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.

Maria’s Place

It must be nice waking up being you
With the joy that you greet each single day.
Your sky must always be a crystal blue,
Another opportunity for play.
To all you meet, there is an infection
That gives them the same happiness to spread.
They will see the morning introduction
Soaking up the cheerfulness that was said.
You are not able to leave your hotel
Because of the arrival of new guests,
But it is not a bed that you will sell,
Rather a relief from life’s harsh duress.
The holiday here was comfortable
Only because you were personable.

Santorini

We are reminded by the white facade
That hangs on the edge of the caldera
Of the nature of the volcano god
Whose might destroyed an earlier era.

But now we climb up to the highest peak
To nestle within our homes among the ash.
The color of our walls remind the meek
That we would lose in any future clash.

World wearied travelers come to our ring
To marvel at the beauty of our town,
But they don’t understand how much we cling
To our modesty that could be blown down.

Our survival lies in tectonic fate,
Hoping the fickle god won’t get irrate.

Two Greek Islands – Santorini and Naxos

Greece has always been a series of islands off of a the mainland to Europe. They were tied together by a collection of gods though their ideals based on these deities might be viewed by the different cities. Back in ancient days, these small individual communities had a common enemy to the east called the Persians which eventually united them under a common cause, but before then they were loosely tied together through trade and location.

It is hard to travel through these islands and not think about their old way of life. It is hard to think that at one time, to the Greeks, this was the whole world, even though we look at it now as just a small little corner of the Earth. When you stand on top of one of these islands and look across the Aegean Sea to another island, we think of it as something just a short ferry ride or airplane trip between them, but if you think about how they viewed those other islands, it would have been a different community and would take a day to get from one island to the next closest one.

Though we can take this simplicity of life for granted, and think of those people who lived so long ago as being disadvantaged, it probably was not the case. The people still had art that is admired to this day, and they used that art to beautify their communities, much like we do today. People would still bustle around their cities, making sure that their daily chores were done and try to carve out a life for themselves, much like we do today. They would see outsiders with a cautious eye even though when they got to know them, they would realize that they are not much different than they were, much like we do. They would have friends, and families. They would work during the day. They would look to their loved ones to enjoy their evenings. All of this much like we do.

Though we would look back at those times as a time when life was made more difficult do to their lack of technology, they would not have seen it that way. They would have looked at themselves as the height of civilization, and would have lived a life of comfort. Yes, they would have a hard time if they were transported to this age just as we would if we found ourselves back in that age, but in reality, things would not have been that different.

In reality, nothing much has really changed. The traditions may have changed, and we may no longer look to the ancient gods for guidance to our ideology, but if you stripped away all of these cultural differences, you would still see a group of people, who at the heart of it all, still had the same major concerns that each of us as individuals also have. We are a group of people who find commonality with each other to make those strong connections that build up over a lifetime so that we can create the memories that give us a fulfilling life.

As I look back at my recent trip to Greece and the two islands that I got to visit, Santorini and Naxos, I can’t help to think about how much I owe to this ancient culture. But it is not just this culture that I should give tribute to. It is every culture that I have been lucky to have made contact to. It is this collective whole that makes up now just me, but every person who has ever lived on this planet. There is so much that we all have in common that if look past the superficial, we will be able to see it. Thank you Greece for helping me see this, and I hope that I can bring this attitude with me to every other place I get to visit in this world.

Until next time, keep traveling, and keep enjoying making those greater connections.

Akrotiri Ruins – Santorini, Greece

It is easy to forget that Santorini is a Greek island with a lot of history and archeological sights on it. There are so many other things to do on this island that this sometimes gets brushed under the rug to be forgotten about, but one of the must-do sights on the island should not be treated this way, the Akrotiri Ruins on the southern edge of the island.

Before the volcano of Santorini exploded leaving only a caldera behind, Akrotiri used to be the prominent city on the island and a major trading center in the Aegean Sea. Despite its growth, it eventually fell victim to the volcano and was buried under hot magma to preserved for ages. It has since been rediscovered and archeologists are slowly digging it out giving it a feel very much like Pompeii in Italy. The biggest differences being that this sight is centuries older than the preservation next to Mount Vesuvius, and they have only uncovered about three percent on this vast city.

They have already found some amazing art and vases that have been left behind. Because this is an active archeological sight, many of these priceless artifacts are brought to the museum in town to be put on display so they can finish uncovering more of the town. Despite this, there are still a lot of pieces that are there to look at, and add to the flavor of making the trip out there.

The real draw though is the opportunity to visit an actual archeological sight and look at the architecture from a period of time when it was still being developed. You also have the opportunity to walk through the ruins and feel what it would be like to live in this city so many centuries ago. There is actually a lot to see for them only uncovering such a little bit of the town, and you can see why this was one of the major trading posts in this part of the world.

So, if you make your way out to Santorini island and have a few days out here, the Akrotiri archeological dig should be one of the sights that you make time to see. It might take away from the wine tasting, walking the caldera, and eating amazing food in one of the most dramatic cities in the world, but it is worth the trip. It is only a half an hour bus ride from Firi, and they will be back to pick you up right around the time you finish your exploration, so there is no reason that you shouldn’t go.

The Hike from Fira to Oia – Santorini, Greece

If you are spending time in Oia, a great way to spend the day is to take a quick fifteen minute bus ride to the main town of Fira, and hike along the ridge of the caldera back to Oia. It is about a 15 kilometer hike, and with all of the sights you will see along the way, it will take a little over fours hours to do.

When you get off the bus at Fira, you basically head north through the town of Fira. It is similar to Oia with a bunch of restaurants, cafes, and shops, and though the views are still dramatic, I like the feel of Oia a little bit more.

That does not meant that there still is not a lot to see in the city, and you will spend a good first quarter of the hike hanging out in this town. The path is pretty easy to follow. You just stay on the main drag, and when you hit the Blue Note restaurant, you take a left for the rest of the way. If you are worried about making a wrong turn here, there is a sign that points you to Oia, and tells you that it is a ten kilometer hike from this point. It is also a good spot to stop and have some gelato from the Blue Note. Tiramisu, and raspberry and cream were my favorite flavors. It is also a good place to go to the bathroom because you won’t see many more of them along the way.

Though you never really leave civilization behind, after Blue Note, the buildings become fewer and further between. I was lucky enough to be out here in the spring and the explosion of wild flowers added a new surprise once we left town. The downfall of this is the wind and cool weather. Bring layers if out here in the spring because it can get cool on top of the ridge of the caldera.

Being in the city is really cool, but looking back and seeing the whole white expanse of them is also dramatic. There are basically three cities that you will see along the route, and each of them offers their own beauty. The first two blend together and are a great place to stop for lunch before making the final trek.

Oia is the third city and it pops in and out of view as you continue your hike. It is also a great reference point if you take this hike later in the afternoon so you can watch the sunset while making your way to that final city. The hike here gets more hilly with pushes uphill and steep downhills. Also the path turns into a path of loose volcanic rock which makes hiking go a little slower.

There are still hints of civilization along the way. There are time that had me wondering why they had built these structures in more isolated places. There were a couple of churches along the way at the top of the hills that took some effort to get to, and with no obvious road to get there. It made me wonder what kind of services they had there and who were the people that joined the congregation.

There are also a couple of vineyards carved into the hills along the way. It is a nice reminder of what is waiting for you at the end of the long voyage, and it is also nice to know that the land on the island of Santorini is used to the best of its advantage.

Eventually you will get to that final descent that will take you into Oia. It creates some amazing views from atop this perch, and it is also around this time of the hike that you start to feel the strain for the long hike. But you know that it is coming to the end.

The paved path also returns at this point as well, making the end of the hike more comfortable. It is a great way to see a lot of what the island of Santorini has to offer, and a great way to spend the day. If your a photographer, it is a must do experience. Most of the path is safely away from the dangers of the road, even though there is a short hike along the road, but it is not more than 500 meters long. It is a highly recommended experience, and if you find yourself out here, I hope you take the opportunity.

Santorini – Oia, Greece

I’ll admit that the only really thing that I knew about the small Greek island of Santorini I learned from the board game by the same name. I never played the game, but it looked really pretty with all of its white buildings with blue domes. It wasn’t until I saw a picture of the island that I learned where the inspiration for this game came from and I knew in an instant that I would have to make my way there someday.

Santorini was a volcano at one time that had a massive explosion that left the island as a caldera looking out over the sea. A couple of the cities on the island were destroyed and there are a couple of place where you can go look at these ruins that outdate Pompeii, and have the same eerie feeling as it.

But it is the recent cities that have been built on top of the cliffs that are the real treat of this island. The buildings all have a similar feeling to them, and they are painted white with blue highlights. It isn’t just the city of Oia on the northern edge of the island either. It is every place where people have settled, whether it is on the caldera side or the seaside. It gives the city a utopian feel that is fun to stroll through and just marvel at the beauty of it.

I know it all started with a board game review that I saw on YouTube, and looking at the little city that white an blue pieces of plastic could make, but I am glad that I came across that video because it has led me to an amazing island out in the middle of the Aegean Sea where I can experience that Greek lifestyle.