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My Travel Year in Review

Downtown Medellin
Downtown Medellin

As I write this post, 2013 is quickly entering the history books hour by hour.

I'm eternally grateful to everyone who's taken time this year to read Go Backpacking.

Your support allows me to continue doing what I love: traveling, writing, and sharing my experiences online.

Special thanks to Mark Wiens for sharing his stories every week and all the guest contributors who wrote for Go Backpacking this year.

Last but not least, I'd like to thank all the advertisers, such as Visit Britain, and companies I worked with this year, including G Adventures, Get Your Guide, Viator, and Exotic Rides Cancun.

After visiting 20 new countries in 2012, across four continents, I felt burnt out by the end of last year.

I chose to spend most of 2013 living and working in Medellin, but I still managed to squeeze in some travel within Colombia and North and Central America.

The clock tower entrance to Cartagena's Old City
The clock tower entrance to Cartagena's Old City

Colombia

I spent much of the year in Medellin. In February, I accomplished my biggest goal of the year, publishing my first book, the Medellin Travel Guide.

In April, I took a two-week trip to eastern Colombia, visiting Bucaramanga, San Gil, Parque Nacional de Chicamocha (one of the largest canyons in the world), and the beautiful pueblo of Barichara

I also launched a new design for my Medellin Living blog.

During the second half of the year, I visited Bogota to apply for a business visaCartagena for my 37th birthday, and the Rio Claro Nature Reserve.

I also learned to dance Cali-style salsa and bachata.

The turquoise waters of Isla de Mujeres, off the coast of Cancun
The turquoise waters of Isla de Mujeres, off the coast of Cancun

Mexico

My trip to Mexico was the travel highlight of 2013. I crammed so much into my five weeks there. It took me six months to write thirty articles from the trip.

Colombia aside, I've never written so much about a country.

Favorite places included Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Playa del Carmen.

Favorite experiences included lunch at Pujol, swimming with dolphins, and driving a Ferrari.

To see the full recap, click here.

Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls

Canada

I flew from Cancun to Toronto to attend the 2013 Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) conference.

The highlight was seeing and hanging out with my friends from all corners of the world in person and making many new friends.

After the conference, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a day trip to nearby Niagara Falls.

The beach on Kuanidup, one of the many islands making up San Blas
The beach on Kuanidup, one of the many islands making up San Blas

Panama

My only new country for 2013 was Panama, which I visited for two weeks en route back to Colombia.

The first thing I did was see the Panama Canal, which was rather anticlimactic. Seriously, you have to go, but it's not exciting. An hour is all you need.

I flew to David from the capital and took a short bus to Boquete, where I bumped into my friend Shannon who ended up staying at the same hostel as me for a few nights.

The highlight of Boquete was the Dos Jefes organic coffee farm tour run by a retired American who knew nothing about coffee growing when he bought the place.

From Boquete, I traveled by land (and water) to the islands of Bocas del Toro.

The main island was a bit run down, and my first day trip to other islands was full of rain, but the weather cleared up for my last day. It would've been more fun with friends.

I flew back to Panama City from Bocas and immediately booked a three-day trip to the San Blas Islands.

This was the highlight of my trip to Panama.

I stayed in a thatched bungalow on the island of Kuanidup, which was no more than 100 meters long.

I'd love to go back again in a few years.

Annual Reviews from Prior Years

Related: Backpacking Panama, a 2-Week Itinerary

Tibetan Plateau
Flying over the Tibetan Plateau en route from Chengdu to Lhasa

2014 – The Year Ahead

It wasn't until the last few days when I began to reflect on 2013 that I began to think I played it a little too conservatively.

Before returning to Colombia, I've already decided to kick off 2014 in Central America, with visits to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

These are all countries I'd like to know better, but they're not destinations I lay awake at night fantasizing about.

For Fall 2014, I've decided to pick a dream destination I can throw out into the great big universe.

It's a place I tried to go to in 2008 during my trip around the world but was denied days before departure.

It's a place where the native culture is systematically being destroyed day by day. I fear if I don't go soon, there may be nothing left worth seeing.

I'm talking about Tibet.

And once I began bouncing the idea around in my mind, a more extensive Asia trip began to take shape.

This is the three-month trip I'm currently thinking about for Fall 2014 –

  • Mid-September: Arrive in Beijing, China
  • Enter Tibet by rail – 2 weeks (including Mt. Everest)
  • Nepal – 2 weeks (including Royal Chitwan Park)
  • Bhutan – 7 days
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh – 3 to 5 days
  • Myanmar – 2 to 3 weeks (if I can get a visa from Bangladesh, otherwise fly in via Bangkok)
  • Vietnam – 2 to 3 weeks
  • Mid-December: Leave for the United States

The last time I attempted to get into Tibet independently was tricky. I got lucky that the travel agency I used was able to obtain a rail ticket for me. 

This time around, I'd prefer to partner with a company for a group tour.

Package trips to North Korea are also growing in popularity, giving me a chance to see South Korea.

Still, I'd rather visit Tibet, Bhutan, and Myanmar before the country of a brutal military dictatorship (which was part of the reason I skipped Myanmar in 2008).

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

Wesley

Monday 13th of January 2014

Sound like it’s been an excellent year for you! Keep traveling mate.

[email protected]

Thursday 9th of January 2014

Sounds like a great year you have planned Dave. I have beeb spending a lot of time in Latin America lately too and feel that it is time to spread my wings and explore Asia. I would love to see Bhutan, as I was just reading a Nat Geo article about it and it sounds fascinating

Penelope

Thursday 9th of January 2014

That water in Mexico ... never seen such a shade of blue like that before outside of Patagonia ... bet it's warmer than the water down there! ;)

Merylin

Monday 6th of January 2014

Hi Dave, I think your plans for 2014 are great....Good Luck that it will all come to fruition. I have been to all those places excepting Tibet which I tried to get to in February 2013 when I did North West India and Bhutan. I've just had a search of it again for this year and I think the only way is via Beijing in a group as I also travel alone! I loved Bhutan and travelled there during a festival, it was amazing, I saw loads and again I could not get my own way around, I had to hire a driver and guide, expensive... Try and get a companion or a few of you the cost will decrease, but they went out of their way to get me to many places, some were not even on the itinerary and they were great. Happy Travels and thanks for all your pictures.

Dave

Tuesday 7th of January 2014

Hi Merylin, I thought the daily tourist fee covered the cost of a guide, transport and accommodation in Bhutan?

Jimson

Wednesday 1st of January 2014

Yes,Denise. I am agree with you that South Korea is one of the most beautiful and great traveling destinations that there. But,According to me Mexico will be the best to travel.

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