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Every year when I’m planning my Big Trip I think, “how can this ever surpass last year’s trip?” And somehow, it always does. This year was no exception.
I’ve had a few days at home now to reflect on my most recent whirlwind round-the-world adventure and it’s funny how a little time in familiar surroundings can help lend perspective to what was definitely an amazing journey.
It was my longest round the world trip yet, not because it was intended to be, but because when you’re dealing with mileage flights, that’s just sometimes how the availability cookie crumbles…and who am I to complain about an extra week or two?
I added 10 new countries to my travel resume bringing my current country count to 115 (just typing that number gives me kind of a thrill).
Some of the countries I visited this year were new destinations that I’d dreamed of visiting for many years – Easter Island and the Maldives. And some were favorite destinations I can’t help but re-visit anytime I’m in the neighborhood, like Bangkok and Auckland.
Thanks to my blossoming relationship with Starwood Hotels & Resorts and the growing popularity of this blog (thanks entirely to all of you), I was able to experience two of their most amazing properties at a media rate that better fit my globe-trotting RTW budget.
Starwood’s newest W Retreat & Spa properties in Maldives and Koh Samui were jaw-dropping examples of exactly how I’d vacation if money were no object. They were two of the most luxurious properties I’ve ever visited in the most visually-stunning locations imaginable. Now that I’ve experienced these two, I simply can’t wait to see the others (W Retreat Vieques, Puerto Rico and W Retreat Seminyak, Bali) which may be solid contenders for the RTW #8 itinerary!
While my Starwood Platinum status has scored me some amazing upgrades on past RTW trips, this year was a new high in luxury digs. Beautiful suites in Malta, Mauritius, Abu Dhabi, Bangkok and Hong Kong and villas with private pools in Maldives and Koh Samui had me feeling a little like a princess. They’ve also probably completely ruined me for all future business travel. Thank you, Starwood. You still hold the record for leaving me utterly speechless in the greatest number of countries.
Even my five nights on Easter Island quickly went from budget to luxury when I was given the spur-of-the-moment opportunity to review the incredible Explora Rapa Nui resort for ecoluxhotels.com.
A two-night stay at explora was a brilliant introduction to how this unique company truly allows guests to experience the authentic culture and native soul of their destination. I absolutely cannot wait for my next trip to Chile to see Patagonia and Atacama through the eyes of explora.
Since arriving home, the #1 question has been, “what was your favorite place?” That’s always a tough one and this year it’s so hard to choose a favorite. For pure luxury and beauty, I’d have to say the Maldives. For cultural experience, definitely Easter Island. And for pure adrenalin, it’s a toss-up between my lion encounter in Mauritius and my three action-packed days in Queenstown.
Of course, if you’re looking for the perfect place to relax on a stunning South Pacific beach and not break the bank, it’s hard to top Vanuatu.
In case you missed any of the posts along the way, here they are again:
This may have been my longest round the world trip yet but when my friend Susan joined me in Paris and came along for the ride through Hong Kong, she proved that you can circumnavigate the globe in just two short weeks and still have the time of your life.
Can’t take a month off from work? Susan is living proof that you don’t have to. So stop letting the realities of day-to-day life get in the way of your own trip of a lifetime and start planning your RTW adventure now. The world awaits.
44 days, 6 continents, 19 cities in 16 countries…I may not have won a million dollars, but I am definitely the winner of my very own Amazing Race.
The planning for Round the World #8 officially begins today. ‘Til next year…