30 December 2022

Five Travel Stories from 2022

As COVID restrictions slowly began to ease around the world, I was grateful to be able to travel more often in 2022 than I had in the previous two years, although I'm still not back at beforetimes levels. This year, I visited six countries across four continents, including four new-to-me countries — Kenya, Uganda, Indonesia and Greece — as well as a long-awaited return to my beloved New York City. Closer to home, I enjoyed a great city break in Bristol and spent far too much time watching Wolves fail to score, consoling myself with speciality coffee stops in Wolverhampton and Brum.

Keep on reading to find out the five stories I've picked out to sum up my travel highlights of the year (you can also check out my 2021 and 2020 editions).

1. Visiting coffee farms in Kenya, Uganda and Bali
Before this year, the last time I'd visited a coffee farm at origin was some years ago in Costa Rica. This year, I was lucky enough to travel to Kenya and Uganda for a work trip, where I got to visit coffee farms and washing stations of varying sizes, meeting farmers, watching coffee being processed and, of course, sampling lots of coffee. If you're in the Nairobi area and interested in doing some coffee tourism, check out Fairview Estate, which runs tours that explain the whole process, from farm to cup, and ending with a tasting session in the roastery.

I also travelled to Bali and although the work part of the trip was mostly spent in conference rooms, during the holiday part, I stayed at Munduk Moding Plantation, a resort that has its own coffee farm. I took part in a coffee experience where the guides and baristas provided great insights into coffee production and drank coffee from the farm throughout my stay.

2. Leaping — and wildlife-spotting — on the Equator
I didn't have a lot of free time while I was in East Africa, but one small delight came in crossing the Equator several times a day while I was staying in Kasese, at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains in Western Uganda, as we travelled from the hotel to various coffee washing stations in the area. There are so many national parks nearby that we were also able to spot elephants, zebras and antelopes from the van as we travelled around — and even more wildlife when we took a half-day safari at Queen Elizabeth National Park. And in Kenya, I spent a happy few hours in Nairobi National Park, where I saw giraffes, zebras, ostriches, hippos, wildebeest and even a rhino. This short stay in East Africa convinced me that I need to return for a longer trip.

3. A long-awaited return to NYC
My last trip before COVID in 2020 was to NYC and Seattle and I was looking forward to returning to the Big Apple with my parents three months later. For obvious reasons, that didn't happen, and it was over two years before we were able to reschedule. It was my longest absence from my favourite city in around 15 years, so I was very glad to be back. The magic returned as soon as we glimpsed that famous skyline from the taxi. I did all of my favourite things — like walking over Brooklyn Bridge and along the High Line and visiting lots of speciality coffee shops — and some new ones (like savouring the view from the Edge in Hudson Yards). I also caught up with some dear friends and I'm already planning my next visit.

4. (Almost) total relaxation in Bali
By the time October rolled around, I was in serious need of some R&R after a very hectic year. Luckily, I was able to take ten days of annual leave before my work trip to Bali, which was just what the doctor ordered! I travelled around the island visiting temples, waterfalls, rice fields and beaches, hiking, eating delicious food and relaxing by infinity pools. I have so many happy memories from the trip, although one of the most memorable moments was scarier: when I got caught in a rip current off the island of Nusa Penida. I was OK, albeit a little shaken, and the incident served as a reminder to always be cautious in the sea — especially in Bali, which has a lot of rough waters and rip tides — and more generally when travelling alone.

5. Archaeology and alimentation in Athens
Throughout 2021 and 2022, I rescheduled a lot of the trips that I'd planned to take in 2020 before COVID struck. The latest of these was a city break in Athens in late November. I was very lucky with the weather — it was warm and gloriously sunny, which was perfect for exploring the Acropolis and many of the city's other archaeological sights. I also paid a visit to the Temple of Poseidon — perched on a hilltop on Cape Sounion overlooking the cerulean blue Aegean Sea. While I watched the sunset, it occurred to me that after my unfortunate marine experience in Bali, I should have made an offering to Poseidon, Baruna and all of the other gods of the sea...

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