Travel for Love’s Best of 2011

What can I say, I’m addicted to these fun year-end memes. Hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed posting!

The kind folks at Family on Bikes have nominated us to take part in a year end blogging series called the Best of Travel 2011. If you’re not familiar with their blog you need to head over there (after finishing this post, of course) and read all about their amazing journey as a family of four who rode their bicycles the entire length of the Pan-American highway (i.e. from Alaska to the tip of South America).

Anyway, the idea is to write about our best travel memories of 2011 in these different categories.

Best Domestic Travel Destination

In 2011 I discovered California’s Central Coast and more specifically, the Pacific Coastal Highway between San Luis Obispo and San Jose. It quickly became one of my favorite parts of the world and I can’t wait to go back again with Roberto! The scenery is simply stunning and the seas are full of fascinating birds and marine life to watch for and photograph.

Best Travel Experience

This is really hard to narrow down! I’m going to have to go with two choices, swimming with whale sharks in Cancun and seeing the dolphin fishing in Brazil.

Best International Destination

Roberto and I explored Rome in November and completely fell in love with the beautiful architecture, fun friendly people and of course, the delicious Italian food. We’ve wanted to visit Italy for a long time and now we can’t wait to get back!

Worst Travel Experience

We had a few misadventures in Bolivia, but I really have to say that the worst “experience” would have to be our Pampas trip. Sure, we enjoyed the scenery and it was amazing seeing the wildlife, but for the most part the trip was poorly planned, hot and uncomfortable, and we got eaten ALIVE by mosquitoes.

Grass runway in the Bolivian pampas

Most Embarrasing Travel Moment

This brings me back to Bolivia again. I don’t think I ever blogged about this story yet so here we go. It’s both embarrassing and scary at the same time. We were on a crazy bus ride over the Bolivian Andes from Sucre to Tupiza and we stopped briefly about 1/3 of the way for a simple supper in the middle of nowhere, at night. This was a very “local” bus; that is, Roberto and I were the only non-Bolivians on it. I recall a Quechua woman sitting across the aisle from me.

We returned to the bus after our dinner and settled back into our seats, organizing our stuff again as the bus driver floored it and took off down the road. The Bolivian bus drivers go faster than you’d think possible on dark, windy dirt roads, and we must have been several kilometers down the road before my heart dropped and the worst panicky feeling came over me.

I couldn’t find my purse.

“Roberto! I can’t find my purse!”

We scramble around, looking under the seats, in the overhead bin. No purse.

I began shaking and slipped into my seat, frozen.

“All of my cash and credit cards. Both of our passports. My iPhone.” I whispered a tally.

Roberto sprung to action while I sat there frozen. He ran up to the front of the bus and banged on the door to alert the driver. I sat there as the curious passengers looked at us both. It took awhile for the guy upfront with the driver to open the door. The Roberto began talking to him but the bus kept roaring up the road.

He didn’t want to stop.

Roberto begged the guy for several minutes until finally the bus came to a screeching halt. Now the passengers were incredibly curious and everyone looked at me, asking “Que Pasa?” What’s going on? I just sat there mortified.

After about a hundred years, we got back to the restaurant and Roberto ran out. Another hundred years later (more or less) he came out with my purse in his hand followed by the girls who worked there. He triumphantly came down the aisle, holding the purse as the other passengers looked on, finally understanding. I finally breathed again as he returned to our seats, breathless, and we checked the contents.

The bus was already tearing down the road again and we rummaged through the purse. Everything was there. Nothing was missing. The girls had found it on the back of my chair where I’d left it and stored it safely behind the counter until we returned. Phew!

Best Local Destination

There’s a small town about an hour away from Pittsburgh called Ohiopyle, in the nearby mountains. The town is surrounded by a state park with waterfalls, hiking and wildlife. I grew up visiting here and always love going back. Best local destination by far!

Best Travel Lesson

I spent those four months in Brazil and learned so much about the place, language and culture and also learned so much about myself! I learned to be independent and get around in a foreign language. I learned to appreciate what I have here in the US but to also appreciate that there are amazing things about living in other countries. Many Americans think everyone else in the world wants to come and live here, but life is wonderful and has amazing things to offer no matter where you live.

Now I get to tag 5 bloggers to participate.

My Beautiful Adventures – cause Andi had such an incredible year I want to see how she can possibly choose what to put for each category.

Ordinary Traveler – cause they’ve had a crazy exciting year too.

Emily in Chile – cause I really enjoyed her ABCs of travel recap and want to see what she has to say about their 2011 travel.

Butterfly Diary – cause we got to catch up recently on a serendipitous meeting in Florida and she’s had a busy busy year.

Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler – cause she has the craziest stories and adventures I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

And special thanks to Jeremy for coordinating this!

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