Looking Back on a Year of Adventures

by Gray Cargill on December 19, 2012

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I love this time of year. In addition to looking ahead to the new year, making plans and setting goals, I’ve also been reflecting on the year that has passed. Here’s what 2012 looked like, from a travel perspective, for me:

By the Numbers

  • Number of Trips: 4 (keep in mind I have a full-time job that is NOT blogging)
  • Number of Travel Days: 32
  • Miles Traveled: More than 28,000 (By far the most miles I’ve traveled in any given year.)
  • Destinations Visited: 12. (Oahu, Hawaii; Rome, Italy; Florence, Italy; Cannes, France; Marseilles, France; Avignon, France; Barcelona, Spain; Pompeii, Italy; Sorrento, Italy; Positano, Italy; Minneapolis, MN; Las Vegas, NV.)
  • Number of (Day) Tours Taken: 3
  • Number of Hotels Slept In: 6 (including Norwegian Epic cruise ship)

Most Valuable Lesson Learned

I wish I could say I learned something really deep and meaningful that will make me a better human being for the rest of my life. But honestly, the most valuable lesson I learned was that “membership has its privileges.” When I missed my connection in Chicago coming home from Minneapolis, I couldn’t get booked on another flight home until the next night. But because I have status with United (as a frequent flier and holder of their credit card, with a large number of accumulated miles), I was at the top of the standby list and was able to get home on an earlier flight than I had booked. Others I spoke with who had no status with the airline weren’t so lucky. I wish that had been the case a couple of years ago, when I was stuck in Las Vegas for four extra days because of a blizzard (I was flying Jetblue at the time).


In Hawaii

It’s all about the people

I had the good fortune of meeting up with fun, warm and wonderful people during each trip I took. In Honolulu, I broke bread with Nathan Kam, Nancy Daniels of Outrigger Hotels and Resorts, and Christine Ka’aloa (who graciously gifted me with a handmade lei, which was very cool of her). I had such great conversations with each of them about blogging, the travel industry, and the mysteries of social media. All three were as nice as could be and made me feel very welcome on my first trip to Hawaii.

In Rome, I met up with Linda Martinez, owner of The Beehive. We hit it off so well, I think we spent three hours talking one morning and we’ve stayed in touch since. I met some fabulous fellow travelers on my cruise through Europe—Jody and Jeff, Corinne and Jim, Candice and Teri, Margie, Sue, Cubby, Joy, and so many more.

Vegas Meetup

In Minneapolis, I was finally able to meet my favorite Las Vegas podcasters, Tim and Michele Dressen, over drinks and great food at a local hotspot. They are every bit as likeable and funny in person as you’d think from listening to their podcast. I just adore them.

For a solo traveler, my trip to Las Vegas this year was very social! There wasn’t a single day when I didn’t have plans with other people, mostly fellow solo travelers – my friends Abby and Joe, who live in Las Vegas, Jason, whose own trip to Vegas overlapped with mine, Janice and Julie, whom I’d met on previous trips, and all the new people who showed up for my Vegas Solo Meetup: Brian, Sharon, Troy, Jerry and Scott.

Greatest Regret

Not remembering to get pictures of all the great people I met and spent time with! It is the one thing I always forget to do when I travel, and I’ve been kicking myself about it all year.

Diamond Head

Memorable Experiences

  • Climbing Diamond Head crater in Honolulu. It wasn’t easy, since I had to pass through a long, dark tunnel to get to the top (and I’m both nightblind and claustrophobic), but the views were so worth it.
  • Getting soaking wet during my Circle Island Tour of Oahu, but having fun anyway.
  • Discovering a new food addiction – edamame – while in Honolulu. (This is your fault, Christine!)
  • Walking the length of Waikiki Beach.
  • Savoring a cold shave ice after my hot hike up Diamond Head.
  • The very, very long series of flights to get between Vermont and Hawaii.
  • Watching surfers on the North Shore of Oahu. It’s such an iconic image of Hawaii!
  • Visiting Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, along with the “Mighty Mo”–the USS Missouri.
  • Picking up little bits of cultural knowledge from Hawaii, like the uses of leis, what li hing mui is, and the concept of pau hana. It left me wanting more.


  • My hair-raising taxi ride into Rome from the airport and coming thisclose to getting hit by a guy on a vespa just a few hours later.
  • My first glimpse of the Roman Colosseum towering in front of me as I emerged from the metro station. Breathtaking.
  • Chilling on the Spanish Steps.
  • Sailing on my first real cruise aboard Norwegian Epic. . .and getting seasick.
  • Sitting in a very enthusiastic audience for the phenomenal Spanish ballet aboard the Norwegian Epic. This totally made up for missing out on Flamenco in Madrid in 2011.
  • Climbing the 414 steps of the Campanile in Florence, Italy and being rewarded with one of the most perfect travel moments of my life.
  • Trying limoncello in Sorrento and realizing I am too much of a lightweight for alcohol that strong!
  • The amazing views of Marseilles and the coast from Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica.
  • Sneezing my way through Avignon, France on a day when the air was thick with pollen.
  • Walking through the ancient city of Pompeii and imagining those final hours.
  • Seeing Cannes get all gussied up for its annual Film Festival.
  • Trying to remember which of 3 countries I was in when it came time to say hello, please or thank you in the native language! “Gracias. . .I mean Grazi. . .I mean Merci!”
  • The gorgeous views along the Amalfi Coast, especially Sorrento and Positano.
  • Nearly getting heat exhaustion in Minneapolis in the 90-plus degree heat.
  • Finally visiting the Valley of Fire State Park and its stunning red sandstone rock formations.
  • Seeing the Broadway musical Wicked (for the first time) at the Smith Center in Las Vegas.

Valley of Fire


2012 was an outstanding year of travel experiences for me! I met people and made memories I’ll treasure for a lifetime. It was a very expensive travel year—one I can’t repeat too often—but oh, so worth it. What will 2013 bring in terms of travel? I’m finalizing my plans right now, and will share them with you in early January.

What were your favorite travel adventures of 2012?

Reg of The Spain Scoop May 23, 2013 at 7:18 am

You packed it in considering it was all in 32 days!

Gray May 23, 2013 at 4:07 pm

You know it, Reg. No wonder I’m so tired all the time. 🙂

JoAnna December 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Sounds like a fun year! Congrats on squeezing so much in to so little travel time. Wishing you more fun adventures in 2013.

Gray December 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm

It was a little tiring at times, JoAnna, but so worth it. Thanks for the well-wishes–I wish us all happy travels in 2013!

Mira December 21, 2012 at 10:01 am

I enjoyed reading about your adventures this year! Thank you and keep posting! 2012 was also a huge year of travel for me. I had 4 trips via plane as well, visiting Paris, London (and the English countryside), and Rome; then flew to the U.S. and stayed for 2 months (visiting New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Wisconsin, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas in the process). Had a month’s interim again and returned to San Francisco for a work conference, and a trip to Hong Kong for a company outing. Travel is expensive but so worth it for the experience. Next year I’ll return to Europe for another work-related trip but may squeeze in another visit to England for the Jane Austen Festival in Bath (200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice is next year). In November yet another work-related conference, this time in Washington DC, where I’ve never been. So excited!

Gray December 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Thanks, ,Mira! Wow, it sounds like you had a terrific travel year, too–and another to come! I had no idea there even was a Jane Austen Festival. Oooooh. You’ve just appealed to the English major in me. 🙂

Mira December 23, 2012 at 2:06 am

The Jane Austen Festival in Bath, held around mid-September. :)) I’m a JAS member (as we have no chapter in my country), and I just love the festival; dressing up in Regency costume for the Promenade with hundreds of other Janeites, having proper tea and listening to fun lectures like “Undressing Mr. Darcy”…

Gray December 23, 2012 at 10:13 am

Oh that does sound like fun, Mira! LOL, “Undressing Mr. Darcy.” Racy!

Kat December 20, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Edamame is delicious. I’m obsessed with it! Enjoyed reading about all your great adventures, especially in Hawaii.

Gray December 20, 2012 at 7:11 pm

We are kindred foodie spirits then, Kat. Edamame rules!

Nancy Daniels December 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Gray: what fun to see my name pop up in your column. It brought back good memories of your visit and meeting you! From your post, it looks like you had a very busy year. Hopefully your travels will bring you back to Hawaii in the New year, as there are a multitude of memorable experiences yet to be enjoyed! Warm aloha to you and yours and Happy Holidays!

Gray December 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Thanks, Nancy! I hope my travels bring me back to Hawaii in the not-too-distant future as well. I already have a long list of new things to do for next time!

Christine | GrrrlTraveler December 20, 2012 at 12:49 am

I’m in envy of your travels and the fact that even without a job in travel, you’re able to still sustain your travel dreams! What a sexy year it’s been for you and I’m glad I finally got to meet you in person on my home squat! 😉

I’m there with you on the photos bit. Only recently I’ve tried to take more photos of myself cuz before, I had *none* to show but several of friends enjoying the fun! Now, I forget to get photos of other people… And a part of me is always a tad shy about getting them too.

Can’t wait to see what 2013 brings for you!

Gray December 20, 2012 at 6:20 am

It was such a pleasure meeting you, Christine, and I hope our paths cross again soon! I blame the lack of photos on a generational thing. The younger generation had cell phone cameras and grew up snapping photos with their friends every time they got together. When I was growing up, we only had film cameras, and processing films was expensive, so we really only took photos on special occasions. Also, I grew up amongst a bunch of photo-shy people; whenever I would try to take anyone’s picture, would put their hand in front of their face! Nobody wanted their picture taken. So I got out of the habit of even trying. I need to try harder to remember in 2013.

Jeff @ GoTravelzing December 19, 2012 at 6:46 pm

What a great year of travel! That is a lot of travel for someone that works full time. Are you going to be able to match it next year?

Gray Cargill December 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I doubt it, Jeff. But I’m going to try. 🙂

Maria Acceleratedstall December 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Wow! What a year you had. Looking forward to “traveling” through 2013 w/you.

Gray Cargill December 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Thanks very much, Maria!

Tracy Antonioli December 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm

What a GREAT year! I especially love how social you were; that just goes to show how NOT lonely solo travel is (in fact, I still maintain that I’m less lonely when I travel alone then when I travel with a partner).

Side note–of course I have a post coming out tomorrow that mentions how great loyalty programs are. And one for mid-next week recapping my year of travels. Kindred spirits, much? Ha!

Can’t wait to hear about all of your 2013 adventures!

Gray December 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I was exceptionally social for me, Tracy. Yeah, it was a great year, I’m very pleased with it–and very grateful. You’re so right; solo travel (obviously) does not need to be lonely. We are so definitely kindred spirits, Tracy. In fact, it’s a little spooky. 🙂

Candice December 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I looooove these end of year posts too! I never feel like I’ve done a lot until I’ve looked back on a whole year. Amazing! I’m jealous of your Hawaii travels. Need to go there.

Gray December 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm

You’d love Hawaii, Candice! It really is paradise in so many ways. Long, long flight though, from our neck of the woods.

Jason December 19, 2012 at 11:55 am

It looks like you had a great year of travel, especially since you got to run into me again! 😛

Gray December 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Well of course, Jason. That was the highlight of the year! 🙂 No really, it was great to catch up in person again. Happy holidays!

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