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.

Sunset Improvement – Railay, Thailand

I think I have become obsessed with sunsets. I have been collecting my things and rushing to the closest beach around 6 o’clock every night to try and witness the best one before the end of the year. For some reason, it makes me believe that when I see it, it will give me a sense of closure to a tough year, and it will let everyone out there know that there is still beauty in this world.

My new beach has given me the best sunsets so far. I had to do a little traveling to get there, and I arrived just in time to witness a pretty good one, but I still believe that it could have been better so I will keep on searching until I get that perfect one.

This sunset came of Railay’s west beach. Railay is a tourist destination on the tip of Thailand that is a small strip of rocky mountains and sand that juts out from the country’s mainland. You can not get there by car or airplane. You can only arrive by getting in a tiny boat and having them shuttle you around the tall jutting mountains that surround the beach.

But the promise of sunsets from the spot is huge, and it looks like the perfect playground to stay at for the next couple of days. I will let you know more about the place during the next couple of days, but for now I hope you enjoy the moment that my camera was able to capture.

Chasing the Sunset – Phuket, Thailand

One of the things that everybody visits if they come to the island of Phuket is the beach. It is impossible to miss one of them. They are all over the place. There are small beaches with an almost private feeling to them, big public beaches, sandy beaches, and even ones that are a little rocky. There are ones that look to the east in anticipation of the sunrise and there are one that look to the west and collect people on its shores to watch the sunset every night.

I have visited a lot of the beaches on my stay out here, and it has been a treat this time around. Phuket is still waiting for the tourists to return to the island, and the beaches are practically empty, but the city is ready for their return so they have been cleaning up the beaches which makes them really nice to walk on and enjoy.

The city life is a little different though. Many of the business owners have not returned and there are many for sale signs on buildings and restaurants that have not opened up in a long time. There are still enough of them out there to make it feel enough like a vacation and there are corners that are opening up again.

For the most part, I can feel a more positive vibe coming from the people of Phuket then I felt when I was out here during the summer. They know that there is hope around the corner and they can get back to the thriving economy that this place once was. It will be a slow process and there will be a struggle to get back there, but they are up for the challenge.

You can see it on the west facing beaches of Phuket. The people who live here have come down to watch the sunsets. They know it is the one feature of the island that can never be taken away even though they have not been as great as they are during the summer months. During my whole trip out here, there has been a collection of storm clouds gathering on the horizon, and I have never been able to see the sun set completely. I have had some nice views of it as it has reached the storm clouds, giving a hint at how glorious it can be, but it has never reached that level of spectacular. But just like the people of Phuket, I know that those clouds will eventually disappear and I will once again get to see its beauty. I just have to keep on chasing it until I get to see it for what it can be.

Until next time, stay safe and be kind to each other.

Looking for a Sunset – Nai Harn Beach

I think I have hit that point in this vacation where I am starting to feel more like myself and am ready to take on bigger adventures. I am sorry if my posts have not been that exciting the last couple of days, but if you are ever in the mood for one of those relaxing beach vacations, I would highly recommend Nia Harn Beach. It is a little off the beaten path on the Phuket island, but it has some great restaurants within walking distance, the beach is relatively quiet with calm waters during the winter months, and the place just begs to be lazy for a couple of days.

One of the things that I like the most about it is that the it had a nice view of the west and there should be a good view of the sunset almost every evening. I have gone out the three nights I have been out here in order to witness one of these highlights from nature. Unfortunately, this is the best one I have seen so far. Something has always seemed to pop up in order hide this from view. The first day had big violent rainstorms out in the distant sea that obscured the sunset from view, and the second day was too cloudy for it to make an appearance.

It does not mean that I will not continue to try to get that elusive picture of a great sunset. Last time I was down here, I could out every night and catch an amazing light show on the horizon, but it is funny what s difference a couple of months makes. The sun shifts a bit, the weather makes adjustments as well, and now the sunset is hard to come by.

But it is important that I continue to look for it. If I give up and let myself by satisfied with the small example I collected earlier, I will miss the bigger show when it comes around. I fear that too many people give up too early when there is something spectacular on the horizon, and if we would just practice a little patience, it will be another beautiful sunset.

A Siam Sunset – Siam Summer

I have often talked about how spoiled I was growing up in Colorado and how it is such a place of infinite beauty. My heart will always find a home there and part of that reason is because of the sunsets over the Rockies. It does not happen every night, but on those special nights, there is a magic that happens over those mountains as the color in the sky changes to different kinds of oranges, reds and purples. There is a reason that so many people have a window that frames these mountains, and it is for those moments of intense beauty.

As I have traveled around the world, I have seen many other sunsets that rival the ones I have witnessed in Colorado. They usually fall over the sea, and it is fun watching the sun slowly sink into the horizon over this vast body of water. Though tears may form in my eyes, I just can’t pull away, and I have to watch every moment.

Though it is still beautiful with the light reflecting off of the deep blue of the water, it is still does not have the explosion of color that I get to see on those great sunsets in Colorado. It is still a moment that I look forward to and it is one I have been seeking out all summer because I knew that there must be spectacular ones to see in Thailand.

I think I have found the place where the best sunsets exists and as a man from Colorado, I am sorry to say that it is not along the Front Range. It is on the island of Koh Yao Yai on the southern end of Thailand. It is here that you get to experience the beauty of both moments in a sunset. You get to watch the sun dip below the horizon over the ocean while still experiencing the reflection that the fading daylight has over the cloud hanging over the distant mountains.

I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it in my lifetime. It was stunning and though it only lasted for less than an hour, it is easily my favorite moment so far this summer. I am happy that I did not miss it.

 

Underneath the Mango Tree

As the fading light on the horizon
Sputters out the last of its final glow,
I have found my place to enjoy the sun
Underneath the tree that gives me mango.
I know I can find a cooler respite
In my house with the air conditioning,
But then I would miss the coming of night
For a moment of comforted living.
The brutal heat may wish for me to hide
In the safe seclusion of my cocoon,
But there is more that is offered outside.
I’ll be able to make my retreat soon.
I have made the choice to live with my sweat
As I only will witness this sunset.

The Simple Things in Life – Around the World Day 14

I know I have been writing about beaches a lot lately, but what else am I supposed to do. Everywhere I turn there is a new and more stunning beach than the last one and if I have the option of relaxing on that beach I am going to take it. And since that is all I have really done in the past few days that is all I have to talk about.

And this trip has been talking about a lot of the sites with great historical significance that I have been lucky enough to visit. It is kind of what you do in Europe. By being able to see these places, I gain a better understanding of how the countries of the world are related to each other, and why it is important that everybody understands this perspective because without it, we are heading to a society similar to ancient times where countries had a hard time getting along with each other; thereby, causing a lot of war and destruction among themselves.

It is really easy to get caught up with these cultural moments when you travel. It is part of the reason that we do it. But it is also important to slow down and enjoy other aspects of travel that we sometimes ignore because we want to get in everything we possibly can in the short time that we have there. That is why I took the time last night to grab a small picnic of fresh fruit, good cheese, and some jamon ham and travel up to the lighthouse at the edge of town and watch the sunset. It is doing small little things like this where the stories start to emerge.

Now, I am not saying that this is a unique idea. Many people go out to the lighthouse to watch the sunset. It is one of the attractions of Lagos. If you ever find yourself here, and want to do this, I would recommend going out early to stake out your place because even though there are many to chose from out there, the good one get snatched up quickly. Make sure you bring a good bottle of wine with you; they are easy to find because there are many to choose from in Portugal, and most of them are rather inexpensive as long as you stick to the ones made out here. This way you can enjoy the company of the one you brought with you and just revel in the moment.

We still had a few visitors, and one of them even wanted to join us in our picnic dinner. Who knew that cats loved fresh mango so much? And even though this could have been an awkward moment, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would. He left soon after he found out that we were going to give into his requests to go look for better prospects, but it was still fun to have him join us for such a short period of time.

And eventually we got to enjoy the sunset. At this time of the year, it does not set over the ocean, but it was still a spectacular sight. It is moments like this that allows me to reflect on how lucky my life has been. I have seen sunsets over many different locations over the world from the oceans of Boracay to the beaches of Oregon, from the plains of the Serengeti to the mountains of the Rocky Mountains. I do think it is important that we put aside the petty bickering and fighting that we often tangle ourselves in so we can enjoy these smaller moments in life. When you find those small moments they start to seem more important than all of that rush that we subject ourselves to. I am glad to have gotten to witness the sunset at this new location, and I can’t wait to see where the next spectacular one will be.

(By the way, J.J. Abrams would be proud. Lens-flares.)