7 Epic Travel Experiences of 2012

1 year, 8 countries. 9 U.S. States, plus the District of Columbia. 31 flight segments. 2012 certainly has been the “Year of Travel” for me! I spent 165 days away from home in 2012, spending nearly 6 months on the road as I traversed over 40,000 miles (or 70,000 km)! Let’s take a look at some the most epic experiences, shall we?

Iraq

Kurdish Friends in Amadiya

What exactly isn’t epic about visiting Iraq? What started with a chance meeting on a bus in Israel with a fellow traveler turned into one of my most epic travel experiences to date! The 10 days I spent in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan Region were days I will never forget. Days that were filled with smashing down preconceptions about safety, learning about the sorrowful past for the Kurds and experiencing the sheer warmth of a people who were more than happy meet me!

Upper Hamilton Road

Most Epic Part of The Trip? Driving! Try an aging rental car with no insurance and a place where lanes are meaningless! You’ll be able to read more about that in an upcoming post.

Turkey

Church of the Redeemer, Ani

I can’t say enough about just how much I really loved Turkey. From bi-continental Istanbul, which I was so enamored with a spent a week in, to the rugged east, Turkey was truly a place full of surprises. Unexpected Erzurum, with its vibrant tombs, mystical Ani (pictured above), with its crumbling Armenian architecture and unbelievable Hasankeyf (pictured below), a small, Tigris River town that stole my heart in an instant with its beauty and intense history.

Hasankeyf

Most Epic Part of the Trip? Nights out in Istanbul and the massive sendoffs for teenagers going off to their compulsory military service (where the entire town turned out at 1:00am, tossing young men into the air). Oh and passing through a little town called Batman. You heard that right…

Vienna

Vienna Opera House

My travel experience is real light when it comes to Europe, so when my flight arrangements for Iraq called for an overnight stopover in Vienna, I jumped at the opportunity! I was only there for 15 hours, but my CouchSurfing host made sure it was a night I’d never forget, taking me on a whirlwind tour of the city, which included some gastronomic delights! Can you say amazing chocolate cake?? And never have I experienced culture shock before, but landing in Vienna after 10 days in Iraq? Yeah….

Most Epic Part of the Trip? There was a pretty awesome gay pride festival right outside City Hall while I was there! It was quite the happening place to be!

Egypt

Hieroglyphics at Karnak

Luxor was where I started 2012, where the new year arrived with a few fireworks over the Nile River. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a big fan of Luxor, (pictured above) but when I moved on to serene Dahab along the Red Sea in the Sinai Peninsula, my year, some 3 days old, was looking up! I loved Dahab and, in retrospect, loved my hike up Mount Sinai to watch the sunset, pictured below.

Sunset at Mount Sinai

Most Epic Part of the Trip? My adventure trying to leave Egypt where I thought I might get kidnapped

Petra

The Monastery

I don’t think I have the words to describe just how much I really loved Petra. I could have spent a week in the rose-red stone city, exploring every little side path. Instead, I settled for two very action packed days (over 20 hours in total) of hiking through the surreal, rock landscape, eyeing façade after façade. It was pure bliss and I learned an important lesson about myself. I love sitting in isolation overlooking a truly dramatic landscape. Petra has no shortage of those moments!

Treasury from Above

Most Epic Part of the Trip? Hiking up to Petra’s highest peak, Umm al-Biyara, a blissful way to escape the crowds and be treated to one unbelievable view of the entire site!

Alaska

Whittier Harbor

When I was offered the chance to visit Anchorage in August, I jumped at the opportunity! Alaska is just unbelievable, filled with the sheer beauty of rising peaks, frozen glaciers and stunning waterfronts. From quite the food and craft beer scene to lovely jaunts to the surrounding areas (including sublime Whittier (pictured above) on Prince William Sound), Anchorage was a place I’d love to go back to!

Matanuska Glacier

Most Epic Part of the Trip? Glacier Trekking on the Matanuska Glacier (pictured above)!

Hurricane Sandy

Crosswalk Flares

I live in NYC, so it’s not really fair to call it a travel experience, but being there through Hurricane Sandy was quite an epic experience in itself. I was one of the lucky ones, never losing power throughout the storm. Others were not so lucky. I’ll never forget getting around my city with no subway. Or visiting a whole other world by stepping below 26th Street and right into the Blackout Zone, a powerless void where nightlife thrived by candle light!

Most Epic Part of the Experience? This…

"Dollhouse"

So there you have it! 2012 has been a fantastic year, full of countless memories I’ll cherish for a long, long time! And I’m giving 2013 a start this year in Las Vegas! Here’s wishing a happy and healthy New Year to each and every one of you out there!

What are some of your most epic experiences of 2012?

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10 Responses to 7 Epic Travel Experiences of 2012

  1. Greg Prohl January 5, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

    That was quite a year you had there, some spectacular photos and I’m sure even more incredible memories being there in all these places. I’ll be checking back to read the promised stories in detail.

    • Aaron January 6, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

      Thanks! 2012 was quite the spectacular year in so many different ways! Here’s to an equally spectacular 2013! And thanks for checking out my blog!

  2. Andrea MacEachern January 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Looks like you had quite the year of traveling! Definitely some great experiences had along the way!

    • Aaron January 6, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

      Indeed I did! Thanks for checking out my site!

  3. Lisa @chickybus January 12, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    Holy crap–you covered some serious ground in 2012. Wow!! I like your travel taste. Lots of variety there and definitely a bit of edge. Great stuff.

    Awesome photos, too!

    Look forward to seeing where you go in 2013!

    • Aaron March 30, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

      Haha thanks!

  4. Amber April 27, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    I started a RTW in 2012, that is somewhat permanent, and no longer RTW as I am settled in Asia for the foreseeable future. So, it was a good year. I also spent less than 24 hours in Vienna, but had an entirely different experience. Used points for a nice hotel that was not that nice. I wandered around, but after seeing so much of Europe, I was over it. The city just seemed too over the top. But, you probably had an epic experience because of Couchsurfing, and hanging with a local. Congrats!

    • Aaron April 28, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

      Welcome to why I’m such a huge proponent of CouchSurfing. It’s not just that it’s free (which is certainly an added bonus), but it gives you a TOTALLY different perspective on things. I don’t think I really would’ve known where to start for a night in Vienna on my own other than wandering downtown. I got to see the sights, eat some well-known chocolate cake and chill at a pretty nifty little wine bar. It was loads of fun and now I’d love to go back!

      Congrats on settling in Asia! That’s awefully exciting! Whereabouts?

      • Amber April 28, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

        I have hesitated with CS because we are a couple. I know people do it, but I am too old for the situation of just crashing on people’s sofas, particular with my giant of a husband. I keep saying I will check it out though.

        Right now, we are stalled in Bali. We head to Thailand and Vietnam in June and July, and then will be back here again for a few months. We are planned out until August, but after that, we have no idea!

        • Aaron April 28, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

          Ah yes, CS is tough with a couple for sure. You could always do Airbnb or something. Not to mention that CS isn’t just about staying on people’s couches. There’s also a big social networking aspect to it with locals willing to meet for coffee or to just show you around, depending on the situation.

          How fun! Do be aware that June is the monsoon season in Thailand and Vietnam.

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