What Was Your Favorite Travel Memory of 2011?

It’s a tough question to ask. I sat and looked through folders of photos, bringing back waves of memories. Shockingly, mine has to do with food. As I’ve said many times, what I eat as I roam has everything to do with why I keep moving. As the years have gone on and my travels have curled out behind me, trailing promise and new experiences and colour, tastes remain. Tied to them, a vivid reminder of my state of mind and all the extraneous sensory remembrances – who I was with, what I was doing there and why I ate what I ate.

This is my favorite travel memory of 2011

Noodle Soup from Luang Prabang
Noodle Soup from Luang Prabang

After a summer at home and whirlwind of a fall though South America for a short-term consulting contract, I was back in Asia. I settled into Chiang Mai and got into a routine of eating and reading a writing with my roommate Shannon from A Little Adrift. But I needed to get a new visa, so it was quickly off to Laos, starting in Luang Prabang and weaving my way south to Vientiane.

I got food poisoning in Chiang Mai the night before I left, arriving in Laos a shell of my usual self. I was tired, cranky and annoyed to be a traveler. I wasn’t excited to see the sights or the markets, I wasn’t interested in wandering the river – I just wanted to curl up and sleep.

From the airport, it was a direct shot to town where I dropped my bags and made a beeline for a street stall to get something to eat, since I had nothing left in my stomach after a night of misery. And that something was a bowl of soup – a perfect, beautiful bowl of soup. The broth had hints of cinnamon and was topped in fried garlic, the chicken was tender and the noodles perfectly cooked. The vendor seemed confused as to why I was so excited about his breakfast options, but to me this bowl of soup was a reminder of why food and travel are a perfect pair: what you eat reinvigorates you, it adds a layer of additional texture and brightness to your days. And thus, Laos was no longer simply a new country to discover, it became a place with a myriad of different foods than Thailand, ridiculous chicken bus rides and karst hills that rose from the water. For less than 50 cents, I was completely changed, and reminded that attitude goes along way to making your trip worthwhile. As does, of course, your food.

Plus, we all know chicken soup makes everything better when you’re sick, right?

My full photo-gallery from Laos is here – it was, it turned out, a wondrous trip.

What was your favorite travel memory of 2011? I usually flag links in the comments, but if you’ve posted your own ‘best of’ post, feel free to leave it here. ‘Tis the time for sharing ;)

49 thoughts on “What Was Your Favorite Travel Memory of 2011?”

  1. I don’t know how you do it. I’ve had food poisoning a couple of times this year and it is the worst. I recently had it 3 weeks ago and was up all night. During those times, I HATE food! I don’t even know how you handle it when you are traveling.

    My best place of 2011? Definitely Annapolis, Maryland. Very unexpected and pleasant surprise!

    1. This time, it was from a yoghurt from the 7-11 near my house and it took quite a few months before I was eating yoghurt again. Some foods I can’t eat after I get sick – there was a goopy bean paste in Northern Myanmar that didn’t get me sick, but was unfortunately the last thing I ate before something else did. I still can’t stomach the thought of it.

      Thanks for sharing your memory. I’ve never been to Annapolis, but will certainly add it to my list if it was what stood out for you!

  2. My favourite memory was my trip to Portland for WDS, and then the road trip to see Cannon Beach. The cool breeze, the soft sand, and absolutely incredible views. It’s a place I definitely want to come back to someday.

  3. Hi Jodi! My favorite travel memory from this year was in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. It was “green season” so very few other tourits were around, but the weather was beautiful and we had the whole beach to ourselves. White sand for miles, deep blue ocean with the perfect break, under the shade of a windblown tree with capuchin monkeys swinging from the branches. Heaven!

    1. Thanks for sharing Lindsay! That sounds lovely. I’ve yet to trave to Costa Rica but it’s high up on my list as so many others have raved about their time there. Have a great new year and safe travels in 2012.

  4. Mine has to be seeing to be seeing the Orangutans of Bukit Lawang in Sumatra – actually brought tears of joy to my eyes. Food wise has to be wonderful Penang, can’t think of another city with such great, cheap food!

    1. Allen (who wrote about Nepal’s high passes in my guess post this fall) did the same and said it was incredible. It sounds like a terrific visit, and yes Penang’s food is glorious!

  5. A week in Italy with my mom and Aunts. While I’ve seen many of the sites before it was wonderful to make my mom’s dream come true and see them with her. Topping the charts was our stay in Cortona, Tuscany and the cooking class in a Tuscan home.

  6. Hi Jodi!

    One of my best travel memories of the year was my solo trip to New York, which was mainly about food. I had a map of the city with about 50 post-its, marking restaurants, food courts, shops, markets, deli’s etc. where I wanted to eat. It was an amazing trip, with lots of amazing food – which also brought me to places I never would have visited otherwise!

    1. That sounds fabulous! There is an amazing variety of food options to be had in NY and once you drift into the outer boroughs, the choice is almost dizzying. Glad you explored the city through your tastebuds.

  7. Our weeks in Southeast Asia were full of highlights, but highest was perhaps our slow boat ride from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc. I love the Mekong beyond measure.
    Culinary highlights? There were so many – from the cao lau in Hoi An, to the bun cha in Hanoi, from amok in Siem Reap to G&T’s in a rickety riverside bar in BKK, to fresh lime juice everywhere: unforgettable.

    1. The Mekong is mighty indeed! I’ve yet to visit Vietnam and part of why is that I would like to have at least a month in the country, to eat my way around it. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed yourself in Southeast Asia and thank you for sharing!

  8. Traditionally I hate soup, but your picture looks fantastic. I’m ready to jump on a plane to Laos and go in search of this amazing healing concoction you speak so elegantly of.
    My favorite travel memory is our cruise and our kids first visit to Mexico. Their first experience with people who speak a different language. It was entertaining, to say the least.

    1. What a wonderful memory. Were they confused? I remember living in South America just after law school, and I babysat a coworker’s 4-year old. I was just learning Spanish at the time by writing words down and memorizing them, and she couldn’t understand why I didn’t know every word she used. She even said “you’re the adult – why don’t you know what this means?” It’s fascinating to watch kids as they are exposed to new languages and cultures. Hope you and family had a great holiday!

  9. Mine is the taste of the rollinia fruit. “Like lemon custard,” said Huge, the ginger farmer whose guest house we rented near Puna, Hawaii. He was just as enthralled to share this exotic fruit with us as we were to try “the fruit which cannot be eaten off the island because it does not travel well”. For the fresh, sweet, fragrant taste of every spoonful, reminiscent of the scent of the hawaiian breeze, eaten while gazing at the Pacific horizon.

  10. Love the blue tablecloth in the photo. Too many to choose, so I’ll stick to food memories, and offer up 4 :)

    Japan – The random sushi restaurant I walked into my first night in Kyoto, where I dined on as much salmon belly as I could afford.

    Colombia – Dining at El Cielo in Medellin, my first experience with molecular gastronomy. The chef-owner even left a comment on my post about the meal!


    Ecuador – Curry with Chicken and Macademias at Tiesto’s in Cuenca. One of the best meals of my entire life, and the chef was nice enough to invite me back the following day for fresh prawns.

    Peru – The day before I went back to Florida for Christmas, I sat down to an 11 course tasting menu at Astrid & Gaston, which was ranked one of the top 50 restaurants in the world this year. 3 hours later, I waddled back to my apartment, having experienced the best dining Lima has to offer, which includes my first sea snail. (post and pics coming soon!)

      1. I haven’t. I’m not a big “meat on a stick” person, but I love chicken and therefore can’t get enough of the aji de gallina. Causa is awesome too – chicken salad, tomato and avocado squashed between mashed potatoes? Love it!

    1. Wrapping up a short trip in Ecuador right now. Also just ate at Tiesto’s in Cuenca a couple nights ago and second Dave’s recommendation, but the ceviche in Montanita was my favorite food memory.

  11. I spent three years in Japan, from 2007 to 2010. This spring, three weeks after the tsunami hit Japan, I decided to go back and cheer up my friends, luckily not living in the affected area. It was really special to go toward Japan as many foreigners were running away from it. We could feel something in the air, some tension. Watching the evening news in family was not the same as usual; it was the most important moment of the day. Or, during a popular TV program, the screen would change to a newscaster, informing the whole nation that an earthquake was happening in a certain area. The newscaster would add “protect yourself, hide, and be strong; the whole nation is with you”. People around me would shout “be strong! Come on!”. I really felt that the whole nation was with the disaster victims.

    Sorry for not sharing something positive.

  12. That chicken soup looks A-MAZ-ING. Seriously, I think I may have to go find some chicken soup for lunch.
    I haven’t done much traveling this year because of work and other things. But probably my best trip this year was to Beijing in March to perform at the Beijing Improv Festival with my old comedy group from Japan. It was so amazing to be surrounded by old familiar friends in a totally unfamiliar city and doing something I love. And the Chinese audience was so much fun. I was new to China at the moment but that really made me fall in love with this city.
    Here’s hoping 2012 brings even more wonderful travel memories for both of us (like YOU visiting ME in China, whattaya say?).

  13. After travelling for a year by motorcycle, through arabic spring, I spent a wondefull 2 months in Turkey and just as I was heading to India I felt in love with a Turkish girl.
    I still haven’t recover from it and I’m waiting with her in Austria to resume travelling when the weather permit.
    Besides many other things we share we have this food illness which consist in creating amazing Turkish/Asian gastronomy combinations: absolutly wild!

  14. Our second day of hiking in Munduk in Bali, we wandered up to the top of a road, then took a small side trail that looked like it might go somewhere. We ended up walking through a staggeringly green wonder of rice paddies, irrigation canals, baby cows, and running water. ‘Twas the most beautiful place I saw in 2011.

    And, oh yeah. Honeymoon!

  15. Far and a way the best was watching two pairs of non-canoists try and navigate down the Gard river in southern France. Jodles, if you want a laugh, I’ll point you to the pictures. :-)



  16. I have two:

    One was trekking to a remote village in Haiti. The second was sitting on a beach in northern Norway eating fresh fish we had just caught.

    Happy Travels in 2012 to you all!!

  17. Skinny dipping in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean on a cloudless night in Dar es Salaam with new friends – magic! Thanks for asking, nice to bring up a great memory – Happy New Year!!!

  18. Hey great post. I totally agree with you that food can leave you with amazing lasting memories of travel. You inspired me to write my own post on my favourite meals from traveling in 2011, so as requested, here is the link :)

  19. My favorite travel memory was sailing in the Greek isles and walking up to an ancient sculpture on the island of Kea, watching the sun set, and having a great meal there at an outdoor restaurant.

    Here is my post on my year in review:

  20. A trip to Boracay in truly dismal weather; but seeing people go about their merry business as though a storm weren’t raging. People were on the beach, in the water, shopping, sipping their lattes at Starbucks, having henna tattoos underneath drippy overhangs, downing tequila shots, etc.. It was madness. The shoulder shrugging happy vibe was bemusing but quite admirable under the circumstances. Pinoys are way cool!

    A seaside dinner in Langkawi where the food would not stop coming. We were waving our napkins at the waiter; signaling that he should retreat that we may surrender. Instead, he bore down on us with plate after plate of the best possible food. Yum.

    Watching the sky bloom in furious color at sunset and almost on cue island beats sounding in the background in Phuket. Crowds and touts and cheats notwithstanding, it is impossible not to love Thailand.

  21. Favorite travel memory…a crazy, spontaneous trip to Belle Île en Mer, off the coast of Brittany, to see the location of a little 1920’s painting I had found at the Paris flea market. I stayed in an ancient fort, ate fresh fish cooked in an open fireplace, played boules with a group of village men while I waited for a bus, and marveled at the wild landscape of rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, colorful harbors, fresh cut fields, pine trees and palm trees…and the Easter egg colors of the houses with their lacy-curtained windows, not speaking or hearing a word of English for four days. Unforgettable!

  22. You must have a Teflon stomach, Jodi. I was eating pretty much nothing but toast for days after I got food poisoning. I didn’t want to look at food or smell it, let alone eat it. Still, that’s such a perfect story to demonstrate your relationship with food.

  23. My favorite travel memory of 2011? But there are so many! Some of the highlights: Drinking in a tumunu in the Cook Islands. Taking a night hike with my dad in Costa Rica. Watching the 4th of July fireworks on the National Mall in Washington DC. Riding in a hot air balloon for the first time in the Reno Hot Air Balloon Festival.

  24. i found myself chuckling at the “annoyed to be a traveler” part. i know exactly how that feels. :)

    favorite 2011 travel memory was the 10-day trek to the annapurna himalayas. amazing, humbling and spectacular experience. :)

    1. That’s quite the memory, Paul! I’ve never been but those who have (like yourself) have shared their awe and accomplishments in doing so and it makes me that much more excited about getting there myself one day!

  25. 2011 was a good travel year for me. My best friends and I built a home for a family in Guatemala while on a service trip, which was an amazing experience. But so was road-tripping across country with my girlfriend, from NY (old home) to LA(new home). Hope 2012 is even better. Now i need to find some chicken soup :)

  26. I’d say that my greatest culinary travel experience was eating in the North of Portugal, where the seafood recipes are the best I’ve ever had. They actually make breaded, fried octopus! Maybe it’s not exotic, but hey, it beats hanging around in Toronto.

  27. I got to travel quite a bit more than usual in 2011, visiting six countries to my normal one or two. If I had to pick one memory above all the rest, it would be taking a flight out to Abu Simbel, Egypt and getting to see the ancient temples. Until a few months prior, I didn’t even know the site existed and it is now one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. Amassed in history, it literally took my breath away when I came around the mountain and saw what was before me.

    And if I had to pick a second favorite, it would be the roaming around the city of Edinburgh with my closest friend. Such a town. I loved it before my feet even touched the ground.

    Love your posts!

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