The Year of the Great Rebound
What a difference a year makes!
In 2021 I took one international trip the entire year, in December, and that was my first international trip since the autumn of 2019. In glorious contrast, this year I took seven international trips and spent four months on the road!
My story is representative of the travel world as a whole: 2022 might be called the Year of the Great Rebound.
After a once-unimaginable pause that extended to two-plus years, the traveling public seemed to decide health concerns would no longer defer their travel plans. Beginning in the spring and accelerating through the summer and fall, the portals of the world flung wide open once again, and travelers rushed to do the trips they’d been dreaming about for years and had thought would always be available—until they weren’t. Seize the moment became the new mantra!
The resulting resurgence of travel around the globe was almost palpable, and the accompanying excitement and passion that swept through the travel world swept through GeoEx too. While we still sometimes had to choreograph last-minute travel adjustments, the overriding feeling was exhilaration, as our travelers enthusiastically re-entered the wide world and sent back glowing dispatches and photos and recounted exuberant tales on their return.
Our own staffers excitedly re-entered the world as well, exploring new destinations and uncovering new attractions in some of our favorite places, and enticing us all with their own exhilarated photos and tales. We were also thrilled to blaze new trails with our trips: For the first time we led a group into Nepal’s alluring Upper Mustang region to see gompas being restored through a program run by our friends at the American Himalayan Foundation. Also for the first time, legendary mountaineer Peter Hillary led GeoEx guests on an insightful journey through his New Zealand homeland. And we forged new paths into Algeria, Angola, Bolivia, and deeper into rural Japan than we’ve gone before.
I was lucky enough to lead those trailblazing Japan trips, and the exhilaration they bestowed was the defining feeling of 2022 for me too.
My travels this year began in January in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, where I discovered a land very different from the Mexico I’d known before. As our intrepid group immersed ourselves in Mayan history and culture, I was thrilled to trace the arc of archeology at Metzabok, Yaxchilán, and Palenque, to taste a new world of flavors and textures in San Cristóbal de las Casas, and to discover ancient spiritual practices and beliefs fervently alive in San Juan Chamula.
My mind-expanding, heart-restoring adventures continued with a cruise through the enchanted world of the Galápagos, train journeys through the storybook scenery of the Swiss Alps, and an art-filled, garden-graced stay on Italy’s languorous Lake Como.
One of the defining highlights of the year was a magical mystery tour of revelation and reconnection in Greece. I had lived there from 1975–76, and this year, after ten days exploring the mainland’s redolent ruins and mountaintop monasteries, I finally fulfilled a long-held dream to return to the sacred island of Delos, where I’d had an unplanned and transforming adventure 46 years before. Another highlight was a time-stopping week leading a travel writing workshop in Paris, that incomparable city where my love of travel—and my dream of becoming a travel writer—first bloomed in 1974 and 1975.
Each of these trips conferred inspiring lessons: that the world is still suffused with marvel and mystery, and that every journey, every day, is full of possibility.
My travel year ended with two extraordinary months in Japan, where I reconnected with the other place that had completely changed my life. I lived in Japan from 1977–79, and during that time, I fell in love with the country and with a Japanese woman who became my wife.
Kuniko and I returned to her homeland for the first time in three long years, and re-experienced all the kindness, grace, consideration, cultural richness, natural beauty, and other wonders, large and small, that had led me to fall in love with this country and culture four decades before.
In addition to savoring precious encounters with longtime friends, I led two trailblazing GeoEx trips into off-the-beaten-path stretches of Western Honshu. On these journeys we felt like old-time explorer-ambassadors as, over and over again, the people we met exclaimed that we were their first foreign visitors in three years or, in some cases, their first foreign visitors ever. The culture-bridging, heart-weaving, soul-twining encounters that ensued epitomized for me the power and potential of travel.
Infused with this spirit, I look ahead to 2023 fired with anticipation at all the possibilities to come. As this year has reminded me so abundantly, our blue-and-green home is full of wonders and treasures, and we who are privileged to explore this home have a singular opportunity to travel with a heightened awareness of our role as visitors and stewards, and a deeper understanding of our potential to shape the world by the way we travel, the places we visit, the spirit we bring with us, the connections we make, the riches we regenerate, and the changes we cultivate.
My goal for the new year is to travel with mindfulness, respect, appreciation, awe, and curiosity, and to plant seeds of kindness, wonder, and connection wherever I may be.
As we each pursue our cherished travel dreams, let us work together to make the world even better in 2023!
* * * * *
What are your plans and dreams for 2023? We’d love to hear them! Please share them in the comments section below! Thank you!
Thank you for reminding me that the great, beautiful WORLD is still out there, waiting for us to venture onto it again!
Happy New Year!
I love traveling with GeoEx, as all their trips are meticulously planned and exciting. Greece, Italy and Switzerland are not on their list of destinations. Do you have any suggestion of travel agency that do Europe travels well. Thanks.
Your excitement and joie de vivre burst forth from every word of your return-to-travel tribute. Your travel essays are filled with pure poetry! Merci, merci!
Always enjoy your writing, Don!! HAPPY NEW YEAR to you & yours!! That was wonderful that your wife got to go “home”!!!
What a privilege it is to have our health and to be able to travel again. Wishing everyone a fabulous 2023 and please come and visit South Africa!
Happy New Year, Don! Enjoyed every word of this fine edition of Wanderlust. As someone said recently to you « you know how to use the words ». Love that line because it is SO true. I’m happy for you and other GeoExers who were able to resume explorations around the world in 2022. I returned to Europe in the fall on your good recommendation and after a 3 year hiatus, I was delighted to reconnect with family, friends and places in France. Thanks for your inspiration and reassurance. May 2023 bring you more grand adventures to exotic places and to many… Read more »