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2023: A Travel Retrospective

January – February, Mardi Gras:

2023 marked the first year where I was able to live within New Orleans during Mardi Gras season, so I enjoyed the full experience of this incredible time within one of the world’s top festivals. While the parades and night life of Mardi Gras obtain the most coverage; there is more that adds to the magic of the season. The best example of this is the elaborate decorations that can be found throughout the city ranging from public spaces to private homes. The mansions along St. Charles are a particularly great area to wander and see the effort that people put into transforming the city for Mardi Gras. Giant colorful balls hanging from trees, huge decorate masks eclipsing the fronts of houses, and full elaborate scenes can be found by simply wandering down random streets. The French Quarter, Garden District, and Uptown provide among the city’s be examples of this art. Besides the decoration, the previously mentioned parades are unlike anything seen elsewhere. Whether its fire breathing dragons, towering dinosaurs, or animatronic King Kong’s; the care and effort that goes into each parade float is a joy to behold. Mardi Gras within New Orleans is a multi-month event with the highest ranked parades being reserved for the final two weeks. During this time, it is not uncommon for parades to begin early in the morning and continue well into the evening with both the major streets and the city itself being shut down for those days to accommodate the festivities.

March – May, New Orleans Festivals:

As Mardi Gras transitioned into spring, the city of New Orleans continued to provide many reasons to remain within the area. While Mardi Gras is the crown jewel of the city’s festival season; there were several other events that I was able to enjoy within New Orleans during spring with the highlights being the St. Patrick’s parade, Easter Parade, and French Quarter festival. The St. Patrick’s parade was particularly unique. The parade here consisted of two floats that ran through the streets of the French Quarter, making stops at an assortment of Irish pubs along the way. One float featured a DJ while the second was serving drinks. The space in between these two floats was used as a dance floor for the flood of green-clad revelers who were traveling from pub to pub with the parade. The French Quarter festival was also a great opportunity as many of the city’s top restaurants set up food stalls within the French Quarter, allowing access to a variety of food in one concentrated area of the city. An amazing chance to both sample some of the iconic fooderies within the city as well as try brand new food that ranged from Jamaican to Peruvian and everything in between.

July, The Tour du Mont Blanc:

July found me taking my first major trip of the year outside of New Orleans. I was able to check a bucket list item off my sheet when I traveled to Europe to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc trail to circle the central namesake mountain. The entire trail encompassed France, Switzerland, and Italy and provided a thrill to be able to say that I had hiked across three countries. The scenery throughout the entire hike was breathtaking, offering panoramic shots of the Alps towering overhead along with endless fields of wildflowers that were spreading in all directions around me. Not only was I able to enjoy some of both awe-inspiring scenery of any hike I had done, but I was also able to enjoy the unique hospitality and culture of all 3 of the countries I was hiking through. Whether it was being able to eat pizza in Italy or a cheese board in France; the experiences I was able to have within this 2-week hike extended well past the trail. To further enhance this experience, I was lucky enough to not only enjoy picture perfect weather during most days on the trail, but I was also able to share this trail with a great group of new friends who made each hour on the trail simply zoom by.

August, Philadelphia:

August found me within Philadelphia where I was able to spend time with old friends and family. While within the area, I made sure to explore some of my favorite sections of the historical downtown section of the city. Philadelphia was the country’s first capital and as a result, houses many historical buildings that served as instrumental settings during the founding of the country. Examples of this include Independence Hall which housed the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a copy of which sits in an exhibit in a connected building. Other nearby buildings include Benjamin Franklin’s House, the US Mint, Thomas Jefferson’s house, and the iconic Liberty Bell. Aside from the historical significance of the city, Philadelphia also houses one of my favorite foodie destinations in the country: Reading Terminal Market. This converted former training station now houses lines of food vendors that offer an abundance of food to try from around the world. Whether its Ethiopian, German, Cajun, Thai, Filipino, or just about anything else you can think of; you can likely find it here. With dozens of vendors to try, the options are endless for the adventurous foodie.

September, Seatle – Alaska – Oktoberfest:

I ended the year with back-to-back adventures. To start off September, I was able to travel to Seatle to attend a National Real Estate conference that I was privileged to be invited to me. This conference took place on a cruise ship that would be spending the next 9 days sailing from Seattle to Alaska and back where I was able so spend my days learning and networking with an amazing collection of individuals who were very open with sharing the knowledge, they had accumulated from their decades of experience within the real estate industry. The cruise itself also provided plenty of entertainment after each daily meeting ranging from dances to comedy clubs to interpretive art shows. There were also several days to explore ports of call during the cruise. Whether it was hiking to the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau or exploring the totem pole forest of Sitka, there was opportunities to explore many regions of Alaska within this 9-day trip.

Following the end of this conference, I boarded a plane in Seattle and flew straight to Munich, Germany where I spent the next week within their iconic Oktoberfest festival. I was fortunate enough to find an Airbnb that was a 5-minute walk to the fairgrounds so spend most of each day taking in the sights and sounds of this celebration. The main attraction of Oktoberfest are the large beer tents that are filled with rows of tables for people to have a few drinks and great food while enjoying live music and exchanging stories with other travelers from around the world that had found their way to Oktoberfest. While there are a total of 14 tents at the festival, the ones with the largest prestige are the 6 large tents. Each of these tents are owned and operated by Munich's 6 largest breweries. To qualify for a tent at Oktoberfest, each brewery must source their water from a Munich aquifer and all breweries maintain documentation of this to ensure they qualify for an Oktoberfest tent.

Each tent has a different vibe, music, and crowd and spending several days hopping from one tent to the next was an amazing experience. Whether it was singing along to Bavarian folk music with locals in one tent or singing along with Queen with other globe trotters in the next tent; there was never a dull moment during my week in Oktoberfest. The size of the tents was incredible as well with each of the larger tents able to house as much as 10,000 people at a time. All these tents are temporary structures which are built up and taken down annually specifically for Oktoberfest.

2023, A great year:

While these are some of the highlights from 2023, there were many more exciting occurrences throughout the year. Whether it was exploring the food of the Pike Place Market in Seattle, spending Halloween on Bourbon Street, or networking throughout an assortment of conferences, 2023 proved to be a great year and am excited to see what 2024 unfolds. I currently have several options I am weighing for the year ranging from climbing to Machu Picchu in Peru to hiking through the Himalayas in Nepal that I look forward to sharing with everyone. But that is a story for another day…


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