The number one question I am asked as a travel blogger is “where is my favorite place.” It seems like such a simple question, but it can be interpreted in several ways. Should I answer my favorite country? Should I reply what my favorite city is? I could also answer about my favorite trip, which might not necessarily be my favorite place. It is possible to have a bad experience in your favorite place. I decided to devote a blog post to the question and tackle the question from different angles.
Thailand is my favorite place
If someone forced me to answer one place, I would have to answer Thailand. I have been twice and spent over a month there, and I would return in a heartbeat. The people are incredibly friendly, it is easy to travel there, it is safe, the food is incredible, and there is an amazing variety of adventure travel opportunities. The south includes beaches and islands for those who like water activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, or just laying around. The north has jungles, mountains, and hilltribes for a whole different set of outdoor and cultural activities.
My favorite place to go backpacking
The Great Smoky Mountains along the Tennessee and North Carolina border offers the best backpacking in the eastern United States and arguably the world. The Appalachian Trail (AT) is the border between the two states and there are 71 miles of hiking on the iconic trail through the park. The best hiking in my opinion is the hundreds of miles of backcountry trails. I have hiked on these during the busiest hiking days of the year and seen no one. I love this park so much I based my collegiate decision to attend the University of Tennessee in order to be close to the park.
My most recent post on the Great Smoky Mountains: Backpacking Fontana Dam area in the GSMNP
My favorite river – The Wisconsin River
This is another tough answer because there are so many different kinds of rivers. I could answer my favorite whitewater stream, my favorite flatwater stream, my favorite canoe camping river, and so on. To simplify, I am going to answer the Lower Wisconsin River in the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin. You cannot beat the camping on the sandbars in the summer with friends and the beautiful tree covered bluffs with countless bald eagles flying overhead. I usually do two trips every summer to my favorite river and have been coming up here for over three decades.
My most recent Wisconsin River post: Wisconsin River heals the the adventure traveler
My favorite place to cross-country ski – South Kettle Moraine State Forest
The Birkie is my favorite cross-country ski experience. This is the yearly ski Marathon that takes place in Hayward, Wisconsin each year. However, my favorite place to ski is the Southern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest. When weather permits, the ups and downs through Kettle Moraine country is a thrilling ride and great workout. Even though I would not call Kettle Moraine a wilderness, the mixture of ice age formed geography, hardwood forests, and prairie is quite scenic.
My favorite wilderness experience – Quetico Provincial Park
For me a true wilderness experience is a place at least two to three days removed from civilization with no cell phone coverage. Several times I have traveled deep into the wilderness of Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. We always made a straight line to Lake Kawnipi, which is just about the center of the park. It takes three days of hard paddling and even harder portaging to make this lake no matter which entry point you choose. Once you arrive to Lake Kawnipi – the fishing, the scenery, and the camping is exquisite.
My favorite national park – The Everglades
I already listed the Great Smoky Mountains in the backpacking section, so I am listing the Everglades as my favorite national park. The canoeing and the wildlife viewing here is phenomenal. The beauty is also underrated. There is something about this park that really hooks you; especially if you get off the beaten path and canoe. The park is quite inaccessible without a boat. Many national parks are set up for exploring by car, but the Everglades is not one of them. There are a few places like Shark Valley and the Anhinga Trail that are accessible by car, bu to really get the most out of the park it is necessary to canoe or kayak through the mangroves, through the swamps, or out into the Florida Bay.
My favorite wildlife trip – Corcovado National Park Costa Rica
Two years ago I hiked into Corcovado National Park with a guide into Sirena Station. The wildlife in the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica is amazing, and the best spot in Costa Rica is Corcovado. It is not for the faint of heart though as the roughly ten mile hike into the interior is brutal when it is hot and humid, which it almost always is. The struggle is worth it though as the birds and animals appear along the trail like you are walking through a zoo.
We stayed at Sirena Station for two nights and explored the trails around the lodge for two days and saw several pairs of Baird’s Tapir. Baird’s tapir are endangered and extremely rare to see in the wild; however, Corcovado is one of the best places to see them. We were greeted to our arrival at Sirena Station by seeing a tapir eating from a tree on the edge of the jungle. We saw two pairs of mother and baby crossing rivers during our stay at Sirena.
Favorite wildlife sighting – Okefenokee Swamp bobcat
I was deep in the swamp of the Okefenokee Swamp at the Big Water campsite by myself. I was camped on a raised wooden platform on what is called a chickee. After a long ten mile paddle through the channels with relatively no current, I was relaxed on my chair at the edge of the chickee. I spotted something walking along the other side of the swamp at the water’s edge. I grabbed the zoom lens of my Sony A600 and miraculously, my shuffling around did not scare the animal. It turned out to be a bobcat, and I was able to get some great photos as he sauntered close to the water. He stopped and checked me out for a second before making his way back into the wilderness swampland.
Most unique trip – Guyana
The most incredible off the beaten path trip was to the South American country of Guyana. Many people cannot even pinpoint the country on a map and do not even know it is in South America. If not for the Jim Jones tragedy, most people would not even be aware of its existence. When I told the baggage lady my final destination was Guyana, she questioned if I meant Ghana. I had to insist that the name of the country was Guyana.
Guyana is 80 percent rainforest with most of the population residing in the capital of Georgetown along the Caribbean coast. Georgetown is a city that has not change much for hundreds of years. Many of the important structures are dilapidated wooden buildings slowly decaying. The interior is nothing but solid green rainforest with a few Amerindian villages until you get to the dry savanna along the border of Brazil. The official language is English, which is another strange thing about this country as it is the only English speaking country in South America.
We traveled into the Iwokrama Rainforest one day, and I have never seen such amazing birdlife. We kept stopping for flocks of toucans, macaws, and various other brilliant tropical birds. We also searched along this river for an anaconda, which had been seen in the area, but we did not have any luck.
Favorite bucket list trip – Amazon jungle trip in Colombia, Peru, and Brazil
The Amazon River is a mythical place that I have wanted to visit ever since I was a kid watching Wild Kingdom episodes. On a trip to Colombia several years ago, I was able to make that happen. I will never forget first laying eyes on the river as our plane descended into Leticia.
Leticia is in Colombia along the river near the border of Peru and Brazil. I secured a guided trip up the Amazon River and then up a tributary called the Yavari River to a remote jungle lodge. For three days we trekked in the jungle, took out the boat to locate dolphins, caimans, and enjoy the sunset and sunrise, and even fished for piranhas.
Favorite eating trip – Trinidad and Tobago
When you visit other countries, the local cuisine is as much of the adventure as trekking through the jungles or snorkeling the oceans. My favorite eating experience was when I visited Trinidad and Tobago for their annual carnival. Thanks to an influx of East Indian people, the cuisine is a mix of Indian and Caribbean influences. One of the best street foods I have ever had was doubles. These are basically like small burritos filled with Indian spices and vegetables.
Favorite partying experience – Halong Bay boat trip
Just about any guesthouse in Southeast Asia has a good party scene, but my favorite time drinking with people from several different countries was when I was on a boat in Vietnam’s Halong Bay. I was on a boat for one night as we toured the incredible landscape of the bay and did some kayaking and even some fishing. At night there were many tiger beers consumed and a bottle of whiskey was passed around with my lively shipmates from Australia, India, and several other countries.
Favorite city – Prague
Even though I am mainly into outdoor adventure, I have enjoyed some of the most amazing cities in the world. Some of the cities I have been to include Singapore, Amsterdam, Paris, Munich, Toronto, Montreal, Mexico City, Barcelona, Bangkok, and New Orleans. My favorite city is Prague in the Czech Republic. One of the few European cities spared large scale bombing during the World Wars, the architecture is simply breathtaking. One of the few cities I have visited where the city sites rival those of the natural world.
Favorite historical trip – Normandy
Besides outdoor adventure, historical sites are next on my list to visit when traveling to another part of the country or overseas. I have visited such places as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Hiroshima, Verdun, ancient ruins in Mexico, the Bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand, Civil War battlefields like Antietam, Gettysburg, and Chickamuaga, and many more. My first big trip overseas was to Normandy, France as part of the Normandy Scholar Program. We visited all the D-Day beaches, museums, and other battlefield areas important to the Normandy Campaign. It was an incredible inaugural to overseas travel and historical travel.
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