5 Favorite Destinations of 2012

During 2012, I traveled to 26 countries. I visited both the Arctic Circle and Antarctica, traveled through Eastern Europe, across the Andes, deep into the jungles of Borneo, and visited South Asia for the first time = Fabulous!

Of all these wonderful experiences, 5 destinations in particular stick in my mind:

Nepal: It would be impossible NOT to be impressed by the Himalayas. The sheer size and beauty of the mountains are awe-inspiring. And Katmandu, while a dirty and dizzying city, is somehow strangely addictive. But for me, the best part of Nepal is the people I met there.

I was lucky enough to do an 12-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp with the 3 Sisters Trekking, which trains women to be porters and guides. Our all-female group of 5 trekkers, 4 porters, and 2 guides was a rare mix of kindred spirits.

The person I admired the most was Nirma, our head guide and the first woman to summit Annapurna IV, a 26,545 ft peak. I often think of her fondly, and marvel at her personal story of achievement and dedication.

Here’s a quick video introducing my trekking sisters:

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Nepal Trekking Crew

While in Nepal, I also got to volunteer with Ghar Sita Mutu, a children’s home for abandoned children. This organization was founded by my good friend Bev. Bev works tirelessly to ensure that these unfortunate children have a future. For more on her good work, check out: Happy Mother’s Day.

Colombia: I spent 5 weeks in Colombia, one of the longest stretches of time during my entire 2-year trek. Colombians are known worldwide for their hospitality and generosity and I got to experience both first-hand. Gracias!

The first 2 weeks I spent in Bogota at my friend Christian’s place, taking Spanish language classes. There is much to be said for staying in one place, relaxing and getting to know the people and environment.

The next several weeks, I spent traveling around the Caribbean coast. First I stopped by the colorful colonial city of Cartagena, before heading into the jungle to the pre-Colombia ruins of Cuidad Perdida (the “Lost City”). I then finished up by sailing from Cartagena to Panama, via the San Blas islands. WOW!

Here’s more of my thoughts on these rich experiences.

Scotland: Being part Scottish, I was eager to explore a bit of my heritage. I spent several weeks exploring both the cities and the countryside. I started in historic Edinburgh and was amazed at how green the city was, with the castle smack dab in the center. Here’s a taste of Edinburgh for ya!

I then headed to Inverness to hunt for the Lock Ness monster, and then on to the outer islands. First, I visited my friend Moira in the wildly beautiful Orkney Islands and my only regret was not staying a few extra days.

Next I headed to the Isle of Skye, home to my own Clan MacLeod. In Skye, I was treated to a few days of sunshine and spectacular views all the way out to the Inner Hebrides.

Throughout the UK and in Scotland in particular, I stayed with several women from the organization 5W (Women Welcome Women Worldwide), a UK-founded organization of thousands of women who are interested in travel and cultures from across the globe. I didn’t just benefit from seeing the sights with a local, but made many new dear friends!

Romania: I originally set off to Romania to meet up with friends Dan and Mariana, whom I had met at a tea house on my Himalayan trek. I had a lovely invitation to visit them at their family’s home. And while I didn’t quite make it to their corner of the country, it was a lovely introduction to the region and they gave me lots of advice (and a well-worn hand-drawn map) to help me navigate my travels.

With me for 3 weeks on this bit of my trip, was my good Irish friend Brid, whom I had met the year before in Ethiopia. After spending most of my trek traveling solo, her warmth and humor were delightful!

Brid and I explored rural Romania, checking out famous Dracula’s castle, hiking and picnicking in the Carpathian Mountains, and strolling along the picture-perfect medieval cities like Sibiu and Brasov. I have to say, Romania is postcard pretty and one of my favorite European countries!

Here we are a Dracula’s Castle:

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Erin at Bran Castle

Sri Lanka: I ended up in Sri Lanka because of a snag with my India visa – and this was a lucky break! This South Asian country offers a wonderfully powerful mix for the senses: from the lush green hills of the tea plantations to the pristine southern coast beaches, from jumping Colombo to the ruins and temples dotting the Ancient Cities.

Here’s a peek at one of these ancient cities’ sites:

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Erin at Sirigiya

What I think I like most about Sri Lanka is that it has a distinct personality, with its own culture, language, and food. Again, I was hosted (spoiled actually) by my friends Utthama and PK in Colombo and their relatives (Hi Anura and Family!) in the Hill Country capital of Kandy. Really, if you haven’t thought of visiting Sri Lanka before, put it at the top of your list.

People More than Places

As I set out to write this article, I was thinking about the destinations that resonated most with me over the past year. But instead of highlighting intriguing landscapes, I ended up writing more about the people that I met along the way. It’s obvious that it’s the people, the new friends you meet, which makes each of these places so memorable.

Have questions about global travel? Write me! I’m happy to share what I know and what I should’ve known.

For more about my travel favorites see:

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 31st, 2012 and is filed under Erin Now.

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