We’re just a few short days from closing the book on 2018. So I thought I’d take a break from holiday merriment to look back on the new stamps my gnome and I got on our passport. This year, I visited some great places and some not so great places. Here’s a recap of some of the most memorable ups and downs.
Favorite destinations of 2018
Also one of the most recent, Cambodia skyrocketed to the top of my list of favorite trips of this year. It’s a beautiful country with amazing people and some of the most incredible and unique sights I’ve seen all year – maybe even in my life. It’s also the cheapest place I visited all year, and that is a huge advantage.
Neck and neck for runner up are the Algarve and Macedonia. Macedonia, I loved for the same reason I liked Cambodia. It was surprisingly beautiful and the people were downright incredible. The Algarve I loved because it takes a lot for me to be impressed by beaches. And the beaches in the south of Portugal are now the ones I consider the most beautiful in the world.
Best food of 2018
I have to give this to Lithuania. Perhaps of all the places I visited this year, this is also one of the hardest cuisines to find outside Lithuania. In particular, I miss a good zeppelin – a stuffed potato dumpling – and cold beet root soup. It’s such comforting food, and I loved every bit of it.
Cambodian cuisine was also pretty fantastic, and I had the exciting experience of making some myself in a cooking class in Siem Reap. And I also wouldn’t say no to a good traditional roast rabbit from Malta.
Coolest museum of 2018
Without a doubt, the most interesting place I visited all year was the former Plokstine nuclear missile base in Lithuania. It’s been turned into a really fascinating Cold War Museum, but just walking around the underground tunnels and looking down the top of a nuclear missile silo was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Most beautiful library of 2018
I’ve had the opportunity to check out a few stunning libraries in my life, but this year I discovered the best one I’ve ever seen. The Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal is eye-wateringly beautiful. Photos aren’t allowed, but I hope the memory lasts me forever.
Best religious site of 2018
I love anything that’s supposed to house the spirit of a higher power. I saw everything from mosques to synagogues this year. But nothing was quite as impactful as Angkor Wat, where the traces of Hinduism and Buddhism intertwine. Seeing the sun rise behind the temple towers was an especially wonderful experience, even though it was shared with hundreds of other eager tourists and photographers.
Of course, not everything was amazing in 2018. Some things were not so good, and some were downright awful.
Worst destinations of 2018
My God, I hated Hong Kong. I had two extended stopovers there, and though you might think it’s unfair of me to judge a city based on such a short time, I never want to see that place again. If I can, I would even avoid the airport. The city is a mix of boring and crowded as fuck. I don’t even know how those two things can coexist.
A close second is Sofia, Bulgaria. That place is a dump. I would still recommend visiting because it has some very unique and beautiful things to see like the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. But the city is nothing special.
Worst drinks of 2018
I really love a good cocktail, so to visit a place where I can’t find one borders on unacceptable. And the entire country of Malta needs to get it together on that front. All the bars with supposed “great cocktails” served up neon syrupy shit in every color.
Biggest disappointment of 2018
I didn’t have incredibly high expectations to begin with, but one of the highly recommended things to see in Latvia was Gutman’s Cave, as it’s the oldest attraction in the country and the widest and highest cave in Latvia. Here is the thing. Latvia doesn’t have caves. So after spending 3 hours hiking around the Gauja River, coming to this indentation in a rock is a real pisser.
Worst travel disasters of 2018
I’m a fairly safe traveler, so I rarely have major problems, but this year really took the cake for health-related travel issues. I can’t choose just one, and I probably can’t even remember all of them. The worst one for me personally was that I had a slipped disk in Malta, so it was incredibly painful to walk around or even stand up straight. By the time I was feeling better on that trip, my girlfriend had gotten a cold.
Just when I thought I was home free for the holidays, I had to get a filling two days before flying across the Atlantic for Christmas. Now I know that the pressure of flying really doesn’t agree with dental work.
And if that wasn’t enough, my friend sprained her ankle mid-trip while we were in Cambodia. Which is what happens when you drink too much and you’re too old for this shit.
Here’s to a healthier 2019 with just as many memorable travels.