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RTW #8: 7 Continents from (A)ntarctica to (Z)anzibar

7 Continents & a Bit of Luck Made Round the World #8 my Best Trip to Date

Posted by on Mar 18, 2013 | 5 comments

7 Continents & a Bit of Luck Made Round the World #8 my Best Trip to Date

Well, I’m finally home from another January (and in this case, uh, February – but who’s counting?) of galavanting round the world and what a trip it was! Technically, I’ve been back in the country for a few weeks now but a 9-day business trip to San Francisco on the heels of this year’s RTW trip kept me on the road until last Wednesday so I only truly started unpacking back home in Atlanta a few days ago.

Since arriving home last week, I’ve gone through the now familiar process of reacquainting myself with real life. Sorting through seven weeks of mail (a new record for me), seeing my family (especially my 11-month-old niece who seems determined to keep growing whether her aunt is in the country to witness it or not), catching up with my friends, retrieving my cat from her winter holiday at my parents’ mountain home (she was equally un-amused that her vacation was over) and unpacking the suitcase that has contained all my worldly possessions for almost two months now…dear Lord how I missed my washer and dryer.

Over the weekend I finally had a few days to relax and reflect on what was my longest and most phenomenal round the world trip yet. Literally, seven continents in seven weeks. You know, it’s funny, every year before I depart I think, “How can this trip possibly ever top last year’s trip?” Yet somehow, miraculously, every year it does and RTW #8 was no exception.

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Aspen Colorado: Confessions of an Aspiring Ski Bunny

Posted by on Mar 7, 2013 | 0 comments

Aspen Colorado: Confessions of an Aspiring Ski Bunny

I began this year’s round-the-world trip with snow and ice in Antarctica and so it seemed only fitting that after a month of soaking up the island sunshine around the world I should end it in similar fashion. It may come as a surprise to many of my readers that with all of my globetrotting in the past few years, I’ve never actually taken a ski trip. In fact, other than a weekend high school church ski trip to the mountains of North Carolina, this Florida girl had not skied since childhood (and I didn’t recall being especially good at it back then).

But it was a summer trip to Keystone, Colorado last year for the annual travel blogger’s conference (TBEX) that opened my eyes to the spectacular Rocky Mountains. As I gaped openly at the natural beauty of a Colorado summer, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like in the height of ski season when the resort towns really hit full tilt.

Truth be told, I’ve always harbored a secret desire to be a ski bunny. You know, one of those girls schussing down the mountain by day and hot-tubbing with a glass of champagne by night. The idea of a ski trip to Aspen Colorado sounded both athletic and glamorous – two of my favorite adjectives. And because a stop in Colorado was a little closer to home than my typical global destinations, I decided to invite two of my best girlfriends to join in the fun. A ski trip seemed like the perfect girls getaway! And who were we to let the fact that none of us were actually skiers get in the way of a good time.

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Two Ways to Whitsunday: Getting Down Under on the Great Barrier Reef

Posted by on Feb 24, 2013 | 0 comments

Two Ways to Whitsunday: Getting Down Under on the Great Barrier Reef

I started out with a very loose plan for the Great Barrier Reef. In fact, in a rare display of spontaneity, I didn’t firm up a hotel until just a few days before I arrived – unusual for an obsessive planner like myself. The first thing I learned about the Great Barrier Reef area is that there are a lot of options for where to stay. There’s a reason it’s not called the “small barrier reef” or the “medium-sized barrier reef .”

Stretching more than 1,600 miles along the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system. Composed of more than 2,600 individual reefs and more than 900 islands, the reef is the only world wonder that can be seen from outer space and in 1981 it was designated as a World Heritage Site.

The Great Barrier Reef region is served by several airports from Cairns in the north to Hamilton Island in the south. The two most popular destinations for visiting the reef are Cairns or the Whitsunday Islands. The first step was deciding which area I wanted to visit so that I could book flights from Sydney to the best possible airport. Ultimately, I decided I couldn’t resist the draw of the Whitsunday Islands near the southern end of the reef.

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Sydney & the Blue Mountains, Australia

Posted by on Feb 19, 2013 | 0 comments

Sydney & the Blue Mountains, Australia

My original plan for Australia was to spend a few days in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney followed by a week in the Great Barrier Reef area. But with my stay coinciding with Valentine’s weekend, I never could quite get the hotels worked out in the Blue Mountains (a popular weekend getaway from Sydney and therefore quite busy over Valentine’s weekend).

So after meeting such a great group of Aussies from the Sydney area on my Antarctica cruise, I decided to spend my first two nights in Sydney so we could all get together for a BYOP (Bring Your Own Penguin) reunion to rehash our Antarctic adventures and catch up. Luckily, my new best bud from the cruise, Angela, was able to take the day off from work on Friday and drove down Thursday night from Newcastle (about 2 hours from Sydney) to join me for my two-night stay in the city.

I arrived bleary-eyed at 7am in Sydney after back-to-back redeyes and a full day layover in Seoul on the way from Phuket. Thank God for the Four Points Sheraton Darling Harbour (2017 update, this hotel is now a Hyatt Regency) where the front desk was kind enough to check me in at that ridiculously early hour. The Four Points occupies a prime location on Darling Harbour and I’d spent a very enjoyable stay there on RTW #2 over Australia Day weekend where I had a magnificent view of the fireworks over the harbour.

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Packed in Phuket: A Lesson in What Not to Do for Chinese New Year

Posted by on Feb 14, 2013 | 0 comments

Packed in Phuket: A Lesson in What Not to Do for Chinese New Year

I love Phuket, I really do. Honestly, it’s hard to find any part of Thailand that I don’t love. But if you also love Phuket, do yourself a favor and never go over Chinese New Year.

On past visits to Phuket, I’ve typically stayed farther afield, like the Khao Lak area – off-island and a ninety minute drive up the mainland coast. On the few occasions when I have stayed on the actual island of Phuket, they’ve typically been brief trips where I lounged on the beach and rarely left the hotel. This time I had four nights, a rental car and plans to explore the island in more depth.

Unfortunately, my timing was lousy. For those of you who haven’t been in Asia over Chinese New Year before, let me first say that it’s by far the biggest travel holiday for all of the continent and it goes on for (seemingly) weeks. The actual New Year fell on this past Sunday, right in the middle of my 4-day stay.

I am almost always somewhere within Asia over Chinese New Year but I guess I’ve typically been in cities: Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore. Cities are fine over the holiday because everyone gets out of the cities. And now I know where they go: Phuket.

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The Simple Joy of Nikoi

Posted by on Feb 9, 2013 | 0 comments

The Simple Joy of Nikoi

Before I began the planning for RTW #8, I’d never even heard of tiny Nikoi Island. But before each big trip these days I cruise my friend and London-based-travel-writer, Jill’s, ecoluxhotels.com website for properties that still need to be reviewed. In exchange for doing the review, the writer receives a 2-night stay. In the past year, her site has introduced me to several luxurious eco-lodges like Laguna Lodge in Guatemala and explora’s superb Chilean properties. So, that’s how I discovered this little gem of an island just 50 miles from Singapore.

Since I had already penciled in Singapore on the RTW #8 itinerary, Nikoi seemed like the perfect place to escape the buzz of the city for a few days. Getting there from Singapore sounded complicated at first glance but turned out to be a breeze. From Singapore, I took a ferry to Bintan Island in Indonesia (1 hour and the entry visa was easily processed on the boat) and then Nikoi’s staff took over from there, greeting me at the ferry terminal and escorting me to a private car for the ride across the island to meet the Nikoi boat (also 1 hour). From there, it’s just a 15-minute speedboat ride to the private island paradise of Nikoi.

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