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  • Writer's pictureKimberly OLeary

It's our 2d anniversary! What was our favorite place in 2023?

Updated: Jan 26

Japanese version 日本語版

This month marks the 2d anniversary of the Rocinantes taking to the road.  It’s been a wonderful and amazing experience so far. 

Somehow, we find ourselves back in Michigan during the coldest part of the year.  Fate has an interesting sense of humor.  This time around, we were away from the United States, and from Michigan, over 14 months.  We traveled in 7 countries (compared to 12 our first year) and stayed in 5 of them for more than a month (compared to 5 our first year).  Out of those 5, we stayed in New Zealand and Japan 3 months each, and in Fiji for 2 months.  One goal from our first year was to travel slower, and stay longer.  Longer stays are more peaceful and we get to know a lot more about a place.  

Since our return, we’ve reconnected with a lot of people, and most of them ask, “What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?”  This turns out to be a much harder question than you would think.  Before turning to the answer, let’s review where we traveled since late January, 2023.

About a year ago, at the very end of January, on my birthday, we flew to New Zealand.  We flew into Auckland a couple of days after an unusually strong storm (a tropical atmospheric river) caused record flooding and the closure of the  international airport.  Fortunately for us, the airport was open the day of our flight, and we arrived without incident.  We spent two weeks in Hamilton, NZ, with our good friends Cheryl & Brendan, and visited many other dear friends.  While we were there, Cyclone Gabrielle hit NZ - we were safe, but other parts of NZ were badly damaged.  After visiting many friends in Hamilton, we took the scenic train to Wellington, where we stayed (mostly) until the end of March.  We did take a one-week journey to Christchurch in late February, where we rode the scenic train across the NZ Alps and back up the coast to the Cook Straits where we took the ferry back to Wellington. In Wellington, we stayed in a wonderful studio apartment in a central part of town, near the university areas.  We were walking distance to groceries, restaurants, art events, museums, and the port. From Wellington, we took a scenic train north to Auckland where we stayed for most of April.  In Auckland, we had a small but centrally located apartment in the Parnell area, which is full of great restaurants, a central bus line, and a train station.  We navigated easily from there to museums and an Olympic pool where I swam laps regularly.

Next, we flew to Suva, Fiji, the capital of the country.  In Suva, we stayed two months in a spacious, two-story, two-bedroom apartment about a 25-minute walk from the center of the city and an outdoor Olympic pool.  We saw beautiful sunsets on the ocean, met interesting people, and had a fabulous visit with our son and his wife. 

From there, we flew to Singapore where we enjoyed a wonderful week in this vibrant but expensive city. Although we stayed in a small, but centrally located, hotel room, we learned a lot about the city by taking two tours. 

Then, on to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where we stayed in a luxury 3-bedroom apartment on the 26th floor of a centrally located building with two infinity pools.  We took memorable daytrips to Malacca and the Genting Highlands, and I bought beautiful fabric in the central market and made a dress. We went to a bird park, tasted durian, and met up with some other nomads.

We had a short stay in Hoi An, Vietnam, near the beach where we took a cooking class and an informative tour of the old  town. We saw an ancient Hindu shrine with a glimpse into an old culture.

Our final international destination was Japan.  We enjoyed 5 weeks in Osaka, the city of Paul’s birth, where we ate ourselves silly and met a friend of friends from back home. 

 We had a moving reunion with our former exchange student, Mika, and spent a fun week on Shikoku. 

We spent a week in Hokkaido visiting hot springs and enjoying the Japanese northern culture. We learned about the Ainu people. We walked all over Sapporo, and ate delicious ramen there.