Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Wrap -Up: Conquering the Americas and Other Personal Record Highs In Travel!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

First Jumpshot in San Francisco (CA), USA in 2016!

In terms of travel, I really hit it high in 2016! Thanks to the concept of "location independence" which allowed me to actually "vacation where I work, and work where I vacation" sort of! And whether or not my clients fully understand this concept of operating a virtual law office and working remotely, I was able to leave the Philippines as my work base for one whole year while earning a steady income. As a couple, we have traveled thousand of miles together this year and even conquered the Americas - North America (United States), South America (Brazil and Peru) and Central America (Costa Rica). That and other amazing travel experiences have reached an unprecedented personal record high for us and we cannot help but jump!  Read on  to find out our 12 highs in 2016 -- 

Jumpshot in Downtown Denver, Colorado (USA) 

Welcoming 2016 in Saratoga Springs, Utah
High # 1: With my husband Red, my 1 true love (ahem*), and my best travel buddy, we have welcomed (and will be saying goodbye to) this magnificent year while in the United States of America, the country that was No. 1 on our list of places to visit as a couple in 2016! For 1 year now, we have visited (or had lay-over in!) the following US States in chronological order - Washington, Utah, Nevada, California, Florida,  Oregon, Colorado,  Arizona   and Georgia.
Signage At The Border of Arizona and Utah
High # 2: As Fodor's No. 1 Place To Visit in 2016we visited Utah twice this year! Fo- weeks each in January and September/October, we experienced two variations in season - Winter and Autumn - but each one exhilarates in its own way. We got to Utah 2-ways, by air from Seattle, Washington in January and by scenic byways from Arizona in October. Then explored 2- regions and seen 2 - totally different looks. During the January visit, we drove around Northern Utah, the chain of cities from Provo to Logan with Kaysville and Farmington at the center. This is where most of our relatives, former missionary companions, and friends from Church live. This is also where Salt Lake City, Utah's capital and the headquarter of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is located, so both of our visits  there is business and pleasure! We toured around Temple Square, Utah's most popular tourist attraction with 2 visitors' centers open daily from 9am to 9pm where complimentary tours are offered, took pictures with the impressive Salt Lake Temple, watched free performances by the Mormon Tabernacle Choirattended functions at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and at the Conference Center, an impressive 21,000-seat auditorium. For our last week of September to early October visit, it was the perfect timing for Utah's best fall foliage viewing seasonAboard our second-hand Nissan Altima with a sun roof, we headed on adventurous drive from Cottonwood, Arizona into Southern Utah, the home of the so-called Mighty Five national parks and several national monuments, scenic byways and state parks. The view along the Scenic Byway 12 to Alton and then to Provo was so stunning that we have to stop often and got out of our car to capture the nature's beauty at its best! We also veered up along the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway through the Uinta National Forest’s towering 12,000-foot mountains, and wound down into Provo Canyon to enjoy stunning views of the rugged alpine canyons brimming with golden aspens and crimson-colored maple in the midst of an evergreen forest backdrop and glacier-carved peaks. 

My Jumpshot in Lima Plaza Mayor (Main Square) in Lima, Peru
High # 3: For our third engagement anniversary celebration (June 12), we booked our tickets to Peru to visit Machu Pichu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide internet poll in 2007. But since I got sick and extended our stay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, we decided to just fly to Lima, the capital city of the Republic of Peru and Lima province through the Jorge Chavez International Airport located in the region of Callao. For 3 full days, we visited 3 districts of Lima - City of Lima, Miraflores and Barranco, and 3 districts in Callao - Callao downtown, Bellavista and La Punta.  In Lima, the 3rd largest city in the Americas by population, we visited the Historic Centre of Lima which was declared as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 for its originality and high concentration of historic monuments constructed in the time of Spanish presence. In thPlaza Mayor (Main Square) or Plaza de Armas of Lima alone, we were able to take pictures of the Government Palace, Cathedral of Lima, Archbishop's Palace of Lima, the Municipal Place and the Palace of the Union without leaving our seat! I love Miraflores because of the Miraflores beach, Lover's Park, and Larcomar, a shopping mall overlooking the Pacific Coast, while Barranco is the most romantic and bohemian with artsy stuff and homes and restaurants in and around the ravine overlooking the Miraflores beach. Callao is my so-called 3-in-1 place being the port, sea and island rolled into 1 and in this region with one sole district, we were able to do our 3 travel staples - see a movie in Bellavista, visit a chocolate shop in Callao Downtown and eat crabs at La Punta!

Jumpshot at the Painted Ladies in San Francisco, CA (USA)

High # 4: San Francisco with its 4 - nicknames - "SFO", "San Fran", "Frisco" and "City By The Bay" is the fourth-most populous city in California, (after Los AngelesSan Diego, and San Jose) and Filipinos (including our BFF) comprise 5% of the total population! That is the reason, why we were in San Francisco four times this year - in January, June, August, and September (or else! lol). But of course, we have more than four reasons why we heart San Francisco. Our Top 4 out of the "50 Reasons To Love San Francisco" are Cable Car, Ghirardeli Square, Painted Ladies, and Fisherman's Wharf since we already visited SFO's must-see attractions when we arrived in December 14-16, 2015 like the iconic "Golden Gate Bridge", "Twin Peaks", "Presidio, the classically beautiful Palace of Fine Arts" and "Pier 39".

Jumpshot over Badwater Basin with CS Friends Kevin and Kama
High # 5: My 2016 opened up with an event invitation in Couchsurfing site from Kevin to join him in his road trip from Las Vegas to Arizona and to / around Northern California and we ended up seeing five US National Parks at no entry cost! Aboard Kevin's rented car, we've seen the beauty of the Grand CanyonDeath ValleyKings Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite!

Jumpshot in Flagstaff, Arizona
High # 6: Direct flights are expensive so since I have to travel for work, I experienced 6-lay overs this year in six cities - Portland (Oregon), Atlanta (Georgia),  Miami (Florida), Fort Lauderdale (Florida), Shanghai (China), Tokyo (Japan), and Incheon (South Korea).

Jumpshot in Siargao.
(Sorry for the tummy exposure, couldn't find the better picture!
High # 7:While touring around the US and the Americas, I didn't forget being a tourist in my own country! Oh well -- yea, it is mostly work reason that I have to fly around the the Philippines but I took the opportunity to explore the 7 - Philippine destinations that I flown into this year - El Nido, Cagayan de Oro, Bohol, Butuan, Siargao, Bislig, and Surigao!

Jumpshot at Fort Lauderdale By The Sea in Florida
High # 8: As one of the Best Places To Travel in 2016 according to the Travel And Leisure Magazine, we packed our bags for an 8-day vacation in this biologically diverse country in Central America before the year is over. With its cloud forests, wetlands, and tens of thousands of unique species of flora and fauna, our time in Costa Rica was one of the travel highs in 2016 (although we didn't have a jumpshot to show that! lol)

High # 9: This year, I have flown with nine airlines counting up both international flights and domestic flights operated by Asiana, Cebu Pacific, China Eastern, Delta, Jet Blue, Latam, Philippine Airlines, Southwest, and Spirit Airlines; tasted the nine best (and worst) airline's food; sat on nine comfy (and uncomfortable) airline's seats; and experienced nine fun (and boring) in-flight services!

Copacabana Beach in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

High # 10: As one of Travel And Leisure Magazine's Best Places To Travel in 2016 and the host of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was actually on top of our list of countries to visit this year! And being there for Ten Days a little over a month prior to the games in August, we were literally in middle of preparation for the biggest events in history! In fact, we were two of the few passengers who were on board the new Light Rail Transit during its opening ride without a ticket going to the Cidad Olimpica (Olympic Village) and gazed entry into the long-awaited Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow), a mammoth 15,000-square-foot facility with interactive exhibits that explore the science behind outer space, human impact, and the future of life on Earth. But even sans the Olympics (and the dirty downtown), we still love Rio de Janeiro with our handpicked 10 Top Tourist Attractions list from 1 to 10 - "Cristo Redentor" or "Christ the Redeemer"Mirante Dona MarthaSugarloaf Mountain, Tijuca National Park, Ipanema Beach, Copacabana Beach, Guanabara Bay from BotafagoSanta Teresa Neighborhood, Lagoa Neighborhood, and Lapa Neighborhood!  No doubt Rio de Janeiro was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 worldwide internet poll. A win well deserved!

Jumpshot in Sedona, Arizona

High # 11: We took eleven road trips around the US this year and have seen "wonderful cities, charming landscapes, majestic mountains, refreshing rivers and lakes, fabulous beaches and great people"! Aboard friends-lent cars or in our own second - hand car, we were on the road for 11 days, taking the scenic routes between or around states of California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada and staying at 11 different accommodations - hotels, motels, inns, hostels, and lovely friend's homes! 

High # 12: This year, I've flown quite a bit - 38 flights total but landed only at twelve best (and worst) airports like the Laguindingan International Airport (LIA) in Cagayan De Oro (Philippines), Denver International Airport (DIA) in Colorado (USA), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in California (USA), Los Angeles Domestic Airport (LOS) in California (USA), Manila International Airport (MNL) (Philippines), Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS) in Palawan (Philippines), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Arizona (USA), Jorge Vargas International Airport in Lima (Peru), Galeon International Airport (GIG) in Rio De Janeiro (Brazil), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in California (USA), Jose Santa Maria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose (Costa Rica), Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) in Utah, and Tagbilaran International Airport (TAG) in Bohol (Philippines).

Right now, we are back here in the US and in a few hours, we will be welcoming the 2017 here in Orange County, California. But before I said goodbye to 2016, I want to thank Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for this best year ever in our travels! And to those of you who have hosted us, feed us, journeyed with us, and spent their time with us this year, Thank You so much for making this year so beautiful and a record high in our travel! May you all have a Happy and Blessed New Year! 

This is also part of the collaboration posts for the December 2016 PTB Blog Carnival on "Prosperous and Exciting Year of Travel in 2016" being compiled / hosted by Mervin Marasigan, the Pinoy Adventurista. Check out the previous blog carnival topics in Estan Cabigas of Pinoy Travel Bloggers Carnival.

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