Day 323: Our Favorite Experiences on a Year of World Travel

100: Sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru

This was one of our first experiences in Peru. Being driven around the sand dunes at high speeds and then taking a snowboard down the sand for a painful face plant doesn’t sound like most people’s idea of ‘fun’, but for us, it was fantastic.

99: Mall Hopping in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Although it may sound lame, visiting the malls in Dubai was a nice respite from the heat. Inside these megaliths, we experienced comfort food, massive aquariums, and even saw our first indoor ski hill!

98: Sleeping in a Pod Hotel in Moscow, Russia

Although this was a short stop over on the way to Montenegro, crawling into a tube with a charging station, reading lamp and warm blanket was a novel experience.

97: Waking up to Zebras in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

One morning while camping in the national park, we awoke in our tent to a sound outside and stuck our heads out to see a herd of Zebras surrounding us which was a lot more relaxing than waking up to the roar of lions, which we heard later on a morning in Kenya.

96: Sampling the World’s Best Chocolates in Vilnius, Lithuania

We went into the Sokolades chocolate shop in Vilnius just because we had to use the bathroom. We stayed to sample their delicious cacao treats and went back again and again to have some of the best chocolate of our life.

95: Picnicking with friends in Budapest, Hungary

We met up with two family friends of ours from our Vietnam years and spent the day at Margaret island flying kites, throwing the frisbee and having a snack lunch in the sun while the kids played, husbands snuck away for a beer at the refreshment kiosk. Magic day.

94: Day Trip to Helsinki, Finland

While staying in Tallinn, we took the ferry over to visit our friends Anita and Karen in Finland who took us for electric scooter rides around the city culminating in the city’s famous new library.

93: Beach Hopping in Budva, Montenegro

Every day was a new beach in Budva. We would head out for the sand after breakfast and search out falafel or gyro wraps for lunch before heading back to our apartment for an afternoon nap and break from the sun.

92: Seeing Metallica Live in Vienna, Austria

My friend Brett and I went to Vienna for two nights to see the gods of thrash metal. My third time seeing the Metallicats in a fandom that has spanned 3 countries in which I’ve seen them and a timeline going back to high school when I first saw them after the debut of their black album.

91: Train Trip from Bar, Montenegro to Belgrade, Serbia

We had a full day of taking a bus to a seemingly abandoned train station that was in fact functional and the start of a 10 hour train trip through some of eastern Europe’s most beautiful valleys and mountain ranges.

90: Tide Pooling in Nungwi, Zanzibar Island, Tanzania

One morning we woke up to extreme low tide while we were on Zanzibar for two and a half weeks. Lisa and I cobbled together a science lesson that had a unit’s worth of content in a short couple of hours. And it was fun too!

89: Watching Extreme Beach Volleyball in Tel Aviv, Israel

Watching expert beach volleyball players in Santa Monica or Venice is impressive enough, but the Israelis play volleyball…with their feet! Seeing teams volley a three kick delivery back over the net was beyond amazing.

88: Craft Beer Sampling in Tallinn, Estonia

Lisa had read that Estonia is a new destination for beer lovers around the world. While there, we had some of the best kriek and IPAs of our lives. Who would have thought this tiny Baltic country would be such a treasure?

87: Swimming by Day, Barbecuing by Night at the Tigre River Delta, Argentina

We stayed at a house on stilts in Tigre for 4 days and cooled off with a daily swim in the river followed by a grilled dinner of whatever we could purchase from the local Almacen (market) boat.

86: Seeing the Murals of the Berlin Wall in Berlin, Germany

The remainders of the wall which cross the city serve as artist’s reliefs who use the concrete as a canvas to speak out against oppression, corruption and advocate for change.

85: Visiting Portuguese Ruins in Colonia, Uruguay

This little town between Montevideo and Buenos Aires was more than a little stop over. We spent a few days here exploring the ruins including the old slave quarters and merchant shops that have endured.

84: Playing Music Into the Night in the Sahara Desert, Merzouga, Morocco

Our Touareg hosts in Merzouga taught us musical beats using primitive instruments that we belted out around the fires in a fantastic crash of sound. We stayed in a luxury camp, if even for a night, to make us feel like royalty.

83: Visiting our New School in Lima, Peru

We visited our school for two days while in Peru in early March. The facilities were amazing, Ava made some new friends and we met the wonderful people we were going to be working with in the near future. With distance learning a possibility until December, who knows when we’ll see them in person?

82: Taking in the Views from Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Rio just might be the most beautiful city in the world. The catch is to buy tickets on a day when it’s not too cloudy and buying them in advance so you can avoid the crowds. We were one of the first groups up and the vantage point was spectacular.

81: Snorkeling with Sea Lions, Puerto Madryn, Argentina

This little beach town was a stop on our cruise back up the coast and gave us the opportunity to swim face to face with sea lions. The visibility was terrible, and water freezing cold but the wildlife more than made up for it!

80: Visiting the Valley of the Kings and Queens, Luxor, Egypt

We splurged on a nice hotel and then used it as a base to see the valley of the Kings and Queens on the other side of the river. Going inside tombs that was thousands of years old made us feel like modern day archeologists.

79: Exploring the Souks of Muscat, Oman

We drove to downtown Muscat and explored the souks by the bay followed by a city tour. Afterwards, we quenched our thirst with lemonade and some of the best hummus and pita bread that we had in the middle east!

78: Visiting ‘Game of Thrones’ filming Sites in Essaouria, Morocco

This little beach side town has a beautiful old fort which HBO’s series used for shooting locations. Essaouria had a great fish market down by the harbor and also had a nice esplanade that we walked multiple days in order to find a tasty lunch spot.

77: Visiting Eva Peron’s Grave at Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina

“Don’t cry for me, Argentina!” as the famous phrase goes is the person behind it. Peron is entombed at this famous resting place for most of Argentina’s elite and whose family has the wealth to afford an expensive mausoleum here.

76: Copacabana Beach, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

What was better than visiting Copacabana was getting four free nights on points and upgraded to a suite on the top floor at the Hilton. The big decision of the day- to hang out on the beach or roof top pool?

75: Los Gigantes, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Although this sprinkling of islands is off the coast of west Africa, Spain lays claim to them. Our apartment that we stayed at with friends sat at the base of these huge cliffs and was a humbling experience every day.

74: Coffee with Friends in Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Our friends ‘The Fossgreens’ came over from Dar Es Salaam to spend a few days with us in the capital of the island, Stone Town. Here, old merchant shops have been gentrified into modern eateries while still clinging to their past.

73: Photographing the Painted Facades in Gdansk, Poland

Gdansk is a college town, but has some of the most beautifully painted houses and shop fronts. The canals are especially interesting so we rented a boat and gave Ava her first driving lesson.

72: Seeing ‘The Kiss’ in Vienna, Austria

Gustav Klimt is one of the art world’s famous artists. Although the museum had some interesting modern instillation work, some of Klimt’s work that we had only seen in art books were here on display. His most notable is ‘The Kiss’.

71: Watching the USA Women’s Team Win the World Cup, Riga, Latvia

We were in Riga when the United States team played and won the world cup of soccer. We found a pub that had some tasty burgers and spent the afternoon and evening cheering Megan Rapinoe and showing our daughter how strong women can be.

70: Seeing Jon Bon Jovi, Warsaw, Poland

Our arrival in Warsaw coincided with this 80’s crooner who is still rocking hard. His band played some favorites from ‘Slippery When Wet’ and ‘New Jersey’ and Ava had a ball!

69: Visiting the Nikola Tesla Museum, Belgrade, Serbia

Thomas Edison gets all the love from the US education system, but Serbian inventor Tesla was a much better scientist. His alternating current was far superior to direct current and it was great seeing his early inventions, models and Tesla coils.

68: Exploring the Ancient City of Jerash, Jordan

This roman city was at a historic crossroads of roads between Damascus, Jerusalem and many other ancient cities. The intactness of the hippodromes and porticos made for one of the most amazing ruins we’d ever seen in the world.

67: Craft Beer Sampling in Bratislava, Slovakia

This little town had a great restaurant and craft beer scene. One evening at a pub, I met a guy who graduated from my high school back in White Bear Lake, Minnesota just two years before me so we were instant friends. Small world!

66: River Rafting in Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

We rented a river raft, got driven a few hours outside of town and spent the afternoon making our way back. The best part was cruising down the flume shoots in a controlled white water experience.

65: Desert Camping in Wadi Rum, Jordan

Although it was early December and we froze our butts off, spending a night in the red desert was worth it. Watching the sun go down and having tea while playing cards with our Bedouin hosts and hearing their plans to add more wives to their harem reminded us we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

64: Road Trip from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas, United States

It was serendipitous that we got a flight back to the states to the Mormon capital of Salt Lake City completely for free on April 4th. Even more amazing was the beautiful drive from this mountain city through the hills down through the desert.

63: Thrift Store Shopping, Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv was a great city for so many reasons- the food, the sun, and the beach make it worth the trip alone. However, the thrift store shops made it really fun and we were able to stock up on cold weather gear for Germany and Antarctica.

62: Scuba Diving in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Even though the water was cold, it was good to be back in the water with my boy Brett with whom I’ve done hundreds of dives with in southeast Asia. In the Canary Islands we saw some giant stingrays and huge schools of jacks.

61: Exploring the Medina, Fez, Morocco

The old medinas (walled forts with public markets) are a staple of most medium to large Moroccan cities but the one in Fez was one of our favorites. The tannery and shop owners were some of the hardest vendors with whom to bargain.

60: Gnome Hunting in Wroclaw, Poland

The small town of Wroclaw had hundreds of cast iron ‘gnomes’ about 8 to 10 inches in height that were scattered around the old town. Spotting them and keeping a running tally was a fun family competition.

59: Escape Room in Tallinn, Estonia

We’ve been to more than a dozen escape rooms in Europe and Asia but this ‘Harry Potter’ themed one where we went for my birthday before a Thai dinner in Tallinn was one of our favorites and most memorable days of our trip.

58: Visiting Old Film Sets in Ouarzazate, Morocco

When in Ouarzazate, Morocco, we happened upon the ‘Atlas Studios’ filming sets that were used to film a number of feature films and TV shoes such as Kundun, Gladiator and the ‘Game of Thrones’ series.

57: Visiting the Jewish Ghetto, Riga, Latvia

There was an amazing museum made out of the ghetto that was basically an internment camp for jews who were about to be shipped off to the concentration camps in eastern Europe. The artifacts and memorabilia made for great testimonials and instillation art.

56: Drinking Cachaca Rum, Paraty, Brazil

Even though it rained on us the entire time, sampling rum from one of Brazil’s last sugar cane distilleries was very warming after spending the morning swimming in waterfalls.

55: Hiking Around Kotor, Montenegro

Our first stop on a year abroad was this tiny town. After 4 days we got over our jet lag and spent the days hiking, walks to beach, and visits to the local market for fresh fruit.

54: The Roman City of Volubilis, Mekenes, Morocco

This old city has endured and ended up being more than a stop to break up the long drives across the country. Volubilis has some beautiful arches, and esplanades to inspire people of any age.

53: The Ethnographic Museum, Riga, Latvia

This open air museum is a collection of homestead cabins, barns and buildings that took us back in time when horse drawn carriages, looms were in vogue to show us how early settlers lived.

52: Baobab Trees at Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

The Dr. Seuss like baobab trees are a mainstay of this national park and we were surprised how giant they were. In Tarangire national park, we got up close to huge herds of elephants.

51: Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin, Germany

A stark reminder on a nation divided in history. This historic crossing was used to cross from east into west Germany and was heavily fortified. Makes you wonder how many people lost their lives nearby in a last ditch run for freedom or when spies were traded like baseball cards.

50: Fishing Trip off the Montenegro Coast, Montenegro

While in Budva, I chartered a fishing boat for a day out that brought home a bag of small fish for dinner that evening. Although our apartment smelled like fish guts for 2 days afterwards, I knew my father would be proud.

49: The Hippy Commune in Villa Seranna, Uruguay

This stay in the rural campo was all about vegan dishes, walks to the local lake to feed the geese and spending the evening in the hot tub staring up at the stars. A gentle breed of people were our neighbors here.

48: Horseback Riding in Curitiba, Brazil

Staying with our friends in Curitiba and catching up over meals, trips to the weekend craft fair and visiting their school which was beyond great. Ava joined the girls for a morning of riding, which is a common tradition in Brazil.

46: Wine Tasting by Mount Olympos, Cypress

Cypress had some amazing wine and we sampled some at a winery right at the base of the greek god mainstay of Mount Olympos. I wonder if this is where the phrase: ‘nectar of the gods’ caught on.

45: Flying Over the Nazca Lines, Nazca, Peru

These animistic geoglyphs look like nothing from the ground, but cruising overhead on a bumpy plane ride as the plane banked and your stomach churned was a test of of one’s fortitude and strength of their constitution.

44: Catching a World Wonder of Christ the Redeemer, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Looming large over the city as if to give it a warm embrace or welcome those in need, this 30 meter state doesn’t disappoint those who take the tram or make the long hike up.

43: Seeing Art and Modern Architecture in Museuo Del Arte, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Equally as amazing as the artwork inside, Lino Bo Bardi’s museum which is supported by two massive beams and an open air administrative center is a testament to what buildings can look like.

42: Visiting Crusader Forts in Akko, Israel

This old city up the coast had a hidden labyrinth of tunnels underneath it for smuggling people in and out of the city during its occupation. The roman era aqueducts were the longest we’ve seen in the world.

41: Snorkeling and Scuba Diving Zanzibar, Tanzania

We took a boat trip to a nearby island on Zanzibar’s east coast for some of the clearest water we’ve every seen. A few days later, I went a little deeper on SCUBA to see some of the more elusive denzins of the deep.

40: Paragliding in Budva, Montenegro

We sprung for Ava to go paragliding behind a boat one afternoon at the beach in Budva and she loved it. She took the ‘Go Pro’ and got some good footage as well.

39: Floating in the Dead Sea, Jordan

The high salinity gives floating in the Dead Sea a surreal experience. Floating upright at chest level and lying on your back and being able to stick your arms and legs out of the water is one of life’s unique bucket list items.

38: Thanksgiving in Limassol, Cyprus

Although we intended to be in Lebanon at this time, anti government protests diverted us to this island country in their off-season. We found some good rotisserie chicken, made stuffing, mashed potatoes and 2 pies to give a taste of home.

37: Getting Jobs in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Going to the GRC fair in Dubai to meet potential employers was a nerve racking experience. In the end, we had wonderful conversations with administrators from FDR- The American School of Lima, Peru that resulted in jobs (and relief that the search was over) for the upcoming school year.

36: Seeing the Carnival Parade, Montevideo, Uruguay

When we arrived in Montevideo, we walked into the start of the month long, carnival celebration. The opening parade in Plaza Independencia had elaborate floats and dancers adorned with body paint and outfits that were out of this world.

35: Antiquing in Marrakesh, Morocco

“We have to come back here and go shopping!” was a common refrain when we were in Marrakesh. The souks had the most beautiful lamps, furniture, carpets and decorations and we didn’t buy any of it. Still, one can dream.

34: Street Buskers, Worldwide

From Djemma El Fna in Marrakech, to the Plaza de Armas, in Argentina and on to Alexanderplatz station in Berlin, we were entertained by the singers, dancers, bubble makers, musicians and performance artists that shared their talents with the public.

33: Family Dinner, Marrakech, Morocco

We enjoyed one of the best meals of our trip in the home of the brother of a family friend. ‘Salah’ invited us over for a pork tagine that was cooked to perfection.

32: Khan’s Barbecue, Arusha, Tanzania

An auto parts store by day and a busy place to grab a plate full of grilled goodness by night. We were licking our fingers clean after enjoying Papa Khan’s secret recipe chicken that was grilled to perfection and went back a second night.

31: Meeting Antarctic Scientists, Deception Island, Antarctica

It was blind luck that a crew member knew a scientist on nearby Deception Island when we were visiting this old whaling station. So, the researchers came aborad to present on the work they did and challenges of living in such a remote location. Ava even got in a question during the Q and A session!

30: Airlines Lounges, Istanbul, Turkey

We flew Turkish airlines a lot on our trip and thus went through Istanbul more than any city of the world- 3 separate times! The middle east has some fantastic airline lounges and if you have priority pass, baklava and Turkish delight can sweeten your layover.

29: Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt

We had just watched the old version of ‘Death on the Nile’ which was filmed heavily around the columns of the Temple of Karnak on the east bank of the Nile. Around this modern city of Luxor, its ruins are still very much alive.

28: Camping at Kilimanjaro, Kenya

Although the wildlife of Amboseli National Park wasn’t as impressive as the Masaai Mara or Serengeti National Parks, the backdrop of Africa’s highest peak completed our “Out of Africa” moment.

27: Argentinian Steak Houses in Buenos Aires, Argentina

We had our first Argentinian steak at San Telmo market after arriving in South America after a long flight and it couldn’t have been tastier. Fried cheese with ‘Chimchurri’ salsa is a staple of the country; along with a nice wine.

26: Birdwatching at Lake Naivasha, Kenya

Boarding jon boats to skirt around Lake Narivasha brought us face to face with flamingos, pelicans and cormorants all drying their wings after a morning of fishing.

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Cruising around lake Naivasha.

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25: Tiny Beers, Rooftops, Morocco

There is something about sipping a cold beer on a hot day, made even better by rooftop views of the local Medinas. These little gems were like finding a needle in a haystack, in a country that is typically “dry.”

24: Photographing Murals, Belgrade, Serbia

More than any other city in the world (other than Berlin for the Wall) Belgrade had beautiful graffiti art and improvised street murals. Every day we went out and added to our growing street art collection.

23: Walking the Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

The vendors and street artists mingle with statues lining the bridge across this iconic landmark. A walk over the river rewarded us with a walk up to the local castle overlooking the city.

22: Pinball Museum, Krakow, Poland

Just down the street from our flat in Krakow was a game room that had 30 to 40 vintage pinball and arcade games. A 10$ entry fee gave you unlimited play for 24 hours, so we went back, again and again.

21: Reuniting with Friends, Worldwide

Seeing old friends was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. With everyone with met or stayed with, we picked up right where we left off despite not seeing other for years. In a profession where good people come and go quickly, meeting up with those you love is the best reason for travel!

20: Softball Game, Vienna, Austria

After seeing Metallica the night before and getting only a few hours of sleep, we walked to a nearby park complete with baseball diamond and played in a slow-pitch softball tournament with teams comprised of international school teachers from all over Europe.

19: Camel Safari, Sahara Desert, Morocco

We met our guide and rode dromedaries over the dunes towards the Algerian border while the sun went down behind us. It’s not every day you get to travel through the desert as people have done for thousands of years.

18: Fort Hopping, Valetta, Malta

The peninsulas in Valetta were all fortified as defensive positions for thousands of years. Their strategic use as a harbor and staging place across the Mediterranean was used going back to a time when Greeks ruled the sea.

17: Photoshoots in Chefchaouen, Morocco

This Moroccan city uses the most beautiful cerulean blue to paint its walls and give it the most unique feel. We spent every day doing instagram shots where every alley and pedestrian path was a masterpiece.

16: Christmas Markets of Berlin, Germany

In our 5 days in Germany for Christmas, we spent every day we could exploring the dozens of markets around Alexanderplatz station sampling gluwine, chocolate and sausages with sauerkraut.

15: Our Last Day in Seoul, South Korea

Despite looking forward to a big trip and eager to get on the road, our last night at our apartment in South Korea gave us a beautiful sunset and a reminder of all the fond memories and wonderful people we’ve met while living there for 4 years.

14: Seeing Religion’s Epicenter in Jerusalem, Palestine

Visiting the western wall, dome of the rock, El Asqua mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were sites that we learned about as far back as Sunday school. Each of these sites gives devotes a sense of solidarity about their most cherished beliefs.

13: Surfing at Punto Del Este, Uruguay

We spent just over a week at Punto Del Este and La Pedrera in Uruguay and spent nearly every day at the beach so we bought Ava a boogie board and lots of sunscreen. A beach vendor sold us tacos for lunch every day that we still miss to this day.

12: Peering Over Iguazu Falls, Brazil and Argentina

We visited the falls on both sides and we’re glad we did. The Argentinian side had more people and a more extensive hiking trail network but Brazil had better facilities and views.

11: Visiting Auschwitz, Birkenau Concentration Camps, Krakow Poland

This heavy experience was one Lisa and I took turn visiting so the other could watch Ava and spare her the lesson until she gets to high school and learns that evil happens when good people do nothing.

10: Exploring Petra, Wadi Rum, Jordan

Spending a day at Wadi Rum to see the Nabatean kingdom of Petra was amazing. It was a long hike into the canyon, but the views of the library open up like in “Indian Jones and the Last Crusade” and makes one feel like a modern day explorer.

9: Seeing Rhinos at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Ava has fallen in love with Rhinos and cared about them deeply after learning of their plight due to poaching. We went to 8 national parks in Tanzania and Kenya and this was the only park where we saw not one, but many rhinoceroses. I hope they survive so future children can see them.

8: Live Music at Sziget Festival, Budapest, Hungary

We went to this famous outdoor music festival for 2 days and saw Ed Sheeran, 21 Pilots and Foo Fighters just to name some of the headline acts. The vibe was friendly and getting our groove on is a summer tradition we’ve enjoyed for years!

6: Being Evacuated from Lima, Peru

We made a 17 hour bus trip back to Lima when the president shut down the country due to COVID-19 and we were stranded for nearly 3 weeks, unable to go out with the exceptions of groceries, the pharmacy or the bank. Getting a flight out to Salt Lake City on April 4th was a godsend.

5: Boat Trip with Friends in Gulf of Oman, Oman

Our friends had bought a boat and took us on a day trip to a deserted beach. We carried our gear to the beach and set up a camp with a shade tarp. The adults talked in the shade while the kids played and the dog found new bones to chew. As the sun went down we played ‘keep away’ in the ocean in one of our favorite afternoons on our trip.

4: Pyramid Hopping in Giza Plateau, Egypt

We thought the pyramids would be cool, but it was a serious understatement. The size and scale was an awe-inspiring experience but we really enjoyed a day trip to the ‘Step’, ‘Red’ and ‘Bent’ pyramids just south near the nile where we could climb inside to the antechambers!

3: On Safari in the Maasai Mara, Kenya

Maasai Mara was the last national park of east Africa and it didn’t disappoint. We witnessed two lions kill a zebra before our eyes and wildebeest cross the famed ‘Mara River’ eluding enormous crocodiles.

2: Cruising on the ‘Azamara Pursuit’ Iceberg Alley, Antarctica

A two week cruise to the southern continent was not only relaxing, but informative. Every day, we had wonderful buffet meals with access to a spa, gym, and afternoon games to make warming up after a brisk trip outside to see whales, penguins and icebergs worth every penny.

1: Reuniting with Family in Los Angeles, California

After 15 months away from home, we arrived in Ontario airport and were scooped up by our parents for a summer that could best be described as a long awaited reunion. Ava had some much needed ‘grandparent time’ and we spent summer days playing card games, cooking for one another, and savoring every moment and giving thanks for the people in our lives.