This last year was more amazing than I could have ever imagined. It was filled with bucket list checks and travel to 5 continents, 13 countries and countless cities. I wanted to say thank you to all of the places who were part of making the past twelve months memorable. And I want to do it in their appropriate languages. So, here we go…
“Asante” in Swahili (Tanzania)
Asante Tanzania for being my first introduction to Africa. You allowed me to find a type of camping I’d actually do again when I went glamping while on safari in Serengeti, you confirmed that happiness is a state of mind while visiting the Kibowa orphanage in Arusha and you taught me that my hands are handy eating utensils while dining on traditional Ugali.
“Kob Kun” in Thai (Thailand)
“Kob Kun” Thailand for teaching me that elephants deserve gentle love and bathes daily at an elephant rescue center and that century eggs don’t taste quite as bad as their ammonia smell, but crunchy insects are not at all appetizing. You also got me over my massage fear by letting me get dozens of foot massages for four bucks each, and even one massage by a prison inmate. You taught me how to make the best pad thai with crunchy peanuts on top and showed me the tedious art of making paper umbrellas.
“Arigatou” in Japanese (Japan)
Arigatou Japan, especially Tokyo. You coached me through making a colorful plate of sushi that was actually edible and you taught me the proper etiquette of a traditional tea ceremony that made me realize that I can be refined for at least ten minutes at a time. You showed me the intensity of a sport while watching a sumo wrestler’s practice session. You let me pet a few felines at the quirkiest Cat Cafe and served me drinks out of a dummy’s head at a fun jail themed restaurant.
“Merci” in French (France)
Merci Paris, France for showing me the time consuming art of making a yummy macaron cookie, for putting on a super sexy show at the Moulin Rouge, for allowing me to lock my love on the Pont des Arts bridge and for officially turning me into a lover of the prix fixe meal.
“Danke” in German (Switzerland)
Danke to Switzerland for being a spontaneous stop on my route and an unexpected pleasure. You introduced me to traditional fondue, proving to that gooey cheese and cubes of bread can be an entire meal. You introduced me to one of the best street foods, warm chestnuts in a brown paper bag and you let me drink the freshest water that came straight from one of your hundreds of fountains in the city of Zurich.
“Grazie” in Italian (Italy)
Grazie Italy for reminding me of your exquisite beauty this past year. You let me drive throughout the rolling hills of Tuscany and showed me that true artisan craftsmanship still exists. You taught me how to use a potters wheel and made me climb the 468 stairs of the Florence Duomo…again. I am not sure how happy I am about that one. And you fed me. Very well. As always.
“Mh’gōi” in Cantonese (Hong Kong, China)
Mh’gōi Hong Kong, China for immersing me into your culture by feeding me chicken feet at the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant and a hearty bowl of snake soup. You let me take a ride through Victoria Harbour on a traditional junk boat while watching the Symphony of Lights. You allowed me to climb countless stairs to get close to Big Buddha and then saved me some steps with a ride on the longest outdoor escalator in the world, the mid-level elevators.
“Ke kmal mesaul” in Palauan (Palau)
Ke kmal mesaul Palau, mostly because I did not even realize that tiny speck on the map could be so amazing. You let me take my first natural mud bath in the Milky Way and left my skin silky smooth. You also allowed me to swim in jellyfish lake with thousands of these plankton. You fed me a traditional Palauan meal and showed me that snorkeling in 82 degree water is so much better than the 60 degrees elsewhere.
“Gracias” in Spanish (Spain, Chile & Argentina)
Gracias Spain for letting me explore the depths of a cava cave with you and teaching me that not all bubbly cavas are created equal. This year you also confirmed that pan con tomate is one of the best things on earth.
Gracias Chile for giving me my first horseback ride through autumn colored vineyards and then letting me soak my aching muscles in a hot tub made out of a wine barrel.
Gracias Argentina for making me overdose on a variety of meat while attending three traditional asados and serving me tasty blood sausage. You also taught me how to make addictive empanadas, so I can indulge even when I am at home in California.
“Thank You” in English (North America and Canada)
Thank you Louisiana for giving me a nibble of fried frog legs, alligator and cracklin’s. I will be back for that squirrel. Thanks Kentucky for letting me tour a thoroughbred horse farm, and drink a glass of the official Kentucky derby wine, even if I didn’t get to wear a really big hat.
Many thanks Canada for letting me stand right behind Niagara Falls and feel the mist from the gushing water. And a dozen thank yous to New York for allowing me to gorge at the restaurant that created the original chicken wings. I will have to work my way up to the spicy sauce. Thanks to Idaho for proving you are way more than just potatoes and letting me stand on one of the most inspirational spots.
And of course, thank you to my home state of California, not only have you been there for me every time I returned from my travels, you also showed me how to mushroom hunt in Angwin, gave me swag at a swanky San Francisco party and let me eat all-I-could-eat at a crab feed.
And a huge thank you (danke, grazie, gracias, etc) for every reader following my journey. Much of my travel is a result of your support and there are not enough languages that could express my gratitude enough. It is my sincere wish and biggest dream that you have been inspired to say no to fear and to live your own bucket list.