Every year I like to post the numbers of how far I travelled and where I went along with some other fun and random stat (here’s 2008, 2009 and 2010).

Moai on Easter Island.

Moai on Easter Island.

This year, I visited 4 new countries (the most I’ve visited in one calendar year) along with a new continent (South America). My South America trip included a trip out to Easter Island, which was one of my goals on my bucket list. I also got to walk the halls of the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires and eat cerviche in Lima. And I kept up my habit of running off to distant countries for the weekend by getting in a quick two-day trip to Germany at the end of the year.

Domestically, I made my first trip to wine country with a visit to Napa Valley (and mark off another item on my list- a visit to In-and-Out). A lot of my cousins got married this year, so I made several road trips to Georgia. I also took my first cross-country drive across the USA. All in all, it’s been a fun travel year.

It’s also been a very good year in terms of earning miles. I’ve picked up more then 300,000 miles/points in various programs mostly due to large credit card sign-up bonuses (and without incurring any debt). I used some of those points to get myself and a friend down to South America and the rest I will probably use in the next couple of years.

So, here are the stats from the year:

Miles flown: 30,330

Miles driven: 5,728

Countries visited: Argentina, Chile, Germany, Peru

Airports visited: 12

Airline amenity kits collected: 8

Number of pretzels eaten in Germany: 6

Number of Pisco Sours drunk: 5

A map of my 2011 travels.

A map of my 2011 travels (via the Great Circle Mapper).

As for 2012, I’m starting the year off much like I did in 2011 with no major travel plans booked yet. I will be going up to New York state to see my first hockey game and spend time with friends. Beyond that, I’m thinking of booking a return trip to Asia- possibly to China or Hong Kong. I can’t wait to see what the new year brings!


One of my favorite things about travel are the euphoric food experiences. Some of my strongest memories about a place often centers on some delicious dish that I had. Here’s five highlights from over the years.

Chocolate Dunked Cannoli

Heaven in a cannoli.

Boston- Mike’s Pastry’s Chocolate-Covered Cannoli- I haven’t been to Italy, the home of the cannoli, but if there’s a better cannoli then this on this side of the Atlantic I haven’t found it yet. The creamy filling, the quality chocolate, the crispy pastry- it was heaven. Plus, the cannoli comes in a distinctive white box tied up with string for easy transportation.

North Carolina- BBQ- North Carolina has a unique style of barbeque. Most BBQ places there use a vinegar-based sauce that give the meat a nice tang. It was the first time I’d ever had vinegar-based bbq. I didn’t realize the stuff existed before I visited the state to do house repairs for a charity. Most of the bbq I had was made by neighbors living near the house that the team and I were repairing. Not only was the barbeque blissful, but it was also a welcome break from the hot work. The barbeque was almost always made with shredded pork and put between a bun. No condiments or extra sauce needed. The meat and the vinegar stood on its own. I haven’t found this style of barbeque outside of the state, so I need to make a return visit soon.

Paris- Prosciutto, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato sandwich- I expected that Paris would have some good food. I picked up this sandwich at a local shop in my first hour in the city. The freshness and flavor of a simple ham and cheese sandwich did not disappoint.

Tokyo- Sushi on a conveyer belt– My first meal in Japan was at a traditional sushi bar where a conveyer belt ran around the perimeter of the bar. The sushi was priced based on the color of plate it was on. Every seat had a hot water tap embedded in the bar to make hot tea, and hot towels were handed out before the meal. The tea cups had pictures on the side explaining what type of fish was in each piece of sushi. The whole experience was a fun introduction to Japanese cuisine and dining traditions.

Goat meat

Goat meat, potatoes, rice and cabbage- tasty comfort food in a remote corner of the world.

Parkishon, Kenya- Goat and cabbage- Before coming to Kenya, I never knew that goat was an animal that could be eaten. And I’m not a huge fan of cabbage. The goat was prepared simply- just chopped into cubes, seasoned and served with rice or pasta. The cabbage was also cooked and seasoned with a spice mix that’s only available in Kenya. But the sheer remoteness of the village and the fact that a group of three women worked most of the day to prepare the meal gave me a whole new appreciation for it. It became a new kind of comfort food for me.

I haven’t been back to any of these places, so I don’t know if I’d have the same experience again. In many cases, it would be impossible to go back. And I’m okay with that. The memories I have are unique and tied to the people I got to eat with. I’m just grateful I got to experience such culinary delights in the first place.

My friend Joe and I completed a 3,100 mile roadtrip from San Francisco to Orlando earlier this month. We co-wrote a blog together of our adventures, which included having to do a major reroute due to snow and the fun we had with a potato chip bag. Head over there and check it out!

I’ve been doing a lot of trip planning lately and thought it might be useful for others to list what sites I like to use.

1) Kayak When I need to research airfare, this is the first place I go. I like the user-friendly interface that makes it easy to filter options by price, schedule, airline, etc. I also like the search calendar that allows me to see airfare for up to a month at a time. It’s handy when I’m looking at quick weekend getaways and seeing if one weekend is cheaper then another.

Kayak does have its limits. It’s not possible to¬† book flights directly from it, although I prefer to book directly with the airlines anyway. Kayak does have a price alert feature but unlike other sites like Travelocity, it can’t be set to alert you if the price falls below a certain price.

2) TripIt This a fairly new tool in my kit, but the site has been around for a while. TripIt makes it easy to keep travel plans in one and share it with others. All I have to do is forward flight and hotel confirmations to TripIt and it instantly updates trip plans.

It’s a very good collaboration tool. When I went to South America earlier this year, my friend and I used TripIt to update each other on flight and hotel reservations. Since the trip involved three countries, half a dozen flights and many hotels, it was a great way to keep all the details in one spot and get a good snapshot of the overall trip. Since many of the friends I travel with don’t live near me, the site’s ease of sharing makes it much easier to plan a trip together with them.

It’s also been a good way to know when friends might be in the same city as me at the same time.

3) FlightMemory This isn’t a planning tool, but it’s a fun way to keep track of past travel. Just plug in some previous flight info and it generates a nice map of all the flights along with some fun stats. I find it useful for tracking patterns like which airlines or routes I fly the most. And I love the maps it draws up (I’m a sucker for good maps).

4) AwardWallet This site is designed to make it easy to track points and miles across a number of frequent flyer/traveler programs. It’s very handy being able to track the balances of multiple programs at once without having to go to several websites.

AwardWallet also has a premium version of the site called AwardWallet Plus that will provide more info such as when miles will expire. The interesting part is that there’s no set price for Plus- you pay whatever you think the service is worth.

5) Flyertalk and Milepoint These two sites are the travel sites that I spend the most time on. They’re both internet forums that center around travel. Many of the trips I’ve taken in the last couple of years happened because of information that I found on these forums. For example, the South America trip happened because several threads on Flyertalk explained how to get a lot of British Airways miles for cheap and how to use them to visit several countries around the continent. I check and post on both forums as LizzyDragon84.

All of these sites have mobile apps except for Flightmemory. If there are other useful planning sites out there, feel free to mention them in the comments.

The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is this weekend. To honor those who lost their lives and for all the first responders who ran in to help, I’m sharing a photo from my first trip to New York in 2009. I never had the opportunity to visit the World Trade Center before the attacks occurred. But standing next to the WTC site gave me a sense of absence. Several times during my trip people would point to the gap in the skyline where the towers were. I felt the absence of the towers and of the loved ones who perished. It was a sorrowful moment, but a hopeful one as well. Construction cranes were busy repairing not only the damage to nearby building, but the damage done to good people everywhere. While nothing can be done to bring the dead back, it is good that the people of New York and the world can keep moving forward while keeping the memories of the absent alive in their hearts.

Ground Zero

Ground Zero. The World Trade Center towers stood in front of these towers.

Sometimes, in order to see something above me, I need to look down instead. This is the Bok Tower in Lake Wales, FL reflecting off the water around it.

Reflection of Bok Tower.

Reflection of Bok Tower.

While walking around in Lima, I spotted this old church that was getting quite the facelift.

Church in Lima, Peru.

Church in Lima, Peru.