Every January we kick off the new year by asking our network of Flashpacker contributors to share their top trips from the previous 12 months. While 2020 certainly wasn’t the travel year expected, many of us managed to squeeze in international adventures before the Covid pandemic or domestic road trips when flying was unsafe. Here’s what we loved from the past year!
Florida Road Trip
In the peak of winter this past February we were able to combine two separate work trips into one long, multi-week Florida visit going coast to coast with visits to St. Augustine, Orlando, and Tampa.
We kicked off our Florida adventure with a week relaxing in laid back St. Augustine. We loved exploring the old town, kayaking with dolphins, and enjoying delicious seafood and cocktails - particularly those found at the Saint Augustine Distillery in a beautifully renovated historic ice plant.
This theme park mega destination was our shortest visit and we were tied up with a trade show the majority of the time here. We didn't make it to Disney World on this trip (partially because we had tickets for Disney Land in Anaheim the following month) but squeezed in an evening at Disney Springs, the massive outdoor shopping, dining, and nightlife complex in between all of the theme parks. Disney Springs provides the same sense of magic and wonder that the parks do and we loved exploring the area while stopping in at different restaurants and bars to refuel.
We had over a week in beautiful Tampa, loving our time in the sun on the gulf coast (so much so that we wrote a Tampa City Guide). We were pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy of the city and just how much there was to see and do. We took in the sites while cruising around downtown Tampa on electric scooters and jogging up the Riverwalk.
A weekend on the west coast exploring Clearwater Beach was certainly our highlight. Clearwater Beach is a regular showing on Trip Advisor’s list of the top beaches in the US so it's a must visit for travelers who seek out the best beaches on their trips. The small beach town is beautiful and although the water was a little cold in February, the sun and sand was warm and the grilled grouper was the best we’ve ever had.
Urban travel required sleek and practical gear. I relied on my Thule hard shell carry-on as my primary bag. 33 liters was plenty of space for 3 weeks of casual, work out, and business clothes organized with a set of Tripped Travel Compression Packing Cubes. I rarely go anywhere domestic without a laptop backpack and this trip was no different. Between hotel rooms, airplanes, and rental cars I kept work gear and electronics organized in my Ascentials Pro Meta Laptop Backpack.
We’re fortunate and grateful to have had a few weeks of work on the road, travel, and relaxation before Coronavirus hit and limited our opportunities to explore new places.
Broadway in the Big Apple
In February, we were lucky to extend a family visit to Connecticut into a week in New York City. As digital nomads, we had the flexibility to work while continuing our travels, giving us a couple of extra days to explore the city. We’ve been to NYC many, many times before, including living less than an hour out of the city for over a year. But in retrospect, this trip was particularly special.
In March, Covid shut down travel. This was our last trip before our world changed. We spent days exploring the Highline Trail, climbing the Vessel, and watching colorful sunsets paint the glass skyscrapers. In the evenings, we enjoyed traditional Italian dinners, roamed the vibrant city streets, and caught a Broadway show. The energy in the streets of NYC is contagious and we ate up the atmosphere and excitement. Occasionally you would see a reminder of the pandemic on its way, but for the most part, we were blissfully ignorant, and enjoying the city and everyone in it in an unaware and uninhibited way that Covid has shattered.
Two pieces of gear made this trip smooth and incredibly enjoyable. One, our trusted Urban Sling Daypack. This compact daypack made packing away a day’s exploration essentials a snap and we always had food, water and snacks. Two, our Naztech Laptop Power Bank. We only had a handful of days, so we were trying our best to make the most of our quick trip. That meant long stints away from our hotel while still trying to work on our laptops, create hotspots with our phones, and take tons of pictures and videos with our camera. That takes a lot of power and our power bank delivered, keeping all of our electronics running day and night.
Just a week after we left, New York began imposing major lockdown restrictions. We were incredibly lucky to have experienced NYC the way we remembered it one last time before the pandemic, and even more lucky that we didn’t spread the virus back home. We’re grateful for the time we spent in the city this year and excited to get back to the NYC we know and love.
The Bold Nomad
The Wind River Range: Atop Wyoming
Photo: Eli Scarborough
The year of 2020 will go down as one of the most difficult in recorded history. Outdoor adventures and adventure travel take such low priority compared to those fighting for their lives, and those working the front lines of the pandemic. Like many, my adventure plans for 2020 had to be either cancelled or greatly changed. I want to start by saying I’m grateful and realize how fortunate I was to still get out and adventure responsibly in 2020. One of those adventures was exploring the great Wind River Range in Wyoming.
Setting off in my camper van from Denver, my climbing partner and I headed north/northwest towards the town of Pinedale, WY. Night one of our trip was spent in the van at the trail head parking lot. Of course, we did a little evening hike to a viewpoint to get a glimpse of the beauty we were about to experience. The next two days were spent backpacking deep into the heart of the Winds.
From our base camp in the Titcomb Basin, we set off for Gannett Peak, Wyoming’s highest natural point at 13,804’. We soon found ourselves climbing very steep snow in the pitch black of the 2am hour. Cresting that first mountain pass, still in the dark of night, was thrilling, as we descended towards the start of the summit climb daylight started to break, and the stunning views revealed themselves.
The final climb was equal parts mesmerizing, a bit terrifying, and of course energy zapping. All was worth it as we stood at the summit at just before 9am. Reaching this point had been at the very least, a year’s long goal, and here we were, on a stunning day, the entirety of this amazing mountain range below and surrounding us. What a feeling! What a confidence booster to have reached the summit of one of the toughest state high points to climb. I knew after this one I was going to be capable of doing much more. After a short stint at the summit it was a grueling affair to make it back to base camp, but we did, and boy were we beat! All along our drive back to Denver we revelled in our experience and the memories we had just created.
For this trip having an external power bank helped to keep my phone, GPS, and headlamp all charged and ready to go. This was critical: we needed the GPS for navigation and emergency SOS, we needed our headlamps for navigation in the pre-dawn, and of course I needed power for my phone for taking amazing pictures. Having stuff sacks and packing cubes helped to keep specific gear categories organized and easily locatable. Having gear organized is key to a hassle-free trip, knowing all my climbing gear was in one spot made it easy to locate items when time was a factor.
Despite hauling heavy loads and fighting off the insatiable mosquitos, we thoroughly enjoyed all the Wind River Range had to offer. Of course, on trips like these you can’t help but come up with new adventure ideas along the way. While hiking out we discussed the many options for future adventure forays.
3 Weeks Across Asia
The year 2020 was filled with many crazy events that changed the whole world. The Covid-19 pandemic forced thousands of people to cancel or postpone their travel arrangements. However; I was lucky enough to travel right before everything got worse.
On January 8, 2020 I was bound for Asia, my first time visiting there in over 10 years. I had everything I needed for my 3 week journey packed into my 46 liter travel backpack organized with a set of packing cubes. Just a single carry on bag and it worked perfectly. My first stop was the Lion City AKA Singapore. The famous hawker stalls blew my mind with the amazing culinary euphoria where I tried new foods such as Kaya toast, chicken rice, and my all time favorite beef & prawn satay. I felt that I could spend all day trying the different foods but unfortunately I left 3 days later heading for a 1 day layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Next, I was bound for Chiang Mai, my first stop in Thailand. The highlight of my time there was visiting the Elephant Nature Park where I got to feed, pet, and bathe elephants for the entire day. I was very nervous about it at first but after a while I learned that they were very gentle giants. I loved that experience so much I would have stayed for a week to care for them if I could.
I took a quick stop in Bangkok to visit family and then headed for Siem Reap to visit the temples of Angkor Wat, one of the truly great wonders of the world and many of the temples are well preserved being hundreds of years old. I highly recommend visiting with a tour guide who can explain the different sites and drive you around.
After that I headed to Hanoi, Vietnam. I was overly impressed with Vietnam and the people I met there were some of the nicest people in the world. I was welcomed with open arms all around. I was glad to leave the main city and head to the famous HaLong Bay where I went kayaking and took part in a spring roll cooking class on board the boat.
Shortly after Vietnam I visited Taipei, Taiwan for Chinese New Year and it was really cool that the hotel I stayed at had a special dragon dance ceremony taking place to ring in the new year. I also visited the small town of Pingxi where I made a few wishes on a sky lantern.
After Taiwan I visited Hong Kong and Macau. Both great places, especially seeing the symphony of lights over Hong Kong harbor and I lived on the edge walking outside on the top of the Macau Tower.
Shortly after that I returned home and 1 month later everything was shut down due to the coronavirus spreading rapidly. I am hoping that now that we are in 2021 and there is a vaccine available that travel will resume and I might be able to take a trip towards the end of this year.
Eating Well in the Big Easy
In February of 2020 I found myself, once again, visiting the great city of New Orleans for work. It’s always a joyous occasion when I’m called to NOLA - particularly since the revamp of their airport. Finally a Starbucks + touch free water fountains, yes please! I have been to the city multiple times thanks to an unfathomable amount of trade shows held at the New Orleans Convention Center (home to America’s largest contiguous space exhibit hall), but each time I’ve enjoyed it just as much.
I always stay in the French Quarter due to walkability to the convention center and choices of food nearby. This time was no different, and the food, like always, was a highlight of my 5 day trip.
For quick, healthy lunches I ventured to True Food Kitchen, perfect for a fresh salad to fuel your day. As far as dinner goes, my favorite experience ended up being out of town a bit (10 minute Uber ride) at La Petite Grocery. If you’re looking for an intimate night or a chance to impress your clients/coworkers, I highly recommend this quaint restaurant! The Ricotta Dumplings, Blue Crab Beignets & Gulf Shrimp & Grits are all true New Orleans specialties. For evening cocktails, you can’t beat The Carousel Bar & Lounge, where you can spend a couple hours revolving around a carousel shaped bar.
While this trip in particular was food & work focused, I was able to take some time to learn more about this city I so often find myself in by visiting the National WWII Museum. I highly recommend taking a day to dive into this all encompassing museum that will lead you through a detailed portrayal of the events surrounding WWII, through videos, interactive exhibits and displays of massive planes and boats. It’s a must-see during your trip to New Orleans - no matter how short!
Days full of trade shows & night outs were made far easier thanks to my Sherpani Camden Tote. The ability to easily transfer from a work bag to an evening bag made it so that I could head from the show floor to a dinner with clients without needing a stop in between. The bag perfectly fits my laptop, notebooks, and personal items such as a travel brush & makeup.
While I had plans to head to New Orleans again later in 2020, that came to a halt with COVID-19. I’m grateful I had a bit of time to explore such a fantastic city prior to the shut down, and I look forward to supporting New Orlean’s again, once it’s safe - whether for work or play (or a combination of both!).
What Will be Your Favorite Trip in 2021?
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About the Authors
|Jason Kraemer is the co-founder of Flashpacker Co. When he’s not testing the coolest travel gear you can find him searching for the best beaches, the tastiest tacos, or the most exciting dive sites. Read about his adventures in our travel blog.|
|Stephen Gary is the co-founder of Flashpacker Co. He’s been a digital nomad for the past 5 years traveling all across the globe exploring new cities, languages and new passions. Find more from him over on our travel blog.|
|Chris Denu is the founder and creator of The Bold Nomad, an outdoor and adventure travel website that aims to inspire and help others chase their adventure dreams and goals. Chris offers one on one consulting whether you’re looking to do your first backpacking trip, thru hike, or international trip. He’s thru hiked the Continental Divide Trail, trekked in New Zealand and the Himalaya, and has summited numerous peaks in 48 states. Find him at TheBoldNomad.com or on social media @TheBoldNomad.|
|As of 2021 Sean has visited 37 countries on 6 of the 7 continents while working full time. He recently graduated with a degree in recreation, parks, and tourism, and now with more free time, he's hoping to carry on traveling to far and distant locations uncovering the underrated and unseen destinations of the world. Follow his adventures on Instagram @carryonsean.|
|Jillian Giometti is the social media manager with Flashpacker Co and a regular contributor in the Flashpacker Travel Blog. She is a lifelong traveler with a passion for animal rescue and fitness, both of which she regularly works into her adventures around the world. Follow Flashpacker on Instagram @FlashpackerCo.|