2023: The year in review

As the year is about to end, I thought I’d take a look back at 2023 and remember the highlights and lowlights of the year.

This was one of the busiest travel years I’ve ever had. I spent a total of 85 days away from home, and I visited five countries, all of them for the first time.

So here is my year in review.

Bottom Ten Travel Experiences of 2023

I’m starting with the lowlights so I can end on a high note. Here are the moments, experiences, or occurrences that you always hope to avoid while traveling but sometimes can’t.

Mosquito bites in Palomino

My tour of Colombia included two nights in Palomino, and on the full day we were there we had the option of a long and rigorous hike in Tayrona National Park or a more relaxing day including a boat ride on Río Don Diego and some easier hiking. I opted for the latter, and I slathered myself with mosquito repellent in advance of the expected hungry critters.

For some reason, the repellent I used seemed to have no effect.

I don’t think I’ve ever had so many itchy and irritating mosquito bites at one time.

Getting sick in Cartagena

On my last day in Colombia, I started to develop severe abdominal pain during the morning. It kept getting worse, and I was concerned about how I would manage to sit on an airplane for my flight home. Fortunately, the pain dissipated before it was time to leave for the airport.

The next day, back in Ajijic, I had a dentist appointment. While she was working on me, the pain came back, and it became excruciating. She drove me to my doctor’s office, and he gave me an injection of something that eased the pain and sent me to the hospital to get an MRI, which revealed nothing. My doctor gave me some meds that he said would reduce the likelihood of a recurrence, and it hasn’t happened since. Maybe it was a kidney stone? I’m not sure, but I don’t ever want to go through that kind of pain again, especially when I’m traveling.


Hot weather was definitely a lowlight on two of my trips. In Cartagena, the high humidity combined with temperatures well over 90° F made it very unpleasant.

But that didn’t begin to prepare me for October in Egypt. For the entire time we were there, temperatures were well over 100°. On the day we went to the Valley of the Kings it hit 112°, and it was even hotter in the tombs.

The good thing about heat is you don’t see it in the photos. I can remember how hot it was, but I also remember the beauty and charm of Cartagena and the magnificence of Egyptian monuments while enjoying the comfort of pleasant temperatures.

Rainy day

I was prepared for rain in Scotland, and there was actually much less of it than I was expecting. But the one day that was somewhat spoiled by rain was the day I took a tour around Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The tour was very enjoyable, but the rain and fog made it less pleasant than it might have been.

Getting off at the wrong station

I wrote an entire blog post about this. Even though everything turned out okay at the end, the moment I realized I had gotten off the train at the wrong station and was now completely screwed was one of those heart-sinking things that felt just awful.

Wet foot

While I was visiting the Isle of Staffa and walking toward the entrance of Fingal’s Cave, I slipped on a wet rock, and my foot went into a puddle. I spent the entire rest of the day walking around with a wet sock inside my wet shoe.

Not going to Israel

I was in Egypt on October 7, when Hamas attacked Israel and took hostages, precipitating a horrendous war in Gaza.

Visiting Israel was a lifelong dream. I’ve been trying to make that dream come true since 2019, when I booked a tour for fall of 2020. Covid meant postponing that tour multiple times. Finally I was going this fall. I booked two back-to-back trips with OAT, the first to Egypt, and the second to Jordan and Israel.

On October 8 OAT contacted me to let me know the trip was canceled. I rebooked my flights, still made it to Jordan on my own, and flew home from Amman three weeks early.

I don’t think I will try again. Israel is a country I am fated never to visit.


Of all the places I visited in Scotland, inverness was the one that left me cold. It’s not a pretty city, there are few sights worth seeing, and the food wasn’t particularly good.

Edinburgh Castle

You can see this impressive and imposing structure from almost anywhere in Edinburgh. I was looking forward to my visit. But the crowds detracted, and apart from that, the best thing about the castle was the view of Edinburgh from the castle. There was really nothing particularly interesting to see inside the castle.

Egyptian vendors and tip wranglers

I found it impossible to shop in peace anywhere in Egypt. Souvenir shops are everywhere, and as you walk past, they are in your face with items to entice you, reciting “one dollar” over and over. Of course, nothing is actually just a dollar. Good luck just trying to browse.

More than once I was offered “gifts.” Even after I refused, I was handed shawls, toys, hats, books, cards, or jewelry. Once I was laden with stuff I don’t want, I was asked for money, and then all the gifts were taken back.

I and several of the other folks on the tour agreed that we’d be more likely to buy something if they didn’t try so hard to sell.

Top Ten Travel Experiences of 2023

It was hard to come up with ten lowlights. There was very little that disappointed me in my travels this year.

Highlights are far more difficult. There were so many! Here are ten things I loved, but I could probably list ten more without any problem.

Dinner at Tres Fuegos, Panama City

It should come as no surprise that food starts my top ten list. The four-course tasting menu I had at Tres Fuegos, with wine pairings, was among the most spectacular restaurant meals I’ve ever had. I was the only person in the restaurant, so they really went the extra mile for me.

Sad to say the restaurant has since closed. I guess it’s hard to sustain a restaurant if you can’t bring in customers.

Emberá Drúa village

Visiting this village in the Panamanian jungle, accessible only by boat, was so magical. The villagers exuded such warmth; even though this is a large part of how they make a living, it felt genuine and personal. Their dancing, their handcrafts, their food, and their way of life all touched me deeply.

Cartagena (except for the heat and the illness)

This might be the prettiest city in the Americas. Strolling through the Old Town was a delight.


Wet foot notwithstanding, I walked from Fingal’s Cave to the other side of the island, where I got to watch the puffins. I wished I had more time. They were just so much fun to watch.

Hiking in Scotland

I’m cheating a bit here, because I should really pick the one hike I loved the most. But I can’t. All the hikes I did were fabulous for different reasons. In some cases it was the view at the summit. Other hikes went through idyllic forests or fields of wildflowers. Others took me past historic landmarks. I had lots of sightings of birds and other critters. And many of the hikes were alongside lochs and rivers.

Kerrera Island hike: Gylen Castle, at the south end of the island
Cow Hill hike outside Fort William: Ben Nevis, tallest mountain in the British Isles.
Loch Faskally hike, starting from Pitlochry

Standing at the edge of the Old Course at St Andrews

I’m not a golf fan. But standing here and thinking of the place this course represents in the history of golf kind of made my eyes tear up.

Glasgow and Edinburgh

Scotland’s largest city and its capital are less than 50 miles apart, but they couldn’t be more different. Glasgow is gritty; Edinburgh is charming. Glasgow feels square and linear; Edinburgh feels loose and relaxed. Glasgow is a treasure hunt; Edinburgh reveals its treasures at first glance.

Though Edinburgh is smaller, it gets three times more visitors than Glasgow. And it was obvious–the crowds were, at times, overwhelming.

As beautiful as rural Scotland is, I loved both of these cities. And I couldn’t pick a favorite between them. Edinburgh is certainly the more obviously touristic, with more museums and hotels and historic sites, but Glasgow feels like authentically urban Scotland.


San Miguel de Allende

I said earlier that Cartagena might be the prettiest city in the Americas. But that was before I visited San Miguel de Allende, in the Mexican state of Guanajuato.

Okay, it’s not a competition. These are two gorgeous cities. I was in San Miguel for a bridge tournament, and the hotel was not in or near the historic center, but the day my partner Nicci and I arrived, we went to the center for lunch and to explore for a couple of hours, and groups of bridge players took Ubers and taxis into the center most evenings for dinner. The city is full of colonial-era charm, and the food was great too. I’m taking Luis for a short overnight visit on our upcoming road trip. He’s never been, and I’m sure he’ll love it as much as I did.

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

Temple of Khnum

We’re so used to seeing ancient temples bleached white from thousands of years of sun and rain and wind. That’s part of why this temple, in Esna, Egypt, impressed me so much. The other reason is that it was just so aesthetically pleasing. This was the most beautiful of all the monuments we saw in Egypt.

But also, so many of the monuments, temples, and tombs we saw were nearly as impressive and astonishingly well-preserved.

Wadi Rum at the edges of the day

Wadi Rum was spectacular all the time. It was like being on another planet. It’s no wonder this landscape has stood in for Mars in several movies, including 2015’s The Martian.

As glorious as it was in the daytime, Wadi Rum was inexpressibly stunning in the light of early morning and early evening.

5:52 am
6:50 am
6:11 pm


I’m not really sure what to say about Petra. It’s unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s magnificent and historically fascinating, and a true wonder of engineering. And it sits among some of the most glorious natural beauty I’ve ever seen. Between Wadi Rum and Petra, I have to list Jordan among my favorite countries.

I could add hundreds of photos and it would just begin to capture the magic of Petra. A better plan is to send you to my “Best of Petra” album. Here are two photos to whet your appetite.

The “Monastery”

Looking ahead

This was a big travel year. Compared to what I have planned for next year, it was a very light travel year.

Stay tuned for reports over the next twelve months. 

And in the meantime, you can see photos from all my travels in 2023 and earlier from my Photo Albums page.

2 Responses

  1. Tammy vig

    Hi Lane,
    Nice post, I have two comments. First, we went to Egypt as well in October, so I can totally relate. OMG! The incredible heat, I have never experienced that before. Thank god for my mini spray bottle, it saved me. One spritz and I was cool, well for one second anyways!
    Second, you mention your foot slipping on the Isle of Mull, Fingals Cave. Fingals Cave (unless there are two) is located on Staffa Island in Scotland. It’s where the basalt columns are and the puffins. Just thought you might want to know.

    • Lane

      Good catch on Mull/Staffa. I was typing without thinking I guess. I have corrected it. Thanks Tammy!

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