2011: What an Amazing Year of Travel

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First, a late but heartfelt Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope 2012 is a better year for all of you than the financial forecasters are forecasting. I predict there will be more travel closer to home this year.

"Fireworks on New Year's Eve"

Fireworks on New Year's Eve

I was very lucky in 2011 for the amount of travel I was able to do – fun stuff too – none of this hop on a plane Monday morning, visit four cities and arrive home on a Thursday night kind of travel. It was an amazing year of exploring, hiking, kayaking and touring and a year that won’t be easily repeated.

That’s okay – there’s plenty to explore in my own backyard in 2012.

HikeBikeTravel continues to grow and evolve. Last night I started the first of eight photography courses that will lead to a Photography Certificate – but more importantly – you’ll see a big improvement in the caliber of photography on this site.

I wasn’t planning to do a 2011 wrap-up post but then Cathy Sweeney from Traveling With Sweeney nominated me to share my best of 2011 travel experiences and it’s a great way to see all that one has accomplished in a year. The project was started by Jeremy of Budget Travel Adventures.

Best Domestic Travel Destination 2011

Michipicoten Island wins my vote – but I’d be surprised if more than a handful of my readers ever make it there. The island sits in Lake Superior, well off the beaten path, unless you call Wawa, Ontario home. It’s best visited in the summer months before the storms roll in. Our one week kayaking tour around the island was a great success – no other boats or humans for four days, fantastic northern scenery including spectacular sunsets, woodland caribou sightings and enough paddling that you feel you earned your two hour afternoon nap.

"A Lake Superior sunset"

A Lake Superior sunset

Best Travel Experience 2011

I had so many great travel experiences while in Chile and Argentina last year, that it’s hard to choose. Climbing Volcano Toco with a wonderful, warm, funny Chilean woman was a highlight but so was a three day guided trip from Salta to Tucaman through some of the most beautiful red rock country I’ve ever seen.

"Summit of Volcano Toco - at 18,645 feet"

Summit of Volcano Toco - at 18,645 feet

Best International Destination 2011

Again I’d have to say Chile and Argentina were my favourite destinations though hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc, through France, Switzerland and Italy with my daughter was a close second. Specifically the Atacama Desert in northern Chile is a remarkable place for its austere and desolate beauty. I’m sorry we only had three days when you could easily spend a week – hiking, sandboarding the dunes and checking out various hot springs in remote mountain locations. Sunset on the salt flats, with flamingos wading nearby was also a memorable sight.

"Salt flats in the Atacama Desert"

Salt flats in the Atacama Desert

Worst Travel Experience 2011

Without a doubt the worst travel experience in 2011 was day five on the Tour du Mont Blanc. We’d already had a tough morning of hiking out of Rifugio Bonetti with drenching rain, mud and hypothermia like weather as we crossed two passes. Then, when we were less than an hour from our destination for the day, a mud avalanche let loose, covering the road and making it too dangerous to navigate a swollen river. We had to retrace our steps, up, I might add, and then spend a night in a hostel instead of a hotel. Scary more than anything because we missed the avalanche by minutes.

"Evidence of a swollen river near Champex, Switzerland"

Evidence of a swollen river near Champex, Switzerland

Most Embarrassing Travel Moment 2011

Fortunately I didn’t have any embarassing travel moments – no meltdowns in security lines, or temper tantrums when my plans didn’t go exactly as planned.

Best Local Destination 2011

Local had two meanings for me in 2011 – Vancouver for two thirds of the year and Calgary for the last third. I’ll stick with a Vancouver choice – and this year that would have to be our weekend of kayaking to Blackberry Point on Valdes Island, just off of Vancouver Island. As the crow flies, it was probably only 30 miles from my house. But to get to the kayak launch required a ferry to Nanaimo followed by a short drive. The reward was a beautiful log strewn beach and kayaking along the unusual sandstone formations that made up much of Valdes Island.

"Our log strewn beach on Valdes Island"

Our log strewn beach on Valdes Island

Best Travel Lesson

Travel in a bus like a local when you can. In Chile and Argentina we took three long distance bus rides. One was an overnighter in business class comfortable seats for a very reasonable sum and the other two were highlights of the trip and involved crossing the Andes. If we’d flown to our destination we wouldn’t have seen the magnificent countryside we did and get nearly the appreciation of the geography. Plus it was a way to slow down and reflect on our travels.

"Lush green valleys in northern Argentina as seen from the bus"

Lush green valleys in northern Argentina as seen from the bus

Now I have the chance to nominate a few of my favourite bloggers, with the hopes that they’ll share their stories.

Erik at On My Feet or in My Mind
Loretta at Skalatitude
Michael at EasyHiker
Simon at Wild About Travel

Follow Jeremy’s link to the Best of Travel Rules for all the details.

Photo credit: Fireworks

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