I wanted to do an English blog post for all my friends abroad and the people we have met on our travels. So I thought it would be the obvious choice to write about all the best things and places we have encountered on our travels.
Because after a year of traveling the world, we have visited several countries, seen amazing places, been to beautiful beaches and seen many natural wonders. We have walked the streets of charming cities and had what feels like a million cups of coffee. We have experienced different cultures and met a lot of amazing people, who have shared their stories and listened to ours. Travelling always presents an opening for great conversations, and we sure have met a lot of great people.
So what did we love the most… Where are our favorite places… It’s almost impossible to choose, and there is still so much of the world to see. But I’ll give it a try anyway, because we have definitely experienced a lot of great places!
Favorite beaches: Hawaii
We have seen our share of beautiful beaches and amazing sunsets, but I do think the most stunning beaches are those in Hawaii. We only stayed on the island of Oahu (and I hear that the other islands are even more stunning), and we were lucky to live by a great and very kid-friendly beach on the westside of the island. We drove around and swam at several other beaches, and it’s really just one beautiful spot after the other. With the stunning vistas of the mountains in the background and crystal clear water all around, not many places (on our travels this time around) can compeed in my book.
Favorite city: Tokyo
Tokyo is really something special. And both my husband and I have no doubt that this fantastic city tops our list. It’s the most populated city in the world (approx. 38 million people), and it’s an intriguing mixture of old and new, chaos and calm, order and craziness. We really loved this city and were utterly fascinated by how you see contrast everywhere. We stayed in a residential area, where the streets were calm, but only a few train stops away in any direction really, we were able to find an area full of neon signs, people and busy life. It’s such a modern city, and it feels safe and homey in many ways, but then on the other hand the Japanese culture is so different from our own. You are really ‘lost in translation’ in so many ways in this city, but we never felt it in a negative way, but only in the sense of wanting to learn more about this fascinating place.
Most kid-friendly place: Bali
We haven’t really had any bad experiences travelling with kids, and almost everywhere, people are friendly and forthcoming to them. That said, Bali definitely stood out. Because the people there not only tolerate kids, they really like kids. Everywhere on Bali, the kids were met by smiles, and we never felt they were in the way. Often in stores, your first response as a mom of a toddler is to stop him from touching things and apoligize, but that’s not necsessary in Bali. Most places the attendants actually start talking directly to the kids and just laugh at them. Everywhere the kids are just greeted with a smile, and as a parent that just makes you relax even more.
When I meet other people, who have travelled in Bali, they all agree that the Balinese are one of the most friendly people in the world. So it’s a common assumption, and they are friendly to all, not only to kids:-)
Best food: Costa Rica
Food is so objective, and really, there is great food everywhere in the world… almost anywhere. Our kids are quite good eaters. Not that picky, and even though they love pizza and pasta – like most kids do – they also like fish and vegetables, and they will try most food. Costa Rican food is quite simple and that also makes it very kid-friendly. Like in Mexico, they use a lot of beans, rice and tomatoes, and things like gallo pinto (traditional breakfast with rice and black beans) and Chifrijo – again rice and bean, but with tomatoes and pork – are easy for kids to like.
I love beans and tomatoes myself, so on that note, I really liked the simple food as well. By the coast, the seafood is great as well – we had delicious ceviche, the most fantastic fish tacos and local fish like mahi mahi and tuna several times. Overall, Costa Rican food is just simple, delicious and also quite healthy. What’s not to like!
On a side note, my all time favorite food will always be Italian… But Italy just wasn’t on the itinuary this time around:-)
Favorite place to hike: Vancouver Island
We have done quite a lot of hiking as a family throughout our travels. With emphasis on ‘as a family’. Meaning that the level of hiking isn’t extreme or advanced. It’s always at a level where everybody can participate – even the 2-year-old… Although we have had to carry him several times as well! In the family context, there is no doubt that Vancouver Island has been our favorite place to hike.
The Island is just full of family-friendly trails (as well as more advanced ones), and the surroundings are absolutely breathtaking. Everywhere you go on the island, it’s very organized, well-kept and easy to navigate. The trails are mapped out and it’s easy to find your way around the forest and along the cost. It’s also easy to find trails that are not overrun by other tourists. We found ourselves wandering along beautiful trails and surrounded by high trees and stunning vistas – often all alone in the forests. And we were there in July, which I would say is tourist season.
Best coffee: Australia and New Zealand
The Australians and the kiwi really like their coffee. Really, you can get good coffe everywhere – and always at a decent cost. Actually, coffee is quite cheap in both countries, even in the best coffee shops in the bigger cities. Compared to the coffee prices in Scandinavia, coffee down under is a bargain! And who doesn’t like that…
But the coffe is not only cheap, it’s relly good. I know, good coffee is everywhere in the Western world these days, and of course there is great coffe to get lots of places, but in Australia and New Zealand, we just had the feeling, that you could not get a bad coffee! Even the McDonalds coffee was much better there than in any other countries, we have tried. And believe me, we have had a lot of McDonalds-coffee being on the roads in eg. the States.
They like ‘flat white’ and ‘long black’, which is kind of their versions of a cappucino and an american. Even at a small truck stop in the middle of the mountains, driving through New Zealand, we found ourselves quite surprised by how good the coffee was.
Best playgrounds: Vancouver Island and Los Angeles
We have been to our share of playgrounds the past year. I would actually claim that I have been to more playgrounds this past year, than I have my entire time growing up. My kids have experiences so many things, but I still believe that going to a playground is on their top three of favorite activities.
So we do spend a fair amount of our time in playground, and as long as the sun is out, I’m in. My kids love trying out new ones, and we have found quite a lot of amazing places for them to climb, run and play over the past year. Two places stand as far as playgrounds go so far – Vancouver Island and Los Angeles.
Someone told me that in Vancouver Island they have one of the largest ratios of playgrounds to people in Canada. I don’t know if that’s really true, but they sure do have great ones. We stayed there a month and had time to try out several. Overall they are quite big, always very well-kept (as with the trails), and many of them have areas for all ages – also often for bigger kids. With I would say is not always the case.
In Los Angeles, what I am most surprised by is how many playgrounds there are. At the moment, we are staying in the eastern part of the city, and within a 20 minutes drive, we can find enough playgrounds to satisfy the kids for several months! And they are all really nice, well-kept and even quite different. Los Angeles does have a vast amount of activities to do with the kids, but there is just nothing like a nice park with a great playground and a whole lot of sunshine.
Best tasting fruit: Mangos in Hawaii
I have never tasted anything like the mangos we had in Hawaii. We were there in June, just when mangos everywhere were literally falling of the threes. Ripe and orange. They were so sweet and delicious. We were lucky to live in a house with a mango three in the back yard, so everyday we had mango juice og cut mango with our cereal.
Even though the pineapples in Costa Rica come really close, nothing beats the Hawaiian mangos. And that’s unanimous in our family. My daughter still refers to the house we stayed in, when we were there as ‘the place with the mangos’. I guess being Danish and not at all used to the more exotic fruits on a daily basis, these mangos just really stood out!
Overall favorite country to visit: Costa Rica
If we have to choose a favorite place at this point, I think it has to be Costa Rica. It’s almost impossible to pick one country, because each has different things to offer. But as an overall feeling, Costa Rica somehow stands out.
When we arrived there, we had an immidiate feeling that we would love this country. And that feeling continued just continued to grow. Costa Rica has a lot to offer in terms of diversity. It’s quite a small country, it presents you with mountains, volcanoes, national parks with amazing wild life, stunning beaches and charming towns.
Their philosophy is that of ‘pura vida’. It’s a wonderful approach to life and makes you feel like you should appreciate what you have even more. They care about community and makes the best of their lives, with a positive attitude (I wrote about this, but in Danish, here). Because it’s really just that simple.
Obviously, the weather is almost always warm. They have rain season and dry season, but it never gets cold – and really never get too hot either. The beaches can be rough some places, but in the northwestern part of the country, there are several smaller beach towns where you find one beautiful beach after the other.
As I said, the food is really good. It’s also inexpensive to go out (compared to European prices), so we really took advantage of the happy hours with drinks on the beach, sunsets and the kids playing in the sand. Besides going to playgrounds, I would say that the beach is the best place to take the kids. Water and sand are their favorite toys, no doubt about it. And there is plenty of that in Costa Rica!
We will most definitely go back to Costa Rica… Soon!