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.

Lessons from Angkor Wat

There are many reason people go on vacation. They want to experience a new culture and learn about a different part of the world. They want to try new foods from the places that invented them. They want to go on an adventure. They want to relax. Sometimes, they are trying to pack all of these things in together, and Siem Reap, Cambodia is the perfect place to do just that.

Cambodia has seen its fair share of problems over the last century. It has experienced war, dictators, genocide, and economic devastation. Through all of this, it has been able to keep itself together as it worked through all of these problems, and the people of this small country in Southeast Asia still have a sense of identity and where they come from. Most of this is due to the incredible temples that lie in its backyard, the biggest of them being Angkor Wat.

These temples are not small little structures either. They are the remnants of what used to be a thriving metropolis of over a million people. It can be found in a forested area outside of Siem Reap, covering over 1,000 square kilometers, and demonstrating the height of the Khmer empire. The most impressive of the temples is Angkor Wat itself which was built in the early 12th century by King Suryavaman II to demonstrate the world what he was capable of and show his appreciation of the Hindu god, Vishnu.  These massive marvels of architecture were built as the same time as some of the more impressive cathedrals in Europe, and those Catholic churches can not come close to the size and scope that these temples present.

It is not just the size of these great temples that draws millions of people to this corner of the world. It is also the intricate carvings and designs that can be found all over them. One of the more impressive temples, Bayon, has about 200 massive faces of Lokesvara looking down at the people wandering around the crumbling walls. Wherever you look, his smiling face smiles down upon you reminding you of the greatness of this once thriving society.

But the statues and carving don’t only come in sizes larger than man. They range from medium to even small. Whole walls have carvings of individual people depicting what life would have looked like during this age. It would have taken a group of workers a long time to create these images because no two of the people carved into the wall look alike, showing the productivity of this incredible society. You can’t help but be amazed as you walk around the grounds.

But there is another story one can’t help to wonder about while looking at the once majestic landscape. How did this place go from one of the greatest, and strongest societies in the world to this place trying to pull itself out of the abject poverty it is experiencing now? Where did it misstep? How can its story tell us about some of the other nations in the world? Should the United States take note on the fate of Angkor Wat?

There is one thing history tells us time and time again and that is its greatest societies eventually fall apart and crumble. And even though during the height of these empires they were able to create amazing things that the world would marvel at for centuries to come, it will only stand as  a tourist attraction and no longer the greatness that once was the civilization’s golden age. We are only left with the wonder of what life would have really been like to have lived in this period. The true greatness of the place eventually returns to the earth from which it originally came.

It makes you start to wonder what your place in history will be. Where will the great civilizations of today be when technology had improved so much to make what we have today obsolete? Does it lessen the pompous attitudes of so many of the world leaders who strut upon their stages thinking that they are mightier than time itself? Will their impact truly be lasting or will it be reserved for the curiosity of the historians in the future? What monuments will they leave behind and will we only marvel at them for the way they have been returned to the humility that they once belonged to and not the effort extended to make them what they were during the height of when they were built?

I look at Cambodia today and realize that they were once one of the major players in the world. They used to matter as a military, economic, and cultural powerhouse, but people today just regard the society as a place trying to crawl out of the poverty that now grips its citizens. The sad thing is they do not realize that this is the fate of all great cultures, and we should look upon its fate with humility because it is also our future. It might not happen in the recent future, but there will be a time when tourists will take trips out to the sites of the United States to marvel at what had once been and ponder why things could not have been different if the society had chosen to listen to the lessons of history instead of their pride.

But do not feel that there is no hope in Cambodia. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the marvels of Angkor Wat, it was not the thing that most impressed me about the place. That would have to be the people. Here is a society that has seen pain, and destruction. Here is a group of people who sometimes wonder where their next meal is going to come from. Here is a land that suffered through years of drought only to be rewarded with flooding on an epic scale. Through all of this, the people still find a way to make the best of the situation. It is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and the people of this country are not looking for a free handout or expecting to have jobs handed to them because they are Cambodian. They do it through programs that they know will help them grow as a country and a society mainly focusing on education. Granted, they still have a long way to go before they can grow back into the force they once were so many centuries ago, but looking at those towering monuments they left behind, it makes me realize that maybe some day they will once again be one of the more significant countries in the world. A lot of it has to do with their drive and the knowledge that they are doing it the right way by building up a lasting economy based on the strength and intelligence of its people. It shows me that the flux of power is a fickle thing, and those who have it should recognize that fact with humility instead of flaunting it.

This post is brought to you by Tag: A Cautionary Tale by John Collings, available at http://www.amazon.com/Tag-Cautionary-Tale-John-Collings/dp/1533623902

When Tommy knocks Franklin over and cries “You’s it!” he starts a game of Tag to end all games of Tag. Before long, boys gathering to play on Arabella Hill are consumed with the game, picking sides, forging allegiances and waging all-out war. In the process of the game, rules evolve, constitutions form, and lives are lost. From the mind of John Collings comes a satirical allegory about the clash of ideologies and what happens if this confrontation is never resolved. In the battle of the playground, there is only one question that matters–which team will emerge victorious?