2014 was my first full calendar year as a travel blogger and it brought many new experiences. In those twelve months I visited five countries, but I spent only a minor portion of the year in my home territory. Four of those five nations were African and I was able to get more than just a glimpse of each one by immersing myself in the culture and food of each place (minus Djibouti, unless French-influenced seafood dishes count). I’ve learned a lot this past year and am looking forward to 2015, which will start with a lot of travel and some new media.
The majority of the past year was dedicated to East Africa. With Addis Ababa as my base, I was able to easily explore Ethiopia’s diversity and I’m hoping to return for more at some point in 2015. My favorite place in Ethiopia was the ancient city of Harar in the eastern part of the country. The old walled portion of Harar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, merited multiple photo essays and brought a mixture of friendly faces, bright walls and history.
Another highlight was hiking down to the crater lake at Wenchi, a few hours west of Addis. The shades of green were memorable and I really enjoyed taking portraits of children we met on the path.
Ethiopia is an ideal destination for history buffs and few spots rival Axum, the former seat of the great Axumite kingdom. The stelae (obelisk) field in Axum is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and the dry season hung around for a few extra weeks to ensure that I had a beautiful morning to photograph these monuments.
In terms of Ethiopian food, drink and culture, I posted a comprehensive review of locally produced beer; sampled kitfo and its delicious sides; and hit up the Ethiopian cultural restaurants for some dancing and honey wine.
Although I have written about and photographed Ethiopia extensively, much more is forthcoming. I have about twenty posts waiting to be written and a good portion of them document my interactions with the former Abyssinia.
The other three African countries I visited were Kenya, Djibouti and Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). I enjoyed the wildlife and scenery of Kenya so much that I moved my base to Nairobi in October (although, more importantly, my wife was offered a job in Nairobi). Few things make me happier than a stay in a lodge or a tented camp with a game drive awaiting once I’ve finished photographing the sunrise.
While strolling around the center of Djibouti City was not a very pleasant experience, a trip to Lac Assal, the lowest point in Africa, presented striking landscapes and unique colors.
My favorite new destination of 2014 was Cote d’Ivoire. The Ivorians were incredibly nice to me, Abidjan was filled with interesting architecture and the food was an eclectic mix of local favorites and French technique. Plus, I had the pleasure of spending a day at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Grand Bassam, a town of colonial buildings and empty beaches.
After spending a year based in East Africa, I returned to the US for a few weeks during the fall. Autumn has always been my favorite season in northeast due to the cooler temperatures, bright foliage and playoff baseball.
My wife and I relocated to Kenya in October and plan to be here for a while. We are truly excited every day when we wake up to the lushness outside and contemplate all of the options for weekend and day trips from Nairobi.
This coming year will take me to southern Spain in late January and likely northern Spain in late April/early May. The Seychelles (only a 3-hour direct flight from Nairobi!) are looking good for a March visit. A lot of friends and family have promised an East Africa voyage this year, so plenty of Kenya travel will be interspersed. Those are the only planned or semi-planned trips thus far. I’m dying to make it to Tanzania and Rwanda, which are very easy to reach. Namibia is a stretch, but it’s in my sights to make it to southwest Africa within the next two years.
On the technology front, video is coming to Cook Sip Go. Or at least the yet-to-be-populated Cook Sip Go YouTube channel. I now own a GoPro and hope to start using it in late January when in Spain. I met a Hungarian couple who were on a video assignment recently and got some great tips from them on filming and editing.
In terms of content, I will be posting more regularly on food and cooking, as was originally envisioned when I started this blog. The ingredients and facilities are at hand, so I have no excuse to refrain. I am also hard at work on my first book – a travel memoir from a year in and around Ethiopia – and hope to have a draft done by June with an eye to publication in the fall. Forcing myself to sit down and write as often as possible has been a challenging, but frankly wonderful process. A heartfelt thanks goes out to my readers and my colleagues in the travel industry, all of whom have made 2014 a watershed year in my life.
Where are you headed in 2015? Are you crossing off any long-held travel wishes this year?