2013 Recap

05 February 2014

In 2013 I was able to travel a lot, nearly seven out of the past twelve months. It was an exciting and eye-opening series of trips. I got to explore lots of more places out of my imagined comfort zone and expand my horizons.

In the spring, I visited eight new countries on the Atlantic coast of Africa, and had return visits to four more. Especially memorable were Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, and São Tomé and Príncipe.

I wanted to see more of Africa. So I devised a complex winter itinerary that worked surprisingly well. The only real snag was when Senegal Air botched my flights from Conakry to Nouakchott and I had to skip my days in Mauritania.

Cabo Verde and Côte d’Ivoire were quite interesting, but my winter West African favorites were travels in Liberia with old friends and exploring Burkina Faso.


In East Africa, I had an idyllic walking safari in a lovely, less visited national park in Uganda.

That was a prelude to a Rwanda trek to hang out with peaceful mountain gorillas, who lived up to their grand and mellow reputation.

I also finally got to big Ethiopia, a traveler's ideal combination of beautiful panoramas, rich history, cultural treasures, delicious food.

My weeks in Ethiopia were the start of what became of fair amount of travel in and around the "horn of Africa."

I even spent a few dusty, dull days in Djibouti.

But my map pushed me onward to three controversial countries: Eritrea, Sudan, and Somalia (Somaliland). All of them are off the beaten path, all were "no-go" on US State Dept. advisories, all had make-or-break flight connections, two essential visa-on-arrival gambles, and all had tricky local arrangements.
Somehow it all worked smoothly thanks to luck and Undiscovered Destinations, a meticulous British company that prepared land arrangements with good local teams.

All three countries far surpassed expectations.

In the spring, I ventured to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. What a revelation: See the key pics. My eight days were not enough and I hope to return sooner or later.

Another long-awaited destination in the region was Saudi Arabia. I managed to get a visa and had a wonderful week in Jeddah and Riyadh visiting old friends and seeing the sites. It was full of social and cultural surprises.

At the easy end of the travel continuum were some unexplored corners of Europe. I finally visited the spectacular fjords of Norway and saw the glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, and other geological wonders of Iceland.

Then ― only lacking the four microstates in Europe ― I targeted all three principalities (Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco) and the Serene Republic of San Marino. The latter two were my favorites, beautiful European gems.

Taking most of the year off work to do nothing but travel was intense but exciting. I had to compile this one recap post in part to just remind myself of the scope and highlights. OK, it is a big planet... Onward.