Best Travel Moments of 2018

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Best Travel Moments of 2018

2018 was another fantastic year of travel. I made about 10 trips in all – some long, some short. I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have to see new places, return to favorites, and get outside in the great outdoors.

These are my best travel moments from the year.

Skiing the Best Snow on Earth in Utah

It was supposed to be the best snow on earth. But the first time in my life skiing the Rocky Mountains, the region was having its worst winter for snowfall in decades. I still had a blast skiing Solitude Mountain even if the snow wasn’t world class. The terrain and mountains here are some of the best. Despite the lackluster winter, any chance to visit Utah is a pleasure for me. Juno and I explored some rail history in Ogden, saw the incredible display of dinosaur bones at the Natural History Museum of Utah, talked to plenty of Mormons, researched my family history in Salt Lake, and ate some amazing tacos from a street cart. I was always a fan of southern Utah, now I know the whole state is packed with fantastic natural and historical things to do.

nyuto hot springs

Japan Rail Trip and Research

In February I went to Japan to do research for a trip leading a group of high school students around the country. I flew into Osaka and did some walking in the Japan Alps and then explored the city of Kanazawa. It was part of a 7-day Japan rail pass excursion around Japan. But before that, I had my most memorable moment in Japan. I was hiking the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route on the Kii Peninsula and as I was cruising down the mountain to the final Shinto shrine, I was greeted by the regional tourism officials and told that I was the 1,000th Dual Pilgrim. This means I had completed both the Camino de Santiago and the Kumano Kodo after exactly 999 others. There was a ceremony for me at the shine and I received lots of gifts and they interviewed me for the local newspapers.

Taking a school group to Peru

It is always a pleasure to share my love of travel with others. In April, I led a group of high school students to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of Peru. Walking the ancient streets of Cusco and climbing the massive stones of Ollantaytambo are always highlights (this was my third time back to Peru). But this year we spent time with a Quechua community, staying overnight in their village, high in the Andes. The afternoon we arrived, one of the elders led us on a short hike up a ridge to an expansive view over the valley where he preformed a ritual and offering to Pacha Mama. 

We won a trip to Juneau

In June, Juno and I went to Juneau. Say that three times fast. We won this trip through Scott McMurren’s Alaska Travelgram. Lucky us! We camped for the first few days before moving into our complimentary downtown Juneau hotel. We rented a car and explored every mile of Juneau’s 40-mile road system, did some glacier hiking, went whale watching, walked the docks, ate incredible seafood, and watched the giant cruise ships pull in and out of the harbor. My favorite moment was watching the sunset on the last evening from the northwest shore of Douglas Island.

First time to Denali

In July my parents came to Alaska and my explorations of my new home state continued. I visited Denali for the first time. There is Denali State Park, Denali National Park, and Denali the mountain. We did some walks in both the national and state parks and it wasn’t until our sixth day in the area that the peak of Denali came out of the clouds. In an amazing week, that was probably my favorite moment, when we saw Denali up close for the first time. Oh yeah, and there was the time a brown bear walked right in front of our bus while we were touring the national park. That was pretty special, too.

berg lake

The Berg Lake Trail in Mt Robson Provincial Park

I finally made it to the Canadian Rockies after all these years of traveling. They are a crowded place in the summer, but if you know the right spots, you can avoid the tourists. My friend Dustin Main, who runs the small group tours to Myanmar, invited me and another friend to hike the Berg Lake Trail. Simply put this is one of North America’s best. We had a blast enjoying the scenery as well as the time away from internet and technology. A relaxing and energetic four days in the backcountry was just what we needed. With so many amazing moments on this trek, I don’t think I could choose just one.

Hiking and Baseball in Seattle

You may not know this about me but I am a fan of baseball. Long story but after about a twenty-year hiatus, I now have a renewed interest in Major League Baseball. Oddly enough, I support the Toronto Blue Jays. Don’t ask why. In August the Blue Jays came to Seattle to play the Mariners and we joined literally tens of thousands of Jays fans from western Canada who drove down south of the border. Despite the awesome baseball my most memorable moments were combing the beach for driftwood on Whidbey Island and the unforgettable view of Mount Rainier from the Mt Fremont Fire tower trail.

Camping & Swimming at Reed Lakes

I’ll start with the improbable: me swimming in an alpine lake with mini icebergs floating in the water. Needless to say, it’s the coldest water I’ve ever swum in. Ok, I didn’t swim, more like ten seconds to dunk underneath this almost thawed ice-shelf. Juno and I hiked up to camp at Lower Reed lake, near Hatcher Pass in Alaska, with our friend Denis, who was visiting from Ireland. The hike was great and the view from our camp spot was spectacular. I hope to be going here every summer.

eklutna lake

Fall Kayaking at Eklutna Lake

Eklutna Lake is gorgeous any time of year. In an attempt to get outside, stay active, and do research for my new Alaska Travel planning business, Juno and I went kayaking on Eklutna Lake. We got the last beautiful day of the fall before the kayak rental shop closed. And the leaves were still blazing yellow. For a day trip from Anchorage, you can’t beat Eklutna Lake.

going to Tunisia

First time to Tunisia

There are many good reasons I went to Tunisia for two weeks in October and I ended up liking the country far more than I expected. This region of the world is fascinating and I loved seeing Roman mosaics in situ, getting lost in ancient medinas, trying new foods, eating dates in the oasis, and exploring abandoned villages. The highlight for me was probably climbing the giant dunes in the Sahara.

Greece, Malta, Cyprus, & Israel

My love affair with the Mediterranean continues. After a 2017 trip to Lesvos, Greece, I couldn’t shake Greece from my system. This three-week trip included stops in Malta, Cyprus, Israel, and Greece. I’ve been to Israel before and find the history fascinating, nevermind the outstanding food. I visited good friends near Tel Aviv and went to the Galilee and Golan for the first time. But I also enjoyed Athens and the moment that stands out is watching the sunrise over the city from Mount Lycabettus, and the Parthenon illuminate in an orange glow.

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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