Morocco…Colombia…Japan…Brazil…and more! Looking back on 2019, I’m so grateful for a fascinating travel year.
In particular I’m grateful to my clients who conferred their trust in me to design and execute exciting and meaningful travel for them.
Many visited classic favorites such as Italy, France, Hawaii, Argentina, Riviera Maya, and Costa Rica. Others traveled more off the beaten path
Six friends embarked on a first-class 19-day tour of Morocco with the same guide throughout. The ladies never tired of their journey and raved it was one of their top travel experiences.
I was happy to book trips for two different families to Brazil — a wonderful destination that has undeservedly (in my opinion) seen a decrease in tourism. The highlight of one trip was the Pantanal and, by boat, watching jaguars, other wildlife and life on the river. The other family traveled to Iguaçu Falls, Rio, São Paulo, Paraty and Ilha Grande.
An extended family of seven started 2019 exploring western Cuba, staying on a remote and relaxed cayo (key) with white sand beaches and scuba diving, ending with four exciting nights in Havana.
Several clients traveled through the increasingly popular destination of Slovenia experiencing its old towns, beauty, coast, mountains, wineries, the famous lake island of Bled, and great value.
The Millers explored Ghana where their son is in the Peace Corps. After spending time in his village, the family visited a nature reserve with remarkable wildlife, small country towns and a luxury beach resort. Ghana is known for its beauty and history. They had the time of their life and it was special family time.
A young “foodie” couple explored modern and medieval Japan early November enjoying the autumn colors.
And clients traveled extensively through central and eastern Australia right before the devastating wildfires broke out.
As the range of ships and types of experiences have grown, I’ve seen travel by boat increase. This year clients visited the Galapágos (and beautiful mainland Ecuador), the Rhine and Danube rivers, Eastern Europe, Sweden, Alaska and New England.
Clients are enjoying their holidays now in places such as South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Dominican Republic.
How was your travel year?
I had an unusually busy and wonderful year of personal travel and life-changing experiences. It’s not just the places, it’s people you meet, situations you experience, cultural lessons, laughter, breaking barriers, getting through the frustrations, putting together a new puzzle. It’s all about experiences.
One of my highlights was an adventure tour through Guanajuato state in central Mexico, mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking. For the first time I rappelled down a mountain and went up in a hot-air balloon. Guanajuato state is the only one of Mexico’s 32 states with two UNESCO World Heritage Cities: San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato City; both are awesome!
During the same trip I attended Mexico’s Adventure Travel show held this year in the old charming lake town of Valle de Bravo, 2 1/2 hours from Mexico City, where I paraglided, literally running off a mountain and soaring over the mountains and valley below — another first.
My two-week trip ended realizing a bucket list experience: Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico. My local partner, staff and family treated me to an amazing time of joyous parades, visiting the surrounding countryside, fabulous food (including insect pizza!), cemeteries at night, and incredible hospitality.
I finally had the opportunity to visit Colombia, starting in Cartagena, the vibrant old colonial city where the Caribbean meets the Pacific. I attended a conference in the high-altitude capital Bogotá, danced salsa in Cali and went scuba diving off Gorgona Island, once a feared penal colony and now a paradise with rustic but lovely lodging.
I hiked in Colombia’s lush coffee region, whose wax palms are the tallest palm trees in the world, and relaxed in mineral hot springs. I loved Medellin, known as the “City of Eternal Spring.” In the past decade it’s transformed from a violent narco area into a safe and wonderful city with thriving art, food and entrepreneurial scenes. The countryside around the city, especially Santa Elena where flowers are grown, is beautiful.
I was thrilled to be one of 8 travel agents invited to visit Japan as the guest of Japan’s National Tourism Board in early December. Highlights included dining with Kyoto geishas (called geikos); singing karaoke with my colleagues in Tokyo; staying at the stunning Amanemu in a national park on the east-coast peninsula of Shima and visiting Japan’s most sacred Ise shrines.
After our organized trip ended, I stayed on a few days to visit the “snow monkeys” in the mountains of Jigokudani. These macaques are the only monkeys in the world to soak in hot springs (onsens). I stayed at a super cool old, and rustic ryokan where, in 1963, the first monkey jumped into the onsen to fetch an apple. Exiting unscathed and enjoying the water he started what is now a favorite pastime for the troop. I also visited the old town of Takayama and city of Kanazawa whose garden many say is the loveliest in Japan. In Tokyo I loved the Mori Digital teamLab Borderless – a 3-D multi-sensory art experience made up of unique and interconnected interactive immersions.
I returned to Panama, which has special significance as it’s where my parents met and married and my eldest brother was born. I stayed at several properties in the Bocas del Toro island chain, the fabulous El Otro Lado, rich with culture, and the rustic but high-end Isla Palenque eco beach resort in the Gulf of Chiriqui.
I returned after 30 years to Puerto Vallarta, staying in the three Velas properties and Punta Mita’s St. Regis and Four Seasons. This area on Mexico’s west coast is still one of my favorites.
And I had fabulous desert experiences and spa treatments in Arizona at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain and Miraval Spa & Resort.
A highlight of the year was experiencing the wildlife, conservation-driven management and scope of Ted Turner’s Vermejo ranch and lodge — the largest privately owned parcel of land in the U.S. The lodge has been lovingly restored to its 1909 original glory. On the border of New Mexico and Colorado, it’s a special place and experience.
Looking ahead, I look forward to working with and highlighting those partners and properties that really make the effort to practice sustainable tourism and helping clients make eco-conscious travel choices. We can all play a positive role. Indeed, the very future of our glorious planet depends on us caring enough to take steps individually and collectively to ensure its health. We don’t want the only home we have to go down in wildfires, sinking islands and cities, terrorism and hateful behavior. Travel is a powerful way to expand our perspectives and build bridges rather than walls.
I wish you meaningful, healthy and safe adventures in 2020!
Happy trails … Susan