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    Everything Else Fabulous  --  Inspire

    2019 World Travel Awards

    From My Fab Fifties Life

    And the Winner Is…

    If you’ve been following My Fab Fifties Life for awhile you will remember our 2017 World Travel Awards  and our 2018 World Travel Awards from previous Januarys.  I definitely feel with all of our travels in 2019 (covering 40,000 miles and 12 countries) we are well positioned to once again deliver our World Travel Awards 2019 on many people, places and travel experiences that have touched us this past year.  Just like the Oscar movie awards, we have seen a world of real life drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery, nature and animation.  Enough to last a lifetime. This annual blog is one of our favorites to write and one we always create together. And in past years it has also been one of our best read – so we really hope you enjoy it once again.

    This is a long blog. But I believe it offers some valuable travel insight to the world. I hope you will find it informative and entertaining. Please enjoy our third annual World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2019 – My Fab Fifties Life.

    Cenang Beach Langkawi

    For reference – our 2019 countries visited were; Costa Rica, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, USA, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman and Kenya. Due to our efforts for much slower travel, this is half as many countries as 2018.

    DESTINATIONS

    12 Countries

    Favorite Overall Country – Guatemala with honorable mention to Myanmar (title photo above, Lake Atitlan Guatemala)

    You’ll find a clear pattern through out the awards this year with Guatemala winning several awards. It is just a very unique and special country, with few tourists, fantastic food, gorgeous scenery, amazing history and quiet and hard working people. And it’s cheap.

    This all can be said for Myanmar as well. We hope to return to both of these countries in the future.

    Aantigua Guateamala
    Semana Santa, Antigua Guatemala

    Favorite City – Antigua

    Well there it is again – Guatemala. Antigua is a remarkable city of ancient history in the shadow of a live volcano and for us visiting the weekend of Semana Santa gave us the most unique and incredible experience we could ever hope for.

    Most Beautiful City – Shanghai China

    Shanghai China
    Shanghai China

    Shanghai is the antithesis to Beijing – brand new, sparkling clean, stunningly beautiful (especially at night), easy to maneuver and very pedestrian friendly, Shangahi was our favorite beautiful city of the year.

    Cutest Town – Big Fork Montana USA

    We spent four months in the USA this year, getting out to visit some new places and some old favorites. Big Fork Montana was a new addition to our travels and it is just so quintisential America; cowboys, artists, wildlife and good food too. We hope to visit again.

    Big Fork Montana
    Big Fork Montana USA

    Most Expensive Country – Oman and the USA

    Oman and the USA tie for most expensive, although neither was outrageously expensive and should not deter anyone from visiting.

    Oman
    Oman

    Least Expensive Country – Malaysia

    Malaysia doesn’t feel poor like some African countries, but the cost of visiting there is dirt cheap. One of the least expensive destinations per day we have visited and we enjoyed all four of the Malaysian areas we visited.

    Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

    Most Disappointing City – Mandalay Myanmar

    Although Myanmar lands at the top of our list this year for many things, the city of Mandalay was a disappointment and I would skip it when recommending a Myanmar tour.

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    15 Airbnbs, 19 hotels, 1 boat

    Best Airbnb Overall – Mal Pais Costa Rica. We spent two weeks with our friends Randy and Sue in this gorgeous beach front Airbnb on the southwest coast of Costa Rica far from the crowds. We were well cared for by an onsite staff person, we witnessed the most incredible wildlife right in our own front yard, and had the most perfect nightly sunset show I’ve seen anywhere in the world. See it here.

    Mal Pais Costa Rica
    MalPais on the beach, Costa Rica

    Best Airbnb for Service – Diani Beach Kenya. Our lovely little cottage in Diani Beach Kenya came with daily maid service (she even washed the dishes), laundry service (a tiny additional cost), wonderful onsite owners who helped with tours and questions. We spent Christmas with these people and enjoyed having them around us for the holidays. See it here.

    Diani Beach Kenya
    Diani Beach Kenya

    Best Airbnb for Authenticity –Antigua Guatemala

    Our one-room loft with small kitchen in a historic Antigua home included an outdoor patio that overlooked the traditional inner courtyard as well as the ACTIVE volcano which at night we could see shooting lava into the sky. Wow. Unforgettable. See it here.

    Antigua Guatemala
    Antigua Guatemala

    Least Expensive Airbnb – Diani Beach Kenya (see above for Best Service Airbnb) at $65 a night. We spent three weeks in a darling cottage with pool. It was an incredible value for everything we got and we felt right at home.

    Most Unique Airbnb – Lake Atitlan Guatemala. Hands down one of the most beautiful yet also somewhat strange accommodations I have ever stayed in. We lived for 8 days in a cave basically, with the kitchen, living area and deck built in and around the boulders of the cave, a bathroom one level below in another cave and the bedroom, another level below that. Unforgettable. It was 270 steps to access the cave house from the road below. But oh what a view. See it here.

    Lake Atitlan Guatemala
    Cave House Lake Atitlan Guatemala

    Favorite Hotel – Inle Lake Myanmar, The Myanmar Treasure Resort. Far and away above any other hotel we stayed in this year, the beauty and uniqueness of the Myanmar Treasure Resort had us giddy with joy during our two week stay in our over-the-water bungalow. And the staff and service was impeccable. See it here.

    Inle Lake Myanmar
    Myanmar Treasure Resort, Inle Lake

    Worst Hotel – Crooked Tree Resort Belize. I’ve tried to block the one horrible night we spent in this dirty and rodent infested house with broken furniture and mold, from my mind. We were supposed to be there for four nights. We packed up at first light and disappeared.

    FOOD

    Favorite Country Cuisine – Guatemala

    Healthy use of local and fresh vegetables and beans with just enough protein I fell hard for the unique spices and flavors of the Guatemalan people’s cuisine.

    Cuisine of Guatemala
    Vegetarian meal in Guatemala

    Best Meal – Myanmar Treasure Resort offered a wonderful menu of local specialties and the local “Butterfish” was my favorite meal of 2019.

    Butterfish from Inle Lake Myanmar

    Best Cooking Class – Antigua Guatemala and Hopkins Belize. We couldn’t decide between these wonderful experiences. In Antigua I had a private class at La Tortilla Cooking School from a Mayan woman with an English interpreter. We made at lease 8 dishes and all were spectacular. In Hopkins my entire family enjoyed an afternoon with Garifuna Chef Gloria where we learned so much about the local Garifuna traditions, local produce and fish and gorged ourselves on the delicious cuisine.

    Cooking Class in Belize
    Cooking in Belize with Chef Gloria

    Best Beer – USA all the way on this one, particularly since we didn’t spend any time in Europe, the beer of the USA is hands down the best.

    Best Coffee Guatemala. There is Guatemala again (I bet you really want to go there now dontcha?). I loved the coffee in Guatemala where they produce the best from the America’s – a deep rich and almost chocolaty brew. Kenya rivals it with their mountain grown beans that are often touted as the best in the world. For me though I preferred the dark beans of Guatemala over the lighter somewhat fruity Kenyan roasts. Both however got the job done and the smell was heaven on earth.

    Guatemalan Coffee
    Guatemalan Coffee

    Best Food Experience/Tour – Taipei and Kuala Lumpur Two of the all-time best food tours we have ever taken happened this year, the first in Taipei Taiwan with Taipei Eats and the second in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia with Food Tour Malaysia . For both these tours the food was beyond abundant but it was the guides who really made sure our experience was remarkable and unique.

    Food Tour Kuala Lumpur
    Arne on our food tour in Kuala Lumpur

    CULTURAL AND NATURAL EXPERIENCES

    Best Sunset – Mal Pais Costa Rica. For fourteen glorious nights in a row we sat on a log on the beach, gin and tonic in hand, and watched the show…a fiery blend of orange, pink and purple as each day in Mal Pais came to an end. It was truly remarkable.

    Mal Pais Costa Rica
    Sunset Mal Pais Costa Rica

    Most Authentic Cultural Experience – Muscat Oman dining with a local family. We were lucky to stumble onto the Website of Zayr, a local organization who brings visitors together with local Omani’s. Our experience dining in the home of a lovely local family included delicious food, but more importantly wonderful conversation and cultural exchange. We enjoyed it immensely. Shukran to our new friends.

    Cultural exchange Oman
    Dining and cultural experience in Muscat Oman

    Best Beach – It’s a tie!  Cenang Beach Lankawi Malaysia and the greater Diani Beach area of Kenya both deserve the gold statue this year. Diani’s baby powder fine white sand and turquoise blue water is one of the reasons it shows up so often on lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But Langkawi’s Cenang Beach, is a clean, long expansive golden beach with incredibly warm waters all with easy access and lots of restaurants and services to make your beach visit comfortable. We loved them both.

    Diani Beach Kenya
    Galu Beach – Diani Beach Kenya

    Best Tour – Inle Lake Myanmar. Our favorite one-day tour was our all day tour in a local boat seeing all of the beautiful and historic sights around Inle Lake. It was truly unforgettable.

    Inle Lake Myanmar
    Traditional Fisherman, Inle Lake Myanmar

    Best Driver – Alehandro in Guatemala was our favorite driver who was not only a safe and exceptional driver, but was a great tour guide, passionate about his country and understanding when I was dealing with severe motion sickness. We became friends. If you need a driver in Guatemala let me know and I can get you in touch with him.

    Antigua Guatemala
    Our friend Alehandro at Semana Santa Antigua Guatemala

    Best Tour Company – China Connections China we don’t use many tour operators, but for our time in China we were taken great care of by several operators and guides secured for us by China Connections, who also booked and organized our Yangtze River Cruise. Everything done without a hitch.

    China

    Best Bucket List Historic Site – Bagan Myanmar. I had read so much about Bagan and the unique and ancient temples there but I still was not prepared for it’s ancient religious beauty and the reverent and dedicated Buddhists who come to this place.

    Bagan Myanmar
    Monks in Bagan

    Best Natural Site –  Glacier National Park, Montana USA. For wildlife spotting in the United States you can’t beat big and beautiful Montana and our visit to Glacier National Park did not disappoint. A top site in the USA you should not miss.

    Glacier National Park Montana
    Big Horn Sheep, Glacier National Park Montana USA

    Best Waterfall –  Mayan King Waterfall Belize. When our two adult sons visited us in Belize this waterfall was one of the unexpected and fun things we did just outside of Hopkins Belize.

    Hopkins Belize
    Mayan King Waterfall Belize

    Best Manmade Site – Tikal Guatemala. When I first started researching visiting Guatemala it was because I had heard so much about this remarkable Mayan site. And it was very remarkable. And we were surprised by all of Guatemala but the fascinating Mayan history here was the cherry on the sundae.

    Tikal Guatemala
    Mayan Ruins of Tikal, Guatemala

    Best Mosque– Muscat Oman, Honorable Mention Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of the most beautiful if not the most beautiful (better than the Blue Mosque in Turkey even??) I have ever seen. Only a few years old the tiles, hand-knoted carpet and astonishing chandeliers are phenomenal. Our honorable mention goes to the Wilayah Mosque in Kuala Lumpur for the incredible customer service provided visitors there. Where we had a private tour for free and an opportunity to watch the mid-day prayers.

    Muscat Oman
    The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat Oman

    Best Day Hike – Wadi Shab Oman. After not being able to do this on our first try because of a big flood and mudslide the day before, we are so glad we returned a few days later to try again. I think most people would be pretty surprised at the rugged yet beautiful terrain of Oman, and it makes for exceptionally challenging and beautiful hiking.

    Wadi Shab Oman
    Wadi Shab Oman

    Best Multi-Day Hike – Hiking from Inle Lake to Kalaw. This two day hike was longer and harder than I thought it would be (I should read the fine print) but the experience was amazing. Our guide was great, the food was surprisingly abundant and delicious and even sleeping on the floor in the home of a local Myanmar family with no electricity or running water was a memorable experience.

    Kalaw Myanmar
    Hiking across the rice fields Myanmar

    Most Unique Outdoor Experience – Learning to Goeduck Even though I was born and raised in Goeduck country, I had my first experience this year in Gig Harbor Washington USA.

    Key Peninsula Washington
    Goeyduck Hunter

    Expensive but Worth it – Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride over Bagan Myanmar $700. Ridiculously expensive. Once in a lifetime memorable.

    Bagan Myanmar
    High above the temples of Bagan

    Best Wildlife Experience  Orangutan watching in Borneo Malaysia with Honorable Mention to seeing sloths and toucans in Costa Rica. We love it when we can see wildlife in its natural habitat.  Our time in Borneo was all and more than I ever could have dreamed of seeing up close and personal the endangered orangutans as well as proboscis monkeys. In Costa Rica a lifetime goal of seeing sloths in the wild was fulfilled.

    Borneo
    Sharing a walk way with a wild orangutan, Borneo Malaysia

    Most Moving Experience – Journey for Purpose Kayak Trip Belize. If you have a chance, you should do this experience. It was such a wonderful way to stop and appreciate my own self-worth, while getting to know and rejoice together with a group of women I had never met before. The kayaking was hard but the scenery was beautiful with weather that challenged us. And such wonderful memories were made with these women as we held each other up when a family tragedy back home for one women gave us a unique opportunity to show our female nurturing strength and come together as one. I will never forget it. This trip happens annually, learn more here.

    Kayak in Belize
    Journey for Purpose Belize

    Best Performance Marionette Show Mandalay Myanmar. Although Mandalay was not my favorite place, the best thing we did there was attend the Myanmar Puppet Theater and enjoyed exceptionally talented puppeteers who have kept this Myanmar art form alive. Who knew marionettes’ could be so lifelike?

    Myanmar Marrionettes
    Myanmar Marrionettes

    Least English Spoken – Guatemala wins again. Although we were always able to find people who spoke English when necessary, a large portion of the Mayan population in Guatemala who are older than a teenager do not speak any English. English has only been taught in the schools for the past ten years.

    WEATHER

    Hottest Day: Diani Beach Kenya 91 degrees F and 77 degree dew point.  We swooned.

    Coldest Day: Port Orchard Washington USA. During our time in the USA we had a couple of very chilly and wet weeks in June that kept us decidedly indoors

    Cold and wet with my son in Washington

    Wettest Day: Waking up in Placencia Belize to water all over the floor of our Airbnb and sewer bubbling up out of the holding tank after a torrential downpour all night long.

    EXERCISE

    Best YogaBalance Yoga Retreat El Tunco El Salvador. I enjoyed a lot of great yoga around the world this past year with memorable moments in Kota Kinabalu Malaysia (where I did sound healing for the first time) and in La Fortuna Costa Rica, and Punta Cana Dominican Republic but my favorite of possibly all time was the ten days I enjoyed yoga both morning and evening at Balance Yoga Retreat in the tiny paradise of El Tunco El Salvador. Who would have thought?

    Yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life
    Balance Yoga Retreat

    Best Place to Run Cenang Beach Langkawi. Getting up early before the heat of the day and running on the safe, flat and fabulous ring road and along the beach boardwalk of the small town of Cenang Beach gave us an entire month to really get back in running shape.

    TRAVEL

    28 flights, 1 train ride, 2 small boat rides, one river cruise

    Smallest Airport – Punta Gorda Belize. I am not joking when I say the terminal was a shack about 10’x10′.

    Punta Gorda Belize
    Arriving in Punta Gorda

    Worst Flight Experience – Getting sever motion sickness on a tiny plane from Florez to Guatemala City and then needing to do a three hour drive on winding roads to our final destination of Antigua.

    Airport Most in Need of Upgrade – Heho Airport outside of Inle Lake Myanmar. It’s actually pretty busy, but very rundown. The check-in counter looked like something used as a ticket booth at a carnival.

    Best Airport – Muscat Oman was shiny and new and very comfortable.

    Worst Day of Travel – We had to spend one night in Nairobi before flying on to Mombassa where we would go by car for the 40km trip to Diani Beach. We didn’t know that due to a ferry, that 40km trip usually took 4 hours and on the day we were doing it took 6 and half because of high traffic from the Kenyan holiday of Jamhuri the day before. Not sure how we missed that information in all of our research but it made for a very long and exhausting travel day indeed.

    AND FINALLY

    Just Because It’s Unusual CategoryDental Work in San Jose Costa Rica. I didn’t have a category to fit this in but I needed to mention it because it was quit unusual. But I had a wonderful experience at Meza Dental having an extraction and implant done for a third of the cost of doing this in the USA. A year later it is perfectly healed and I would do it again in a heart beat.

    Dental work in Costa Rica
    Implant in Costa Rica

    Sad But True CategoryPhotographer Death in Belize While our sons came to visit us in Belize we did some family photos of all of us on the beach with a female photographer I found online. She did a wonderful job and she was creative and nice. We received all the photos via email about a week later. Tragically just a few days after that, she died of a stroke. Rest in peace Marian.

    Family portrait in Belize
    Family Portraits in Belize

    So there you have it.  The winner of the Fab Fifties version of the Oscars for 2019.  What a great year full of incredible experiences around the world.  We are the luckiest people on the planet. Who needs a little gold statue when you have a Fab Fifties Life?

    What a fabulous life it is. WATCH OUT! 27 countries planned for 2020!

    Please comment and share.  We appreciate your love.



    Inspire

    Second Annual My Fab Fifties Life World Travel Awards

    And the Winner is…

    Location: Around the World

    And the Winner Is…

    If you’ve been following My Fab Fifties Life for awhile you will remember our 2017 World Travel Awards from last January.  I definitely feel with all of our travels in 2018 (covering 57,000 miles and 26 countries) we are well positioned to bestow the World Travel Awards – our version of the Oscar or the Razzy – on many people, places and travel experiences that have touched us this past year.  Just like the famous movie awards, we have seen a world of real life

    Word Travel Awards

    Australia

    drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery, nature and animation.  Enough to last a lifetime.

    Word Travel Awards

    Berlin Germany

    This is a long blog. But I believe it offers some valuable travel insight to the world. I hope you will find it informative and entertaining. So in keeping with the time of year for awards,  I give to you our picks for World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2018 – My Fab Fifties Life.

    (For reference – our 2018 countries visited were; India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Singapore, Guam, Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, USA, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Romania, Greece, Egypt, Jordan, Portugal, Spain, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil.

    DESTINATIONS

    26 Countries

    Word Travel Awards

    Australia

    Favorite Overall Country – Australia

    Australia takes the top award this year edging out a few others (Greece, Poland) but we both agreed.  Australia is the best.  The only negative about Australia is it’s expensive.  But we believe the beauty, culture, nature and environmental awareness helped us choose it as our favorite destination of 2018.  We plan to return in 2019.

    Favorite City – Sydney and Krakow

    Well there it is again – Australia.  Sydney Australia and Krakow Poland take our award this year for favorite city, and basically for the same reason.  Both offer a variety of cultural, historic and scenic options for visitors.  Sydney also has beaches while Krakow has great food.

    Most Beautiful City – Singapore

    Word Travel Awards

    Singapore

    Everything you ever heard about Singapore is true – sparkling clean, stunningly beautiful (especially at night), easy to maneuver and very pedestrian friendly, Singapore was our favorite beautiful city of the year.

    Cutest Town – Brugge

    Word Travel Awards

    Brugge Belgium

    Singapore might take the big city award but we are more small town folks, and Brugge was a perfect little package of history, beauty, beer, delicious food and very friendly people.  We spent four days and could easily have stayed on even longer.

    Most Expensive Country – Australia

    Australia has so much to offer, but inexpensive it is not.

    Least Expensive Country – Indonesia

    Finding an oasis

    Mount Batur Bali

    With some of the nicest people and most beautiful scenery Indonesia is a bargain, and we loved our time there.

    Most Disappointing City – Ubud (Bali Indonesia) Ubud is no longer the sweet little artists/yoga village we all imagine from Eat Pray Love.  When I saw the American brand chain stores I was so disappointed (Ralph Lauren, Starbucks, Nike).

     

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    29 Airbnbs, 42 hotels, 5 boats

    Word Travel Awards

    Airbnb Antiparos

    Best Airbnb OverallAntiparos, Greece. We loved our relaxing three weeks in this gorgeous, private, and big airbnb with a stunning view and wonderful host.  I hope to return someday. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/20657689

    Best Airbnb for ServiceRio de Janeiro.  Our short visit to Rio (we really should have stayed longer) was extra special due to the hospitable and generous host at our sweet Airbnb.  She was one of the most thoughtful hosts we have ever had. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1149627 

    Best Airbnb for AuthenticitySantorini

    Santorini short and sweet

    Santorini

    Greece. Hands down the most expensive Airbnb we have ever stayed in, and yet it was also incredibly authentic Greek cliffside dwelling with a stunning crater view. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15926564

    Most Expensive AirbnbSantorini $220 a night (see above)

    Word Travel Awards

    Maldives

    Best Value AirbnbMaldives our tiny room

    in a tiny resort on the tiny island of Huraa was $90 a night but included three meals a day for both of us. We loved our relaxing three weeks here. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4490934

    Word Travel Awards

    Lombok

    Most Rustic AirbnbLombok, Indonesia. spending a week in a traditional Javenese cottage far from civilization was a favorite experience. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15991971

    Least Expensive AirbnbLombok at only $52 was a bargain and so relaxing (see above)

    Most Unique AirbnbKey West, USA I thought spending four days onboard a 30 foot sailboat would be fun.  Not so much.  It was definitely unique. And cute.  But also uncomfortable.

    Favorite HotelPuri Lumbung Cottage, Bali this beautiful hotel complex made out of

    Word Travel Awards

    Puri Lumbung Cottage Bali

    traditional rice barns was not only beautiful, but it offered so many activities as part of our package and an incredible view at a bargain price.  We loved our time here with our friends John and Carol

    Worst HotelSingapore.  Because Singapore is so expensive we booked this inexpensive $117 hotel and our room was literally a closet in the attic with no windows.  It felt like a jail cell.

    Friendliest Airbnb FamilyExmouth, Western Australia.  We spent ten days in the

    Word Travel Awards

    Exmouth Australia

    tiny Western Australia town of Exmouth and we loved our little Airbnb and the darling family that lived next door.  We would love to go back. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/18258544

    Worst Hotel Experience – Bucharest Romania. Arriving at our booked and paid-for hotel near the Bucharest Airport, we learned there was a “septic” problem.  No room at the inn.  Nearly five hours later we finally laid our heads on a FUTON, in a teeny apartment of some guy who wasn’t using it, well away from the airport but grateful to just go to sleep.  We had a very early flight and it was not a great way to end our three weeks in Romania.

     

    FOOD

    Favorite Country Cuisine Poland, rich and

    The Foods of Poland

    Poland

    hearty comfort foods make Poland our fav in 2018. But Greece comes in a close second.

    Word Travel Awards

    Spanish Tapas

    Best MealTapas Tour in Sevilla Spain our self guided Tapas Tour in Sevilla’s Triana neighborhood was so delicious and fun. A perfect Spanish memory.

    Best Cooking ClassKrakow Poland I really enjoyed learning to make handmade Pierogi in the tiny communist era apartment of our sweet cooking instructor.

    Best BeerBrugge runs away with this

    Word Travel Awards

    Brugge beer

    award, nowhere else even in the running.  Brugge is a beer lovers town and we are beer lovers.  Our visit to Brugge was memorable for many reasons including the wonderful selection of really outstanding beer.

    Best Food Experience/TourBrugge wins this one too! We really enjoyed having dinner in the home of a lovely Brugge couple who through the website With Locals offered a home cooked Belgian meal in a typical Belgian home.  What a lovely treat.

    Word Travel Awards

    Port Wine

    Best Drinks TourPort Tour Porto Portugal.  I wasn’t sure I was going to like this tour but it ended up being so wonderful, educational, delicious and fun.  I highly recommend this if you are in the beautiful Portuguese city of Porto.

     

    CULTURAL AND NATURAL EXPERIENCES

    Word Travel Awards

    Guam

    Best SunsetGuam. With Gin and Tonic in hand and enjoying some family time while visiting my niece Bekah and her husband Davy, we enjoyed our favorite sunset of the year on the little Dungcas beach in Guam.

    Most Authentic Cultural ExperienceBangladesh Tour. Who goes to Bangladesh?  Well just about no one, and it is exactly the

    Word Travel Awards

    Bangladesh

    reason we enjoyed our time there so very much.  By far the most authentic and least touristy country we have been to in a long time. The people were so interested and amazed by us and they treated us like celebrities.  We loved our time there.

    Word Travel Awards

    Antiparos

    Best Beach – It’s a tie!  Antiparos, Greece and Ilha Grande, Brazil both deserve to be winners, even though they were quit different.  Antiparos was amazing for the solitude, beauty and spectacular turquoise water.  Ilha Grande had such warm water and the beaches were clean and beautiful despite being challenging to get to, we loved exploring the Ilha Grande beaches

    Word Travel Awards

    Egypt

    Best TourMemphis Tours Egypt was one of the best tour companies we have ever dealt with providing us incredible detail prior to arriving, and being present and on top of every detail throughout our ten-day visit to Egypt and Jordan.  Our guides, drivers, accommodations and everything else were flawless.

    Best DriverKadek in Bali. I found Kadek on Trip Advisor and he served as our driver for our entire three weeks on the island of Bali.  He was a very good driver, spoke great English and in addition to picking us and dropping us at our destination he made sure we saw lots of interesting things along the way.  I hope to meet Kadek again some day.

    Word Travel Awards

    Berlin Germany

    Best Free Walking TourBerlin Germany. We have done so many free walking tours over the past several years and only once did we NOT like our guide.  But the young lady we had in Berlin was hands down one of the most charming, interesting, factual, fun and entertaining humans I have ever met.  It made for a most memorable experience and a big tip for her.

    Best Tour GuideCristian, Santiago Chile.  Cristian was our guide on a bus tour we took the day we left our cruise ship and headed to Santiago for our flight.  We spent the day touring the wine region of Chile as well as seeing a small authentic rodeo and dancing. Cristian was patient,

    Hard to answer questions to a travel nomad

    India

    informative, interesting and entertaining.

    Best Bucket List Historic SiteWinner Taj Mahal.  Runner-ups The Great Pyramids and Petra. I cried the day I stood in front of the Taj Mahal.  It was even more beautiful than I imagined.  And lucky for us, we hit it on an unusually clear blue sunny day with hardly any people.  Magnificent site to

    The Magical History Tour

    Cairo

    behold.  Totally worth it.  Of course the Pyramids and Petra are a close second.  After seeing these sites your whole life in pictures, it’s surreal to finally see, touch and feel such awesome history and beauty first hand.

    Best SnorkelingMaldives. You might be surprised we aren’t giving this award to The Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  Yes that was amazing.  But our best one day snorkeling actually took place in the crystal clear

    Word Travel Awards

    Maldives

    blue waters of the Maldives, on a tiny sand island of only about 20 yards wide and 75 yards long. Here we witnessed the most beautiful coral reef I’ve ever seen, and the most amazing variety of fish and sealife.

    Best Natural Site Uluru Australia.  It’s a trek to get to Uluru.  And like everything in Australia it will be expensive.

    Word Travel Awards

    Uluru

    But standing next that incredible natural phenomenon will be something you will never forget.

    Best Manmade SitePanama Canal Panama.  I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy our eleven hour crossing of the amazing Panama Canal.  Truly a modern day wonder of the world.

    Word Travel Awards

    Malaga Cathedral, Spain

    Best CathedralMalaga Spain.  We see a lot of cathedrals.  Sometimes individual ones are difficult to remember. Malaga is not one of those. A distinctively beautiful design inside makes it my favorite and most memorable cathedral in 2018.

    Word Travel Awards

    7 Ladders, Brasov Romania

    Best Day HikeWe have a three way tie for this one with 1. Canyon of the Seven Ladders, Brasov Romania 2. Campuhan trail in the rice fields outside of Ubud, Bali. 3. Coogee to Bondi Beach ocean trail Australia. All providing us wonderful days outdoors in three very distinctively different natural settings.

    Best Multi-Day Hike – Well, the Camino Portuguese of course!

    Most Exhilarating Outdoor ExperienceMorning swim Denmark.  Even though it was August, jumping into the North Sea before breakfast was an eye-popping way to start your day – and a very Danish thing to do!

    Word Travel Awards

    Australia

    Expensive but Worth itClimbing the Harbor Bridge Sydney Australia $467. I had to really convince Arne to do this because it was outrageously expensive.  But in the end he agreed it was worth it.   An impressively well done and safe operation with a spectacular view to boot.

    Word Travel Awards

    Platypus Australia

    Best Wildlife Experience  1. Platypus spotting Australia 2. Aligator Spotting Florida. We love it when we can see wildlife in its natural habitat, untouched by humans.  Seeing a wild platypus in Australia was so incredible.  I still can hardly believe our luck and timing to spot the elusive and shy creature.  On the other hand, seeing literally dozens and dozens of alligators within just a few feet of us as we rode bikes on the Shark Valley trail in the Florida Everglades was one of the strangest experiences of my life.

    Word Travel Awards

    Auschwitz

    Most Moving ExperienceAuschwitz, Poland Hands down – seeing and learning about the extermination of Jews in Auschwitz and in Krakow was the most astonishing and moving experience in all of our travels.  I tried to put it into perspective in a blog.  It was difficult.  Some people choose not to visit.  For us it was the reason for going to Poland and I believe EVERYONE should go.

    Word Travel Awards

    Performance, Ubud Bali

    Best Performance 1. Bali 2. Sydney 3. Krakow  It’s one of our favorite things to do when traveling, attending a local performance.  And this past year we saw several remarkable shows including two fascinating and authentic indigenous dance shows in Ubud Bali, a circus/dance show at the Sydney Opera House as well as an outdoor spectacle of La Boheme on Sydney Harbor.  In Krakow we enjoyed a piano solo performance of Krakow’s favorite son Chopin and LOVED a string quartet concert inside the tiniest historic chapel.

    Best Museum Skagen Denmark A surprising find in this tiny historic seaside town in Northern Denmark, Skagens Museum featured the remarkable art of the amazing talents of the area’s 1800’s artist colony.

    Word Travel Awards

    Ecuador

    Best Cultural Art Experience Ecuador Panama Hat Making in the tiny mountain town of Monticristi a tradition endures where skilled artists produce these works of beauty known as Panama Hats.

    Word Travel Awards

    Berlin Wall

    Best Historical Art Experience Berlin Wall  The reason we came to Berlin was to see the iconic wall, which did not disappoint, and the rest of this amazing city made it one of our favorite stops on European adventure.

    Word Travel Awards

    Count Dracula Romania

    Kitsch Award – we make an effort to avoid tourist kitsch, but sometimes we fall for it, as we did in Sighisoara Romania.  Touted as the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler (Count Dracula), we paid a couple of dollars to walk into a dark and spooky room where an open coffin waited with the Count himself asleep.  Well until he jumped up and scared me to death.  LOL.

    Least English SpokenBrazil.  Portuguese is the official language of Brazil and we found through out the country even in high tourist areas English is rare.  Much like in Portugal and in Spain, there are few fluent English speakers.  Even in the airport and on the flights English is unusual.

     

    WEATHER

    Hottest Day: Ilha Grande Brazil 95 degrees F and 76 degree dew point.  We swooned.

    Word Travel Awards

    Muxia Spain

    Coldest Day: Pontevedra Spain 39 degrees F on our Camino de Santiago we froze and this was the start of my chest cold that lasted 8 weeks.

    Wettest Day: Muxia Spain a four day monsoon kept us indoors, stuffing paper towels into the frames of the windows to keep the water from pouring in.

    Windiest Day: Antiparos Greece – a rare October cyclone closed down shops, the ferry, and toppled trees.

     

     

    TRAVEL

    30 flights, 8 train rides, lots of small boat rides, one river cruise, two ocean cruises

    Smallest AirportParos Greece

    Worst Flight ExperienceIceland Air lost luggage. It took three days before we saw our luggage again.

    Word Travel Awards

    Worst AirlineScoot. Worst flight I can remember in a while from Singapore to Perth.  Everything cost extra including baggage, drinks, food and even a blanket.

    Word Travel Awards

    Train Travel

    Best Travel ExperienceEurope Train Travel. We had a wonderful experience using the trains from Belgium to Germany to Poland and throughout Andalucia and I would do that again in a minute.

    Worst AirportManila We had a long layover here and there was nowhere to sit.  There was no ATM to get local currency and none of the concessionaires took credit cards.  The part of the airport we saw was old and dirty.

    Word Travel Awards

    Camino de Santiago Portugal

    Best Airport – In contrast and like everything else in Singapore, the airport is new, shiny, efficient and beautiful.

    Word Travel Awards

    Dead Sea Jordan

    Worst Security Line – Seattle WA USA.  Way to go USA.  My flight from Seattle to Nashville was a near disaster when I arrived more than two hours ahead of schedule to find a more than two-hour security line.  Seattle’s inability to separate out domestic and international travelers and offer expanded security lanes has made it one of my least favorite airports in the entire world.

    Worst Travel Experiencemissing our flight in Perth.  Expedia took the blame and even gave us a $200 credit for this flight debacle, but it didn’t help our situation as we had to stay an additional day in Perth and did not get to see the town of Alice Springs before heading on to visit Uluru.  Hope to see you again someday Alice Springs.

    So there you have it.  The winner of the Fab Fifties version of the Oscars for 2018.  But you do know, the real winner is me.  Me and my husband.  The luckiest people on the planet. Who needs a little gold statue when you have a Fab Fifties Life?

    What a fabulous life it is.

    Please comment and share.  We appreciate your love.

     

    Everything Else Fabulous

    My Fab Fifties Life Travel Awards

    And the Winner Is…

    Location: Travel Awards

    And the Winner Is…

    Oscar nominations this week!  A big week if you are a movie fan – which of course I am but since I have not stepped foot in the United States in more than 14 months I haven’t seen any of this year’s big films.  But instead I have seen a world of real life drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery and animation.  Enough to last a life time.  So in keeping with the announcement of this year’s Oscar Nominations, I give to you our picks for World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2017 and 2018 – My Fab Fifties Life.

    And the winner is…

    World Travel Awards 2017 2018

    Hoi An Vietnam

    DESTINATIONS

    Favorite City – Hoi An Vietnam

    By far our favorite destination in Vietnam with it’s colorful old town, beaches, rice fields and fabulous food.  We loved this place and the airbnb we stayed in here.

    Most Surprising – Namibia

    We came to Namibia practically blind, allowing our tour guide from Wild Wind Safaris to hold our hand and we were not disappointed.  A spectacular destination I think everyone should visit.

     

    Best Value Destination – Bulgaria

    We loved our month in the friendly, beautiful and historic country of Bulgaria where we didn’t

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Bulgaria

    meet any Americans.  Put this inexpensive and great country on your bucket list and go!

    Best Overall Scenery – New Zealand

    Jaw dropping scenery no matter where you go or which way you look, New Zealand is an

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Abel Tasman New Zealand

    outdoor enthusiast dream  and is stunningly beautiful.

    Most Crowded City – Hanoi

    The scooters alone make this wild city that never sleeps total chaos.  Then add the cars, trucks, carts, pedestrians, vendors and well – its pretty wild.

    Most Beautiful City – Split Croatia

    Whether you are perusing the mega yachts in the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Diocletian’s Palace, Split

    harbor or wandering through Diocletian’s Palace, Split is a magical place and my favorite Croatian city.

    Most Interesting City – Fez Morocco

    Around every corner as you get lost in Fez there is something interesting and amazing and I enjoyed this maze of a city

     

     

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Fez Morocco

    Most Disappointing City – Tangier Morocco

    Getting lost in Tangier is easier but nowhere near as fun as getting lost in Fez.  We found Tangier a bit of a disappointment.

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    Best Airbnb for Service – Asilah Morocco

    We adored our “mom” Latifah during our ten days

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Latifah unveiling the Tajine

    in Asilah and wanted to put her in our suitcase and take her with us.  The food and care she gave us was unparalleled.

    Best Airbnb Overall – Koh Samui Thailand

    We had a lot of discussion over this one.  We have been, frankly, so lucky with our airbnb’s.  And even this one had a few quirks.  But we loved it for the view, the private pool and the car that came with it.  It was however, also our most expensive Airbnb. https://myfabfiftieslife.com/sweet-samui/

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    We loved our private pool in Koh Samui

     

    Most Authentic Airbnb – Siem Reap Cambodia

    Staying in an authentic Khmer home in Siem Reap was a treat in itself, but then adding the wonderful breakfasts and services our host provided us made this place one of our all time favs.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Cambodian Khmer House

     

     

    Most Unusual AirbnbMotueka New Zealand

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Funky Truck

    We spent two nights in a funky old truck/camper with an outhouse and it was a hoot.

    Most Rustic AirbnbHikkaduwa Sri Lanka

    We nicknamed this place Castaway Cottage and it was like living on Gilligan’s Island – complete with lots of critters including rats, snakes, mongoose, monitor lizards, gecko and BUGS!

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    View from our Sozopol Airbnb

    Best Value Airbnb – Sozopol Bulgaria

    We loved this top floor unit with a huge deck and amazing view.  We think we might return to this place some day, only $55 a night.

    Best HotelLuang Prabang Laos

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Luang Prabang Laos

    We spent three nights in the beautiful Maison Dalabua hotel in this darling and historic city on the Mekong River and it was one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in.  From the comfortable and spacious room, the food, the pool, the flowers and the service, everything about it was first class on a budget.

    FOOD

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Because noodles always put a smile on your face.

    Favorite Overall Cuisine – Thailand

    This is the best food in the world.  Simple, healthy and so flavorful I can’t get enough of Thai Cuisine.

    Best Restaurant Meal – Ceverjaria Ramiro Lisbon Portugal, Honorable Mention to Ladja Podlanica in Piran Slovenia

    I’ll never forget the dinner we had at Cervejaria Ramiro with our son Erik and his friend

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Lisbon Portugal

    Salvador who lives in Lisbon.  It was a gluttonous evening and I loved every bite.  Someday I will go back.  In Piran Slovenia with our friends Raymond and Marbi we gorged ourself on the most amazing anchovies in oil followed by spectacular spaghetti

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Ladja Padlanika Restaurant in Piran

    con vongole.  We loved it so very much we went twice.

    Worst Food Overall – Camino de Santiago

    When we really needed the sustenance the most, our 41 days on the Camino de Santiago provided the least inspiring of food.

    Best Cooking Class –  Chiang Mai Thailand with Honorable Mention to Cape Town South Africa

    I try to take a cooking class in most of the countries we visit, and I do it as much for the cuisine

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    My favorite Chiang Mai Noodles

    and culture as to meet local people who love their food and want to share it.  My classes in Chiang Mai (two full days) and my evening class in the home of our instructor in Cape Town South Africa fulfilled what I am always looking for.

    Best Beer – Cape Town South Africa and Honorable Mention Piran Slovenia

    Capetown because they had a vibrant micro brew scene and good non-lager beers available in most stores and restaurants, and Piran because here my husband had the single best beer he has had since leaving the USA.  Don’t know what brand it was but it was a spectacular Slovenian IPA.

    Worst Grocery Availability – Seychelles

    Hands down the most difficult place to find decent produce and healthy ingredients for day-to-day cooking, we learned to eat a lot of rice, lentils and beans during our month in the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Hmong Village Laos

    Seychelles Islands.

    CULTURE, NATURE AND EXPERIENCES

    Best Authentic Cultural Experience – It’s a tie between Hmong Village Laos and Himba Village Namibia

    Seeing these two places will stay with me all my life – when you think about opening your mind to understand cultural

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Himba Women and Children

    differences, embrace and learn from living hand to mouth and become more tolerant of other cultures – visiting these two places had all that and more.

    Best Beach for Scenery – La Digue Seychelles

    No wonder Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition has shot here several times.  This place with it’s unique rock formations, sparkling white sand and out of this world blue water is about as spectacular as they come.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    La Digue Seychelles

     

    Best Beach for Spending the Day – Meia Praia, Lagos Portugal

    It helped that our condo was a short walk to the beach, where we went everyday during our three weeks in Lagos.  Golden sand, lots of room to spread out and easy and safe swimming made this our favorite.

    Best Day Hike – Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

    An experience I will never forget, climbing the mountain, seeing the volcanic crater and lakes and just accomplishing this feat will always hold a special place for me.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Tongariro Crossing

    Most Difficult Day Hike – Climbing Down Table Mountain, Cape Town South Africa

    We thought down would be easier.  It wasn’t.  There were times where I literally didn’t think I was going to make it.  My body gave it all I had, and it was

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Table Mountain Hike

    more than a week before I didn’t hurt.

    Best Outdoor Experience – Able Tasman New Zealand

    Our three-day Glamping Tour on the Able Tasman was one of the highlights of our time in that country.  We were blessed with spectacular weather, met new friends and were introduced to the wonders of New Zealand.

    Best Historic Sight – Angor Wat, Siem Reap Cambodia

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Angor Wat Cambodia

    It was a lifelong dream for me to see Angor Wat and it was not disappointing.  The fascinating ancient story that unfolds in these ruins set amidst the friendly and persevering Cambodia people is not something I will ever forget.

    Fewest Tourist at a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Dougga Tunisia

    Nothing like having an entire UNESCO site to

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Tunisia

    yourself, and that is exactly what we enjoyed at the beautiful Dougga Roman Ruins in Tunisia.  Not many tourists in Tunisia, but slowly they are returning, and we loved our time in this ancient country, cradle of civilization as we know it today.

    Best Tour – Namibia

    Our ten-day tour with our amazing guide “Seven” introduced us to this unknown country so full of natural wonders and spectacular animals.  I love Namibia..

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Etosha National Park Namibia

     

    Worst Tour – Three day bus tour of the Mekong Delta Vietnam

    This tour was cheap but it wasn’t worth it still.  Terrible traffic, over pitched and very touristy.  Sorry we went.

    Most Unique experience – Camino de Santiago Spain

    Even though the food was bad, the experience is now branded on my soul. It changed me and I loved it.

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    On the Camino

    Best Live Performance – Tie Violin Concert Piran Slovenia and Carmina Burana outdoors in Dubrovnik; Honorable Mention to Kandy Cultural Show, Kandy Sri Lanka

    Front row seats in a tiny historic theater in beautiful Piran Slovenia made for a special night as we enjoyed a beautiful violinist accompanied by a guitarist.  It was just so pleasant.  Just as mazing the spectacle that was hearing Carmina Burana performed outdoors in historic Dubrovnik

    Carmina Burana performed outdoors in Dubrovnik

    town center.  Spectacular!

    Kudos also to the very authentic Sri Lankan dance, music and firewalker show we enjoyed (also front row seats) in Kandy Sri Lanka.

    Best Nature and Animal Experience – Etosha National Park Namibia

    I’ve said it before – this country was such a surprise and this National Park was the bomb.

    Best Free Experience – Free Walking Tours 

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Our Free Walking tour guide in Sofia Bulgaria

    In nearly every major city  you can take what is known as “Free” guided walking tours.  These are awesome and we love them because it is always a local guide, someone young and enthusiastic.  You tip them at the end – so its not really Free – but it is worth it and we have done this at least ten times.  A great value.

    Friendliest People – Sri Lanka

    Hands down the kindest and friendliest people we

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Monk in Sri Lanka

    have met – despite all the hardships they have been through; colonialism, monarch assassination , civil war and tsunami.  Still they smile.  Love them.

    Worst Drivers – Vietnam

    There are several runners-up here, including Sri Lanka (and we haven’t gotten to India or Bangladesh yet), but still Vietnam takes the prize for the craziest drivers, most dishonest cabbies, scooter

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Scooters in vietnam

    mania and absolute lack of any pedestrian rights.

    Worst Experience – Dog Bite Koh Samui Thailand

    Hands down the worst day has been the day Arne was bit by a dog in Koh Samui.  The one saving grace is it could have been much worse.  But still it makes me angry and the overall feral dog situation in Thailand makes me question whether I will ever visit again.

    Experience I liked More Than I thought I would – Camel Ride, Erg Cheba, Sahara Morocco

    The colors and the light of the desert at dusk, the animals, the other guest from around the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    On the camel trek in Morocco

    world and having this experience with our friends Sarah and Steve all added up to a very fun two days and one night camel trek in the desert.

    Least English Spoken – Spain

    Only in the last decade has English been taught in schools, so few adults are fluent.  Especially in the small towns and villages on the Camino we did a lot of pointing and hand charades to communicate.  It was fun!

    WEATHER

    Hottest – Seychelle’s and Honorable Mention Doha, Qatar

    We saw some rain in the Seychelles but it was never

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Seychelle Islands, Praslin

    under 85 degrees and the water was like a bathtub.  We only spent one night in Doha Qatar, but it marked the hottest one day on the

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Doha Qatar

    trip at 113 F.

    Coldest – New Zealand

    We were in New Zealand in the fall and we had a few nights were the temperature dropped in the 30’s.  Living in the Kiwi Karavan we wore hats and coats and wool socks to bed to stay

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    New Zealand

    warm.

    Worst Rain Storm – Tie between Hua Hin Thailand and Koh Samui Thailand

    After a two hour taxi ride turned into a five hour taxi ride in a monsoon we arrived in flooded Hua Hin Thailand not sure what we had gotten ourselves into.

    More than once the sky opened up in Koh Samui, accompanied by flashing lighting and booming thunder.

    Best Sunrise – It’s a tie between Napier New Zealand and Galicia Spain

    I’m a sucker for a good sunrise, and we have seen

    World Travel Awards 2017-2018

    Napier New Zealand

    some amazing ones but these two stand out above and beyond for the sheer majesty of the experience.

    Best Sunset – La Digue Seychelles (see cover photo)

    Mother’s Day Dinner in La Digue we watched the sunset from a beach restaurant and it was a religious experience.

     

     

    TRAVEL

    Favorite Airline – Emirates

    They know how to treat their passengers, even those of us in Coach

    Least Favorite Airline – Air Maroc

    The only airline (after 37 flights) to lose our luggage.  Eventually it was found.  Plus the smell of something (not cigarettes) burning during approach.  Ack.

    Best Airport – Hamad International Qatar

    A very user-friendly and beautifully designed airport.

    Teeniest Airplane – Air Seychelles 

    Eight seats.  ‘Nuff Said.

    Most Expensive Visa – India

    We haven’t even arrived in India yet, but it was hands down the most expensive Visa we have purchased and one of the most difficult online applications.  Hopefully when we arrive tomorrow everything will be in order!

    Easiest Airport Entry – Capetown South Africa

    We breezed through passport and customs so fast in Capetown we were totally surprised.

    Worst Airport Entry – tie between Siem Reap Cambodia and Carthage Tunisia

    In both cases we got in the wrong line.  The line with the guy who was arrogant and pompous and was going to make every passenger know he was the boss.  Any sign of dissatisfaction could get you pulled out of line and make your life hell.  And so we waited.

    Lucky Girl. Fabulous Life Award.

    So there you have it.  The winner of the Fab Fifties version of the Oscars for 2017-2018.  But you do know, the real winner is me.  Me and my husband.  The luckiest people on the planet. Who needs a little gold statue when you have a Fab Fifties Life?

    What a fabulous life it is.

    Adventure Travel

    My Epic Adventures Around the World

    Just under four years of nearly non-stop travel, as well as many adventures earlier in my life, has left me with an unbelievable collection of epic adventures around the world memories. Lucky me.

    I’m not giving up on resuming our travel life…however I expect we will sit home for a year before we set out on anything too epic. And even if that never happens, what a life we have led.

    In my living room I have a large book case that I call “The Museum”. Here I display my world treasures. There are not alot, given the fact that we travel light and I try not to do too much shopping as we travel, but I rarely leave any country without picking up something special. I love looking at “The Museum” and although I appreciate when guests look too, “The Museum” is really for me, a reminder of my blessed and adventurous life.

    The Museum

    As I wait to determine what my next chapter in my life is going to look like, I spend a lot of my brain cells reliving some of my life’s greatest epic adventures. Therefore it seemed like a perfect blog to pull together and share. My Epic Adventures Around the World. I hope you enjoy.

    The Inca Trail and Machu Pichu – I don’t have a blog about this experience, it was before I began blogging about my travels. But it was a defining experience in my life, opening my eyes to my own physical capabilities. The five day hike on the Inca trail to Machu Pichu took every thing my body had to give, while also providing some of my all -time favorite zen moments. Life changing.

    epic adventures around the world

    Galapagos Islands – Everything about the Galapagos Islands is unique and memorable – both on land and in the sea. One of our favorite trips of all time.  The day we snorkeled in the Galapagos was the only time I have ever swam with seals who danced a playful ballet around us as we swam. We also encountered baby seals, beautiful turtles and small sharks.  Just one remarkable event in a very remarkable place.

    epic adventures around the world

    Weekend with the Monks South Korea – spending the weekend at a Korean Buddhist monastery was a unique and slightly painful experience. Living as a monk, mostly in silence, sleeping on the concrete, up before the sun and hours of meditative prayer was certainly memorable. But my favorite part was meeting the female monks at this monastery, hearing their story and gaining such an admiration for such a devout life.

    epic adventures around the world

    Easter Island Chile – Everything about Rapa Nui was stunning, but like most visitors I had my favorites. And like most visitors my two favorite sites were the Ranu Raraku quarry site and the Ahu Tongariki.   Upon laying your eyes on these two sites for the first time you conjure a list of adjectives; breathtaking, fascinating, interesting, surprising, remarkable. At one point I had to just stop and breathe deep – and remind myself how remarkable it all was, and how remarkable it was that I was standing there.

    epic adventures around the world

    Namibia – Arne and I both have Namibia on our top five list of one of the most beautiful countries and most incredible experiences ever. That is saying a lot in 110 countries. Unspoiled, incredibly diverse and still remarkably authentic, Namibia is astonishing. I have two excellent blogs about our experience there. The link above is the first one. Here is the second.

    epic adventures around the world
    Sunny Namibia

    Burkina Faso – who goes to Burkina Faso? Well apparently I do. I didn’t really want to go, but in hindsight spending three weeks there visiting our Peace Corps son was one of the most remarkable and eye-opening travel experiences of my life. And doing it with my grown sons made such fantastic family memories. I will never regret having gone.

    epic adventures around the world
    Burkina Faso

    Inle to Kalaw Hike Myanmar – I don’t have a blog about this experience, but it did win one of our 2019 Travel Awards for it’s uniqueness. This two day hike was longer and harder than I thought it would be (I should read the fine print) but the experience was amazing. Our guide was great, the food was surprisingly abundant and delicious and even sleeping on the floor in the home of a local Myanmar family with no electricity or running water was a memorable experience.

    epic adventures around the world

    Camino de Santiago Spain – Hands down one of the best, most spiritual, most life affirming experiences of my life. Walking 500 miles across Spain – 40 days, thousands of memories, one incredible experience. I hold this memory very, very dear.

    epic adventures around the world
    The Grand Adventure Spain

    Gorilla Trek Uganda – a life-long dream for me to trek to see the elusive Mountain Gorilla, for me this has also become a marker for the Corona world-crisis. Doing this tour was the last “normal” thing we did, before the world spiraled out of control, and came to a screeching halt. I will be forever grateful that Covid-19 did not stop us from doing this experience, and I will remember these creatures fondly.

    epic adventures around the world

    Tiki Tour in New Zealand – who knew living in 90 square feet could be so much fun? What a remarkable way to see one of my top favorite countries, New Zealand. I would do this again…and have also considered doing it in Australia. To really see all that is fabulous about New Zealand, a Tiki Tour is the way to go.

    epic adventures around the world

    The Great Barrier Reef Australia I had to really convince my husband that snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef off of the east coast of Australia was worth the money. But I wasn’t visiting Australia without seeing the reef, and despite a crappy weather day, our experience in the ocean was amazing. A pinch me moment, in a life of pinch me moments.

    epic adventures around the world

    Alps Hike Switzerland – with total honesty and without hyperbole, this day hiking the Schilthorn was one of the best days of my life. The physical challenge of it was astonishing, the beauty of it was heavenly and the satisfation on a travel scale of 1-10 was a million. Blessed day.

    epic adventures around the world

    Camel Trek in Morocco – incredibly painful, incredibly memorable. Our overnight camel trek in the dessert of Morocco was quirky and special, despite how uncomfortable riding a camel can be…who knew? But I’m so glad we did it; overnighting in the Bedouin camp, drinking wine around the camp fire in the chilly dessert night air, then rising again and clamoring back onto the beast for the trek back. I’ll never forget it.

    epic adventures around the world
    Sunny Morocco

    Bangladesh – we would have never gone to Bangladesh, except our friend Natalie was teaching there…so why not? A quick stop in this untouristed country to see what we can see. Wow. I would never imagined that we would have enjoyed it so much and have one of the most authentic travel experiences of our life.

    epic adventures around the world
    Beautiful Bangladesh

    Above it all – we paid a ridiculous amount of money to have two separate experiences in our travels – both taking us high above it all. It’s always hard to know if these things are worth the money, especially when we travel on a fairly strict budget. But for me, both of these experiences were worth every penny. Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Sydney Australia and flying in a Hot Air Balloon over Bagan Myanmar. These both will go down in our travel life as phenomenal.

    epic adventures around the world
    The Grand Adventure Australia
    epic adventures around the world

    So the Grand Adventure is on sabbatical until further notice. I continue to hope we will travel again…but the brake is firmly set until further notice and we turn our attention to other inspiring adventures…stay tuned, and don’t give up.

    Thank you for continuing to support our blog – we promise lots of interesting and inspiring articles coming your way. Be safe. Be healthy.

    See this week’s best performing pin here.

    We love it when you share our blog.

    epic adventures around the world
    epic adventures around the world
    Africa Travel

    Dilemma and Delight in Diani Beach Kenya

    Location: Diani Beach Kenya

    Diani Beach Kenya – It’s been a year since the deadly Nairobi hotel terrorism attack that took 21 lives. Kenya has had its share of terrorism over the past decade, mostly attributed to Al Shabab, an African Islamic group associated with Al Qaeda.

    Diani Beach Kenya
    Diani Beach at sunrise

    During this same year 40000 people died in the United States from gun-related violence.

    I share this comparison not to advocate against guns but to make a point; media accounts of violence around the world create a fear of faraway places, even while violence at home is often just as severe.

    It’s a dilemma to decide how to travel safely around the globe. And though we take our personal safety seriously, we do not believe we are in any more danger in Kenya, with its history of terrorist hits, than in the USA, with its history of domestic and international terrorism as well as rampant gun violence.

    Sheldrick Falls Kenya
    Sheldrick Falls

    And so we came to Kenya – specifically Diani Beach Kenya.

    Diani Beach Kenya is both a dilemma and a delight. This beautiful coastal town on the Indian Ocean has seen its own share of violence including murder and bombings.

    Camels on the Beach Kenya
    Diani Beach from The Edge Restaurant

    The larger image of Kenya as a violent place over the past decade has been disastrous for the tourism industry, especially in Diani. Like other places we have visited (Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Central America), war, coups, violent crimes and terrorism – and the media accounts of these- can devastate tourism overnight, and the damage takes decades to recover.

    Think about it.

    Abandoned Diani Beach hotel
    Abandoned Hotel Diani Beach

    But what of places like Paris, Las Vegas, London or Boston? All places that have had terrorism attacks over the past few years but visitors still flock there. Why do we feel safer from terrorism in a “western” culture?

    Abandoned Diani Beach Park
    Entrance to abandoned amusement park

    Diani Beach Kenya, touted as the most beautiful beach in Africa, deserves a chance to rebuild its tourism program. Within the 17 mile stretch of white sandy beach sit several abandoned hotels, bars and even an amusement park – places unable to hold on when the tourists stopped coming.

    Abandoned swimming pool Kenya
    Abandoned hotel pool, Diani Beach

    Today, and particularly during the holiday season when we were visiting, tourism is on an uptick. Europeans from Germany, Scandinavia and Britain were abundant on the beach, in restaurants and bars and in the shopping areas.

    Abandoned Diani Beach Bar
    Abandoned beach bar “40 Thieves”

    Convincing Americans to travel here will take more time, and hopefully there will be no more attacks. Meanwhile we feel safe and happy to have enjoyed this beautiful, affordable and incredibly friendly place.

    We want the best for the Kenyan people and our new friends in Diani Beach. Hardworking people who for the most part want jobs to support their families and have a good life. Tourism is the vehicle for that and they want it to thrive once again.

    The Sands at Nomad Restaurant
    Dinner at the beautiful Sands at Nomad

    So here are some recommendations from our three weeks in Diani, for you to consider when planning your Kenyan adventure.

    Where to stay – Frangipani Cottages – very affordable, beautiful pool and 700 meters to the beach.

    Frangipani Cottages Diani Beach
    We loved our three weeks at Frangipani Cottages


    Our favorite bars and restaurants – Tiki Bar, Havana Bar, The Edge, Nomad Bar and Restaurant, Kokkos, Java House, Oasis Bar, Salty Squid, Piri Piri.

    Favorite Activities – Shimba Hills and Sheldrick Waterfall Hike, Wasini Snorkel trip, Swahili Cooking Class.

    Traditional Dhow boat Diani Beach
    Boat to Wasini Snorkle

    There are MANY other activities in and around Diani that we did not do such as multi-day safari, Colobus Monkey Reserve, slave caves and fishing. Learn more here.

    Next stop for us the island of Mauritius out in the Indian Ocean! Don’t miss our ANNUAL WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS 2019 blog coming on January 17th.

    Thanks for your support this past year. Please share our blog. Happy New Year!

    Inspire

    Making Sense Of It All

    A New Year of Travel

    Location: Around the World

    Why do we travel? I get many, many questions about our travel life, everything from how do I make coffee in my French Press to how do we afford a life of travel? Some people find it hard – making sense of it all – my travel life.

    But the questions I like the best are when someone asks me to describe the way a place smells? Or what are the sounds I hear when alone sipping coffee in the morning? I love it when someone is astute enough or interested enough to ask a meaningful question like how does travel make me feel? What are the sensory elements of travel? How does a handshake feel from a Masai warrior, a Mayan weaver or a Chinese fisherman?

    Door knocker in Oman

    Because as we tumble into 2020 and our fourth year of travel these are the moments that linger for me. I am long past being impressed by tourism kitsch, fancy restaurants or hotels and shopping deals. Travel is now about the senses and mine are more alive than at any time before in my life.

    A Sense of Adventure

    Adventure is a key part of our travel life. In fact we are much more adventurous in our fifties and sixties than we ever were in our twenties or thirties. Living a life with a sense of adventure creates remarkable moments – moments that are often difficult to describe – but are part of this person I have become through travel. This reality of being someone different than who I was before is part of our grand adventure, a part I never planned or expected and yet, here it is. And it makes sense.

    Sailing in Seattle

    A Sense of Space

    No one is more surprised than myself about how I have become a minimalist. Learning that I can, quit easily, live with very little has created a sense in me of openness. A sense of space. And I like that space. It feels good. It feels healthy. I feel lighter and more free. I don’t want to fill that space with anything more than moments. For now that is what makes sense.

    Balloons over Bagan Myanmar

    A Sense of Time

    Starting 2020 I also make the transition into my Fabulous Sixties (more about this in a couple of weeks). And this monumental birthday brings with it a lot of feelings, most significantly the feeling of waning time. I am accepting of the fact that there is a lot more territory in my rearview mirror than in my windshield ahead. As I have mourned several dear friends these past few months my sense of time has been sharpened. Each individual approaches this sense of time differently, but for me and my husband filling our lives with a travel life of memorable moments brings us joy and a sense of happiness. This makes sense to us.

    Arabic clock Tunisia

    Common Sense

    You might think that travel and the frequent stress it can create would make me high-strung and irritable. But it’s actually the opposite. Travel has instilled in me more common sense than I have ever possessed before. Learning to navigate the world while loving the experience and just going with the flow is a learned skill – one you cannot do without common sense. Serving as a self-appointed ambassador for my home country – showing a big and beautiful world that Americans can be nice, thoughtful, tolerant and understanding has provided me a greater sense of being…and a well rounded repertoire of common sense. Nothing could make more sense.

    Bridge in Hanoi Vietnam

    A Sixth Sense

    Maturity more than travel is what I credit for my own awareness. A sort of sixth sense has developed in me as I have aged. I’ve learned to read my own intuition and act on it, rather than regret it later. I’ve learned awareness of my surroundings, and my place in it, and my impact on it. I have tried to be a better steward for our planet, a better representative for my generation and a better American towards other cultures. In my own little way, I am here. This is how I make sense of it all.

    Temple in Hua Hin Thailand

    Forward

    So here we go again. We look forward to another travel year. Our travels in 2020 will take us from Armenia to Zimbabwe. From oceans to mountaintops. From jungles to cities. From beaches to glaciers. It’s all there. Waiting to fulfill us and our thirst for sensing how the world turns and what makes it’s people tick. A full and fabulous experience. A Fabulous Fifties Life.

    Taj Mahal India

    We post a new blog every Friday…with some fun things coming up in the weeks a head including our annual travel awards. Sign up to receive our blog via email so you don’t miss it! We appreciate it when you share our blog.

    Happy New Year to all!

    Central America

    I Left My Heart in Guatemala

    Dejé Mi Corazón en Guatemala

    Location: Guatemala

    Entirely unexpected.  Completely beautiful.  So much better than I imagined.

    Dear Guatemala.  You had me at Hola!  I hated to say good-bye.  I left my heart in Guatemala.

    Once again, I approached another Central American country with apprehension, based solely on the information on the U.S. State Department website.  I should know by now not to allow that to sway me totally. I should heed the warnings for sure, and carry on with caution.

    Yes, Guatemala has some dangers just like every other country I have been too (and the USA too).  Pick

    I left my heart in Guatemala

    Livingston

    pockets are a problem, although we did not have an issue.  Like always, whether in Central America, Europe or anywhere else in the world we are cautious.  There are definitely some horrendous violent crimes, rarely against foreigners.  Unless you go looking for trouble.  Smart and cautious travel with guides when possible is the best way in this country. Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in the world, and yet there is a small population who hold extreme wealth while the rest suffer. There are some other issues in Guatemala, particularly government corruption.  However this is not something the average visitor will see.  The only thing we saw was one entry fee into the town of Panajachel that was illegal.  We also ended up paying twice for our boat on Lake Atitlan because the first guy was a scam.  This ended up costing us an additional $6.50.  Small problems – other than that we found the

    I left my heart in Guatemala

    Semana Santa

    country no more dangerous than anywhere we have been.

    And the positives certainly outweighed the negatives.  In fact, I would put Guatemala in my top list of favorite places I have been.  And that is saying an awful lot.  Yes I left my heart in Guatemala.

    So Guatemala how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways;

    1. I love Antigua, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to.  Being there for the beginning of Semana Santa (Holy Week) was an incredible experience.  Although I am not Catholic, the Palm

      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Antigua

      Sunday spectacle we witnessed was so full of tradition, majesty, history and faith I was incredibly moved.  I think I became Catholic for a day.  We have had similar experiences in other places around the world where faith is such an important part of everyday life.  On the Camino de Santiago in Spain, in New Delhi India, in Istanbul Turkey, in Seoul South Korea.  A few examples of the places where we felt privileged to witness how faith, history and community converge.  Additionally Antigua offers gorgeous scenery, delicious food and incredible history.  Seeing lava spewing from the active volcano Fuego was a definite highlight. We enjoyed two tours with Antigua Tours and my cooking class with La Tortilla was a highlight.  I hope to visit again.

    2. I love Lake Atitlan.  Here we spent a week enjoying the beauty of Guatemala, and not doing much else.  It was one of the more peaceful places I have been in the world; a crater lake surrounded by three beautiful extinct volcanoes.  The small villages surrounding the lake are each named after one of the apostles.  We spent our time in San Marcos, a teeny village known for its holistic

      Our view Lake Atitlan

      offerings, yoga, health food and hippies.  Our airbnb was one of the most unique we have ever had…a cave dwelling nestled into the cliff.  Memorable for sure.  We hiked and swam and did yoga every day.  Heaven on earth.

    3. I love Flores.  We went to Flores so we could visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal, about an hour and a half drive north.  Tikal was amazing…but the tiny town of Flores was such a pleasant surprise.  Situated on a tiny island in Lake Petenitza, the tiny town is colorful, historic, beautiful and yummy.  The town dates back to the 1400’s.  We enjoyed the very warm weather here and a highlight was a private boat tour of the very large and beautiful lake.  Muy bien.

      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Flores

    4. I love Rio Dulce.  The region known as Rio Dulce encompasses Livingston on the Caribbean coast (Livingston is only accessible by boat) to the town of Rio Dulce on Lake Izabal.  A gorgeous stretch of water known as the Rio Dulce connects the two.  Our boat ride from Livingston to Rio Dulce was stunning as we

      Lake Izabal, Rio Dulce

      wound our way in an open boat through the narrow gorge, through which the Rio Dulce drains into the Caribbean.  Although VERY rustic, our accommodations in Rio Dulce served us well, and had some of the BEST Mexican food we have ever had.  From our tiny cabin in the marsh we took excursions to the ancient Castillo San Felipe de Lara, to the Agua Caliente waterfall known as El Paraiso and to the beautiful Boqueron Canyon, where we spent several solitary hours deep in the canyon on a beautiful sunny day.  We also learned the very humble ways of the

      I left my heart in Guatemala

      El Parisio Rio Dulce

      Guatemalan people and their use of the collectivos for transportation and saw our first manatee in the wild, although not as close up as we would have liked.

    5. I love a challenge. It’s a challenge getting around Guatemala, as it is still a developing country.  But some of those challenges made for memorable moments.  As mentioned above the collectivo experience in Rio Dulce was certainly unforgettable, riding in a van made for 12 with 23 other people.  During our time here we

      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Many boats

      road in twelve different boats, mostly for transportation, but a couple for pleasure.  We also hired a driver for a private shuttle three times, and through that experience met a wonderful Guatemalan man named Alejandro who we hope to see again some day.  We felt safe in all of these situations and enjoyed the experience.  My least enjoyable experience was the plane ride from Flores to Guatemala city in a small 20 seat plane.  I got sick on this very bumpy and diesel-smelling ride.  Ugh.

    6. I love a bargain.  Guatemala is cheap.  Although we spent money on private shuttles, we could have  gone with less expensive non-private shuttles or public transportation known as chicken busses. We used the kitchens in our airbnb’s when possible, but eating in restaurants was very inexpensive

      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Marsh cabin Rio Dulce

      and all the food we ate was amazing, fresh and local.  Our accommodations have ranged from $30 to $100 a night.  We loved our Antigua Airbnb for $80 a night and our spectacular Airbnb in San Marcos with lake view was $75 a night.  In Rio Dulce we paid $30 and Livingston was $70.  We ended up spending $100 a night at a Ramada in Flores after the hotel we booked was CLOSED on arrival.  That was something that had never happened before.  But all in all Guatemala is one of the least expensive countries of our travels. The gorgeous textiles made by the indigenous Mayan people are so inexpensive, buying the same thing online would cost five times as much. Alas my suitcase it too small…

    7. I love Guatemalan coffee.  Guatemala is known for its coffee, and I have to agree…it is now possibly my favorite coffee of the world.  Dark, rich and very flavorful, I am a convert.  Guatemala is also

      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Coffee with Volcano view

      known for its chocolate.  Although I am not a big consumer of chocolate, the samples of chocolate I had were exceptional.  The Maya used cacao as currency once upon a time. More valuable than gold.

    8. I loved the people.  Everyone we met (except for the one guy who ripped us off $6.50) was amazing.  Few people spoke English and we actually enjoy being forced to expand our limited Spanish knowledge.  Many people however also didn’t speak Spanish, as the Maya who are my generation mostly only spoke their native tongue.  I loved the shy and traditional Maya, especially the beautiful women in their traditional dress.  These are not costumes but how they dress everyday.  The Guatemalan people

      I left my heart in Guatemala

      Mayan women, San Marcos

      were all very private yet friendly, hard working and religious, welcoming and helpful.  We enjoyed being a part of their culture and community.

    So I left my heart in Guatemala.  Possibly my favorite Central American country.  Of course our time in Mal Pais in Costa Rica ranks VERY high.  But Guatemala you are special.  Unique. Beautiful. If you have

    I left my heart in Guatemala

    Mayan women selling palms

    every considered visiting Guatemala you should do it.  And do it soon.  Supporting these developing countries through tourism is the least we can do, especially since America’s abandoning Guatemala after funding of guerrilla warfare during the civil war has caused much of the current economic situation Guatemala suffers.

    Guatemala’s upcoming elections could be a turning point for the country…but perhaps things will stay the same, and the slow climb out of the devastation from a two-decade civil war will continue at a snail’s pace.

    We hope for the best for this country and its beautiful people, where we have left our heart.  We will be back.

    God speed Guatemala.

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