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Here we are, at the end of another year – it is astonishingly cliche to say it flew by, because it’s actually a well-documented (though admittedly depressing) psychological phenomenon. 2022 was the first year since 2019 where life felt quite normal; Mr. V and I settled into our lives here in Cleveland, and I/we took several incredible trips that both helped me create better travel resources for work and enjoy the beauty of the world.
2022 was also the year that I got back to traveling at a scale anywhere like pre-pandemic; I spent almost as many days on the road as in 2019, visited as many countries, and wrote almost 40% more. Never mind the fact I’m still running 4-5 other sites to produce as much content there as we do here.
By the numbers, 2022 included:
- Visits to 6 countries (the U.S., Canada, Jordan, the Maldives, England, and Ireland) and 7 states (half as many as 2021!)
- 107 days on the road (73% more than 2021!)
- 56 new blog posts and 61 updated blog posts (117 total, 6 fewer than 2021)
- 1.9 million pageviews on my site, or about 158,000 people per month!
With that, here are the best experiences I had in that 100+ days on the road and in all the places I visited.
5. A Day Discovering “Little Alaska”
As part of a multi-purpose trip to Central Washington in April, I did an Eastern Cascades road trip that included stops in towns like Ellensburg, Chelan, and Tri-Cities. While in Chelan, I decided to throw out the original list of suggestions provided to me by the destination people, and spent a day traveling up the huge alpine lake to the small town of Stehekin by ferry.
While there, I went for a few short hikes and explored the area that I learned has a nickname of “Little Alaska.” This is definitely fitting, as it is the only place in the “Lower 48” that has reminded me at all of Alaska. (Makes sense, as it’s in the Cascades and not far from Alaska, relatively speaking!)
I put together a guide on visiting Little Alaska if you can’t make it to big/real Alaska this year.
4. Epic Hiking Across the West
Okay, I’m taking a freebie here to count three trips as one great experience; my first trip and last two trips of the year all included some incredible hikes, and I want to call them out.
In March, my friend Marissa and I went to Death Valley National Park. While there were some mishaps on the trip (see “Bad Travel Experiences” below), we also put in some awesome mileage during the few days we had. Two of my favorite hikes were Mosaic Canyon and Sidewinder Canyon – actually the first and last hikes we did. I’d love to get back and finish Sidewinder Canyon someday.
In September, I made a truncated trip to New Mexico (which included another bad experience, too); as part of my Northern New Mexico road trip, I spent a night in Los Alamos followed by a day in Bandelier National Monument. The hikes aren’t super challenging, but were really fascinating; Tsankawi Ruins was my favorite trail of the year, with petroglpyhs, cavates, and ruins along the route.
Finally, my last trip of the year took me to Nevada. In addition to another bad travel experience, I got to spend the last day of the season hiking in Great Basin National Park before a snowstorm came through. I’ve wanted to visit Great Basin again since Mr. V and I passed through in 2021; hiking the Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail was a really nice way to feel like I’ve seen the truly unique aspects and incredible scenery of this park.
3. A Long Overdue Return to Jordan
While visiting in 2020 (as originally planned for my Space Tourism Guide tour) would have been a long time betwen trips, finally making the trip back in 2022 was definitely a highlight of the year.
Mr. V and I flew out to Jordan for a week to run a “trial run” of my original astronomy-oriented tour I hope to offer again someday. (It’s currently planned for late April, though nobody has signed up, so it’s likely to get canceled.) Our itinerary included time to explore Amman, hiking in Petra, stargazing in Wadi Rum, and visiting an off-grid eco-resort before finishing our trip at the Dead Sea. It was Mr. V’s first trip and he’s sold on planning a return trip too.
I didn’t write about that trip here on my site, but I did use a lot of the photos and experiences to help continue building my Jordan Traveler site.
2. A Week of Bliss in the Maldives
One trip I didn’t share much about at all was actually an incredible highlight of the year – in part because I didn’t have to share it on social media or write any blog posts about it.
I was invited out by Milaidhoo, a luxury resort, to lead an astronomy retreat for a group of journalists. (The idea is to offer this retreat again to paying guests in May 2023.) It was a long journey to get there – and an even longer one to get back (see “Bad Travel Experiences”) at the end of this post – but in between was as incredible experience.
In addition to nights spent stargazing, I spent my days relaxing, snorkeling, eating incredible food – including Maldivian cuisine – and gazing at the seemingly endless water in every direction.
I highly recommend planning a bucket list trip to the Maldives at some point; there’s nowhere like it on earth.
1. An Incredible Alaska Rafting Adventure
It’s probably no surprise that my top travel experience in 2022 was in Alaska – I certainly write enough about it here on my site!
However, one of my two (!) trips in 2022 was very different than other trips I’ve taken; I connected with Momentum River Expeditions in late 2021 and was delighted to be invited on their 12-day Tatshenshini & Alsek River float through British Colombia and Southeast Alaska. Like all trips, there were some adventures and mishaps, but it was truly unlike any trip I’ve ever taken to Alaska.
I put together an entire (huge!) photo journal from the experience if you want to take a deeper look, but the best way I can describe it is as a movable summer camp for adults with incredible food, fantastic guides, and some of the most beautiful and untouched scenery in the world. We spent days camping near glaciers and glacial lakes, hiked up for views that only a few hundred people see each year, and cemented a love for river rafting I probably will have for the rest of my life.
If you’re looking for a way less conventional Alaska bucket list trip, I can’t recommend anyone better than Momentum with their “Tat & Alsek” itinerary.
Some of the Bad Travel Experiences
Before wrapping up, I thought it might help to provide some counterbalance to the list above. If those experiences are my highlights reel, it wouldn’t be fair to suggest nothing ever went wrong while traveling so much. Here are a few of the bad/worst travel experiences that stand out in my memory – almost all happening on a trip that was also a highlight!
- Broken propane tank and no hot food in Death Valley – Due to being poorly secured, our propane tank attachment broke the first full day in Death Valley. As there are no services, Marissa and I resigned ourselves to eating whatever uncooked food we could put together. We did have a lot of fantastic avocado toast!
- Flying home for a family health emergency – While I was in New Mexico, Mr. V’s appendix burst, so I had to fly home early to help take care of him. I was bummed – that is such a cool state and I can’t wait to get back!
- Stuck in a ditch in a Nevada Ghost Town – Here’s one that was entirely my fault: while driving to explore a ghost town in Nevada, I got my rental car stuck in a ditch. I had to hike 4.5 miles out to the main highway, wait in the wind and rain for a (very expensive!) tow truck, and rearrange my entire itinerary that day to make up for lost time.
- Getting stuck in the Maldives an extra day – Due to flight schedule changes, I was denied the ability to check in for my return flight home from the Maldives. While it might sound nice to be stuck in paradise an extra day – and Milaidhoo was nice enough to put me up at a sister property – it was scary to not know if/when I would get home, and take a harrowing boat ride in a huge storm to my overnight accommodation.
- Two (almost) straight days of rain at Alsek Lake – Speaking of weather, the only dark spot on an incredible rafting trip was the two almost solid days of rain we had to endure at Alsek Lake to end our trip. I was totally over it by the start of the third day when we packed our rafts one last time to head to our pull-out spot, which was probably a good thing since it made me want to come home.
- Food poisoning in London – You might notice I didn’t mention London at all; as my favorite destination, you’d think it would make the list since we made our first return trip since the pandemic. Unfortunately, our trip was marred by food poisoning and we lost 2.5 of our 5 days in London to it; I also didn’t feel well the rest of the trip. The oysters were really good though…
So there you have it – a bit of balance to show that life (even one like mine that might look so glamorous here and on social media) is definitely a mixed bag, but one I wouldn’t trade for the world.
What were your top travel experiences in 2022? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!