2012 has been a big year for us here at The Life Nomadic. We made the move from South America to Southwest Asia, and between that move and our need to escape Abu Dhabi, if only for a weekend, we visited sixteen countries.
It was a hectic year of travel to say the least, and while we’ll be modifying our travel schedule in 2013, I wouldn’t change a thing about the things we did this year. Here are some of the highs, and a few lows, of 2012.
January: We rang in 2012 in the lovely little town of Boquete, Panama. Some of Will’s friends from his days in Antarctica own a fantastic restaurant there, and it’s one of our favorite places in Central America. Following that we made our way south to Santa Catalina, Panama where Will completed his advanced open water SCUBA certification at Coiba Island. One of the interesting things about that time was that the owners of the hostel where we stayed were away at the time, effectively leaving us and a group of Canadian travelers to run the show. There were some great nights spent dancing in the moonlight on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. During this time we also made the decision to accept the job in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
February: In February we returned to Huanchaco, Peru to collect the things we had stored with friends and to say goodbye to our favorite little beach town. As the details of Will’s new job were solidified, we gathered our lives into our suitcases and journeyed to Washington, D.C. to prepare for our trip to the Middle East. Washington, D.C. is one of my favorite cities in the USA, and although the cold weather was a shock, we had a great time experiencing city life again, which included a hockey game, the fantastic museums, and a reunion with our good friend Natalie who was in town on business.
March: We spent March exploring the amazing country of the United Arab Emirates. A lot of time was spent on details, such as securing our residency visas, which ended up being a bit more problematic than we initially thought. Our marriage certificate had to be sent to Taiwan to be authenticated, and because that process was delayed, we had to apply for an extension on our tourist visa. However, we did manage to have some fun in Dubai, which included a visit to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, and Ski Dubai, which is the largest indoor ski slope in the world. We also visited the oasis city of Al Ain and its famous camel market, and watched the sunset from Jebel Hafeet, the highest point in the country. A trip to the famous Blue Souk in Sharjah was also a must.
April: I rang in the month of April with a much needed surgical repair of my knee. Of course, any type of surgery is not much fun, but the immobility I was forced to maintain was more difficult than I expected. However, we had to make a visa run to Oman, as our residence visas were still in the works. We decided to make a weekend of it, so I bundled my braced leg in the car and we drove through the desert to Muscat. I was dumbstruck by the beauty of the Omani coast and the desert interior. Camels and mosques dotted the landscape and we were both pleased to finally take a road trip in our own car, after years of travel on someone else’s schedule.
May: After my knee was in better shape for extended periods of walking we took a long weekend trip to Istanbul. This city simply charmed the pants off of me. I loved everything about this wonderful place where east and west meet to say hello. The Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, the boat cruise up and down the Bosphorus Strait, and the Grand Bazaar represented everything that I love about this part of the world. We ate delicious food at the restaurant owned by a Turkish man who had returned from New York City to run the family business, and he did so with a unique Brooklyn style. My knee was screaming by the end of the weekend, but I was so glad to have visited this wonderful city.
June: By June the incredible desert heat had begun to set in and we were miserable. A tropical getaway was just what we needed so we booked a trip to Sri Lanka. The flight left from Dubai at some ungodly hour so we drove over the night before and checked into a hotel near the airport to sleep for a few hours. The alarm was set and we both dozed off. I woke a few hours later to see the clock flashing 3:30 am, the time when our flight was leaving. Unfortunately, the alarm on the phone was set for 1:00 pm, not 1:00 am. This was the first time in my life that I had missed a flight and we were both so bummed. We drove back to Abu Dhabi the next morning, collected our cat from the neighbors, and spent the long weekend at home, vowing to never miss a flight again.
July: Initially we hadn’t planned a trip for July, but restlessness from the heat combined with a fantastic airfare sale saw us booked for a weekend in Kiev, Ukraine. I quickly realized that a visit to Chernobyl was a real possibility, so I got to work on the details. Government approval is necessary to receive a pass into Chernobyl, and that takes time, so after a change of date on our tickets we were approved for entry. Visiting that place is one of the highlights of my life. It was surreal and beautiful and haunting all at once. The city of Kiev is a stunning place as well. It has all of the aspects of the former Soviet Bloc that I expected, and a good dose of beautiful European architecture to boot. This trip was was probably my favorite of the year.
August: August was to be our big trip for the year, which included both of our birthdays. We decided to fly to Prague and rent a car, then drive south through Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, then return to Prague for several days in the city. Those two weeks were amazing. We visited the Bone Church in Kutna Hora, Czech, spent a crazy night wandering the streets of Graz, Austria, camped in Plitvice National Park, Croatia and followed part of the Bourdain Trail in Zadar, Croatia. We rented an apartment in Prague for a week, and stomped back and forth across the Charles Bridge, delighting in the sights and sounds of that amazing city. It was truly a spectacular time in Eastern Europe and, of course, I can’t wait to go back.
September: A trip to Jordan has been on my bucket list for years and when we made the decision to move to the Middle East it was one of the first places we talked about visiting. However, my knee surgery forced us to push this trip back several months due to the level of physical activity required. By September, I was ready to go. We only had a long weekend so this was a jam-packed time, but it was incredible. We spent a night sleeping under the stars in Wadi Rum, visited Petra and took a donkey ride through the cliffs, gazed at Israel across the Dead Sea and drove our rental car through tiny villages. Jordan is a spectacular country that deserves a great deal of recognition for the wonderful Bedouin hospitality.
October: Eight years ago I visited Thailand right before the devastating tsunami that struck in 2004. So much in my own life has changed in those years and I was eager to revisit this country that had fanned my travel flame so long ago. Air Berlin and Etihad Airways had opened a non-stop flight from Abu Dhabi to Phuket so we decided to visit over the long Eid holiday weekend. In addition, we received our first invitation from a hotel to stay at their property and write a review! We spent five days at the beautiful Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa, went diving with Sub Aqua, kayaked the beautiful Phang Nga Bay, and ate curry until we could eat no more. A lot has changed in Phuket since my last visit, and I was pleased to see this beautiful country has rebounded well from that terrible disaster.
November: As the year was winding down, our travel schedule ramped up. We had two trips planned for November, and the month started with another attempt to visit Sri Lanka. We made the flight this time, and spent a weekend in Unawatuna, about three hours south of Colombo. This sleepy little beach town was everything we could have hoped for. The Thaproban Beach House with its idyllic setting on the beach was perfect for lazy days sipping beers between bouts of sun and thunderstorms. As usual, the weekend was over too quickly, but what a weekend it was.
Despite another round of protests in the Egyptian capital, we made plans to go to Cairo over the last weekend in November. I couldn’t have been more enchanted with that wonderful city. Of course I loved seeing the Pyramids and the Sphinx, but I was more intrigued by the amazingly strong people who are so dedicated to changing their country and their lives. Although we only spent a short time in Tahrir Square, that time will stay with me forever.
December: I am still processing the time we spent in India over the Christmas holiday. I don’t think one can leave India with thoughts and opinions lined up neatly in a row. There is too much in the way of emotion to categorize in one fell swoop. However, as we arrived in Delhi, the city was reeling from a recent horrific gang rape of a young woman on a city bus. Tension was high as protests and riots occurred citywide. I loved being there to see these people standing up for an end to violence against women.
We saw the tourist sights, but there is so much more to India than the Taj Mahal. As soon as I have organized my thoughts, I’ll share them with you.
So that’s it. What a year! While I loved each and every trip we took, I learned a lot about what I do and don’t like about that type of travel. We have decided that 2013 will include fewer, but longer, trips to destinations like Northern Europe and China. However, as is the case with us, nothing is set in stone.
Thanks to all of you for following us around the world during 2012. We wish all of you a healthy and happy New Year full of adventure!