My 2011 Travel Review from A to Z

Over the last two weeks, I have received three versions of the A to Z meme that is making its way around the travel blogging community.  After reading the review of my virtual buddy Stephanie of The Travel Chica and commenting her post, she challenged me to write one.  So here goes my

A to Z Travel Review for 2011

 A: Age you started traveling?

My parents took me on trips when I was a child and I also spent 13 years on the road full time as an entertainer.  My first international trip was at the age of 16 when I went to England, Spain and Portugal.

B: Best beer you’ve had and where?

This year (and pretty much any year) that would be the incredible variety of microbrews we have in Northern California (thank you Jimmy Carter).  On my Great American Road Trip this year, I discovered Cascade Ale (Deschutes, Oregon) which is my newest favorite beer.  And of course my hometown brew pub, The Boulder Creek Brewery, has an ever changing selection that is brewed on premises.

I sampled every “national” beer in Central America.  They are generally on the light side and go down easy.  I like Pilsen in Costa Rica, mostly for sentimental reasons; however, my favorite Central American beer hands down is Toña from Nicaragua.

C: Cuisine (favorite):

Of everywhere I traveled this year, Peruvian cuisine definitely had it going on!  I eat ceviche in every Latin American country.  Peru elevates ceviche to another dimension  It is not unusual to find a dozen or more ceviches listed on the menu.  They are so fresh and are typically served with sweet potatoes and corn.

Scallop and Crab Ceviche at Portofino's, Miraflores, Peru

D: Destinations, favorite, least favorite and why:

Tough one.  My two weeks in the Galapagos Islands is a time I will remember the rest of my life.  Snorkeling and free diving while seal lions and turtles cavort around your body with no fear is amazing.  Hiking on the various islands with their unique fauna such as giant tortoises, iguanas and flamingos isn’t too shabby either.  There are actually Galapagos Penguins that call these equatorial waters home.


Galapagos Marine Iguana and Sally Lightfoot Crabs

I really do not have a least favorite destination.

E: Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:

Spending three nights on remote San Blas Islands where we were welcomed by the Kuna Yala, an autonomous and indigenous group that resisted assimilation by the Maya, the Spanish conquest and the modern Panamanians.  With the exception of an outboard motor or two they live about the same way they did 500 years ago.  When the Kuna chief showed up the first morning at our beach camp with coconuts (prized possession akin to money) and prepared them with a machete for our consumption, that was a serious “wow”

Chief Julio Brings Us Breakfast


Kuna Yala Village

F: Favorite mode of transportation:

I took a lot of bus rides and loved the chicken buses, especially in Guatemala.  I took my share of long bus rides in South America.  After a particularly difficult 26 hour ride from Cali to Quito, I irritated my sciatic nerve which I am still rehabilitating.  In Peru, the quality of buses exponentially increased with fully reclining seats, wifi, et cetera.  I took a couple interior flights as well.  But my favorite and most adventurous mode was sailing for eight days from Panama to Colombia on a 30 foot boat with nine others.

G: Greatest feeling while traveling:

Waking up in the morning and feeling, “what do I want to do today” or “I think I will go to ________ town today” or “I like it here, I think I will stay another day or two.”  As I eased into the concept of long-term travel, increased spontaneity was a naturally unfolding gift to my spirit and and I love it!

H: Hottest place:

Toss up between Leon, Nicaragua and Cartagena, Colombia.  Both were extremely hot and humid every day.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where:

Our naturalist guide and interpreter Victor.  A former member of the Ecuadorian Special Forces, he made the Galapagos Islands come alive.  The breath and depth of his knowledge, coupled with a sweet yet wry personality, was amazing.  And he always made sure our needs were met.  He even gave me some of his underwater shots which I used with appropriate credit on this blog.


J: Journey that took the longest:

Cali to Quito (see above).  My ass hurts thinking about it (only semi-kidding).

K: Keepsake from your travels:

Photographs, videos, this blog and two patches (Galapagos and Machu Pichu) which I wasted no time sewing onto my daypack.  The cool thing about collecting patches (I have over 100 of them) is that they take up way less room than T shirts.

L: Let-down sight, why and where:

I am the type to make lemonade.   However, I did find Cali somewhat disappointing.  I loved Colombia but when I got to Cali, it was a holiday weekend and it was like the whole city went to the countryside.  Other than some interesting and fun graffiti and connecting with my blogger buddy Alisha who is volunteering herself around the world, there was not much to do.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel:

Taking the backroads from Ecuador to Peru.

My Entry into Peru

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in:

I mostly stayed in hostels.  I was planning to go quickly through El Salvador, but The Travel Chica recommended Anáhuac in Juayúa, El Salvador.  It was so nice and such a great value that I stayed there for 10 days and used it as a base to explore the neighboring colonial towns and summit amazing volcanoes.

Summit of Vulcan Santa Ana, Parque Nacional Los Volcanes, El Salvador

O: Obsession—what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?:

In order:

  1. Nature
  2. People
  3. Culture
  4. Food
  5. Architecture
  6. Everything Else

P: Passport stamps, how many and from where?

Eight from 2011
Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru

10 from previous travel:
Honduras, Mexico, Canada, Yukon (I know but I got a Yukon stamp in my passport), England, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Egypt, Israel

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where:

Ancient Mayan Erotica

Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología, Ciudad de Guatemala

R: Recommended sight, event or experience:

Experiencing the largest central market in the world with the most accommodating owner of the coolest hostel in the world.  Don’t go alone!

S: Splurge; something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling:

After spending eight days at sea, five of them crashing with two other dudes on a small boat platform bed, I decided to splurge on a really nice hotel in Cartagena.  It was way worth it.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done:

Ordering a Pisco Sour at the old bar in the Gran Hotel Bolivar, Lima.

U: Unforgettable travel memory:

The friends I have made.

V: Visas, how many and for where?

I got my Yellow Fever vaccination as a prelude to obtaining a Bolivian visa but was not able to go to Bolivia this time.  None of the other countries I visited required a visa.

W: Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?

It was definitely not on this trip.  I had an incredible glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc while traveling in Alaska two years ago.  I am very partial to David Bruce’s award winning pinot noirs.  He lives and grows in…that’s right…Boulder Creek.  I did become fairly knowledgeable about rums last year.

X: eXcellent view and from where?:

From the top of Huayna Pichu.  Not only does one have an incredible view of Machu Pichu and the surrounding Andes, but you can actually see how the city was laid out in the shape of a condor.

Y: Years spent traveling?:

Three point five since I quit my job, 16+ years total.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where?:

In Latin America there is only one sport, FUTBOL!  Every country, province, region, city and village seems to have their own team.  Soccer games are always televised in bars and the customers are enthusiastic in the extreme.

This has been a totally fun idea.  The long awaited rain has moved into the Santa Cruz Harbor where I sit and write this meme.  As I dust the adaptation off my memory and re-savor the textures of these events, I am overwhelmed with appreciation for the amazing year I have had.  

And now the task of tagging other bloggers for this meme, I challenge:

Alisha Robertson from Small World Pursuits who continues to inspire me with her selflessness and compassion.  Your friendship honors me.

Matt Karsten from Expert Vagabond who initially inspired me to write a travel blog (okay Matt, that’s two nominations).

Dave Lee from Travel Blog Success who provided the knowledge for me to actually create a travel blog. (If you sign up for his course, please mention that you heard about it here.  He might give me a commission or at least buy me some sushi the next time I am in Medellin.)

Marcello Arrambide from Wandering Trader who has fun traveling the world and makes it all work.

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8 Responses to My 2011 Travel Review from A to Z

  1. Stephanie - The Travel Chica January 22, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    Great read! Glad you enjoyed Anahuac. Also seems we have very similar taste in beer. I cannot wait to do a “tour of beers” road trip in the US.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Foto of the Week from … Perito Moreno Glacier in Black and White

    • Philip January 22, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      You’re on! U.S. pub crawl sounds great.

  2. Molly February 24, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Wow – looking at your ABC’s of travel has been truly inspiring and exciting!!! My family and I will be traveling and living in Peru soon and your list just made us very excited!!!

    But your experience with the Mayan people in San Blas is so incredible! I bet that was the best coconut you’ve ever had! By the way, did they mention anything about 2012 haha?

    Happy travels!
    Molly recently posted..How to Feel Alive & Rejuvenated With 1 Simple Step Right Now!

    • Philip February 24, 2012 at 9:00 am #

      Molly, just checked your blog a bit. I think what you are doing is awesome! Peru is an incredible country and my one month there was not nearly enough. It is so diverse, physically and culturally beautiful, and the cuisne is the best! I will definitely return, but first, I am leaving for New Zealand next week (more news here soon).

      Actually, it is the Kuna Yala who inhabit and govern the San Blas. A good distinction because they successfully resisted assimilation by the Inca before they did the same with the Spanish amd more modern Panamanians. Go if you get a chance but do a little research first. My posts on sailing to Colombia may be helpful.

      When in Guatemala (my second time) I talked with and hung out with many Maya (they consitute over 40% of the population). On at least three occasions I asked them what they thought of the whole 2012 thing. Without exception they basically said, “This is our third calendar. When it is finished we will start our fourth.” They really could not fathom what the big deal was.

      Enjoy your wonderful adventure upon which you are embarking. Many unexpected things will occur. My best advice is always try and be flexible.

  3. Ecuador Tours March 26, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Dimensional Heart Traveler is nice blog where you will find superb post, travel thought is really good its connecting to you with global friends when you are on your tour. you can enjoy here with your global friends. for find global friends Latin America is best option, here placed many attractive place like historical place, nature of beauty, beaches, boating & riding option is also so attractive dude, here you will find good food taste on your tour time. so i think Latin America is a best option when you are making tour program.

    • Philip April 2, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

      Thanks. I loved my time in Ecuador and will definitely return.


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