When I’m in a social situation and people find out I’m a travel writer I’m often asked where is my favorite destination. I have a quick answer for the question and will usually say New Zealand. The problem is I have lots of favorite places.
Some of the world’s best that keep me coming back year after year are:
Colorado, Rocky Mt High
I have traveled Colorado extensively. As a child I grew up hunting and fishing every corner of the state. The few places I missed were explored over the next few years when I moved back home after my four year stint in the Coast Guard. Fishing and skiing took me through the best parts of the mountains. My favorite fishing spot below the dam at Green Mt Reservoir was heaven on earth. Each punishing hike from a secluded parking spot would reward me with hours of fishing with not another soul to be seen. That was before the kayakers got wind of this special canyon paradise.
Back country skiing up North Tenmile Creek under a brilliant full moon would cast shadows playing in our wake as we struggled uphill and blasted downhill. We almost always had two to four big dogs joining us making for one of the happiest mountain memories I have.
The Great Northwest
Seattle, Washington is another favorite destination. I fell under the spell of Mount Rainier on a long layover in 1974. It was January and I was on my way to Kodiak, Alaska. It was a clear, cold, winter’s day and I stared at the fading light draping the massive mountain in crimson Alpenglow as high wind sent trails of snow horizontally across the crimson sky.
When I left Alaska for a warmer climate in 1986 Auburn, Washington is where I ended up. Through the course of the next several months I became acquainted with the area. The charm of downtown Seattle, the mysterious forests at Mount Rainer’s feet, and the Puget Sound hooked me for life. I return to Washington most every year for decades enjoying every moment, except I-5 traffic, during my visits.
Alaska-The Great Land
Alaska also got buried into my very soul from that first year on Kodiak Island. Though I didn’t realize it at the time I was hooked for life. With endless wilderness easily accessible I wandered near and far as I could in the emerald landscape. When I left for cooking school a year later I had no clue how deep Alaska had affected me.
I would return two years later and be schooled by the far western reaches of Alaska, just below the Arctic Circle, and never be the same. Intense wilderness and solitude suited me just fine. The days where the wind and cold sent wind-chill readings past 100° below zero were merely opportunities to test my tolerance of the cold. The colors of the dawn and dusk skies were other worldly blues and violet hues defying comprehension on planet earth as snow-snakes played at me feet.
A chance to start over
After leaving a serious drug habit and Colorado behind in 1984, Alaska would heal both my body and soul. With a new lease on life I thrived in the far north for years living in places like Cordova, Kenai, and Sterling. I left Alaska in 1990 to join my wife-to-be in Colorado, but would return every year except one, over the next 20 years. Each time the plane landed in Anchorage I felt like I was home.
The Other Land Down Under
New Zealand intrigued me for decades but was out of reach due to the money needed to get there. When my wife and I were married we both wanted to go to New Zealand for our honeymoon. With 15 days to explore we made the most of it. We rented a campervan and drove from Auckland all the way to Queenstown, then back to Christchurch stopping at several camper parks on the way.
The camper parks were fine but on one occasion we camped out on the beach near Westport on the South Island. Later that morning a Weka-a flightless bird, practically walked into our campervan. For a wildlife loving guy like me that was a highlight of the trip. We toured the Marlborough wine region before it was world famous enjoying the laid-back Kiwi culture and hospitality. In Queenstown we rode on flashy jetboats up and down rivers at breakneck speeds whooping and hollering in joy.
Many repeat visits
On our next trip I took a friend’s advice and we visited the Able-Tasman National Park. Our base camp was Nelson where we discovered a thriving arts, food, and wine scene rivaling any we had experienced in the world. After that trip I was sure I wanted to buy a rental property in New Zealand. I returned two years later and took a two day real estate investing course in Auckland before heading to Gisborne. In Gisborne I bought a home overlooking Poverty Bay and the city of Gisborne. By virtue of owning that rental home I returned to Gisborne often. This only deepened my love of the country. I’ve been there eight times and expect I have a few more trips there yet.
My favorite destination not listed above are: Japan, Spain, Italy, and France. Being a travel writer is like being a kid in the candy store with so many great choices in reach. Sure I can visit often, but like too much candy, travel is best when done in moderation. I wouldn’t ever want to get sick of traveling and so far that hasn’t been a problem.
So when asked where is my favorite destination, if given enough time I’d probably answer, “How much time to you have for the answer?”