California here we come… The week of Christmas, Denise and I headed west to California from our hometown, Kansas City. After spending almost a month with my family it was time to see Denise’s. Her parents Frank and Maria live in Oceanside, a cool town about thirty miles north of San Diego. Andrea, Denise’s sister, was waiting for us when we walked off the plane. My in-laws picked us all up outside the airport and we were off to Little Italy, San Diego, where we decided to eat some really good tacos. We are all suckers for Mexican food.
There was something magical about the full moon on Christmas. I remember looking up at it and thinking how blessed I was this year and really all of my life, but this year has got to be one for the books. We met some really good people along our travels. Friends that I’m sure we will share the rest of our life with, thanks to Facebook and technology in general. The places we visited will forever be a part of us. America was great before I left on this one-year adventure, but now I realize how fortunate we all are to live in this amazing country. Yes, we have our problems, but they are minute compared to others. All I’m saying is we’ve got it pretty good!
After our first Christmas in Oceanside, we spent New Year’s in Santa Cruz with Denise’s entire family. We drove eight hours north and celebrated not only New Year’s, but her uncle also getting married. We stayed on the beach for a week, visiting the boardwalk, redwood forest and being with aunts, uncles, cousins and everyone in between. Before heading back to San Diego, we drove up to San Francisco with Andrea and her boyfriend Dan for a night and then to Napa Valley for a night. My good friend Manny Frias from Frias Winery took really good care of us. Then we headed back down to Southern California, driving along the coast, stopping in Pebble Beach, Big Sur and everywhere in between.
We’ve been back in the States traveling around here for one month now and one of the most common questions my friends and family ask is what was my favorite place that we visited. My answer continues to change and Denise does not understand why. I just loved all of it. Every place that we visited was more amazing than the last. South America was a whirlwind because we saw 9 countries in 8 weeks. After I fell in a hole in Argentina and got stitched up, we thought it was a good decision to take it down a notch. Our next spot after South America was Spain and we learned to slow it down a bit and enjoy this year off of work because who knows when we will do this again. We got lost in Morocco and ate our way through Paris and chilled in Amsterdam. We saw a lot of Russia on the Trans Siberian Train. Mongolia was my first taste of Asia and Vietnam was the first place after almost 5 months that we agreed finally felt like a vacation. I know this sounds crazy, but traveling can be a bit of work. Think about it, we had a budget to meet in order for it to last a year. There were planes, trains, and automobiles that needed to be booked and then we had to match each spot with a place to stay. This all was complicated at times because where you stay has a direct effect on your time in each place in the world. My most common answer to the question of where my favorite place was is Koh Lipe, Thailand. That is where we extended our 3-day stay into one month. Good friends recommended we stay at Castaway, a lovely resort with bungalows along the beach. We paid only $35.00 a night and this is when I realized how far our money went in Southeast Asia. After Thailand, we found Indonesia, then a month with my in-laws in the Philippines and our trip started to wrap up with Australia, New Zealand, and Tonga. Now you understand why my answer changes every time. Right now I’m sitting on our balcony over the ocean in Kauai, writing this blog and I’m sure this is the most amazing place in the world and my favorite stop yet.