Yes, most people do their year-end travel roundups at year’s end — but hey, better late than never, right? I figured that I finally have a free moment and I should make the most of it. So let’s get started! The past year was full of travel to unexpected places…
First up in March was a work trip to this former Soviet republic in Central Asia. I spent most of my time in Bishkek, the capital city, and visited Ala-Too Square, the State History Museum, Panfilov Park, as well as Ala Archa National Park. I really had no preconceptions of what Bishkek would be like, and found it all to be super fascinating. Which is great, because it looks like I’ll be heading to the eastern part of the country in mid-2017!
Istanbul and Sanliurfa, Turkey
Like with Kyrgyzstan, I really wan’t expecting to head to Turkey even once, but somehow ended up there three times in 2016! The first visit was a week-long trip in June for a conference, which included lots of sightseeing and good food and coffee, plus a day trip to Heybeliada Island. A few weeks later, I spent another couple of nights in Istanbul, but this time didn’t really have a chance to escape the meeting location, but did thoroughly enjoy my 31st floor room with floor-to-ceiling windows!
Finally, in November, I spent a few days in the south eastern corner of Turkey in Sanliurfa (known as the hometown of Abraham) and visited a container city for Syrian refugees near the shared border with Syria. Unfortunately, the security situation in Turkey has been slowly, but surely declining for awhile now. Although I didn’t have any issues on my trips, each visit seemed to be bookended by explosions or attacks. In other words, I cherished the time I was able to spend in Turkey, because I don’t know for how much longer it is going to be safe to travel there.
New York and Washington, DC
This trip had me back in my old stomping grounds with a close group of friends from my grad school days in New York. In addition to our mini-reunion in DC, I also visited some new-to me sights: like the MLK Memorial, the Library of Congress, and the Wonder Exhibit at the Renwick Gallery. In New York, I mostly just visited my old haunts and spent time with friends. Both places are so familiarly comforting, and I always feel immediately at home in them.
Perhaps one of the most entertaining travels of the year was my trip to Stockholm. The work portion of my time in Sweden involved a formal dinner with the King of Sweden in the Parliament building, shaking his hand during a coffee break, a Smörgåsbord at the city hall, and mingling with ambassadors, military advisors, and NATO officials. Not my typical professional milieu, let’s just put it that way. Even more fun was the few days of free time with a colleague and friend afterwards, exploring the city up and down, an amazing meal at Fotografiska’s restaurant, and a drink at a bar made entirely of ice. Stockholm definitely won my heart!
Of all my adventures in 2016, my trip to Nepal and trek along the Mardi Himal trail in the Himalayan mountains was probably the most rejuvenating and came at just the right time for me. Not only did I get to spend quality time with a good friend, I also made wonderful new friends in those mountains. It was so wonderful to strip away the hectic pace of everyday life and focus in on what matters.
And finally, what year would be complete without a trip to Seattle for the holidays? My hometown is still my favorite place on the planet and I am always a little sad to leave my family behind afterwards.
So that’s it for 2016! If I can manage half as many adventures in 2017, I will be more than happy.
How are your travel plans shaping up for this year? Any place I should add to my travel list?