As 2015 draws to a close, I find myself reminiscing on my year in travel and recounting my progress on my bucket list. I once had a goal to take one big international trip per year. This year I visited seven countries and 21 cities on three continents – my biggest travel year yet. I also finally took that DNA test to determine my ancestral lineage and I’m anxiously anticipating the results. I’m sure I’ll be adding some new countries to the bucket list based on the findings. Until then, here’s a recap of my travels in 2015:
I started off the year with a road trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I hung out with family, ate plenty of shrimp, beignets and gumbo, collected lots of beads, and even snagged a coveted coconut at the Zulu parade.
Thanks to a $178 glitch fare on Etihad Airlines, I touched down on the Asian continent for the first time with visits to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I rode to the top of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, wore an abaya for the first time, and toured the magnificent Grand Mosque. This was my first foray into the Middle East and it surprisingly had me yearning to see more.
I also returned to the Motherland thanks to the Etihad glitch, with visits to four countries in southern Africa. I attended the Cape Town Jazz Festival, hung out on Durban’s Golden Mile, visited Nelson Mandela’s childhood home and final resting place, drove the Panorama Route, and delighted in the animals at Kruger National Park in South Africa. I rode the infamous Sani Pass, went pony trekking, and stayed in a village in the mountains of Lesotho. I saw the Fish River Canyon, went sand boarding for the first time, and climbed a 260-foot sand dune in Namibia. And I trekked to Mantenga Falls and Ezulwini Valley in Swaziland. It all made me love Africa even more.
I stayed stateside over the summer, with visits to Navajo country and the Big Apple. I shot plenty of pictures at Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell in Arizona, but photographs just don’t do them justice. The entire area is nothing short of beautiful and amazing. If you haven’t yet been, you ought to. I also made a quick run to Brooklyn and was able to take in the Atlantic Antic Festival. As always, I marveled in the frenetic pace and the diversity of New York.
I ended the year with a visit to Cuba – the one place I’ve wanted to see for years, but never thought I’d be able to due to the US embargo. As a lover of Afro-Cuban music and salsa dancing, Cuba was everything I hoped for and more. I pray that the thawing of US-Cuba relations will lead to increased prosperity and opportunity for the Cuban people, who are some of the nicest folks on the planet.
I haven’t yet finalized my travel plans for 2016, but Machu Picchu, Thailand and East Africa are all on my radar. I’ll also be writing more and sharing more travel deals and trip planning tips. Here’s to wishing you a Happy New Year and more passport stamps in 2016.