Another adventure is over. Writing this, we're sitting at the Miami airport waiting for our non-stop flight to Seattle. It's early. Do you know what time we had to get started in order to be sitting at the gate prior to 7:00 in the morning? Not fun.
Even though we're pretty tuckered out after several weeks on the road and a whiz bang finale in South Beach, we're getting all reflective. Not only is this journey over, but the year is wrapping up as well.
Here at the gate – in our early morning fog – we're taking a look back at 2011 and sharing a few stand out moments.
BIGGEST TRAVEL PLANNING TRIUMPH – Piecing together a mileage run to places that we actually wanted to go (not only to earn miles).
BIGGEST TRAVEL PLANNING BLOOPER – Arranging to hit South Beach – the land of beautiful people – after eating ourselves silly in Italy (and on a two week cruise). Not a confidence booster. #fail
MOST MEMORABLE NIGHT OF SLEEP (GOOD) – The Forest Service cabin we scored in Alaska was incredible. Just us, a restored cabin, a canoe, a lake and a bear (thankfully, outside).
MOST MEMORABLE NIGHT OF SLEEP (BAD) – The night, camping in Glacier National Park, when we were convinced – all night – that a mountain lion was outside of our tent. One word. Therapy.
BEST INSPIRATION TO LOOSE WEIGHT – The prices in London.
BEST INSPIRATION TO GAIN IT BACK – The food in Italy.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – Food, in general, after Bologna.
BEST WAY TO GLAMOUR (think True Blood) SOMEONE – Hand them Italian gelato. We feel in love with every person on the other side of a gelato counter.
WORST TRAVEL COMPANIONS – I guess bears aren't really travel companions, but rather "hosts" in the wilderness. They are horrible hosts.
MOST MEMORABLE (ODD) PAIRING – The NVR Guys and conservative Congressman Dave Reichert. It was gratifying to advocate for the poor in his D.C. office. He listened.
MOST COMPELLING REASON TO CONTINUE TO ADVOCATE IN 2012 – About 15% of the world's population is chronically hungry. As we grow from 7 to 9 billion people, things could get even uglier. Let's change that.
BEST INSPIRATION TO RUN WHILE ON THE ROAD (other than torrential rain, bear sightings and the people of South Beach) – Zipping 1) around Stanley Park in Vancouver and 2) up to Diamond Head crater in Honolulu kept us motivated to stay fit when traveling.
BEST SURPRISE – We got last minute, free upgrades on a lot of flights because we barely – and I mean barely – achieved "elite" status. Our goal in striving to reach this status was merely to be treated humanly (no fees, etc.). We were gobsmacked by how many times we scored first class (and managed to keep our cool).
WORST SURPRISE – When the Prague police targeted and fined us for misusing the metro. They contributed greatly to our liking – not loving – Prague.
MEMORABLE TOURIST GOODNESS – Seeing travelers pull together when things went bad for a hiker in Glacier National Park.
MEMORABLE TOURIST BLUNDER – We witnessed a lot of blunders (and created a lot ourselves) but something about seeing a woman have a meltdown when a small store didn't have "granola bars for women" sticks in our minds. Wish you could've been there. She was a mess.
MOST UNCONVENTIONAL BONDING – We're thankful for our understanding families and mainstay friends. However – since we're away so much – family is whatever/where-ever we make it. This year, for instance, we loved: meshing in D.C. with like-minded anti-poverty advocates, spending our Thanksgiving with other travelers (indulging in Italian food and crappy wine) and enjoying some of our best happy hours of the year with a group of 16 68-77 year olds that we bonded with on our ship across the Atlantic.
BEST UPDATE – Learning that Ailess, the girl we sponsor in Zambia, can now write in English.
BIGGEST TRAVEL LET DOWN – Everything seems to be an up-sell or add-on fee opportunity – web access, resort fees, premium drinks, etc. We're so over it.
BEST CASE FOR GETTING INTO THE WILDERNESSEVEN MORE IN 2012 – Hiking. Unimaginable beauty and no up-selling.
BEST NIGHT WITH A MALE ESCORT – Okay, get off the ground and resume breathing. It's not as bad as it might sound. Long story short. One night in a crowded casino in Vegas we put $20 in a slot machine. The guy sitting at the machine next to us put money in our machine when we were distracted talking to the cocktail server. We were having a good time, starting to get buzzed and – before we knew it – this guy was funding an entire night of gambling and drinking. Turns out he was the permanent escort of a well heeled woman who travels the world. Our good time gambling and drinking came to an end when I made a "quick trip to the bathroom" and got lost on the casino floor for about 30 minutes. As we stumbled away from the guy, he wouldn't even accept the winnings we made from his money.
WORST DAY AFTER A NIGHT WITH A MALE ESCORT – This is the day we both thought we might die. Nothing, not even a run, could make the pain go away. Our heads felt like 50 pound slabs of concrete. I think we bought every bottle of Gatorade at Walgreens. A day to forget after a night to remember.
As we head back to our home city and into 2012, we are MOST THANKFUL to have been at this life for five years. Like everyone, we have a lot of ups and downs in any given year. We're happy to be able to ride the highs and lows while living a life that we both love. Our lives have flow, and we're grateful.
In the comments, please share your MOST MEMORABLE MISTEP during 2011 (it doesn't have to be travel related). We have two that come to mind... 1) walking right into the path of a mama bear and her cub in Glacier National Park and 2) unknowingly ordering non-alcoholic beer throughout Prague.
In the spirit of the season, we've got a little gift in mind for a commenter.