[A]s I write this post Tuesday afternoon, 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 continuing to share his stories on a weekly basis, and all the guest contributors who wrote for Go Backpacking this year.
After visiting 20 new countries in 2012, across four continents, I was feeling 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, as well as North and Central America.
In April, I took a two-week trip to eastern Colombia, visiting Bucaramanga, San Gil, Parque Nacional de Chicamocha (one of the largest canyon's in the world) and the beautiful pueblo of Barichara. I also launched a totally new design for my Medellin Living blog.
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.
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, as well as making many new friends.
After the conference, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do a day trip to nearby Niagara Falls.
My one and 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.
From the capital, I flew to David, 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
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.
I've already decided to kick off 2014 in Central America, with visits to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, before returning to Colombia.
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 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 larger Asia trip began to take shape.
This is the a 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 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, which would give me a chance to see South Korea too, but I'd rather see Tibet, Bhutan, and Myanmar before the country of a brutal military dictatorship (which was part of the reason I skipped Myanmar in 2008).
What's your 2014 dream destination?