How did this year fly by so quickly? So quickly that it took me ’til July to realize I’d forgotten to wish my own blog its annual “Happy Birthday” back in April? I know we all say it at the end of each year…but wow. Unlike my 2011, this year was certainly a year for travel, as I hope next year will be also.
It was a year that saw me take my longest voyage to date, to the other side of the globe where people were warm, the air was fresh & clean, the roads spotless and the scenery breathtaking (and did I mention the wine?) As I’ve told many people since – it felt like visiting 5 biospheres in one, since we went from beach to rain forest to farm valley to glaciers to cities in less than a week. New Zealand was an experience that left me wanting more.
I can’t say the same about Las Vegas, but a fabulous hotel room does wonders to alleviate that. I breathed in the fresh Rocky Mountain air at TBEX in Keystone, CO, exploring the town on long walks and meeting old friends at a hoedown. Riding the rails up the Pacific Coast past miles and miles of autumn-tinged orange and yellow Oregon trees, capped off by a few days in sparkling downtown Seattle was the kind of domestic adventure I’d promised myself to have more of – the scenic beauty and unique cities in our own country I think often go under-appreciated amidst the mix of exotic destinations that are now at our fingertips.
It was also a year that helped to realize better what kind of traveler I am. It always feels admirable to tell people that you can penny-pinch your way around the globe, that you can get by on great roadside cafe sandwiches, nights in hostels and wandering aimlessly in the same shoes for days on end. But – and this in no way takes away from the people who can and do travel on slim budgets – I am just not that person.
I like 4 star hotels, cushy transit and wearing a stylish pair of boots instead of walking shoes. I like to eat at non-touristy upscale bistros, sip $4 cappuccinos and drink wine at a posh bar between meals. I have certainly stayed in hostels – and liked them. I’ve worn crappy sneakers all over Rome and felt so comfortable I could have kept going for days. I love riding the London Tube more than almost anything on the planet. And I love the feeling of knowing you can afford some great souvenirs to take home with you because you didn’t blow the bank on your food and lodging budgets.
But the truth is that I will always want to sleep on a Heavenly Bed, order dessert after dinner and wear great shoes. Luxury travel (or at least, moderately luxurious, ha) appeals to me the greatest. Some people like massages, redecorating, new cars – for me, walking into a glamorous hotel in an exciting destination is the kind of splurge I choose, and after saving up and working hard its the way I like to reward myself. For those who believe that traveling with 4 stars attached to you doesn’t allow you to truly experience a place, well, I beg to differ. From the moment I wake up to the moment I head back to bed, I’m seeking as many authentic experiences as I can find, even when those mean proverbially getting your hands dirty. I’m not one to board a bus and be content riding around, seeing towns and countrysides pass by from a window. I like to get out, walk around, talk to people, shop at the local market, take a class, hike, get lost….and I’ve found that the mix of those experiences combined with a pinch of splendor is my favorite way to indulge and open my eyes to a new destination. And I’ve embraced that. Frankly, it’s also helped me plan trips better, since I can narrow down my choices.
Reconciling all these things will certainly be stimulating in the coming year! I’ll kick off 2013 right away with a quickie trip to San Francisco (brrr – in January!), spend an early fall weekend cheering on my beloved Chicago Bears at the Windy City’s famed Soldier Field with my Chi-town family (decked out in orange and blue…ohhhh just wait for THAT photo) and enjoy a spring weekend in beautiful Santa Barbara, which has quickly become one of my favorite getaway spots.
The 2 major trips I have scheduled are both international, so I’m thrilled my beloved passport will get another lively workout. I’ll see many of you at the 2013 TBEX Conference in Toronto, Canada in June (assuming I don’t decide to be frugal and allot that travel budget to my next voyage), and the autumn will see me boarding my very first cruise ship, the luxurious Regent Seven Seas’ Voyager, for a 2-week Mediterranean adventure in 4 countries, 2 of which I’ve not been to before and 2 of which I know I will relish revisiting (ah, Roma!) I can’t wait to share these experiences with you, as well as feature some guest writing from a few of my dearest well-traveled friends and introduce a new weekly feature here on the blog that I think you’ll all enjoy :) Travel style will also be a new category, so all you fashionistas, get ready for tips (and send me yours!)
Here’s to 2013, that it brings all of us safe voyages, moments of wonderment, strangers becoming friends and the glorious joys of the cities we call home.
And, why lie – I’d love another great pair of shoes in there, too.Bon voyage, a presto, cheers, Leslie
The Annual Whopping Life Travel Total Round-up as of Dec., 2012:U.S. States visited: 30, plus D.C. Countries visited: 12 Goals for 2013: a luxury European cruise, TBEX 2013 and planning the Jetsetters’ 2014 destination