One Amazing Travel Year: Countless Stories across 23 Countries, 60 Cities

Two main themes explain my 2023 travel adventures. The first was a massively serious checking-off bucket list of places and activities including a first visit to the Isle of Man and Malta, the White Cliffs of Dover, Canterbury Cathedral, Michalenegos’ Last Supper, and multiple museums. riding several heritage railways, seeing my Irish ancestors’ hometowns, watching several amazing shows across the world and visiting Concordes on display in three countries! I have now visited 87 countries (out of an ultimate goal of 99 )and reached 578 cities!

a map of the world

The second theme was revisiting favourite haunts including Abu Dhabi and Manila ugh), Adelaide and London (great), Hua Hin, Lyon, New York City, Paris, Rome and Savannah, Georgia (all amazing). I volunteered in El Salvador 30 years ago so going back was an extraordinary opportunity.

Today I look at my favourite places, and some of the great experiences,

Part 1: Favourites of the Year

Finding a favourite out of a wonderful year of travel adventures is almost impossible. Heres the list:

a man smiling at the camera

Adelaide, Australia is A city with stunning beaches, vibrant markets, and delightful cuisine. One highlight was strolling 7km from West Beach to Glenelg Beach, hiking in the Hills and savouring fresh delicious brunch at the Central Market were highlights, creating memories of flavours and scents that linger.

Canterbury, United Kingdom: A spontaneous visit turned into a love affair. The cobblestone streets and Canterbury Cathedral’s grandeur provided a timeless backdrop, making every unplanned step a revelation.

Chiang Mai, Thailand: A place that feels like home. The old city’s charm, the bustling Night Bazaar, and moments of serenity at Wat Phra Singh shaped an unforgettable sense of belonging.

Como, Italy was a new destination that blew me away with mesmerizing scenery, absorbing architecture, and mind-blowing food. Lake Como’s boat rides, mountain hikes, chilling in a waterside villa and enjoying superb lakeside Italian cuisine plus an afternoon in the enchanting village of Bellagio and the town of Como itself were like scenes from a dream. Loved our funicular ride over the valley.

Lovely Lyon, France: This was my second visit here, albiet decades apart. Lyon has just gotten better and better. Loved strolling the river, old town, and hills, enjoying phenomenal food.

Paris was its usual marvellous self. On this trip, I had a beautiful dinner on top of the Eiffel Tower to celebrate a friend’s special birthday.

Penang is a brilliant place with a rich tapestry of architecture, culture, and phenomenal food. Love returning to this beautiful, fun city.

I returned to the electric and special Savannah, Georgia, nestled on the Savannah River. The city is built around 22 gorgeous squares and their green spaces that offer a chance to unwind and learn about local history through historic markers. Indulge in people-watching as some of Savannah’s most interesting and intriguing residents often gather in these squares. My personal favourites are Oglethorpe Square and Chippewa Square.

A visit to Colonial Park Cemetery is a must in Savannah’s Historic District. I highly recommend the Owens Thomas House and Slave Quarters designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 as one of the nation’s finest examples of English Regency architecture. The First African Baptist Church is a must for its significant role in African American history, and the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist because of its stunning Gothic Revival architecture and rich cultural heritage.

I enjoyed walks along Jones Street, often considered Savannah’s prettiest street plus the charming Factors Walk and a stroll along the busy River Street,

2: Memorable Experiences

Irish Family History.

My journey in Ireland took on a special significance as I have only recently uncovered my Irish heritage. I never knew I was 40% Irish until recently.

Galway, felt like a homecoming. I not only enjoyed its enchanting cobbled streets, vibrant atmosphere, breathtaking seaside views, and rich cultural scene but most of all, also felt a deep resonance with my ancestry.

I unravelled the village that was once home to my great-great-great-grandfather. Retracing his footsteps from that tinu village to Galway, then onwards to Scotland and eventually Australia, brought to life the remarkable journey of my ancestor.

My exploration extended to the serene landscapes of County Tipperary, retracing the footsteps of my great-great-grandmother. Immersing myself in the vistas that shaped her early years provided a profound sense of continuity and heritage.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the Irish people who generously shared their time and energy, opening up opportunities for me to connect with my familial history. Ireland became not just a picturesque backdrop but a living tapestry, weaving together the threads of my past and present.

Hikes -exposure to natural beauty

Hiking is a significant pastime for me. Here are some of the momentous urban and rural walks I enjoyed in 2023:

a river with trees and houses in the background

One thing you must not do when visiting Cork, Ireland, is to tell a Dubliner you actually liked Cork. The rivalry between the two cities is intense! Confession: I loved Cork. While there, I took an afternoon and evening stroll along the river, starting at Michael Collins Bridge, named after this leading figure in the early-20th-century struggle for Irish independence who came from County Cork. My walk took me to Fitzgerald Park, the famous Shakey Bridge, formally known as Daly’s Bridge, up to Lee Fields Park, and then in a loop back through the University College Cork founded in 1845 and through the city heart which is centred on an island in the middle of the River Lee. This walk took me through tranquil and tumultuous river views.

Sri Lanka is a country going through a hard time but was still very welcoming and hospitable to me on my July visit. Galle is a pretty town in the southwest of Sri Lanka which is easily reached in a couple of hours by train from Colombo Fort station to Galle Fort station. I recommend grabbing a second-class ticket and getting a seat on the right-hand side of the carriage when leaving Colombo. The views from across the water is very beautiful.
When in Galle, walk five minutes to the Fort, admire Dharmapala Park, stroll around Old Town and then head across to the Marine Parade for a walk overlooking the seaside. Siyambalagahawatta Beach (Galle City Beach) is well worth a visit.

Hua Hin, located 200 km south of Bangkok, has been a resort town since 1921 when the railway arrived. One of my favourite walks in the world is along the Hua Hin waterside

a beach with buildings and a body of water

. It’s possible to walk almost 10 km from the beach outside the Royal Palace all the way to a Big Buddha at the south of the beach via a Chinese Shrine, beautiful Centraa Hotel,m Cicada, and Tamarind weekend night markets. I grab coffee and meals at one of the many restaurants and cafes along the beach. While, easily navigable during low tide, during high tide the beach disappears.

Nightcap National Park, established in 1993 following an extensive campaign against logging, is a sanctuary for biodiversity. The decision to gazette the park meant the protection of a vast expanse of World Heritage-listed rainforest, serving as a haven for numerous endangered species. The park’s standout feature is the awe-inspiring Minyon Falls, soaring to a height of 100 meters, and ranking among the most majestic waterfalls in Australia. At the top, two lookouts are providing breathtaking views, while one at the bottom offers a unique perspective. Both locations offer inviting swimming holes. Situated approximately 750 km (500 miles) north of Sydney, near the famous towns of Byron Bay and Lismore. The regions are easily accessible by train, bus, or plane but you will need a car to reach the park from Byron Bay or Lismore. Keep in mind that there are no food outlets within the park, so bringing your own supplies, including food and drinks (and ensuring responsible waste disposal), is essential. Having the right equipment and carrying plenty of water is advised

The city of San Salvador is known for its vibrant street life and bustling markets. I chose a serene natural escape at El Boquerón National Park which sits on the edge of the San Salvador volcano. Its just five km from downtown.

a view of a city from a hill

The volcano which erupted last in 1919 offers breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding landscapes. There are over 10 km of signed trails going through both tropical forests and cloud forest.

Dover town (UK) is a somewhat disappointing town but what really drew me from afar was the renowned White Cliffs of Dover. Following the well-marked path from town, I ascended the cliffs to a height of 350 feet (110 m) to marvel at their white brilliance, derived from the chalk composition accented by streaks of black flint. I encountered the most varying weather on the walk with sun, strong winds, rain, hail all in short ti e period. I explored the South Foreland Lighthouse, a Victorian-era beacon that once served to warn ships of nearby perilous sandbanks, believed to have caused over 2,000 shipwrecks. Returning to town, I ascended once more to the imposing 11th-century Dover Castle, hailed as the “Key to England” due to its historical defensive importance. Access to the cliffs is free, while admission to the lighthouse and castle requires a ticket, with online booking recommended for the castle. Cafes are available at the cliff tops and within the castle.

a group of boats in a harbor

I undertook a 28 km walk around the heart of Malta, exploring Valletta, Floriana, and San Ġiljan, raising over $3000 for cancer research. I passed gems like St. John’s Co-Cathedral and the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Paul’s Pro-Cathedral, St. George’s Square, and the iconic Valletta Waterfront. Serene spots like Argotti Gardens and bustling squares like Republic Square added layers to the island’s charm. The walk, intertwining history, culture, and scenic beauty, was a memorable and meaningful experience,

Heritage Trams, Trains, and Unique Transportation

The Isle of Man revealed itself not just through its breathtaking landscapes but through the discovery of its unique modes of transportation. From the Manx coastal electric tramway to the nostalgic The Isle of Man Steam Railway (IMR), the Mountain tramway, the Laxey mines railway and the quaint horse-drawn tram, each journey was a step back in time through stunning countryside.

Extending this transportation exploration were several other bucket list options including, riding the new pink monorail line in Bangkok this week, experiencing the Elizabeth Line in London on the first week it was fully opened and the beautiful, Brightline High speed train in Florida, USA. I journeyed on the historic seaside Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway in England and rode the the 1890s technolfcak marvel that is the dramatic stunning Zig Zag Railway in Australia and visited The Georgia State Railroad Museum in Savannah, Georgia.

Concordes, Concordes, Concordes

A total of 20 Concordes were built: 4 in the test and pre-production stages, and 16 for British Airways and Air France. 18 of them are on display across the world, and I saw four of them this year.

  • F-WTSS (001) – Prototype: Museum of Air and Space, Le Bourget, France
  • G-BBDG (202) – Development: Brooklands Museum, Surrey, England
  • G-BOAD (210) – In Service: Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, New York (below)
  • F-BTSD (213) – In Service: Museum of Air and Space, Le Bourget, France

The Art

a painting of a man lying on his head

One of the most astounding moments was sitting in front of Caravaggio’s “The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist” in Valletta, Malta. He painted it in 1608, and it has hung in the Oratory of St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta, ever since. I had a deep visceral reaction to this amazing painting. I was stunned by how many people wandered into the chapel where it’s housed, glanced at it, and walked out. Here is an artwork that demands more attention.

That experience was matched by the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” in Milan’s Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. I was surprised to learn it was almost destroyed by Allied bombing in World War Two.

Art Express, which is a showcase of high school students’ paintings exhibited at the Art Gallery of NSW, and exhibits at the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre, added to the richness of my art exploration throughout the year. The engineer Brunel is a hero of mine and I explored his museum built over the first tunnel in London, under the Thames River, a tunnel which is used today still.

2023 Shows

I thoroughly enjoyed the German Band Schiller live in Frankfurt, Abba Voyage in London, Moulin Rouge in Melbourne, and a piano festival celebrating the work of -composer Frederic Rzewski in New York.


A key aspect of travel is connecting with old and new friends across the globe.

3: Flexibility in Nomadic Work and Adventures

The flexibility to explore diverse landscapes while staying connected with professional commitments was a testament to the evolving nature of work in the modern era. Working from cafes in Bangkok, Colombo, Lyon, Malta, Paris, and Rome allowed me to write, meet, and consult from across the world. There were some downsides, such as waking up at 2:45 am for a meeting in Australia while I was in Italy and juggling final reports in an airport lounge!

a man with headphones around neck in a garden

4 My Most Disappointing Visits

  • My second time in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates didn’t leave me feeling enamored. Poor public transit, impenetrable locales, and glistening soulless towers make me feel this city is one of my least favourite cities in the world.
  • Dallas has improved since my first visit 30 years ago, but it still lacks the heart and soul of a city you can connect with. After 20 visits there, I still feel little connection
  • My second visit to Jacksonville, Florida, USA found little to endear me to the city. I do love the beaches around it, but as a city, it underwhelms me.
  • Despite high hopes for Langkawi, Malaysia, I was deeply disappointed. The beaches were not as attractive as I had been led to believe, the tourist activities drab, and the hustling the most intensive I have had in southwest Asia—ever. Everyone seemed to have their hand out for money.
  • Manila, Philippines continues to be depressing as it languishes near the bottom on almost every measure. 64% in infrastructure (with inadequate public transit roads and bridges), 60% in stability, and 58% in education. It scored low in culture and environment at 54% with a scarcity of green spaces. It is an ugly, polluted, crowded uncomfortable place. The considerable shortcomings and difficulties faced by residents in Manila, make it a challenging and less-than-ideal place to visit. The airport is the worst I used all year.

5: Looking Forward to 2024

As I reflect on the adventures of 2023, the memories, the lessons, and the sheer joy of discovery, I express gratitude to those who joined me on this journey. The wanderlust continues, and I invite you to stay tuned for more tales from the road, more destinations uncovered, and more dreams realized.

Anticipating exciting destinations in 2024, I have the prospect of exploring Greece for the first time, as well delving into the vibrant cultures of Colombia and Chile. This will include embarking on a Qantas flight to South America which means I will have been with Qantas Airways to every inhabited continent!

The journey continues, promising new tales from the road, more destinations uncovered, and dreams realized. Thank you for journeying with me.

Visited Cities List

City NameCountry
Byron BayAustralia
Coffs HarbourAustralia
Lakes EntranceAustralia
Sunshine Coast, AustraliaAustralia
La LibertadEl Salvador
San Salvador,El Salvador

Castletown, Peel, Ramsey
Isle of Man, UK
Kuala LumpurMalaysia
Panama City, PanamaPanama
ColomboSri Lanka
Chiang MaiThailand
Hua HinThailand
Khon Kaen,Thailand
Krabi, ThailandThailand
Abu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates
BelfastNorthern Ireland, UK
CambridgeUnited Kingdom
CanterburyUnited Kingdom
DerbyUnited Kingdom
DoverUnited Kingdom
LondonUnited Kingdom
DallasUnited States
Fort LauderdaleUnited States
JacksonvilleUnited States
MiamiUnited States
New York CityUnited States
OrlandoUnited States
SavannahUnited States


  1. I would end the goal of 99 countries but add countries that you really want to visit, whether that be 90, 92, 102, etc.

    I am 8 countries short of my goal until I rethought of my goal. My new goal is to re-visit countries already visited, seeing the same or diffferent places. Another goal is to visit 3 specific countries never visited. I am somewhat interested in about 10 more countries, but some of them are not a good choice to visit due to geopolitical situations. I would not be disappointed if I eventually only visited those 3 countries and missed my original goal, which is no longer a goal.

  2. I read you review of PHUKET where you rank it “I rank Phuket 126th out of the 182 places/cities with a population of 100,000 or more that I have visited in the world.”

    Curious to know, do you have a list of your top 10 or 20 places on your site – would be interesting in reading it to see your remarks.


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