Sometimes it's good to stop at the end of the year to look back and assess how much you've accomplished, if for no other reason than to make sure you've not wasted a year of your life. Life takes on another dimension when you throw travel into the mix.
Had it not been for travel, we might have missed out on everything from the fun of ringing in the new year atop a high rise in Panama City with a fellow travel blogger … to the nightmare of being escorted out of a country. Here is one year in our lives as travel bloggers, 12 photos, 12 months.
January – Boquete, Panama
After ringing in the New Year, we drove to the other end of the country for a little R&R. Nestled in the mountains is the little city of Boquete. It's a very popular expat community and a great place to relax.
February – Carnival in Panama City, Panama
It may be Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but it's Carnival in Panama City. Costumed devils, floats, packed streets, food vendors and a parade made the celebration special in Panama City. This annual event was fun, but our feet were exhausted by the end of the day!
March – Israel tour for 21 days
We spent most of March in Israel and had a blast. After ten days on a fascinating guided tour, we rented a car and set out on our own to see more of this tiny nation, basically everything from the northernmost tip at Tel Dan all the way down to the Gaza Strip near Egypt.
I don't know what we enjoyed most, the food, the people, or seeing the historical sites that we've read about all our lives.
April – Casco Antiguo in Panama City, Panama
Our last month in Panama. we spent as much time as we could with the friends we'd miss. Tops on our list is our Dutch friend Farieda. We “played tourist and went sightseeing and bar-hopping in “Casco,” the oldest inhabited part of Panama City.
May – Cuenca, Ecuador
We moved to Cuenca, Ecuador in May. With half a million people it's the third largest city in the country and a very popular retirement spot for Americans because of the incredibly low cost of living and the year-round spring-like weather.
June – Amazon Basin Tour
In June ,we visited the easternmost part of Ecuador, part of the Amazon River basin. We stayed at a beautiful lodge in the jungle for a few nights, traveled on an Amazon tributary.
We even managed to see Banos, a town sitting on the side of a volcano that is famous for its thermal baths. Sadly, Dan missed a unique photo op: Only three days after we left, the volcano erupted.
July – back to the USA
In July we decided to return to the US to visit family, especially grandkids and Linda's 88-year-old mom. We enjoyed beach time in Naples, Florida, visited The Biltmore in Asheville, NC, and enjoyed time in Richmond and Petersburg, two Virginia towns with a lot of Civil War history.
August – Getting to know Cuenca, Ecuador
Back in Cuenca, we took time to get to know the mountain town better and improve our Spanish.
September – Ingapirca ruins in Ecuador, Dublin and Southeast Ireland
September through November are major travel months for us. Before heading to Ireland for a press tour and conference, we took a tour of various Inca ruins near Cuenca.
October – Northern Ireland, Germany, and a Mediterranean Cruise
After our conference we rented a car and drove north so we could spend some time touring Northern Ireland. Since we were already in Europe our friends Sven and Tina, who we'd first met in Israel, invited us to visit them in Cologne, Germany for a while.
We then flew to Rome, because we'd found an incredibly inexpensive cruise. It took us to cities in Croatia, Italy, Montenegro and Greece. Dan's favorite stop was Burano, an island neighbor of Venice, because of its mega-colorful houses.
November – Sarasota Chalk Festival in Sarasota, Florida
November began with a few days in Athens, Greece, then a week of downtime at an apartment in Madrid.
We flew back via Lima, Peru, then to Guayaquil, and the immigration in Ecuador kicked us out because we had used up our days in country. So off to Florida to straighten out our visas and spend some time with Dan's family in Sarasota. If you're ever there in November be sure to see the annual Sarasota Chalk Festival.
December – Lights in Bloom at Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida
Dan spent much of December going through old photos, while Linda worked on various computer issues and social media.
Our last bit of travel was Lights In Bloom, another annual Sarasota event. This one was held at Selby Gardens. The entire botanical garden is open from 6-9 pm and is ablaze with colorful lighted flowers, butterflies and more. We also managed to visit the gardens during its normal daytime hours. They specialize in epiphytes so they have a world-class collection of orchids, bromeliads, and other air plants.