A to Z Blog Challenge Recap

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I showcased 26 of my favorite places in the world. I didn’t do nearly as much writing for the challenge as I did in previous years, but I had a lot of fun going down memory lane, and I hope I’ve given some readers ideas about wonderful places to visit. I’ve been to 22 of the 196 countries but didn’t manage to feature them all in this year’s blog challenge because some countries have a lot of places that are special to me. And I was constrained by the alphabet!

Countries I’ve Been to that I Didn’t Mention At All

Spain – While there is no one standout in Spain that would make me go visit, if I had to choose a place I’ve visited to live permanently in, it would be Spain.

France – I’ve only been to Paris and hope to visit the countryside and coasts soon. Continue reading →

KiZhi, Russia (Spring 2005)

While You Are There: Imagine that you are a Russian peasant living in the 1700s. And then be glad that you aren’t and that we live in the 2000s and you can go admire places like this as a tourist. Just don’t pay for one of those absurdly overpriced cruises up the Volga to get here. There’s so much to see in Russia. Hop on a train from Moscow or St. Petersburg and see some other places along the way.

Why It’s On My List: Because I want to live there. The serenity, the architecture, the history. I want to raise sheep there and write books. That’s all. The whole thing about it being a UNESCO heritage site kind of puts a crimp in those plans, but I can dream, can’t I?

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Yurt in Talkeetna, Alaska (July, 2015)

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While You Are There: Try not to get eaten by a bear while you are taking care of business in the doorless outhouse. I mean, isn’t that the dream, to be able to watch the birds flying around and the rain splashing on the ground while you are getting rid of the non-nutritious parts of last night’s dinner? Well, you can also take in nature while sitting on the covered porch. Less adventuresome, but still pleasant. Also, take the Hurricane Turn Train. This is the perfect place to stay the night before and after that journey.

Why It’s On My List: Because it’s a yurt. Because it has everything you need inside. Because it’s not anywhere near as remote as it looks. Because it’s romantic. Because of the outhouse.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

железная дорога (2002 – 2006)

Yes, I realize I’m fudging the alphabet a little here because this should technically be under the letter Z, but since the Cyrillic letter looks like an X, let’s just go with it. This post is the Railroad!

While You Are There: You can do everything on a train. A train is a world unto itself. You can

  • meet locals you can’t communicate with in words but still enjoy the company of and eat all the food they offer you
  • meet interesting tourists, like an older Italian lady and her boy-toy, because the conductor forced you to sit in a tourist car because he doesn’t think it’s safe for foreign women to be travelling alone
  • get woken up on the overnight car by soldiers coming onto the train and locking it down so you can travel through a particularly dangerous area, all while a Buddhist monk sleeps across from you, making you feel like nothing bad could possibly happen
  • ride in the conductor’s berth because the train was sold out but you really need to get home the next day and he feels bad for you so he lets you share his space
  • buy delicious snacks from independent vendors at the stations
  • pretend you don’t speak any Russian in order to stonewall Russian guards who want to “fine” you for not having the correct permission to live in Moscow as you are trying to get to Finland for a flight to Spain, and laugh when they finally give up because they don’t speak English and no one else stepped in to help translate
  • get in trouble because your university laminated your rail pass and that’s against the rules and then you get fined and then the town finds out and the local paper publishes an apology to the foreign students for the “rude” treatment they suffered from train personnel for something that wasn’t their fault
  • go on an epic cross-country journey, lose track of what day it is, get on your train on the wrong day, get woken up in the night by the person whose berth you are in, watch as mass confusion ensues while a helpful local runs into the station to buy you a ticket valid for that day, and then be eternally grateful to that person even though you spend the rest of the night in overcrowded sitting-only car

Why It’s On My List: I love train travel, for all the true stories enumerated above and more. I only posted pictures from Russian train trips I took, but I’ve also taken the train in India, the US, and Western Europe.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Wagah Border Park, India (November, 2000)

While You Are There: If you are anywhere in the vicinity of this border crossing in your lifetime, for example if you are visiting Amritsar and the Golden Temple, find the time to go see the ceremony. And tell me if the Niagara Falls cafe is still there.

Why It’s On My List: If you’ve seen the video and know anything about the history of India and Pakistan, you probably don’t need any explanation. This is a unique experience.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Vilnius, Lithuania and Europos Parkas (2005)

Europas Park (1) - Copy - CopyEuropas Park (1)Europas Park (2) - Copy

While You Are There: Why, observe the unusual art, of course. Bring a sketchpad or a notebook and plan to spend the day. The sculptures and installations will give you a lot to think about.

Why It’s On My List: When you need to leave Russia for a few days to get a new visa but don’t feel like hopping on a plane, where do you go? Why not the Baltics? That’s what I did for a week—Latvia and Lithuania—and more pleasant countries I could not have chosen. The capital cities are modern yet retain old world charm, the people are friendly and will speak Russian to you (even though they, understandably, despise the Russians) because they know it better than they know English, it’s easy to get around, and they are not jam-packed with people like Moscow is. I didn’t see much beyond Vilnius and Riga, but I imagine the smaller towns are also great places to visit.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Ukraine (December, 2005)

While You Are There: I went around the country for two weeks for Christmas and New Year’s. Can you say you’ve ever rung in the New Year in Lviv? Maybe not the most exotic or exciting place to do so, but certainly unexpected. Also seen in the photos above are AlushtaBakhchysaray, Kiev (oh man do I love chicken cutlets Kiev-style), Crimea, and Zhovka.

Why It’s On My List: Maybe I only liked it because I was getting sick of Russia and it wasn’t Russia, but I don’t think that’s the case. Ukraine is a lovely country, and not just in Crimea. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, it’s easy to get around, and there’s a lot of see and do.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

(El) Tule, Oaxaca, Mexico (April, 2002)

El Tule

While You Are There: The beauty of Oaxaca city is well known and one could easily spend weeks here and not get bored. It’s a very touristy city, but that’s not always a bad thing. The people watching, architecture, art galleries, and restaurants are worth the trip. Outside Oaxaca, there are plenty of day trips, including one to El Tule to see the widest and one of the oldest trees in the world. Also, the ruins at Monte Alban and Mitla are nearby and are a nice alternative to the more crowded ruins in Mexico. And if you are looking to buy textiles, a trip to Teotitlan is essential. Oh, and don’t forget the petrified waterfall of Hierve el Agua. Just get on a plane already and go to Oaxaca.

Why It’s On My List: It is, perhaps, the most beautiful tree in the world.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

San Juan, Honduras (October or November, 2003)

While You Are There: I don’t think you can go here anymore, sadly. Well, you can go to the town but you can’t have this experience. My memory of this homestay is foggy. I scoured the internet and found nothing, only an article that says the Peace Corps pulled out of Honduras five years ago. What a shame.

Why It’s On My List: This was in a little village in the middle of Honduras. I can’t even remember how my friend and I found out about this budding Peace Corps tourism program, but as soon as we did, we knew we had to go. I remember walking across the town square on a dirt road to get here, very quaint and charming. We stayed with this lovely woman and helped her make breakfast on that built-in fireplace in the morning. Then someone took us out to harvest coffee and we roasted it back at the house and took a bunch home with us. Little did I understand how strong it was! When the hostess made it for us, she knew what she was dealing with. When I made some for myself back at my house in Puerto Cortės, I ended up sweating and shaking uncontrollably for most of the morning. Coffee overdose, big time.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Rhine River Cruises and Rheinfels Castle, Sankt Goar, Germany (July, 2001)

Tom Kelly Burg Rheinfels

While You Are There: Yeah, you could hike down the Rhine River, but a river cruise is really the way to go. There are so many castles and you get such a great view of them from the river while you are enjoying some German beer, so it seems foolish to exert the energy to hike. One plus for hiking: castle rules permit you to bring your hund but boat rules may not.

Why It’s On My List: It’s fun to imagine that I live in…what era were all these castles built in? Did anyone really live in them? They look cold to me. Magnificent, but cold. And isolated. If I could buy one now and live in it, I might. If I could also afford a private helicopter and some magical mechanism to keep those cavernous rooms warm. Really, there’s not a lot of appeal in this to me. But I did have a lot of fun getting separated from our tour guide and briefly lost in the dungeon beneath the Rheinfels Castle and having no light to find our way out (many people, especially broke college kids on a summer study abroad program in Germany, still didn’t have cell phones in 2002 and, besides, cell phones didn’t have flashlights). Also, being on a boat full of Japanese tourists had its own special appeal. The Japanese apparently loved the cruise so much that they bought one of the castles.

Me and Kelli

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.