Melbourne.

    Most Expensive Hotel – Hilton Logan Boston

    Well we often have an early morning flight out of Boston to Seattle, so it’s very convenient to stay at the airport. But it still is a sticker shock to me every time…The Hilton Logan Boston is lovely, but $400 plus per night.. Not our usual that’s for sure.

    Least Expensive Hotel – Sempre Premier Lapu Lapu, Cebu, Philippines

    Sempre Premier Lapu Lapu Cebu Island Philippines

    We spent one night in the Sempre Premier in Lapu Lapu before taking the ferry to the island of Bohol/Panglao. We stayed in the same hotel for one night again, on our way back, returning to the airport. The hotel room was compact but comfortable, spotlessly clean with all the comforts we needed. The hotel included a restaurant with a great breakfast (included) and dinner service for an added fee. We paid $40 per night.

    Most Unique Accommodations – Salt Hotel Bolivia

    Salt Hotel Uyuni Bolivia

    Our eleven day tour with Intrepid Travels around Bolivia we stayed in several different lodgings…some nicer than others, but all acceptable enough. But one stood out above all others – The Salt Hotel. On the salt flats of Uyuni, we spent one night in a hotel made of salt. The walls, the floor, even the bed was made of salt. Apparently some people lick the walls to be sure. I declined, but it was interesting.

    Tiny But Fun Award – The Aussie Nest Motorhome, Glamping in Millersylvania State Park Washington

    Our Aussie Nest
    Pampered Wilderness

    Spending a month in a tiny motorhome traveling 2400 miles in eastern Australia was one of our favorite things this year. The space was tiny, unique and very memorable. But I also have to give a shout out to the Glamping Tent we stayed in back in Washington State USA in the summer. I highly recommend it a visit to Pampered Wilderness at Millersylvania State Park.

    Food and Drink

    Favorite Country Cuisine – Mexico

    Breakfast at the Red Tree House Mexico City

    Returning to Mexico City, one of our favorite cities in the world, was a special treat. We ate nonstop during this second visit to this beautiful, historic and delicious city. I can’t wait to go again.

    Best Food Tour – Hong Kong

    Hong Kong Food Tour all the dumplings I could eat

    Angel our tour guide, who we found through With Locals ,took us on such a wonderful tour of delicious Hong Kong. We would never have found the hidden gems she took us to, or learned the hidden stories about delicious Hong Kong. It was a wonderful tour!

    Best Cooking Class – Hong Kong

    Pots and Pans Cooking School Hong Kong

    What a wonderful private cooking class we had in Hong Kong with our new friend Bill at Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio. It was fun talking to Bill about Hong Kong, the cuisine and learning to cook multiple delicious dishes. We ate till we thought we would burst and then we took home even more!

    Best Meal Carmine’s Italian Restaurant New York City

    Veal Picatta at Carmine’s NYC

    We eat well on our travels. Even though we try to cook in our airbnb’s as often as possible, we still dine out and enjoy local cuisines everywhere we go. While in New York for five nights we ate out each night and enjoyed delicious meals. But our evening at the famous Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, where we met up with good friends, was memorable. The family style (huge portions) was delicious, the service on point, the atmosphere boisterous and fun.

    Most Overrated Restaurant – Pujol Mexico City

    Pujol

    I hadn’t known about this restaurant the first time we visited Mexico City. So when I knew we were going again I made a reservation seven months in advance at Pujol – the highest rated restaurant in Mexico City. But, I was underwhelmed. It was unique, most certainly, but not up to the hype I’m afraid. As a matter of fact, the authentic meal we had at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City restaurant called Sala Gastronomica was so much better.   

    Most Unique Meal – Popular La Paz Bolivia

    Amazing meal at Popular, La Paz Bolivia

    We learned about this restaurant from our walking tour guide. Otherwise I don’t know if we would have found it. Popular is only opened for lunch and reservations are required. Hands down one of the most unique, beautiful and delicious meals I’ve experienced.

    Best Beer – Australia

    Beer in Australia

    Well it’s Australia Mate! And they love a cold one here. Australia’s Microbrewery scene is fantastic, throughout the country and we enjoyed each regional specialty. We also had a wonderful tour in Hobart Tasmania of the oldest brewery in Australia – Cascade Brewing, established. BTW – Australian wine…also really great.

    Culture

    Best Overall Cultural Experience – Goroka Festival Papua New Guinea

    Most Authentic Cultural Experience – Goroka Festival Papua New Guinea

    Goroka Festival
    Goroka Festival

    Two categories – one winner. It was a stretch for us to book this tour with Indigo Tours, more expensive than our usual choices, but Papua New Guinea was not a place we felt we could tackle on our own. Lots of back and forth with the owner of the company before we pulled the trigger. And I’m so glad we did. This experience, participating in the annual Goroka Festival with more than 150 tribes of Papua New Guinea was once in a life time. Papua New Guinea, one of the least understood places in the world, lost in time, beautiful. The tribal spectacle that is the Goroka Festival is undeniably one of the most incredible shows on earth…and I was there.

    Most Amazing Man Made Structure – Teotihuacan Mexico

    Teotihuacan, Mexico

    This place blew my mind. So incredibly underrated…I had actually never heard of it until we visited Mexico City the first time. So, on our second visit it was top of my list. Construction of Teotihuacan began in 100 BCE, long before the Aztecs. The actual name of the people who built it and lived here is unknown and there is no written record. But they left behind this vast site that today is still being discovered. The Aztecs settled here and ruled the region much later from about 1200 CE until the Spanish obliterated them in the 1500’s. Archaeological research and discovery first began in 1904.

    Best US History Site – Martin Luther King Museum and Ebenzer Baptist Church Atlanta Georgia

    Martin Luther King National Historic Site, Atlanta Georgia

    MLK National Historic Park is Atlanta’s top tourist attraction and it’s free! We visited this moving and inspiring site on two different days. The first day we visited Ebenezer Church where King preached as did his father. We also visited the beautiful memorial area where both Martin and his wife Coretta’s tombs are.

    The MLK museum was so good, and actually made me cry. This is worth going to Atlanta for more than anything else.

    Best Garden – Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne – Honorable Mention Rhododendron Spieces Garden Federal Way Washington

    Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne
    Rhododendron Species Garden, Federal Way Washington State USA

    We visit a lot of gardens in our travels. But Australia has been an absolute paradise when it comes to the botanical gardens in every town we have visited. Every single town. And every one was free. The pinnacle of all these gardens was the Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. Fabulous.

    Honorable Mention goes to a garden very close to my home – The Rhododendron Species Garden in Federal Way Washington. This little beauty was such a surprise I don’t know why I had never visited. And a bonus was the remarkable Pacific Northwest Bonsai Gardens. I’ll be taking my out of town visitors to this place in the future.

    Best Museum – Anthropology Mexico City and the African American Museum WA DC

    Anthropology Museum Mexico City
    African American Museum Washington DC USA

    The Anthropology Museum in Mexico City is one of the finest museums in the world. Astonishing the story it tells of the cultural history of this amazing land we know as Mexico. And by the way, don’t miss the cafe. It too was remarkable as it explored the ancient tribal foods of Mexico.

    BUT, there is another museum that was just as remarkable. The African American Museum in Washington DC. The depth of this experiential museum will blow your mind. I wish we had known, we would have gotten tickets two days in a row. It is worth it. Entrance is free but booking is definitely advised.

    Most Bizarre Museum – Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart Australia

    MONA, Hobart Tasmania Australia

    The strange Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), located on the Derwent River in Hobart is definitely the most unusual museum I’ve ever been to. I’m still not sure what it was…art? Culture? Or was it about architecuture? Maybe the goal is just to be different…and it certainly suceeds there.

    Best Walking Tour – La Paz Bolivia

    La Paz Bolivia

    La Paz is, frankly, a strange place but strange in a wonderful way. The cultural history, the incredible people living at 11,000 feet, and the architecture will blow your mind. And then there are the myths and religions and witchcraft. We learned all about this on our amazing walking tour with a local.

    Best Historical Sight –  City of La Paz, Bolivia

    La Paz Bolivia

    We spent about three times more time in La Paz than most people do – a full 12 days. We planned the time so I could acclimate to the altitude because I have suffered from altitude sickness in the past. And for the most part, it worked. And, over those 12 days we discovered this remarkable city. A place unlike anywhere we have ever been from the way of life, the people, the myths and the construction. Mind boggling.

    Best Performance – Ballet Folkloric Mexico City

    Ballet Folkloric Mexico City

    Not only was this performance the best of the entire year, it was honestly one of the best things I have seen anywhere in the world. The Ballet Forkloric in Mexico City is an ethnic cultural dance and music performance, professional and mesmerizing in a beautiful and historic theater. Stunning.

    Best One Day Tour – Roatan Honduras

    Holding a sloth in Roatan Honduras

    One of our most favorite things was a full island, full day tour of Roatan Honduras. If you only have one day this might not be for you, but those staying longer definitely should do this. We booked with Omar Tourist Transportation and our driver Dario was amazing. We discussed the things we were interested in seeing and he made sure we saw those and much more. He also took us to the most amazing place for lunch, an out-of-the-way, over-the-water spot with delicious food called La Sirena.

    Best Multi Day Tour – Bolivia

    Bolivia with Intrepid Travels

    We wanted to cover a lot of territory in Bolivia, and didn’t feel confident to handle those logistics as independent travelers in this country. So we took a recommendation from a fellow full-time traveler and booked our tour with the highly regarded Intrepid Travel. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about Intrepid, and particularly our guide Wendy, who made this tour the once in a life time experience it was. She is amazing. If you have ever considered Bolivia…Intrepid is the way to go. You will be so amazed by this country, the quality of the tour and the adventure.

    Best Tour Guide

    Wendy with Intrepid Travel Bolivia – Best Tour Guide EVER

    Hands down our guide with Intrepid Tours in Bolivia, Wendy was the best this year and honestly probably the best guide EVER. I experienced some altitude sickness, and we encountered some other strange situations (see below under Travel) and Wendy handled everything with a stealthy ease and a touch of humor.

    Unexpectedly Fun Tour – San Juan del Sur Nicaragua ATV Tour

    Day tour, San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua

    We booked a one day tour with Pacific Adventures. Using a rugged ATV, we spent hours with our guide on a private tour of the mountains of Nicaragua. We swam in hidden pools, climbed waterfalls and had lunch with a local family who made us an authentic Nicaraguan farm to table meal. It was a fun day.

    Nature

    Best Sunrise – Eden, Australia

    Sunrise Eden Australia

    While traveling in our Aussie Nest motorhome we enjoyed an early morning walk on the beach to watch the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean

    Best Sunset – Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

    Sunset Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

    Another remarkable experience on the Uyuni Salt Flats, watching the glory of sunset turn everything you could see pink and purple, then star studded black. Spectacular experience.

    Best Beach – Nobby Beach Gold Coast

    Nobby Beach, Gold Coast Australia

    We actually spent less time on beaches this year than we have the past few years. So when we did have some beach time I really wanted to enjoy. We were lucky to have beautiful weather when we were on the Gold Coast in Australia. It’s stunning.

    Best Hike – Booderee Australia Honorable Mention Papua New Guinea

    Booderee National Park Australia
    Papua New Guinea

    So MANY hikes to try to chose from this year! Since we hike at least once a week, year round and in every country. Australia alone provided at least 6 candidates for this category. But we chose Booderee National Park in New South Wales Australia. We spent three days there and were astonished with the bird and wildlife. We did a long hike one day where I almost stepped on a venomous snake…that was memorable! But what a place it was! Honorable mention too in this category, because hiking in Papua New Guinea in a successful search of the exquisite Bird of Paradise will always be a great memory.

    Best View Hike – Fluted Cape Bruny Island Australia

    Fluted Cape, Bruny Island Tasmania Australia

    Spectacular weather, no other hikers and views to rival anywhere in the world made this day hike on Bruny Island near Hobart just so memorable and breathtaking.

    Best Natural Sight – Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

    Unbelievable Uyuni Salt Flats Bolivia

    A bucketlist for me was visiting the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia and it did not disappoint. One of the most incredible natural sights I have seen anywhere in the entire world. It’s out-of-this-world beautiful and worth the effort it takes to get there.

    Best Overall Wildlife Viewing – Australia

    Mama and Baby Wombats Maria Island Tasmania Australia

    At every turn in Australia there is something unique to see…especially in the wildlife category. From kangaroos to wombats, platypus to wallaby, the wildlife of Australia is unlike anywhere else in the world…worth a trip just to see it.

    Most Unexpected Wildlife Moment – Bohol Philippines

    Tiny 6 inch Tarsier, Bohol Philippines

    Despite the abundance of wildllife in Australia, the winner of the most unexpcted wildlife moment for 2023 was seeing the teeny tarsier on the island of Bohol in the Philippines. These shy little nocturnal creatures return to the sanctuary during the day because they feel safe there. So with a guide we wandered only a short distance into the jungle to see these darlings up close and personal. A breathtaking experience.

    Best Bird-Watching – Australia

    Crimson Rosella, Canberra Australia

    We track our birds through out the world, and Australia hands down wins the award of all time for the MOST new to us birds spotted. During our two month visit we marked over 80 new birds from the teeny Fairy Wren to the giant Pelican and dozens in between. So much fun!

    Athletic Pursuits

    Best Snorkeling – Panglao Philippines

    Such a great snorkle experience in Panglao Bohol

    Without even going on a boat we were able to snorkle the Napaling Reef on the eastside of the island of Panglao. With a guide we snorkled through literal millions of sardines, lots of other fish too in the crystal clear waters. One of the best snorkeling experiences we have ever had.

    Best Golf – Washington State

    Golfing all summer long in Washington State

    Our home course in Port Orchard Washington where we spend the summers takes the prize this year for best golf. During our four months back in Washington State we played golf at least once a week and sometimes more often. It’s a great golfing community.

    Best Place to Run – Brisbane Australia

    Riverwalk ancient lava flows, Kangaroo Cliffs, Brisbane Australia

    I run usually five days a week when I can, and I really loved running on the beautiful river trail in Brisbane. With nearly endless possibilities this trail is really the lifeline of this beautiful city.

    Weather

    Hottest Day – Barbados

    Barbados

    We spent five brief days in Barbados. And though we didn’t love the island, we did enjoy a couple of nice days at the beach when the temps soared over 90 fahrenheit on Easter.

    Coldest Day Australia

    Cradle Mountain National Park Tasmania Australia

    We expected Australia to be warmer than it was but we saw a little bit of everything during our visit. One very hot day and some very chilly days too. Our hike in Cradle Mountain produced the coldest day and we wore every bit of clothing that we had with us in the icy wind at 3500 feet.

    Wettest Day – Philippines

    Tropical storms can produce a whole lotta rain, and rain it did on three different occassions while we were on Bohol/Panglao Philippines. An absolute deluge.

    Travel

    Longest Travel Day – Los Angeles to Port Moresby 9730 miles

    First Class all the way! A great flight to have an upgrade since it was 10 hours. Philippine Airways was great.

    Our overnight flight from LA to Manila was luckily made bearable because of a last minute upgrade to business class. What an unusual luxury for us.

    Shortest Flight – Papua New Guinea

    Finally boarding after being delayed an entire day for only a 30 min flight

    A quick 30 minute hop (that was delayed about 16 hours) was worth the wait to get us to the amazing Goroka Festival in Papua New Guinea. When traveling somewhere like PNG you always need to be prepared for the unexpected.

    Worst Airport Manila Philippines

    I’m not giving a best airport award this year, but for the second time in our travels the worst airport award goes to Manila. It is just an awful airport and there really is no excuse for it. Signage is non-existant. Escalators rarely work. The Public Address system is awful. Even worse the Domestic and International terminals are a long ways apart and you have to ride a bus, and so if you are trying to make a connection it is stressful and frankly tricky.

    Craziest Travel Day – Bolivia

    What a strange thing to happen – but it makes a good travel story.

    On our first day of the group tour in Bolivia our bus got stopped in the road where strikers from the lithium mine had put up barricades and were threatening. We waited six hours and our AMAZING guide Wendy finally decided we would walk across. She arranged for us to quietly walk through the strikers while drivers in 4-wheel-drive vehicles snuck through the desert, lights off, to meet us and whisk us away into the night. It was totally like a movie, frightening but also exciting, especially in hindsight. We learned the next day the road remained closed for several days…if we hadn’t taken this chance we would not have been able to do the tour. And of course this tour ended up being one of the highlights of the year. It’s a good travel story too.

    Most Incredible City Transportation System – La Paz Bolivia

    La Paz is so under rated! We loved it.

    A city wedged into the mountains at more than 11,000 foot elevation means driving is difficult…and walking even harder. But La Paz has an ingenious, thorough, and even colorful system of gondolas, built specifically as public transportation, in this densely populated city in the sky – it is beyond astonishing.

    Miscellaneous

    The Ouch Award – Bug Bite Australia

    Red Bull Ant
    Ouch!

    Australia is known for things that can kill you…from snakes to jellyfish. Luckily the thing that got me was a Red Bull Ant. Evolved from a wasp, this little red devil actually stings rather than bites and the sting was one of the most painful things I’ve ever had. As I write this it’s been two months since my rumble with the mean fella, and my leg still has a bruise and scar. It may never go away.

    Expensive But Worth It – Papua New Guinea

    Goroka Festival Papua New Guinea

    It was a stretch for us to book this tour to Papua New Guinea because the cost was a lot… for two people for a week we paid $7500. This included most everything, from lodging to most meals. But that said this was still really roughing it. It’s not an easy place to travel, with terrible roads and unreliable air travel. It certainly isn’t a place I’d want to navigate without a guide. So this is how we did it, expensive but worth it.

    Favorite Photo

    I love this photo because this man asked me for water….the dancers have no access to food or water and they are sweating in the hot sun. His request helped me engage even more with the incredible spectacle of the dancers. I was happy to provide him water and he was happy to provide me a photo.
    A life long dream for me to see the Uyuni Salt Flats and it was even better than I had imagined. In the sun and at sunset the other worldly nature phenomenon did not disappoint.

    I try to chose a single photo each year, out of the tens of thousands of images I take on our travels around the world. This year I have chosen two because I just could not decide. My photography is a big part of both our world travels and this blog. It hopefully takes my followers to these unique places and into my life experiences. I hope you enjoy seeing these images as much as I enjoy taking them.

    Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023

    US Supreme Court Washington DC USA

    There you have it. The best of the best of My Fab Fifties Life travel of 2023. Amazing, memorable and unique experiences with new cultures and fantastic experiences around the world. What a grand adventure it is. We sure hope you will consider visiting some of these places and enjoying some of these unique experiences too – the seventh annual world travel awards 2023.

    As I post this annual awards I am in the country of Thailand. Over the next few months we will visit 12 more countries before returning to the USA in early May where we spend our summers. Beyond May we don’t know yet.

    Old and New in amazing La Paz Bolivia

    It takes me weeks to write this post so I hope you have enjoyed the Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023. My goal is to inspire you. The world is so amazing…not everyone is going to want to go to places like Papua New Guinea. I understand that. But I hope you have learned something and perhaps are motivated to step beyond your comfort zone. We hope you will continue to follow us around the globe, comment, pin and share this post so others can follow as well. Thank you and stay fabulous. This travel blog wouldn’t be possible without all of you. And if you are ready to begin a travel life of your own, see our post Becoming a Traveler here.

    See last week’s post Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise. Come back next week for our post all about Singapore.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR OF TRAVEL!!! We appreciate it when you comment, share and pin our blog posts – especially this one!! The Seventh Annual World Travel Awards 2023. Thank you.

    Become a World Traveler  --  Inspire

    Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022

    I absolutely love writing this blog post each year, even though it takes me weeks to put it together. It is fun for me to reminisce about another amazing travel year! I hope it’s fun for you to read and enjoy the awards we bestow on our favorites and the best of the best from our year of travel; the Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022.

    Bayeux France

    Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022

    I’m surprised that I am already talking about the “sixth annual” travel awards 2022! We are now well into our seventh year of travel as part of The Grand Adventure and still no end in sight. What a remarkable ride it has been. As I write this post, I’m in the country of Honduras – our 123rd country.

    2022

    Unlike 2021 where we only visited three countries due to that damn Pandamit, this past year has been a full and fabulous year of new destinations. We visited 14 countries as well as ten states in the USA. The list includes; French Polynesia, USA, Antigua, Turks and Caicos, Morocco, Senegal, France, Malta, Cyprus, Northern Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, Guernsey, and Jersey. The states included Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Wisconsin, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Virginia and Hawaii.

    Maine USA

    So sit back and get ready….here are the winners! Our Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022. ( By the way see our First Annual, Second Annual, Third Annual, Fourth Annual and Fifth Annual awards by clicking on the links. You might also enjoy the observations and lessons I shared after One Year of Travel.)

    Destinations – 14 Countries and 10 USA States

    Favorite Country – Malta

    Valetta Malta

    Malta was such a pleasant surprise. Beautiful, ancient and surprisingly inexpensive. We had planned to visit Malta in 2020…so that didn’t happen of course. We were very happy to get it back on our itinerary. Malta has a very interesting and ancient history. Valletta where we stayed was a fascinating walled city and we just loved everything about it. We highly recommend our favorite country of 2022 – Malta!

    Favorite City – Jerusalem, Israel

    Old Jerusalem Israel

    Returning to Israel, after fleeing in March of 2020 when the Pandamit was closing everything, was a high priority. So it was a true blessing to get back to this fascinating country. This time we based ourselves in the astonishing city of Jerusalem and I am so glad we did. What an incredible place to visit and we absolutely loved everything about beautiful and fascinating Jerusalem.

    Cutest Town – Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, USA

    Cute Sturgeon Bay, Door County Wisconsin

    Sturgeon Bay in Door County Wisconsin was such an unexpected surprise as I visited with two good friends for a long weekend. We lucked out by choosing Sturgeon Bay as our home base. Colorful, centrally located and lots of wonderful things to do, July in Sturgeon Bay was a real treat.

    Favorite Island – Moorea, French Polynesia

    Sofitel Hotel Moorea French Polynesia

    High on our list for a return visit, the small French Polynesian island is a short ferry crossing from the larger and more populated island of Tahiti. We loved our cute Airbnb bungalow in Moorea, and found the island a wonderful and relaxing destination. We really hope to return in 2024.

    Most Expensive Country – USA

    Little Italy New York City

    The United States continues to be an expensive destination for us, compared to so many places we travel around the world. Especially given our long visit to the island of Maui in the state of Hawaii which really ratchets up our daily average. We also had a long visit to New York City which is also very expensive, so all in all, this year the award for most expensive has to go to the United States on our list for the Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022.

    Least Expensive Country – French Polynesia

    Coco Beach, Moorea French Polynesia

    Our two months on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia was really inexpensive. Granted we were there in the off-season, but if you compare to other tropical places we have visited, French Polynesia can be downright cheap. Our choice of simple accommodations and living frugally really puts Moorea on our wishlist to return for great price, friendly atmosphere, and natural beauty.

    Accommodations – 10 Airbnbs, 22 hotels and one desert camp

    Favorite Airbnb – A Tie between Moorea and Valletta Malta

    Our bungalow in Teavaro, Moorea
    Our authentic stone house in Valletta Malta

    We have really been so lucky in our travels to rarely, rarely have a bad experience with any of our lodgings. And this year once again we had some first rate accommodations. Two of our favorites were our lovely bungalow on the island in Moorea and our tiny authentic stone house in Valletta Malta. We highly recommend both!

    Favorite Airbnb for service – Moorea

    With our beautiful and amazing host Maea in Moorea French Polynesia

    We have had several experiences over the years where we have become friends with our Airbnb hosts and our host Maea in Moorea was one of the best hosts we have ever had.

    Most Expensive Airbnb – New York City.

    New York is expensive – but we loved the Upper East Side and will stay in that neighborhood again

    Everything in New York City is expensive. Trying to find a place to stay for our two week visit was difficult, with prices in every neighborhood outrageous. Our very teeny Airbnb space in the Upper East Side was more like a closet than an apartment, but we loved the location so it certainly had that going for it. $230 a night.

    Best Value Airbnb – Moorea French Polynesia

    The tiny beach at our Moorea Airbnb

    With a kitchen, two bedrooms, parking, beach access with great snorkeling and the best host, we have nothing to complain about with our Airbnb on the island of Moorea. $75 a night – which was a substantial discount for our extended two-month stay.

    Favorite Hotel – O Plum ‘Art, Giverny France

    O’ Plum ‘Art Boutique Hotel in Giverny France

    This very unique, but slightly expensive, lodging in the teeny French village of Giverny was a wonderful pit stop on our September whirlwind tour. Walking distance to Monet’s Gardens, we loved this rural little farm hotel and the breakfast was fantastic. Highly recommend O’ Plum ‘Art.

    Most Expensive Hotel – Hilton Logan Boston

    Logan Airport Boston

    Ridiculously expensive relative to our normal hotels, the Hilton at Logan International Airport in Boston is certainly convenient but expensive. $390 a night.

    Most Authentic and Least Expensive Hotel – Dar Abdesalaam, Fez Morocco

    With my whole family at Dar Abdesalaam, Fez Morocco

    With the kindest proprietor, the Riad we stayed in for the wedding of our friends in Fez was both inexpensive and very authentic. Beautiful five story old house with central courtyard and roof top area, located in the beautiful old city of Fez. $45 per night with breakfast! When in Fez stay at Dar Abdesalaam.

    Most Unique Accommodations – Marrakesh Camel Trips

    A most memorable night, Marrakesh Camel Trips

    This was our second time doing an overnight camel trip in the Moroccan Sahara. Without realizing it, we booked a very different camp this time…with more amenities. This time we had electricity!! It was warmer too, being May instead of November so we were very comfortable. A two hour camel ride (gorgeous) a full queen bed, delicious dinner, music around the campfire and a fantastic breakfast. We loved every minute of it.

    Best View Accommodations – Kihei Surfside Maui

    Kihei Surfside Maui

    Not a hotel or an Airbnb, the Kihei Surfside in Maui is one of our most favorite destinations in the world, precisely for the view. There really is nothing like it.

    Honorable Mention – Cyprus

    Lemon Grove Villas Argaka Cyprus

    Returning to one of our all time favorite Airbnbs was a special treat – the ONLY Airbnb we have every returned to so far. We returned to thank our Cyprus Airbnb hosts and see the sights we were not able to see when we were locked down on the island of Cyprus early during the PanDamit. The view, the neighborhood, the hosts, the pool….we love this place so much. We just might visit again!

    Food and Drink

    Favorite Country Cuisine – Israel

    Falafel and hummus are so amazing in Israel!

    Mediterranean style food is always my favorite, and the amazing combination of Mediterranean, middle eastern and everything fresh and local makes the foods of Israel the best. Israel has the best hummus in the world and I could (and did) eat it everyday.

    Best Food Tour – Marrakesh Food Tour

    With our guide Yahya on our incredible Marrakesh Food Tour

    We try to do food tours in as many countries as we can, so we definitely have some experience in this category. And our food tour, and our guide in Marrakesh was one of the absolute best we have ever had in any country. At $50 per person we more than ate our weight in every Moroccan delicacy learning so much about food, culture and history. We loved our guide Yahya who made the tour so much fun!

    Best Cooking Class – Food Cook Lab Moorea

    Prepping the Taro to be cooked inside the banana leaf

    I’m so glad I stumbled on to Food Cook Lab Tahiti, a local, organically focused cooking school. Arne and I took a Tahitian cooking class, which was so phenomenal, I signed up for a second class about fish. Everything I learned was amazing, delicious and so much fun. I loved the flavors of French Polynesia.

    Best Meal – Jardin de Plumes Giverny

    Lobster and Poached Tomato

    Our lovely boutique hotel in Giverny was associated with this restaurant Le Jardin de Plumes and though more expensive than we would usually choose…it was worth every penny. A very unique tasting menu of the chefs choice. The best way to describe it is food as art. Beautiful and delicious.

    Best Beer – Bend Oregon

    Bend is all about the beer

    Our third visit to Bend Oregon, we always make time to try new breweries when we visit this lovely town. One of the best beer towns in the Pacific Northwest and that is surely saying something.

    Best Distillery – Hali’mail’e Distillery Maui

    Hali’mail’e Distillery

    Last year we visited a different Maui distillery, Ocean, but this time we discovered Hali’mail’e Distillery in Upcountry where they use local pineapple juice for their products. We enjoyed it and recommend it.

    Best Coffee – Morocco

    Happy girl with her coffee in Marrakesh

    As you know I love my coffee, and real Moroccan coffee is right up there with some of the best in the world…deep, dark, rich Arabic coffee often lightly spiced.

    Culture

    Best Overall Cultural Experience – Shabat dinner Jerusalem

    Shabat dinner (Canva)

    This experience, having Shabat dinner with a local Jerusalem family, is not only our fondest memory of Israel, but one of fondest memories of all our travels. I am not Jewish but always hope to understand all faiths, particularly when in a country. Warmly welcomed by Osnat and Shaul into their beautiful home with a handful of other visitors as well as students from the local university. This lovely, authentic, delicious and religious experience will live forever in our hearts. I highly recommend it to everyone.

    Most Authentic Cultural Experience – Kayar Fishing Village Senegal

    Kayar at dawn

    As we drove several hours to this unknown destination in terrible Senegalese traffic I began to regret this tour. But in hindsight, it was the most amazing thing we did in the country of Senegal. The thousands of locals processing millions of fish on the beach…men, women and children…was colorful and almost like a festival. Our guide Oumar from Senegal Odyssey Tours was excellent and took exceptional care of us during our two days with him.

    Most Amazing Manmade Structure – Masada, Israel

    A couple years ago, one of my favorite books of the year was The Dove Keepers by Alice Hoffman , a fictional book about the factual siege of Masada in Israel. So visiting Masada was a top priority for me, and it did not disappoint. We visited on a scorching hot day but the Masada National Park is truly remarkable, a UNESCO World Heritage site with astonishing history.

    Most Unexpected Ancient Ruins – Cyprus

    Cyprus is so full of surprises…so much ancient history that rivals some of the best known historic ruins around the world. We really found the UNESCO Paphos Archeological site beautiful and staggering.

    Best Garden – Monet’s Giverny

    Long on my bucket list, and one of the things we canceled due to the PanDamit, to finally see this astonishing gardens was a dream for me. I loved the raucous and riotous collection of flowers, and of course, the ponds so famously depicted in Monet’s work. This was an easy choice for the Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022, Monet’s Giverny and a Wee Bit More.

    Best Museum – 911 Museum New York City and Western Wall Tunnel Tours Jerusalem

    In our world travels we have had incredible opportunities to visit some of the most amazing museums and historic sites. This year two museums that were at historic sites captivated us; the astonishing 911 Museum in New York City and the unbelievable Western Wall Tunnel Tour and Heritage site in Jerusalem.

    Best Walking Tour – 911 Ground Zero Tour New York City

    We could have done this walking tour self-guided, but I am so glad we decided to have a guide. Our guide was in the city on September 11th and had so much amazing insight for us to understand about Ground Zero prior to us going into the 911 Museum.

    Best Historical Sight – Wailing Wall (Western Wall) Jerusalem

    Even after seeing the photos all my life, seeing something as iconic, reverent and symbolic as the Wailing Wall (Western Wall) in Jerusalem was a wonder.

    Most Amazing Church – tie The Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine and St. John’s Co-Cathedral Valetta in Malta

    Giving this award to two this year…the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem for the sheer historical significance to the Christian faith and to St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valetta Malta, for the astonishing 450 year old Baroque architecture and grandeur.

    Best Performance – Hamilton on Broadway

    I felt like I was the last person on the planet to see this phenomenal play. Seeing it on Broadway was unforgettable. I was so enthralled I saw it again in Seattle with my son. See it if you can.

    Best One Day Tour – Michael Tours Palestine

    There are many, many options for group tours that take you across the disputed border from Jerusalem to Palestine. But I thought a private tour, for such an important event would be better. I wanted a local who could really guide us expertly through the eyes of a Palestinian. It was a fascinating day. I highly recommend Michael of Michael Tours.

    Best Multi Day Tour – Marrakesh Camel Tours Morocco

    If you are ever in Morocco, absolutely hire Lhoucine with Marrakesh Camel Tours. Doing this four day tour with our two adult sons was as memorable as it could be, and our tour guide was one of the best we have ever had anywhere in the world.

    Unexpectedly Fun Tour – Nicosia Segway Tour Cyprus

    The UN Border crossing between Cyprus and the occupied north on our Segway

    We were recommended to this tour by another tour guide who we met two years before in Cyprus. It sounded like a fun way to see the interesting capital of Cyprus, Nicosia. And we had a blast. I highly recommend Nicosia Segway Tours.

    Nature

    Best Sunrise – Moorea

    Sunrise – each morning unique, Moorea

    Every morning I had my solitary moment with The Mug and the sunrise.

    Best Sunset – Maui

    A changing show every night

    Every night we watched the sun go to bed and it was always an amazing performance.

    Best Beach – Moorea

    Ta’ahiamanu Public Beach Moorea

    Yes the beaches of Hawaii are amazing, but Moorea really was something special. Our favorite beach was a crystal clear white sand park called Ta’ahiamanu Public Beach.

    Best Hike – tie; Washington State, Jersey

    Mount St. Helens Washington State USA
    Jersey Channel Islands

    Hiking is a big part of our life, and we try to hike once a week no matter where we are. Our home state of Washington is one of the best places in the world to hike and we have half a dozen favorites we go back to over and over. Our time on the tiny island of Jersey in the English Channel also offered us one of our most memorable day hikes in September.

    Most Unusual Hike – Guernsey Lihou Causeway Low Tide Crossing

    Low tide hike to the tiny island of Lihou off the coast of Guernsey, Channel Islands

    We spent several days on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands off the coast of France. Though the weather was wet, we did the low-tide crossing hike from Guernsey to the tiny island of Lihou. This was a very unique experience and worth getting drenched for.

    Best Natural Sight – Sahara Desert

    That’s me with my camel buddies just taking it all in

    Not our first venture into the Sahara, but it still is a mind-boggling sight to see and the overnight camel tour is something everyone should do at least once in their life time.

    Best USA National Park/National Monument – Mount St Helens

    Me showing my gratitude to Mount Saint Helens

    Again, gratitude to the beauty of my home state and all its national sites, including the National Monument of Mount Saint Helens. We hadn’t visited Mt. St. Helens in many years and thoroughly enjoyed our day hiking in this national monument. Fascinating.

    Best Wildlife Viewing – Maui

    Humpback Whale (Canva)

    From whales to sharks, turtles to wild pigs, tropical fish to deer and the omnipresent chickens, Maui is a surprising place for wildlife viewing.

    Best Bird-Watching – Antigua

    Bird Watching Antigua

    As we travel we have become amateur birdwatchers and really enjoy it. We were very surprised by the variety of beautiful birds we found on the island of Antigua.

    Best City Park – Central Park NYC

    My morning run in NYC’s amazing Central Park

    We plan to return to NYC next spring, and staying near Central Park is a high priority. New Yorkers cherish this park and it really is the heart of the city. I love it too for morning runs, afternoon strolls, people (and dog) watching, live entertainment and bird watching just to name a few reasons.

    Athletic Pursuits

    Best Snorkeling – Moorea

    Snorkeling at the public beach in Moorea

    We LOVED our little bungalow on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia for many reasons…including access to snorkeling. Stepping right outside our door we could swim out about 60 yards to a remarkable reef with some of the most astonishing coral I have seen anywhere in the world.

    Best Golf – Maui

    Great golf and views at Maui Nui

    Our home course of Maui Nui in Kihei is where we golf every time we visit this island and I had my best score ever this year!

    Best Place to Run – Maui

    Almost every morning I ran during our two months in Maui

    I trained for and ran a half marathon (again) while on the island of Maui. Sidewalks, street lights, safe and beautiful, Kihei is my favorite place in the world to be a runner.

    Weather

    Hottest Day – Palestine

    Our day trip from Jerusalem to Palestine was one of the hottest days of our year with temperatures well over 100F. The desert was still and treeless and we swooned.

    Coldest Day – Maine and Washington

    Bundled up against the September chill in Maine
    December snow in Washington State

    Just days before departing for two months in tropical French Polynesia we had a giant snowstorm at our home in Washington State. And when we arrived in Maine in September for a college reunion/camping trip, Hurricane Fiona off the coast pounded Maine with rain, wind and very chilly temperatures. My body responded with one of the worst colds I’d had in years – made a pilgrimage to Walmart to get some warm clothes!

    Wettest Day – Moorea

    Wet and rainy birthday on our first full day in Moorea

    Arriving in Moorea mid January to monsoon conditions our first week created a lake in our front yard, massive mosquitos and cool temperatures. Luckily it cleared and we loved our time in Moorea.

    Windiest Day – Maui

    The photo really doesn’t show how windy it was….we barely could hold still.

    Thanksgiving Day was one of the windiest Maui had seen in a long time with gusts blowing everything around including people. The only time in our two months on the island we ate our meal indoors with the doors closed.

    Travel

    Longest Travel Day – Cyprus to Seattle

    Heathrow (Canva)

    Returning to Seattle from Larnaca Cyprus involved two flights and a stop in London for a total of 6840 miles.

    Shortest Flight – Guernsey to Jersey

    It was over before it started!

    Originally we were going to take a 3 hour ferry from Guernsey to Jersey, but when we realized the flight was only slightly more expensive we booked it. Total flight time take off to touch down: 10 minutes 30 seconds.

    Craziest Travel Day – Morocco

    With my son Dane as we waited five hours for the storm to pass so we could take off from Dulles to Casablanca

    We flew to Dulles Airport from Turks and Caicos where we met up with our two sons who flew in from Seattle. We should have only had a three hour layover but due to a terrible storm we ended up being delayed for another 5 hours. Amazingly when we finally arrived in Casablanca our driver was still waiting for us. What a sight for sore eyes that was.

    Miscellaneous

    Weirdest Event – Shark Attack

    Shark (Canva)

    A very sad and scary event while we were on the island of Maui was the death of a snorkeler who was attacked by a Tiger Shark. We felt so bad for her husband and family.

    Strangest Experience – Disputed Border Crossings

    Palestinian side of the wall between Palestine and Jerusalem
    UN Border crossing between Cyprus and occupied Northern Cyprus

    This year we crossed two disputed borders; Israel to Palestine where Israelis soldiers were heavily armed and a bit rude as they guarded a 40 foot wall; and Cyprus to Northern Cyprus where UN forces keep the peace between Greek Cyprus and the disputed occupied Turkish Northern Cyprus.

    Bucket list – Palestine and Israel

    Banksy Art Palestine
    Old Town Jerusalem

    Since I was 12 years old I had wanted to go to Israel and Palestine. I feel very blessed to have visited.

    Best Celebration – 40th Anniversary

    With dear friends at Mama’s Fish House
    Just the two of us at Merriman’s Kapalua celebrating 40 years of marriage

    While in Maui we had a wonderful 40th wedding anniversary celebration, in fact two. The first with our friends from home who were on the island as well as our friends from Molokai who came to join us at Mama’s Fish House. The second, just Arne and I, at the incomparable Merriman’s at Kapalua. I hope to do that again on our 80th anniversary.

    Favorite Photo – Senegal

    Hauling in the catch, all hands on deck, in Kayar Senegal. This happens every morning.

    I take thousands of photos…I mean it – thousands. So choosing a favorite is hard. This year I choose this one. The color. The culture. The authentic feel of hard work and community. And that baby.

    Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022

    There you have it. The best of the best of My Fab Fifties Life travel of 2022. Amazing, memorable and unique experiences with new cultures and experiences around the world. What a grand adventure it is. We sure hope you will consider visiting some of these places and enjoying some of these unique experiences too.

    That’s my guy…and those bags…oh the stories they could tell.

    As I post this annual awards I am in the country of Honduras…my 123rd country. Our travels in 2023 currently are planned for us to visit at least a dozen and maybe more as we explore and find the rich and rewarding destinations, people, experiences, foods and beauty of this amazing planet we call home.

    I hope you have enjoyed the Sixth Annual Travel Awards 2022. We hope you will continue to follow us around the globe, comment, pin and share this post so others can follow as well. Thank you and be fabulous. Our blog is nearly ten years old…it wouldn’t be possible without all of you.

    See our Top Blogs of 2022 here. See our recent post Becoming a Traveler here.

    We appreciate it when you comment, share and pin our blog posts – especially this one!! Thank you.

    Malta
    Moorea
    Inspire

    Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021

    PanDamit Be Damned

    Well. Here we still are…that crazy PanDamit just won’t give up. If you had told me a year ago when I wrote last year’s 2020 Travel Awards that I would actually travel LESS in 2021 I would not have believed you. And yet…. But nevertheless, we are presenting to you our Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021.

    We did our first Travel Awards in 2017. Ahh those days we remember fondly…. 2018 was amazing too. And 2019 so incredible. And like everyone else, all seemed well when 2020 began but then…well you know what happened. Guess we don’t need to dwell on it do we?

    In winter 2021 we did some USA exploring, staying away from most people and out of most restaurants. Our USA travel revolved around activities outdoors in sunny places. In April we got our vaccine and we celebrated that milestone by booking our first international trip in more than a year to Iceland. But as summer waned, variants persisted. We continued to travel in the USA and got our booster shot in October, just in time to spend a month in Mexico.

    Vaccine
    Getting Vaccinated in April

    So there was some travel…most of it in the USA, but all of it wonderful. Making the most of a bad situation we continue to live My Fab Fifties Life with courage and caution. For me and my husband, we refuse to be victims or feel controlled by the virus or those who don’t believe in science. Instead, our life is evolving to be happy in this situation that is beyond our control. Doing our best we had some great adventures this year, as you will see in our Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021.

    And so, we plan to travel in 2022. But in the meantime, we present our Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021. I hope it will inspire you to be brave, be smart, be happy and be safe. Happy New Year!

    And the winner is…

    Destinations

    We visited three countries, plus nine states in the USA.

    Favorite City – Mexico City What a fabulous surprise Mexico City was. Huge but with great transportation, this ancient and beautiful city is colorful and remarkably clean and astonishingly delicious. I now rank it as one of my favorite cities in the world. We didn’t have enough time to see it all, so we are considering another visit in 2022.

    Mexico City
    Mexico City

    Cutest Town – Ogunquit Maine We visited Ogunquit in September spending a week with our friends in their summer home and we had the best time. It’s everything you imagine an Eastern Seaboard village to be with beautiful architecture, nice restaurants and shops and beaches too.

    Maine
    Ogunquit Maine

    Favorite Island – Maui, Hawaii It’s no secret our love for the island of Maui. Of the hundreds of islands we have been blessed to visit around the world Maui remains at the top of our favorite island list. Although it is expensive and can be incredibly crowded, we try to visit during the shoulder season and always fall in love with it again. Read about our Maui adventures here.

    Maui
    Maui

    Most Expensive Country – Iceland We spent fourteen fun days in Iceland enjoying it’s jaw dropping scenery, with ten of those days in a camper van. We avoided restaurants most of the time, but groceries are expensive, fuel is expensive and the camper van was expensive. But as you will see in the blog below there is a lot to love about Iceland. Read about our Iceland adventures here.

    Iceland
    Iceland

    Least Expensive Country – Mexico We were surprised and delighted about the cost of things in Mexico from restaurants and groceries to transportation and lodging. Even our four day food tour was well worth the money and we can’t wait to visit Mexico again. Read about Mexico here.

    Mexico
    Mexico

    Accommodations

    Favorite Airbnb – Tucson this year we stayed in the fewest Airbnb’s in our entire Airbnb history. Only five. Usually it’s more like thirty. But most of them were great and our favorite was the beautiful house in East Tuscon. It was comfortable and well laid out in a really nice neighborhood where we could run and really get outdoors, right next to Saguaro National Park.

    Tucson
    Tucson Airbnb

    Favorite Hotel – The Red Tree House B&B Mexico City For many reasons, but mostly due to Covid, we ended up in more hotels than Airbnb’s in 2021, a total of 16. Many of these were for only one or two nights as we were just passing through. But The Red Tree House in Mexico City was hands down our favorite. One of the best, if not the best service hotel I have ever stayed in. Beautiful and with excellent breakfast we are already talking about going back next winter.

    Red Tree Bnb Mexico City
    The Red Tree Bed & Breakfast

    Honorable Mention goes to the beautiful La Conner Channel Lodge right on the Swinomish Channel in La Conner Washington (read about it here) and the historic Hotel Del Coronado San Diego California (read about it here) – a bucket list hotel for me. Both these properties were fun and fabulous to visit.

    La Connor Washington
    La Connor Channel Lodge
    Del Coronado San Diego
    The Del Coronado

    Most Unique Accommodations – Camper Van Iceland our second time traveling in a camper van in a foreign country. This vehicle was not laid out as nicely as the one we had in New Zealand, but for ten days it worked out fine. And it gave us lots of flexibility to see all the great sights on the fascinating Ring Road in Iceland.

    Iceland
    Camper Van Iceland

    Best View Accommodations – Puerto Escondido Mexico although we found this very open air Airbnb pretty noisy, you just could not beat the view of the Pacific Ocean and the swaying palm trees. Lovely.

    Puerto Escondido
    View our Airbnb Puerto Escondido

    Food

    Best Food Tour – Mexico City Eat Like a Local Four days of touring with Eat Like a Local Mx opened our eyes to the hidden treasures of this amazing city. We loved every minute and every bite as well as all the history and culture. We also loved our guides Astrid and Rocio and hope to see them again some day. Read about it here.

    Mexico City Street Food
    Food Tour with Eat Like a Local Mexico City
    Mexico City Street Food
    Food Tour with Eat Like a Local Mexico City

    Weirdest Food – Iceland Fermented Shark We also enjoyed our food tour in Reykjavik Iceland. Iceland has some delicious food, but also some weird food too, like fermented shark. Not my favorite thing ever…tasted like ammonia.

    Fermented Shark
    Fermented Shark Iceland

    Best Cooking Class – Casa Jacaranda Mexico City Our full day cooking with Casa Jacaranda in Mexico City was one of the best cooking classes I have ever taken…and I have taken a lot of cooking classes over the years. Learning about the ingredients, cooking in the beautiful home kitchens of Casa Jacaranda and enjoying a meal together at the end was just the perfect way to end our visit to Mexico City.

    Casa Jacaranda Cooking School
    Casa Jacaranda Cooking School Mexico City

    Most Unique Food Experience – O’O Farm Kula Maui during this long visit to Maui we set out to really find some deeper hidden and authentic treasures of this beautiful island (read about it here) and discovering the O’O Farm was one of the most amazing finds. We will definitely visit there again.

    O' O Farms Maui
    Delicious meal and tour at O’O Farms Maui

    Unexpected Food Trend – Sonoran Dog Tucson this unexpected food trend in Tucson was something I had never heard of, but apparently Sonoran Hot Dogs are well loved by those in the know. We did a Tasty Tuesday all about it.

    Sonoran Hotdogs Tucson
    Sonoran Hot Dogs

    Best Alcohol Tour – Puerto Escondido Mexico a few years ago I was introduced to Mezcal for the first time. Since then, I have learned a bit more about Tequila in general and Mezcal in particular and while in Puerto Escondido we did our first Mezcal Tour. We learned so much from Puerto Mezcal Tours and highly recommend this tour company if you are in the area. Really fun.

    Puerto Mezcal Tours
    Mezcal Tour with Puerto Mezcal Tours

    Best Micro brews – This one is a tie: Tucson Arizona, and the Breweries of Kitsap Peninsula. While visiting Tucson last winter we set out to taste test all the local microbreweries. During this time there still was no indoor dining, but finding lots of outdoor dining and drinking opportunities we discovered a wide variety of really good beer in Tucson. Back home in Washington State in the spring and summer we spent 8 weeks visiting 24 local microbreweries of the Kitsap Peninsula…if you live anywhere near the Kitsap Peninsula you really need to check this out.

    Tucson Micro Brews
    One of many micro breweries in Tucson
    Micro Brews of Kitsap
    So many great beers on the Kitsap Peninsula Washington

    Best Meal – Rok, Reykjavik Iceland we had two fabulous meals in Reykjavik and also ate some strange and crazy things in Iceland. But our dinner at the beautiful little Rok was so delicious and one of the most unique meals I’ve ever had. Rok, along with some other restaurants and local Icelandic chefs have put Reykjavik on the map for the Nuevo Icelandic cuisine. If you make it to Reykjavik, get a reservation at Rok.

    Rok Reykjavik
    Beautiful food of Iceland at Rok

    Best Cultural and Natural Experiences

    Best Sunrise – Ogunquit Maine – we loved our week in Ogunquit with dear friends and enjoyed the spectacular sunrises each and every morning. Stunning.

    Maine
    Sunrise Maine

    Best Sunset – Puerto Escondido Mexico and Maui Hawaii Sunsets over the Pacific Ocean from these two locations never disappointed and we looked forward each evening to the experience.

    Sunset Mexico
    Puerto Escondido Sunset
    Maui Sunset
    Sunset in Napili Maui

    Best Beach – Maui it’s no secret how much I love the island of Maui, even though it has changed so much in the forty plus years I have been visiting. This year we spent the majority of our time in West Maui, a change for us from past visits, and discovered so many new and lovely beaches…our favorite, Kahana Secret Beach. Shhhhhhh….don’t tell anyone.

    Maui
    Secret Beach Kahana

    Best Waterfall – Iceland – when you first arrive in Iceland you pull over on the road for every waterfall. Until you realize there are tens of thousands of waterfalls and you just can’t possibly see them all. But during our two weeks in Iceland we had three favorites; Dettifoss, Svartifoss, and Hengifoss

    Iceland
    Ditfoss Iceland
    Svartifoss
    Hengifoss

    Best Natural Site – Antelope Canyon Utah it’s been years that I have wanted to visit Antelope Canyon. I also have tried to get in on the lottery to visit “The Wave”. Still working on that one. But Antelope Canyon is absolutely stunning and it was a definite bucket list for me. I am so glad we finally made it.

    Arizona
    Antelope Canyon Arizona
    Arizona
    Antelope Canyon Arizona

    Honorable Mention – Kirkjufell Iceland – it was our lucky day to visit this beautiful site on such a clear and sunny day. Kirkjufell is one of the most photographed places in all of Iceland, and it was just stunning.

    Iceland
    Kirkjufell Iceland

    Best Wildlife Sighting – Grey Wolf Grand Canyon Arizona – a rare and chance siting of a wild wolf on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was such a fluke. I just happened to be looking across a field as we were driving and I yelled Stop! I wasn’t exactly sure what it was I was seeing but we got out the long lens and binoculars and while other cars zoomed right past, we enjoyed seeing a Grey Wolf in the wild. Good eyes Laureen!

    Grey Wolf
    Grey Wolf North Rim Grand Canyon

    Best Wildlife Exhibit – Maui Ocean Center Humpbacks of Hawaii 3D Exhibit it had been many years since we had visited the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium, but their brand new 3D film entitled Humpbacks of Hawaii intrigued us and so we went. Boy were we glad we did. The 3D movie is worth the price of admission, while you can also enjoy the other marine life exhibits. If you have ever hoped to swim with whales, well this is the next best thing. So real.

    Maui Ocean Center
    Maui Ocean Center Humpbacks of Hawaii

    Best Historic Church – Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson This historic and beautiful old mission just outside of Tucson Arizona was a beautiful surprise both inside and out and I am so glad we took the time to visit it.

    Arizona
    San Xavier del Bac

    Best Modern Architecture – The Chapel of the Holy Cross Sedona Wow. We could see this church from a couple of miles away and even though we weren’t looking for it we headed that way to get a closer look. This Roman Catholic Church is a stunner built into the red rock of Sedona.

    Sedona
    The Chapel of the Holy Cross Sedona

    Best Museum – Frida Kahlo Mexico City Outstanding small museum in Mexico City, also known as Casa Azul, is the home where Frida Kahlo was born, lived her entire life, and died. The museum dedicated to this strong woman and her fascinating life was our favorite this year.

    Frida Kahlo
    Frida Kahlo Museum Mexico City

    Best Outdoor Museum – Arizona Sonora Desert Museum one of the best things we did in Tucson, was driving out of town to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, a beautifully laid out outdoor museum. With interpretive signage for the wide variety of plants, wildlife and birds, we spent several hours enjoying this remarkable place.

    Arizona
    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum Tucson

    Best Garden – Sunnylands Palm Springs, Akureyri Botanical Gardens Iceland visiting botanical gardens is a favorite thing we do everywhere we travel. This year we visited several in Arizona, California and Maui. But these two were are favorites for their distinct beauty, surprising colorful blooms (especially in Iceland) and easy accessibility for the visitor. I highly recommend them both. Sunnylands and Akureyri Botanical Gardens

    Palm Springs
    Sunnylands Palm Springs
    Iceland
    Akureyea Botanical Gardens Iceland

    Best Kitsch – Tombstone, Arizona we don’t often fall for the kitsch, but sometimes it’s fun to do the touristy things. In Arizona we spent a day driving from Tucson to Tubac, Bisbee and Tombstone enjoying some history and shopping as well as the touristy kitsch in Tombstone, home to the OK Corral and Wyatt Earp. We were glad we went. Tombstone

    Tombstone Arizona
    Tombstone
    Tombstone Arizona

    Most Unique Experience – Beer Spa Iceland I never did see this activity in any of the research I did for our visit to Iceland, until I stumbled on a brochure. It wasn’t cheap but it was certainly unique and close to where we were spending several days in Akureyri. Bjorbodin was about an hour’s drive. Drinking beer, soaking in beer and having a wonderful time on a very memorable day.

    Beer Spa Iceland
    Beer Spa Iceland

    Best Outdoor Art – Borrego Springs California we spent seven weeks in the Palm Springs California area, and one day while driving around we stumbled onto these incredible outdoor sculptures in Borrego Springs. There are dozens of these…perhaps even hundreds. Some small and some huge and all fascinating and fun to see. Worth a side trip if you are in the area.

    Borrego Springs
    Borrego Springs Outdoor Sculptures California

    Best Interactive Exhibit – Wonders of Iceland & Planetarium although this brand new museum and exhibit is pricey, it is really well done and a perfect introduction to Iceland. We learned a lot about the history, geology and geography of the island nation at this exhibit while in Reykjavik, prior to setting out on our 9 day driving tour.

    Wonders of Iceland and Planetarium

    Honorable Mention Van Gogh Immersive Experience Seattle – this traveling exhibit has been getting rave reviews all of the world. We saw it in Seattle and really enjoyed it. Especially if you have never had the opportunity to visit European museums that house Van Gogh, you might find it entertaining.

    Van Gogh Immersive Experience

    Athletic Pursuits

    Best Hike – Tucson, Sedona, Washington State, Maui, Utah if you follow My Fab Fifties Life regularly you know that we hike one day a week, nearly every week of the year. Hiking is a big part of both our travels and when we are at home in Washington State. This past year we have had so many amazing hiking adventures enjoying new hiking experiences in Tucson and Sedona and Page Arizona as well as Utah. We also revisited our favorites in Maui and Washington State. I can’t choose a favorite. I just can’t! So if you are looking to hike in any of these locations click on the live links above to learn more.

    Maui
    Washington
    Arizona

    Best Place to Run – Maui as I write this I am snowbound in Washington State and unable to keep up with my running schedule. Boy do I miss running in Maui. It’s hands down my favorite place to run in the entire world. I often run before it even gets light, I always feel safe, and I adore the island breeze.

    Maui
    My morning view running in Maui

    Best Place to Golf – Maui Nui Maui because we were in Maui for two months again this year, we decided to get a membership to Maui Nui in the Kihei area. It’s such a great place to golf if you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars for some of the fancier courses. We golfed every Monday for eight weeks with our membership and made vast improvements in our game. I can’t wait to go back next fall.

    Maui Nui Golf Maui

    Expensive But Worth It – White Pocket Utah we paid to take a tour to White Pocket in Utah (about two hours from Page Arizona) because getting there requires a four wheel vehicle. Despite the nearly $400 cost, it was worth it…truly one of the most amazing geological sights I have ever seen. The world is strange and wonderful and Arizona and Utah have more than their share of fantastic geological sites!

    White Pocket
    White Pocket

    Best Yoga – Maui Goat Yoga well I saw this on Trip Advisor and without telling my hubs I signed us up. So much fun! For something completely different, spend a morning with the goats in Maui’s Upcountry area of Kula. It was fun. Maui Goat Yoga.

    Maui Goat Yoga
    Maui Goat Yoga

    Weather

    Hottest Day – Puerto Escondido Mexico we love hot weather, and often find ourselves in places without AC, which was the case in Puerto Escondido Mexico where the temperatures daily reached into the upper 90’s Fahrenheit. But we are used to sleeping with open windows and fans and that is what we did in Puerto Escondido.

    Puerto Escondido Mexico

    Coldest Day – Sedona Arizona we knew Sedona could be chilly and we were mostly prepared, although the morning we woke to a blanket of snow we were a little surprised. We still got out and did our hikes and enjoyed the beauty of the low 30’s temperatures and the white snow blanketing the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona

    Sedona Arizona
    Snowy Sedona Arizona

    Honorable Mention – Port Orchard Washington unusually cold weather the week after Christmas kept us housebound with 8 inches of snow at our home in Port Orchard Washington.

    Snow at home in Washington

    The Oopsie That Happened Award 2021

    Sea Urchin Attack Maui – every year something weird happens that is worth a mention but doesn’t fit into any category. This year it’s the Sea Urchin Attack. When I got caught in a small wave and my foot was dragged across a bed of sea urchins I ended up with 25 sea urchin spines embedded in my foot. And it hurt like hell. Gratefully we learned the remedy is soaking your foot in vinegar for days and days and eventually the spines dissolve. Who knew?

    Sea Urchin attack
    Sea Urchin spines in my foot in Maui

    That’s a Wrap

    As you can see, despite it all we had some memorable travel experiences in 2021. We no longer carry many expectations for what 2022 will look like. We will just wait and see and be grateful for whatever comes.

    Hiking in Sedona

    I hope you are healthy and safe. I’ll be blogging in the next few weeks about our impressions and experiences in French Polynesia – our 111th country! We will be in French Polynesia for two months! Life goes on – PanDamit be damned!

    Thanks for reading this post Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021. Thanks for your continued love and support of this blog. We love it when you pin and share our blog posts.

    Iceland
    Sedona

    Inspire

    2020 World Travel Awards

    The Votes Are In – 2020 World Travel Awards

    What. A. Year.

    Yep it was one for the record books, and yet, we managed some remarkable and inspiring travel moments despite it all. So in keeping with the past four years, we want to bestow our 2020 World Travel Awards. This year we have fewer countries, lodgings, and experiences to consider…but we believe they deserve our 2020 World Travel Awards recognition nonetheless.

    Victoria Falls
    Victoria Falls, Zambia

    By the way, I’ve been asked many times whether we lost a lot of money on travel when we had to abandon our trip in 2020. It took some work and persistence but most airlines, all Airbnb’s and all but one hotel gave us refunds or vouchers for future use. With about $10,000 at stake, we feel blessed to have only ended up losing about $1500. One silver lining in the Covid nightmare.

    And so, for the fourth year in a row, our 2020 World Travel Awards are here. If you are interested, check out our 2017 Travel Awards, our 2018 Travel Awards and last year, our 2019 Travel Awards.

    And the winner is…

    DESTINATIONS

    Eleven Countries (we were supposed to visit 30)

    For reference we visited Mauritius, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Uganda, Rwanda, Israel, Cyprus, England and the United States.

    Favorite Overall Country – Cyprus

    Cyprus
    Cyprus

    Despite the fact we hardly saw any of Cyprus, we still bestow it the 2020 World Travel Awards favorite overall country. Cyprus is where we went into lockdown and where we were stuck for seven weeks, housebound and unable to see any sites. We never ate in a single restaurant, went to the beach or saw any historic ruins or sites. Luckily the one thing we were able to do before we were forced into house arrest, was a wonderful cooking class. More about that below.

    When we can travel again, we will return to Cyprus, to see the sights and to see the wonderful people we met during our time there.

    Favorite City – Tel Aviv, Israel

    Israel
    Tel Aviv

    We had four days in the beautiful city of Tel Aviv, a little jewel of a modern city in this incredibly ancient country. On day five as we began to explore more of Israel is when we, with only a few hours notice, were forced to leave as Israel went into lockdown. So the rest of Israel remains on our list, but thank you Tel Aviv for a wonderful visit.

    Cutest Town – Bend Oregon USA

    Bend Oregon
    Mexican food in Bend

    On our road trip in August we spent three quick days in Bend and I was reminded once again how much I love this part of the USA. It’s just beautiful and the food and beer are excellent too. I will definitely go again and spend more time eating and playing in this beautiful area.

    Favorite Island – Maui Hawaii USA

    Maui
    Maui

    It’s no secret how much I love the island of Maui…one of the most beautiful islands of the world. I have been blessed to visit many, many MANY islands, and still Maui remains at the top of my list. This past year in an effort to hide from Covid, we spent nine lovely weeks in Maui.

    Most Expensive Country – Israel

    Israel
    Israel

    Even though we did not spend even an entire week in Israel, it was clearly one of the most expensive countries we have been to. Still it remains at the top of our list we want to return to and enjoy.

    Least Expensive Country – Mauritius

    Considered an African country but feeling more like India, Mauritius is a unique place for culture, food and weather. Six weeks here was inexpensive for us and we enjoyed it very much.

    Accommodation

    Ten Airbnb/VRBO, Eleven Hotels, One Tree House, One Kibbutz

    Favorite Airbnb – Cyprus

    Lemon Grove Villa Cyprus
    Lemon Grove Villa, Cyprus

    Our Airbnb in Cyprus, called Lemon Grove Ena was an absolute blessing – and we will forever be grateful that it is where we were when we got locked down. For seven weeks our hosts Maria and Fritos, as well as their property manager Sofronios, all of whom spoke minimal English, made heroic efforts to keep us safe and comfortable. We could not have been in better hands.

    Favorite Airbnb Hosts – Cyprus

    As above, our Cyprus hosts were so special. We hope to see them again soon.

    Most Unique Accommodation – Tie for this category; Tree House Fall City Washington and Glamping in Carbondale Colorado

    Tree House Point
    Tree House Point Fall City Washington

    Back in the USA we were looking for ways to stay sane so we took a couple much needed Sanity Staycations. In doing so we discovered some unique places to stay. The first one was a beautiful Tree House about an hour from our home. The second was an awesome Glamping Safari Tent just outside of Aspen Colorado in Carbondale.

    Best Hotel – Uganda

    Uganda
    Hotel Uganda

    We were on a tour in Uganda, four days to see the Mountain Gorillas. And for two of those nights we stayed in a mountainside hotel called Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge. It was a tiny place with each room a separate cabin perched in the hills just outside of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Of all the places I have stayed around the world, the service here was one of the best. It also included a delicious small restaurant and bar. Each night they provided a turn down service as well as a hot water bottle tucked into the sheets. When we returned from our very wet and muddy trek in the jungle, they did our laundry too. Lovely.

    Most Unique Hotel – Zambia

    Zambia
    Ngoma Zanga Hotel

    During our time at Victoria Falls we spent a week in a tiny African hotel called Ngoma Zanga. We ate all our meals here, enjoyed our comfortable room and the amazing staff that helped us have the best experience possible at Victoria Falls.

    Best View Accommodations – Maui

    Maui
    View from Kihei Surfside

    We love to visit Maui and when there we always try to stay at the Kihei Surfside with it’s impeccable view

    Strangest Hotel Experience – London

    Aerotel Hotel
    Teeny Heathrow Hotel

    When we finally were allowed to leave Cyprus we headed back to the USA via London and those two days of travel were unlike anything we have ever experienced. See below for details. But we had to find a room at Heathrow, when everything was shut down. And so we stayed in what was essentially a closet for one night at Aerotel Hotel. There was no food available anywhere in or near the hotel so we ate day old sandwiches we had brought from Cyprus, slept fitfully and then boarded a USA bound flight in the morning. See more about that below.

    Food

    Favorite Cuisine – Israel

    Israel
    Food of Israel

    Mediterranean food and middle eastern food collides in Israel and we enjoyed every bite and every morsel we could in our short visit. Even in the short time we had, this country easily is the tops in food for the 2020 World Travel Awards.

    Best Cooking Class – Cyprus

    Cyprus
    Cyprus Cooking Class with Mrs. Sofia

    So grateful to have had this experience just hours before going into full lockdown on Cyprus. It was our one opportunity to learn some culture and history and to meet some amazing locals. I cherish this day and all we learned and continue to make Cypriot dishes here at home. Our tour was organized by Cyprus Taste Tours.

    Best Beer – Maui

    Maui
    Maui Brewing Company

    Maui has a great microbrew culture and we visited three different microbreweries (and one distillery) on the island.

    Best Coffee – Cyprus

    Coffee
    Learning to make Cypriot Coffee

    Much like Greek or Turkish coffee, Cypriot Coffee is rich and dark and cooked in an Cezva and we loved it.

    Best Meal – Maui

    Mala Tavern
    Ono at Mala Tavern Grill, Maui

    Nine weeks in Maui was amazing, but in an effort to social distance we did not eat in very many restaurants. But, when we did we had no complaints. Two incredible fish meals stand out for me; Mala Ocean Tavern and The Sea House Restaurant.

    Best Cultural & Natural Experiences

    Best Sunset – Maui

    Sunset
    Maui Sunset

    There it is again, my favorite island, which for 2020 also presented me my favorite sunsets…night after night.

    Best Cultural Experience – Soweto South Africa

    Soweto
    Childen in Soweto coming ot great us

    While in Johannesburg we took a cultural tour that included time in Soweto – the infamous township just outside of Johannesburg. We were thrilled by our reception, visiting a home, meeting lots of kids and learning so much about all that has happened to the people of Soweto. We booked this tour through Get Your Guide.

    Best Beach – Maui and Honorable Mention Tel Aviv

    Maui Beach with Turtle
    Maui Beaches

    Our favorite beaches are all in Maui, and while there we went to dozens. But we also thought the public beach in Tel Aviv was astonishingly beautiful. The beaches of Tel Aviv are another reason we can’t wait to return to Israel.

    Best Tour and Best Tour Guide – Uganda

    Best Bucket List Experience – Uganda

    Silverback Mountain Gorilla
    Uganda Mountain Silverback Gorilla

    Seeing Mountain Gorillas in the wild was a lifelong dream for me, and celebrating this bucket list adventure for my 60th birthday could not have been better. Working with a tour operator called Achieve Global Safaris we were greeted at the airport by our guide John, who spent the next four days making sure we had an experience of a lifetime. I loved our time in beautiful Uganda and seeing the gorillas.

    Best Natural Site – Victoria Falls with Honorable Mention to Mount Rainier

    Victoria Falls
    Victoria Falls

    I am a bit of a waterfall junkie…can’t get enough! Our world travels have included seeing some of the most majestic and beautiful waterfalls around the world! In February we were blessed to visit the spectacular Victoria Falls, which straddles the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Beyond breathtaking. Magnificent.

    Mount Rainier
    Mount Rainier

    And right in our home region of Washington State is another breathtaking and magnificent Natural Site – Mount Rainier. We did a lot of hiking this summer in and around Mount Rainier National Park. A place I do not take for granted and know how lucky I am to have this so close to home.

    Best Manmade Site – Caesarea Israel

    Amphitheater
    Caesarea, Israel

    Although we were very disappointed to unexpectedly end our time in Israel due to the lockdown, we did get to see a few amazing things, including several remarkable ancient sites. We particularly enjoyed the ancient city of Caesarea with it’s fabulous chariot race track, remarkably intact amphitheater and many other interesting sites, all with a view of the ocean.

    Best History Tour – Johannesburg South Africa

    Hector Pieterson Memorial
    Hector Pieterson Memorial

    Our full day tour of Johannesburg not only gave us the opportunity to visit Soweto (see above) and the Apartheid Museum (see below) it also covered many significant historical events that have occurred in Johannesburg. It was fascinating and I highly recommend it.

    Best Day Hike – Rwanda

    Rwanda children
    School children greeting us on our Rwanda hike

    Our week in Rwanda gave us a chance to learn more about the genocide that happened there in 1994, but it also gave us a chance to get out into the rural areas and see some of the beauty of this often overlooked destination. From the lakeside town of Kivu, we hiked with a guide over a mountain to a small village (about 8 miles) on the Rwanda Congo Nile Trail, and then took a tiny boat back. We learned so much about the history, culture, industry, agriculture, flora and fauna of this tiny little nation. It was a remarkable day – one of those rare and memorable experiences that was delightfully authentic – a top prize for the 2020 Travel Awards.

    Expensive but Worth It – Mountain Gorillas Uganda

    At nearly $4000 for a five day visit, this tour was far and away more expensive than anything we have ever spent our travel dollars on. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Speaking of heartbeat…mine nearly stopped when we finally found the family of eight gorillas we had spent three hours tromping through the jungle looking for. One of the most unforgettable days of my life. Enjoy this little video (which is by far my most watched YouTube video ever! ) Achieve Global Safaris was amazing.

    Best Gardens – Mauritius

    Botanical Gardens Mauritius
    Botanical Gardens in Mauritiius

    We spent one day at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens near the town of Port Louise on the island of Mauritius. We were really surprised to find such a vast and well maintained Botanical Gardens in this tiny island nation.

    Best Conservation/Environmental Protection Site – Mauritius

    Endangered spieces
    Isla Aigrettes, Mauritius

    Definitely my favorite thing we did on the island of Mauritius was the boat tour to Ile aux Aigrettes, a protected atoll only 100 yards off shore. Here we took a remarkable guided walking tour to learn about the work being done by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation to preserve and protect numerous endangered species of animals, birds and plants. Mauritius can’t bring back the extinct Dodo bird, but they are working very hard to preserve the other unique and beautiful animals and flora of this special island.

    Best Museum – Apartheid Museum Johannesburg South Africa

    Apartheid Museum
    Entrance ticket, Apartheid Museum

    This museum is one of the best I’ve been to in the entire world. Amazingly organized to enjoy and learn chronologically it includes many interactive, video, audio aspects as well as an outdoor art exhibit. We were there for two hours and I wish we had two more. The Apartheid Museum is worth a trip to Johannesburg to see.

    Craziest Thing We Did – Angels Pool Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

    Angels Pool
    Angels Pool, Victoria Falls

    Whenever I look at these photos, I wonder what was I thinking? To be honest I did not really understand what I was signing up to do and it was only in the moment that I thought “oh shit.” But with caution we proceeded and it was actually fun, but also pretty freaking crazy. One of those things you do in a foreign country and afterwards you think “this would never be allowed in the USA.” I survived Angels Pool, Victoria Falls.

    Least English Spoken – Cyprus

    To be fair, we only dealt with a handful of people in Cyprus since we were mostly in house arrest, but the few friends we made we needed to do a lot of hand signals and pointing and laughing trying to get our message across

    Friendliest People – Rwanda

    Rwanda
    A new friend in Rwanda

    Every person we met in Rwanda was a delight. From hotel people to just people on the street we found Rwandans sincere, kind and very interested in us. Like in some other countries, I still hear from a few people we connected with and I love knowing they are well and still remembering meeting us.

    Weather

    Hottest Day – Mauritius

    Mauritius
    Mauritius Beach

    I swooned in Mauritius. The humidity was oppressive on a few days. Hottest day was 101F. We also lived through our third cyclone while on the island.

    Coldest Day – Haleakala Maui

    Haleakala
    Haleakala Hike

    At 10,000 feet Haleakala, particularly on a windy day, can be downright frigid. It was 37F in the morning with a nasty wind chill as we started our hike there.

    Exercise

    Best Place to Run – Maui

    Hands down of all the places we traveled this year running in Maui was the best. I always run in the morning before it got too warm, and the view, well, you can’t beat it.

    Best Game of Golf – Sun Valley Idaho USA

    Elk Horn golf
    Golfing in Sun Valley

    We golfed a lot this year, it being one of the few things we could get out and do safely. I made a commitment to really improve my game and I did. My favorite golf day was at Elk Horn in Sun Valley Idaho

    Best Yoga Spot – Maui

    Maui Yoga
    Yoga in Maui

    Yoga continues to be part of our daily routine, and Maui wins again, offering us the best yoga spot we found.

    Travel

    Craziest Travel Day Ever – Heathrow, London England

    The day we finally left Cyprus after seven weeks we flew to Heathrow and spent the night. The following morning we headed to our gate for our 12 hour flight back to the USA. This experience in Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, will remain with me for the rest of my life. Walking through Heathrow without another person anywhere to be seen was eerie, surreal and the most defining moment for me of what Covid-19 had done to our world. It was frightening. But I’m glad I had the experience of it, I certainly will never forget it.

    Heathrow
    All alone in Heathrow Airport

    Craziest Experience Overall – Cyprus

    If you have read this far, you know we were locked down in Cyprus, basically under house arrest for seven weeks. To leave our Airbnb we had to ask permission via text. We could only leave our house once a day. So if we needed groceries, that was all we could do that day. No groceries needed? Then we could ask permission to exercise, which we did most days, running in our little neighborhood around the village of Argaka. It was a surreal experience, definitely unlike anything else we have encountered in our world travels. And despite it all, we wouldn’t change it…it certainly is something we will never ever forget. Thank you Cyprus for taking such good care of us. And no question it needs to make the list for our 2020 World Travel Awards.

    I will add, that in all our travels, our time in Cyprus was the first time we needed to be in direct contact with the US Embassy. We were grateful for the guidance they provided even though their hands were tied. If you travel international, we highly recommend signing up with each Embassy you visit through the State Department Step program…apparently you never known when you are going to need it. See how to do that here.

    Maui

    That’s a Wrap

    It was not the travel year we imagined in January 2020, and yet, we added some of the most remarkable experiences of our life to a life of extensive remarkable experiences. I am very grateful for that. And, I am beyond grateful to all the kind and wonderful people we met this year while traveling. So many just trying to save their businesses, stay safe and healthy, and do the right thing. What a blessing to have met them all.

    Rwanda Fabrics
    Our friend Job who helped us make Rwanda clothes for our family

    Next week I will share a blog about our near term travel plans. But as far as long term or international travel, we have none. My guess would be we might not leave the USA until 2022. But I can’t know that so early. If that happens, next years Travel Awards will look very different, or perhaps I will need to decide if the blog has run its course. But I can’t know that yet either. All I know is the 2020 World Travel Awards have a special place in my heart.

    Glamping Safari Tent
    Glamping in Colorado

    Meanwhile we continue to be grateful for all the travel we have enjoyed, our current state of health and wellness, and our upcoming USA travel plans where we can lockdown in the sun. I have no regrets, no complaints and just a wee bit of sadness for all that has happened, or not happened.

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    Please be sure to read next Friday’s blog to see what happens next for My Fab Fifties Life.

    See this week’s top performing pin here Maui Hidden Gems