Reflections on a Another Big Adventure

Last big trip of 2013 - Cambodia! Angkor Wat at sunset

Last big trip of 2013 - Cambodia! Angkor Wat at sunset

Looking back, I actually can't believe it was ME that went to all of these places - a whirlwind of new friends, countless airports, amazing hotels, time with family & friends, thousands of miles traveled by car, plane, helicopter, train, and foot, & many pieces written. It is beyond my wildest dreams where my life and job have taken me in the past few years (reflections on 2011 & 2012).

Thank you for giving me YOUR travel tips, following along on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and making me feel less lonely when I'm thousands of miles from home.

This year's adventures - in chronological order:

Winter in the Hamptons

Winter in the Hamptons

Breakfast at Hotel Bel-Air in L.A.

Breakfast at Hotel Bel-Air in L.A.

Rocco came with us to D.C., too! 

Rocco came with us to D.C., too! 

Back in the Hamptons

Back in the Hamptons

Brussels was surprisingly awesome

Brussels was surprisingly awesome

Bruges, Belgium - like Disneyland, but still cute

Bruges, Belgium - like Disneyland, but still cute

Loved this B&B, La Vigie, near the town of Spa, Wallonia - Belgium

Loved this B&B, La Vigie, near the town of Spa, Wallonia - Belgium

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

 Tel Aviv - a fast-paced, cool, changing-by-the-minute city

 Tel Aviv - a fast-paced, cool, changing-by-the-minute city

A complicated, beautiful city to explore - Jerusalem.

A complicated, beautiful city to explore - Jerusalem.

Adorable goats at Mizpe Hayamim in the Israel countryside.

Adorable goats at Mizpe Hayamim in the Israel countryside.

Sag Harbor

Sag Harbor

One of many Connecticut weekends

One of many Connecticut weekends

 I loved this exhilirating, gorgeous city - Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 I loved this exhilirating, gorgeous city - Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The Emerald Coast of Brazil and Ponta dos Ganchos Resort.

The Emerald Coast of Brazil and Ponta dos Ganchos Resort.

With my dad at the Cliffs of Moher.

With my dad at the Cliffs of Moher.

My entire family rented a house outside Galway for a week.

My entire family rented a house outside Galway for a week.

Wedding in the Catskills.

Wedding in the Catskills.

Back in genteel, lovely Charleston, South Carolina.

Back in genteel, lovely Charleston, South Carolina.

One of my favorite places on the planet, Kiawah Island.

One of my favorite places on the planet, Kiawah Island.

A major highlight - attending the Coronation Festival & concert at Buckingham Palace in London.

A major highlight - attending the Coronation Festival & concert at Buckingham Palace in London.

A couple of days on the Isle of Wight, England.

A couple of days on the Isle of Wight, England.

Eloped and went to Paris for ten days.

Eloped and went to Paris for ten days.

Labor Day - Hiking in my hometown on Camelback Mountain, Scottsdale, Arizona.

Labor Day - Hiking in my hometown on Camelback Mountain, Scottsdale, Arizona.

The start of two weeks in Mexico - Imanta Resort, Punta de Mita.

The start of two weeks in Mexico - Imanta Resort, Punta de Mita.

LOVED joyful Mexico City - and this seafood restaurant, Contramar.

LOVED joyful Mexico City - and this seafood restaurant, Contramar.

I want to go to Cabo every year - at Las Ventanas al Paraiso.

I want to go to Cabo every year - at Las Ventanas al Paraiso.

Oxford made me want to go back to school. 

Oxford made me want to go back to school. 

Barnsley House in the Cotswolds.

Barnsley House in the Cotswolds.

View from St. Paul's Cathedral on a sunny, cold London day.

View from St. Paul's Cathedral on a sunny, cold London day.

Teaching a travel writing workshop at Four Seasons Costa Rica.

Teaching a travel writing workshop at Four Seasons Costa Rica.

Mystical Laos - Southeast Asia

Mystical Laos - Southeast Asia

The Silversmith You Must Visit in Argentina

My new ringThe name to know is DRAGHI. And bring American dollars! Located about 1.5 hours outside the city center of Buenos Aires in a charming town called San Antonio de Areco, Draghi preserves the traditions of Argentine silverwork. The town itself reminded me of a smaller, South American Santa Fe for its town square and all the art galleries & shops. The building is part museum where you're able to browse a priceless collection of items from the 19th century including knives, belts, and jewelry. You can also watch the artisans at work. The shop was my favorite part and a group of us browsed rugs, blankets, necklaces, and rings.

I spotted the ring I wanted and discovered it would be $120 on my credit card, but $50 if I paid American cash. Why? American dollars have a high black market value and are highly coveted by Argentines so BRING more dollars than you think you'll need. This article explains it well - apparently President Cristina (whom every single person I talked to HATED) has put some insane limits on foreign exchange, and the peso is the world's worst performing currency. I don't completely understand, but know I got my ring for a great deal!

After visiting the silversmith, continue on to La Bamba de Areco, one of my new favorite places in the world, an impeccably designed and beautiful estancia, or ranch. It's where I met this sweet dog!

This dog wandered around the shopBeautiful Courtyard at Draghi

A Sweet Argentine Dog

We had one day free during Virtuoso (read the travel trends I discovered during the conference on my National Geographic blog here) in Buenos Aires and got to choose a daytime activity ranging from a city tour, to cooking classes, or sports tour. But I immediately knew which one I wanted to do - visit an estancia, or a large ranch-style estate, outside the city. The place we went, La Bamba de Areco, was truly a South American dream retreat. While others did horseback riding or a carriage ride, I chose to take one of their bikes and go for a ride. The roads were bumpy but I started following the path that made me feel happiest. With the autumn sun shining down and a slight breeze, this beautiful, sweet dog seemed to appear from nowhere. I could see nothing else except for horses and cows. He just wanted a lot of loving and I was happy to give it to him! After about 30 minutes, he had enough and ran away to play. It was a little bit of home so many thousands of miles away from my own dog.

Landmarks of Buenos Aires

A full week in one of the world's greatest cities, Buenos Aires, allowed me to visit all the landmark neighborhoods and monuments, as well as off-the-beaten-path gems. Yet even at the more famous places, like Sunday's bustling San Telmo Market, I felt like one of few visitors. It was bittersweet to leave this free-spirited, beautiful city.

Buenos Aires - Virtuoso Symposium 2013

I'm down in Buenos Aires for the annual Virtuoso Symposium, the gathering of the top luxury travel advisors, tour operators, and hotels in the world, and they are putting on quite a show. Last night's dinner was hosted beneath the famous pink Presidential Palace, which is normally only used for heads of state and royal visits. Our first night was a tango, horse show, and barbecue. But the best part is meeting so many truly amazing people in travel. I am obsessed with this industry. My wonderful friend Kelly is flying down for the weekend, and we'll have extra nights to explore the city before flying to Brazil to relax on the beach.