Year in Review – The Best Posts of 2022

Two Greek Islands – Santorini and Naxos

Greece had always been one of the places I always wanted to visit, but it is in such a strange location in Europe that makes getting to it a little difficult by Eurorail. It became a no-brainer though when I moved to Jordan. It is a short flight to the islands, and with Spring Break being open to the world again this year, we took advantage of that fact to explore two of the islands, Santorini and Naxos. It was fun to see one of the more touristy islands, Santorini, compared to one of the quieter islands, Naxos, and get to experience them right before the Summer season started in full. It is easily a place that we will eventually come back to.

Sleipnir’s Footprint – Asbyrgi, Iceland

Iceland was another place that I had never been to that I always wanted to explore, and this last summer was the perfect time to do so. Covid restrictions were being loosened and we could spend the whole time outside where any exposure to it would be minimum. The funny thing about this trip is that I caught Covid right before we landed, so we were the ones that people needed to stay away from. The hike that we took on this day was absolutely beautiful, and I would have probably enjoyed it more if I wasn’t sick on this day. It was still a stunning place to visit in a country full of stunning places to see.

Akrotiri Ruins – Santorini, Greece

There are many things to do on the island of Santorini, Greece, but one that is skipped by many of the people that go there is the Akrotiri Ruins on the tip of the island. This is Greek’s answer to Pompeii. This city was destroyed by the volcano that turned the island into a ring instead of the massive mass of land that it used to be. So far, archeologists have just started unearthing the ruins that were left behind, but it is cool to see what Greek life used to be like, and imagine being a part of it.

Ode to Mary

This was one of my poems that people enjoyed a lot this year. Usually they do not make it into the top ten posts for the year, but I guess people connected with the story of Mary. I had been watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time in a long time over the Christmas holiday, and I noticed one part of the story that did not hold up as well as I remembered it to be. The awful life that Mary had because George Bailey had never been born is almost absurd if compared to today’s standards. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a great movie, but I’m having a hard time getting over this little part of the story.

Snow Day

This is the second poem of the year that ended up on the list of top ten poems for the year. I love the snow, and I have not been able to see it much ever since I moved abroad. It was a nice treat to see it early in the year, and it made for a nice inspiration for a poem. Evidently, many of you thought the same as well because it was the most popular poem of 2022.

The House of Dionysus – Paphos, Cyprus

This last year was spent learning a lot about the Greeks, and Romans, but one of my favorite trips was to a place that many people forget about when thinking of these two ancient civilizations, Cyprus. It is a short flight from Jordan, and it is filled with ruins all over the place. One of the best places to check out is the House of Dionysus. It has mosaic floors from ancient times that are still being uncovered. They do a great job of telling old Greek stories, and are worth the time to check out.

A Snowy New Year

Growing up, my family had a tradition of getting together on New Year’s Eve and playing game until we could ring in the New Year. As I grew older, my siblings kept up the tradition, and not being able to attend has always been one of the bigger regrets I have had about moving abroad. Luckily, this year was started revisiting that tradition at my brother’s house. It was fun to ring in the New Year this way, and it is amazing that this post was one of the more popular ones as the year continued.

I Failed My Test

Considering that things have started to return to normal after the couple of years of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is hard to remember that it was still going on at the beginning of the year. This made travel exceptionally difficult. Not only did you need to be vaccinated in order to travel, and some countries had not gotten up to speed with that yet, you also needed to prove that you were Covid free. I had to stand in two line in the cold of Portland, Oregon at the beginning of the year to make sure that I could travel back to my job, and this post was an exploration of what that was like.

Happy Campers vs. Go Campers – Iceland by Camper Van

When summer rolled around, restrictions relaxed, and I was able to enjoy my first real travel experience after a couple of years of not being able to do so. Of course, we went big by renting a camper van and driving around Iceland for three weeks. It is a beautiful country, but we were there during the coldest June they have had in thirty years. Because of this, we got to know our camper vans really well. This post has been viewed by a lot of people who are going to travel there as they wonder which camper van company will be right for them. I hope the post guides them in the right direction and they can enjoy the country the way it is meant to be enjoyed.

Blue Wine – Cyprus

My first trip of the year took me to Cyprus, only an hour flight from Amman, and a world of difference from each other. Cyprus is wine country, and one of only three places in the world where you can get the rare blue wine. This was the most popular post of the year, and I can understand why. The wine is a novelty, and it sparked a lot of people’s interest. It is fun to try, but for the most part, it is just like white wine, except the process of making it turns it blue.

Honorable Mentions

Elk in the Backyard – Black Butte Ranch, Oregon

This was a post from a year early that is still getting a lot of traffic. Apparently people love the combination of elk and the forests of Oregon. It was a treat for me to see them instead of the typical deer that roam the ranch, and apparently a lot of other people agreed.

Meow Wolf – Denver, Colorado

This was actually a post that went live at the end of 2021. I was visiting family in Colorado, and my brother and his family took me down for the opening on Meow Wolf. I had never heard of this place, and it sounded interesting. It was cool to see the craziness that it had to offer, and it took until this year before people started visiting the post.

Oath: Chronicle of an Empire & Exile – A Review

During the pandemic, I found my way back to hobby that I enjoyed a lot when I was younger, board games. This was a game that I got for Christmas, and I was able to play it at the end of 2021. This is the review of the game, and it has apparently helped a lot of people decide if the game is right for them or not because it was regularly visited during this year.

The Dead Sea, Jordan – The Salt Flats

This was one of my biggest posts of 2021, and it continued to be a favorite of people’s again this year. It tells people how to visit this cool part of the Dead Sea that is a little ways away from all of the resorts that are further up the road. It is a great day trip and I expect people to visit it often again in 2023.

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

It always surprises me what people connect with and what they do not. This was supposed to be a throw away post based on a bumper sticker I saw while driving through Bend, Oregon. It has endured over the years, and is always one of my top posts. It is one of the few ones that I have posted that does not even have a picture to accompany it with, but people continue to come back to it again and again even though it has fallen off in popularity this last year.

Wingspan versus Everdell

This is by far my most popular board game review. It pits two of the top board games against each other and helps people decide which one is right for them. Even though I have been able to play Wingspan more over the last year, I still think that Everdell is the better game, and I have even started to see it for sale at Target, making it an even bigger game than when this was first posted.

The Bat Cave – Railay, Thailand

This is far and away this most visited post that I have. It talks about a little hike that you can take if you find yourself in Railay, Thailand. It must be the one that people go to on a regular basis to help them find the way to the bat cave because it gets visits on a daily basis. I am glad that I have been able to help people find there way there, and I hope, if you are reading this blog, that you some day make it there as well as all the other places that I write about. The world is a great place, and you should go explore all of its nooks and crannies while you still can, especially now that travel is a thing again.

Thanks again, until next time.

The Best Posts of 2021

2021 was another rollercoaster of a year, and though Covid continued to make life difficult, things loosened up enough to allow me the opportunity to travel a little more this year than the previous one. It is always fun for me to look back at the posts from the previous, and it shows me how great the last year has been. I hope you feel the same way as you take a trip back through the year of 2021.

#10 – Hindsight

This is the perfect post to start off this list for the year 2021 considering how difficult a year 2020 was. Based on how little we learning this year and how it feels like we are in the same place this year where we were last year, it might be an important poem to start the 2022 year. This post is also one of three poems that appear on this list which is the most that has ever appeared on any of the end of the year lists I have ever created.

#9 – The Dead Sea, Jordan

I moved to Jordan at the beginning of August, but did not have the chance to explore it much until October. There are many places that I want to visit, but I got a gift card for a night’s stay at the Kempinski Hotel at the Dead Sea, so this was the first place I voyaged off to. It was a great experience, and floating in the salt water really surprised me by how easy it is to do. I am hoping to post many more travelogues from places I visit in Jordan and other close-by countries in the coming year.

#8 – Rain on a Work Day

I do enjoy sharing the poetry I write while traveling with you, but only a select few people really get into it. This is why I love it when one of my poems pops up on the top ten list for the year. This one was written during a rainy afternoon in March when I was visiting Khao Sok, a reservoir in southern Thailand. I had taken off work to take this trip, and I enjoyed the way the rain forced me to take things easy on a day that I should have been working.

#7 – A Desert Feast – Wadi Rum, Jordan

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It is not about spending more or giving gifts. It is all about sharing time with family and friends. Since I have moved overseas, this holiday has meant something a little different for me, but this year I was able to have an experience that will make it one of my favorite memories of this day of celebration. I was able to head down to Wadi Rum with new members of my school and spend some time with the Bedouins that live there. The meal was not a traditional Thanksgiving feast, but it was the best one I have ever had for a meal that was cooked underground. You seemed to be intrigued by this process as well to make it one of the bigger posts of the year even though I posted it so late.

#6 – Walking Street – Koh Lipe, Thailand

I did get to travel to a lot of different places in Thailand during the pandemic, and I feel lucky to have had that experience. Out of all of them that I went to see, Koh Lipe will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only was it a beautiful place to relax during my Spring Break right before the country went back to lockdown. It was also my last hurrah while living in Thailand. Though there were many parts of this island paradise that I wrote about, it was this feature that resinated the most with my followers. I hope the information I gave will give those that eventually travel there the hints to enjoy this place as much as I did.

#5 – Elephants in the Morning Mist – Khao Sok, Thailand

One of the many stops I was supposed to go on my road trip through Thailand last Winter Break was to the reservoir at Khao Sok, but we had to cut that portion of the trip out when the country started to close down. Luckily, the people at the resort let us rebook for a time in March. It create a moment in my life that I will never forget, wild elephants eating breakfast while I was kayaking nearby. This was even more remarkable considering that these elephants rarely come out to be viewed. I was told that because of the recent decline of tourism, they are more willing to come to the shore, and I was happy to be able to share this moment with those who cold not travel there and see it for themselves.

#4 – Problems and Possibilities

Late in 2020, I received an offer for a new job opportunity in Amman, Jordan, and I spent a lot of my time early this year preparing for the move. Part of that preparation meant signing on to a new email account at my new school as I started to transfer things over. The head of the school sent out an email describing the difference between problems and possibilities to inspire his staff who had been struggling with the pain of online teaching. It was the inspiration for this poem which seemed to connect with other people. It also makes me happy when one of my poems connects with people in this way.

#3 – Elk in the Backyard – Black Butte Ranch, Oregon

I have written a lot about Black Butte Ranch in central Oregon because I am lucky enough to get to spend a couple of weeks there every summer. It is also a place close to my heart because it is where I got married. The place is a beautiful collection of cabin-like houses underneath the shadow of Black Butte that is off the beaten path of the busy tourist towns and cities of central Oregon. Because of this quiet atmosphere, the wildlife likes to hand out in the forests. Most of the time this is squirrels, deer and coyotes, but I had never seen a herd of elk, so when they came wandering around the house I was staying at, it was reason to pull out the camera and take some pictures. Apparently, other people enjoy seeing these pictures as well because they kept of visiting this post long after its first publication.

#2 – The Bat Cave – Railay, Thailand

One of the nice things about Covid was it forced me to explore Thailand than I would have normally explored it. I spent the whole of the last Winter Break traveling through the southern portion of the country, and the city of Railay was one of my favorite spots. It was a small isolated town that can only be reached by boat where people go rock climbing, kayaking, and lounging on the beach. One of the most prominent features is a cave off of the Princess Beach that people hike up to all the time. My wife and I made this trek one day, and the story of how to get there has now helped a bunch of other people make the same hike.

#1 – Wingspan versus Everdell

Board games have become quite the hobby for me during the pandemic. They have been a great way to get together with friends, and continue to be social. The first one I bought to bring me back to this hobby was Everdell, but I had spent a lot of time researching whether this one of Wingspan was the one for me. I ultimately chose to build a woodland village, but I did have a chance to play Wingspan over the summer and compare the two. I have given my thoughts on both games in this post, and which one I thought was the better buy. The post did so well that I have considered doing more board game reviews in the future.

Honorable Mentions

Though there were many posts from the last year that were worthy to see, here is the lists of posts that continue to do well even though the were written in previous years.

The Mythology of Thailand – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Never Forget Dachau – Germany

A Toast to the End of the Semester

Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

Lessons from Angkor Wat

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

Elk in the Backyard – Black Butte Ranch, Oregon

It happened last night during dinner. I was finishing up a wonderful meal of curry, when I looked out the back window, and there was a herd of elk grazing in the forest that is essentially the backyard of the place I am staying. It wasn’t the first time that I saw them that day. They were always at the edge of the forest just beyond where a camera could capture an image of them that was worth seeing. But here they were just begging to have their photo taken.

Seeing wildlife in Central Oregon is not a new thing, especially if you are staying at Black Butte Ranch, one of the quieter communities out here, nestled in the forest close to the Cascade Mountain Range. Going a day without seeing a squirrel or a variety of birds in unusual, and there are many days I have run into deer while I am out for a walk, or sometimes just hanging out in the front yard waiting to scamper off when somebody opens the front door. On a hot day, they like to seek shelter under the deck attached to the house, and will dash out if anybody decides to come out on the deck. It is not unusual to see these wildlife sightings, but elk seems to be a new phenomenon out here.

That is not to say that elk have not been grazing in the mountains of Central Oregon before, but to see them wandering through the yards of Black Butte Ranch in new. Elk are amazingly smart creatures. I have come across the herds in Colorado before. They amaze me how they always seem to know when elk hunting season starts as they move down to Estes Park to find safety there during this time, or how a creature this big can disappear in an aspen grove without a trace. It makes me wonder if they have finally found the safety that is Black Butte Ranch and decided to hang out there now. Or is this a ripple that has been caused by the recent pandemic? Did last year, when people were stuck in their houses, give them the freedom to wander around in places where humans used to inhabit, and now they have the courage to reclaim that space? Whatever the reason, it was nice to witness them casually grazing in the backyard while eating dinner. It was a nice feeling, knowing that we could live together in this space and enjoy all that it has to offer.

As a side note, I know that there are a few people reading this that are not impressed with elk wandering through a forest. It is something that they come across at least a few times a year. And there are places where deer is a common occurrence, so they are wondering why I dedicated a whole post to this phenomenon. I get it, but I have not been in the United States for a couple of years, and this is something that I do not get to witness very often. I also have other people who read this post who have never seen an elk or even a deer before, and to think about this happening in someone’s backyard in something that they could never imagine. To those people, I would say that this would be very similar to going to a beach town or the hills outside of Bangkok, and running into all of the monkeys you would find out there. Every place in the world has its wildlife that you run into. It is just sometimes it is such a common thing that you shrug it off as, “Oh, there is another elk, or deer, or monkey!” But when you think about it from the perspective of a person who does not get this opportunity very often, it is something to get excited about. And when it is something you have not seen for awhile, it becomes a new experience again. Maybe, we shouldn’t take for granted these small occurrences, and enjoy them every time we come across them, whether it is a part of our daily routine, or something we can only experience every other year. The point being, enjoy those moments when they come because you do not know when they will happen again.