17 Things to be Thankful for in 2012

Photo session under a skeleton tree, Douro Valley, #Portugal #tbupor
Audrey photographs the Douro Valley in Portugal, one of the many places I’m thankful to have visited this year.

This is a year-end journey of appreciation and reflection. Of lessons and learnings. Of people and places.

Just a thought. If you don’t already perform some kind of reflection exercise at the end of each year, give this one a try: Take 30 minutes and go month by month through the year, jotting down whatever you remember doing or accomplishing, be it something as grand as a life event or something as seemingly inconsequential as a concert you attended. These things will spur more memories.

And when you’re done, think on the list. Maybe you’ll find that you did much more during the year than you imagined, perhaps sometimes you’ll find that you accomplished less than you’d hoped. Regardless of how it all shakes out, a simple exercise like this can help you take stock of your year and position you for the next.

Funny thing, year-end navel-gazing. It seems to begin earlier and earlier each year. It used to be that it happened in the final week, then it crept in just before Christmas, then before the end of Hanuakkah, if indeed that holiday didn’t come too late, then somewhere before the middle of the month. Then, before you knew it, the year-end articles began pouring in somewhere between Thanksgiving and the first of December.

We reserve ours for the closing moments, as a bridge to 2013.

A Little Perspective from a Friend

The other day we ran into an old friend whom we hadn’t seen in a year. At one point, he stepped back and said: “Wow, you’ve traveled a lot this year.”

Really? This was a light travel year for us,” we replied. We didn’t intend to be ironic. Instead, we thought about all the speaking engagements that took the place of some of our more traditional travel adventures.

His comment caused us to pause, to step back and to appreciate our “light travel year,” the privilege of travel and our lifestyle. It also allowed us to realize that some of our biggest – and most difficult – journeys this year were on stage instead of on the road.

Not everything went exactly as planned (it never does and wouldn’t it be boring if it did?), but I’m thankful for a number of things — both planned and unplanned — that happened this year. Here are just a few, anchored by destination.

Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca Cathedral - Oaxaca, Mexico
Oaxaca Cathedral as the day turns to night.

First, I suppose I’m thankful to have escaped winter yet again and gone to Mexico, a place that although I know I’m not supposed to take for granted, I probably did. And Oaxaca helped me undo that. That little town, with its artsy mid-mountain feel served as a bit of a grounding force and helped us accomplish a bunch that helped put the rest of the year on its interesting footing.

Further still, I am thankful to have survived the earthquake. When the walls shook, there was a moment where I for a split second thought walls are not supposed to dance like this. Thankfully, the walls only wobbled so much and we had a chance to see those same walls another day.


Young Egyptian Woman - Tunis Pottery Village, Egypt
Young Egyptian woman at Tunish Pottery Village.

To know the importance of people. In Egypt, we presented at the UNWTO Tourism and Media conference. The fascinating turn at the end of the presentation was our focus on Egypt and its strength, which it so often seeks to avoid highlighting — its people. This would be the first of many times during the year where we would highlight the importance of people to just about every activity, marketing and social media included.


Dan holds the Fugu (blowfish) - Osaka, Japan
Thankful to hold a blowfish (fugu) in Japan.

I’m thankful to have seen Japan. This country is so storied. During our visit, I felt like we soaked it up, lock, stock and sake barrel. The culture of respect and courtesy is something I will never forget. Oh, and our crazy eating culinary out in Osaka which featured eating – and holding – blowfish (fugu).


Laughing Statues, A-mazing Laughter - Vancouver, Canada
Laughing Statues, A-mazing Laughter – Vancouver, Canada

I’d always wanted to visit and now I had my chance as part of the Future of Tourism event coordinated by G Adventures. Prior to this, the largest audience we’d spoken to numbered about 150-200. This time, we were up to 500. The theme was technology and tourism, but we brought in people. Ugh, again? Yep, again because that’s where it’s at. Oh, and tying principles and ideas together with story. People and story. Yes.


Old Church St. Amtrak Station, Orlando - love the old Spanish mission style #train
Taking the train from Orlando to Miami.

I’m thankful to have been given a standing ovation even before I began speaking. And I now understand that it’s unfair to receive praise before you’ve earned it. And, I’m thankful also to have had the opportunity to visit my parents in Orlando.


Beer Ski Shots at Loveland Pass - Colorado
Beer Ski Shots at Loveland Pass, Colorado

I’m grateful to have been one mile high, then two miles high and still have maintained my composure. Or so I thought.


Seattle Skyline at Night
Seattle Skyline at Night

I’d always wanted to visit. Many memorable little bits in this Pacific Northwest hub, including holing away in a yurt on Bainbridge Island. Yes, a yurt in a defunct hippie community. There are indeed fascinating properties on AirBnB. Oh, and the red couch (thanks, Pam!). I felt like I was part of something. A movement, maybe? Or perhaps I was just part of the furniture.


Grateful to visit another of the great Pacific Northwest outposts. We laughed with friends on the 4th of July, only to be delivered to the WDS conference and nearly collapse on stage in front of an audience of 1000 people. It was terrific. A moment we only hope to build on. Again, the theme, people. We told our stories to a certain degree, but we really felt like we were in the groove when our tale served as the conduit for the stories of others.


Dinner at Le Felteau - Le Marais, Paris
Audrey’s birthday dinner at Le Felteau in Le Marais, Paris

I am grateful to have been able to stay in an exceptionally posh pad at the Shangri-La Hotel for Audrey’s birthday, down a delightful magret de canard at a biker bar-cum-tiny bistrot called Le Felteau in Le Marais and turn my feet raw from three days of walking this truly fabulous city. By the way, should Audrey and I ever open a restaurant, we’ll feature chalkboard menus. Promise.

Porto, Portgual

Mediterranean morning, laundry landscape in Porto, #Portugal #flashback
Laundry landscapes in Porto, Portugal.

I am grateful for laundry. Not my own laundry (hell, no!), but for the laundry of others because it serves as evidence of the enduring beauty in the seemingly mundane. Oh, and for the discovery of port tonic cocktails in the terraced hills of Douro Valley.

Monterey, California

A walk on the beach, Central Coast #California
A walk on the beach, California’s central coast.

I’m so grateful to have returned to the scene of the crime, fifteen years on. And, thankful to have met so many inspiring yet grounded people working all over the world in responsible tourism at the ESTC conference.

Washington, D.C.

Grateful to round out the visit at the UN Foundation-backed GSTC conference with a few more visits to family. Yes, for us these family stops are spread far and wide; we appreciate the moments we have together.


Getting our swans in a row, near Amsterdam's Nieuwmarkt
Getting our swans in a row, near Amsterdam’s Nieuwmarkt

Thankful to return to a place that always delivers – canals, water, and romance in the Venice of the North. Oh and surprisingly great street art.


Dickens and Our Diamond Queen - London #streetart, Brick Lane to Spitalfields
London Street Art

It had been almost 10 years since we’d spent any time in London and it was a fun trip down memory – and Brick – lanes. London, one of the world’s great cities has a style all its own. Where else on earth can you find a subway station named Elephant & Castle. Boom.


Audrey with a Local Nicaraguan - Morgan's Rock
Laughter in Nicaragua

Not only am I thankful for beaches in winter, but I’m also thankful for the perspective those beaches and warmth bring. For us, our visit was perfect timing. It also emphasized, perhaps for one last time in the year, that while our work may take us to marketing, promotion and social media, the real questions and the real difference to be made in this life lie in the people.


Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market - Berlin, Germany
Getting into the Christmas spirit in Berlin.

For a little taste of home for the holidays. An image of a Christmas tree, gluhwein and eierpunsh, Christmas markets, and friends. Oh, red pleather pants and fire-breathing Chippendale dancers, too. Don’t ask.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Mystical and shrouded,  #Edinburgh Castle #blogmanay
Mystical and shrouded, Edinburgh Castle

I’m grateful to close out the year in a city I’ve wanted to visit for ages, but had always eluded me for one reason or another. It’s not only a beautiful city filled with legend and mood at every corner or small alley, but I’m thankful for people like Dave at the Scotch Whisky Experience who, in a few minutes, shared his over 30-years of experience working in whisky and weaved together a story about Scotland, bourbon and sherry casks (used for aging scotch whisky), smoky and vanilla flavors, how to match a whisky to the weather and mood, and why we shouldn’t be afraid to put a tiny bit of water in whisky to really understand it. And the beautiful thing is this: his spirit and passion is not an anomaly here in Edinburgh.

Our Hogmanay New Year’s celebrations began last night with the torchlight procession through Edinburgh’s old town. I have a feeling that I’ll have much more to be thankful for before the clock strikes midnight tonight (hello? Simple Minds and fireworks!) and we ring in the new year.

What things are you thankful for in 2012? Feel free to share one or many, or just do this exercise on your own.

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  1. Sutapa says

    I remember all your posts from this year! I loved your Japan trip. Went their vicariously through the two of you – the best-liked bloggers on travel! :)

    I also remember Oaxaca and the pig that you ate (forgot what it is called puerco pibil, or something like that).

    Have to re-read your WDS post.

    So what if you came to conferences more than travel. The travel was concentrated and focused, I thought!

    Happy New Year and have a great 2013!! Looking forward to your posts in 2013!

  2. Sutapa says

    I was thinking: perhaps you have or have not gone to Venice? Would be lovely to hear about Venice from your viewpoint next year!! Just a small, teeny-tiny request.

  3. says

    What a beautiful year for you two.

    I’ve also found that deliberate, structured reflection is necessary to really appreciate all of the little successes and memories of a given year (to our brains’ credit, it is a really long time!). I like the idea of going month by month, reminiscing and writing whatever comes to mind.

    Happy New Year, Uncornered Market!

  4. says

    Such a wonderful year for you! However, reading this post makes me realize that I should’ve done the same thing before 2012 is over. I’ve had a great year but jotting down all the memories will surely help me cherish every single moment that has happened last year. Anyway, Happy New Year and I hope one day I can bump into you at the most unassuming corner of the world!

  5. says

    @Sutapa: Glad to hear your perspective on “focused travel” and that you especially enjoyed Japan. It was a great trip.

    As for the puerco pibil post (from Yucutan), here it is just in case:

    About Venice, we traveled there just before our wedding…all the way back in 2000. Aside from the city’s sheer physical beauty, and all that history, we really enjoyed hanging out in and interacting with people in cicchetti bars (the local Venetian version of stand-up tapas or appetizer bars). Outside of that, walking through town — and especially in little side streets and the not-so-touristy fringes of Venice — were the highlights.

    Happy 2013 to you! Thanks for all your support.

    @Meghan: Happy New Year to you! Here’s to deliberate reflection :)

    @Lana: Great list.

    @Gerard: And to you, great meeting you in Japan! Sake on the steps :) One thought: consider thinking of “back to the grind” as the next step in a broader, continued adventure. All the best to you both!

    @Bama: There’s still time — there’s always time if we make it — to go back and reflect, even on our lives in 2012. Happy New Year and we’ll look forward to staying connected and meeting face-to-face one of these days…in unassuming corners. (Love that phrase!)

    @Mebin: Glad you enjoyed them.

  6. says

    It was great to meet you both last year and hopefully we cross paths again soon. And the red couch. Ahh, how can one piece of furniture have the power to potentially convert me from my nomadic ways? (Hi Pam!)

  7. says

    @James: And you. Was a great time, even with a little pre-WDS stress peppered in there. And that couch! We bonded around, on and about that thing. I also realize we never responded re: FYRC. I suppose that the proper words to do it justice just never came. One of these days.

  8. says

    My first impression when i read this article was: Wow, you traveled a lot in 2012 :). I am glad you had a good year, and i hope this will continue as we will continue to follow your adventure and read your articles!

  9. says

    @Mona: I guess it’s all a matter of perspective regarding whether one has traveled, done, accomplished a lot or a little. Regardless, we’ll keep on keeping on with our adventures and perspective.


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