Well, I’m finally home from another January (and in this case, uh, February – but who’s counting?) of gallivanting 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.
Though I’ve become something of an expert at dodging winter the past eight Januaries, this year I embraced it (well, for a couple of weeks, anyway) by starting and ending the trip with lots of snow and ice. Of course, just so you don’t think I’ve totally lost my mind, I packed in a respectable number of warm, sunny beaches in between to balance things out.
The reason for the extended length of this year’s round-the-world trip was also the highlight not only of this journey but of perhaps my entire travel “career” – Antarctica.
After years of dreaming about it, I finally made my first trip to the wild frozen tundra of the 7th continent with Quark Expeditions and it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. I can say without a doubt that, while I hope to travel to many more amazing places in my lifetime, nothing will ever hold a candle to Antarctica in my heart.
It is quite possibly the world’s most unique travel destination and there is simply nothing else like it. It is the planet’s last remaining wilderness, virtually untouched by the modern world. It’s as close as you can get to visiting another planet. It’s another world, another time. If Antarctica is not already on your bucket list, add it now. You will thank me later.
And speaking of Antarctica, I had an incredible run of luck on this year’s trip, beginning with my incident-free voyage to the white continent. We had a smooth crossing of the Drake Passage both ways and were able to make every continental landing our crew had planned.
If you don’t think that’s a great stroke of luck, ask anyone who’s ever spent a Drake crossing confined to their cabin…like those on the ill-fated Silver Explorer ship who crossed the Drake just two days behind us and had to turn back after their ship took a 30-foot wave (you read that right) to the bridge, injuring four. Those passengers never made it to Antarctica but I’m so incredibly thankful that I did.
My lucky streak continued in Patagonia with weather so unseasonably clear and warm that I was able to get out every day and explore the natural beauty of Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park and the stunning landscape surrounding explora Hotel Salto Chico.
After a scare with a flight cancellation in Madrid and a close call with a connection in Doha, I did ultimately make it to Victoria Falls in Zambia where I was welcomed by a pounding mist and more rainbows than I could count on a ridiculously-perfect sunny day.
The exotic island of Zanzibar won my heart with beautiful beaches and bright, smiling faces and the flyby over the summit of Kilimanjaro on the way still leaves me in wonder.
I felt very fortunate to continue my relationship with the ever-luxurious Starwood Hotels this year with invitations to visit the newest W Hotels in Bangkok and Singapore and an opportunity to take my first ski trip to Aspen for a girls’ weekend, St. Regis-style.
While I did manage to learn to ski (a little), I also discovered that a spa day combined with après-ski can be enjoyed with no actual skiing required. This bodes well for future ski trip possibilities for me. And thanks to the St. Regis Aspen I also have a whole new appreciation for the most practical way to open a champagne bottle (hint: it involves a saber).
In Indonesia, I discovered what it’s like to live in an open-air beach house and have a private island practically to yourself. In Phuket, I realized why you should never go to an Asian beach resort over Chinese New Year (my one stroke of questionable luck, but to be fair, I probably should have known better).
On my final continent of the trip, I reunited with Antarctic friends in Sydney and experienced the world wonder of the Great Barrier Reef with both a dive and a helicopter flight. And while in the Whitsundays, I was incredibly fortunate to enjoy one of the world’s most exclusive resorts, Hayman Island.
Yes, it was an incredible journey. One that, at times, I struggled to put into words. But in case you missed one along the way, here are my humble attempts at bringing to life each of the destinations from this year’s trip:
Stop 1 – Full Circle in Buenos Aires
Stop 4 – Posh Patagonia
Stop 5 – Catching Up in the Canaries
Stop 7 – Zen in Zanzibar
Stop 8 – Whatever/Whenever Wows in Bangkok
Stop 9 – The Latest from Singapore
Stop 10 – The Simple Joy of Nikoi
Stop 12 – A Valentine’s Day Reunion in Sydney
So there you have it, another January (yeah, yeah, and February) of globetrotting sadly comes to an end. But enough about me, let’s talk about you! Because this site isn’t really about me…it’s about you. While it’s nice for me to have all of my favorite travel memories conveniently located in one place, my real goal here is to show all of you that a trip around the world is attainable. I mean, good grief, if I can do it eight times, anyone (and I mean anyone) can do it once!
I’m not rich (far from it) and I do have a full-time job, it just happens to be a little more flexible than most. And though these days I am lucky enough to benefit from a bit of sponsor love from a few carefully selected companies, my first six trips were completely and totally un-sponsored and paid for entirely with my hard-earned points, miles and dollars.
So, has this year’s trip finally inspired you to start planning your own trip of a lifetime? If not, what’s holding you back? If you’ve got a dream but not yet a plan, my new book, The Grown-Up’s Guide to Globetrotting, can help you turn those RTW daydreams into reality.
In it, I interview dozens of gainfully-employed globetrotters who’ve taken their own RTW trips. The book will not only inspire your wanderlust, but offer real-world advice for getting the time off, planning your itinerary and booking RTW tickets to get you on the path to achieving your travel dreams.
So what are you waiting for? As Phil Keoghan says at the start of every season of the Amazing Race, “The world is waiting for you!”
As for my own future travel endeavors, the planning for RTW #9 is in the preliminary stages but first I’ve got big plans for a summer travel extravaganza in the Himalayas. Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and Myanmar are all on the summer hit list and it’s a whole new part of the world for me, so give me a shout if you’ve got tips for those countries.
Until then, I’ll remain stateside…earning a living like the rest of the world and dreaming of that next trip. But watch this space because you never know when a Delta fare sale will inspire a Spring trip to, say, Paris or Honolulu (are you listening Delta?). After all, I need the miles.
‘Til next time!