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2014: Looking Back at a Year of Travel

Elephants at a watering hole on Nambia’s Skeleton Coast

It’s time to look back on my travel stats for 2014.

Total number of commercial flights: 109
Total number of miles flown: 164,129
Total number of countries visited: 19
Total number of airlines used: 19

Countries Visited:

Turkey, France, Germany, Panama, Bahamas, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Canada, Italy, Austria, United Kingdom, India, Netherlands, Fiji, Mexico, UAE, Seychelles, South Africa, Namibia

I rang in 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey and will be ushering it out in Seattle, Washington.

Emirates wins best carrier for 2014

Commercial Airlines Flown:

Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Copa Airlines, Caribbean Airlines, Southwest Airlines, British Airways, Air Berlin, Jet Airways, Emirates, Vueling, Fiji Airways, South African Airways, Air Namibia, Virgin Atlantic Airways

Best Airlines: Emirates

I had the chance to fly in Emirates First a few times this year and it’s always been a great experience. I also watched my favorite two films of the year, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood, during Emirates flights.

Best US Airlines: Alaska

I’ve spent a lot of the past year shuffling up and down the west coast of the United States. Alaska has made those journeys both pleasant and easy on the wallet. Why? In-flight wifi, 30 minute baggage delivery guarantee and $50 upgrades plus 2 free checked bags (because of my MVP Gold status).

Most Disappointing Airlines: Virgin Atlantic

I flew Virgin Atlantic long haul from Cape Town to Heathrow in December. It was fine. Just fine. I don’t get the cult like following. The crew was very friendly, but the cabin was old and I found the lighting “too Serbian disco.”

Most Surprising: Fiji Airways

Fiji Airways had great cabin design and the right touch of South Pacific charm. The crew also knows you want to sleep from LAX to Nadi.

Best National Park Visited: Haleakalā National Park on Maui

I saw some spectacular sunrises in 2014. The most memorable was the sunrise at Haleakalā on the Hawaiian island of Maui, but the pastel sunrises of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast were also incredible.

Purple sunset in Punta Mita

Best Sunsets: Punta Mita, Mexico.

The most vivid hues come after the sun dips, and this purple sunset I caught overlooking the Mita Mary boat at the St. Regis Punta Mita mid-November was one for the history books. Check out more of my Punta Mita sunsets here.

After dark at Rome’s Colosseum

Two of my favorite travel memories of 2014 came from evenings I almost did not go out, but rallied.

In Rome, I bumped into my social media friend, luxury travel agent and affable Aussie Brent Wallace of Where Brent’s Been on Instagram. We realized we were both in Rome and decided to meet up for a drink. Sharing a spur of the moment cocktail with him at the bar at the Palazzo Manfredi was one of the highlights of my trip to the Italian capital. Palazzo Manfredi’s General Manager, Bruno Papaleo was also a delight to meet. If you don’t stay at Palazzo Manfredi, make a point to get a meal at their rooftop restaurant, Aroma.

Moonlit Colosseum

I wandered around the Colosseum after my drink with Brent and shot these images. They are some of my favorite photographs of 2014.

Young lovers in Rome

Best Food: Paris

I ate well in 2014. But I ate exceptionally well in Paris. Perhaps my favorite meal was the one I had at L’Escailler du Bistrot. The truth is, I almost skipped it because I was too full from previous meals. I went anyway because I liked the people I was traveling with and meeting there. Turns out a few of them also almost skipped this one. We’re all glad we did not. Once again, I’m glad I rallied.

The shellfish tower at L’Ecailler du Bistrot in Paris

Tapas at L’avant Comptoir

Empty oysters

I also had a memorable meal of tapas while standing at the bar at L’Avant Comptoir, which I preferred to it’s fancier sister restaurant, Le Comptoir.

Enjoying wine at the bar at L’Avant Comptoir

Favorite US City Visited in 2014: Nashville

I did not see this one coming either.

I first flew to Nashville in January to visit a friend who moved there. She showed me the town and I shot it for a HipStop: Nashville piece. I fell for it’s charm, genuine warmth and music scene. I told my husband I wanted him to come visit when we could see a concert at the Ryman Auditorium. We had the opportunity when we scored two tickets to the Foo Fighters Sonic Highways show at the Ryman on Halloween. Once again, I really enjoyed the city.

Nashville’s hipster bowling alley: Pinewood Social

The view from a honky tonk

The photo booth at the Crying Wolf

The view from behind the mic at the Ryman Auditorium

In addition to flourishing foodie scene, Nashville has the best bathroom I visited in 2014: The Men’s Room at the Oak Bar.

Sometimes you have to have photo shoot in a bathroom. This was one of those times (photo by Rebecca Adler)

Best US Hotel: The Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California

Hot tub steam + Pacific Coast Sunset at the Post Ranch Inn

I took a solo trip to Big Sur in February and stayed at the Post Ranch Inn. It was a great trip and the view from the hot tub of the sunset was sublime and paired nicely with a glass of the California Pinot Noir they had in the mini-bar. The Post Ranch Inn is everything I love in a non-chain hotel, and luxurious but not over-the-top.

The fireplace adds warmth at Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn

The organic beauty and indoor/outdoor living vibe of the Post Ranch Inn made it my favorite U.S. Hotel room of 2014.

Favorite work assignment: Shooting Port Antonio, Jamaica for the Snap Magazine.

I’ve wanted to learn more about the recording scene in the Caribbean since I first saw the Police dancing around in an Antigua recording studio in the video for Every Little Thing She Does is Magic. It was a dream come true to shoot Port Antonio, Jamaica and Gee Jam studios for the #music issue of Snap.

You can read it here: HipStop: Port Antonio, Jamaica

River cruise down the Rio Grande with Pablo

Port Antonio is just logistically undesirable enough to keep it really, really special. If you don’t have a chance to visit it real life, I suggest checking out Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode on Jamaica.

Lunch on the Rio Grande

A baby on Boston Beach

Portrait of Dickie, proprietor of Dickie’s Best Kept Secret

Sea splash into the pool at the Trident in Port Antonio

Mid-century glam at the Trident

I enjoyed Port Antonio so much I both extended my trip and immediately planned a return visit with my husband.

Best Vacation of 2014: Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia

I’ll go into more detail about my stay at Hoanib in January. It was so special I thought it was unwise to publish the posts about a place that affected me so strongly during the holidays, when blog posts often get lost in the holiday shuffle.

The roaring dunes of Namibia

Besides the surreal beauty of Hoanib’s desert landscape, the staff at Hoanib, especially guide Emms, were excpetionally warm and friendly.

When I showed my guide, Emms, the December 2014 cover of Conde Nast Traveler, featuring a cover story on Hoanib and a picture of an elephant, he said, “Oh, that’s Papa G. I guided that photographer. He had a really big lens.”

Emms’ words at once proved him confident enough to deliver  magazine cover shot worthy wildlife spotting, yet put me at ease for having inferior lenses. The images I shot during my stay at Hoanib– both of it’s elephants and  the immense stretches of uninhabited sand dunes– are probably my favorite travel memories of 2014.

Pink morning skies at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

Exploring the roaring dunes of Nambia

Elephants visiting the watering hole (captured on my iPhone 6)

Letting air out of the tires before exploring the Skeleton Coast’s Roaring Dunes

I look forward to sharing more of my experiences in the Seychelles and Namibia with My Life’s a Trip readers in the new year.

Much thanks for all of you who came along with me both in real life and virtually. I look forward to whatever travel adventures 2015 has in store.