- Time traveled: 15 months or 75 weeks or 522 days
- Countries (just during this trip): 24
- Continents: 5
- Flights: 115 Hours/42,220 miles (67, 946kms)
- Pictures taken (after deletions): 6,120
Here it is, what you’ve all been waiting for. You have either already asked me this, you are thinking of asking me this, or you don’t give a rat’s ass, but I’m going to answer you anyway:
“So, what was your favorite place?”
Well, after 15 months, 24 countries-visited (now about 36 total if you count the Vatican and Monaco), you can imagine my dilemma with this question. So in response to this very common inquiry, I offer you the following Top 5 lists (keep in mind these lists are limited to this particular trip, NOT my favorite places of all time—that’s why Chicago, New York, Italy, Greece and others are omitted):
LL’s Top 5 Fav cities:
- Berlin–The hype was right. Literally every single other traveler I met who had been to Berlin said it was awesome. I was afraid it was over-hyped, like when a good movie gets ruined before you see it, but I truly loved it. Modern. Progressive. Fresh ideas and design. This city is going places… fast. And it’s the one place I have said ‘I could live here in a second.’ Maybe I still will. Ja?
- Buenos Aires—A very European city in the Southern Hemisphere that has a lot going on. It’s sexy. It’s sophisticated. It’s cosmopolitan. And there are hot men running around playing lots of futbol. There are cute neighborhoods where you can hang out a café all day without a care in the world. Viva Buenos Aires!
- Istanbul—Not only is it mystical, thriving, and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, I was literally stopped in my tracks by the inhabitant’s sincere warmth and friendliness. So much so that what was originally going to be a two week visit turned into three months—with my own apartment, temporary adopted cats, a job teaching English, and a long list of new life-long friends. Tea, sugar, a dream Istanbul.
- London—I had a ‘brilliant’ time in the ‘Big Smoke’. I spent a month in this little town of 7.5 million getting to know the wonderful neighborhoods within the M25 Motorway and being charmed by its inhabitants. I’d been here only once before back in the 90’s and honestly wasn’t bowled over. But the place has completely reinvented itself since then with modern skyscrapers, fabulous museums, and an amazing riverfront. Cheers!
- Hong Kong—Although I was tired from a long flight from Australia, my first night here I felt compelled to get out and join the feverish momentum on the streets. There is a great energy here in this crazy metropolis where east meets west. It really is a perfect mix of new and old—pagodas are wedged in between skyscrapers in a city that has to have the most spectacular skyline I’ve ever seen.
- Melbourne—This sparkly city reminded me much of my hometown of Chicago. It’s full of great neighborhoods with lots of ethnic eateries, great modern architecture, and helpful bike lanes criss-crossing through it. My favorite part had to be all the little back-street ‘lanes’ (read: alleys) that were turned into hip cafe-filled streets and nighttime destinations. Thanks mate!
- Budapest—Emerging from a soviet state into an arty, cosmopolitan city with grand architecture andboulevards.
- Gothenburg, Sweden—Three Cs—clean, charming, cute. It also has an underground vibe of progressive artists and forward-thinking thought that breaks the IKEA mold.
- Transylvania, Romania–charming medieval villages dotting the green, hilly countryside. The picturesque hamlets of fairy tales.
- Galapagos Islands—Every volcanic, scenic island was a completely different utopia teeming with life. Sea Lions, Tortoises, and Birds, oh my!
- Northern Vietnam–SaPa, Vietnam is the quintessential Vietnamese mountainous countryside with terraced rice paddies clinging to mountainside hills. It has gorgeous vistas everywhere you turn.
- Bozcaada Island, Turkey—A great escape from Istanbul and just ‘off the beaten path’ enough to be an island of mostly vacationing locals and not the hordes of tourists going to the other Islands on the Aegean Sea. Gorgeous blue waters, tasty local fare, and lots of sun. Ah, the simple life.
- Munsterland, Germany—Rolling green countryside dotted with charming medieval towns that are connected by meticulously charted bicycle paths. Leave it to Germany to make it perfect.
- Southern Patagonia—Jagged peaks and ominously huge glaciers as far as the eye can see.
New Zealand—Unfortunately, I was sick there but it seemed amazingly clean, blue, and beautiful.
LL’s Top 5 Experiences
- Meeting people and building new friendships all over the world. The discovery of how easy it is to basically build my own community wherever I was…gives me such a rush and renewed sense of trust in the overall goodness of man.
- Couchsurfing.com –an amazing travel community and great way to meet locals.
- Pueblo Ingles – a fun, intense, and unique English immersion program for Spaniards and a great way to spend a free week in Spain making new friends.
- A spontaneous romantic week motor biking the hills of SaPa, Vietnam.
- Volunteering at Crisis UK during Christmas – an amazing weeklong program held every year in London to help and support the homeless.
Honorable Mention: eating my way around the world
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Honestly my friend I didn’t give a rat’s ass until your post indicated that I should. If you look back at over a year’s worth of your posts, it’s easy to see that some places were instant hits (Berlin, you loved it, I get it) and others grew on you a bit more out of reflection. What you and your readers are just dying to know, I’m sure, is where I would like to go based on your vivid descriptions of places. Hold on to your hats and get on your hind legs for this….Buenos Aires. It has nothing to do with the hot guys playing futbol. It has everything to do with the passion for everything they do. They are their own place welcoming influence from everywhere, but at the same time making it their own version. They seem to believe that they can make anything a little better once it gets there. They are welcoming and proud at the same time without being over pretentious about it. If that’s sexy, then sexy it is. As for natural beauty, I’ll take your reliable word for it. No camera can duplicate the process of seeing something with your own eyes. The next best thing is your description of it. See, I do give a rat’s ass!
I’m so glad to have stumbled onto your blog. It looks like you’ve had an amazing year, and best travel wishes if you continue on. My boyfriend and I are teaching in Korea for the year, and we’re considering some extended travel when we’re finished. We’ll certainly be using your blog to inform some of our decisions about where to go!
What an amazing round-up! You truly had some awesome experiences, I’m looking forward to reading your forthcoming articles about your experiences.
Keep it up!
Wonderful you mention Gothenburg on one of you lists!!!
We had a really great time when you visit me; the IKEA girl and the others, the “young”
boys… I’m miss you and I hope we will meet again… I know we will do that!
Have a great life and time and keep in touch!
Piotr is back in town, haven’t meet him jet, no sign either…