Life as a freelance travel writer can often be compared to the road to Hana in Hawaii. Sometimes freelance writers are asked to sign contracts similar to rental car agreements in Hawaii. While we are often asked to stay on paved roads, freelance writers tend to venture off the path. As travel writers, we encounter obstacles along our journey and many potholes. Yet for every pothole, one-way bridge and blind curve that life throws our way, there are often waterfalls and rainbows at the end of the road.

I write this re-cap of my 2011 travels to let you know where I have been for the year and to thank you, my readers, for your continued support of my travel writing. What a trip this year has been!

2011 Travel Writer Year in Review – What a Trip

"Vikki Garrod Dianne Admire"January:

I enjoyed a specialty food tour in San Francisco with the ladies of Carried Away on my birthday. We ate and drank our way through the City by the bay. The food theme continued with my annual trip to the San Francisco Fancy Food Show at the Moscone Convention Center.

February: Horseback riding in Pebble Beach, California

April: Have teenager with permit – will travel.  Living in California, we are blessed with good road trip weather nearly year round and endless varieties of road trips. Spring break had my husband and I hitting the road in our Honda Mini van with our freshly minted teenage driver behind the steering wheel. We left the San Francisco Bay area headed for the California Central Coast. Our home base was El Colibri Boutique Hotel and Spa in Cambria with day trips planned to visit Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Along the way I was able to go horseback riding on the beach of Morro Bay and the boys were able to squeeze in a round of golf at Sea Pines Golf Course in Los Osos, California.

Spring visit to Secrets Marquis Los Cabos Casitas, Golf & Spa

Spring Break in California

Continuing the spring break theme, PR Princess of Fun, Megan Sterritt, of KWE Partners invited me to Mexico to experience Secrets Marquis Los Cabos new luxury services. Not only did I enjoy having a personal butler for a couple of days, I was able to go horseback riding in the mountains with Cuadra San Francisco riding stables in San Jose del Cabo.

Like enjoying a fine meal with a lovely glass of wine, I had the opportunity to return to Passport Dry Creek, a fun and friendly wine event held annually in Sonoma county, California, the last weekend in April.

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May: San Francisco, my home sweet home. This city by the bay was selected as the host of International Pow Wow 2011, a show stopper of a travel event put on by the U.S. Travel Association. Next year’s International Pow Wow will take place April 21-25,2012 in Los Angeles – get ready to discover LA!

"Hawaii Paso Finos"

Kelly and Joe Vitorino of Hawaii Paso Finos horseback riding on Hawaii’s Big Island

Trip to Big Island for Shape Magazine

Leave it to Jessica Ferracane of Iron Dog Communications to spice up a long weekend with a trip to the Big Island. I was asked to write about United Airlines non-stop service from San Francisco to Hilo, Hawaii that was about to launch in June, 2011. Problem was, the non-stop flight didn’t start until AFTER my trip. How ironic that I had a four hour lay over in Oahu! Note to self; travel writing is not glamorous. Fortunately, I was also hired to write a Perfect Hawaiian Getaway guide to the Big Island for Shape magazine, so my working weekend paid off.

"Echo Valley Ranch"

Horseback riding and Thai massage at Canada’s Echo Valley Ranch

Horseback Riding in Canada

June:

I was sad to miss TBEX 2011, a travel blogger conference taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. However,  as often happens, another opportunity presented itself that I simply couldn’t pass up. I had been to the initial TBEX conference in Chicago in 2009 and attended the 2010 TBEX conference in New York City and knew there would TBEX conferences in my future. Indeed, I have already purchased my 2012 TBEX conference ticket and will be traveling to Keystone, Colorado. So what took me away from Vancouver? An opportunity to go horseback riding at not one, but two unique guest ranches in British Columbia’s Cariboo Country.

I had met Flint Bondurant at the 2010 Canada Media Marketplace held in San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel.  At the time, the personable Canadian was representing Echo Valley Ranch & Spa. Currently, Bondurant is the general manager for Big Bar Guest Ranch. “Wouldn’t you rather go horseback riding than attend a travel writing conference in Vancouver,” Bondurant offers with a smile. As is typical of me, I will always select horseback riding over conferences.

"Curacao floating market"

Colorful Curacao at the Floating Market in downtown Willemstad

July:

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Horseback riding in Yellowstone National Park was certainly on my travel bucket list. I was fortunate to go riding in Yellowstone with the wranglers of the Club at Spanish Peaks in Big Sky, Montana this summer.  You remember the movie “A River Runs Through It” starring a young, sexy Brad Pitt? Well, the scenes from the movie were filmed in Big Sky on the Gallatin River. Unfortunately for me, the river was running too high for fly fishing during my trip, but the food, people and natural beauty of Big Sky country made me want to come back for more.  I can see why outdoor enthusiasts would select Big Sky as their base camp for recreation adventures. Don’t tell my husband, but I think I have a crush on Montana!

After my return to San Francisco, I was asked to visit the Hyatt Regency Curacao Golf Resort, Spa and Marina on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao.  While I learned my A,B,C’s in elementary school, I didn’t know that the ABC Islands were also known as Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. Sasha Hlozek was a wonderful host and showed us downtown Willemstad and took us on a boat ride along Spanish Water Bay.

August:

It wouldn’t be summer vacation without a road trip to Central Oregon. LinkedIn and Facebook followers know me as a University of Oregon Journalism School graduate. Growing up in California, my parents owned a rental property in Sunriver, Oregon. I went there as a teenager and now return each year to Sunriver Resort with my husband and our children.  We have enjoyed introducing other Bay Area families to Central Oregon’s outdoor wonderland.

Virgin de Guadalupe Cathedral

Virgin de Guadalupe Cathedral is the soul of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Plenty to do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

This August was my first time to visit Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I’m hearing a lot of  gloom and doom surrounding travel to Mexico, and while I understand that travelers want to feel safe on their vacations, I think all-inclusive resort stays in the area are very safe. Of course, if you wander anywhere downtown at night, with the wrong crowd, you are bound to find trouble. That being said, I felt completely safe during my stay at the gated Casa Velas, an adult-only, all-inclusive resort located in the exclusive marina district of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. While you can’t go wrong lounging by the pool or the Casa Velas Spa, there are plenty of things to see and do in Puerto Vallarta.

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September:

One of the highlights of my 2011 travel season was a visit to King Pacific Lodge in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rain Forest. It took three plane rides to arrive at the uninhabited Princess Royal Island, but a stay on the luxury barge known as King Pacific Lodge was well worth the flight time.  My stay involved eagles, whales, seals, salmon and lots of gourmet food, but the absolute highlight of the trip was seeing the Kermode “Spirit Bear” and all white, black bear.

Historic Hotels of America at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel was a wonderful evening, both entertaining and educational.  Watch the Historic Hotels of America YouTube video and learn something new about the Queen Mary.

October:

Maui, Hawaii launched its first social media blogger press trip in October, 2011 and I was selected to participate, along with EarthXplorer JD Andrews, The Bald Hiker Paul Steele, The Ohana Mama Sarah Burns, Bekah Wright from Life on a Silver Platter and Rick Andreoli, along with Steve Thompson.  We stayed at the gorgeous Fairmont Kea Lani as a group and then, as bloggers are known to do, we went our separate ways to discover non-stop Maui. I landed at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa and was treated to a heavenly experience, including a visit to the Heavenly Spa, as well as an evening at the  Wailele Polynesian Luau – what a trip!

Triple Creek cowboys

Triple Creek Ranch Wranglers look out over Darby, Montana

November:

Talk about your girlfriend getaway. Triple Creek Ranch trumps all when it comes to luxury gal pal weekends. After my brief love affair with Big Sky, Montana in July,  thanks to the friendly folks at Club at Spanish Peaks and Tory Weiss, I was still floating on clouds when Triple Creek Ranch stepped in to invite me to Western Montana.  The second annual Klicks for Chicks 100 kilometer endurance horseback ride in Darby, Montana was taking place in early November and would I like to participate. Quick as a rootin’ tootin’ cowgirl, I was signed up for this deluxe horseback riding vacation.

December

Thanks to the travel industry blog Travelllll.com, I was one of a dozen travel bloggers selected to fly to Seattle, Washington to meet with fellow bloggers and spend the day hanging out and learning from the travel industry folks at Expedia.com.

Wrapping up 2011 with plenty of gratitude for a wonderful life full of travel, family, friends and the opportunity to give back in my annual participation with Passports with Purpose.

What are you grateful for this year? Have you traveled somewhere special or made plans for travel in 2012.  I’d love to hear what’s in store for you in 2012.

Related Post:

Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown’s 2010 Year in Review