Where We Went in 2022

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Donnie Sexton COLLAGE 1Cathie Arquilla COLLAGE

I’m happy to share the yearlong travels of all of our GoNOMAD Senior Writers. We all got back to our regular travels and it was a refreshing change from the pandemic days.  Here are our reports about where we went in 2022.

Max Hartshorne, Editor

My first journey in the new year was in February when I joined my friends at Travel South in Virginia Beach, VA.  It was chilly there but that grand beach was the highlight, as well as getting to tour the Cavalier Hotel, the sturdy old standby of the community.  Going out on a Whale Watch and seeing so many humpback whales was a kick…I never knew how large the whale population is down there.

In April when I visited Mississippi for the first time and spent four days in Jackson, where we attended a practice for the famous Jackson State University Tigers and visited many civil rights museums and important locations including the home of Medgar Evans who was killed by a racist’s long-range bullet.  I was fascinated by the city’s awesome blues traditions and enjoyed seeing some of the blues clubs and dining on southern foods.

restaurant in Tabuk
Al-Qaryah Al Turathiyah restaurant in Tabuk, where camel and chicken are on the menu.

In May I was invited to see NEOM, the spectacularly huge new development being built by the government of Saudi Arabia. Even though it is still mostly barren desert, the natural sights were impressive and the people there were warm and very hospitable.  They have a lot of huge empty canyons here!

In June I combined trips beginning with the TBEX meeting in Marbella, Spain, and then took an excursion to Almeria, in Andalusia, which really inspired me. In fact, I liked it so much that I am going there for two weeks to start the year 2023.

Nice, Cannes, and Antibes, in Provence, were my next ports of call. Each one was special with that famous French food, beach hikes, and the great people you meet along the way. Memorable were the superyachts in those cities and the walk along the rocky coast of Antibes. WOW!

I think the pinnacle of my travel year was the week I spent with my daughter, her husband, and my granddaughter Sofie, in Ventimiglia, Italy.  Nothing beats showing your adult kid Europe if they’ve never been there!

In July I boarded a Scenic Cruise all around the Netherlands and got to visit the impressive Delta Works where the water is all held back with dams, sluices, and canals that keep the country from being flooded. September brought on Brno, Czech Republic, and Kutna Hora, Central Bohemia for an eye-opening late-night visit to an ossuary,  with the visit lubricated by the world’s cheapest and best pilsner beer.

Portsmouth New Hampshire began November and it closed with a trip on the magnificent Scenic Eclipse Discovery Yacht, down the coast of South America between Peru and Chile.

Rich GrantRich Grant, Senior Writer

Ah, 2022 was a grand year for “walking and drinking beer” at Civil War battlefields from Shiloh to Chancellorsville; for hanging out with pirates at castles and fortresses in the Caribbean, along the Spanish Main.

St. Aubin's fortress is only accessible at low tide and is now deserted
St. Aubin’s fortress in France is only accessible at low tide and is now deserted. Rich Grant photo.

And in France and the Channel Islands; for strolling down the backstreets of wonderful towns like Alexandria, VA, Oxford MS, Cartagena, Colombia, Honfleur, France and Cruz Bay, Virgin Islands.

And for wandering the homes and haunts of people like George Washington, Edgar Allan Poe, and Thomas Jefferson; and for eating my own weight in oysters in Virginia, Moules-frites in Saint Malo, catfish in Memphis, Red Snapper in Colombia and frozen daiquiris in San Juan Puerto Rico.

annie chenAnnie Chen, Senior Writer

To celebrate my birthday in early January, I treated myself to a trip through central Sri Lanka. Amidst bus strikes and the rainy season, I caught a traditional dance show in Kandy, hiked up the ancient city of Sigiriya with its epic panoramic view, and spotted wild elephants on the side of the road.

Drummers on the ground floor of the temple signaled the start of the viewing period.
Drummers on the ground floor of the temple signaled the start of the viewing period in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

The tea plantations of Ella, the famous train rides of central Sri Lanka, and a religious ceremonial celebration at the Temple of the Tooth rounded out my vacation. 

In April, during the brief, comfortable springtime of northern Iraq where I was living, some friends and I went hiking through the Rawanduz canyon.

We made it to two of the more popular trails- the first was the scenic one, ideal for casual hikers with a river streaming at the bottom of sky-high cliffs and a rocky path. The second one was more my speed, with full-on vertical rock climbing and handles!

To take full advantage of the incoming summer heat, I headed to Nepal to explore all there was to do just short of trekking.

I took in a spectacular view over Phewa Lake while paragliding and thoroughly enjoyed the Tibetan-and-South-Asian-meal combinations, the endless temples, animal statues, and shrines, and colorful prayer flags welcoming foreigners and locals alike.  

Many visitors chose to spend the entire day relaxing in the area, visiting the ruins in the afternoon, and taking advantage of the sunset light for their final thermal springs photos. Annie Chen photos.
Many visitors chose to spend the entire day relaxing in the area, visiting the Hierapolis ruins in the afternoon, and taking advantage of the sunset light for their final thermal springs photos. Annie Chen photos.

The southwestern coast of Turkey called to me in July and I hopped from the ruins of Antalya to the resorts in Kemer, the ancient town of Phaselis, and the bustling cosmopolitan Izmir, and rode around on a motorcycle through the beautiful peninsula town of Çeşme. The final destination was the inland Pamukkale, a surreal vision of calcium-rich thermal springs and streams on the side of a mountain leading up to the Greek city of Hierapolis. 

I properly enjoyed the fall weather, with a camping trip in the Duhok province of Kurdistan and ATV-ing around the desert before I left Iraq. Back stateside, I visited friends in Tucson where we went hiking to Tanque Verde falls and attended a wedding in Chicago.

I had forgotten how calming the riverside promenade can be, not to mention the wide range of eating options for any foodie.

In October, I moved to Cameroon to begin a new job, and have visited the beachside town of Kribi, the capital city of Yaounde, and most recently, the Douala-Edea national park, not too far from where I live in the portside city of Douala. We reached the chimpanzee sanctuary by boat, braving a thunderstorm, and visiting the first Catholic church in the country with roots back to the German colonial presence.

jackie s finchJackie Sheckler Finch, Senior Writer

On my Alaska cruise aboard the Celebrity Millennium, I marveled at great shards of ice glistening like diamonds in deep sapphire waters. Mountains rose straight out of the ocean. Snow-draped peaks towered over sparkling fiords.

After a short stay at home, I headed to the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin, to hear how a lost ballgame turned “a mild-mannered attorney” into the world’s leading mustard master.

Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1908 securing both wealth and renown for the Ford family. The Fair Lane estate was built down the road from where he was born.
Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1908 securing both wealth and renown for the Ford family. The Fair Lane estate was built down the road from where he was born.

Later, I visited the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan. I’m thankful the famous automobile maker collected so many everyday items that may have been lost to future generations.

The wealthy Ford developed an obsessive collection of historical memorabilia and commonplace items like toasters, farm machinery, kerosene lamps, and steam engines.

Next up was a terrific trip to the beautiful islands of Mallorca and Menorca  in Spain where I learned more about the history of the Balearic fighters known as “stone slingers.”

The ancient warriors were so deadly that even well-armed, well-trained Roman soldiers were terrified of them. Using only stones and slings, the historic fighters were fearsome adversaries.

I also visited with talented painter Alan Hydes, artist in residence at La Residencia hotel in Mallorca; sipped wine at Ses Talailes in Menorca; saw the Gaudi touches at cathedral La Seu in Palma; strolled the village of Valldemossa where composer Frederic Chopin spent a winter in 1838-39 and composed his famous “Raindrop” Prelude; and took a short boat ride to Llatzeret, an enormous 18th century walled quarantine facility to house arriving sailors and ship passengers who might be bringing dreaded contagious diseases with them.

Anne BralyAnne Braly, Senior Writer

When I was tasked with the job of writing about my travels in 2022, I’d forgotten how jam-packed the year has been, but it all began with a trip to Cashiers, North Carolina.  I’d not been there in decades and was amazed at how much it had grown while still retaining its mountain charm.

Matthew Garner
“Wine and wine culture are built around passion, right?” asks Matthew Garner, general manager at Montaluce Winery and Restaurant as he looks out over the vineyard in North Georgia. Anne Braly photos

The food scene has simply exploded with flavors from around the world.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that serves pure, southern diner fare. So most restaurants serving southern dishes have tripped them up with new flavors.

In the brutal month of February, I headed south to Kissimmee, Florida, where I joined other snowbirds to soak up a little sunshine. It’s the perfect time of year to visit because all of the kids are in school so it becomes more of an adult playground in the shadow of Disney World.

In late February, I went to experience the new lodge at Fall Creek Falls, perhaps the most beautiful state park in all of Tennessee. A week later, I went on a food tour of Athens, Georgia, home to the University of Georgia, and couldn’t help but be very impressed with its food scene.

Anne’s Many Food Trails

Then June came along, and I went west to travel the Burger Trail in Southeast Montana. Oh, what a treat that was for this dedicated beef lover!

Roy Rogers Bar Grill and Casino in Terry serves a burger with a Southern twist. It features a fried green tomato and bacon. Order one with the best fries you'll find along the Burger Trail.
Roy Rogers Bar Grill and Casino in Terry serves a burger with a Southern twist. It features a fried green tomato and bacon. Order one with the best fries you’ll find along the Burger Trail.

I spent a few days in the North Georgia mountains during the month of August traveling the Dahlonega Wine Trail.  The wines have gone up against wines from California and brought home the gold. The wineries themselves are spectacular, too.

I hit Mississippi’s Tamale Trail in September and experienced a culinary history lesson. You might not think of Mississippi as being a state famous for tamales, but as folks south of the border moved north and migrated east, they landed in Mississippi to help on local farms and plantations and brought their foodways with them.

In early October, I visited Mesa, Arizona, and traveled its food trail, finding it different from other food trails I’ve been on (). It was a chance to visit farms along the trail, meet farmers and enjoy food in restaurants located on or near their farms.

In late October, I flew into St. Louis and came home with a new appreciation for Gateway City. Its food scene is excellent, its overnight accommodations, particularly The Four Seasons, are spectacular, and there’s something for everyone to do.

honeybees
Beekeeper Amanda Harder, left, installed bees at Mark Freeman’s Freeman Farms in Mesa.

In November I hit the beach. I’d never been to Antigua before but looked forward to a return visit.  There was just something about sticking my toes in the sand with a piña colada in my hand as the first winds of winter made their way into the mountains of East Tennessee, my home.

So when I did return home, I was relaxed and ready to prepare myself for the busyness of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and, yes, started packing again. I’ll be spending New Year’s Eve in Paris.  Oh, the life of a travel writer!

Noreen KompanikNoreen Kompanik, Senior Writer

I started 2022 off with a bang traveling to the Big Apple for the annual Summit and TravMedia IMM. January travel also included a lovely visit to Vero Beach, Florida, where I hiked through a wildlife refuge, explored picturesque botanical gardens, and discovered the ‘Treasure Coast,’ the aptly-named graveyard of a sunken Spanish treasure fleet.

Seine River Overlook
Spectacular views from the Keep at Château de La Roche-Guyon. Noreen Kompanik photos.

In February, I spent a long weekend on South Padre, Island, a nature lover’s paradise, and Texas’ only tropical barrier island.

Laguna Beach, California, one of my favorite west coast beach destinations was next on the list. With 42 miles of stunning sandy beaches and secluded coves, this quintessential seaside village celebrates the arts better than any other California coastal town.

A trip to Paris, along with a Viking River Cruise in March was an absolute dream. I’ve always loved Paris, but taking my first river cruise on the Seine with stops in so many quaint, charming villages was the icing on the cake. 

Next, discovering the Gulf of California’s Islands of Loreto, was one of my accomplished travel goals and it certainly did not disappoint. It’s no wonder this magnificent Baja Sur paradise has been named one of Mexico’s renowned ‘Pueblo Magicos.’ And ocean kayaking here was one amazing experience.

Springtime brought a trip to artsy Santa Fe, New Mexico, along with a stay at my favorite Southwestern inn. La Fonda on the Plaza oozes the true spirit of this magnificent city. And of course, the food here is its own treasure.

North Oahu coastline, seen from the parachute camera.
Oahu

Being a wine lover, it was such a joy to revisit a wonderful but off-the-beaten-path wine destination in northern California’s Livermore Valley. This girls’ trip was a blast and included lots of wine tasting and delightful small-town foodie experiences. 

True Aloha on Oahu

Hankering for some true aloha, our family headed to the island of Oahu, Hawaii where we spent a week relaxing, hiking, and discovering the hidden gems of the island. Then it was off to the Dominican Republic, a country filled with unexpected delights and some of most beautiful beaches in the world. It’s always a siren call for me.

Summer brought a glamping experience near Park City, Utah, and incredibly memorable visits to the National Parks of Zion and Bryce Canyon. In late summer, I got to visit Fort Myers Beach and the captivating islands of Sanibel and Captiva, though it was so sad to have seen their destruction from the hurricane shortly after my visit.

A trip to Mendocino finished up the summer, a destination we’d always wanted to visit. This northern California county was another place filled with a myriad of surprises and hidden delights including the charming historic Little River Inn and Brewery Gulch Inn, blowholes, sinkholes, a pygmy forest, towering redwoods, and remote beaches.

In September, I headed to St. Petersburg, Florida for a writer’s conference and truly enjoyed the extra time I had to explore this Gulf Coast beauty with its stunning beaches, vibrant downtown, and fascinating museums. Without a doubt, one of my favorite places was nearby Tarpon Springs, a timeless Greek town known as the ‘Sponge Capital of the World.’

Kauai's Na Pali Coast views from our catamaran-© Noreen Kompanik
Kauai’s Na Pali Coast views from our catamaran-© Noreen Kompanik

An opportunity to return to Hawaii in September; this time to our favorite island of Kauai was too tempting to pass up. Here our family of four stayed at our vacation club resort, Marriott Kauai Lagoons, and made it our goal to traverse the off-the-beaten path of the other-worldly Makawehi Lithified Cliffs.

Our adventures also included river kayaking to secret waterfalls, and exploring the hidden ocean caves along the famous Na Pali Coast. 

In the fall, I ventured to Bryan and Austin, Texas both known for their renowned college football atmosphere, good eats, and great times. My first visit to the Outer Banks later in the autumn with friends proved to be an incredible outdoor lovers’ nirvana.

We pier-fished (and yes, some of us landed a catch), and kayaked through a picturesque nature preserve. We loved the Wright Brothers Museum, home of America’s first flight, and of course, no visit to the Outer Banks would be complete without some lighthouse visits and time spent on the stunning Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

My husband and are capping out a torrid year of ‘revenge’ travel with an AMA Waterways Danube River Cruise that departs from Budapest and finishes in Vilshofen with port visits in Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, and Germany where we will explore castles, visit Christkindl markets, and historic sites. 

sharon kurtzSharon Kurtz, Senior Writer

I admit I got a little carried away with my 2022 travel plans.   I was presented with so many fabulous opportunities I just couldn’t pass up. 

I started the year as a lucky passenger winging my way to Helsinki on Finnair’s inaugural direct flight from DFW. The re-imagined long-haul business class service on the Airbus A350, with all its unique Nordic details, was the epitome of luxury. But here’s my word of warning. Once you get upgraded to a premium cabin, you are spoiled forever.

It didn’t end there; we spent a week in Finland. In Lapland, I mushed my sled team of energetic huskies and marveled at the Northern Lights while snuggled warm in my glass igloo. The Capital City of Helsinki delivered a perfect combination of urban and outdoors, lively yet laid back.  I loved it so much I even recorded a podcast episode about the city for the GoNOMAD Travel Podcast.

helsinki cathedral
The Helsinki Cathedral.

May was an epic travel month with three adventures. I learned why French St. Martin is every foodie’s Caribbean Dream Destination. The tiny French island nation offers a delicious fusion of creole flavors and the great traditions of French cuisine against a stunning island backdrop.

Then on to La Paz Baja California Sur, where the desert meets the sea. I experienced my first “glamping” adventure at Rancho Cacachilas, a self-sustaining adventure guest ranch. Located in the high desert of the Sierra Cacachilas Mountain range,  we hiked, learned about conservation practices, and discovered bucket showers are not so bad. 

La Paz is whimsical, colorful, and authentic—where majestic mountains merge with white sand beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters. An eco-tourism haven, it’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and water-sport lovers. Just two hours north of Cabo, you’ll discover a slower pace and the local culture in La Paz; it’s the real deal.

In June, my husband and I headed to Europe. After exploring the walled city of Dubrovnik, we traded the bustle of the city for the sundrenched island of Kolocep in the Adriatic Sea. Just three miles from Dubrovnik’s port, the tiny island is part of the Elaphiti Archipelago. The enchanting car-free island’s history goes back to the days of  Croatian Kings. A visit to Kolocep is like taking a journey back in time.

My favorite perch overlooking Porat Bay on Kolocep Island © S. Kurtz
My favorite perch overlooking Porat Bay on Kolocep Island © S. Kurtz

August was a month for adventures closer to home. I drove a few hours from my home in Dallas to Bryan, Texas; it has a small-town charm, a big Texas spirit, and a Presidential Library. I spent a day at the Messina Hof Harvest Festival, where I picked grapes in the vineyard and stomped the grapes in a barrel “Lucy-style.”  

Later in August, I discovered Denver’s Hip Historic District of LoDo, the Mile-High City’s oldest neighborhood. It’s easy to take the train from Denver International Airport to lower downtown’s historic Union Station and enjoy the vibes.

Stay a few days—take in a game at Coors Field, savor the many brew pubs, and walk neighborhood streets enjoying the preserved architecture. My story about Denver’s Neighborhoods will be published later this month. 

Bryan Texas sunset. Sharon Kurtz photo.
Bryan Texas sunset. Sharon Kurtz photo.

September was the perfect time for a road trip to New Brunswick, Canada’s best-kept secret. The maritime province is home to the Bay of Fundy, with the highest tides in the world. The Fundy Trail Parkway is spectacular, with its scenic overlooks and breathtaking views. Please look for my story being published in December.

October brought me a long-awaited travel experience and is in my all-time top 10 —The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. After walking through the rock wall canyon in Petra, my first glimpse of the Treasury took my breath away.

Amman is the Capital and largest city in Jordan, a mix of old and modern and a melting pot of cultural influences. I’ll share more about Amman in an upcoming January article.

It’s been a great year of travel,  and I am tired but happy, reflecting on the many fascinating places I have visited. But wait, 2022 is not over yet…did someone say Argentina?

Tab HauserTab Hauser, Senior Writer

My stories over the winter season of 2022 took me to three Caribbean islands. I did not realize how many things off the beach you can do in St. Martin as well as in Barbados. The third island visited was the boutique size Palm Island Resort on its own island in the Grenadines. See what it is like to have an island with no more than 90 guests!

With COVID travel restrictions easing on the other side of the world, we embarked on a seven-week journey starting in Australia and heading east in the South Pacific Ocean. This took us to several island nations ending in Tahiti but not without a stop at the world’s most remote island.  

Lizard Island airplane Tab Hauser
No long check-in or security delays when flying to Lizard Island

With Australia just opening, we jumped at the opportunity to spend five days at Lizard Island Resort. This is the best place to stay directly on the Great Barrier Reef. It also garnished my first six-star review based on service, food, accommodations, and location.  

From Cairns, Australia we boarded the Silversea Explorer expedition ship to Papua New Guinea and the islands of Cook, Solomon, Vanuatu, Tonga, Fiji, and ending in Tahiti.

During our 28 days, we visited a few remote islands where the village life has not changed in the past couple of hundred years. 

 

On these islands, we viewed local dancing, drank cava, and adored all the curious beautiful children. There were also a few stops at picture-perfect beaches. In Tonga, I checked off a bucket list item by swimming with a mother and baby humpback whale. (story to be published soon)

 Our Pacific Ocean adventure continued aboard the Tahitian Aranui V. This is a half freighter/half cruise ship. Their “special” cruise took us to Pitcairn Island where the mutineers of the Bounty laid claim. During our 12 days, we also called on five little islands to catch a glimpse of what life is like in places very few visit.

Palm island view to Union Island
Glancing toward Union Island

We concluded our cross-Pacific adventure with some well-needed quality downtime at Pearl’s, Le Taha’a Island Resort and Spa on a little atoll island off of Taha’a. Our over-the-water bungalow with a view of Bora Bora made a perfect six-day stay. I understand now why so many honeymooners choose Tahiti. (story coming soon)

For 2023 I have my eyes and research set on Nevis, St. Kitts, Anguilla, New Zealand, Tasmania, and perhaps another road trip in the USA.

Cathie ArquillaCathie Arquilla, Senior Writer

Ski season for me this year was all about meadows and fields. Cross-country skiing in Jackson, NH, a small town in the White Mountains, is about as idyllic as a winter wonderland can get. To find out more about the area, check out my story on Mt. Washington Valley, written just before the pandemic.   

In May, my family celebrated my youngest graduating from college at the University of Utah. I used the occasion to write a story on visiting Park City during what is considered the “off-season.” We stayed at Canyons Resort, the location for Lindsey Lohan’s new Christmas movie, Falling for Christmas.

Kayaks already on the Saranac Lake are ready for renting from St. Regis Canoe Outfitters in downtown Saranac.
Kayaks already on Saranac Lake are ready for renting from St. Regis Canoe Outfitters in downtown Saranac.

The trip’s highlight was a guided hike where we came face to face with a baby mousse! For my money, it’s better to do a hike with a qualified and vetted guide than a do-it-yourself experience, especially in the colossal mountains of Utah’s Wasatch Front.  

I was in the Adirondacks at the beginning of June, reporting on a relatively new hotel in Lake Saranac called (appropriately) Saranac Waterfront Lodge. This was our home base for easy biking and kayaking, accessed through the hotel.

The hotel has a modern Americana feeling. The food by Chef Ramiz Jasic was worth the trip. He, too, created a modern twist on American favorites. Every meal was savory and delicious.    

In an embarrassment of Italian riches, I found myself in Italy three times this summer. Lucca, in Tuscany, was a planned family vacation. I recommend renting an apartment in a secondary city like Lucca and exploring an entire region and its major cities from there. For us, it was Florence, Viareggio, and wineries in and around Lucca.

In Italy, you can do that without renting a car. Still, it’s good to be forgiving of train reliability and schedules.   

vineyards in Birones la-rioja-spain
Vineyards stretch before the Village of Briones in La Rioja Spain. Paul Shoul photo.

I was on a cruise for Costa Cruises writing about their new flagship, The Toscana, in June. And finally, I participated in a VBT bike tour to Puglia, the best last-minute decision I ever made! More on Puglia and VBT for GoNOMAD as soon as I get to it! 

Last month, my senior writer gig here took me to the fabulous French islands of the West Indies known as the Guadeloupe Islands. Mais Bien sûr! My story is coming. 

Too often, vacationers to the Caribbean islands stay within the cloister walls of their resort. Get out there, people! You can only find the heart of a place by experiencing its land and people. Sure, have the pina colada, and your beach read, but visit the volcano too! Or the rum factory, for that matter. 

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, readers. May your 2023 calendar fill up with great travel.

Paul ShoulPaul Shoul, Staff Photographer

I made up a new acronym for COVID, a Calamitous obliterating veracious itinerary destroyer. I hate that virus for all the lives it has taken. And for grounding me.  Finally, the clouds have lifted in 2022 as the world opened up again. Hallelujah.

Rioja Spain.
La Rioja Spain

My first trip was in June to Spain, a country I have come to love, on a seven-day gastronomic romp in the north of Spain through the Basque Country and La Rioja.

Food is so much more than just a matter of sustenance in Spain. It is a daily reaffirmation of culture. More than any religion, it binds people together. At the foundation of all the quirky festivals – the crowded tapas bars and every family table is good food, which needs good wine or cider, which leads to good conversation.

La Rioja has been synonymous with great wine since medieval times. Bordering the Basque country and nestled in the Ebro River Valley is the perfect environment for impossibly beautiful vineyards and over 500 wineries. It is the least populated of the autonomous communities of Spain and the country’s largest wine-producing region.

Kansas
Kansas

The Basque country is an autonomous community bordering France in the North of Spain. They have their own government, culture, and language that is entirely unique. As Farmers, shipbuilders, and celebrated seafarers, the Basque were fishing for Cod and whales in Newfoundland long before Columbus made his little journey to the Americas. And in fact, they were part of his crew and built some of his ships. This was one tasty trip.

First up was a road trip through Southeastern Kansas. I’ve flown over Kansas a dozen times, wondering what the heck was down there. Was It just someplace in middle America on my way from getting coast to coast? I mean that, literally.

The geographic center of America is near an old pig farm in Lebanon, Kansas. There is a lot of Kansas in Kansas. Long straight roads that seem to go on forever and more history and things to see than I had imagined.

I tried the fantastic fried chicken at Chicken Mary’s and the neighboring Chicken Annies, Both massive family-style restaurants. Visited Big Brutus, once the world’s 2nd largest coal mining shovel. Big enough that it has a break room inside for the drivers.

Louisiana
Louisiana.

hen I went on to visit Martin & Osa Johnson Safari Museum ( the world’s first travel influencers) and saw the upcoming town of Humboldt. Which made the NYT list of places to see in 2022. Kansas rocks.

From Kansas, I was home for a week and traveled to Turkey for the Michelin Guides’ first-time inclusion of restaurants in Istanbul.

In 1970 Istanbul had approximately 2.5 million inhabitants. Today in 2022, it has surged to over 20 million people. If this city was a country, It would be the 9th largest in Europe. It has always been a melting pot of cultures and a trade hub between Europe and Asia. The cuisine is impressive, and the newly starred young chefs are elevating the food of Istanbul to new heights.

My final trip of the year was another road trip to Louisiana. The first stop was the Rougarou festival in Houma. An overall tribute to Cajun culture and one of the most extraordinary parades I’ve ever been to, with Dancers, werewolves (Rougarou), witches, and giant skeletons.
Then I drove to the Grand Isle’s tip to see the aftermath of the hurricanes and the endless beaches.

Finally, I ended my trip in New Orleans to feast on Happy hour oysters, PO-boy sandwiches, and sugar-coated beignets. Why visit Louisiana?

Well, it is beautiful. You feel and see living history everywhere; the music and food are excellent. But, most of all, it’s the people you will meet. Try a beignet and cover yourself with powdered sugar. Eat some alligator. Sit at a bar, drink a drink, and talk to a stranger.

You never know who you will meet or the stories you will hear.  Thank you, 2022.

Donnie
Donnie Sexton

Donnie Sexton, Senior Writer and Photographer

January 2022 started with an exploration of the tribes of Tanzania, including the Maasai, Datoga, and Hadzabe natives. I joined in a hunt for food with the Hadzabe, where an elder killed a small, hairy animal. The men built a fire, skinned and roasted the critter, inviting us to partake, but this girl took a pass.

February found me in Fairbanks Alaska with the opportunity to see the Northern Lights for the first time.  Taking a walk with reindeer and visiting the North Pole (yes, there is a city in Alaska named the North Pole) were part of my journey up north.

Artists line up to paint their subject in Paris. Donnie Sexton photo.
Artists line up to paint their subject in Paris. Donnie Sexton photo.

When Delta teased me with business class tickets to Paris for only 170,000 frequent flier miles, I wasted no time booking a March trip for myself and my hubby. Not only did we eat our way through the City of Lights, but we ventured on an overnight excursion to Mont St. Michel and an outing to the quaint town of Colmar near the German border.

In May, I joined pro photographers Albert Dros and Bruno Pisani for a week in Tuscany, capturing the beauty of this unique place in Italy. These young instructors barely stopped for meals, aiming to give us the best light and locations from pre-sunrise to post-sunset. 

Following Tuscany, I was invited to work as a still photographer on a TV production, andiamo! UPTOWN, in Dubai. It was my first visit to this city in the UAE, where all that glitters is gold. 

day of the dead merida sexton
Day of the dead in Merida, Mexico. Donnie Sexton photo.

Ultra-luxurious hotels and extravagant shopping malls define this city.

In September, I led a group of three photographers to Tanzania for a wildlife safari, exploring Serengeti, Arusha, and Tarangire National Parks. We were rewarded with a bounty of photo ops, including the big five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo).

In September, I ventured to Colombia for the annual conference of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers).  In addition to exploring Bogota, I spent time in Cartagena and Pasto. 

At the end of October, I joined two journalists for a trip to Merida in the Yucatan peninsula to partake in the festivities for the Day of the Dead celebration, or Hanal Pixan, as it is known in this region of Mexico. 

Best of all, with so many trips in 2022, I reached Diamond Medallion status, a level I had always dreamed of but never imagined I would get there!  

Sonja StarkSonja Stark, Senior Writer

Staying warm in Upstate New York in 2022 meant going outside!  It was cabin fever unleashed for PilotGirl!  I worked up a sweat crawling through a dizzying collection of tunnels, mazes, and slides in a frozen playland called Ice Castles.

Ice Castles at Lake George New York. Sonja Stark photo.
Ice Castles at Lake George New York. Sonja Stark photo.

It was the first time the attraction has ever been built in Lake George.  The labyrinth of fun melted away quickly but not before the winter festival that included a mac-n-cheese cook-off, polar plunge, and helicopter rides over the Adirondacks.

My first international journey since the start of the pandemic was a solo adventure to Portugal in late March/early April.  From seaside villages to countryside time capsules, this trip proved to be the perfect detox after two years of COVID.

My rental car hugged the endless Alentejo coastline for lofty views of limestone cliffs and secluded beach coves.  I was nourished by the kindness of ex-pats, cute servers in chic raw bars, and sweet hosts of salvaged farmhouses.

Alentajo, Portugal.
Alentejo, Portugal.

A summer debuting my documentary about the longest-running gas station/repair shop owner in Albany called “Are You DunYet?” proved too much to compete with travel.  But, come Labor Day, it was time to whisk my retiree to the ocean to rough it in a tent! We boarded the ferry out of Woods Hole for Martha’s Vineyard with our e-bikes towing a little wagon full of camping supplies.

It took only one night of marauding skunks and morning rain to abandon our idea of glamping for the creature comforts of our friend’s townhouse rental.  Lesson learned.  A day trip to the lighthouses of Nantucket, wheeling around in matching pink shorts, helped brighten the mood.

In October, like in the movie “Somewhere in Time,” we lost all sense of normalcy with a 3-night stay on a national treasure called Mackinac Island.

Friends Linda and Dennis insisted this was their happy place, especially during the off-season.  Overlooking Lake Huron, the car-free island is home to hundreds of horses trotting about with carriages and carts for tourists coming off the ferry.

The atmosphere is a nod to its 19-century roots with destination hotels like the Grand Hotel and Mission Point setting the stage for one picture-postcard vacation!

Cindy-Lou Dale, Senior Writer

Between doing a total reno of my 13th-century home in Italy, dodging and weaving through Italian bureaucracy, and learning the lingo, I’ve been slow on assignments and managed only nine this year.

Lake Como - one of the many splendid views.
Lake Como – is one of the many splendid views I enjoyed in 2022.

It kicked off in January with a trip to Italy’s Lake Como where I discovered its silk history and scenic routes.

In April, still in Italy, I took a scenic train journey to the Emilia-Romagna region – visiting vegan restaurants, and a cheese factory, partook in a one-on-one cooking class in Bologna, and in Modena threw a Ferrari 488 Challenger around the racetrack.

Also in April, I partook in an Italian cooking class (conducted in English). The day began with market food shopping, several hours preparing it, then a few more consuming it all.

A culinary student at Lucy's Cooking School.
A culinary student at Lucy’s Cooking School.

In May, desperate to speak my mother tongue, I boarded a flight to South Africa where I spent several weeks road-tripping around the Western Cape, focusing solely on arts and crafts. I visited Stellenbosch, the infamous Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, an art hotel in Cape Town’s harbor, and awesome fishing villages on the west coast.

The only one true way to get to know a city is through its food – which is what I did in June when I visited Cleveland. You need to eat the food amongst the people who create it. That way it’s seasoned with a sense of place, landscape, culture, and traditions.

Narnia's handmade candles.
Narnia’s handmade candles.

Back in Italy, Umbria saw me in July. I met the fishermen of Lake Trasimeno, did an olive oil tasting in Monte del Lago, learned of Bevagna’s arts and crafts, visited the ancient hilltop village of Scheggino (and stocked up on truffles), went on a truffle hunt in the village of Ferentillo, and took in a music festival in Narnia.

Cindy on the CanAm Roadster.
Cindy on the CanAm Roadster.

August was the most exciting of all as I took a Can-Am Roadster motorcycle for a terrifying ride through the picture-postcard Sibillini Mountains.

For me, the year would not be complete without driving an Italian supercar. In September I collected a Lamborghini Huracan Evo Spyder from the factory in Bologna which had me doing on a 5-day butt-clenching trip around several Adriatic towns and villages.

And finally, November had me traveling around Cognac in France, driving a Classic Citroen 2 CV6.

Here’s to the travel promises of 2023!

john henderson
John Henderson

John Henderson, Senior Writer

Malta, a capital of movie making in the Mediterranean. Marina Pascucci photo.
Malta, the capital of movie-making in the Mediterranean. Marina Pascucci photo.
I started the summer in Malta, the island nation that has teased me ever since I moved to Rome in 2014. It was so close, I always put it on the back burner. Malta doesn’t excite Italians, kind of like how Baja doesn’t excite Southern Californians.
Every time I mentioned Malta to Marina, my girlfriend/photographer, she stifled a yawn.
But as Covid restrictions lifted and with round-trip flights from Rome under €100, we went. During the research, I learned it had been billed as Europe’s Hollywood. More than 150 films have been shot on an island about the size of Kansas City, Mo.
“Jurassic Park; Dominion” had been shot there and was showing in theaters around Europe. River Phoenix just finished shooting “Kitbag,” about Napoleon when we arrived in June. We took a brilliant tour of all the movie sites, such as the huge water tanks at Malta Film Studios where they shot such films as “Captain Phillips” and “Raising the Titanic.”
In July we visited Elba, a historic island off Tuscany, hoping we’d beat the summer crowds. We didn’t. With no travel restrictions,  travelers were crawling all over Italy like starving ants. All the travelers who’d been homebound for two years had joined the people already planning to come.
We also learned the hard way that public transportation in Elba is as bad as Rome’s. You need a car. We took a train.
However, Elba is worth waiting on narrow island roads waiting for buses. The beaches were fantastic if crowded, and our Da Pilade Hotel in the countryside had a huge pool surrounded by palm trees. We made daily trips to Portoferraio, the capital, and saw the palace prison — yes, a palace — where the Allies exiled Napoleon after his string of losses in Russia and Germany. He spent nine months with one of the best views in Italy and weather only his gods could order.

kurt jacobson 1Kurt Jacobson, Senior Writer

Gisborne New Zealand from the Emerald Hotel. Kurt Jacobson photo
Gisborne New Zealand from the Emerald Hotel. Kurt Jacobson photo

It was great to return to a more normal travel routine post-Covid. Fourteen trips near and far graced my travel calendar in 2022, starting with a February trip to Rehoboth Beach, DE.

My wife and I stayed in the Canalside Inn, a favorite for dog-friendly lodging. We enjoyed walking to the beach; just 15 minutes from the Inn. On this trip, we discovered Raas in Lewes, DE, one of the best Indian restaurants anywhere. Raas is on the main drag in a Victorian home serving high-end Indian fare.

March brought another wedding anniversary, and we splurged at the Greenbrier Inn. The weather was fine, and we did a lot of hiking. I found the Greenbrier to be a bit overrated but I loved that we discovered the town of Lewisburg just up the road. Lewisburg is full of small-town charm, good restaurants, and cool shops.

In April, I returned to Delaware and stayed at Bethany Beach Ocean Suites. This beachfront property comped my room with a balcony to watch the action. On this trip, I found Sunshine Crepes, just a block from the hotel. After trying four of their crepes, all of which I liked, my favorite was the strawberry and blueberry!

In late April, my wife and I met her parents in Oahu, my first time there. We all had a blast with Waikiki Beach just minutes away, too many excellent restaurants to name, and fun activities. The highlight for me was hiking up to the top of Diamondhead Crater.

June brought warmth and green to the Mid-Atlantic region and we went to Mt Cuba Nature Center near Kennett Square, PA. Think forest bathing. We loved the easy hiking trails through the trees and native gardens.

Sunset over Colorado foothills
Sunset over Colorado foothills

In mid-June, I headed to Littleton, Colorado for a small family gathering to celebrate my brother’s birthday. I got in some quality hiking up in the foothills and saw a spectacular sunset over the Rocky Mountains.

Another short trip was to Wilmington, DE where my wife and I had a fabulous dinner at Ciro Food and Drink. Wilmington has lots to offer, including the Hagley Museum, Constitution Yards for beer lovers, and the Hotel Dupont for luxury lodging.

Mid-Coastal Maine beckoned us northward again and we booked a vacation rental home near Bristol. Days were spent hiking woods and beaches and nights brought wine, lobster, and quality family time.

Near DC, Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts had a full summer schedule. We caught performances by the Gipsy Kings, Steve Martin, and Sting on three separate dates. Wolf Trap is a national treasure for concerts or just a walk in the park.

The year’s big trip was 12 days in New Zealand’s north and south islands. On my ninth trip to the other land down under, five of us visited Waiheke Island, Gisborne, Nelson, Abel Tasman National Park, Blenheim, Wellington, and Martinborough. Sunny skies, fabulous wineries, and friendly locals greeted us everywhere we went. New Zealand reaffirmed that it’s my favorite country to visit.