Posts tagged “Panama

My 2011

Before ringing in the new year tonight, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do a quick summary of how my year looked like on the travel front.

– Countries

Although some of my original plans fell through this year, I still managed to visit my 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th countries in 2011. 3 out of those 4 countries, namely Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, had been in my plans since my non-trip in 2008 so I was more than happy to finally visit them. I also spent a quick week in Panama, which was, to date, my favorite experience in Central/South America.

I also roamed around Canada a fair amount and got a few more U.S. stamps in my passport but the “new countries” are definitely the highlight of my year.

I didn’t quite make it to my 5th continent but that will happen in 2012 and I’m more than satisfied with the experiences I’ve had while traveling this year.

– Bucket List

Do I keep a bucket list? Yes, ,I do. Do I plan my trips around it? No, I don’t. That being said, I still managed to cross a whopping 3 items off of it this year and also did some work on a fourth item, making 2011 a very successful year in terms of shortening the proverbial “list”.

I flew first class for the first time on my way to Belgium, which was a rather uncharacteristic splurge for me and although the flight wasn’t overly long (just over 7 hours), I absolutely enjoyed the experience. For the comfort alone, I would be more than willing to replicate the experience in the future and let’s be honest, the food and booze aren’t half bad either!

Although my visit to the Netherlands was a little short for my tastes, I managed to see Ann Frank’s house, which was definitely one of the things I didn’t want to miss out on while in Amsterdam. I had heard horror stories about the never ending lines in front of the museum but I lucked out and although pictures aren’t allowed inside the house (one of my biggest pet peeves about museums in Europe!), I was happy with the experience and glad to have included the visit in my itinerary.

In Germany, I finally managed to visit a concentration camp (I actually visited 2, considering they are plentiful in Germany), after failing to do so in 2008 and coming so close while in Belgium a few months before. While Auschwitz remains a place I desperately want to visit in the future, getting to spend a few hours in Dachau and Sachsenhausen was the highlight of my trip to Germany.

One of the long-lasting items on my bucket list is to visit 100 countries, which is obviously a work in progress but adding 4 countries in a year is a step in the right direction.

– The Road

I rarely travel with other people, both by choice and because I don’t always pick the destinations my friends are thinking of when they have time to travel, so when a friend of mine said he would like to visit the Gaspé peninsula and see Percé Rock, I was more than happy to tag along for a quick road trip. The tip of the peninsula is located at the far end of the province of Quebec and although the drive was rather dull at times, it was definitely a cool way to spend a long weekend. I had been meaning to visit the region for a long time but never quite got around to it so getting to explore that little corner of my province was something I was glad to finally do.

– Business

Although Ontario is the neighboring province, I somewhat ironically visited it more for business purposes than as part of an actual trip (layovers at Pearson excluded, of course). I had planned a few things to do while in Toronto but the schedule got a little hectic and it turned out to be all business. On the bright side, I got to see Suzie McNeil and the Barenaked Ladies perform, the Staal brothers being interviewed by TSN’s James Duthie and hear a speech by Bell Canada’s president George Cope, which made the whole event fairly cool to attend.

– So Many Ways

Blame it on my habit to travel solo or on some weird quirkiness but every once in a while, I tend to start counting random things involving travel. How many nights slept in a hotel/hostel, how many flights I was on or how many means of transportation I used are among the things I usually work with as they are somewhat easy to recall and count. Obviously, those are totally random facts and don’t have much of an impact on anything but the fact that I don’t spend months traveling each year makes it more than doable to simply sit and add up those things. They’re also a good way to pass the time when flying; which is usually the moment I choose to count those little stats.

For the record, in 2011 I;

Was on 10 flights
Used 8 different means of transportation
Spent 30 nights in a hotel or hostel

That’s it; a short (and sweet?) post about my travels in 2011.

Happy New Year & safe travels!


Last minute; where’s the excitement?

I’ve done all-inclusive resorts, packages, flights only, hotels, hostels, airport floors but this is only the second time I’m doing what I consider to be a “last minute” trip. I’m not sure if there’s a ground rule to define last minute but less than 7 days before departure is, to me, on the last minute side. I’m used to planning a trip ahead, buying plane tickets, at least, and then playing it by ear when it comes to accommodations and the like. That way, at least, I know where I’m going ahead of time and it seems like the excitement has time to build up.

This time, I knew I wanted to take a week off in February and that somewhere warm would be nice but that was about all I knew. I looked around, bouncing back and forth between an all-inclusive in South or Central America, maybe even Europe. Anywhere was fair game. I finally narrowed it down to maybe half a dozen different destinations and thanks to the expertise and input of Stephanie from I was able to play the elimination game with myself until I was left with a single destination; Panama.

For some reason Panama had been on my mind for a while and it met all my criteria so it ultimately seemed like a pretty good decision. To my surprise though, it seemed like 7 days wasn’t enough to build the hype in my head and I was left somewhat lukewarm at the idea of going away. I was happy to take time off and to visit a new country but it seemed like the usual excitement I feel when a trip is around the corner simply wasn’t there.

This made me wonder, while deals are often incredibly tempting when it comes to last minute travel, do they make traveling less of an experience we can really feel blessed with? With the economy being where it has been over the past few months, luxuries like travel should be something we are thankful to be doing but it seems that, with a last minute vacation, we forgo the excitement as it doesn’t have time to build up into an experience.

Those of us who can afford to wait for last minute deals obviously have a good reason to do so as there are, more often than not, great savings attached to such sales but if planning ahead and spending a little more time trying to find those bargains can result in a more rewarding, unique and unforgettable experience, it adds a value last minutes bargains simply don’t offer.

*You can also find Stephanie on Twitter at @travelDesigned