Hindsight – The Best Posts of 2020

It is that time of the year again where we all look back at where we have been, and reflect on the lessons learned there. By far, 2020 will be remembered where there was a lot to be learned. I hope that we can take a lot from the experiences of this year and use it to grow not only as people but also as a world wide society.

When looking back at the posts that got the most views this year, I noticed that they had a sense of positivity to them, and I know that not all that I posted this year could say that they had that spin on them. It is nice to know that even though I might have found some dark places in this dark time, it did not bring people down and they still searched for that positivity in their lives.

I hope you enjoy the look back as much as I enjoy presenting it to you, and I hope, like me, that you look forward to 2021 with a new sense of revitalization as to what great prospects it may bring.

#10 To Choose a Side of the Valley – Wangen versus Murren

Most of my posts come from the first few days of 2020 when there was only a hint of disease taking over a small town in China. At this time, the hope of the year was still in front of me and I was wrapping up one of the best trips I have been on in a long time. It was great seeing snow again, and being forced to wear winter weather. This picture was taken on one of the last days on this trip as I sat on the balcony of our hotel room in Murren, Switzerland. My mind often wandered back to the beauty of this part of the world.

https://johncollings.com/2020/01/10/to-choose-a-side-of-the-valley-wangen-versus-murren/

#9 In a Valley in the Swiss Alps – Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Like I said, many of the most popular posts come from my trip to Europe and the beginning of the year, and this is no exception. Lauterbrunnen is a small town in a valley in the Swiss Alps and is the perfect home base for exploring these mountains. It is not nearly as cold in the valley as it is when you find your way to the towns closer to the top, and the views from down below are still as dramatic as they are up top.

https://johncollings.com/2020/01/06/in-a-valley-in-the-swiss-alps-lauterbrunnen-switzerland/

#8 A Phuket Sunset – Siam Summer

After a tough semester of teaching on-line and being quarantined, Thailand had done well enough with the world-wide pandemic to allow travel to open up again, but only for those who were living in the country. It was never my plan to get to know Thailand as well as I did this summer, and it was interesting to drive down to Phuket and see how much this island had been affected by Covid-19. It has picked up since then, but it is still wrangling with the devastating effects it had on its economy. I got to experience it with mainly only its residents, and I still wonder what it would be like to see it when it is full with its regular amount of tourists.

https://johncollings.com/2020/07/20/a-phuket-sunset-siam-summer/

#7 Never Forget Dachau – Germany

I am actually really glad that this post had the reception that it had. Dachau was one of the more earnest moments of an unforgettable year. I did not know it at the time that I walked around the site of the Nazi’s first concentration camp, but a lot of the images and lessons learned there would haunt me all year long as I saw similar things play out on the political stages all around the world. It is one of the places that I believe everybody should see at least once in their lifetimes, right up there with Auschwitz and Hiroshima.

https://johncollings.com/2020/01/04/never-forget-dachau-germany/

#6 Koh Yao Yai – Siam Summer

Koa Yao Yai was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. I was able to travel to this exclusive island in mid-July just as it was starting to open its doors again, and they were trying to entice tourists to come and stay. The prices were too good to pass up on this amazing island, and I am so happy that I was able to stay in this little paradise. I am pretty sure I will never be able to afford it again, but it is one of those things that make me look back at this year and realize that I was pretty lucky to be stuck in Thailand for this worldwide crisis.

https://johncollings.com/2020/07/17/koh-yao-yai-siam-summer/

#5 Fortress Hohensalzburg – Salzburg, Austria

This was one of the more touristy posts I gave on this trip. It is a must do if ever traveling to Salzburg, and it is really hard to forget about because no matter where you are in town, this imposing fortress is staring down at you from its hill. It is a fun way to spend a day in Salzburg and really lets you feel that medieval experience that you want to get when you travel to Europe.

https://johncollings.com/2020/01/01/fortress-hohensalzburg-salzburg-austria/

#4 James Bond’s Peak – Schilthorn, Switzerland

When I was in this part of the world back in 2007, I was on a very limited budget and could not afford the brunch at the top of this Swiss peak. I almost did not believe it was worth the price earlier this year, but I am glad that I decided against being frugal and went up to this restaurant and had breakfast. It was fun going up and coming down this mountain, and I will never forget this experience. The post really picked up after the death of Sean Connery which is weird because this peak is most famous for the first Bond movie after he stopped playing the iconic character.

https://johncollings.com/2020/01/08/james-bonds-peak-schilthorn-switzerland/

#3 Their Insanity

I have only had one of my other poems make the top ten list, but there was something that struck a nerve with a lot of people when I first posted this poem. It was early in the lockdown stage that everybody in the world was feeling, and they might have understood the sentiment I was trying to get at with this poem even though that was not what it was written about.

https://johncollings.com/2020/05/03/their-insanity/

#2 A Toast to the End of the Semester

The image of a half full bottle of champagne sitting in front of this statue on the university campus in Salzburg is what inspired this poem. I did not post the poem with this picture until the end of the last school year, but it was around the holiday season this year that the poem started to gain in popularity. It took a year to get back to that feeling of the end of the semester, but I hope it helped everybody rejoice when the difficulty of both school semesters ended.

https://johncollings.com/2020/05/18/a-toast-to-the-end-of-the-semester/

#1 It’s No Rayong – Siam Summer

The title of this post started as a joke between a few people that I travelled to Rayong with earlier this summer. It was one of the first places that opened up after lockdown, and we went there for a couple of days before traveling to Koh Samet when that finally opened up. Rayong was not the best place to stay, but it was nice to be out of Bangkok. This post was about a comparison between Rayong and the amazing island of Koh Yao Yai, and people must have really loved it because the still visit it today. I do not know if it is because they want to know more about Koh Yao Yai, or if the title makes them laugh, but either way thank you for visiting it.

https://johncollings.com/2020/07/16/its-no-rayong-siam-summer/

Honorable Mentions

As always, these are posts that received a lot of traffic this year even though they were not posted this year. Some of them have taken a couple of years to gain in popularity, but the last one is the one I can guarantee somebody visits on a daily basis. The funny thing about “Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else” is that it was a throw away post that has now become one of the ones that gets the most traffic. It just goes to show that I do not know what will speak to the public, and what will not. It is always surprises me which posts do well, and which just disappear into obscurity.

You Can’t Go Back to the Green – The Holidays Day 20

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/09/you-cant-go-back-to-the-green-the-holidays-day-20/

Being Indiana Jone – Hua Hin, Thailand

https://johncollings.com/2019/10/13/being-indiana-jones-hua-hin-thailand/

Lessons from Ankor Wat

https://johncollings.com/2017/10/11/lessons-from-angkor-wat/

Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

https://johncollings.com/2018/07/25/bend-sucks-move-somewhere-else-around-the-world-day-39/

Thank you for joining me in my travels this year. I am sorry that it was not as diverse as it has been in previous years, but it has been an interesting year for everybody. I hope that when things loosen up again next year that you find these posts and the other ones that I will continue to post inspiring and that you get out there and see the world. It is a great way to experience life and I would love to hear about some your adventures some day.

Thanks again for the interesting year.

Top Posts from 2019

Well, it is the end of another year, and this one has seen some really exciting changes in my life. I moved from South Korea to Thailand. I took two voyages back to the United States, one in the beginning of the year, and one during the summer break to get everything in order for the move. I got to visit Japan during the Sakura festivals and see what the hype was all about, and I got to fulfill a long dream of mine of spending Christmas in Germany. It has been an exciting year full of highs and lows, and I want to thank all of you for being along for the ride. I thought I would take the time to go through the posts that you enjoyed the most this year and list them in order according to their popularity.

#10 – Cherry Blossoms in Our Winter

This is the first poem to make this list, and it is actually one of my favorite poems that I have written. It really captured the moment that I witnessed during my trip to Tokyo, and I think showed why the Sakura Festival is so important to all of the people who live there,

https://johncollings.com/2019/04/21/cherry-blossoms-in-our-winter/

#9 – Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

Even though this experience was more of a day trip from Hau Hin, it was still close enough to the place where I set up my base to include it in this area of Thailand. I had a lot of fun on this first trip out of Bangkok, getting to explore the country a little more, and it just showed me what little treasures I could find as long as I took the time to find it.

https://johncollings.com/2019/10/13/being-indiana-jones-hua-hin-thailand/

#8 – The Journey to Ring in the New Year – The Holidays Day 13

This was actually the first post I had during the 2019 year, and it told of the story of the struggle I had making it to my brother’s house for the New Year’s Eve celebration. Snow can be a beautiful thing, but not if you have to travel through it dumping down out of the sky on a holiday night known for people drinking too much and taking unnecessary risks.

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/01/the-journey-to-ring-in-the-new-year-the-holidays-day-13/

#7 – How is This Not a Thing – Itaewon Day 2

I had many unique experiences during my time living in South Korea, but one of the most unique experiences was being sat down in an enclosure with a bunch of meerkats in a cafe in the middle of downtown Seoul. The Meerkat Friends has been in operation for over a decade and it is easy to see why so many people enjoyed a post about cuddling with a bunch of the furry creature.

https://johncollings.com/2019/02/03/how-is-this-not-a-thing-itaewon-day-2/

#6 – Massive Explosions – The Move Day 15

Only one thing can beat cute, furry creatures, and that is blowing things up. It is kind of a tradition in the United States anymore, and it is always a fun to be able to spend it with my family. I was especially impressed with the creativity that went behind some of the fireworks, and I am also impressed with how big, and loud they have gotten over the years.

https://johncollings.com/2019/07/05/massive-explosions-the-move-day-15/

#5 – Ice Cream Asian Style – Back to Japan Day 1

Who knew a pair of chopsticks and a small cup of Hagen Das would have been so intriguing? It was another one of my posts inspired by my trip to Japan and this was even before we were able to experience the sakura. Funny thing about this post was we found a small little spoon in our bag from the store after we finished eating our ice cream.

https://johncollings.com/2019/03/23/ice-cream-asian-style-back-to-japan-day-1/

#4 – You Can’t Go Back to the Green – The Holidays Day 20

I am always surprised by what posts connect with people and which ones do not. This post was supposed to be a throw away about a day at I had to spend on campus of my old college getting some paperwork taken care of, but for some reason, people kept coming back to it over the year. I guess they feel the same way about that lyric to that Billy Joel song that I do.

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/09/you-cant-go-back-to-the-green-the-holidays-day-20/

#3 – The Legacy – The Move Day 1

This was my final farewell to a country that I had lived in for four years. It was a bittersweet departure. During my years at the school, there was a lot of talk about “Leaving a Legacy” behind, and this was my response to that idea while saying goodbye to all of the people that I had met and grew with during my time there.

https://johncollings.com/2019/06/20/the-legacy-the-move-day-1/

#2 Downtown Bangkok

Making the move to Bangkok has given me an opportunity to explore a new corner of the world, and the city of Bangkok has so much to offer that it might take a couple of years to get to it all. This was my first attempt at making a dent into seeing what this city is all about, and I am sure there will be many more to follow.

https://johncollings.com/2019/08/12/downtown-bangkok/

#1 – The Arrival- The Move Final Day

There is nothing like moving into a new place. It is full of excitement and potential, but the only way I could share this moment with my family and friends was to write this post about it. The amount of people checking into it was almost like having a house warming party except I had not quite unpacked yet. It was still fun to show everybody the interesting artwork that was found in my bathroom. He has got a name now too, Smoke.

https://johncollings.com/2019/07/30/the-arrival-the-move-final-day/

Honorable Mention – Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

When I published my first book, I was told that you would never know what would take off, and what would die in obscurity. This post has found a life of its own. There is hardly a week that goes by when I do not have a person look at this post about a funny bumper sticker I saw while in Bend, Oregon a couple of years ago. It has turned into the most widely read piece I have ever written, and I am interested to see if it continues to make a presence in the coming year.

https://johncollings.com/2018/07/25/bend-sucks-move-somewhere-else-around-the-world-day-39/

Thank you for visiting me site this past year, and I look forward to seeing more of you next year.

 

Back to Bend – Around the World Day 42

My last post on Bend, Oregon might have been a little narrow-minded in the way the people who have lived there for a long time thought about how their town has exploded over the last couple of decades, so I went back to Bend yesterday evening to see old friends and enjoy the downtown area. I would like to give my opinion of that area of the town that does not involve the jaded view that comes from people when their town get crowded. Instead, I would like to look at from the point of view from the business owners who look forward to the busy tourist seasons that bring people to their stores, and how the downtown area caters to those people.

I visited two great locations while there, one to get a drink at, and the other to have dinner at. The first one was a Mexican restaurant called Hola!, and even though the food there looked good, I was really only there to get a margarita. It is almost impossible to find a good margarita in South Korea, so when I have the opportunity to have good one while I am in the United States, I do not turn it down. Hola does a great job with their margaritas, and it even comes in pitcher form. That can be dangerous, but when you share it with three different people, it is fine. We went for the blood red margarita which did not come with the usual off yellow color, but was still delicious. Also, being a Mexican restaurant, they served us chips and two different kinds of salsas. The strange thing about this side though was they used home made potato chips instead of corn chips. They were good potato chips, and it was good salsa, but the combination of the two didn’t really work for me, but I was able to forgive that fact considering the further north I get from Mexico, the weirder the Mexican food gets.

For dinner, I wanted a good hamburger because I have not had one yet all during this trip, and once again, it is an item that is not easily come by in South Korea, even though they are easier to find than a good margarita. I, of course, instantly thought of the many brew pubs that are found the downtown area of Bend. I first went to the Deschuttes Brewery because it was right down the street from where I was, and I remember them having really good food there. But I showed up to one of the major tourist destinations of downtown Bend at 6:30 on a Friday night during the height of the tourist season. I would have starved to death before I ever got a table in the place, so I went down to the other brewery that I knew had great food and was a little more off the beaten path, the Bend Brewing Company, and let me tell you it made all of the difference.

I found a place at the bar, and order an Exploregon, which they market as a hoppy lager. I usually enjoy the hoppier beers, such as IPAs, but the heat that Central Oregon is experiencing lately, made me want to have something a little lighter. This was the perfect choice because it still has a little bit of a bite like an IPA, but gave me that refreshing feeling that I was looking for in a beer. The food there was really good too. I was able to find that hamburger that I was looking for. But the nice part of the evening was that our beers were comped for us because the friend that Christine and I were meeting down there was also in town, but used to live in Bend for over ten years. She was really good friends with the bartender, and he was happy to see one of his old regulars back in town. It was nice to see that some things remained even through all of the growing pains that the town had been through over the years. This bartender was also really excited that things had picked up over the summer. He talked about how it was his favorite time of the year because it got easier and easier for him every year as business continued to grow.

The Bend Brewing Company has gone through a lot of change too since I first walked through their doors. There used to be two large buildings crowding it on either side. They were bought and torn down by another company who wished to create some housing, but the last recession put an end to that idea, and the lots remained empty while Bend Brewing Company continued to do great business. Apparently business had been really good lately because those two lots have now been added to the bar’s grounds. They now have a parking lot, and nice patio that looks out over the river behind its building. It is nice to see that the growth has helped companies that treat their employees well, and create a great product.

After dinner, we wandered down the river and were able to catch a live band that was set up for the entertainment of anybody who decided to come down to the area for the evening. There was an added bonus of them being a Grateful Dead cover band, and we caught two songs of their set, which means we watched about a half an hour of it. They were pretty good, and the lead singer sounded exactly like Bob Weir, so much so that I had to look twice to make sure that it wasn’t him. They had set up a booth where you get one of the many craft beers that Bend has to offer, and another booth that boasted Oregon’s newest industry, marijuana. It created the perfect atmosphere for the perfect evening. So even though there are many people who are angry about the growing pains that the town is going through, there is still a corner of Bend, the downtown area, that has been able to hold on to that small town atmosphere and create a beautiful place to hang out, and meet friends both old and new. It will be hard to keep people away when the town has a place like this to boast about, and maybe it is the duty of the ones who do not like it to try to figure out how to live with it and grow along with it. The fact is that it isn’t going to change. Too much has been set in motion that it would be impossible to go back to the way it once was. I know change might be a scary thing, but it could also be the answer you are looking for. Embrace it and maybe the change that is made is one you are more comfortable with.

Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

It has been about fifteen years since I first drove through the town of Bend, Oregon. Back then it was a small town at the base of the Cascade Mountains and thriving in its high desert environment. Not a lot of people had ever heard of this town set in the heart of Oregon, and the people of Bend never thought anybody ever would. They had a couple of breweries that sold their beers to the locals, and you could find a taste from one of them as far away as Portland. But during that fifteen years, something happened and the landscape of Bend has forever ben changed, but within that change is the people who always lived there while they watched their city change from a mountain community into the budding city that it is turning into today.

When I first rode through the streets of this town there were only 50,000 people living there, but according to recent reports there is over 90,000 people living there today. It has nearly doubled in size from those earlier days. What had brought so many people to this place? It can’t be the college there because the branch of OSU didn’t take its first freshman until the year 2015, and nobody moves to a town because of a community college, no matter how good it could be. It can’t be because some company decided to locate there and started to bring in people from out of town in order to run it because the number one industry in Bend, Oregon is still tourism. It can’t be the low cost of housing and cost of living because with the sudden influx of people, housing has risen to ridiculous heights which has caused the costs of food and basic needs to rise as well. There is not much in the way of living that would bring a person to change their lifestyles to come to this place to live.

It has to be the fact that this is just a beautiful spot in the United States. There are mountains all around for people to stare at. It has a great downtown area that has been around since the 1920s and has a feel of a European market. The Deschutes River lazily rolls through the center of town, giving people a place where they can swim or take an inner tube out on to so they can slowly travel the expanse of the city. If the numerous breweries bore you with their outstanding beer, then there is still wine that is brought in from right over the hill from Willamette Valley. The city attracts some great chefs that have opened great restaurants all over the place. There are a variety of outdoor activities from skiing and snowboarding at Mount Bachelor in the winter months to riding bikes, fishing and camping during the summer months. For many people, it is the perfect place to open up shop and settle down.

But that is not what I am here to tell you about. I am here to tell you what I saw on a bumper sticker while I visited this town the other day, that “Bend Suck, Don’t Move Here.” This bumper sticker was obviously from one of the people who had lived through the growth and could remember the quaint town that they once belonged to. They could remember a time when they were able to make a living in the town and did not have to worry about a bunch of people coming in from all the different places in the world and transforming their town into the image of what they thought it should look like. For these people, Bend is going through some growing pains. It is like many places in America where the people who lived there sucked out all of the energy and worth of the place before tossing it away like a used banana peel to go off to find another place to suck out the worth there. They do not care about the community that much and look at it as a place where they can make some monetary gain even if that means the destruction of the people who have grown up there and find identity within its boundaries.

Now, I do not claim to be a resident from Bend. I only get to visit it from time to time, and it is one of my favorite small cities in the United States. I would love it if I got the opportunity to live there someday, but would be just as happy to see it a day or two every year. I do understand the pain they feel as they watch their town transform right before their eyes. I got to see the boom that happened to Denver, Colorado in the early 90s when it seemed as if the city could not build fast enough to accommodate the people who were moving there. I have watched the attitude of the place change from one that was laid back to one where a fight between the east coast and the west coast ravaged to see who could gain control of the city. I watched as the same people claimed that they loved the mountains just outside of the city and then not treat them with the respect that they deserved. I went from a place where I could stretch out to a place where I felt confined by the limited space I had. It disturbed me even more this last summer during my visit as I watched the boom start all over again. The city I grew up in does not even look the same anymore as changes are constantly happening. I see the same thing happening with Bend, and I understand the people’s pain because when the bust comes and the people are forced to find another town that they can exploit, then they are going to be left with the mess they left behind.

The best way I can explain the way they feel comes from a time a few years ago while they were still early into their expansion. I was sitting in a bar in downtown Bend with a couple of friends who lived there. An obvious tourist came into the place and asked the crowd for directions to some other bar. Someone from the back of the bar looked over at him and said, “Yeah, what you want to do is go south from here and keep on going until you reach California.”

I guess the lesson to learn from this is to love these places for what they are, but do not try to grab on to the magic that they create because you can’t if you are an outsider. They know what it is that makes their place great even though they might not be able to explain it to you. What your vision is to make it great is not what is meant to be there. Let the city live, and breathe, and grow at its own rate, and do not change it into something that it is not.