2023 Travel Year in Review

Road Unraveled 2023 Travel Year in Review

In almost 10 years of travel under the Road Unraveled banner, our vacations have taken us to some of the furthest and most remote parts of the globe. Transportation plays a bigger role in the experience—and what we take from it—that you might expect. We have spent hours of our lives crammed into airplane seats, pressed against train windows, and nestled into cars whisking us to some of the planet’s most remarkable sites. Air travel will always feel like modern magic; the fact that you can sit down in one location and, not too many hours later, stand up in a wildly different place will never get old for us. Coupled with a window seat overlooking dramatic landscapes and puffy clouds, it’s all the proof we need that the journey is just as important as the destination. Cars and trains provide an equally compelling vantage point; experiencing cityscapes, small towns, and largely untouched regions from closer to the ground is a great reminder of our complex relationship with our planet.

When you want to understand just how big our Earth is, though, traveling by ship is the best way to do it. And for us, 2023 was all about exploring from the water.

We have certainly traveled by boat before. Some experiences, like our cruise to Bermuda, were punctuated by the open bars, buffets, and endless entertainment that reflect a very popular part of the travel industry. Others, like transiting the Panama Canal, could only be appreciated on the water; there is no better way to realize the magnitude of such a marvel of modern engineering than to transit through the locks on a boat. This year, we’re stunned that we took to the water four times during the calendar year, each of which offered an incredibly unique, memorable way to put our vacation days to good use.

Although our vacations are usually the result of careful planning and meticulous vacation day monitoring, we embraced a looser, go-with-the-flow approach to planning as our year unfolded. After all, some of the most unforgettable trips arise from taking advantage of new opportunities that might not have otherwise been on your radar. Our final trip of 2022 ended on New Year’s Day when we flew home after a spectacular visit to Copenhagen, and just two weeks later we boarded our next flight toward warmer weather in Central America. Adam was fortunate to start a great job with Lindblad Expeditions in 2022, and our first ship experience of the year gave us both a chance to spend a week with Lindblad on the National Geographic Sea Lion as we immersed ourselves in Belize’s natural wonders and Guatemala’s unforgettable archaeological sites, Yaxhá and Tikal. After our week of snorkeling and hiking concluded, we enjoyed one brief staycation night in Washington, DC to celebrate Adam’s birthday with a stay at the historic Watergate Hotel—a welcome opportunity to relax and appreciate the magnitude of our time sailing along Belize’s coastline!

After two months of work, Adam held down the fort at home while I had the chance to visit Ireland and the United Kingdom with my friend (and podcast co-host). Starting in Dublin, we spent two days exploring some of the city’s highlights, feasting on classic Irish fare, and having an amazing night at a Tori Amos concert. From there we were off to Manchester, Liverpool (for another Tori Amos concert!), and finally London, where I was thrilled to try some new restaurants in between stops at some of my favorite spots in the city. On my last afternoon in the city before flying back to the United States, I walked from my hotel along the Thames to see the sun set behind Big Ben. On the way, I paused for a few minutes at the National Covid Memorial Wall, which is adorned with more than 200,000 red hearts in memory of UK citizens who died during the pandemic. It was an emotional moment for me; between the staggering loss of life and the immense gratitude I have for being able to travel like I do, I appreciated the reminder that we can never take any of our life’s experiences for granted.

Dumbo Manhattan Bridge View
Dumbo Manhattan Bridge View
The tables turned in April when it was me at home alone as Adam boarded a train to New York, where he spent a few days with his colleagues while also finding a few moments to check out attractions like The Edge, the highest outdoor skydeck in the western hemisphere. He returned home just in time for a visit from his parents, which included a weekend on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. We spent time on Assateague Island and Chincoteague Island to see the famous wild horses (who seemed to gravitate toward cars in one of the parking lots!) before spending a night in Ocean City, where we enjoyed some great seafood and a lovely morning walk along the beach before the crowds arrived.

May was a return to the skies and another bleisure trip for us. I spoke at a conference in San Diego, which offered a great chance for us to explore the city after sessions and when Adam’s work day was over. We then rented a car and drove through stunning Joshua Tree National Park and past Route 66’s guardian lions on the way to Las Vegas. Although we had a great time walking along the Strip and spent a few hours poolside, the real highlight was our daytrip north of the city through some of Nevada’s ghost towns before taking the Extraterrestrial Highway southbound toward Vegas. The ET Highway had long been on our list of places to explore, and it didn’t disappoint; it offered all of the mystery and playfulness you might expect.

After one last quick trip to New York for Adam, we boarded another plane for our second cruise of the year. This time we landed in Athens and spent a week sailing between the Greek islands of Rhodes, Mykonos, Paros, Crete, and Santorini with a stop in Bodrum, Turkey for a day. Unlike the cultural depth of our Lindblad trip, this week on the water was more about group tours, buffets, and frozen beverages by the pool—a wonderful break from reality and incredibly convenient way to see the islands as our hotel floated with us. We especially enjoyed the quietest moments we found when we visited historic spots like Bodrum’s Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that only a few of our fellow cruise travelers found at the same time we did.

Santorini Greece
Santorini Greece
Just a month after our Greek cruise we were ready to close out the summer with our third water-based trip of 2023. With just a few weeks to prepare, we had the chance to visit Iceland and Greenland, and we jumped at the opportunity. Joined by my parents, our friends, and their son, we spent a night in Iceland before flying to meet the National Geographic Endurance off Greenland’s western shores. Greenland defies description; we walked up glaciers that may not have seen another human footprint in centuries (if ever!), we visited settlements built by some of history’s most famous explorers, and we relaxed on one of the most beautiful boats we have ever seen. Even three days of 60-foot waves battering our ship as we crossed the North Atlantic Ocean back to Iceland didn’t dim our spirits; adventure is meant to challenge you, after all, and like our visit to Antarctica years ago it felt appropriate that Greenland made us earn our time there.

One of the benefits to self-employment is the ability to work anywhere with a stable internet connection, and in October I sent my prayers to the connectivity gods when I departed for one last international voyage and the longest cruise of my year. Because my parents and I each celebrated a milestone birthday in 2023, we flew to Europe and spent a few days walking and eating our way through Amsterdam and London before boarding a cruise ship that sailed along the coasts of France, Spain, and Portugal before traversing the massive expanse of water between continental Europe and New York City. Transatlantic cruising is an entirely unique experience. The first week of our trip connected us to historic cities, walking tours, and plenty of time off the ship. The second week found us waking up each morning to watch the sun rise over our ship, which felt massive to us as we walked around but reduced to little more than a speck bobbing on the Atlantic Ocean’s waves when we looked at our position on the map.

After a quick overnight trip to Birmingham, Alabama for a work trip, Thanksgiving in Maine with our family rounded out our year in travel. We were especially grateful for a year of safe travel, good health, and incredible opportunities to make the most of our vacation time. Although every trip requires planning, saving money, and a dash of luck, we never take these experiences for granted.

COUNTRIES/CITIES VISITED IN 2023

  • Denmark (Copenhagen)
  • Belize (Belize City)
  • Guatemala (Tikal, Yaxha)
  • Greece (Athens, Crete, Mykonos, Delos, Santorini)
  • Turkey (Bodrum)
  • Iceland (Reykjavik, Grundarfjörður)
  • Greenland (Kangerlussuaq, Qassiarsuk, Nuuk, Igaliku, Qaqortoq)
  • Ireland (Dublin)
  • England (Manchester, Liverpool, London)
  • France (Le Havre)
  • Spain (La Coruña, Vigo)
  • Portugal (Lisbon, Ponta Delgada)

STATES/CITIES VISITED IN 2023

  • Virginia (multiple locations)
  • Maryland (Assateague, Ocean City)
  • Washington DC
  • Georgia (Atlanta)
  • Alabama (Birmingham)
  • New York (New York City)
  • Maine (Freeport, Augusta)
  • Nevada (Las Vegas, ET Highway)
  • California (San Diego, Joshua Tree National Park)
2023 Travel Placeholder
2023 Travel

Best of the Year 2023

One of our favorite ways to look back on our year is through our annual “Best Of” list. This tradition started in 2016, and it gives some perspective on the greatest (and not so greatest) moments we had during the last 12 months.

BEST PLACES OF 2023

Greenland
Greenland
As always, choosing just one best place from a year of incredible travel is close to impossible. It would be hard to ignore Greenland, which for years was a dream destination; it surpassed our expectations in every way. Traveling to spots that are still wholly themselves—they welcome but don’t cater to tourists, and visiting requires embracing new and different experiences—is something we encourage everyone to try. Sure, our ship provided every creature comfort we could hope to have, but Greenland itself was wild, surprising, and even harsh as we hiked steep hills, shivered on cold mornings, and tried foods we just don’t have at home. It’s a trip we will never forget.

BEST MEALS OF 2023

One additional Greenland highlight revolved around the culinary experience we enjoyed on the Endurance. Chef Sarah and her talented team served some of the best food we have had on land or on water, from line caught fish to regional delicacies to a seven-course meal that would have been welcome in any three Michelin star restaurant. I would also be remiss to forget not one but two unbelievable meals at Darjeeling Express in London. Shelly and I had dinner there in March, and it was so good I took my parents for a return meal in October. If you’re looking for the best Indian food in London, Chef Asma Khan serves it every night.

BEST TOURS OF 2023

Delos Greece
Delos, Greece
Storytelling is transformative, and our ancient Paros tour guide understood that better than just about any guide we have ever traveled with. She brought history to life through stories and examples that took us back to what life might have been like centuries ago, and she used those same stories to challenge our thinking and encourage our curiosity. Although we usually stay away from bus tours and large groups because they are more likely to lack character, our guide found a way to bring every person along for the journey—and months later, it’s a journey we still remember.

WORST MEMORIES OF 2023

Not every part of every trip is glamorous, and the aftermath of one of our snorkeling trips in Belize will always be a reminder that even the best trips can have some challenging consequences. While putting on our flippers, we were both attacked by a collection of sand fleas. Although we didn’t realize it at the time, within hours their bites turned to giant, itchy welts that plagued us throughout the rest of our trip and for a few weeks after we got home. Almost a year later, that incident certainly didn’t cloud the memories we have of our amazing experience, but we may never forget the itching.

The same is true for the three days of wild weather we encountered as we sailed from Greenland to Iceland. From bouts of seasickness (some worse than others) to the sound of glasses breaking as the ship rocked mercilessly from side to side, we took great comfort in the fact our boat was built for rough seas and was more than capable of keeping us safe. Still, it took a lot of self-control to not kiss solid ground when we encountered it after 72 hours of constant movement.

BEST MEMORIES OF 2023

Silk Caye, Belize
Silk Caye, Belize
Floating in the crystal-clear waters off the coast of Belize, watching brightly colored fish swim through the coral beneath us. Standing on the forested paths of Guatemala, watching howler monkeys swing above us. Hearing the sound of the rainforest around Tikal come to life as the sun rose above it. Drying our sleepy, watery eyes to keep them from freezing while watching whales breach around our boat off the coast of Greenland. Enjoying a cold glass of white wine during a relaxing afternoon under the Greek sun. Driving through wide open desert in a remote region of Nevada. Pausing to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean days after seeing land for the last time, knowing that same sun would rise and set several times more before land would once again come into view.

These are the reasons we travel.

BEST LESSON LEARNED IN 2023

Never skimp on medication! Our time in Belize would have been far more comfortable if I had decided to take the hydrocortisone cream I usually pack, but knowing I hadn’t needed it in years gave me a false sense of security. Similarly, when I caught a minor bug during our transatlantic crossing, I would have loved the cough drops and cold medication I left in my closet, thinking I was very unlikely to get sick since I had felt well for months. Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and remember to eat well and hydrate: when you nourish your body, you’ll be less susceptible to illness on the road!

FINAL THOUGHTS

It has been a truly incredible year! We’re enormously grateful to have another safe year of memorable travel in the books, and as we look ahead to 2024—which will mark 10 years of Road Unraveled!—we are just as grateful to have 12 more months of fun, exploration, and travel memories ahead of us. Using our vacation time has unlocked doors we didn’t even know were available to us, and our journeys have inspired curiosity and fueled our passions for learning, creating, and connecting with people around the world.

Thank you for joining us on our Road Unraveled journey in 2023. We’re thrilled you are part of our journey and that you include us in your travels through your Social Media comments and emails, and we look forward to hearing about the exciting ways you will use vacations to unlock doors of your own in 2024.

Happy New Year!