This annual post is one of my favorites to write.
It’s a chance to look back at the travel memories for the year. A chance to dream about what’s coming up in 2024. And, when I publish it, it means I’m done with writing work for the year. This is my life well-lived post each year.
That’s probably why my travel list in 2023 included three continents, a new state, several new countries, and a few new experiences. There are still some posts to come on some of these travels; I have to time some of these to fit with the trends in travel search. You can subscribe to my twice monthly newsletter if you don’t want to miss a thing.
I jokingly said to Tony that I am in my “season of yes.” I’m saying yes to new experiences, new destinations, and even new foods. So if you have something that I need to say yes to, get in touch.
While I still struggle to deal with my fear of edges, I’m getting better with heights. And though I’m still not a strong swimmer, I’ve discovered that it’s okay to be a non-swimmer that still loves the (warm) water. And it turns out that I do like caviar more than I thought I did.
I’ll be dusting off and updating my bucket list (which is really just a list of 100 things – no more, no less – that I want to do/experience) to publish in the new year. I’ve got lots of travel already booked for the first quarter of 2024, and am closing in on a full calendar for Q2. Lots of new places and new experiences.
Read on for 2023 in review.
`We kicked off the year in Seattle with our annual New Year’s event. We book a suite at a local hotel (this year it was this one), invite family and friends to stop by for snacks and conversation, and then host a dinner at a local steakhouse. We end the evening by watching the fireworks display off the Space Needle, then tumble into bed. We’ve been doing this for about 10 years or so, and it’s always fun.
Every year we head to New York City for an annual event. It’s a great combination of business and pleasure – with pre-set marketing appointments and lots of time spent catching up with travel writing and tourism industry friends.
We’ll be heading back next month and are already looking at theater choices that fit our schedule.
I kept pretty close to home this month, in large part to visit with friends who were returning to Seattle for a visit. Catching up is always a great time.
We also attended an annual Walla Walla Wine Alliance tasting event. We discovered some new wines and wineries, research for a trip later in the year.
In early March, I headed off to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a Board of Directors meeting of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers). We stayed in Old San Juan at the Palacio Provincial (booking info here), my favorite area of the city. I managed to enjoy some food and exploration in addition to getting a bunch of work done.
We next headed off to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the annual SeaTrade conference. This is the cruise industry’s leading annual business-to-business event, and we try to attend most years. I had appointments with lots of cruise industry representatives and their PR/marketing agencies that should result in upcoming cruise coverage.
We stayed near the Convention Center, our event site, so hotels are more limited than if we were out near the water. Practicality was everything, but we did spend time exploring the Las Olas area with its great restaurants and bars. Find a Fort Lauderdale hotel here.
Just before SeaTrade, we attended an event on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam ship. The event include a cooking demonstration and lunch by Seattle chef, Ethan Stowell. The ship is beautiful, lunch was delicious, and we picked up lots of cooking tips from the demonstration. We ordered these pans that Chef Stowell recommended, and made a note to visit more of his restaurants once we got home.
Read some of our cruise stories, on Holland America and other cruise lines here:
- Eastern European River Cruise on Emerald Cruises
- Cruising to Alaska on Holland America Westerdam
- Western Mediterranean Cruise on Viking Ocean
- Expedition Cruising in South America on Seabourn
- Netherlands River Cruising on Scenic Cruises
- Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage on Holland America Koningsdam
We have upcoming cruise stories about Windjammer schooner sailing in Maine, tall ship sailing on the Royal Clipper in the Caribbean, and looking for value in booking repositioning cruises.
April kept us close to home as we worked on our local niche site, Discovering Washington State.
We’ve been much slower to roll out content on this site than we had hoped, so we’ll be trying to do a better job or organization and scheduling for next year. We also want to pick up the pace on Instagram so you can find more local content there. Follow our local account.
You can also sign up for our monthly Discover Washington State newsletter here. We’re hoping by the end of 2024 to have more robust local content.
Some recent local content:
- State Parks in Jefferson County
- Restaurant Review: Simply Thai (Southcenter area)
- Washington State Floating Bridges
- Drive in Movies in Washington State (spoiler: only 5 remain)
- Hit the Slopes: Skiing in Washington State
All the Walla Walla wine research paid off as we headed off the valley for a few days of wine tasting. Our goals was to discover and check out smaller, perhaps lesser known, wineries. A secondary goals was finding some wines to add to our home cellar, currently hovering around 200 bottles.
We have two reviews posted already, but are considering moving these to our Washington site in the future.
I headed off to San Antonio, Texas, for the annual IPW travel and tourism event. This is the premier U.S. Travel event, with a full schedule of marketplace meetings, a huge showroom floor, press conference, tours, and other media events. It’s always a great time to catch up with my favorite travel friends.
This was my first time back attending the event post-Covid. While things have changed a bit, it was still great fun with solid business meetings. I stayed near the River Walk, a very convenient location for my meetings and for exploring the city. Check out hotel options in San Antonio here.
Then it was off to Central Asia, and my first new country of the year – Kazakhstan.
Although Kazakhstan is a huge country (it’s the largest land-locked country in the world), it isn’t necessarily on everyone’s to-visit list. Why? I think it’s a lack of information about the country, Soviet stereotypes, and that it is a difficult country to get to from the United States.
While in Kazakhstan, I was able to check off a bucket list item – staying in a treehouse.
It’s a fascinating country, one I’d like to return to an explore other regions. Here’s some of the content from my visit:
- Things to Do in Almaty, Kazakhstan
- An Introduction to Kazakhstan Wine
- What You Need to Know for Travel to Kazakhstan
I was only home for a few days before packing up again and heading to Europe. We did an Eastern European river cruise on Emerald Cruises, which brought us to four new countries – Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary. We went into Bucharest a day early and stayed an extra day in Budapest (checking off another bucket list item); adding on days to a cruise is always something we recommend.
We have a couple of posts published already, and a few more in draft stages.
New state alert – Maine!
We were very excited to head to Maine, and spent a few days exploring the Portland area, before heading off the Camden to sail on the Mary Day, a windjammer schooner. Look for a post on that 4-night experience next month.
While in Maine we checked off a bucket list item (visit a lighthouse in Maine), ate lobster daily, wandered around the LL Bean complex in Freeport, drove to Augusta (the state capital), and decided we’d like to return. We stayed at the Canopy hotel in Portland, and thought it was well-located for exploration. Booking info here.
Warning, however – Maine is very expensive during the peak summer months. We used points to reduce costs.
August is a great month in the Pacific Northwest!
We headed to Yakima on a produce-buying road trip, picking up a crate of tomatoes (I dehydrate and make my own sun-dried tomatoes), onions, and fruit. We also picked up raspberries and blackberries at a local farmers market and I made jam. We’ll have delicious local produce all year long.
We visited several new restaurants, went to a Mariner’s game, went wine tasting at DeLille Cellars in Woodinville, and caught up with some of my required CLE (continuing legal educational) classes.
And, we sat on our deck in the sun – reading, talking, and sipping wine.
Back to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the annual SATW convention. This multiple-day convention included professional development, lots of networking, and a chance to see more of the sites around the city. We were on hurricane watch during much of the time there but were fortunate that it missed the island.
We spent a long weekend at a beach rental at the ocean (Long Beach, Washington). This is one of my favorite areas on the Washington coast, and the second time we have chosen a rental from this property group. It was a treat to share the destination with extended family.
The home has a well-stocked kitchen, so we generally picked up local food products (Dungeness crab, local bakery, etc.) and had meals at the house. During the day we explored Astoria and Seaside (and caught the start of their Sand Castle contest) on the Oregon coast.
We had a great time at a wine-tasting pop-up from Dossier, a Walla Walla winery owned by former Seahawk player, Sidney Rice. We’re hoping to visit and learn more on our next trip over there.
We ended the month at a Seattle beer event celebrating all things pumpkin and fall. While I’m not a big beer drinker, it was fun to sample some of the local products. I’ve started a list of breweries to follow up for a visit.
We attended a winemaker dinner at Tavolata (an Ethan Stowell restaurant) that featured Lambrusco. This often misaligned wine is more diverse and interesting than I’ve given in credit for. We learned a lot, had a great meal, and talked with some wonderful people. Putting more winemaker dinners on the to-do list for 2024.
Then it was off on another cruise, a short repositioning cruise on Holland America’s Koningsdam. This was a short birthday getaway (3 nights) for Tony. We sailed from Vancouver to San Diego, with only one port of call, Astoria. We didn’t book it for the ports, we booked it for the downtime to relax on the ship. Repositioning cruises often offer great values and we’ll be writing about how to find them, as well as how to take advantage of last-minute cruise getaways.
We stayed at the Fairmont at the Vancouver airport the day before sailing. I really love this airport! All the amenities of the Fairmont brand, rooms that overlook the airport runways (with NO noise), and a fun airport to explore. Check rates here.
Another local wine event on our calendar was POUR, an annual event celebrating Seattle’s urban wineries. If you ever needed proof that you don’t need to travel far and wine to taste wine, checking our city wineries will convince you. (Not that there’s anything wrong with traveling for wine, though.)
There were about 25 wineries represented, all within the Seattle city limits. Most of them we were not familiar with. We tasted some good stuff and made notes about which ones to visit when we’re at home and not traveling. Local friends, we’ll be in touch about meeting up.
I also began the process of a website redesign. It’s long overdue, but I’ve talked with my developer about what I want and need, and I should have a plan and estimate from him early in the new year. This is one of those coming soon projects.
Running my sites and creating content is not an inexpensive proposition. Now’s the time to visit my sites, use my affiliate links to book a hotel or tour, or buy something on Amazon. Should you feel so inclined, you can buy me a virtual glass of wine at this link (note that the virtual wine account is under my Discovering Washington State logo since it’ll be Washington State wine 😋 🙂 )
Cruising again, this time in the Caribbean and a chance to visit five new countries – Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Antigua, and Dominica. We also visited Guadalupe and Martinique, new islands for us, but they are considered an extension of France. (NOTE: There’s a much bigger explanation of these islands’ relationship with France, I’ve simplified it here.)
We cruised on the Royal Clipper, a tall ship owned by Star Clippers. Looking for a post about that experience early in the New Year.
Finally, we’ll end the year as we started it. Staying in Seattle (this year, we’re staying here). We’re looking forward to catching up with friends and family, having dinner, watching the fireworks, and welcoming in 2024.
Looking Ahead to 2024
I’m updating my List of 100 (my version of a bucket list) and will publish it early next year. I love making lists and having a travel one helps me live the very best life that I can with the remaining years that I have left. Lists help keep me on track, plan efficiently, and make sure my life priorities – travel is one of them – are kept front and center.
I’ve got a few things already on the calendar, including trips to New York (conference), Portugal (cruise), Las Vegas (speaking gig), Little Rock, Arkansas (conference), and Los Angeles (convention).
A few more opportunities are in the discussion or planning stages, including: Fort Wayne (Indiana), Tahiti, Galveston (Texas), a long list of Washington State wineries, and Australia/New Zealand. It’s unlikely that they’ll all come to fruition this year, but the planning is always time well spent. And, I’m excited about all the destinations that are not yet on my radar scope – every year is full of new opportunities to say YES to.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is surrounding myself with family, friends, and colleagues who I love and respect. People who challenge me to be the best person I can be. People who encourage me to dream big and set my goals high. People who cheer my successes, pick me up when I fall, and love me through it all.
My wish for you in 2024 is that you surround yourself with people like that.
See you in the New Year!