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Farewell 2011!

It’s been a good year–a very good year.

Together with my readers, followers and friends, we have traveled a LOT! In 2011 we have visited (and Twittered back and forth) from all seven continents, all four oceans, and forty countries.We have crossed deserts, oceans, jungles, mountains and some amazing cities–and we’ve had fun doing it.

What’s more, there were lots of personal travel firsts for me: circumnavigating the globe, sailing across the Atlantic, getting licked on the nose by a wolf and getting detained at Canadian customs.

Being a digital nomad means that even though I’m traveling alone, there are always thousands of you traveling with me. Even so, as 2011 comes to a close, it’s fun to remember some of the quieter and more personal moments I enjoyed on the road. These are the moments that don’t always make it onto Twitter, but they are some of the travel moments that I remember best. Here are just a few:

  • Swimming with a green sea turtle on Lord Howe Island off the coast of Australia. He stared into my eyes and we swam back and forth along the beach for nearly an hour.
  • Watching and listening to Band of Horses play live at VoodooFest at City Park, New Orleans. Awesome.
  • Hiking off trail in the Falkland Islands and stepping gingerly on each tussock, secretly afraid of live landmines.
  • Sitting in a sheep pasture in Tristan da Cunha, the remotest inhabited island on earth. Plotting how I could stay on the island and then realizing I would miss traveling too much.
  • My fists filled with newly-hatched baby alligators in Cameron, Louisiana. I felt intense joy and wanted to hold onto the little reptiles forever.
  • Standing on a street corner in Kyoto, Japan. A father held his young child in his arms and while we all waited for the light to change, the young Japanese boy stared right into my eyes. I knew that our two lives were so utterly disconnected from one another and yet right then, for those few seconds, we had a staring contest.
  • Standing on a street corner in Mexico City, overwhelmed by the tornado of traffic and motion around me, the sea of buildings and the intense colors that jump at you from every direction.
  • Eager to reach the northern ocean, I hired a member of the Cree Nation to take me in his skiff out onto Hudson Bay. He brought his wife and daughter with him, but neither of them could swim and they were absolutely terrified. The farther out we went on the water, the more scared they got, so I spent most of my energies trying to calm them down amidst the giant blue waves. All the while, I kept mentally pinching myself that I was in the Arctic.
  • Watching a thunderstorm at sunset in the Australian Outback (Northern Territory). Truly, the greatest show on earth.
  • Nearly stepped on a fer-de-lance in the Panamanian rain forest. I got down on my hands and knees to tweet a close-up iPhone picture of the country’s deadliest snake. Probably the riskiest thing I’ve done on Twitter.
  • Staring at the bed that Napoleon died in at Longwood Estate on the remote island of St. Helena. It seems that no matter where I go in the world, I run into some very direct Napoleon reference. I’ve been to his birthplace in Corsica and it was so strange to see the bed from which the great emperor departed this world.
  • In Japan, after a 4-hour cooking lesson with a master sushi chef, he told me that I was “no good” at cooking. We both laughed out loud but inside I felt a rather great and Asian sense of great dishonor.
  • I often refuse to take anti-malarial drugs because I dislike the side effects. The ship’s doctor finally insisted I do, so the day before we landed in Africa, I started taking my pills. Exactly thirty seconds after landing barefoot on a sandy beach of southern Senegal, I got bit by a mosquito.
  • Canoeing through intense fog on Lake Superior, Ontario, amazed  by the glass-like clarity of the cold water. I still think it’s the most beautiful lake on earth.
  • Sitting down for dinner at a taqueria in San Jose, California. Another man sat next to me and we began to chat. He had just been paroled from prison and acted a little uneasy being out in public. He dreamed of becoming a chef and so we talked about all the different kinds of salsa.
  • Sunset on the Danube in Budapest. Stepping off the tram because I didn’t want to miss anything. Taking a whole day to cover just a few blocks. Gypsy violinists and wonderful smells.
  • Jogging through the neon green rice fields of little Naoshima island, near Shikoku, Japan. Crows roosting on the scarecrow.
  • The sadness of leaving each destination. Especially Australia, Japan, Canada and Louisiana. The day before departure, getting a pit in my stomach, realizing my unwillingness to leave a place I had grown to love.

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